It was during the rainy season or Monsoons when we arrived in Darjeeling. It rained every day and it was difficult moving around as it seems that the mud was everyhere and that when we stayed indoors, the low-lying clouds came into our rooms and filled evrything with humidity. Our only joy was in the satsangs and the talks given by the Buddhist teacher and in between the talks, we had some little time for touristing around. This was 1971 and Tibetans were still fleeing from Tibet and sneaking through the forests and into Nepal. There were lots of little boutiques where Tibetans brought some of their treasures to be sold. They needed money to take care of themselves and some, their children. It was a ‘buyers market’ for the tourists seeking curios to bring back to the Westen world.
There was a man from Toronto who was buying gems and one day he asked me to accompany him. It was an unforgettable experience. we walked into this tiny shop which seemd like someone’s living room. In the middle of a room, was a small round table and a light suspended from the ceiling, which came and stood just about the center of the little round table. We were invited to sit on the rug around the table and once we wre seated the jeweler asked what was the jewel that we were particularly interested in seeing. My friend said “rubies” and he went to a chest-of -drawers and came to us with some envelopes. He sat on he floor, pulled the light down low and began opening the envelopes and displaying the stones. There were some beautiful black-red rublies, some with a distinct star as the light reflected on it. My friend expressed his choice and requested the price and asked “can you put this one aside”. We watched several kinds of jewels all coming in paper envelopes. It seemed like scenes from ‘Arabian Nights” as he showed us topaz and amber and all kinds of precious stones. My friend made his choice and paid and we left. He told me, “no where in the world will you see stones so beautifully cut like in India. When I go back to Toronto I can mount them and sell them for a good price.”
Some boutiques carried tankas (Tibetan paintings on cloth) beautiful drawings of Buddhas and mandalas. Some carried scarves and clothes and musical instruments and some even had human cranes for sale. One guy was particularly interested in buying a skull. It was just the top part of the skull which was sold. I was horrified and wondered how can anyone buy such a thing. I remember when we left by train for Delhi that some kids in our compartment were taking out of their bags and showing some of the souvenirs they were bringing back to the West. There were bells and dorges and statues and tankas and jewels. There was a group of these kids travelling together and comparing the stones they bought. “May I see that star ruby?” she asked her friend and so her friend passes her the stone and she was looking at it in the palm of her hand when the train gathered up some speed and the ruby rolled out of her hand and fell on the floor. They were both, in a flash, down on their knees but helas, the ruby had slipped through a crack in the floor and gone!. I thought to myself “how strange a thing that it should come all the way from its precious envelope in the jeweler’s shop, to find freedom in a rail-track!’
I could not find a hotel to stay in whilst in Darjeeling but a friend suggested I come with him to the market place as he was told there was a possibility of staying with a family of some of the vendors. Afetr enquiring around we found one that was willing to have me stay at his place. He was a short man with a big smile and he spoke a little English. He left his stall to take me to his home. It was extremely poor and very little furniture in the living room but there was a cot which he said I could use and sleep there. The price was also so cheap! The bathroom was out side in the public square and there in the early morning was where we ran into the other Westerners brushing their teeth, washing thier faces etc. It was situations like this that made us all smile and enjoy the luxuries of fresh flowing water and whatever goodies we had. It was there also that we learnt where the next lecture will be and at what time. We were given a companion as a security measure so we wont get lost.
It was on a day when the sun came through that we set out on a path heading for a lecture. I cant remember what the monk spoke about but he invited anyone who wanted to ask questions, to allow the others to go for lunch and to come and see him in the hall. I had a question and so I went. He listened attentively and said “come with me” and he led me to this room with many books on a shelf and he said “I want you to read this and we will talk”. I left and after a bowl of soup in the village, I went to the place where I was staying and stretched out on the bed I began to read. The title of the Book was “The Opening of the Mind’s eye” written by H.H.Dalai Lama . It was around the noon hour, very hot and my eyes were heavy and I dozed off to sleep. I had a strange dream that there was a giant spider in the room and it was coming my way. I was scared to death as the spider approached but then suddenly in my mind a voice said ‘why be aftraid, it is only a spider”! From that moment, the spider became smaller and smaller and finally it came close and just walked over my wrist and left and I awoke. My heart was pounding as I was sure that the spider was in my bed and so I jumped up and searched but there was nothing. I got up and looked at the time. Oh it was time I left the house for the afternoon lecture and so I made my way down.
The dream was so strong, it lingered with me as I wondered what it meant. The Bhikku came in and sat down and began his lecture. “There was a monk who sat in meditation and every time he began his meditation, a giant spider would appear.” I was shocked and my ears were fully attentive as the monk continued. “So one day the monk went to see his master and asked….”I cant meditate. the spider is driving me crazy. I have this knife, may I have permission to kill the spider” His teacher looked at him and said, “Please give me that knife. Here is a small paint brush and some ink. Take this with you and when the spider appears, you will paint an X on its back and it wont bother you anymore” So the monk went back and sat to meditate and sure enough the spider came back and this time the monk took out the little pot of ink, dipped the paint brush and made an impressive black X on the spider’s back and as his master indicacted, It disappeared and he had an incredible meditation. He came out of meditation feeling so refreshed and his head was tilted to his chest. It was in the heat of the day and his chest was exposed and as he opened fully his eyes, lo and behold there was this beautiful black X on his chest and abdomen!” Please remember from this story that everything we see in meditation is our very own creation, so please be gentle even with our distractions.” said the monk and I have never forgotten this lesson.