I am called Sonam Tseten, my two names meaning “Merit” and “Stable Life”, both of which are fitting for a simple hard-working farmer. I live in a village surrounded by the vast Himalayan Mountains, where I spend my days working on my farm. I live with my husband and two children in a small wooden hut on the western outskirts of our village. I have spent all 38 years of my life in this very place. My parents were also farmers, and they taught me all that I know today about how to tend and care for the land that is not always willing to provide abundant crops.
Due to the altitude at which our community lives, my piece of farmland is small; I grow as much corn and tubers as the space will afford. I also keep a small herd of yaks and goats, since growing this variety of resources allows me to trade for many things within the village. Most recently, I have tried my hand at farming a number of bitter herbs, a process that I still have much to learn about. I hope to expand upon what my parents taught me, and create many resources for the people in my village.
In addition, I am looking to learn the skill of trade, and excel at bartering and obtaining necessities. Being a farmer may mean that I am not as wise or spiritual as the scholars or doctors of my village, however I aspire to be seen by my community as more than just an agrarian. If I can just perfect the art of trading, I feel as though I can harness items and services that would otherwise never pass through my hands. I know it will take time; luckily I have the patience to learn and become skilled in this area.
Spending my whole life in this village has been pleasant, and I have learned just as many others have, to practice the ways of the Buddha. I aim to practice yoga each day, and teach the suttas to my children. As much as I try, I still have a ways to go. I find myself straying from the Noble Eightfold Path whilst I focus on providing for my family and crops. It is difficult to alleviate oneself from the attachments that cause suffering, when such attachments are also my life’s work.
I often regret that I have not yet left the village on any journey yet. I have spent quite a time in this place, working each day and spending time with my precious family, however I yearn for a chance to see the world outside our community. I have heard incredible stories from my neighbours, lamas that have visited our village, and the ritualists who have gone on spiritual journeys of the places that extend beyond my small hometown. I would be excited to see such different lands, and enlighten myself about the sacred world.
The most recent stories I have heard from my neighbours however, are not about a journey, but about an impending hailstorm that may hit our piece of mountainside. Having lived in this area for many years, I have seen my fair share of storms. This time however, the ritualists that look into our weather promise gigantic pieces of the ice that would surely crush my small home, devastate my crops and harm my livestock. I have tried to think of why such a terrible event is destined to hit us here, and my best guess is the practice of black magic across the iron bridge. Those who practice it may be looking to punish someone in our village for their wrongdoings. I can’t imagine it could be my kin, since we have never gone across the gorge into other territory. Someone in the village must have performed a serious misdoing, and I wish I could pinpoint what that was. However, I know that gossip can be dangerous and misleading, so I try to stay away from guessing which neighbour may be the culprit.
Nevertheless, the wrongdoings of one will affect many if this hail does occur. I felt it necessary to protect myself, in the hopes that my possessions will not be damaged too thoroughly. Though doctors and craftspeople within the village may not be as worried, I have much more to lose. After hearing of an amulet seller in the Deer Park, I rushed away from my daily duties on my land, and sprinted to the Park. It was there that I found a robed man asking five gold pieces for a tantric amulet of Khonma. Khonma is the Earth Mother, who will hopefully protect households in need. As a farmer, I tend to the Earth everyday. I help to encourage its bountiful growth, and therefore I hope she will spare my home. Spending the gold was worth it, if it means a chance that the storm will pass us by.
That same night, I placed each of the amulets over the creaky wooden door of my hut. The wind gusted at great speeds, as I placed out offerings of corn and yak meat, as well as a beaded necklace, since our home did not have many valuables within it. I hoped that this would suffice for Khonma, and that she would accept these gifts in exchange for protection. I could only place my fears in her hands now. I tucked my children under a thin blanket that same night, and hoped for the sake of my family that all would be well.