The Third Eye by Llobsang Rampa


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The Third Eye by Llobsang Rampa

  1. 1. T. LOBSANG RAMPA T HE T HIRD EYET he T hird Eye - (Originally published in 1956) this iswhere it all started ; an autobiography about a youngmans journey into becoming a medical Lama andundergoing an operation to open the third eye. W e areshown a glimpse into the Tibetan way of Lamasery lifeand the deep understanding of spiritual knowledge.Until this point in time lamasery life was unknown,even to those few who had actually visited Tibet.Lobsang enters the Chakpori Lamasery and learns themost secret of Tibetan esoteric sciences and muchmore.
  2. 2. It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.
  3. 3. PUBLISHERS FOREWORD The autobiography of a Tibetan lama is a uniquerecord of experience and, as such, inevitably hard tocorroborate. In an attempt to obtain confirmation ofthe Authors statements the Publishers submitted theMS. to nearly twenty readers, all persons ofintelligence and experience, some with specialknowledge of the subject. Their opinions were socontradictory that no positive result emerged. Some questioned the accuracy of one section, someof another; what was doubted by one expert wasaccepted unquestioningly by another. Anyway, thePublishers asked themselves, was there any expertwho had undergone the training of a Tibetan lama inits most developed forms? W as there one who hadbeen brought up in a Tibetan family? Lobsang Rampa has provided documentary evidencethat he holds medical degrees of the University ofChungking and in those documents he is described as
  4. 4. a Lama of the Potala Monastery of Lhasa. The manypersonal conversations we have had with him haveproved him to be a man of unusual powers andattainments. Regarding many aspects of his personallife he has shown a reticence that was sometimesbaffling; but everyone has a right to privacy andLobsang Rampa maintains that some concealment isimposed on him for the safety of his family inCommunist occupied Tibet. Indeed, certain details,such as his fathers real position in the Tibetanhierarchy, have been intentionally disguised for thispurpose. For these reasons the Author must bear and willinglybears a sole responsibility for the statements made inhis book. W e may feel that here and there he exceedsthe bounds of W estern credulity, though W esternviews on the subject here dealt with can hardly bedecisive. None the less the Publishers believe that theThird Eye is in its essence an authentic account of theupbringing and training of a Tibetan boy in his familyand in a lamasery. It is in this spirit that we arepublishing the book. Anyone who differs from us will,we believe, at least agree that the author is endowedto an exceptional degree with narrative skill and thepower to evoke scenes and characters of absorbingand unique interest.
  5. 5. AUT HORS PREFACE I am a Tibetan. One of the few who have reachedthis strange W estern world. The construction andgrammar of this book leave much to be desired, but Ihave never had a formal lesson in the Englishlanguage. My “School of English” was a Japaneseprison camp, where I learned the language as best Icould from English and American women prisonerpatients. W riting in English was learned by “trial anderror”. Now my beloved country is invaded—aspredicted—by Communist hordes. For this reason onlyI have disguised my true name and that of my friends.Having done so much against Communism, I know thatmy friends in Communist countries will suffer if myidentity can be traced. As I have been in Communist,as well as Japanese hands, I know from personalexperience what torture can do, but it is not abouttorture that this book iswritten, but about a peace-loving country which has been so misunderstood andgreatly misrepresented for so long. Some of my statements, so I am told, may not be
  6. 6. believed. That is your privilege, but Tibet is a countryunknown to the rest of the world. The man who wrote,of another country, that “the people rode on turtles inthe sea” was laughed to scorn. So were those who hadseen “living-fossil” fish. Y et the latter have recentlybeen discovered and a specimen taken in arefrigerated airplane to the U.S.A. for study. Thesemen were disbelieved. They were eventually proved tobe truthful and accurate. So will I be. T. LOBSANG RAMPAWritten in the Y ear of the Wood Sheep.
  7. 7. CHAPTER ONEEARLY DAYS AT HOME “Oe. Oe. Four years old and cant stay on a horse!Y oull never make a man! W hat will your noble fathersay?” W ith this, Old Tzu gave the pony—and lucklessrider—a hearty thwack across the hindquarters, andspat in the dust. The golden roofs and domes of the Potala gleamedin the brilliant sunshine. Closer, the blue waters of theSerpent Temple lake rippled to mark the passing ofthe water-fowl. From farther along the stony trackcame the shouts and cries of men urging on the slow-moving yaks just setting out from Lhasa. From near bycame the chest-shaking “bmmn, bmmn, bmmn” of thedeep bass trumpets as monk musicians practiced inthe fields away from the crowds. But I had no time for such everyday, commonplacethings. Mine was the serious task of staying on myvery reluctant pony. Nakkim had other things in mind.He wanted to be free of his rider, free to graze, androll and kick his feet in the air.
  8. 8. Old Tzu was a grim and forbidding taskmaster. Allhis life he had been stern and hard, and now asguardian and riding instructor to a small boy of four,his patience often gave way under the strain. One ofthe men of Kham, he, with others, had been picked forhis size and strength. Nearly seven feet tall he was,and broad with it. Heavily padded shoulders increasedhis apparent breadth. In eastern Tibet there is adistrict where the men are unusually tall and strong.Many were over seven feet tall, and these men werepicked to act as police monks in all the lamaseries.They padded their shoulders to increase their apparentsize, blackened their faces to look more fierce, andcarried long staves which they were prompt to use onany luckless malefactor. Tzu had been a police monk, but now he was dry-nurse to a princeling ! He was too badly crippled to domuch walking, and so all his journeys were made onhorseback. In 1904 the British, under ColonelY ounghusband, invaded Tibet and caused muchdamage. Apparently they thought the easiest methodof ensuring our friendship was to shell our buildingsand kill our people. Tzu had been one of thedefenders, and in the action he had part of his left hipblown away.
  9. 9. My father was one of the leading men in the TibetanGovernment. His family, and that of mother, camewithin the upper ten families, and so between themmy parents had considerable influence in the affairs ofthe country. Later I will give more details of our formof government. Father was a large man, bulky, and nearly six feettall. His strength was something to boast about. Inhis youth he could lift a pony off the ground, and hewas one of the few who could wrestle with the men ofKham and come off best. Most Tibetans have black hair and dark brown eyes.Father was one of the exceptions, his hair waschestnut brown, and his eyes were grey. Often hewould give way to sudden bursts of anger for noreason that we could see. W e did not see a great deal of father. Tibet hadbeen having troublesome times. The British hadinvaded us in 1904, and the Dalai Lama had fled to
  10. 10. Mongolia, leaving my father and others of the Cabinetto rule in his absence. In 1909 the Dalai Lamareturned to Lhasa after having been to Peking. In 1910the Chinese, encouraged by the success of the Britishinvasion, stormed Lhasa. The Dalai Lama againretreated, this time to India. The Chinese were drivenfrom Lhasa in 1911 during the time of the ChineseRevolution, but not before they had committed fearfulcrimes against our people. In 1912 the Dalai Lama again returned to Lhasa.During the whole time he was absent, in those mostdifficult days, father and the others of the Cabinet,had the full responsibility of ruling Tibet. Mother usedto say that fathers temper was never the same after.Certainly he had no time for us children, and we at notime had fatherly affection from him. I, in particular,seemed to arouse his ire, and I was left to the scantmercies of Tzu “to make or break”, as father said. My poor performance on a pony was taken as apersonal insult by Tzu. In Tibet small boys of theupper class are taught to ride almost before they canwalk. Skill on a horse is essential in a country wherethere is no wheeled traffic, where all journeys have tobe done on foot or on horseback. Tibetan nobles
  11. 11. practice horsemanship hour after hour, day after day.They can stand on the narrow wooden saddle of agalloping horse, and shoot first with a rifle at amoving target, then change to bow and arrow.Sometimes skilled riders will gallop across the plainsin formation, and change horses by jumping fromsaddle to saddle. I, at four years of age, found itdifficult to stay in one saddle! My pony, Nakkim, was shaggy, and had a long tail.His narrow head was intelligent. He knew anastonishing number of ways in which to unseat anunsure rider. A favourite trick of his was to have ashort run forward, then stop dead and lower his head.As I slid helplessly forward over his neck and on to hishead he would raise it with a jerk so that I turned acomplete somersault before hitting the ground. Thenhe would stand and look at me with smugcomplacency. Tibetans never ride at a trot; the ponies are smalland riders look ridiculous on a trotting pony. Mosttimes a gentle amble is fast enough, with the gallopkept for exercise.
  12. 12. Tibet was a theocratic country. W e had no desire forthe “progress” of the outside world. W e wanted onlyto be able to meditate and to overcome thelimitations of the flesh. Our W ise Men had longrealized that the W est had coveted the riches of Tibet,and knew that when the foreigners came in, peacewent out. Now the arrival of the Communists in Tibethas proved that to be correct. My home was in Lhasa, in the fashionable district ofLingkhor, at the side of the ring road which goes allround Lhasa, and in the shadow of the Peak. There arethree circles of roads, and the outer road, Lingkhor, ismuch used by pilgrims. Like all houses in Lhasa, at thetime I was born ours was two stories high at the sidefacing the road. No one must look down on the DalaiLama, so the limit is two stories. As the height banreally applies only to one procession a year, manyhouses have an easily dismantled wooden structure ontheir flat roofs for eleven months or so. Our house was of stone and had been built for manyyears. It was in the form of a hollow square, with alarge internal courtyard. Our animals used to live onthe ground floor, and we lived upstairs. W e werefortunate in having a flight of stone steps leading from
  13. 13. the ground; most Tibetan houses have a ladder or, inthe peasants’ cottages, a notched pole which one usesat dire risk to ones shins. These notched polesbecame very slippery indeed with use, hands coveredwith yak butter transferred it to the pole and thepeasant who forgot, made a rapid descent to the floorbelow. In I910, during the Chinese invasion, our house hadbeen partly wrecked and the inner wall of the buildingwas demolished. Father had it rebuilt four stories high.It did not overlook the Ring, and we could not lookover the head of the Dalai Lama when in procession,so there were no complaints. The gate which gave entrance to our centralcourtyard was heavy and black with age. The Chineseinvaders has not been able to force its solid woodenbeams, so they had broken down a wall instead. Justabove this entrance was the office of the steward. Hecould see all who entered or left. He engaged—anddismissed—staff and saw that the household was runefficiently. Here, at his window, as the sunsettrumpets blared from the monasteries, came thebeggars of Lhasa to receive a meal to sustain themthrough the darkness of the night. All the leading
  14. 14. nobles made provision for the poor of their district.Often chained convicts would come, for there are fewprisons in Tibet, and the convicted wandered thestreets and begged for their food. In Tibet convicts are not scorned or looked upon aspariahs. W e realized that most of us would be convicts—if we were found out—so those who wereunfortunate were treated reasonably. Two monks lived in rooms to the right of thesteward; these were the household priests who prayeddaily for divine approval of our activities. The lessernobles had one priest, but our position demanded two.Before any event of note, these priests were consultedand asked to offer prayers for the favour of the gods.Every three years the priests returned to thelamaseries and were replaced by others. In each wing of our house there was a chapel.Always the butter-lamps were kept burning before thecarved wooden altar. The seven bowls of holy waterwere cleaned and replenished several times a day.They had to be clean, as the gods might want to comeand drink from them. The priests were well fed, eating
  15. 15. the same food as the family, so that they could praybetter and tell the gods that our food was good. To the left of the steward lived the legal expert,whose job it was to see that the household wasconducted in a proper and legal manner. Tibetans arevery law-abiding, and father had to be an outstandingexample in observing the law. W e children, brother Paljör, sister Y asodhara, and I,lived in the new block, at the side of the squareremote from the road. To our left we had a chapel, tothe right was the schoolroom which the children of theservants also attended. Our lessons were long andvaried. Paljör did not inhabit the body long. He wasweakly and unfit for the hard life to which we bothwere subjected. Before he was seven he left us andreturned to the Land of Many Temples. Y aso was sixwhen he passed over, and I was four. I still rememberwhen they came for him as he lay, an empty husk, andhow the Men of the Death carried him away to bebroken up and fed to the scavenger birds according tocustom.
  16. 16. Now Heir to the Family, my training was intensified.I was four years of age and a very indifferenthorseman. Father was indeed a strict man and as aPrince of the Church he saw to it that his son hadstern discipline, and was an example of how othersshould be brought up. In my country, the higher the rank of a boy, themore severe his training. Some of the nobles werebeginning to think that boys should have an easiertime, but not father. His attitude was : a poor boy hadno hope of comfort later, so give him kindness andconsideration while he was young. The higher-classboy had all riches and comforts to expect in lateryears, so be quite brutal with him during boyhood andyouth, so that he should experience hardship andshow consideration for others. This also was theofficial attitude of the country. Under this systemweaklings did not survive, but those who did couldsurvive almost anything.
  17. 17. Tzu occupied a room on the ground floor and verynear the main gate. For years he had, as a policemonk, been able to see all manner of people and nowhe could not bear to be in seclusion, away from it all.He lived near the stables in which father kept histwenty horses and all the ponies and work animals. The grooms hated the sight of Tzu, because he wasofficious and interfered with their work. W hen fatherwent riding he had to have six armed men escort him.These men wore uniform, and Tzu always bustledabout them, making sure that everything about theirequipment was in order.
  18. 18. For some reason these six men used to back theirhorses against a wall, then, as soon as my fatherappeared on his horse, they would charge forward tomeet him. I found that if I leaned out of a storeroomwindow, I could touch one of the riders as he sat onhis horse. One day, being idle, I cautiously passed arope through his stout leather belt as he was fiddlingwith his equipment. The two ends I looped and passedover a hook inside the window. In the bustle and talk Iwas not noticed. My father appeared, and the riderssurged forward. Five of them. The sixth was pulledbackwards off his horse, yelling that demons weregripping him. His belt broke, and in the confusion Iwas able to pull away the rope and steal awayundetected. It gave me much pleasure, later, to say“So you too, Ne-tuk, cant stay on a horse!” Our days were quite hard, we were awake foreighteen hours out of the twenty-four. Tibetansbelieve that it is not wise to sleep at all when it islight, or the demons of the day may come and seizeone. Even very small babies are kept awake so thatthey shall not become demon-infested. Those who areill also have to be kept awake, and a monk is called infor this. No one is spared from it, even people who aredying have to be kept conscious for as long aspossible, so that they shall know the right road totake through the border lands to the next world.
  19. 19. At school we had to study languages, Tibetan andChinese. Tibetan is two distinct languages, theordinary and the honorific. W e used the ordinary whenspeaking to servants and those of lesser rank, and thehonorific to those of equal or superior rank. The horseof a higher-rank person had to be addressed inhonorific style! Our autocratic cat, stalking across thecourtyard on some mysterious business, would beaddressed by a servant: “W ould honorable Puss Pussdeign to come and drink this unworthy milk?” Nomatter how “honourable Puss Puss” was addressed,she would never come until she was ready. Our schoolroom was quite large, at one time it hadbeen used as a refectory for visiting monks, but sincethe new buildings were finished, that particular roomhad been made into a school for the estate.Altogether there were about sixty children attending.W e sat cross-legged on the floor, at a table, or longbench, which was about eighteen inches high. W e satwith our backs to the teacher, so that we did not knowwhen he was looking at us. It made us work hard allthe time. Paper in Tibet is hand-made and expensive,far too expensive to waste on children. W e usedslates, large thin slabs about twelve inches byfourteen inches. Our “pencils” were a form of hard
  20. 20. chalk which could be picked up in the Tsu La Hills,some twelve thousand feet higher than Lhasa, whichwas already twelve thousand feet above sea-level. Iused to try to get the chalks with a reddish tint, butsister Y aso was very very fond of a soft purple. W ecould obtain quite a number of colours : reds, yellows,blues, and greens. Some of the colours, I believe,were due to the presence of metallic ores in the softchalk base. W hatever the cause we were glad to havethem. Arithmetic really bothered me. If seven hundred andeighty-three monks each drank fifty-two cups oftsampa per day, and each cup held five-eighths of apint, what size container would be needed for a weekssupply? Sister Y aso could do these things and thinknothing of it. I, well, I was not so bright. I came into my own when we did carving. That was asubject which I liked and could do reasonably well. Allprinting in Tibet is done from carved wooden plates,and so carving was considered to be quite an asset.W e children could not have wood to waste. The woodwas expensive as it had to be brought all the wayfrom India. Tibetan wood was too tough and had thewrong kind of grain. W e used a soft kind of soapstone
  21. 21. material, which could be cut easily with a sharp knife.Sometimes we used stale yak cheese! One thing that was never forgotten was a recitationof the Laws. These we had to say as soon as weentered the schoolroom, and again, just before wewere allowed to leave. These Laws were : Return good for good. Do not fight with gentle people. Read the Scriptures and understand them. Help your neighbours. The Law is hard on the rich to teach them understanding and equity. The Law is gentle with the poor to show themcompassion. Pay your debts promptly. So that there was no possibility of forgetting, theseLaws were carved on banners and fixed to the four
  22. 22. walls of our schoolroom. Life was not all study and gloom though; we playedas hard as we studied. All our games were designed totoughen us and enable us to survive in hard Tibet withits extremes of temperature. At noon, in summer, thetemperature may be as high as eighty-five degreesFahrenheit, but that same summers night it may dropto forty degrees below freezing. In winter it was oftenvery much colder than this. Archery was good fun and it did develop muscles.W e used bows made of yew, imported from India, andsometimes we made crossbows from Tibetan wood. AsBuddhists we never shot at living targets. Hiddenservants would pull a long string and cause a target tobob up and down—we never knew which to expect.Most of the others could hit the target when standingon the saddle of a galloping pony. I could never stayon that long! Long jumps were a different matter.Then there was no horse to bother about. W e ran asfast as we could, carrying a fifteen-foot pole, thenwhen our speed was sufficient, jumped with the aid ofthe pole. I use to say that the others stuck on a horseso long that they had no strength in their legs, but I,who had to use my legs, really could vault. It was
  23. 23. quite a good system for crossing streams, and verysatisfying to see those who were trying to follow meplunge in one after the other. Stilt walking was another of my pastimes. W e usedto dress up and become giants, and often we wouldhave fights on stilts—the one who fell off was theloser. Our stilts were home-made, we could not justslip round to the nearest shop and buy such things.W e used all our powers of persuasion on the Keeper ofthe Stores—usually the Steward—so that we couldobtain suitable pieces of wood. The grain had to bejust right, and there had to be freedom fromknotholes. Then we had to obtain suitable wedge-shaped pieces of footrests. As wood was too scarce towaste, we had to wait our opportunity and ask at themost appropriate moment. The girls and young women played a form ofshuttlecock. A small piece of wood had holes made inone upper edge, and feathers were wedged in. Theshuttlecock was kept in the air by using the feet. Thegirl would lift her skirt to a suitable height to permit afree kicking and from then on would use her feet only,to touch with the hand meant that she wasdisqualified. An active girl would keep the thing in the
  24. 24. air for as long as ten minutes at a time before missinga kick. The real interest in Tibet, or at least in the districtof U, which is the home county of Lhasa, was kiteflying. This could be called a national sport. W e couldonly indulge in it at certain times, at certain seasons.Y ears before it had been discovered that if kites wereflown in the mountains, rain fell in torrents, and inthose days it was thought that the Rain Gods wereangry, so kite flying was permitted only in the autumn,which in Tibet is the dry season. At certain times ofthe year, men will not shout in the mountains, as thereverberation of their voices causes the super-saturated rain-clouds from India to shed their load tooquickly and cause rainfall in the wrong place. Now, onthe first day of autumn, a long kite would be sent upfrom the roof of the Potala. within minutes, kites of allshapes, sizes, and hues made their appearance overLhasa, bobbing and twisting in the strong breeze. I love kite flying and I saw to it that my kite wasone of the first to sour upwards. W e all made our ownkites usually with a bamboo framework, and almostalways covered with fine silk. W e had no difficulty inobtaining this good quality material, it was a point of
  25. 25. honour for the household that the kite should be ofthe finest class. Of box form, we frequently fittedthem with a ferocious dragon head and with wings andtail. W e had battles in which we tried to bring down thekites of our rivals. W e stuck shards of broken glass tothe kite string, and covered part of the cord with gluepowdered with broken glass in the hope of being ableto cut the strings of others and so capture the fallingkite. Sometimes we used to steal out at night and sendour kite aloft with little butter-lamps inside the headand body. Perhaps the eyes would glow red, and thebody would show different colours against the darknight sky. W e particularly liked it when the huge yakcaravans were expected from the Lho-dzong district. Inour childish innocence we thought that the ignorantnatives from far distant places would not know aboutsuch “modern” inventions as our kites, so we used toset out to frighten some wits into them. One device of ours was to put three different shellsinto the kite in a certain way, so that when the wind
  26. 26. blew into them, they would produce a weird wailingsound. W e likened it to fire-breathing dragonsshrieking in the night, and we hoped that its effect onthe traders would be salutary. W e had many adelicious tingle along our spines as we thought ofthese men lying frightened in their bedrolls as ourkites bobbed above. Although I did not know it at this time, my play withkites was to stand me in very good stead in later lifewhen I actually flew in them. Now it was but a game,although an exciting one. W e had one game whichcould have been quite dangerous: we made large kites—big things about seven or eight feet square and withwings projecting from two sides. W e used to lay theseon level ground near a ravine where there was aparticularly strong updraught of air. W e would mountour ponies with one end of the cord looped round ourwaist, and then we would gallop off as fast as ourponies would move. Up into the air jumped the kiteand souring higher and higher until it met thisparticular updraught. There would be a jerk and therider would be lifted straight off his pony, perhaps tenfeet in the air and sink swaying slowly to earth. Somepoor wretches were almost torn in two if they forgot totake their feet from the stirrups, but I, never verygood on a horse, could always fall off, and to be liftedwas a pleasure. I found, being foolishly adventurous,
  27. 27. that if I yanked at a cord at the moment of rising Iwould go higher, and further judicious yanks wouldenable me to prolong my flights by seconds. On one occasion I yanked most enthusiastically, thewind cooperated, and I was carried on to the flat roofof a peasants house upon which was stored the winterfuel. Tibetan peasants live in houses with flat roofs witha small parapet, which retains the yak dung, which isdried and used as fuel. This particular house was ofdried mud brick instead of the more usual stone, norwas there a chimney: an aperture in the roof served todischarge smoke from the fire below. My sudden arrivalat the end of a rope disturbed the fuel and as I wasdragged across the roof, I scooped most of it throughthe hole on to the unfortunate inhabitants below. I was not popular. My appearance, also through thathole, was greeted with yelps of rage and, after havingone dusting from the furious householder, I wasdragged off to father for another dose of correctivemedicine. That night I lay on my face!
  28. 28. The next day I had the unsavoury job of goingthrough the stables and collecting yak dung, which Ihad to take to the peasants house and replace on theroof, which was quite hard work, as I was not yet sixyears of age. But everyone was satisfied except me;the other boys had a good laugh, the peasant now hadtwice as much fuel, and father had demonstrated thathe was a strict and just man. And I? I spent the nextnight on my face as well, and I was not sore withhorse riding! It may be thought that all this was very hardtreatment, but Tibet has no place for weaklings. Lhasais twelve thousand feet above sea-level, and withextremes of temperature. Other districts are higher,and the conditions even more arduous, and weaklingscould very easily imperil others. For this reason, andnot because of cruel intent, training was strict. At the higher altitudes people dip new-born babiesin icy streams to test if they are strong enough to beallowed to live. Quite often I have seen littleprocessions approaching such a stream, perhapsseventeen thousand feet above the sea. At its banks
  29. 29. the procession will stop, and the grandmother willtake the baby. Around her will be grouped the family:father, mother, and close relatives. The baby will beundressed, and grandmother will stoop and immersethe little body in the water, so that only the head andmouth are exposed to the air. In the bitter cold thebaby turns red, then blue, and its cries of proteststop. It looks dead but grandmother has muchexperience of such things, and the little one is liftedfrom the water, dried, and dressed. If the babysurvives, then it is as the gods decree. If it dies, thenit has been spared much suffering on earth. This reallyis the kindest way in such a frigid country. Far betterthat a few babies die then that they should beincurable invalids in a country where there is scantmedical attention. W ith the death of my brother it became necessary tohave my studies intensified, because when I wasseven years of age I should have to enter upontraining for whatever career the astrologers suggested.In Tibet everything is decided by astrology, from thebuying of a yak to the decision about ones career.Now the time was approaching, just before myseventh birthday, when mother would give a really bigparty to which nobles and others of high rank would beinvited to hear the forecast of the astrologers.
  30. 30. Mother was decidedly plump, she had a round faceand black hair. Tibetan women wear a sort of woodenframework on their head and over this the hair isdraped to make it as ornamental as possible. Theseframes were very elaborate affairs, they werefrequently of crimson lacquer, studded with semi-precious stones and inlaid with jade and coral. W ithwell-oiled hair the effect was very brilliant. Tibetan women use very gay clothes, with many redsand greens and yellows. In most instances therewould be an apron of one colour with a vivid horizontalstripe of a contrasting but harmonious colour. Thenthere was the earring at the left ear, its sizedepending on the rank of the wearer. Mother, being amember of one of the leading families, had an earringmore than six inches long. W e believe that women should have absolutelyequal rights with men, but in the running of the housemother went further than that and was the undisputeddictator, an autocrat who knew what she wanted andalways got it.
  31. 31. In the stir and flurry of preparing the house and thegrounds for the party she was indeed in her element.There was organizing to be done, commands to begiven, and new schemes to outshine the neighbors tobe thought out. She excelled at this having travelledextensively with father to India, Peking, and Shanghai,she had a wealth of foreign thought at her disposal. The date having been decided for the party,invitations were carefully written out by monk-scribeson the thick, hand-made paper which was always usedfor communications of the highest importance. Eachinvitation was about twelve inches wide by about twofeet long: each invitation bore fathers family seal,and, as mother also was of the upper ten, her sealhad to go on as well. Father and mother had a jointseal, this bringing the total to three. Altogether theinvitations were most imposing documents. Itfrightened me immensely to think that all this fusswas solely about me. I did not know that I was reallyof secondary importance, and that the Social Eventcame first. If I had been told that the magnificence ofthe party would confer great prestige upon myparents, it would have conveyed absolutely nothing tome, so I went on being frightened.
  32. 32. W e had engaged special messengers to deliverthese invitations; each man was mounted on athoroughbred horse. Each carried a cleft stick, in whichwas lodged an invitation. The stick was surmounted bya replica of the family coat of arms. The sticks weregaily decorated with printed prayers which waved inthe wind. There was pandemonium in the courtyard asall the messengers got ready to leave at the sametime. The attendants were hoarse with shouting,horses were neighing, and the huge black mastiffswere barking madly. There was a last-minute gulpingof Tibetan beer before the mugs were put down with aclatter as the ponderous main gates rumbled open,and the troop of men with wild yells galloped out. In Tibet messengers deliver a written message, butalso give an oral version which may be quite different.In days of long ago bandits would waylay messengersand act upon the written message, perhaps attackingan ill-defended house or procession. It became thehabit to write a misleading message which often luredbandits to where they could be captured. This oldcustom of written and oral messages was a survival ofthe past. Even now, sometimes the two messageswould differ, but the oral version was always acceptedas correct.
  33. 33. Inside the house everything was bustle and turmoil.The walls were cleaned and recoloured, the floors werescraped and the wooden boards polished until theywere really dangerous to walk upon. The carvedwooden altars in the main rooms were polished andrelacquered and many new butter lamps were put inuse. Some of these lamps were gold and some weresilver, but they were all polished so much that it wasdifficult to see which was which. All the time motherand the head steward were hurrying around, criticizinghere, ordering there, and generally giving the servantsa miserable time. W e had more than fifty servants atthe time and others were engaged for the forthcoming
  34. 34. occasion. They were all kept busy, but they all workedwith a will. Even the courtyard was scraped until thestones shone as if newly quarried. The spacesbetween them were filled with coloured material toadd to the gap appearance. W hen all this was done,the unfortunate servants were called before motherand commanded to wear only the cleanest of cleanclothes. In the kitchens there was tremendous activity; foodwas being prepared in enormous quantities. Tibet is anatural refrigerator, food can be prepared and kept foran almost indefinite time. The climate is very, verycold, and dry with it. But even when the temperaturerises, the dryness keeps stored food good. Meat willkeep for about a year, while grain keeps for hundredsof years. Buddhists do not kill, so the only meat available isfrom animals which have fallen over cliffs, or beenkilled by accident. Our larders were well stocked withsuch meat. There are butchers in Tibet, but they are ofan “untouchable” caste, and the more orthodoxfamilies do not deal with them at all.
  35. 35. Mother had decided to give the guests a rare andexpensive treat. She was going to give them preservedrhododendron blooms. W eeks before, servants hadridden out from the courtyard to go to the foothills ofthe Himalaya where the choicest blooms were to befound. In our country, rhododendron trees grow to ahuge size, and with an astonishing variety of coloursand scents. Those blooms which have not quitereached maturity are picked and most carefullywashed. Carefully, because if there is any bruising, thepreserve will be ruined. Then each flower is immersedin a mixture of water and honey in a large glass jar,with special care to avoid trapping any air. The jar issealed, and every day for weeks after the jars areplaced in the sunlight and turned at regular intervals,so that all parts of the flower are adequately exposedto the light. The flower grows slowly, and becomesfilled with nectar manufactured from the honey-water.Some people like to expose the flower to the air for afew days before eating, so that it dries and becomes alittle crisp, but without losing flavour or appearance.These people also sprinkle a little sugar on the petalsto imitate snow. Father grumbled about the expenseof these preserves : “W e could have bought ten yakwith calves for what you have spent on these prettyflowers,” he said. Mothers reply was typical of women:“Dont be a fool! W e must make a show, and anyhow,this is my side of the house.” Another delicacy was sharks fin. This was brought
  36. 36. from China sliced up, and made into soup. Someonehad said that “sharks fin soup is the worlds greatestgastronomic treat”. To me the stuff tasted terrible; itwas an ordeal to swallow it, especially as by the timeit reached Tibet, the original shark owner would nothave recognized it. To state it mildly, it was slightly“off”. That, to some, seemed to enhance the flavour. My favorite was succulent young bamboo shoots,also brought from China. These could be cooked invarious ways, but I preferred them raw with just a dabof salt. My choice was just the newly opening yellow-green ends. I am afraid that many shoots, beforecooking, lost their ends in a manner at which the cookcould only guess and not prove! Rather a pity, becausethe cook also preferred them that way. Cooks in Tibet are men; women are no good atstirring tsampa; or making exact mixtures. W omentake a handful of this, slap in a lump of that, andseason with hope that it will be right. Men are morethorough, more painstaking, and so better cooks.W omen are all right for dusting, talking, and, ofcourse, for a few other things. Not for making tsampa,though.
  37. 37. Tsampa is the main food of Tibetans. Some peoplelive on tsampa and tea from their first meal in life totheir last. It is made from barley which is roasted to anice crisp golden brown. Then the barley kernels arecracked so that the flour is exposed, then it is roastedagain. This flour is then put in a bowl, and hotbuttered tea is added. The mixture is stirred until itattains the consistency of dough. Salt, borax, and yakbutter are added to taste. The result—tsampa—can berolled into slabs, made into buns, or even molded intodecorative shapes. Tsampa is monotonous stuff alone,but it really is a very compact, concentrated foodwhich will sustain life at all altitudes and under allconditions. W hile some servants were making tsampa, otherswere making butter. Our butter-making methods couldnot be commended on hygienic grounds. Our churnswere large goat-skin bags, with the hair inside. Theywere filled with yak or goat milk and the neck wasthen twisted, turned over, and tied to make itleakproof. The whole thing was then bumped up anddown until butter was formed. W e had a specialbutter-making floor which had stone protuberancesabout eighteen inches high. The bags full of milk werelifted and dropped on to these protuberances, which
  38. 38. had the effect of “churning” the milk. It wasmonotonous to see and hear perhaps ten servantslifting and dropping these bags hour after hour. Therewas the indrawn “uh uh” as the bag was lifted, andthe squashy “zunk” as it was dropped. Sometimes acarelessly handled or old bag would burst. I rememberone really hefty fellow who was showing off hisstrength. He was working twice as fast as anyoneelse, and the veins were standing out on his neck withthe exertion. Someone said: “Y ou are getting old,Timon, you are slowing up.” Timon grunted with rageand grasped the neck of the bag in his mighty hands;lifted it, and dropped the bag down. But his strengthhad done its work. The bag dropped, but Timon stillhad his hands—and the neck—in the air. Square on thestone protuberance dropped the bag. Up shot a columnof half-formed butter. Straight into the face of astupefied Timon it went. Into his mouth, eyes, ears,and hair. Running down his body, covering him withtwelve to fifteen gallons of golden slush. Mother, attracted by the noise, rushed in. It was theonly time I have known her to be speechless. It mayhave been rage at the loss of the butter, or becauseshe thought the poor fellow was choking; but sheripped off the torn goat-skin and thwacked poor Timonover the head with it. He lost his footing on theslippery floor, and dropped into the spreading butter
  39. 39. mess. Clumsy workers, such as Timon, could ruin thebutter. If they were careless when plunging the bagson to the protruding stones, they would cause the hairinside the bags to tear loose and become mixed withthe butter. No one minded picking a dozen or twohairs out of the butter, but whole wads of it wasfrowned upon. Such butter was set aside for use in thelamps or for distribution to beggars, who would heat itand strain it through a piece of cloth. Also set asidefor beggars were the “mistakes” in culinarypreparations. If a household wanted to let theneighbors know what a high standard was set, reallygood food was prepared and set before the beggars as“mistakes”. These happy, well-fed gentlemen wouldthen wander round to the other houses saying howwell they had eaten. The neighbors would respond byseeing that the beggars had a very good meal. Thereis much to be said for the life of a beggar in Tibet.They never want; by using the “tricks of their trade”they can live exceedingly well. There is no disgrace inbegging in most of the Eastern countries. Many monksbeg their way from lamasery to lamasery. It is arecognized practice and is not considered any worsethan is, say, collecting for charities in other countries.Those who feed a monk on his way are considered tohave done a good deed. Beggars, too; have their code.
  40. 40. If a man gives to a beggar, that beggar will stay outof the way and will not approach the donor again for acertain time. The two priests attached to our household also hadtheir part in the preparations for the coming event.They went to each animal carcass in our larders andsaid prayers for the souls of the animals who hadinhabited those bodies. It was our belief that if ananimal was killed—even by accident—and eaten,humans would be under a debt to that animal. Suchdebts were paid by having a priest pray over theanimal body in the hope of ensuring that the animalreincarnated into a higher status in the next life uponearth. In the lamaseries and temples some monksdevoted their whole time praying for animals. Ourpriests had the task of praying over the horses, beforea long journey, prayers to avoid the horses becomingtoo tired. In this connection, our horses were neverworked for two days together. If a horse was ridden onone day, then it had to be rested the next day. Thesame rule applied to the work animals. And they allknew it. If, by any chance a horse was picked forriding, and it had been ridden the day before, it wouldjust stand still and refuse to move. W hen the saddlewas removed, it would turn away with a shake of thehead as if to say: “W ell, Im glad that injustice hasbeen removed!” Donkeys were worse. They would wait
  41. 41. until they were loaded, and then they would lie downand try to roll on the load. W e had three cats, and they were on duty all thetime. One lived in the stables and exercised a sterndiscipline over the mice. They had to be very warymice to remain mice and not cat-food. Another catlived in the kitchen. He was elderly, and a bit of asimpleton. His mother had been frightened by theguns of the Y ounghusband Expedition in 1904, and hehad been born too soon and was the only one of thelitter to live. Appropriately, he was called“Y ounghusband”. The third cat was a very respectablematron who lived with us. She was a model ofmaternal duty, and did her utmost to see that the catpopulation was not allowed to fall. W hen not engagedas nurse to her kittens, she used to follow motherabout from room to room. She was small and black,and in spite of having a hearty appetite, she lookedlike a walking skeleton. Tibetan animals are not pets,nor are they slaves, they are beings with a usefulpurpose to serve, being with rights just as humanbeings have rights. According to Buddhist belief, allanimals, all creatures in fact, have souls, and arereborn to earth in successively higher stages.
  42. 42. Quickly the replies to our invitations came in. Mencame galloping up to our gales brandishing the cleftmessenger-sticks. Down from his room would come thesteward to do honour to the messenger of the nobles.The man would snatch his message from the stick, andgasp out the verbal version. Then he would sag at theknees and sink to the ground with exquisite histrionicart to indicate that he had given all his strength todeliver his message to the House of Rampa. Ourservants would play their part by crowding round withmany clucks: “Poor fellow, he made a wonderfullyquick journey. Burst his heart with the speed, nodoubt. Poor, noble fellow!” I once disgraced myselfcompletely by piping up : “Oh no he hasnt. I saw himresting a little way out so that he could make a finaldash.” It will be discreet to draw a veil of silence overthe painful scene which followed. At last the day arrived. The day I dreaded, when mycareer was to be decided for me, with no choice on mypart. The first rays of the sun were peeping over thedistant mountains when a servant dashed into myroom. “W hat? Not up yet, Tuesday Lobsang Rampa?My, you are a lie-a-bed! Its four oclock, and there ismuch to be done. Get up!” I pushed aside my blanketand got to my feet. For me this day was to point thepath of my life.
  43. 43. In Tibet, two names are given, the first being theday of the week on which one was born. I was born ona Tuesday, so Tuesday was my first name. ThenLobsang, that was the name given to me by myparents. But if a boy should enter a lamasery he wouldbe given another name, his “monk name”. W as I to begiven another name? Only the passing hours wouldtell. I, at seven, wanted to be a boatman swaying andtossing on the River Tsang-po, forty miles away. Butwait a minute; did I? Boatmen are of low castebecause they use boats of yak hide stretched overwooden formers. Boatman! Low caste? No! I wanted tobe a professional flyer of kites. That was better, to beas free as the air, much better than being in adegrading little skin boat drifting on a turgid stream. Akite flyer, that is what I would be, and make wonderfulkites with huge heads and glaring eyes. But today thepriest-astrologers would have their say. Perhaps Idleft it a bit late, I could not get out of the window andescape now. Father would soon send men to bring meback. No, after all, I was a Rampa, and had to followthe steps of tradition. Maybe the astrologers wouldsay that I should be a kite flyer. I could only wait andsee.
  44. 44. CHAPTER TWOEND OF MY CHILDHOOD “Ow ! Y ulgye, you are pulling my head off! I shall beas bald as a monk if you dont stop.” “Hold your peace, Tuesday Lobsang. Y our pigtailmust be straight and well buttered or your HonourableMother will be after my skin.” “But Y ulgye, you dont have to be so rough, you aretwisting my head off.” “Oh I cant bother about that, Im in a hurry. So there I was, sitting on the floor, with a toughman-servant winding me up by the pigtail ! Eventuallythe wretched thing was as stiff as a frozen yak, andshining like moonlight on a lake.
  45. 45. Mother was in a whirl, moving round so fast that Ifelt almost as if I had several mothers. There werelast-minute orders, final preparations, and muchexcited talk. Y aso, two years older than I was bustlingabout like a woman of forty. Father had shut himselfin his private room and was well out of the uproar. Iwished I could have joined him ! For some reason mother had arranged for us to go tothe Jo-kang, the Cathedral of Lhasa. Apparently wehad to give a religious atmosphere to the laterproceedings. At about ten in the morning (Tibetantimes are very elastic), a triple-toned gong wassounded to call us to our assembly point. W e allmounted ponies: father, mother, Y aso, and about fiveothers, including a very reluctant me. W e turnedacross the Lingkhor road, and left at the foot of thePotala. This is a mountain of buildings, four hundredfeet high and twelve hundred feet long. Past thevillage of Shö we went, along the plain of the Kyi Chu,until half an hour later we stood in front of the Jo-kang. Around it clustered small houses, shops andstalls to lure the pilgrims. Thirteen hundred years theCathedral had stood here to welcome the devout.Inside, the stone floors were grooved inches deep bythe passage of so many worshippers. Pilgrims movedreverently around the Inner Circuit, each turning thehundreds of prayer-wheels as they passed, and
  46. 46. repeating incessantly the mantra: Om ! Mani padmeHum! Huge wooden beams, black with age, supported theroof, and the heavy odour of constantly burningincense drifted around like light summer clouds at thecrest of a mountain. Around the walls were goldenstatues of the deities of our faith. Stout metalscreens, with a coarse mesh so as not to obstruct theview, protected the statues from those whose cupidityovercame their reverence. Most of the more familiarstatues were partly buried by the precious stones andgems which had been heaped around them by thepious who had sought favours. Candlesticks of solidgold held candles which burned continually, and whoselight had not been extinguished during the pastthirteen hundred years. From dark recesses came thesounds of bells, gongs, and the lowing bray of theconches. W e made our circuit as tradition demanded. Our devotions completed, we went on to the flatroof. Only the favoured few could visit here; father, asone of the Custodians, always came. Our form of governments (yes, plural), may be of
  47. 47. interest. At the head of the State and Church, the final Courtof Appeal, there was the Dalai Lama. Anyone in thecountry could petition him. If the petition or requestwas fair, or if an injustice had been done, the DalaiLama saw that the request was granted, or theinjustice rectified. It is not unreasonable to say thateveryone in the country, probably without exception,either loved or revered him. He was an autocrat; heused power and domination, but never did he usethese for his own gain, only for the good of thecountry. He knew of the coming Communist invasion,even though it lay many years ahead, and temporaryeclipse of freedom, that is why a very small number ofus were specially trained so that the arts of thepriests should not be forgotten. After the Dalai Lama there were two Councils, thatis why I wrote “governments”. The first was theEcclesiastical Council. The four members of it weremonks of Lama status. They were responsible, underthe Inmost One, for all the affairs of the lamaseriesand nunneries. All ecclesiastical matters came beforethem.
  48. 48. The Council of Ministers came next. This Council hadfour members, three lay and one cleric. They dealtwith the affairs of the country as a whole, and wereresponsible for integrating the Church and State. Two officials, who may be termed Prime Ministers,for that is what they were, acted as “Liaison Officers”between the two Councils, and put their views beforethe Dalai Lama. They were of considerable importanceduring the rare meetings of the National Assembly.This was a body of some fifty men representing all themost important families and lamaseries in Lhasa. Theymet only during the gravest emergencies, such as in1904, when the Dalai Lama went to Mongolia when theBritish invaded Lhasa. In connection with this, manyW estern people have the strange notion that theInmost One was cowardly in “running away”. He didnot “run away”. W ars on Tibet may be likened to agame of chess. If the king is taken, the game is won.The Dalai Lama was our “king”. W ithout him therewould be nothing to fight for: he had to go to safety inorder to keep the country together. Those who accusehim of cowardice in any form simply do not know whatthey are talking about.
  49. 49. The National Assembly could be increased to nearlyfour hundred members when all the leaders from theprovinces came in. There are five provinces: TheCapital, as Lhasa was often called, was in the provinceof U-Tsang. Shigatse is in the same district. Gartok iswestern Tibet, Chang is northern Tibet, while Khamand Lho-dzong are the eastern and southern provincesrespectively. W ith the passage of the years the DalaiLama increased his power and did more and morewithout assistance from the Councils or Assembly. Andnever was the country better governed. The view from the temple roof was superb. To theeast stretched the Plain of Lhasa, green and lush anddotted with trees. W ater sparkled through the trees,the rivers of Lhasa tinkling along to join the Tsang Poforty miles away. To the north and south rose thegreat mountain ranges enclosing our valley andmaking us seem secluded from the rest of the world.Lamaseries abounded on the lower levels. Higher, thesmall hermitages perched precariously on precipitousslopes. W estwards loomed the twin mountains of thePotala and Chakpori, the latter was known as theTemple of Medicine. Between these mountains theW estern Gate glinted in the cold morning light. Thesky was a deep purple emphasized by the pure whiteof the snow on the distant mountain ranges. Light,wispy clouds drifted high overhead. Much nearer, in
  50. 50. the city itself, we looked down on the Council Hallnestling against the northern wall of the Cathedral.The Treasury was quite near, and surrounding it allwere the stalls of the traders and the market in whichone could buy almost anything. Close by, slightly tothe east, a nunnery jostled the precincts of theDisposers of the Dead. In the Cathedral grounds there was the never-ceasing babble of visitors to this, one of the mostsacred places of Buddhism. The chatter of pilgrimswho had traveled far, and who now brought gifts in thehope of obtaining a holy blessing. Some there werewho brought animals saved from the butchers, andpurchased with scarce money. There is much virtue insaving life, of animal and of man, and much creditwould accrue. As we stood gazing at the old, but ever-new scenes,we heard the rise and fall of monks voices inpsalmody, the deep bass of the older men and thehigh treble of the acolytes. There came the rumble andboom of the drums and the golden voices of thetrumpets. Skirlings, and muffled throbs, and asensation as of being caught up in a hypnotic net ofemotions.
  51. 51. Monks bustled around dealing with their variousaffairs. Some with yellow robes and some in purple.The more numerous were in russet red, these were the“ordinary” monks. Those of much gold were from thePotala, as were those in cherry vestments. Acolytes inwhite, and police monks in dark maroon bustled about.All, or nearly all, had one thing in common: no matterhow new their robes, they almost all had patcheswhich were replicas of the patches on Buddhas robes.Foreigners who have seen Tibetan monks, or haveseen pictures of them, sometimes remark on the“patched appearance”. The patches, then, are part ofthe dress. The monks of the twelve-hundred-year-oldNe-Sar lamasery do it properly and have their patchesof a lighter shade! Monks wear the red robes of the Order; there aremany shades of red caused by the manner in which thewoolen cloth is dyed. Maroon to brick red, it is still“red”. Certain official monks employed solely at thePotala wear gold sleeveless jackets over their redrobes. Gold is a sacred colour in Tibet—gold isuntarnishable and so always pure—and it is the officialcolour of the Dalai Lama. Some monks, or high lamasin personal attendance on the Dalai Lama, arepermitted to wear gold robes over their ordinary ones.
  52. 52. As we looked over the roof of the Jo-kang we couldsee many such gold jacketed figures, and rarely one ofthe Peak officials. W e looked up at the prayer-flagsfluttering, and at the brilliant domes of the Cathedral.The sky looked beautiful, purple, with little flecks ofwispy clouds, as if an artist had lightly flicked thecanvas of heaven with a white-loaded brush. Motherbroke the spell: “W ell, we are wasting time, I shudderto think what the servants are doing. W e must hurry!”So off on our patient ponies, clattering along theLingkhor road, each step bringing me nearer to what Itermed “The Ordeal”, but which mother regarded asher “Big Day”. Back at home, mother had a final check of all thathad been done and then we had a meal to fortify usfor the events to come. W e well knew that at timessuch as these, the guests would be well filled and wellsatisfied, but the poor hosts would be empty. Therewould be no time for us to eat later. W ith much clattering of instruments, the monk-musicians arrived and were shown into the gardens.They were laden with trumpets, clarinets, gongs, and
  53. 53. drums. Their cymbals were hung round their necks.Into the gardens they went, with much chatter, andcalled for beer to get them into the right mood forgood playing. For the next half-hour there werehorrible honks, and strident bleats from the trumpetsas the monks prepared their instruments. Uproar broke out in the courtyard as the first of theguests were sighted, riding in an armed cavalcade ofmen with fluttering pennants. The entrance gates wereflung open, and two columns of our servants linedeach side to give welcome to the arrivals. The stewardwas on hand with his two assistants who carried anassortment of the silk scarves which are used in Tibetas a form of salutation. There are eight qualities ofscarves, and the correct one must be presented oroffense may be implied! The Dalai Lama gives, andreceives, only the first grade. W e call these scarves“khata”, and the method of presentation is this: thedonor if of equal rank, stands well back with the armsfully extended. The recipient also stands well backwith arms extended. The donor makes a short bow andplaces the scarf across the wrists of the recipient, whobows, takes the scarf from the wrists, turns it over inapproval, and hands it to a servant. In the case of adonor giving a scarf to a person of much higher rank,he or she kneels with tongue extended (a Tibetangreeting similar to lifting the hat) and places the
  54. 54. khata at the feet of the recipient. The recipient in suchcases places his scarf across the neck of the donor. InTibet, gifts must always be accompanied by theappropriate khata, as must letters of congratulation.The Government used yellow scarves in place of thenormal white. The Dalai Lama, if he desired to showthe very highest honour to a person, would place akhata about a persons neck and would tie a red silkthread with a triple knot into the khata. If at the sametime he showed his hands palm up—one was indeedhonoured. W e Tibetans are of the firm belief thatones whole history is written on the palm of the hand,and the Dalai Lama, showing his hands thus, wouldprove the friendliest intentions towards one. In lateryears I had this honour twice. Our steward stood at the entrance, with an assistanton each side. He would bow to new arrivals, accepttheir khata, and pass it on to the assistant on theleft. At the same time the assistant on his right wouldhand him the correct grade of scarf with which toreturn the salutation. This he would take and placeacross the wrists, or over the neck (according to rank),of the guest. All these scarves were used and reused. The steward and his assistants were becoming busy.
  55. 55. Guests were arriving in large numbers. Fromneighboring estates, from Lhasa city, and fromoutlying districts, they all came clattering along theLingkhor road, to turn into our private drive in theshadow of the Potala. Ladies who had ridden a longdistance wore a leather face-mask to protect the skinand complexion from the grit-laden wind. Frequently acrude resemblance of the wearers features would bepainted on the mask. Arrived at her destination, thelady would doff her mask as well as her yak-hidecloak. I was always fascinated by the features paintedon the masks, the uglier or older the woman, the morebeautiful and younger would be her mask-features! In the house there was great activity. More andmore seat-cushions were brought from the storerooms.W e do not use chairs in Tibet, but sit cross-legged oncushions which are about two and a half feet squareand about nine inches thick. The same cushions areused for sleeping upon, but then several are puttogether. To us they are far more comfortable thanchairs or high beds. Arriving guests were given buttered tea and led to alarge room which had been converted into a refectory.Here they were able to choose refreshments to sustain
  56. 56. them until the real party started. About forty womenof the leading families had arrived, together with theirwomen attendants. Some of the ladies were beingentertained by mother, while others wandered aroundthe house, inspecting the furnishings, and guessingtheir value. The place seemed to be overrun withwomen of all shapes, sizes, and ages. They appearedfrom the most unusual places, and did not hesitateone moment to ask passing servants what this cost, orwhat that was worth. They behaved, in short, likewomen the world over. Sister Y aso was paradingaround in very new clothes, with her hair done in whatshe regarded as the latest style, but which to meseemed terrible; but I was always biased when itcame to women. Certain it was that on this day theyseemed to get in the way. There was another set of women to complicatematters: the high-class woman in Tibet was expectedto have huge stores of clothing and ample jewels.These she had to display, and as this would haveentailed much changing and dressing, special girls—“chung girls”— were employed to act as mannequins.They paraded around in mother’s clothes, sat anddrank innumerable cups of butter-tea, and then wentand changed into different clothing and jewelry. Theymixed with the guests and became, to all intents andpurposes, mothers assistant hostesses. Throughout
  57. 57. the day these women would change their attireperhaps five or six times. The men were more interested in the entertainers inthe gardens. A troupe of acrobats had been brought into add a touch of fun. Three of them held up a poleabout fifteen feet high, and another acrobat climbedup and stood on his head on the top. Then the otherssnatched away the pole, leaving him to fall, turn, andland cat-like on his feet. Some small boys werewatching, and immediately rushed away to a secludedspot to emulate the performance. They found a poleabout eight or ten feet high, held it up, and the most
  58. 58. daring climbed up and tried to stand on his head.Down he came, with an awful “crump”, straight on topof the others. However, their heads were thick, andapart from egg-sized bruises, no harm was done. Mother appeared, leading the rest of the ladies tosee the entertainments, and listen to the music. Thelatter was not difficult; the musicians were now wellwarmed up with copious amounts of Tibetan beer. For this occasion, mother was particularly welldressed. She was wearing a yak-wool skirt of deeprusset-red, reaching almost to the ankles. Her highboots of Tibetan felt were of the purest white, withblood-red soles, and tastefully arranged red piping. Her bolero-type jacket was of a reddish-yellow,somewhat like fathers monk robe. In my later medicaldays, I should have described it as “iodine onbandage”! Beneath it she wore a blouse of purple silk.These colours all harmonized, and had been chosen torepresent the different classes of monks garments.
  59. 59. Across her right shoulder was a silk brocade sashwhich was caught at the left side of her waist by amassive gold circlet. From the shoulder to the waist-knot the sash was blood red, but from that point itshaded from pale lemon-yellow to deep saffron whenit reached the skirt hem. Around her neck she had a gold cord which supportedthe three amulet bags which she always wore. Thesehad been given to her on her marriage to father. Onewas from her family, one from fathers family, and one,an unusual honour, was from the Dalai Lama. Shewore much jewelry, because Tibetan women wearjewelry and ornaments in accordance with their stationin life. A husband is expected to buy ornaments andjewelry whenever he has a rise in status. Mother had been busy for days past having her hairarranged in a hundred and eight plaits, each about asthick as a piece of whip-cord. A hundred and eight is aTibetan sacred number, and ladies with sufficient hairto make this number of plaits were considered to bemost fortunate. The hair, parted in the Madonna style,was supported on a wooden framework worn on top ofthe head like a hat. Of red lacquered wood, it wasstudded with diamonds, jade, and gold discs. The hair
  60. 60. trailed over it like rambler roses on a trellis. Mother had a string of coral shapes depending fromher ear. The weight was so great that she had to usea red thread around the ear to support it, or riskhaving the lobe torn: The earring reached nearly to herwaist; I watched in fascination to see how she couldturn her head to the left! People were walking about, admiring the gardens, orsitting in groups discussing social affairs. The ladies,in particular, were busy with their talk. “Y es, my dear,Lady Doring is having a new floor laid. Finely groundpebbles polished to a high gloss.” “Have you heardthat that young lama who was staying with LadyRakasha...” etc. But everyone was really waiting forthe main item of the day. All this was a merewarming-up for the events to come, when the priest-astrologers would forecast my future and direct thepath I should take through life. Upon them dependedthe career I should undertake. As the day grew old and the lengthening shadowscrawled more quickly across the ground, the activitiesof the guests became slower. They were satiated with
  61. 61. refreshments, and in a receptive mood. As the piles offood grew less, tired servants brought more and that,too, went with the passage of time. The hiredentertainers grew weary and one by one slipped awayto the kitchens for a rest and more beer. The musicians were still in fine fettle, blowing theirtrumpets, clashing the cymbals, and thwacking thedrums with gay abandon. W ith all the noise anduproar, the birds had been scared from their usualroosting places in the trees. And not only the birdswere scared. The cats had dived precipitately intosome safe refuge with the arrival of the first noisyguests. Even the huge black mastiffs which guardedthe place were silent, their deep baying stilled insleep. They had been fed and fed until they could eatno more. In the walled gardens, as the day grew yet darker,small boys flitted like gnomes between the cultivatedtrees, swinging lighted butter-lamps and smokeincense censers, and at times leaping into the lowerbranches for a carefree frolic.
  62. 62. Dotted about the grounds were golden incensebraziers sending up their thick columns of fragrantsmoke. Attending them were old women who alsotwirled clacking prayer-wheels, each revolution ofwhich sent thousands of prayers heavenwards. Father was in a state of perpetual fright! His walledgardens were famous throughout the country for theirexpensive imported plants and shrubs. Now, to hisway of thinking, the place was like a badly run zoo. Hewandered around wringing his hands and uttering littlemoans of anguish when some guest stopped andfingered a bud. In particular danger were the apricotand pear trees, and the little dwarf apple trees. Thelarger and taller trees, poplar, willow, juniper, birch,and cypress, were festooned with streams of prayer-flags which fluttered gently in the soft evening breeze. Eventually the day died as the sun set behind thefar-distant peaks of the Himalayas. From thelamaseries came the sound of trumpets signaling thepassing of yet another day, and with it hundreds ofbutter-lamps were set alight. They depended from thebranches of trees, they swung from the projectingeaves of the houses, and others floated on the placidwaters of the ornamental lake. Here they grounded,
  63. 63. like boats on a sandbar, on the water-lily leaves, therethey drifted towards the floating swans seeking refugenear the island. The sound of a deep-toned gong, and everyoneturned to watch the approaching procession. In thegardens a large marquee had been erected, with onecompletely open side. Inside was a raised dais onwhich were four of our Tibetan seats. Now theprocession approached the dais. Four servants carriedupright poles, with large flares at the upper end. Thencame four trumpeters with silver trumpets sounding afanfare. Following them, mother and father reachedthe dais and stepped upon it. Then two old men, veryold men, from the lamasery of the State Oracle. Thesetwo old men from Nechung were the most experiencedastrologers in the country. Their predictions have beenproved correct time after time. Last week they hadbeen called to predict for the Dalai Lama. Now theywere going to do the same for a seven-year-old boy.For days they had been busy at their charts andcomputations. Long had been their discussions abouttrines, ecliptics, sesqui-quadrates, and the opposinginfluence of this or that. I will discuss astrology in alater chapter.
  64. 64. Two lamas carried the astrologers notes and charts.Two others stepped forward and helped the old seersto mount the steps of the dais. Side by side theystood, like two old ivory carvings. Their gorgeousrobes of yellow Chinese brocade merely emphasizedtheir age. Upon their heads they wore tall priestshats, and their wrinkled necks seemed to wilt beneaththe weight. People gathered around and sat on the ground oncushions brought by the servants. All gossip stopped,as people strained their ears to catch the shrill, pipingvoice of the astrologer-in-chief. “Lha dre mi cho-nang-chig,” he said (Gods, devils, and men all behave in thesame way), so the probable future can be foretold. Onhe droned for an hour and then stopped for a ten-minute rest. For yet another hour he went on outliningthe future. “Ha-le! Ha-le !” (Extraordinary !Extraordinary !), exclaimed the entranced audience. And so it was foretold. A boy of seven to enter alamasery, after a hard feat of endurance, and there betrained as a priest-surgeon. To suffer great hardshipsto leave the homeland, and go among strange people.To lose all and have to start again, and eventually tosucceed.
  65. 65. Gradually the crowd dispersed. Those who had comefrom afar would stay the night at our house and departin the morning. Others would travel with their retinuesand with flares to light the way. W ith much clatteringof hooves, and the hoarse shouts of men, theyassembled in the courtyard. Once again the ponderousgate swung open, and the company streamed through.Growing fainter in the distance was the clop-clop ofthe horses, and the chatter of their riders, until fromwithout there was the silence of the night.
  66. 66. CHAPTER THREELAST DAYS AT HOME Inside the house there was still much activity. Teawas still being consumed in huge quantities, and foodwas disappearing as last-minute revellers fortifiedthemselves against the coming night. All the roomswere occupied, and there was no room for me.Disconsolately I wandered around, idly kicking atstones and anything else in the way, but even that didnot bring inspiration. No one took any notice of me,the guests were tired and happy, the servants weretired and irritable. “The horses have more feeling,” Igrumbled to myself, “I will go and sleep with them.” The stables were warm, and the fodder was soft, butfor a time sleep would not come. Each time I dozed ahorse would nudge me, or a sudden burst of soundfrom the house would rouse me. Gradually the noiseswere stilled. I raised myself to one elbow and lookedout, the lights were one by one flickering to blackness.Soon there was only the cold blue moonlight reflectingvividly from the snow-capped mountains. The horsesslept, some on their feet and some on their sides. Itoo slept. The next morning I was awakened by arough shake and a voice saying: “Come along, TuesdayLobsang. I have got to get the horses ready and youare in the way.” So I got up and made my way into the
  67. 67. house in search of food. There was much activity.People were preparing to leave, and mother wasflitting from group to group for a last-minute chat.Father was discussing improvements to the house andto the gardens. He was telling an old friend of his thathe intended having glass imported from India so thatour house would have glazed windows. In Tibet therewas no glass, none was made in the country, and thecost of bringing it from India was very high indeed.Tibetan windows have frames upon which is stretchedpaper which is highly waxed and translucent, but nottransparent. Outside the windows were heavy woodenshutters, not so much to keep burglars away as toprevent the ingress of grit carried by the strong winds.This grit (sometimes it was more like small pebbles)would tear through any unprotected windows. It wouldalso deeply cut exposed hands and faces, and duringthe season of strong winds, such journeys werefraught with danger. The people of Lhasa used to keepa wary eye upon the Peak and when it suddenlybecame hidden in a black haze everyone used to dashfor shelter before the whipping, blood-bringing windcaught them. But not only humans were on the alert:animals also were on the watch, and it was no unusualsight to see horses and dogs leading the humans inthe rush for shelter. Cats were never caught in astorm, and yaks were quite immune.
  68. 68. W ith the departure of the last of the guests I wascalled before father who said: “Go to the shoppingcentre and buy your needs. Tzu knows what isrequired.” I thought of the things I would need: atsampa bowl made of wood, a cup, and a rosary. Thecup would be in three parts: a stand, the cup, and itslid. This would be of silver. The rosary would be ofwood, with its hundred and eight beads highlypolished. A hundred and eight, the sacred number,also indicates the things which a monk has toremember. W e set off, Tzu on his horse, and I on my pony. Aswe left the courtyard we turned right, later turningright again as we left the Ring Road past the Potala toenter the shopping centre. I looked about me as ifseeing the town for the first time. I was greatly afraidthat I was seeing it for the last time! The shops werecrowded with chauffeuring merchants who had justarrived in Lhasa. Some were bringing tea from China,and others had brought cloth from India. W e made ourway through the crowd to the shops we wished tovisit; every so often Tzu would call out a greeting tosome old friend of former years. I had to get a robe of russet red. I was going to
  69. 69. have it rather on the large size, not merely because Iwas growing, but for an equally practical reason. InTibet men wear voluminous robes which are tiedtightly at the waist. The upper portion is pulled up andforms a pouch which is the repository for all thoseitems which the Tibetan male finds it necessary tocarry. The average monk, for instance, will carry in thispouch his tsampa bowl, cup, a knife, various amulets,a rosary, a bag of roasted barley and, not infrequently,a supply of tsampa. But remember, a monk carriesupon his person all his worldly possessions. My pathetic little purchases were rigidly supervisedby Tzu, who permitted only the barest essentials, andthose of merely mediocre quality as befitted a “pooracolyte”. They included sandals with yak-leather soles,a small leather bag for roasted barley, a woodentsampa bowl, wooden cup—not the silver affair I hadhoped for!—and a carving knife. This, together with avery plain rosary which I had to polish myself, were tobe my only possessions. Father was a millionaireseveral times over, with huge estates all over thecountry, with jewels, and indeed much gold. But I,while I was training, while father lived, I was to bejust a very poor monk.
  70. 70. I looked again at the street, at those two-storiedbuildings with the long, projecting eaves. I lookedagain at the shops with the sharks fins and thesaddle covers displayed on the booths outside theirdoors. I listened once more to the cheerful banter ofthe traders and their customers haggling good-naturedly over the prices to be paid. The street hadnever looked more attractive and I thought of thefortunate people who saw it every day and wouldcontinue to see it every day. Stray dogs ambled around, sniffing here and there,exchanging growls, horses neighed softly to each other
  71. 71. as they awaited the pleasure of their masters. Y aksgroaned throatily as they meandered through thepedestrian throng. W hat mysteries lurked behindthose paper-covered windows. W hat wonderful storesof goods, from all parts of the world, had passedthrough those sturdy wooden doors, and what talesthose open shutters would tell if they could speak. All this I gazed upon as upon an old friend. It didnot occur to me that I would ever see these streetsagain, even though but rarely. I thought of the thingsI would have liked to have done, of the things I wouldhave liked to buy. My reverie was shatteringlyinterrupted. A hand immense and menacing descendedupon me, caught my ear and twisted it fiercely, whilethe voice of Tzu bellowed for all the world to hear:“Come on, Tuesday Lobsang, are you dead on yourfeet? I dont know what boys are coming to nowadays.W asnt like this when I was a lad.” Tzu did not seemto mind if I stayed behind without my ear, or retainedit by following him. There was no choice but to “comeon”. All the way home Tzu rode ahead, mumbling andmoaning about the “present generation, good-for-nothing lot, bone-idle lay-abouts living in a daze”. Atleast there was one bright spot, as we turned into theLingkhor road there was a quite bitter wind. Tzusgreat bulk ahead of me gave me a sheltered path.
  72. 72. At home, mother had a look at the things which Ihad bought. To my regret she agreed that they weregood enough. I had been cherishing the hope that shewould overrule Tzu, and say that I could have betterquality articles. So once again my hopes of having asilver cup were shattered and I had to make do withthe wooden one turned on a hand-lathe in the bazaarsof Lhasa. I was not to be left alone for my last week. Motherdragged me round to the other big houses in Lhasa sothat I could pay my respects, not that I was feelingrespectful! Mother reveled in the journeyings, in theinterchange of social conversation, and in the politetittle-tattle which made up the everyday round. I wasbored stiff; to me all this was a genuine ordeal as Iwas definitely not born with the attributes which makeone suffer fools gladly. I wanted to be out in the openenjoying myself for the few days remaining. I wantedto be out flying my kites, jumping with my pole, andpracticing archery, instead of which I had to bedragged around like a prize yak, being shown off tofrumpish old women who had nothing to do all day butto sit on silk cushions and call for a servant in order togratify their slightest whim.
  73. 73. But it was not only mother who caused me so muchheartburning. Father had to visit the DrebungLamasery and I was taken along to see the place.Drebung is the largest lamasery in the world, with itsten thousand monks, its high temples, little stonehouses, and terraced buildings rising tier upon tier.This community was like a walled town, and like agood town, it was self supporting. Drebung means“Rice Heap”, and from a distance it did look like aheap of rice, with the towers and domes gleaming inthe light. Just at this time I was not in a mood toappreciate architectural beauties: I was feelingdistinctly glum at having to waste precious time likethis. Father was busy with the abbot and his assistants,and I, like a waif of the storm, wandereddisconsolately around. It made me shiver with frightwhen I saw how some of the small novices weretreated. The Rice Heap was really seven lamaseries inone; seven distinct orders, seven separate collegesformed its composition. It was so large that no oneman was in charge. Fourteen abbots ruled here andstern disciplinarians they were. I was glad when this“pleasant jaunt across a sunlit plain”—to quote father—came to an end, but more glad to know that I was
  74. 74. not going to be consigned to Drebung, or to Sera,three miles north of Lhasa. At last the week drew to an end. My kites weretaken from me and given away; my bows andbeautifully feathered arrows were broken to signifythat I was no longer a child and had no use for suchthings. I felt that my heart, too, was being broken,but no one seemed to think that important. At nightfall father sent for me and I went to hisroom, with its wonderful decorations, and the old andvaluable books lining the walls. He sat by the side ofthe main altar, which was in his room, and bade mekneel before him. This was to be the Ceremony of theOpening of the Book. In this large volume, some threefeet wide by twelve inches long, were recorded all thedetails of our family for centuries past. It gave thenames of the first of our line, and gave details of thedeeds which caused them to be raised to the nobility.Recorded here were the services we had done for ourcountry and for our Ruler. Upon the old, yellowedpages I read history. Now, for the second time, theBook was open for me. First it had been to record myconception and birth. Here were the details upon whichthe astrologers based their forecasts. Here were the
  75. 75. actual charts prepared at the time. Now I had to signthe Book myself, for tomorrow a new life for me wouldstart when I entered the lamasery. The heavy carved wooden covers were slowlyreplaced. The golden clasps pressing the thick, hand-made sheets of juniper paper were clipped on. TheBook was heavy, even father staggered a littlebeneath its weight as he rose to replace it in thegolden casket which was its protection. Reverently heturned to lower the casket into the deep stone recessbeneath the altar. Over a small silver brazier heheated wax, poured it upon the stone lid of therecess, and impressed his seal, so that the Bookwould not be disturbed. He turned to me and settled himself comfortably onhis cushions. A touch of a gong at his elbow, and aservant brought him buttered tea. There was a longsilence, and then he told me of the secret history ofTibet; history going back thousands and thousands ofyears, a story which was old before the Flood. He toldme of the time when Tibet had been washed by anancient sea, and of how excavations had proved it.Even now, he said, anyone digging near Lhasa couldbring to light fossilized sea-animals and strange
  76. 76. shells. There were artifacts, too, of strange metal andunknown purpose. Often monks who visited certaincaves in the district would discover them and bringthem to father. He showed me some. Then his moodchanged. “Because of the Law, to the high-born shall beshown austerity, while to the low shall be showncompassion,” he said. “Y ou will undergo a severeordeal before you are permitted to enter thelamasery.” He enjoined upon me the utter necessity ofimplicit obedience to all commands which would begiven to me. His concluding remarks were notconducive to a good nights sleep; he said: “My son,you think I am hard and uncaring, but I care only forthe name of the family. I say to you: if you fail in thistest for entry, do not return here. Y ou will be as astranger to this household.” W ith that, with no furtherword, he motioned me to leave him. Earlier in the evening I had said my farewells to mysister Y aso. She had been upset, for we had playedtogether so often and she was now but nine years ofage, while I would be seven—tomorrow. Mother wasnot to be found. She had gone to bed and I was notable to say good-bye to her. I made my lonely way to
  77. 77. my own room for the last time and arranged thecushions which formed my bed. I lay down, but not tosleep. For a very long time I lay there thinking of thethings my father had told me that night. Thinking ofthe strong dislike father had for children, and thinkingof the dreaded morrow when for the first time I wouldsleep away from home. Gradually the moon movedacross the sky. Outside a night bird fluttered on thewindow sill. From the roof above came the flap-flap ofprayer-flags slapping against bare wooden poles. I fellasleep, but as the first feeble rays of the sun replacedthe light of the moon, I was awakened by a servantand given a bowl of tsampa and a cup of buttered tea.As I was eating this meager fare, Tzu bustled into theroom. “W ell, boy,” he said, “our ways part. Thankgoodness for that. Now I can go back to my horses.But acquit yourself well; remember all that I havetaught you.” W ith that he turned upon his heel andleft the room. Although I did not appreciate it at the time, this wasthe kindest method. Emotional farewells would havemade it very much more difficult for me to leave home—for the first time, for ever, as I thought. If motherhad been up to see me off then no doubt I shouldhave tried to persuade her to allow me to remain athome. Many Tibetan children have quite soft lives,mine was hard by any standard, and the lack of
  78. 78. farewells, as I later found, was on fathers order, sothat I should learn discipline and firmness early in life. I finished my breakfast, tucked my tsampa bowl andcup into the front of my robe, and rolled a spare robeand a pair of felt boots into a bundle. As I crossed theroom a servant bade me go softly and not waken thesleeping household. Down the corridor I went. Thefalse dawn had been replaced by the darkness thatcomes before the true dawn as I made my way downthe steps and on to the road. So I left my home.Lonely, frightened, and sick at heart.
  79. 79. CHAPTER FOURAT THE TEMPLE GATES The road led straight ahead to Chakpori Lamasery,the Temple of Tibetan Medicine. A hard school, this! Iwalked the miles as the day grew lighter and at thegate leading to the entrance compound I met twoothers, who also desired admission. W e warily lookedeach other over, and I think that none of us was muchimpressed by what we saw in the others. W e decidedthat we would have to be sociable if we were going toendure the same training. For some time we knocked timidly, and nothinghappened. Then one of the others stooped and pickedup a large stone and really did make enough noise toattract attention. A monk appeared, waving a stickwhich to our frightened eyes looked as large as ayoung tree. “W hat do you young devils want?” heexclaimed. “Do you think that I have nothing better todo than answer the door to such as you?” “W e want tobe monks,” I replied. “Y ou look more like monkeys tome,” he said. “W ait there and do not move, the Masterof the Acolytes will see you when he is ready.” Thedoor slammed shut, nearly knocking one of the otherboys flat on his back, he having moved incautiously
  80. 80. near. W e sat upon the ground, our legs were tired withstanding. People came to the lamasery, and went. Thepleasant smell of food was wafted to us through asmall window, tantalizing us with the thought ofsatisfying our growing hunger. Food, so near, yet soutterly unattainable. At last the door was flung open with violence, and atall, skinny man appeared in the opening. “W ell!” heroared. “And what do you miserable scamps want?”“W e want to be monks,” we said. “Goodness me,” heexclaimed. “W hat garbage is coming to the lamaserynowadays!” He beckoned us to enter the vast walledenclosure which was the perimeter of the lamaserygrounds. He asked us what we were, who we were,even w hy we were! W e gathered, without difficulty,that he was not at all impressed with us. To one, theson of a herdsman, he said: “Enter quickly, if you canpass your tests you can stay.” To the next: “Y ou, boy.What did you say? Son of a butcher? A cutter-up offlesh? A transgressor of the Laws of Buddha? And youcome here? Be off with you, quickly, or I will have youflogged round the road.” The poor wretched boy forgothis tiredness in a sudden burst of speed as the monklunged at him. W heeling in a flash he leaped forward,leaving little scuffs of disturbed dust as his feettouched the ground in his hurry.
  81. 81. Now I was left, alone on my seventh birthday. Thegaunt monk turned his fierce gaze in my direction,almost causing me to shrivel on the spot with fright.He twitched his stick menacingly “And you? W hat havewe here? Oho! A young prince who wants to turnreligious. W e must see what you are made of first, myfine fellow. See what kind of stuffing you have; this isnot the place for soft and pampered princelings. Takeforty paces backwards and sit in the attitude ofcontemplation until I tell you otherwise, and do notmove an eyelash!” W ith that he turned abruptly andwent away. Sadly I picked up my pathetic little bundle,and took the forty steps back. On my knees I went,then sat cross-legged as commanded. So I satthroughout the day. Unmoving. The dust blew againstme, forming little mounds in the clips of my upturnedhands, piling on my shoulders and lodging in my hair.As the sun began to fade my hunger increased and mythroat was wracked with the harshness of thirst, for Ihad had no food or drink since the first fight of dawn.Passing monks, and there were many, took no heed.W andering dogs paused a while to sniff curiously, thenthey too went away. A gang of small boys came past.One idly flipped a stone in my direction. It struck theside of my head and caused the blood to flow. But Idid not stir. I was afraid to. If I failed my endurancetest my father would not allow me to enter what hadbeen my home. There was nowhere for me to go.
  82. 82. Nothing that I could do. I could only remainmotionless, aching in every muscle, stiff in every joint. The sun hid behind the mountains and the skybecame dark. The stars shone bright against theblackness of the sky. From the lamasery windowsthousands of little butter lamps flickered into flame. Achill wind, the leaves of the willows hissed andrattled, and about me there were all the faint soundswhich go to make the strange noises of the night. I still remained motionless for the strongest ofreasons. I was too frightened to move and I was verystiff. Presently came the soft sush-sush ofapproaching monks sandals slithering over the grittyway; the steps of an old man feeling his way in thedarkness. A form loomed up before me, the form of anold monk bent and gnarled with the passage ofaustere years. His hands shook with age, a matter ofsome concern to me when I saw that he was spillingthe tea he was carrying in one hand. In the other handhe held a small bowl of tsampa. He passed them tome. At first I made no move to take them. Divining mythoughts, he said: “Take them, my son, for you canmove during the hours of darkness.” So I drank the teaand transferred the tsampa to my own bowl. The old
  83. 83. monk said, “Now sleep, but at the first rays of the suntake your stance here in the same position, for this isa test, and is not the wanton cruelty which you maynow consider it to be. Only those who pass this testcan aspire to the higher ranks of our Order.” W ith thathe gathered up the cup and the bowl and went away. Istood and stretched my legs, then lay upon my sideand finished the tsampa. Now I was really tired, soscooping a depression in the ground to accommodatemy hip bone, and placing my spare robe beneath myhead, I lay down. My seven years had not been easy years. At alltimes father had been strict, frightfully strict, but evenso this was my first night away from home and thewhole day had been spent in one position, hungry,thirsty, and motionless. I had no idea of what themorrow would bring, or what more would be demandedof me. But now I had to sleep alone beneath thefrosty sky, alone with my terror of the darkness, alonewith my terrors of the days to come. It seemed that I had hardly closed my eyes beforethe sound of a trumpet awakened me. Opening myeyes, I saw that it was the false dawn, with the firstlight of the approaching day reflected against the
  84. 84. skies behind the mountains. Hurriedly I sat up andresumed the posture of contemplation. Gradually thelamasery ahead of me awoke to life. First there hadbeen the air of a sleeping town, a dead, inert hulk.Next, a gentle sighing, as of a sleeper awakening. Itgrew to a murmur and developed to a deep hum, likethe drone of bees on a hot summers day. Occasionallythere was the call of a trumpet, like the muted chirp ofa distant bird, and the deep growl of a conch, like abullfrog calling in a marsh. As the light increased,little groups of shaven heads passed and repassedbehind the open windows, windows which in the earlierpre-dawn light had looked like the empty eye-socketsof a clean-picked skull. The day grew older, and I grew stiffer, but I darednot move; I dared not fall asleep, for if I moved andfailed my test, then I had nowhere to go. Father hadmade it very clear that if the lamasery did not wantme, then nor did he. Little groups of monks came outof the various buildings, going about their mysteriousbusinesses. Small boys wandered around, sometimeskicking a shower of dust and small stones in mydirection, or making ribald remarks. As there was noresponse from me they soon tired of the abortive sportand went away in search of more co-operative victims.Gradually, as the light at eventide began to fail, thelittle butter-lamps again flickered into life within the
  85. 85. lamasery buildings. Soon the darkness was relievedmerely by the faint star-glow, for this was the timewhen the moon rose late. In our saying, the moon wasnow young and could not travel fast. I became sick with apprehension; was I forgotten?W as this another test, one in which I had to bedeprived of all food? Throughout the long day I hadnot stirred, and now I was faint with hunger. Suddenlyhope flared in me, and I almost jumped to my feet.There was a shuffling noise and a dark outlineapproached. Then I saw that it was a very large blackmastiff dragging something along. He took no noticeof me, but went on his nocturnal mission quiteuncaring of my plight. My hopes fell; I could havewept. To prevent myself being so weak I remindedmyself that only girls and women were as stupid asthat. At last I heard the old man approaching. This timehe gazed more benignly upon me and said: “Food anddrink, my son, but the end is not yet. There is still themorrow, so take care that you do not move, for so verymany fail at the eleventh hour.” W ith those words heturned and went away. W hile he was speaking I haddrunk the tea, and again transferred the tsampa to my