Originally posted on Beezy ‘s Facebook page, and shared with her permission.
Sometimes the poignancy and power of events affecting the Jhamtse Gatsal community just stop me in my tracks. Yesterday was such a day.
It was Children’s Day in India, and a program of singing, dancing and a volleyball tournament were planned. However, we awakened to the sad news that the 10-year-old nephew of one of our am alas (housemothers) had died suddenly. Singing and dancing are inappropriate in the Monpa culture when someone has died, so these were cancelled.
The older children were put to work in the kitchen making 50 small butter lamps with hand-twisted cotton wicks, in small brass bowls. At an appointed time, the entire community gathered in the prayer hall, shoes off, sitting cross-legged on thin carpets. The butter lamps massed on a low table were lighted, and Gen. Lobsang began to speak, first in English for the benefit of the seven English-speaking volunteers and the few staff who do not speak Monpa, and subsequently in Monpa.
Lobsang told us that this young boy from a village about two hours away had hanged himself. Lobsang had seen the boy on a number of occasions, and he seemed to be a healthy, happy, intelligent, active child. A couple of years ago, however, the boy’s grandmother had requested that he be accepted into Jhamtse Gatsal. Not told that the boy lived with an abusive step mother, that he was treated like a slave in his own family, and that he often was given nothing to eat, Lobsang had not accepted him. On learning of her nephew’s death, Ama la Yanzom said, through her tears, “At least he’s not suffering anymore.” There are so many children with unknown and tragic needs in the region.
After quietly sharing this news in English and Monpa, Lobsang gave a teaching on the Compassion Mantra, Om Mane Padme Hum. We were all left with the positive message that the jewel in the lotus that is ourselves and our lives, has the possibility of reducing the suffering of children who are in despair, through our acts of compassion. Then Lobsang and the children chanted prayers for the departing soul of the boy, including the Compassion Prayer, which was chanted quickly, many times, in a rising and falling polyphony that sounded like the buzzing of hundreds of bees.
Lobsang requested that all staff be available to the children throughout the coming days, and to encourage them to talk about their feelings. The children as well as the adults, left the prayer hall in a somber mood.
After lunch, the final games in a hot volleyball tournament were played. It felt good to hear the excited voices of the entire community cheering for their favorites, and to see the vigorous play of team members, dissipating the deep feelings of the day. The finalists (older boys) and semi-finalists (male staff members) were awarded traditional white silk khatas by Lobsang. Khatas are bestowed throughout the Tibetan world as signs of congratulations, honor, blessing, affection, welcome and farewell.