I enter the sparse apartment and unpack clothing and other essentials for the first time. My most significant items remain separate in their own suitcase. These items, a statue of Buddha and the Bodhisattva Guan Yin along with other Buddhist preciousness, will hide in the suitcase until my shrine case is delivered at a later date. I am physically in pain and can barely walk from an infection haunting my bladder for nearly a year.
What’s it like to start anew? I’ve done it before but not with the amount of suffering, sickness, and confusion surrounding me at 41 years old. My father once said to me, “You should be living in a $200,000 house by now.” Instead, I have no home, and my family is dispersed across Norman, Edmond, and Tulsa.
In the apartment, I place blankets on the floor and rest. Typically, the floor is uncomfortable for my back, but lying on the carpet in a new place allows me to see a fresh perspective. Though my family is dispersed, I lose the best object of all: materialism.
Quickly, I unzip the bag possessing my Buddhas. There is a picture of the 17th Karmapa and another one if the 16th Karmapa. They have faced larger turmoils for the Tibetan people compared to my material life. I merely lost a home; they lost an entire country and live as guests in India. The diaspora is real as the ones in history of Jews leaving their many geographical locations to survive as a religion and an ethnic group. Likewise, Tibet in China may become more Chinese as the Tibetan religion attempts to thrive in other countries.
I haven’t lost my country or my job. In pain, I’m still standing and recognize communal frustration is much larger and more complex than my own subjective tears. Nevertheless, I cry anyway as I return to the floor covered in my favorite blankets and pillows.
Somewhere in my mind, a Bob Dylan song reverberates. I think about my children–all four of them. I pray to Chenrezik, the Buddhist deity of compassion. I pray to Mahakala, the protector of the Karma Kagyu lineage. I sing the lyrics to the Dylan song: “Lord, protect my child.” Then, I curl into a fetal position on the hard carpeted floor and sleep.