Sunday, 4 March 2018

About Two Tibetan Monks (Lamas)

I had the best holiday of my life (without wife) last year when I went backpacking for 2 weeks alone in the wilderness of Western Sichuan province, venturing into the mountainous region with strong Tibetan culture.

The highlight of my trip has to be Hailuogou(海螺沟)glaciers and Daocheng Yading (稻城亚丁)National Park. The beautiful scenery was truly out of this world and I was totally blown away by the snow-capped mountains, turquoise lakes, the vast grassland without a single person in sight etc. Just Google these places and you will see how beautiful they are. 

Daocheng Yading National Park

Gongga Mountain near seen from Hailuogou

The Western Sichuan area has a strong Tibetan culture and most people are devoted Tibetan Buddhists. There are numerous temples seen along my trip, ranging from the bigger and more famous ones to the smaller and lesser-known ones. 

There were 2 small temples found in the remote countryside without any source of water nearby except the village well found four hours away by foot. So, the Lamas (not to be confused with Llama) in each temple, besides devoting their time to the studying of Tibetan Buddhism, have to take on the laborious task of getting water from the village.

Not this Llama.
There were two young Lamas (lets call them A and B), one from each temple, tasked with the job of carrying water from the village to the temple, who would walk the same path every day. The treacherous path goes up and down the hills and was considered dangerous, especially during bad weather. However, they had to walk the path daily or there would be no water in the temple. 

Life of a Tibetan Lama was simple but spiritually enriching. Lama A was focused on his daily task of carrying water back to the temple wholeheartedly, without neglecting his time for meditation. He was content with his simplistic lifestyle.

However, he was puzzled that he had not seen Lama B for almost a month. They have been going to the village well together everyday for the past 10 years. Lama A got worried and wondered if anything had happened to Lama B so he decided to pay him a visit. 

He was approaching Temple B and was delighted to see Lama B walking down the same path out of the temple. 

'Hey Bro! What happened? Why have you stopped going to the village well? Is your temple not in need of water? Is everything all right?' Lama A asked. 

'Bro I am fine! Follow me and I will show you what happened.' Lama B responded. 

They walked to a small plot of empty land behind the temple where Lama A was surprised to see a big, deep well with clear water. Few Lamas were seen happily carrying buckets of water back into the temple. 

'Bro. You see this? I have been diligently digging for this well during my free time over the past 10 years. I thought of having our own water supply so I can stop going to the village one day, free up the time and focus on meditation to attain Nirvana soon! It was difficult initially, but I persisted and kept on digging. It started getting easier 5 years ago with a small water supply and now we have enough water for the whole temple!' Lama B shared excitedly. 

Lama A was stunned.

'Bro do you need water? I can spare you some!' Lama B said. 

Well, just a short story inspired by my wonderful trip to Sichuan (I was just reminiscing the good time back then).

Very often we focus single-mindedly on our occupation, striving to clinch that key project, achieve the KPIs, ace the performance review and climb up the ladder for higher pay. It is good that we give best efforts to our job. After all, an activity that takes up one third of out life is worth our best shot, plus it puts food on the table too. 

However, it gets problematic when the focus gets too skewed that one loses sight of the big picture that work is a mean to an end but not the end itself. A person can dedicate his full hours to work, be that high-performer who constantly gets promoted to a higher pay scale. But if there is no 'digging of well' - building up cash reserve, investing in assets that appreciate, buy into company shares that give dividends etc, he has no other options at all besides keep working. 

His wallet grows thicker by the days, but the inflow of funds flow out equally fast to his expenses - home mortgage, car loan, country club membership, twice-yearly expensive trips. There is no end in sight. He has to keep working to fund his lifestyle. 

Let us all bear in mind the final goal. One day we would have the option of slowing down, to enjoy the fruits of our labor; and not having to work just to put food on table, or to fund our lifestyle. Instead, we work because we want to. And by then, if we have the choice to do what we like, it will no longer be 'work', but 'interest' or 'hobby' or 'aspiration'.

Be Lama B. Not Lama A. Start digging your well today.


  1. Hello,

    Thanks for sharing! Reminder for us to know our end goal in mind :)


    1. Tks! U have a nice blog.
      And its great to start at such young age. Time is on ur side u will go far!


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