I’d been home from Bhutan for a number of months before it dawned that I wanted a Buddha. Our trip to the Kingdom of the Thunder Dragon had been very special, quickly turning from holiday to pilgrimage as we came under its spell. With the help of our guide, Tshewang, we’d learned about Gross National Happiness coupled with everyday Buddhism and how the impact they made together affected life.
Sitting in monasteries with monks and nuns as they chanted, played enormous trumpets and celebrated auspicious days had a profound effect. I’m not a Buddhist, but I saw what a difference it made when actively applied to ordinary life and I was impressed.
Holidays usually fade quickly once the case is unpacked and the washing done. But this one lingered on. I often thought about the nuns who welcomed us into their meditations, sharing butter tea and offerings. And the monk who came and took our camera so he could get us some good shots of the Lamas and the temple. It was the lack of reverence that stayed with me. There was nothing precious about their temples – all treated with deep respect, but also familiarity, as the Buddha shared his altar with the duster and cleaning materials.
I wanted some of that in my life
It was those memories that led me to want a Buddha sitting in our house. But not just any Buddha – it had to come from Bhutan. Fortunately I’d stayed in touch with Tshewang via whatsapp. After a short discussion we embarked on an adventure together that was very special.
First step was to find the right statue. Pictures arrived of the painted versions, so popular in Bhutan, but not what I had pictured. I had in mind a tiny replica of the vast statue that looks down over Thimpu – all gold and shining bright. We also had to consider the size – so pictures arrived with his arm beside the statue to give me an idea of just how big it was. After a few attempts, we found what I hoped was exactly what I was looking for
The statue is just the first step I discovered. Next it was to go to a Master to be filled with relics and to be blessed. Tshewang sent pictures of the process, as the base was packed with rolled up mantras to imbue the metal with spiritual life. I learned later that the Master had been so pleased that someone from UK wanted a Bhutanese Buddha that I got extra relics!
Still it wasn’t done. Now it was to spend 24 hours on an altar of my choice. We chatted through the different options, but the one that came immediately to mind was the nunnery where we’d shared butter tea. Sitting with those women was special. First came the huge teapot – of church fete proportions – brought round to each nun and us, so we all had a cuppa to help us through the long ritual. Then a nun carrying a huge plastic bucket full of biscuit packets, crisps, sweets and fruit stopped in front of us. In my British way I politely took one packet and said ‘thank you’. But that clearly wasn’t sufficient. A plastic carrier bag was brought over and filled to the gunnels. Turns out these were offerings made to the Nunnery on this auspicious day and our job was to take them out into the world and pass them on to anyone we saw.
So off the statue went to sit with the nuns for 24 hours. I imagined him placed between his huge counterpart and the cleaning fluid.
Finally I needed to make my offerings to the Master and to the nuns community in thanks for their prayers and support. Tshewang paid on my behalf and the Buddha was finally ready to come to it’s final home.
The long journey home
We needed to work out which carrier to use. Turns out that DHL functions well in Bhutan and could provide the service we needed. I transferred all the money over and the Buddha was carefully packed up and delivered to it’s first staging post. From then on, regular alerts told me exactly where it was, until it finally landed on the doorstep.
The box sat in state on the dining table. I could hardly bear to open it, so waited until John came home. So much expectation had been built and so much money spent.
Thank heaven and all the deities – the statue was perfect! I can’t tell you the thrill of seeing it emerge from its wrappings. Just the right size and proportions, we just sat and gazed in delight.
But the story doesn’t end there
The family all got to know Buddha. For over a year he’s sat in our lounge waiting for us to organise a mediation space. He’s seen growing grandkids, family Christmas, work time, arguments, long discussions about life, thoughts about the future, loss of loved ones. I always felt it was a positive force and Martha, my eldest daughter, tells me the energy in that room is the best in the house. (You can find out how she knows that by reading her blog The Curious Mystic)
So when we announced we were returning to Bhutan, the requests were immediate. Could we have a Buddha? Would Tshewang organise it to go to the Master and sit with the nuns?
Heading back to Bhutan
So here we are, in Thimpu once more and in discussions about the next Buddha. One small one found in Patan City, Kathmandu for Miriam. Photo’s taken, sent on whatapp from a café at the side of the square. The final choice made, then doubling back up and down the street to find the right shop again!
And on arrival, the request that Tshewang was prepared for. Martha was really keen that her Buddha was made in Bhutan, so Tshewang had contacted his friend who had two ready for purchase. It will take the full two weeks we are here, so the plan needs to be put in motion. We’ll go back to the same Master who did mine, since he will understand about these strange westerners and then to the nuns altar for their blessing.
This time we are in on the journey and it’s feeling very special.