Friday, February 26, 2010

Teachings at Benchen

I have started teachings at Benchen Monastery about a week ago.  Teachings are given by Tenga Rinpoche.  The Monastery is located in Swayambhunath, a truly magical place.  

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Meet Prakash

I walked down the alley way toward the Monastery.  I knew i would see her there.  I had planned beforehand how much i would give her, how my interaction would be, how i would depart to my lessons.  I realize now that these sort of calculations come from the mind and have no heart in it.  I was terribly surprised to see her preoccupied with a sick boy on her lap.  He looked about 10 or 11 years of age.  He was frail, fragile and looked terribly ill.  I backed off immediately and took a safe distance behind the monastery gate and watched.

I remember thinking to myself, this boy is going to die.  This boy is going to die.  I reevaluated my position.  What was i to do.  I could not speak her language.  She could not speak mine.  I better walk away.  I did.  That day, I went for my Thangka lesson.  I grabbed something to eat.  I did some Cora around the Stupa.  But all the while, I could not get the image of the boy out of my mind.  I felt sorrow.  Deep sorrow.  I remember praying several times, please keep him alive.  A few days later i saw her there again with the boy.  They were both talking to each other and smiling.  I was so overjoyed.  I went up to them.  He spoke the English language so well.  I invited him to breakfast with me.  Instant connection.

Meet Prakash Chhettri.  He is 14 years of age and lives in Boudhanath in Kathmandu.  Both his parents beg money for a living.  He has 2 younger sisters who live in an orphanage and a brother who lives in a hostel.  Prakash is intelligent.  He has a watchfulness in his eyes that quickly relates and responds to the moment with his whole being.  I enjoy his company very much as he tells me what the current Dollar Nepalese Rupee exchange is whats happening in global news, how much earning potential there is in America.  So bright and intelligent.

Two days ago, he asked me if he could walk with me.  I was just returning from the Monastery.  I agreed and we both took a walk together.  He was so excited at just being with me.  It had been a while since we talked.  His enthusiasm was infectious.  Before long we were both laughing and talking along the way.  He shared these sweet ideas with me about us both going to America and Australia and earning lots of money and bringing it back for our parents and siblings.  We talked about what we would do there, all the fun we would have, all the mischief we would get up to.  We kept bursting out in rolls of laughter.  It was so simple, we were just enjoying each others company.  I remember being so fully into it thinking these moments never come twice.

Out of the blue Prakash expressed something to me.  "I would like to have a bicycle."  He said.  "Please get me a bicycle."  I asked him what he would do if he had one.  He said that he would visit his sisters and brother.  That he would not have to pay money for the taxis and buses.  That he would be able to ride there.  "Lets go visit my brother."  He said.  So i agreed and we walked to Chahabil to his brothers hostel.  Him as casual and in the moment, me still pondering about this bicycle.  He took me to a house that was 3 stories high.  I was greeted by a young man about 18 years of age and his elder sister about 30.  She was surprised to see us and mentioned something to Prakash in Nepalese.

Then she greeted me.  I smiled and returned the greeting.  She deviated her attention to Prakash and asked to see his nails.  She had a conversation with him in Nepalese.  He seemed to enjoy the conversation.  I asked the didi (big sister) about the place and what activities happened here.  She told me it was a bording school.  That parents paid to send their children there to study and to get personal care.  She told me that Prakash was very bright and stayed with them for a while but ran away after some time while his brother stayed.  I asked how this was possible given the fact that his parents were poor and could not afford such a thing.  She mentioned that a worker at Schechen monastery had a vision of taking in 15 street kids and approached her with the vision.  He said that he would provide half the funds necessary and asked her to provide the other half.  Although it was not part of their policy, she agreed as she thought they would have ample funds.

Prakash and his brother became a part of this exercise.  After 6 months, the person with the vision backed off completely and she was left to take care of these kids with no funds.  It became very difficult and they had to let them go.  She told me that after a few weeks, her younger brother saw Prakash and his brother begging at the monastery and was moved and pleaded with her to take them in again.  Because of the lack of funding she refused.  But after seeing them herself she took them in.   She spoke very casually and calmly with no air of desperation around her, although i could hear from the slight tension in her voice that she was emotional.  She told me that Prakash keeps running away and some nights she has to pay a taxi driver to take her around town to look for him. She said that it is heartbreaking. All the while Prakash stands there listening to the conversation and smiling.  I was surprised to hear all of this and was moved by her story.  I could see from her occasional glances at Prakash, that she loved the boy very much.  She told me she feels attached to this boy now and does not know how to help him.  That it has been a few days since she last saw him.  She then turns to him and looks at his pants (which was very dirty and torn) She then asks her younger brother to take Prakash upstairs.  We continue talking and 10 minutes later they come back down with Prakash cleaned up and a new pair of pants and a jacket.

I could see that this Didi was sincere.  That this was what she had chosen to devote her life to.  That they had little means.  That they were very generous with what they had.  She told me that she had some errands to run and asked if she could excuse herself.  I also had to go.  I took Prakash with me.  I asked him why he ran away.  He told me that there was a teacher in the school that would beat him up constantly.  I believed him.  I asked him if he was going to school currently.  He told me no.  I was very troubled.  The didi also mentioned that his parents did not seem to care for their children's future.  That it suited them better if their kids would beg with them.  I have seen Prakash begging with his mum on many school days.

Prakash and his mom

We went back home.  We went past the bicycle store.  I asked for the costs.  The cheapest bike available cost Rs5000 (R500)  I asked him if he had a second hand bike.  He brought out a bicycle that looked old and worn. He said he would fix it for me and charge Rs2000. (R200) We went to Boudha main gate.  I said goodbye to him.  I told him i would see him tomorrow.  I thought about Prakash and his schooling.  I thought about the Didi and her situation.  I was very troubled by the information at hand.

Bicycle for Prakash being fixed at store

Here are some facts about the average Nepalese family of five members:
Money needed: Rs8000 (R800) per month
Rent:  Rs 3000 (R300)  They live in a single room in a flat.  Shared bathroom and toilet outside.
Food:  Rs 2000 to Rs 3000
This is an example of Babita's family.(My former English student)  According to her, they are middle class.

Prakash and his mom pay Rs 1000 for rent.  Most times he is severely undernourished and gets sick quite often because of this.  According to Didi he has been smoking, taking glue and hashish in the past.  I spoke with him and he told me that he had stopped these activities.  I had a conversation with a man named Ram Hari who runs an orphanage called Indreni Childrens home here in Nepal.  He met with Prakash and told me that he will try and help put him into a school.  I will follow up with him in a few days.  I still dont know what the best thing is for Prakash.  I am hoping to be able to assist in the best way possible.

I have many friends like Prakash and i know of many families here who are constantly in need.  I am working with 3 orphanages in particular that could benefit from outside help.  I am not in a position financially to help all the time as i am not earning a salary.  If you would like to help in any way then please let me know.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche (1910-1991) was one of the great luminaries of Tibetan Buddhism in the twentieth century. He was a highly realized and accomplished master dedicated to the transmission and preservation of Tibet's spiritual legacy and a principle teacher of the Dalai Lama.

February 20th to 22nd marked the centennial celebrations of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.  (Rinpoche meaning "Precious One") I was fortunate to attend the start of the celebrations here in Kathmandu.  Here are some pictures and a video.