ISSN 2768-4261 (Online)
(Translated from Tibetan by Rongwo Lugyal)
A clear view of the sky struck my eyes through the window as I lifted the blind. The strip of unclouded sky was just like a piece of blue glass washed in clear water and like a roof over my head. Some pigeons were quickly flapping their wings and flying away. A gust of scent from the blooming spring flowers in the courtyard rushed into the room as I opened the window. At that moment, the sounds of the day were absent, and the top of the sun was yet to come out from the blanket of the east. Some time remained before the calm of night ended. This was one of the most ordinary mornings among the countless mornings of my life, and this was a morning that I had never seriously cared for which deserves to be mentioned. And yet, it turned out to be one of the most meaningful mornings I had ever experienced.
After briefly washing my face and hands, I stepped out. Through the pile of buildings around me, soft rays of sunlight shone on the treetops and reflected on the buildings’ window panes. In the morning light, everything seemed pleasant and forbearing, and my body and mind exuded a kind of religious joy. Every brightly blooming flower on the branches resembled joyfully smiling people. I couldn’t help but withdraw from my busy steps and pause by the flowering tree for a moment, quieting my breath. It was almost as if I could hear the laughter of the flowers. The aroma of the flowers was like purified fragrance spewed out in the air, seeping into the nose and intoxicating the child of the mind. The magnolia flowers had petals like leaves, which were both wide and soft, and, during the budding period, they appeared as folded hands. When flowering, its bed was large and the leaves were lush. The magnolia blooms on the branches in pink and white colors. Every time, when the magnolia blooms in the courtyard, we would shout, “Spring is here, spring is here!” This morning, I was trapped in the pool of morning sunlight in front of the magnolia flowers.
I had never been caught up like this so emotionally in the morning. Usually, my mornings were like this: getting up, anxious about being late, hurrying out of the house, rushing to the office cafeteria, shoving food in my mouth, stepping quickly into the office, turning on the computer, and occasionally sighing unconsciously like an athlete who sighs at the starting line preparing himself for the race. Thus, I began work for the day. I had lived in such a way for a decade. A decade passed in the blink of an eye. If my entire life span were like the annual four seasons, then spring was long gone, summer was almost over, and autumn was about to begin. Or if life were just a day, then noon was almost past. My sadness was not that life had already come to this point, but only in realizing how it had come to this point. Whichever the case may be, on this most ordinary morning I ambled around in the yard. One day when death was about to occur, would it appear to my eyes as an image of such a morning where a man stares blankly in front of a magnolia? At that moment, would it make me sigh to remember that a long time ago in my hasty life I only had one brief moment of relaxation?
This morning, the indirect sunlight elongated my shadow. In the past, in my twenties, I seriously thought about feeling lost, and I thought that maybe I hadn’t found my true self yet. Now, I realized, I might be still living in a misty and confused way, or in a hasty and vague manner like before, when I did not have the habit of searching for my own shadow. For me, my shadow had become the sole evidence of manifesting my true reality. In my daily life, I had searched for my own shadow again and again. Every time I saw it, I always felt at ease. Over time I was gradually involved with large amounts of work, and had become a workaholic, obsessed with the many “important” tasks that surrounded me endlessly every day, and all that time unsure about the true value of life, still keeping busy with the worthless things anyway. On this morning, when I noticed that the indirect sunlight elongated my shadow, I felt that life was basically a process where everything is already lost when it begins. The simple imagination and the clean heart of toddlerhood were replaced with a sneer in adolescence, and that childhood memory had departed without any stinginess. Next, adolescent dreams, love, enthusiasm, clarity, songs, and laughter are sent into exile with the mature attitude of adulthood. Then, adulthood’s stabilities, thriftiness, and honors were relentlessly concluded to be meaningless in old age when facing death. In short, life is like holding a fistful of sand. The tighter you grasp to hold it, the more it slips away through the fingers.
This morning, I observed my surroundings mindfully as I had never done before. Through this mindful observation, I saw unprecedented beauty that gave me joy such as I had never felt before. I felt the early spring breeze with its flowery scents wafting softly. I saw a few bud-sprouting branches shaking in the wind, and the hair hanging on my forehead danced with the breeze. A magpie landed on top of the tall tree (I never cared to figure out what kind of tree it was) in the yard and used its beak to restore its nest. I hadn’t noticed a bird’s nest on top of the tall tree until now. The breeze wafted through the bird’s nest, and the magpie flapped its wings and chirped. Golden sunlight shone on the glass of the opposite building, reflecting a dazzling light. I saw the clear water splashing out from a black pipe onto the garden that was now liberated from the winter freeze, the smell of soil emanating from this rich earth. The old man who takes care of the garden was nowhere to be seen. Water moistened the black soil apparently causing erosion—a process that is peaceful and natural in itself. On this early spring morning, I was excited and curious about everything around me as if I were a newborn opening his eyes for the first time. Though I had lived in this yard for many years, I had never been so conscious of my living space until today. Usually, I was both physically and mentally too busy, always in a rush. The faster I sped myself up, the faster the months and years went by, and in the end, I had become just like the people around me who say “time flies”, and never have time to enjoy a quiet morning like this.
Are there many people in my familiar circle and unfamiliar environment who slowed themselves down in the morning regardless of their pace of life? This century may be the busiest time in human history. When the wheel of society gallops on the road chasing after economic circulation, every individual is unconsciously forced to become busier. That force drives us to worry about what we may have left behind, or worry about what we have not yet achieved, and that has already become a big driving force in our life. However, to alleviate this feeling of pain or ignorance, we have been sharpening our sword of the intellect since our childhood. As a result, there are more and more people carrying their swords all the time as if they have invisible enemies in their hearts, or obvious obstacles in front of their eyes, which they are ready to destroy at any time. That is our education, an education that tempers the sword. In this kind of education, we gradually lose ourselves and go in the wrong direction. Certainly, we all were gradually becoming individuals who hold swords and expand the boundaries of material desire in the battlefield of life, for which we are educated and brave. These kinds of people are very busy. Telling them about this beautiful morning and the benefits of slowing down would be ridiculous.
On this most ordinary morning, when I had my breakfast in the office cafeteria, I tasted the deliciousness of the food and drink that I was devouring and felt great happiness. In the past, my purpose for eating was simply to relieve my hunger and quench my thirst before returning to the battlefield of work. The purpose of every meal ought to be reversed, it should be more than just filling our stomachs and not like filling a car with gasoline. How many people can feel the taste with their hearts most of the time? I picked up soy milk and tasted it with my tongue. Suddenly, I smelled and dissolved myself into the deliciousness of nature. Thus, this morning I consciously respected and enjoyed my food. Not long after, workers like me came into the office. With long faces, they shoved food into their mouths without even looking at each other. In the past, I was so used to this “normality”. However, on this most ordinary morning, I felt uneasy and uncomfortable. I felt as if they were hiding their sharp swords in their sleeves, and feared their readiness to attack at any moment. There was no smile on their faces. Who stole the smile from their faces?
How talented human beings are! On this planet earth, human beings are the most talented beings. From a large perspective, human beings can make tools, transform nature, create social networks, expand civilizations, fight in wars, and walk on the moon. And from a small perspective, human beings create order, own businesses, speak well, create things with boldness, and there is nothing that they can’t do. Everyone has their own talent, everyone has their own sword. They show their talents while they swing their swords in the trenches that they have created, and show off talent or capability in the battlefield of competition for survival or death. In this century on earth, human beings have minds that are capable and highly regarded. To have the ability they strive for skills. However, this morning, I acknowledge the lack of ability and see the void in many people, myself included. This ability might be the most difficult to learn or it may be the easiest of all to learn. It is the ability to be happy. Slowing down with life, being content with less to ease some hardship, developing the feeling of appreciating beauty. A happy smile could blossom easily on the top of a mind’s tree. After all, this is the greatest value of our lifetime. Otherwise it is the failure of life. Born as a human being and unable to find happiness—that is like having eyes unable to see beauty; having ears unable to hear pleasant sounds; having a mouth unable to taste delicious food. What a waste!
This morning, I arrived at the office thinking about all of this. Once in the office, as I turned on the computer, I felt the hasty pace of the world resuming from where I left off yesterday. The noises of the cars and the sounds of the crowds rushed into my ears. Suddenly, I was confused and became hasty. I started to carry on the unfinished endless work from yesterday, or the day before yesterday or from three days ago, and then I sighed.
Lhashamgyal is a Tibetan author and scholar living in Beijing. He received his Ph.D. from Chengdu’s Southwest University for Nationalities in Ethnology in 2014, specializing in Tibetan Buddhism and Culture. He is the Deputy Director of the Religious Research Institute and the president of the Tibetan Youth Society of the China Tibetology Research Center. He writes in both the Tibetan and Chinese languages and has published nine books. His work has been translated into French, English, and Japanese. He is also an editor of the journal Nationality Literature (mi rigs kyi ‘tshom rigs) and a five-time recipient of the prestigious Light Rain Prize for Tibetan literature.
Rongwo Lugyal (རོང་བོ་ཀླུ་རྒྱལ།) was born and raised in Rebgong. He is a writer, editor, and translator who translates from English to Tibetan and vice versa. Many of his works and translations are published in literary journals and on online platforms, including in World Literature (འཛམ་གླིང་རྩོག་རིག), an annual magazine published in Tibet. He is currently the Tibetan Culture Coordinator at the Tibet Center at the University of Virginia.
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