I’m not sure I know exactly how to tell whether or not an event qualifies as a miracle, but what I heard about this afternoon must come close.
After lunch I visited Erka in the hospital. It’s called Gemtel, where folks are taken who have suffered emergency injuries and stay for recuperative care. I drove there with Erka’s daughter Mandohai and her boyfriend. After a time we approached a huge building that I thought was maybe an armory or a prison. “Nope,” said Mandohai, “that’s the hospital.”
Gemtel was built by the Russians and, like many such buildings in UB, stolidly resists such counter-revolutionary qualities as charm or flair. It looks like the place where citizens might take shelter in a siege and pour boiling oil down the ramparts onto their assailants. You imagine such a building in a film’s establishing shot enwreathed in black storm clouds that spit lightning and thunderclaps down its façade. And the inside, I’m afraid, mirrors the outside. It was only missing the hunchback scraping his lame foot down a gloomy corridor.
And yet…it’s virtually free. All the medical services and medicines and everything. You only pay about $2.50 a day for the room. Erka, fortunately, had a room to herself. As I entered, she looked as though she had just freshly woken from a nap. No visible bruising, one cut with maybe two stitches on her thumb. No tubes up her nose, no IV, no machines that go “Ping!” And yet, as was related to me on the way there, she had been driving at high speed, lost control, and flipped three times without her seatbelt. Yes, she had surgery to stanch a bit of bleeding on her upper stomach (since they were in there, they also removed her spleen for some reason – I taught Erka the phrases “full of spleen” and “to vent one’s spleen” and suggested to her delight that she would be incapable of anger from now on) but even that was healing nicely, thank you. Just…miraculous?
In the Buddhist world, we talk about situations we term “a benign ripening.” The idea is that once one sets oneself consciously and seriously down the virtuous path to enlightenment, one kicks into gear a kind of karmic dynamo that was formerly dormant. That is, karmic causes are rapidly brought up to the event horizon in this life, positive and negative, depending on the interlinkage. On the negative side, it can be that due to interdependence with the powerful virtue of one’s current activity, a potent karmic seed that might have otherwise ripened as an entire lifetime of horrible suffering, ripens instead as perhaps a night of nausea or, say, a dramatically horrible car wreck that you walk away from barely scathed.
Erka and her family have sponsored the construction of six stupas this year, the new bejeweled crown for the Statue of 10,000 Knives and engaged in many other pious acts. Not only that, she, a faithful Buddhist, wrecked at the exact same time the Dalai Lama was conferring the initiation of Hayagriva, one of whose primary qualities is eliminating the obstacle of untimely death. Are these things interrelated? I’m not a Buddha, so I can’t see the karmic fabric directly but, you know…you really wonder. In any case, I was greatly relieved at the outcome. As insurance, however, I brought her a small packet of edible pills blessed by His Holiness during his White Tara long life empowerment.
Five of the stupas Erka’s family sponsored were part of the 100 built at Khamariin Khiid’s Shambhala Land. I’m beginning to get psyched to go down on September 8th for the consecration (how's that for an awkward segue?). And to whet my appetite, and yours as the recipient of the on-the-scene reporting, Eric at the Tibetan Museum Society writes to tell me that my article on the Shambhala Land is now live on their site. You can check it out here, and I hope you enjoy it.