Saturday, October 25, 2008


It is said that all the teachings of the Buddha are contained within the mantra, Om Mani Padme Hum, and that by saying it, or reading it, you are invoking loving compassion and the wisdom of ultimate reality. It also makes a really good substitute for “Oh my God!”

Sonam sits at the kitchen table, her table now, where the Tibetan food she works to create in her kitchen, is served to her family, my 41-year-old brother, Michael, and three-year-old nephew, Kunga. I make the fourth at this table, and somehow round things out. With me in their circle there are two blue-eyed blonds, and two brown-eyed brunettes. With me at this table we are two males and two females. With me at this table, this table, we are a family.

"Ben & Jerry's Chubby Hubby?" Kunga asks, indicating he's done with his dinner of momos, a fried dumpling-like dish made of chicken, and served with rice, and dahl.

"Om Mani Padme Hum, Kunga! No Chubby Hubby! You not finish momo!"

Kunga, nonplussed by her feigned outrage, persists. "Ben & Jerry's Chubby Hubby!" he repeats.

From my seat at their round table I smile at this boy who bridges the two worlds from which his parents came. His father, my brother, grew up in this same house. When he was three, he ate at this same table. His mother, Sonam, grew up in rural India in a Tibetan refugee camp. Camp 11. At Kunga's age she lived in a house still without running water or electricity.

Both electricity and running water flow freely in this recently remodeled kitchen. In fact, it's hard to believe it's the same kitchen in which my mother once cooked. Gone are the brown, early 60s appliances. Gone is the marbled brown linoleum and beige formica. Gone are the veneer cabinets with hammered pulls. In their place is hardwood, copper, butcher's block and stainless steel. It is, however, easy to believe it is this same table on which she placed the food.

The wall that once separated the kitchen and living room has been removed, and now you can look from one end to the other, and everywhere your eyes land, you will see the words, or the Sanskrit writing, Om Mani Padme Hum. It is stenciled above the fireplace. It is etched on glass. On this kitchen table lies a prayer wheel, where the mantra is written hundreds of times, and each time one of us passes by we give the wheel a spin, sending loving compassion and the wisdom of ultimate reality, out into the world.

This table went from our family's place to dine, to my father's drinking table.

Now back to my family's place to dine.

Om Mani Padme Hum.


Michelle O'Neil said...

I LOVE this post.


Kunga is Divine.

Amber said...

Beautiful, beautiful post!


Peace be with you.


Jerri said...

Me, too. LOVE this post, I mean.

Give the wheel a spin for me, will you?

Om Mani Padme Hum

riversgrace said...

So profound, really. That your childhood home would turn into a family temple, and that it would just happen to also be your chosen path and practice.....

As if it was all written on your lives before you were born.

riversgrace said...

And, I agree, lovely writing in this piece. I'd love to see you keep going with it.

Kathryn said...

Really great post.

Joanne said...

Beautiful. To me, the "wisdom of ultimate reality" and a "family's place to dine" are interconnected.

Creating Quiet Spaces said...

Oh Carrie, your story is wonderful and so warm. I'm so glad that "space" is now positive. I want to know more. Ever consider a short story, article in a magazine. or a book about the coming together of that family.


thomas said...

Hey, I was going to say I loved the post!

Terry said...

by the way, for some reason I posted as "Thomas" last time. Don't have any idea why, but there are no accidents.

She said...

Lovely. As you are!