Over supper last night, Rinpoche reminisced about the good old bad old days. I think the context was a discussion about how spoilt we all are and that modern suffering tends to be mental and emotional, rather than the physical hardship endured by the extremely poor.
Rinpoche told us that when he first moved to Bir, (the Colony: it’s actually a refugee camp) each family was allocated a small house, and a monastery counted as one ‘family’. So the monks would put the monastery’s treasures, statues and holy objects in the house, while pujas, etc, would be performed in tents outside.
Noone had money, literally. Least of all young Khyentse Tulku. So Tashi Namgyal, Rinpoche’s attendant, and Sonam Dhondrup would go out and beg for money to pay for necessities.
Bir was far smaller then than it is today and many goods were only available from Delhi. So Rinpoche would take the wooden-seated night bus to Delhi, sometimes with Lama Ngöndrop, often alone, do the shopping during the day, then take the night bus home. There was no question of staying in Delhi overnight because it would simply have been too expensive.
Many of the local Indian families continue to lead very simple, often quite harsh lives. For example, women tend to do most of the hard labour in rural areas, which is probably why I have yet to see a man cut the long grass back in the fields around the Labrang. The curved knife is, most definitely, an Indian woman’s weapon…