Monday, December 10, 2012

The joy of giving

It's easier to take than to give. It's nobler to give than to take. The thrill of taking lasts a day. The thrill of giving lasts a lifetime.
                                                                                                    ― Joan Marques

I first met Ugyen Penjor last month when I visited Guru lhakhang with my two friends. He is the caretaker of this beautiful monastery (two-hour walk away from Dochula). Decked in knee-length orange and red robes, he is very humble. And tellingly, without modern education.
This monastery sits spectacularly at a high mountain, enclosed by woods and colourful prayer flags. Reached there, then we’ve become quiet, our mind at peace. The sky was just stainless, gorgeous. On my face, the fresh mountain air and steam of clouds brushed full.

We circumambulated the monastery and went inside to prostrate and say our prayers. Though small, it has magnificent interior and serenity. It is, in-a-word, heavenly.  

A few yards down the monastery, Ugyen Penjor has a small cottage home. He invited us for tea. “Come please, come,” he insisted on us, his smile beautiful. Actually, we didn’t expect this.
His little room was warmed with bukhari and he asked us to sit around the fireplace. On mats - that spread around it. He offered us tea. Meanwhile, he talked to us - softly with a bemused smile and sparkling eyes.

In a while, he brought snacks, then fruits, and again tea. I’ll tell you that the tea, snacks and fruits - all are so delicious. And once I started eating, I couldn’t stop. He-he.  Seriously! Then, he served us lunch. It’s red rice with ema datshi, ezey and fish and beef curry. It’s a luxuriously long lunch though.

I was incredibly grateful to him. Surprised, too. He gave us as if he had never exhausting foods and wealth inside his small cottage. Each time he brought us foods, it seemed to me that he had more to give. And instantly, I remembered this gorgeous saying: As you give more and more, you have more to give. And I felt it all true. It is one of life's wonderful paradoxes.
This is very strange. As he offered us foods, all I could see in his eyes was the natural outpouring of happiness. And the more he gave the happier and joyful he seemed and new richness filled his life. In fact, he was sharing with us more than his foods. His joy, love, compassion, gratitude for life, too. Yes, all that can be reaped from giving.
And there, I couldn’t help thinking of Thimphu. We’ve buildings, acres of land and savings of millions ngultrum and we drive Prado and Mercedes. Our houses fenced with cemented walls. In front, monstrous iron gates and import dogs and security guards vigilant at you.

Don’t ever expect that you’d be invited for even a cup of tea. We forgot even the merest acts of kindness. We failed to smile and utter a kind word to others. We’ve no time to give a piece of advice reassurance and a helping hand to needy people.

We’ve accumulated so much of wealth, yet we’re unhappy and desire more. Why? I don’t know the precise reason. But the basic truth about life is that when we withhold and try to get more things to fulfill our needs, we only end up feeling more empty, needy and unfulfilled.

But as I left this monastery, I looked at Ugyen Penjor and felt this keenly, this sense of reverence and awe for him. He gives freely. He loves. He dances, joyful, complete, spreading his compassion and happiness. Oh, he lives a beautiful life! Like a drop of water, it created ripples in the pond of my heart. And I walked down home ever joyful, blissful. 


  1. You have repaid the kindness with this beautiful write up.

  2. That's why I always like to admit that GNH lies in Villages and not in town.
    You are very lucky to have met this humble man and even got to eat heaps ;)