The Monk at Rongbuk Monastry

Years and years ago I had trekked to the Rongbuk Monastry, which is the last Monastry on the way to the Everest Base Camp…


…where I met a young Monk that kept laughing. He must have been in his late 20’s at that time, and we spent a lot of time talking. He had been at the Monastry since he was a little boy.
I don’t remember much of the conversation other than him laughing at my attempts to eat Yak meat that is incredibly tough especiazlly when cooked at those altitudes. But I do remember asking him how long he had been practising meditation.
“15 years, he said”
“And how long can you truly be ‘in meditation’ “, I asked
“About a minute”. He replied, as he laughed.
Buddha’s Enlightenment did not just happen, I guess.
The path to the union with the Self is a lifelong journey that involves every step I walk, every breath I breathe and every thought I think. And every word I speak. Knowing that not a single moment must be wasted. It is a torturous, tough, devastating and exhilarating journey.
And not one amongst us can say for sure what lies at the end of it,
Oh, well,
Shekhar

43 Responses to “The Monk at Rongbuk Monastry”

  1. Heather says:

    Dear Shekhar
    Your accepting and positive embrace of the unfinished, the incomplete, the imperfect is your gift, and allows others to reach their highest potential through their work with you — and when reading you, too.
    love, Heather

  2. K Iyer says:

    Shekhar,
    Words have a strange way of expressing nothingness. They say nothing! 🙂
    Krishnan

  3. Judy Dragutsky says:

    Dear Shekhar,
    I am a writer by trade; but my deepest desires at one time always was tied up in any form of the arts, especially music. As a young girl my mother always listened to WQXR the classical radio station whenever we were in the car and, by the time I was 5 years of age, whatever was airing I could identify the Orchestra and the Conductor let alone the Composer and name of the piece. I could pull almost out of the air, the correct note to start singing a song in the right key.
    Little did my mother realize at the time that I had a perfect ear. I loved to dance and had ballet lessons sing and play the piano from memory just hearing the piece played by my father once. It’s a shame that all of that early training is lost on me now, although I do sing in a choir from time to time.
    My approach to writing is like a work of music; I look for a rhythm, a pulse, a movement for my words, sentences and paragraphs because there is always a certain pattern that develops and is finely tuned. It’s also something that I can relate to and stay connected with, something that I love.
    I don’t have to dig so far within myself to find these cues, they’re right underneath the surface…
    Maybe your cues are right there, too…
    Warmest Wishes,
    Judy

  4. Vivek Anand says:

    Dear Shekhar
    I would like to request you to please post my article on your site so that people could read it.
    I have posted it on my blog but being not so popular personality no one has posted any comment on that.
    It is one of my favorite posting on my blog.i.e. vivekanandtcs.blogspot.com
    Posting:Mien Exotic and Eternal Journey to Parsvnath
    Being Hindu by birth I never really believed in idol worship. Though I am not completely atheist any how, I like going to temple. I have never been a complete devotee but I like the serene and calm environment that lies in the ambience of temple. So in search of this serene and calm ambience I decided to join three Jain friends in their journey, rather I would call our journey to Parasnath (also called Parsvnath). On one of the Thursday evening we started our journey. We left our lodging about two hours to journey but Kolkata traffic dared to challenge by sticking us in jam. It was drizzling outside the taxi but there was only twenty minutes to reach the Howrah station. Our taxi got stuck in the jams deadlock so we decided unanimously to leave the taxi and run as fast as possible with our luggage. We didnt want to miss the train as it would spill water on our plan. So with luggage on our backs and shoulders and heart in our mouth, we ran sweating profusely to reach the station before the train leaves. Drizzling falling on us resembled heaven showering flower for our effort. But God help those who help themselves. With firm determination we ran desperately and there was no one who could have defies us from reaching the station on right time. As we all set ours foot on pedestal of the trains coach it left the platform.
    So we reached Parasnath at about 4 oclock in the morning. At about 5 oclock I saw the first stroke of sun beam splashing on my face. The rays itself were so pious that I thought that by just putting my first step itself I got nirvana, for which our Holy Saint took so many years. I dont remember when I have last seen the sunrise in Kolkata. It was pleasant morning and a cup of tea in the earthen pot (called kullad in local language) made it even more enjoyable and memorable. Then at thirty past Five we left for Sammet shikhar. Sammet shikhar is the place where Lord Mahavir along with many Jains Saint has been believed to get Moksha (Nirvana). We booked the room in the dharmsala which is managed by Digamber Jain society (There are two sects in Jain, one is Digamber ,who worship moksha form of Lord Mahavir and other is Swetamber,one who worship birth form of Lord Mahavir) . We had decided prior to journey to rest for a day and then start our journey in early morning next day.
    As per our plan we started our journey at sharp thirty past three early in the morning. It was all together 27 kilometers of journey, broken into three equal parts of 9 kilometers each. First 9 kilometers was walk on acclivity of the mountain. Then second 9 kilometers was distance to be covered between many peaks which hold the signs (tuk) of place of moksha of various Jain saints. Then finally the last 9 kilometers, the toughest one because it is to be done barefooted down the slope of mountain in hottest part of the day and in completely enervated condition.
    One of my friends said to me that if I had done this pilgrim about 100 years before, then foots of mine would have been washed up by people and that pious water would have been equivalent to elixir. There are rarely any people from other religions who dare to do this journey for no cause. But I did this for the welfare of mankind. I dont believe in saying that religion is made to divide people in different sects but only sole purpose of religion which I feel is to unite people.
    I was happy with the arrangements made by the Jain community there. Food was served at about no cost. There were lots of temples in the small premises of Sammet shikhar. But the only thing I think lacked there was sere motive to raise the economically backward adivasi, native to that place. Lot of money was donated in the name of making temples but none was spend in uplifting the poor and poverty stricken people of the society. Like other parts of India, here also we can clearly see the thick line of demarcation between rich and poor. This was not I expected from this place. At least at holy places people should forget the materialistic desire and try to serve the society in which lots of people are leaving, who are still not getting two times meal a day. Even Lord Mahavir renounced the world and served the people. So people should learn lesson and should continue to build the temple and shrine but should also spare some wealth for the downtrodden.
    Sammet shikhar was like Isle in the sea of poverty and completely neglected people. As we stayed in our destitute room in Dharmsala, there was continuous peeping into from the undraped window and unlatched door. Peeping into our room were grief stricken children and women, whose face itself said the entire story. It was amazing to see where the entire donation was being utilized. No doubt it was used in building temples and monuments. This would remind the generation to come, about the sacred religion. And these half naked people would be still be there begging for the much needed jest to live.
    So with this truth of life I completed my journey, which I still define as an exotic and eternal not because I came close to God, but due to profound truth which was revealed to me. By serving others only we can get Moksha not by performing any pilgrimage.
    Serve the needy; its the Nirvana in this Kalyug.
    Vivek Anand
    Kolkata

  5. Usha Bhende says:

    Hi Shekhar..the monk’s story is very interesting and your comments insightful…I also read your poem to your daughter..and the lesson to learn from it..turning failures into success…is inspirational..all kids should be taught this.I know of your affinity with kids..and how they adore you!My daughter Amrita did the “CHOCOBIX” ad that you directed way back in 1988.I was 5 mths pregnant then,and had crashed my new Maruti800!! Fortunately no damage was done and I have a handsome 17 yr old son,Akshay today.Amrita is now heading a project using dance as a therapy for Under-privileged kids affected by HIV-AIDS..Your wife Suchitra did some shows of “Fantastics” with my husband Singer/composer Nando Bhende.. We now have our own digital recording studio in Juhu Koliwada,where Naseer dubbed his “League of Extraordinary Gentleman” dialogues!
    We have enjoyed all your different unusual films,esp. “Masoom” and Mr.India”films,and look forward to the next production.Our regards to Suchitra.
    All the very best.
    Regards,
    Usha Bhende… website : http://www.nbgc.net

  6. Rajaneesh Anaje says:

    Hi Shekhar,
    1.Have you read the Bhagavad Gita?
    2.Would you ever think of making a
    movie based on it?
    Best Regards,
    Rajaneesh Anaje
    London,
    U.K

  7. Gordan Brown says:

    Hi Shekhar,
    I am writing this in the hope that it will be read, by you. I will cut short my sing song on paens that I have conjured to priase. But as a matter of fact you are the best director around (ofcourse no doubt about it). Its hard to cut my self short in my ‘sing song’ but Masoom is the best movie ever coming from indian cinema isnt it.
    Please dont hold ur creativity and deprive the world of your vision. We want to see mahabharata as seen by the great Shekhar Kapoor. Now I am feeling better.
    Keep up the good work and thanks for all those great movies which are very much a part of our world.
    Gordan (not my real name)

  8. Amitabh says:

    Shekhar,
    Well written. My purpose for writing this though has little to do with this peice.
    Umm..I don’t know how this is going to sound ..met your friend Mohan Chopra in an eating joint in Nizamuddin…told me about your site, so thought will let you know of my existence.
    I am doing my media research in Delhi for an organisation called Sarai..on Indian Comics..I don’t think you wouldv’e read them .A group called Raj comics takes them out..they’re the Hindi Action/Adventure genre.Nagraj, Super Commando Dhruv etc.
    Its an interesting hybrid Khichdi of things really. And since hybird ‘khichdi’ seems to be the flavour of the month/year maybe this might interest you.
    My backgrounds that of a painter. passed out from M.S.U Baroda, Faculty of Fine Arts. Was hoping there could be some other way to contact you…but since none available, here’s my best shot. my blog id is:
    http://www.amitabhkumar.blogspot.com
    best wishes,
    Amitabh

  9. Kushal dev says:

    Hiya !
    I am in Cardifff UK and I hoped how I could ask the local library in the county council to attain the dvd of the Budhdha and the bandit queen dubbed in english if possible , they will buy from amazon.co.uk I guess they got me the discovery of India in paperback but I wanted the “ybhrat ek Khoj ” in english by sham bnegal as well , you see me wife is polish / German / russian/ I myself am half bengali indian half oriya , my son Thomas Narsingh Dev, is probably a very strange mix he is one and a half years old and goes out already for chinese women… now I am trying out the human world concept here but I need them to know what in the name of hell I am and where exactly I originated from…… please help me so that I can ask the Cardiff council, library to buy these for the library for me to borrow out they are a good lot and they do fulfill the desires only a bit less resourceful…. these are elemental audio visual experiences I have to show them to show what is india….please help !
    Cheers
    ta

  10. shekhar says:

    kushal, I have made bandit queen and that should be available at amazon.com or an indian video library, Buddha is still beng scripted. Bharat ek Khoj by shyam beneal should be available in India with doordarshan, shekhar

  11. Rudra says:

    Hia Shekhar,
    I just bumped into your blog and its my first post here – i am writing because i see you respond to some messages.
    I like that you are a thinker ahd have so many experiences to draw lessons from. What are you workin on these days then ? What are yu going to surprise us with ?
    Another question – If you are apologetic about any one single thing as an indian, what would it be ? i ask this since , i find it interesting that 1) all intellectual indians are apologetic about something or the other 2) no two of them agree on the same apologetic thing.
    Cheers,
    Rudra.

  12. shekhar says:

    Rudra, I am apologetic about the feudal system that still exists in India. I am apologetic about the caste system that still exists in Inda. I am apologetic about that fact that we still accept being surrounded by poverty as a acft of life. Shekhar

  13. Rudra says:

    Hi Shekhar ,
    Looks like i got you there – it is disapointing to see how rarely does a thinking indian mind hatch itself out of the McAulean mould.
    I thought you would see through the versioned history of the secularists who can harly fathm the spiritual depths of a civilisation’s genius.
    I also thought you would see through the misinterpreted sociological wonder that is the varna ashrama dharma. There was no concept of ‘bangalored’ then. we have it now , in the supposedly egalitarian age of selective demographic growth.
    Dont you think the residual feudal system you see is the outcome of 650 years of foriegn rule in India ? What about the word ‘Dharma’- which word has no easy English translation save ‘religion’ when we know they are both not remotely connected?
    Sorry Shekhar , but you disapointed me there . By the way I thought your poems were very good. Keep it up.
    Cheers,
    Rudra.

  14. Raghav Prasad says:

    Hi Shekhar,
    How refreshing to see a star be so down to earth! A quick question if I may – you mentioned on the 6th of Dec in response to Kushal’s post that copies of Bharat Ek Khoj mught be available from either Doordarshan or from Shyam Benegal himself. Unfortunately i can’t find any way to contact Shhyam – is there an email address perhaps or a snail mail address where one could write to him? Unfortunately Doordarshan’s site doesn’t seem to have a “shop” – what a wasted business opportunity!
    warm regards
    Raghav

  15. shekhar says:

    raghav, I have e mailed yr request to shyam benegal, shekhar

  16. ganesh says:

    Hi Raghav,
    Check this site, it is available on DVD , http://www.intelindia.com/videostore/bharatekkhoj.htm.
    But very expensive. USD 500 for all episodes.
    cheers
    Ganesh

  17. Ravi says:

    Shekhar,
    Pls make a movie on one of the greatest epics…Mahabharata.Personally I believe that you can make world class movies and cater to international audience.You actually know their pulse better than most of the new crop of directors.
    Ravi

  18. Nikita says:

    Shekhar,
    I am at an age where I can afford to call myself an agnostic which I guess most of us are. Talking about Buddha, I would like to share a small moment of his life that I read somewhere and that totally intrigued me.
    One day, Buddha was walking with his disciple when a fly started murmuring around, spoiling his concentration. Being reflexive, he simply brushed the fly aside by his hand. After a couple of seconds, he repeated the action. By viewing this, his disciple wondered with curiosity and asked y’d he done that. With this, he simply replied that when he brushed the fly the first time, he had done so without involving himself in his own action but he had so immersed himself the second time that he knew exactly what he was doing.
    I guess, this says it all.
    Regards,
    Nikita

  19. kalden says:

    through the years and having grown up in the mountains of Bhutan, walking from valley to valley overcoming ‘La(s)’ or passes along the way, was normal for pilgrims and trekkers alike…i belonged to another breed…the poacher!
    one night, after having walked for five hours non stop in pursuit of a rogue boar above the Paro valley, my friends and i discovered that ironically, the boar was tracking us.
    it was when i lay in wait for him to slip up, that i discovered something unexpected; Breath and meditation through breathing.
    it must have been the same for all of us because when i became aware of my surroundings, a half hour had passed and to my surprise, fresh tracks lay not ten feet from me. we had all concentrated on breathing and had fallen into meditation.
    it was beautiful. i now walk through the forest in the mountains in a trance, breathing in meditation always- and never has harm come to me.

  20. Destinyqueen says:

    The path to the union with the Self is a lifelong journey that involves every step I walk, every breath I breathe and every thought I think. And every word I speak. Knowing that not a single moment must be wasted. It is a torturous, tough, devastating and exhilarating journey
    There We are “RUTHLESS”

  21. Praveen says:

    Hi Shekhar,
    I just read about ur meeting with a monk at himalayas n ur writeup–
    “The path to the union with the Self is a lifelong journey that involves every step I walk, every breath I breathe and every thought I think. And every word I speak. Knowing that not a single moment must be wasted. It is a torturous, tough, devastating and exhilarating journey.”
    its very true i was working on an idea of making a film on the life of jain saints. but i had to give up the idea bcoz of an experience with a saint. i met him with the concept n wanted his guidence for further research. he liked the idea very much but asked me to maintain the stability for some time in terms of career. n to give up the relation with a girl i was commited for, just becoz she belonged to a different caste. and a person around, a brahmchari, who had nothing to do with film making, was taking big names like Kamal Hasan. these things were very disoppointing somehow i managed to hold my arrogance. ppl belive in names n not in the work n the intentions behind.
    i dont know y m i writing this to you but i felt like, after reading ur thoughts about meeting to a monk.
    regards
    Praveen

  22. Tim Robinson says:

    The very idea a major motion picture on the life of the Buddha, on the scale of Mel Gibson’s, “The Passion” perhaps, is exhilerating. PLEASE, give us more details, when!? who!? where!? how!?
    Many thanks and best wishes to you.

  23. manohar singh says:

    hi,
    shekar,
    i happened to watch your interview on ndtv with miss bhargava and got clean bowled by your perceptions on life and found your conscious efforts on every deed in your present juncture of your life are matching with a monk who has been a meditator .
    u are very truely looking a meditator which is reflecting on your face.
    i love and wish you goodluck for every moment you spend with consciousness in present
    god bless you
    manohar singh.m

  24. ??? says:

    any AWAKENED one…
    i..am desperately looking for expansive answers/clarity on this :
    (i) What Does It Mean in the True sense to Be in the World But Not of It?
    and
    (ii) How important and in what Way it is to be Doing Anything in the World if One is Awakened?
    and
    (iii) What actually to Do in the World till the Time one doesn’t experience/feel Awakening but fully trusts in It?
    pleeese…???

  25. swami Vijnanananda Saraswati says:

    Shekhar Ji,
    I am a student of physics and communictions and then have come on to follow my heart than the head. From my experience, I must say that the monk u met truly knows what meditation means – it is the art and the science of Being. The whole of our life goes wasted in becoming – what a pity. Not sure of another life hereafter and unknown that it is whether there was a past one, we’ve wasted somuch in just rushing on to what our petty mind aspires for, not realising that the journey itself is a travel from one moment of joy to another. Ur words have the power to reflect that spirit which u experienced while interacting with him. Prayer to that cosmic divine, that may u attain the inner state of BEING and be there everafter.
    Love, Regards and Om
    Swami Vijnanananda Saraswati

  26. swami Vijnanananda Saraswati says:

    Shekhar Ji,
    I am a student of physics and communictions and then have come on to follow my heart than the head. From my experience, I must say that the monk u met truly knows what meditation means – it is the art and the science of Being. The whole of our life goes wasted in becoming – what a pity. Not sure of another life hereafter and unknown that it is whether there was a past one, we’ve wasted somuch in just rushing on to what our petty mind aspires for, not realising that the journey itself is a travel from one moment of joy to another. Ur words have the power to reflect that spirit which u experienced while interacting with him. Prayer to that cosmic divine, that may u attain the inner state of BEING and be there everafter.
    Love, Regards and Om
    Swami Vijnanananda Saraswati

  27. Ganesh says:

    Hi Shekar,
    I have been reading your posts. I dont know if you have read UG Krishnamurti, deals with the subject of realisation, soul, enlightenment etc…
    Your posts are really intellectual and nice to read.
    Ganesh

  28. Respected Shekar,
    The unity towards the infinity is rare and happens real, if we heed and the seed of ego will wilt. The crops grow after the seed sheds the coat or cotlyden. So, after our ego trip vanish, one will see God face to face.
    Your high sublime thoughts will help your way always.
    God bless you,
    Yours cordailly,
    n.karthikeyan

  29. ???????? says:

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  30. ???????? says:

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  31. ???????? says:

    ???… 🙂 ?????? ?????? ????????, ? ?? ??? ??? ??? ????? ??? ??? ???????? 🙂

  32. ???????? says:

    ???… 🙂 ?????? ?????? ????????, ? ?? ??? ??? ??? ????? ??? ??? ???????? 🙂

  33. Nice to find you here Shekharji, i am a great fan of yours 😉
    Do visit us if ever you decide to visit Bali or Jakarta

  34. Ambarish says:

    Hello Shekhar,
    Can we ever expect Shekhar kapur and Dr.Chandraprakash Dwivedi to jointly make a movie .On one side a man known for his passion and intensity (Shekhar)and on the other side the wisdom and sharpness of Dr Dwivedi.Something like an amalgam of contemporary INTO THE WILD and Siddhartha of Hermann HEsse.May be a story that no one has ever dared to portray in its truest form.Perhaps about a seeker a sadhak who is willing to discover life.Perhaps a life story something like that of Swami Rama of Himalayas.(Living with Himalayan Masters).I have not come across a movie till now that dares to portray the life of renunciants .If you want to know more perhaps i have some ideas and i am more than certain it would blow you off.This is not about movies,this is not about fame ,this is not about even creativity.This is about a civilization that existed in india.The vedic civilization .Perhaps a glimpse of the past that was spectacular .
    I have discovered two principles 1)Discover your true love 2)It is the process of discovery which is the Path.and therefore every act is essentially actually a discovery.Whether it pain or pleasure.Whether it be birth or death.Whether it be ignorance or knowledge.Whaatever that we can conceptualize of.

  35. deshna says:

    If you have no faith there is no point in asking any questions because how can there be any faith in the answer you receive? But if you have complete faith, then there are no questions – sri sri
    thank you for sharing the beautiful words and reaction of the monk!
    the spontaneity and humbleness say it all!
    probably, he was Buddha himself!:)

  36. gopal krishna says:

    shekhar you are so deep…….
    but every thing depend on mind sofware ………..
    and software is depend on thought……..
    everything is thought………..
    the world is the manifestation of i .and i is budle of thought and memory………..
    i is identity and i is the whole problem of world…………………..
    ok i want to be friendship………very humble to you………….

  37. Madan says:

    Shekar ji , your article is impressive . May I know?,why do u think path to the union with the self , is a torturous, tough, devastating and exhilarating journey. I keep hearing this from many great people. I fail to understand this. Why cant this journey be joyful, easy , simple and comfortable journey..? I may be foolish in asking this question .or it could be that my small brain is not able to understand the sophistication in it.Could you please clarify … Looking forward for your opinion on this.

    I still remember, I once bombarded a monk lot of questions then he peacefully replied “ when u have an equal opportunity to taste an orange , don’t ask me how it tastes like?, you are the best judge”

    Thank you in anticipation.

    Regards,
    Madan.

  38. Ganesh says:

    Hi Shehar,

    Did you get to watch The Buddha directed by David Grubbin? Amazing work. I only remebered about your own project about Buddha.

    regards
    Ganesh

  39. shekhar says:

    no i did not, where do i find it ? shekhar

  40. Ganesh says:

    Hi Shekhar,

    You can watch it online at http://www.pbs.org/thebuddha

    I am hungry for some nice intellectual documentary movies.

    Thanks for quick response 🙂

    Regards
    Ganesh

  41. Praween Sindhuliya says:

    Dear Shekhar Sir,
    During his entire journey Buddha was trying to convince himself that man gives law to nature. Man is not ready made; he becomes, and still becoming. Pascal rightfully said,”Man is greater than the blind forces of nature because even though he is crushed by them he remains superior by virtue of his understanding of them. Again, Buddhism carries the truth further: it shows that by means of understanding man can also control his circumstances. He can cease to be crushed by them, and use their laws to raise himself.” Buddhism makes man stand on his own feet and rouses self-confidence and energy. This is the man’s position in Buddhism. The young Monk at Rongbuk Monastry, still, has to make a long journey to reach to Buddha’s proximity.

  42. Nitu says:

    the first thing to learn is that we are consciousness, and second, that we are part of a universal consciousness. The next step is to pursue this until we can learn what exists besides the physical and mental world. This is the self, in harmony with universal laws of change, in a state of enlightenment and wisdom. There are as many paths to the self as there are individuals in this world.

  43. Nitu says:

    @???

    Word Buddha mean awakened one,in my view no body can give you enlightment until you are awake,until you are ready to receive from universe.when you wconnect to universe Mother Nature connects to you..

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