Chatral Rinpoche was always full of surprises. During the monsoon months in the mountains of Nepal, the weather was often misty, damp, and cold. It could be depressing day after day. If Rinpoche felt the general mood among our little camp needed lifting, he would order a picnic, right then, on the spur of the moment and we would all run after him up the trail in one direction or other, usually to some green, flowery meadow and there we would sit around him enthralled, as he told us tales and shared memories from his life, or just made us all laugh with his jokes and funny stories.
He knew just how and when the routines needed to be broken. We would all return from these day-long excursions into high mountain meadows, well-fed and considerably lighter of heart.
One day after we had finished our noon meals, he called us up and set us all to work preparing a fire. We were mystified. What on earth was he up to now? He took a few of us over to a collection of rocks in a stream nearby and then very specifically pointed out just the stones that he wanted us to carry back to the fire, which was by now blazing and hot. After much-united effort and lugging of rocks, we accumulated quite a pile of these stones near the fire which had, till then, been carefully tended by one of the Lamas. Rinpoche then told the monks how to place them on the fire, one by one.
While this was going on, he sent some of the men to bring the large metal bathtub that lived, usually upside down, at the back of his hut. This was to be filled with water.
The ferrying of the tub was quite a process as well and it required the united exertions of several strong young men to be brought to the fireplace. We meanwhile, hauled buckets of water from the stream nearby. All of this combined toil was carried out with a great deal of noise and laughter.
Once the tub was full, some of the stones in the fire began to glow red with heat, and at this point, he told a few of the braver men to take shovels and put each red-hot stone into the water one by one. You can imagine the effect! Aside from heating the huge tub very quickly, the stones also exploded as soon as they hit the freezing cold water and this released a mineral compound with a smell, not unlike sulfur.
Rinpoche must have acquired this knowledge somewhere in Tibet. These were, in fact, rocks which released medicinal salts into the water after they had been heated to a certain point.
Once the water was hot enough, he then climbed into the bath and enjoyed himself thoroughly, splashing us all and regaling us with more amusing tales. Being well into his eighties at that time, he was remarkably sturdy but nevertheless, a bath such as this could be extremely therapeutic for tired and achy limbs in cold and damp weather conditions. After he climbed out Rinpoche then instructed us all to pour the same water over ourselves, which we did with a great deal of splashing, laughter, and fun.
Truly, I think we all felt that we were part of one big family during those happy days. He presided over our motley, unkempt group like a fussy old mother hen protecting, prodding, and coddling its brood of young chickens. Blessed is the love and care of an authentic master.
Lyse Mai Lauren – “Tibetan Masters and other True Stories (Shades of Awareness) “