N  a  p a  l  m     H  e  a  l  t  h     S  p  a  :     R  e  p  o  r  t     2  0  1  2




            Padampa Sangye retreat spot above Paro Valley, Bhutan. Photo by Peter Marti.


Thigh-bone Trumpet Echo


“This last 25 minute leg of our flight today

might be a bit bumpy,” pilot cheerily informs

“To the left is the highest mountain in the world”

       and so it is: Mt. Everest juts up white

craggy tooth in dark blue sky, like its pictures

never thought I’d be so close—

       dark gray clouds of its own weather

                         massing from China




While alive, our Tibetan Buddhist Lama

omniscient poet, artist, philosopher—

was the King of Bhutan’s own teacher.

       We’ll join thousands of others flying in

walking, bussing—upon arrival we even see some

prostrating, calmly stretching out full

on the ragged asphalt and dirt road

leading to his cremation.




First glimpse memorial site week before

ceremony:  camouflage and navy blue

Army and Police in stocking feet on scaffold

painting Tibetan Buddhist symbolic art

                         on cremation Stupa.

       Families arrive on foot, prostrate, bow

circumambulate—touch baby’s head to shrine

beneath picture of our Teacher, sitting dead in

meditation posture behind silk curtains




Our Teacher bought this steep mountain valley

for his permanent resting place—

       the Army’s terraced and graded, improved the

       road (tho it’s still a rough ride up)—

below sacred cave of Padampa Sangye

(patron saint of Chod—esoteric practice for

offering one’s own body as gesture of ultimate


       Ritual sounds of chanting, skull-drum 

thigh-bone trumpet echo down from above.




2 a.m. we rise, have tea and hard-boiled eggs

get ride to base of road leading to cremation site.

       We have to walk up—like first day here—

but no easier, carrying water, cushions, coats

       thousands climb as well, ringing the site with

reverential patience.




Our Teacher’s memorial brings us mourners

together for first, maybe last time.

    Three young western students are the chopen  

(or “hands of the Lamas”) in charge of loading 

crematorium with blessed substances, offerings

                         oils, grains, prayers…

       Strange to have known these young men

mouths covered w/ silk offering scarves—

as babies.

                         12 years ago one sat screaming

for 20 minutes on the cushion next to mine

while we sang ritual feast offering prayer

over and over, our teacher signaling us ignore him

until he stopped

       and my own mind

                         finally quieted.




Faint first wisp cremation smoke above stupa

culmination of week’s pujas, prayers—

       he’s really gone

                         my flawless teacher

who knew my mind better than I

who once put enlightened wrathful deity

Vajrakilya there

                         wings ruffling the air—in place of

my ordinary anger, who once laughed at my

bow legs, asking where was my horse, who

when he saw us practicing before 35 foot statue of

Padmasambhava, patron saint of Tibet

       waved his hands, creating holographic image

of Copper-colored Mountain pure land—

                         the wisest, omniscient Buddha

                                                      gone from earth…

       Flames lick from white clay oven

Holy soot blackens the vents, now the smoke

thickens, curls out and over his children, over his

own father, reborn now 21 years old, presiding

over multitudes on terraced hillsides

dots of bright colors

       refracted through tears




Paro to Bangkok flight delayed two hours

       bad weather then on to Tokyo

We eat airport noodles

       P.A. asks for a moment of silence for all those

killed exactly one year ago this minute

       Earthquake and Tsunami images tumble

across flat-screen TVs

                         Noodle-stand quiets

                                    Japanese stop mid-bite

       chopsticks in the air




Jet-lagged beyond reason

I return from Bhutan…

       saw my shrunken 

       gold-leafed teacher burnt

incense, smoke—

                         omniscient ash

                                             over Himalayas.