Do you believe in Karma? Everything that happens to us is the result of our Karma. Karma according to Buddhist philosophy is not predestination or fate, but it is the infallible law of cause and effect that governs our life and for that matter the universe. World is a physical entity formed by intricately interrelated phenomenon just like the dynamics of ecosystem. Whatever we do by our body, speech, or mind will have a corresponding effect/result. Thus, we dwell in a Circle of Karma.
Renowned writer Kunzang Choden, portraying a roller coaster of events that happens in Tsomo’s life, the protagonist of her first novel, best exemplifies this Circle of Karma.
When Tsomo was a young girl, she asks her mother, ‘Where is the furthest I can travel?’
‘Where?’ her mother responds, ‘I don’t know. Where can a girl travel to?’ but sadly she can’t survive long to see that her daughter will prove her wrong.
Tsomo as a young girl aspired to learn literature and practice religion, but then in the medieval Bhutan, girls were obligated to excel into household chores and field works. Her mother advice her to become a good woman while her father being a faithful gomchen teaches the boys and his sons, to become good gomchen. Tshomo’s childhood life passes observing the rich ritualistic life in the Bhutanese village; the gender difference between a boy and girl, the culture of teasing and night hunting, the humiliation and pain of conceiving illegitimate child, the beauty and joy of consensual courtship and marriages, to mention few. In this way, before she turned 15, she has excelled in the mundane customaries and became a good homemaker, which earned her praise from her beloved mother and neighbours.
|A Typical Bhutanese Girl.|
Unfortunately, her mother dies during a complicated delivery, which made her shoulder all the responsibilities of her mother in the house to cater the needs of her little siblings and their father. Sadly, her father married again before her mother’s first death anniversary, so this makes her travel to Trongsa to offer prayers for her mother’s soul, thus beginning the journey of Tshomo’s life away from home. Destiny had it that she fall in love with a fellow traveller Wangchen, who happens to be a married man already but they get married and stay together. The consequences of Karma starts in her life when she became pregnant and could not deliver a breathing baby. Besides her bosom borne a swollen illness which never subsided. It was during such times that Wangchen and her younger sister Kezang betrayed her.
‘Why don’t you look after your husband better?’ Kesang would yell at Tsomo when talked about the matter. This makes her think about the pains that Wangchens first wife and children would have endured when Wangchen left them and came to her home. What a Circle of Karma.
Sometimes filled with anger and resentment, sometimes with envy and vengeance, and often her mind was obsessed by malicious thoughts but she chose to move away from them, and one night she fled her home, leaving nothing but tears of empathy for her father little brothers, and taking nothing but some valuable items that her mother inherited her.
With her swollen stomach, she moves to Thimphu, works like a coolie on the sites where Phuentsholing-Thimphu highway is constructed, and through the journey up and down, finally she reaches Kalimpong in India, accompanied by a girl of similar fate Dechen Choki. The difference is that Dechen left home because she hated a man, and Tsomo left home because she loved a man and suffered because they are women.
Though Thsomo’s mind was constantly obsessed by hurtful sentiments as she reminisces the events back home, her sense of devotion towards religion pays her all the merits. Her strong faith in religion takes her pilgrimage to BodhGaya, Katmandu and then Tso Pema in Himachal. Her karma had it that she once again was entangled in the mundane of marriage with a laggard guy but with his companion and under the directive of a Tibetan Rinpoche based in Himachal, she could finally get rid of the swollen illness after visiting a hospital. They then shifted to Delhi from where her karma compels to move back to Kalimpong, only to untie her husband’s unfaithful know with her when he leaves for a younger woman.
By now, Tsomo has grown into an old lady but its better late than never. She finally fulfils her childhood wish to practice religion, though she cannot read or write when the Rinpoche ordained her to become a nun. Shaving the hairs off and wearing a maroon dress, she finally chose divinity leaving behind all remorseful mundane. Cherishing the momentary joys she experienced, remembering her karmic encounter with lamas and their blessings, she finally choose Thimphu to spent her remaining life circumambulating the National Memorial Chorten and chanting prayers to discover the eternal joy and happiness. And The Circle of Karma once again brings her to the home of her ex-husband Wangchen and sister Kesang who have now become grandparents, with a smile of unity.
Throughout, I enjoyed all the rich cultural details and many humorous incidents which I could apprehend easily and they often takes me back to the village and reminds me of the incidents that my mother use to narrate to me. For everything is due to our karma, let’s see next what it means When Loss is Gain.