The Zen Priest Continues his Bhutan Adventure: Or, Not Knowing is Most Intimate

The Zen Priest Continues his Bhutan Adventure: Or, Not Knowing is Most Intimate October 9, 2019

Where did I leave off?



While my sense of space is relatively intact, I’m in the wondrous kingdom of Bhutan; my sense of time, well, is not so clear. I’m roughly half a day and a calendar day off my home time. And as I try to be in touch with my spouse everyday, twice a day, the confusions of when and what, oh, yes, also what is a bit confused, get fully presented.

That said, I’m moderately confident it was Monday the 6th, when we took off from Punakha, and back to Paro. This had us retrace our steps. So, that was fun, sort of recognizing this and that, really recognizing a few things, and seeing things I totally missed. And on balance giving me a small sense of this part of the kingdom.

We stopped at the Royal Botanical Gardens, a wonderful experience.

We paused in Thimphu for lunch, and resumed our drive. Somewhere along the way we paused for a toilet stop. (I’ve mentioned earlier how it appears to me the government has built these toilets along at least the major roads, but they’re tended by what appear to be franchisees, who charge 10 BTN per use. That appears to be roughly one and a half cents, US.)

There was a stand where someone was selling local products. They’re common along the way. We purchased a couple of bags of apples. Now, first, I have to say no one else came down ill. But, I did. Later that afternoon by the time we arrived in Paro I had moved steadily into the dread Traveler’s Diarrhea… As the Mayo Clinic tells us, “usually (it) isn’t serious – it’s just unpleasant.” And unpleasant it is. (I should note, photos basically end somewhere along that road. I promise to resume for my next report…)

The next day the official “retreat” began. I only use scare quotes around retreat because the format is so alien to my Zen sensibilities. It features meditation, but here and there. It is mostly lectures from various folk on aspects of the dharma and depending on who is presenting questions, answers, and dialogue on aspects of that presentation. The quiet of meditation runs a simple thread through the day. Not, of course, that I know how it actually went that first day. I was back at the hotel feeling seriously sorry for myself. I managed to eat a small bowl of rice before going to sleep.

So, I missed the presentation from Khenpo Phuntshok Tashi. Which, I was told later, was a profound experience. Khenpo is a title in Bhutanese and Tibetan Buddhism signifying the completion of at least thirteen years of intensive study and is roughly equivalent to a Western earned doctorate. the Khenpo is a much respected teacher.

Meanwhile by the evening I felt myself on the road to general okayness. Although just after dinner (a bowl of white rice, thank you), I leaned over my bag of clothes, and could almost hear a snap, as my back went “out.” (I’ve spent much of my life subject to back issues. I’ve often expressed my hope to confront the deity about the sorry engineering. Or, I did until a so-called friend opined that I missed the point. Nothing wrong with the engineering, she said, just that my expiration date had passed…) Between a long ago severe herniation and arthritis riddling my spine, I’m also given to muscle spasms.

And, here I was. After the shock of the pain and discovering I no longer card about retrieving the item in my bag, I very, very carefully made my way back to my bed. Once I lay down I recalled that the doors to these hotel rooms are locked by thrown bolts. And no one is going through that door unless I unlatch it. I fell asleep wondering which side of the door the hinges were hung.

The next day I awoke. Fortunately I wasn’t immobilized. I looked silly walking, rather like I’d aged twenty years. But I was able to go. Breakfast consisted of a small bowl of corn flakes. And, for the second day in a row coffee, my dear and beloved companion, was definitely not on my mind.

But, I was able to go to the retreat. Which was good, as I was one of the two presenters.

The venue was the Thekchog Choki Gatsei founded by the late Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. My co-presnter, David Roadhouse was a disciple of the late Rinpoche, so the presentations were a mix of the Vajrayana and Zen. I cannot speak for anyone else, but I enjoyed myself.

I was very careful for my back. And, maybe only spent a bit too much time sitting upright. On balance I probably was no more noncompliant than normal.

We returned to the hotel at the beginning of the evening. While I avoided the spicier end of the buffet than my normal presence, I had a pretty close to normal dinner.

With that I tumbled into bed and the land of nod.

My take away? Always be prepared to find you’re going to be somewhere you had not planned.


Not knowing is most intimate…

The image of from the Royal Botanical Garden is not mine.

And, for those who want to know, the hinges to the doors in the hotel are on the inside of the room…



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