By Lisa Maliga
Ordinarily, each Tuesday a blog written by or about the Dalai Lama is posted here. However, due to the new release of the second edition of my novel Notes from Nadir, I've decided to include a somewhat relevant excerpt from it. The chapter has also been edited to keep it under 1,200 words.
Chapter 40 ~ Dr. Rinpoche
At the Buddhist center, a Tibetan doctor was doing a lecture on Tibetan medicine and offering consultations to anyone who called in advance and made an appointment. I'd attended a two-day seminar in Santa Monica a few years ago and found it highly educational. I learned it was a based on Ayurvedic medicine, along with Greek, Chinese and even Persian systems. It was all about balance—if one aspect of the body was off kilter, it affected everything else. My Mom was clearly off balance and she wouldn't deny that fact and agreed to see the doctor. I'd pay for her to see the Tibetan doctor as the fee of $25 was far less expensive than even a Medicare office visit.
I saw the young monk who was wearing his burgundy and gold robes and he smiled when he saw me and especially when he saw Mom. He first bowed to her and then reached over and shook her hand, the kindness emanating from his whole being. Tibetans, especially Tibetan Buddhist monks, highly revered mothers and older people and Mom was in both categories. "Hello, Hello!" he said, and I watched Mom beam at the monk.
After he was out of earshot, Mom asked, "Is that the doctor?"
I nodded. "I think so. I haven't met him before. I know the translator is over there," I pointed to a chubby older man wearing jeans and a burgundy T-shirt with a "Free Tibet" logo on it. Mom smiled and then noticed a couple of white guys entering the room, both with long hair and beards. They were brothers whose names I didn't remember but I knew they'd been to India for a month and did a slide show presentation on it. Both men came over to Mom and greeted her.
We went into the shrine room, a small-carpeted room with a large brass statue of Buddha. The plywood walls were covered with colorful tapestries of various Buddhas, some male, and some female. There were bookshelves filled with holy texts and candle and water bowl offerings on a ledge beneath the fabric-wrapped texts. The energy emanating from the room was intense and usually people spoke in lower voices when they were in the room. But a few times some Nadirian would pipe up in above normal tones and once I heard someone loudly telling a bawdy story using words that weren't allowed on most commercial TV stations. But, the Buddhas understood people and their weaknesses and strengths.
There was a medley of colored and patterned cushions arranged in rows on the floor for the regular students who preferred to sit either cross-legged or kneel on them. For the older people or newcomers, folding chairs lined two walls. The Doctor would be doing his seminar like the one in Santa Monica, and that began with about two minutes of chanting in Tibetan, which puzzled Mom, and she stared at the handout for a minute and then looked around at the chanters.
The Doctor spoke about the three humors: phlegm, bile and wind and about five minutes into the lecture Mom fell asleep. Her interest in medicine went as far as mine did in sewing: that bored me as much. It also required more patience as the Doctor's English was fairly good but sometimes he'd lapse into Tibetan and the translator would interpret for us.
When she woke up about an hour later, better rested, she decided to go outside and sit down in order to get some fresh air. I understood that the incense might be affecting her as it wasn't a smell she was accustomed to – it was rather heavy on sandalwood, juniper and other Himalayan herbs.
Mom had the first appointment after the lecture according to a piece of paper with all four appointments listed by time and the patient's name and phone number. The smiling Doctor Rinpoche invited both of us back into his office. It was so unlike anything Mom had ever been in, no examining table, and no white coated doctor wearing a name badge. In fact, the bedroom was just that and it was decorated in Tibetan Buddhist Motif. Doctor Rinpoche was wearing his standard robes and genially indicated that my mother should sit on the wooden chair in front of the twin-sized mattress on the floor. Doctor Rinpoche would examine Mom right in front of me. "I hope my hands aren't cold!" he laughed, rubbing them together to make sure they weren't. He reached over and gently touched Mom's left wrist.
So I sat there on the bed next to the doc and watched. It felt peculiar, so after a minute I got up and sat on the floor leaning against the other bed.
"Can you please tell me what is wrong?" Doctor Rinpoche asked, looking directly at Mom.
She mentioned being tired and dizzy. He nodded. I could see the connection between them—he was entirely focused on her.
"I do not get anything…" the doctor said, frowning slightly. He let go of her left wrist and reached for her right one. There was a smile as though a musician had found an instrument that was more finely tuned.
Mom rattled off her list of illnesses and surgeries, and as she said, "gallbladder operation, and I only have one kidney" the look of concern and distress on the monk-doctor's face was the essence of a caring and compassionate doctor. With each disease mentioned, he flinched.
He looked into her eyes, and checked her tongue. After that, he had his diagnosis; he didn't say what was wrong in western terms. During the time she was either sleeping or outdoors admiring the tomato bushes and flowers, he had talked about imbalances of the system. He told her she had lung, a severe wind imbalance. She would need some pills, but he was out of medicine until next month when it would be mailed from India.
Doctor Rinpoche smiled at Mom and held both of her hands for a minute as he comforted her. He was so radiant looking and Mom seemed happier in his care. The term doctor's care meant so much by looking at that tableau.
"We will call you when the medicine comes in," Doctor Rinpoche said. And I knew he meant it.
We all shook hands and I gave him the cash. No insurance forms to fill out, no credit cards, no fuss.
When we were in the car, Mom told me that he didn't tell her very much.
"That's not how they do it." I told her. "Just hope the medicine gets here soon."
"You believe in this stuff I don't, Lisa." She paused as I made a left turn onto a busier street. "But he has the best bedside manner of any doctor I've ever met."
"Yeah, especially since he was on it!" I couldn't help commenting.
We both laughed.
Notes from Nadir is available online in both eBook and paperback formats. Here's a brief description: A Los Angeles-based writer returns to her Midwestern home due to financial difficulties. Moving back in with Mom, she is confronted with long forgotten memories, finding it difficult to adjust to life in Nadir.
Amazon Kindle link: Notes from Nadir
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