While reciting mantras in Pemayangtse, I remembered my grandmother, who used to sit every evening in the same place, rosary in hand, softly murmuring Hail Marys. Unfortunately, the wisdom behind this ancient spiritual technology is in the risk of disappearing. The rosaries have fallen back to the extremes of the social spectrum; on one hand they represent the quintessence of intolerance but on the other they appear as a symbol of transgression. This curious effect, in which the symbols disappear on one side to reappear on the contrary, is quite curious.

At the end of the recitation week, I saw the arrival of a couple who I was sure I had met before though I couldn’t remember where. In the following interim, he approached me and asked, “Do you remember me?” Then I realized it. We had met in Japan, in the apartment of a mutual friend because we all shared a similar interest on Buddhism. He had recently been married to his Japanese girlfriend, and they were traveling in Tibet and northern India.

“It’s a small world,” I thought. But the unexpected encounters wouldn’t stop there, for just a while after, my friend, the Californian biker, arrived, and also in the company of a Japanese girl. Later on, he confessed me he felt something very strong for this person. “Love?,” I asked and his answer was a shy smile (apparently, the emotional trip was more interesting than hiking on the Himalayas, since he hardly said anything about the second).

The last day of recitation, the crowd gathered at the monastery was so large that we all were a little bit compressed. A monk approached me and said, “Come up on stage with us.” He meant the area reserved for the monks. I could not help blushing, but using unequivocal gestures with my hands, I refused, “No, no. Thanks, but I’m not a monk.”

“Not yet,” he replied, still laughing (That was actually a right prediction). At the end of the session, the Californian and I got to the stage to offer a kata to the venerable monk who presided over the meeting. I also bid him farewell, grateful for having had the privilege of sharing those days with the exceptional community of monks and laymen gathered at Pemayangtse. Just before I left, I approached the monk I had talked earlier with. “How many recitations we got?,” I asked. “We exceeded twenty millions,” he answered grinning.

That night, all the foreigners met in a terrace of Pelling to celebrate our farewell: two Japanese, one American, one Belgian, one French (the saxophonist) and one Spaniard (myself). For the last weeks, even up there, the news about the war in Iraq had arrived, so the topic arose.

“The war may be a solution, but it’s the worst,” said the Belgian. The Californian admitted, “I’m ashamed of my government. Those of us who travel without seeking the “McDonalds” or “Starbucks” at each place we visit, we know (he emphasized the word) there are more things that unite than divide us.” His Japanese friend said, “The love of the mothers for their children is the same all over the world,” and the other Japanese added, “Likewise the pain for their loss.” On the roof of the world, with a shameful war on our left, and an epidemic called SARS on our right, the only way to maintain sanity seemed to have been discovered by the French guy: he drew his saxophone and played a piece of jazz! Before parting, we all hugged wishing the best for a world, beautiful in spite of a few’s insanity.

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