Archive for the 'Tales from The Flower Raj' Category

The Art of Washing Clothes

Dhobi learned how to meditate from his uncle who became a monk in the Vipassana tradition.


dhobi - the art of washing clothes

dhobi – the art of washing clothes

Dhobi found he could incorporate the watching of his breath and bodily movements while washing his clothes on the banks of the river.  He was in this conscious state of squeezing, sudsing, wringing, and rinsing his clothes when he was spotted by a group of travelers searching for a guru.  They were immediately hypnotized by the transcendental manner of his washing.  Even with their limited experience they could tell that Dhobi was no ordinary washerman.

Soon “The Art of Washing Clothes as a Means to Enlightenment” became a lively topic of discussion in the tea stalls along the river.  It wasn’t long before Dhobi could be seen sitting in a lotus posture on a bluff overlooking the river while below Dhobi’s disciples perfected the art of washing clothes.

Dhobi’s fame, thus far confined to this international group of travelers, diminished when the majority of them were expelled from the country.  A periodic round-up of foreigners by the immigration police revealed that many of the visitors held expired visas.  Dhobi was perplexed by the loss of his helpers.  As the last busload of travelers was setting off for the border, Dhobi waved from the station.

“Isn’t the search for enlightenment more important than passbooks stamped in red?” he asked the Commissioner of  Police?

There was no reply.


The Divine Madman: “My friend …”

(excerpted from “The Divine Madman: The Sublime Life and Songs of Drukpa Kunley “, translated by Geshey Chapu, Sonam Paljor & Keith Dowman).Drukpa Kunley - My friend with a good voice.One day Drukpa Kunley visited the monastery of Drepung. Sitting with the monks he thought he should play a joke on the Moral Guard.

‘I would like to become a novice,’ he told them.
‘Where do you come from?’ he was asked.
‘I am a Drukpa,’ he said.
‘Do the Drukpas have good voices?’
‘I don’t have such a good voice,’ he told them innocently, but I have a friend who is an excellent chanter.’
‘Bring your friend with you tomorrow,’ they told him. The next day when the monks had assembled, the Lama brought a donkey by the ear, covered him with a red robe and sat him down at the end of the line of monks.
‘What is this!’ exclaimed the Moral Guard in wrath.
‘This is my friend with the good voice,’ Kunley told them, kicking the donkey to make it bray. The Guard chased him away with sticks, with the Lama shouting over his shoulder to them, ‘You people care more about chanting than meditation!’
While returning to Lhasa, two monks from the assembly caught up with him and asked him where he was bound.
‘Drukpa Kunley has no home and no destination,’ he replied. ‘I have no place at Drepung and no place in hell.’
‘What crime did you commit that hell wasn’t deep enough for you?’ they asked, laughing.
‘In this human world,’ said the Lama, ‘I did whatever came into my mind, but I came into conflict with other men’s desires, so I thought that I should spend a couple of days in hell. But the road was blocked by monks from Sera Monastery.’ Then I returned and decided to become a monk at Drepung, but the monastery was filled with Jealousy, Lust, and Anger, and I could find no place.’ And so saying, he returned to Lhasa.


Amar Chitra Katha.

Sita in the Amar Chitra Kath.
The Trailer of Amar Chitra Katha’s Saraswati graphic novel.

Amar Chitra Katha (“Immortal Captivating (or Picture) Stories“) is one of India’s largest selling comic book series, with more than 90 million copies sold in 20 Indian languages. Founded in 1967, the imprint has more than 400 titles that retell stories from the great Indian epics, mythology, history, folklore, and fables in a comic book format. It was created by Anant Pai, and published by India Book House. In 2007, the imprint and all its titles were acquired by a new venture called ACK Media. On 17 September 2008, a new website by ACK-media was launched. [Wikipedia].

A list of titles in the Indian Amar Chitra Katha comic book series shows how “Uncle Pai” began with traditional [mostly] classic Hindu mythology & how over the years the franchise has metamorphosed into a broader scope. [Wikipedia].

I learnt much of my knowledge of Hindu mythology from Amar Chitra Kath. And I’m not the only one.

A Tribute to Uncle Pai. Family, friends, colleagues & children.

I collected, read, absorbed, titles ranging from the Mahabharata, Ramayana, Bhagavad Gita, Shiva, Nehru, Jataka tales, many more. Subliminal education. When my children started to read I gave them ACK titles. They gave some of these to their children. All loved the books. Now I have none left. Last week I posted the DVD of Gatochkata to my grandson Dylan, My daughter says he loves it.

Thank you Uncle Pai.

Amar Chitra Kath.


Tagore Tuesday – Josie reciting Gitanjali.


Josie Large first recites from Tagore’s Gitanjali & then a poem of her own, summarising our afternoon & evening. I could not stop giggling was sooo good.




No Laughing Matter

No Laughing MatterDhobi’s wife collects cow dung in a large basket perched on her head.

At home she kneads the dung with straw and slaps it into patties against the wall of their hut to dry.  Dhobi pulls the dried chips off the wall as needed to light the morning fire.

One morning after a rain Dhobi tossed into the fire two dung patties that had a fresh crop of mushrooms sprouting on one side.

Oh well,” he reasoned.  “Wood is scarce.  Mushrooms will burn.”  He didn’t give the mushrooms another thought.

Shortly afterwards a cloud of smoke rose up and filled the room.  Dhobi gasped then coughed forcefully.  He started cackling then laughing like a mad man.  Suddenly tears filled his eyes.  He began to visualize Shiva, the Destroyer of the Universe, dancing wildly in front of him.

When Dhobi joined in with a frenzy of movement and a babble of words, his wife, greatly upset, fled in search of the village exorcist.

When they returned Dhobi growled at them like a wild pariah dog.  Red betel juice dripped from his mouth like blood on the lips of the vengeful blood-drooling goddess Kali.  A hideous laugh rang out.

Without further delay, the priest began an exorcism.  Lighting incense, he recited prayers and dunked Dhobi’s head in a bucket of water three times while blowing on a conch shell.  The priest tossed red chilies on the fire.  Dhobi’s wife prayed fervently by his side.

When Dhobi came around after inhaling the fumes of boiled cow urine, his throat was raw and his vision blurred.

That scoundrel!” Dhobi lashed out.  “That new washerman on the next ghat?  He did this. He caused this witchery.”


Ticketless Traveler

Dhobi - Ticketless TravelerThe Shivaratri Festival in Kathmandu is the destination of pilgrims throughout North India. What better way to spend “Lord Shiva’s Night” than by blasting chillum after chillum in honor of the blue-throated god of the high Himalayans. Bom Shankar! Dhobi spent two days camped on the railway station platform in preparation for the trip.  A sign in the depot warned “Ticketless Travel is a Social Evil.”  Dhobi purchased a ticket and watched the comings and goings of travelers at the station.  He wanted to be extra sure of the procedure before striking out on his own.  Third Class Unreserved was in theory “first come first served.”  In actual practice, however, those who pushed hardest managed to get inside the railway car.  All others had to hang onto the outside.

When the express train pulled in, Dhobi was prepared.  As planned he was among the first to crowd into the car — but at what expense!  No sooner had he sat down when he realized something was missing–his wallet.  A thief had picked his pocket in the stampede to climb aboard.

What a dilemma!  If he left to get a new ticket, he’d lose his seat on the train.  If he stayed without a ticket, he’d risk eviction from the car.  Then Dhobi remembered, his money too was stolen.  That settled matters; there was no way to procure a ticket before the conductor came through the car.  Dhobi sat still and rehearsed his appeal as the miles clacked by.