From Siamea Cassia

…Still, Loknath or whatever you call him, came. Pema started seeing the seventy-five year old procession. A terrible storm at two in the afternoon was pushing pebbles like gunshots. A gale of hundred miles per hour. Covered from head to foot, face under mask, men who could not stand on their legs had to proceed. And they thought that a killer blizzard was easier to bear. Rimpoche said, ‘We must reach the la before dusk. Can one walk a step?’

Gyatso said, ‘We must walk through the storm to meet him, if there be truth in the proverb.’ Perhaps he smiled, but the mask covered his face.

Rimpoche sprang on to the mule-back. Gyatso set off after him. Their men kept following them. By and by, they were on the other side of the bare valley. Soon they took cover behind the wall of the hill. They heard the storm that could not harm them any more.

Gyatso said, ‘Tell me, Namgyal, what have you read about Amitabha’s birth? Will he be born only once more?’

‘An ancient saying! Can one be sure that there will be only fifteen reincarnations, not seventeen?’

‘Will reincarnation stop as soon as foreigners enter our country?’

‘Somebody invented this to scare us. Chinese ambAns do not want nor the Nepalese, that a foreigner except them should be in our land.’

‘But there is indeed a saying about the end of reincarnation.’

‘That is different,’ said Rimpoche, ‘the time is when dogs of north will load wombs of squealing sows.’

Gyatso nodded. He, too, had heard. He knew. The pack of ferocious dogs would come down the northern hill. Their country will be the land of dream no more. But they were losing time. Rimpoche looked back. He waved his hand at his people, making a sign to move faster, and he kicked at the belly of his mule.

Gyatso did as his brother did. He raced towards Rimpoche and said, ‘Can you believe the news ?’

‘Certainly. It’s genuine, hundred times over. Seven different men of ours have brought the same news. He is coming from the south via Shigatse. How could you doubt when everybody in the town has the information? The army has been ordered to arrest him or kill at sight.’

‘Supposing, at the last moment, he…’ Gyatso was pale with fear of disappointment.

‘Will be scared? He knows that the spies have scented him, but he won’t scare. That’s the proof he has been sent by Atisha.’

The two mules stood side by side at the mouth of the la. Gyatso and Rimpoche had not dismounted. Their six armed attendants stayed at a distance and looked out for fears in the shapes of spies, soldiers and robbers.

Gyatso said, ‘This last time, Rimpoche…..tell me, is it true that we, that is, our family have been guarding Atisha’s cave from hoary past?’

Rimpoche removed his silk mask. ‘Nothing can move you, Gyatso, you mountain of disbelief. Wouldn’t the family come to an end if  every son became a lama? When that possibility looms, one son understands that his place is near the cave. He builds a house and increases the family, as our uncle did.’

‘Alas !’ Gyatso cried, ‘Now the blizzard, now!’

‘Atisha, too, came through the storm.’

Right then they heard the pass reverberating: “Hum mani lpadme, hum mani padme’. Gyatso looked at Rimpoche. Now he could smile. They dismounted. Arms folded at elbows, each hand inside the sleeve for the other arm, head bowed, they stood side by side. A fatigued mule with straight, white ears hopped on to the boulder at the end of the la. A man on its back had the cap with earflaps on as Indian monks did.

Rimpoche advanced. The monk got off the mule. Rimpoche, the scholar, could speak Han’s language, knew bits of the languages of the Great Southern Continent. He knew by heart a few prayers. He bent still lower and said, ‘Buddham sharanam’

Loknath said, ‘Gachchhami, Samgham sharanam gachchhami’

Gyatso went ahead and kissed the hem of the monk’s dress.

The procession turned north. Armed guards led the way, and there were Rimpoche at the right and Gyatso at the left and Loknath between them.

The blizzard raged behind them. The pageant moved on. Amitabhaya Loknathaya Amitabhaya amitakarunye Loknathaya – new words, sounds not heard before, rose again and again…