This weekend marked the end of Thubten Wangchuk’s time in the bardo. I can’t say that I knew him well, he came to my wedding and afterward my now former husband and I had a chance to get together with him and his Tibetan wife. He grew up with my former husband’s family in Nepal after his mother left to take ordination. He was just like an adopted brother eating, sleeping and playing with all the kids. He took ordination at a young age and studied at Kopan Monastery for many years.
I found his death particularly unsettling. His passing highlights the challenges that Western sangha face. We’re spiritual followers of Tibetan Buddhism, and yet we’ll never be Tibetan even if we speak the language fluently and live in a monastery. We’re also a bit out of sorts in our native culture, never quite fitting in any more. Caring for and relating to our family members — whether children or parents, etc. is our sacred duty. These relationships must be handled with great sensitivity as family members try to come to an understanding of what ordination means. Even for non-ordained practitioners of Buddhism, there can be a sense of isolation if family and friends are not open to or familiar with Buddhism.
Thubten Wangchuk was a brave and sensitive person, and I guess no one will really know what prompted his death. Over time, our phone calls to his home went unanswered. I hope that the many prayers that I said on his behalf were of some benefit to him and that he will find true happiness some day. I offer my sincere condolences to his family.
A star, a visual aberration, a flame of a lamp,
An illusion, a drop of dew, or a bubble,
A dream, a flash of lightning, a cloud —
See conditioned things as such!