Friday, 12 July 2019

A Terchen Pema Lingpa Day

It was somewhere in 2017 when I heard about the turquoise heart presented and talked at the mountain echoes by Mr. Pawo Choning Dorji. Terchen Pema Lingpa was a name I heard long time back in school and everyone knows he was such great treasure discoverer. Mr Pawo wrote to the then Prime Minister of Bhutan requesting for a day in a year to celebrate the great Bhutanese hero. A day dedicate only to Tertoen Pema Lingpa. Finally the cabinet has approved to name a day for this great Bhutanese hero starting next year whereby the third day of the first lunar month will be celebrated as a National Pema Lingpa Day in Bhutan. Isn’t it a great news for us?

Pema Lingpa was the first Bhutanese figure and perhaps only the one, who effectively reversed the flow of religious offerings from Bhutan to Tibet” Dr. Karma Phuntsho from ‘The History of Bhutan’

Born in 1450 in Bumthang, this great treasure discoverer went on to have his first treasure extraction in 1476 at the riverine below the cliff of Naringdra on a full moon night. After this incident, the public speculation began whereby Pema Lingpa jumped into a lake with a burning butter lamp and returned back with a Buddha statue and a sealed skull with the butter lamp still burning. And this place, to this day holds as a most scared and a must visit place in Bumthang by the name Mebar Tsho or the Burning Lake.

Pema Lingpa then went on to have several treasure extractions via his divine destination and itinerary set up by the Guru Padmasambhava. He wasn’t a tertoen but a terchen: King of treasure discoverers. And there was only five terchens, destined to extensively reveal treasures of Guru Rinpoche. He is rightly described as the Bhutanese saint and cultural hero and it feels amazing to know that his importance are still felt in various parts of Tibet, Nepal and India (Arunachal Pradesh, Ladakh and Spiti). In Tibet, he had a huge followers, patrons and students. It seems unbelievable when the history has it that at two of his religious sessions in and around Tibet, huge number (as huge as 9000) of people turned up for the Terchen Pema Lingpa’s blessing that he was placed on a throne and raised above the ground whereby the public had to walk under his throne to receive the blessing.

No doubt that Pema Lingpa too had rivals and contenders those days. Lama Namkha Samdrub of Nyemo in Tibet happens to have an interesting encounter with our Pema Lingpa. The former was said to have made malicious gossips about Pema Lingpa in various parts of Tibet. Pema Lingpa had received various baseless challenges from Lam Namkha. On a final face, Pema Lingpa challenged Lam Namkha back for an ordeal by fire, where both of them had to leap into the burning fire and the one who survived was to be the winner. Unable to face such a challenge, Lama Namkha was said to have fled to Tibet the next day.

Neither it is not going to be enough to write nor I be the right person to talk about this great Terchen of Bhutan. This is the few words that are emerging from my heart. To be frank even a day in a year falls short against his great doings in our country. Still I am very much rejoiced of the great news of his day from next year. Another reason I am so glad about a day for our Terchen Pema Lingpa is that, it came after my less than a week ago recent trip to Ganteng Sangna Choeling Monastery in Phobjikha that was built by the grandson of Terchen Pema Lingpa. The history has it that the Terchen visited Phobjikha where he predicted and foretold that his descendants would build a monastery on the hilltop where the Pema Lingpa tradition would thrive into the future. Gyalse Pema Thrinley built the Ganteng Goenpa in 1613 and became the first Gangteng Trulku.  The monastery houses various ancient and age-old nangtens with rich historical background. Being there physically, I couldn’t describe how blessed I was and really proud that Bhutan too had such a religious hero.

It was Pema Lingpa who had the divine dreams of various mask dances from Guru Rinpoche which are mostly performed in various tshechus in Bhutan today.

There is another great reason why we have to celebrate Pema Lingpa day in Bhutan. We all know that our beloved Kings from the Wangchuk Dynasty are the descendants of the great Terchen Pema Lingpa. Our kings belong to the Dungkar Choje, a subsidiary clan of Khouchung Choje founded by Kunga Wangpo, one of the sons of Pema Lingpa.

There are times when we question ourselves on our patriotism and this happens to one such incident. We never realized to celebrate our own home-grown hero. Thank you Mr. Pawo for taking such a huge initiative and opening our eyes.

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

A simple message out of life

Since the past few days, I have become very active on social media and have even started sharing my pictures where I am often commented as “cute and different”. Well, I can either have a head like a nun or put on the wig and I chose the latter. That’s how I become “cute”.  Actually, there is a whole story behind this new look of mine. I have had several thoughts about sharing this story and I finally decided to share it with some hopes.

This journey had been a really hard one as there had been several episodes of disappointments, hopelessness and darkness but it even came with power, bravery and mind-training. It just made me realize how fragile our lives are and it is so stupid to be clinging onto it when the truth is that we all have an ultimate exit which is absolutely inevitable no matter who you are. An exit which we all are aware of, yet we never think of preparing for it and when the moment arrives, we go into a state of shock, not wanting to accept it. I am not blaming anyone because that’s how it is and I myself have had all this proceedings when that moment came. Here is my story…

So it was in July 2018, that a biopsy report confirmed a devastating diagnosis: Ovarian cancer with Liver metastasis. My primary cancer (ovary) which I already fought some eight years ago made an aggressive return dragging my liver into the battle ground. I was a brave and courageous fighter back then (I was too young to understand what cancer really was those days) and never in my wildest dreams had I seen this coming back this way. Frankly speaking I thought the cancer was evicted from my body forever (now I analyze and come to realize that I thought that way because I didn’t want to accept in any way that I had cancer)

Until that day, 13th July 2018! At first I couldn’t accept it. I blamed the medical technologies and diagnostic instruments; challenged the medical certificate of the consultants; nullified the enormous researches and overall I found everyone a cheater and liar. Then I was cursing my body for producing cancer cells and questioned why I was given that ovary.

The second thing I did was a crucial step as it hugely determined where I chose to go from there. I accepted the truth (sadly). If there were not much people around me who showed their love and concern, I am sure I would have gone the other way because it’s extremely hard to make the right decision at that point of time. It’s like a huge rolling bolder has hit you hard enough but then you are challenged to get up when you can barely open your eyes also. At such a scenario, you hear people from far shouting and screaming your name asking you to get up and fight back. That happens to be the biggest stimulator for your right consciousness, unifying your shattered hopes towards one aim: FIRE BACK.

When the doctor said, “It’s the last stage and you have no cure”, my face was punched by an invisible force and tears made it way out. Then he continued, “The good news is that your cancer cells are highly chemo-sensitive and so there is high chances of shrinking the cancer and then make it operable”

Then the hope got itself on me and the battle was on as I stepped in with crowning prayers and embraced the extremely thorny cactus called chemotherapy in the desert of cancer. Its worst thorns include the multiple episodes of extreme nausea and vomiting, complete loss of appetite, frequent shortness of breath, severe constipation, tanning of skin, terrible backache and abdominal cramps, weakness and giddiness along with complete hair loss. The chemotherapy weakened me to the point that I had two episodes of syncope during the third cycle.

Never did I know that our bodies were capable of becoming so sick. If given the chance I would have chopped down every hand that produced mirrors. I hated myself that was reflected in any mirror I came across. That look of complete loss and worn off were pricking me sharper day by day.

“You don’t know how strong you can be unless being strong is the only option you have” I would definitely agree with this strong statement and never underestimate anyone who you think will fall off when they are hit hard. Life is all about creating miracles and mind you, so many people come with invisible powers. All they need is the right time and they are on it.

Coming to my story, a huge disappointment struck my courageous fight in the midst of my battle as a CT scan after three cycles of chemo revealed no change in the cancer size. I had no other option than to undergo a highly risky (and definitely life-saving) surgery. In all these happenings, I was losing my hopes but I focused all my attention towards what the doctors said (with firm belief) and the heaven be my witness for how glad I was seeing them trying so much for me and not declaring my  condition as a terminal one. Going to my surgeon, he proceeded with the surgery only because I was young. They wanted to try through the very slim margin of hope they saw but they firstly clarified about all the risks associated. I didn’t hesitate to give my yes to the surgeon as death is anyhow an ultimate destination. But if I at least gave a try, I would be fighting. So I challenged myself with the surgery. When I made up my mind of consenting them for the surgery, I was emotionally ready to embrace what would be on my table if in case the surgery was not a success.  

A miracle happened on the 19th of November 2018 at the Tata Medical Center in Kolkata as my surgeons were successful with their aim in removing my tumor in a ten-hour long surgery. Well, the first time I gained my consciousness from the anesthesia; it was a complete hell to have the endotracheal tube (ETT) into my throat. I knew why it was placed into my body but I had to let them know that I was conscious and that the tube be removed and so I was trying my best to lift my fingers (which was like no less than fighting through the fast-flowing river current) and I managed to held the endotracheal tube. I knew I wouldn’t be able to remove it and I didn’t even intend to do that way. Whenever I was coming into my consciousness, I either wanted the ETT to be removed or a heavy sedation (Midazolam was all over my mind then).  As my condition improved, the ETT was removed successfully the next day. I was fully conscious towards the evening of 20th November (the next day). There my head surgeon straight away tagged me as a “FIGHTER” telling me how successful the surgery was.

With my surgery becoming a successful one, I knew I was making my way back and it was the best feeling ever. What I felt in those times were so much precious. I looked at everything with a fresh angle and I found meaning in every little things. Yet my fight wasn’t over as the surgeons advised me to undergo two more cycles of adjuvant chemotherapy as my cancer was a high-grade one.

It’s been more than five months that I completed all my treatments and even joined back work. I had my first review with the surgeon in Kolkata last month. For now, I am declared all fine and fit. It has been an incredible journey of disappointment, frustration, hope, power, love, affection, courage and most importantly letting things go as it is meant to. I don’t want to sound philosophical and give lectures here. What I have realized through all these terrible times were what was already discovered by Buddha some 2500 years ago. It took a lot for me to realize this simple truth.