Prayer to the Other World, or to the Inner Self


Today is the first day of August according to the Buddhist calendar. My mother, as usual; started her ritual since early morning; prepared and arranged fresh fruits, fresh water, sweat treats as offering on the Altar. For our family, these days offer a chance to be reconnected with our ancestors. There is always a quiet peace in the air and the pleasant odor of burning incense. After my mother'd finished her prayers and left home, I went up to our home shrine, lid an incense stick on the beautiful candle case, observed the dancing fire. I walked to the Alter; the incense slowly burning its life on my hand; I placed it in the holder right next to my grandmother's picture.

I kneeled down on the cushion, behind a singing bowl, put my hands in Namaste, took them close to my heart. I bowed to the Altar: "I bow to the divine in you, I honor the Spirit in you which is also in me." 

I filled my lung with the air mixed with fragrant of burning incense. At once, I did not hear any noise. Time stopped. There was just me, the Spirit of my ancestors and my grandmother, the sacred stillness I felt whenever contact was made with the divine.



I gazed up to the picture of my beloved grandmother. Emotion filled my heart. The women with a rounded face and a Buddha smile looking back at me with serenity.

My grandmother passed away 6 years ago, after months of suffering from diabetes and all other diseases came with this gate-opener curse. On that final day, she took her last breath in my house, where my parents decided to be the best place to take care for her. I'd never told my parents that I was the only one in the room when she died; that I closed her eyes. I did not know what possessed me; I took my motorbike and rode to my university; later arrived as if I just came back from a normal day at school. I did not cry on that day.

I started my prayer, which'd never been once a typical Buddhist prayer.



"Nam mô a di đà Phật, bà ơi...

I have found my way back to the journey that I know was written to be my duty: to become a writer.

And I'm afraid.

I've learnt from great writers through their books that there are no satisfaction in the artistic path, there is only a "queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest", as Martha Graham said. And I've embraced that choice with eagerness and joy. I chose meaningful endearing low over momentarily high.

Nevertheless, the coward creature in me is afraid of revealing my naked being to the world; where I might let strangers break my heart with their small smiles, rolling eyes; where their indifference could thrust through my the beating of my soul. And the selfish creature in me is crying desperately for fame and admiration, quick and dirty.

I wonder if these feelings are human. And I wonder when I could master them so they can stop tormenting every inches I crawl to my distant mountain.

Whenever these devils was about to take hold, I recalled the blissful childhood when I played on your small wooden bed, observing you preparing yogurt for our little yogurt shop, asking you questions, or pretending to be your grown-up waitress.

"Iced frozen or soft? " I would asked the customer.



And I would keep quiet, gazing at grandfather in his solitary hours of making poem; painting; writing big letters, which I later knew as calligraphy; crafting wood, which sometimes in the shape of animals so that I could add a new character to my imagination jungle screen play.

I wanted to make poem too because its sound was lullaby to me. Whenever a silly piece of poet sprung from my mouth, you would laugh with great joy, helped me to change the tone of words, then those sentences always sounded more like a song.

Tears did not fall the day that you died, tears was held back like forceful water in a river damp. And the damp would break every time I wrote to you.

The damp had just broken now.

That's how I learnt that writing could save me, could let me unleash the vitality within me, to lose it all and to start gathering life again, anew, alive, piece by piece, day by day.

Grandmother, in this road give me signs so I never go astray. But if I did, send me bitterness and darkness so that I knew where the light was."

- - -

photo credit: Ben and Kaz Askinslpotatolchristopher sebelaParée