I have been reading a book on this trip. “The Snow Leopard” by Peter Matthiessen is the story of an American Buddhist traveling from Kathmandu to the Crystal Monastery in the Himalayas of Nepal. He and his scientist friend were there to observe and record the habits of the bharal or Blue Sheep of the Himalayas. It is a very interesting travelogue, a great introduction into the basics of Buddhism and very insightful about the human condition. It is my habit to read the works of those whose political, economic and religious beliefs conflict with mine, I find they help me refine my own beliefs through contrast.
After much difficult travel, the two with their Sherpa guides arrive in the mostly abandoned for the coming winter village of Shey Gompa. They spend some time here, observing the sheep and moving in supplies for continued trekking. The author records the conversation below, which left me thinking…what places do we have the habit of? And, are those places of our own choosing or no, and are they positive or no?
“On the way down the mountain, I stop outside Old Sonam’s yard in the upper village. In sooty rags and rough-spun boots, wearing the coral-colored beads of her lost girlhood, Sonam is sitting legs straight out in the dry dung, weaving a blanket on a crazy handloom rigged to rocks and sticks, bracing the whole with old twine soles pushed stiff against a stone. Her wool has a handsome and delicate pattern, for there is design in the eye of this old wild one. I admire her sudden grin, strong back, and grimy hide indifferent to the cold.
Once Sonam was an infant with red cheeks, like Sunny Poti. Now she works close in the last light, as cold descends under a faint half-moon. Soon night will come, and she will creep through her narrow door and eat a little barley; what does she dream of until day-break, when she does out on her endless quest for dung? Perhaps she knows better than to think at all, but goes simply about the business of survival, like the wolf; survival is her way of meditation. When I ask Jang-bu why Sonam lives alone all winter in the upper village when she might use an empty house near Namu, he seems astonished. “She has the habit of that place,” he says. Pg 222-223