All too often we read of a bus plunging (always plunging, never falling) from the highway into one of the great rivers of Nepal. Too many vehicles and too many speeding drivers trying to overtake and eventually an overloaded bus goes off the edge.
On 6 March another bus plunged into the Trisuli and prematurely snuffed out the lives of 50 or more Nepalis. The tragedy swiftly became a media statistic, but it took away the near and dear ones of hundreds of families and friends.
Among them was our beloved Chu Nyima Rimpoche ( Trinley Gyamtso), a Nyingmapa lineage hereditary Nepali Buddhist lama, who was returning from visiting his guru in Sikkim. For over 30 years he had touched the hearts and minds of thousands of people. Among them were those who raised funds to rebuild the 500-year-old monastery he inherited high in a remote valley in northern Gorkha.
Not only was he a spiritual guiding light for those who knew him, he had single-handedly revived education in northern Gorkha. Alas, without offspring, he was the last of the hereditary line.
One of the very first modern visitors to the valley, in 1973, had this to say about Chu Nyima: Expecting a venerable old man who might tell us about local history, we were at first a bit disappointed to see that the lama was in fact a very young man of 19. Speaking fluent Tibetan, however, he soon impressed us with his alert and sympathetic nature.
Fast forward to the 1990s, his personal vision realised, Chu Nyima was presiding over the education of 100 young monks and nuns. I quote one of his many western friends: I remember his ?determination to treat the nuns and monks equally, having them pray together in the same hall...breaking from tradition when needed and when correct but strictly abiding by tradition to further growth and development of the dharma.
I have tried to imagine the acute fear of the passengers as the bus fell 100 m but if anyone was prepared for this sudden translation into the next realm, it must have been Chu Nyima. For years he had been working toward a multi-year retreat but his guru in Sikkim told him he must continue his educational work. The concepts of both irony and karma arise in this particular case.
For the fourth year running Chu Nyima declined a free plane ticket from Bhadrapur to Kathmandu to avoid the arduous bus journey, this time arguing that he had 100 kg of Tibetan texts that would simply not fly. Some of these sacred texts were washed up downstream on the banks of the Trisuli and are being dutifully dried in the sun.
But there are those who argue that this was his karma, and his time was up, plain and simple. Fact is, our beloved Chu Nyima is gone and we survive. His fellow villagers who winter in Kathmandu are seriously tough mountain folk, and they went to the accident site the next day and managed to winch the bus to the surface of the Trisuli. As they did so, Chu Nyima miraculously floated out through a window and was recovered. He was brought to Kathmandu and is sitting in state in a small chapel at Swayambhu.
The plan is to helicopter his remains to his valley in the high country for a proper cremation. This is not as easy as it might seem in the modern reality of war-torn Nepal, but as this goes to press on Thursday Chu Nyima is preparing to fly back to his monastery on his final journey. May his vision continue to be realised.