THE FIVE LESSONS OF LIFE
Chapter 7: The Philosophy of the Amchi
- It was six in the morning, the day after my meeting with Sangratan in Chinie, and again I was setting out to meet him. This time he had promised to teach me about the Amchi, and also allow me to travel with him when he visited those who needed his healing powers.
- I looked at Sangratan’s small bag, aware that he was carrying all his worldly possessions. ‘The day will be hot, Bill-ji, and the path is not an easy one. It is better to travel light.’ I thought of the possessions I was carrying, my possessions back at the farmhouse, and my possessions back in Delhi.
- Sangratan tapped his half-filled black bag. ‘Medicines,’ he said, and smiled. And so we started out, through the clearing and into the forest, Kirti, Sangratan the Amchi, and his overweight, over-burdened, city-dwelling follower.
- Our path was steep and getting steeper. Sangratan maintained a steady pace and I struggled to keep up.
- ‘Today is the day you learn of the work of the Amchi,’ he said. ‘Soon we will be at the farm where he who needs us will be waiting, and you will see for yourself, but first you should know why we do what we do.’
- He then recounted to me the story of how the Amchi came to be. This is the story he told.
- Though the Amchi have traveled the mountains for centuries, long before the time of the Buddha, it was not until the time of Tenzin that the true Amchi adopted all the Lessons of Life.
- Tenzin was a Buddhist and incorporated much of Buddhism into the ways of the Amchi. In particular it was Tenzin who introduced the underlying Buddhist concept of ‘mindfulness’ into the Lessons of Life, though many claim that Buddha himself was the first Amchi.
- All the Amchi know that the monk Gautama, before he became the Buddha, while he was still searching for ‘the way’, decided to practise severe austerities so that he could master physical desires, and in this way find enlightenment.
- One day he was meditating as darkness began to fall. With the breeze and the relief came the realization that the mind and the body form one reality, and that to abuse the body was to abuse the mind.
- There and then the monk Gautama resolved to regain his health and use the joys of meditation to nourish and develop body and mind so that he could pursue the path of enlightenment.
- No longer did he wish to escape the world, but rather he realized that to gain enlightenment he should meditate on what he perceived, so that he could understand it better.
- He meditated on his body, on his feelings, on his perceptions and on his thoughts, and he saw the oneness of everything. He saw that as mind and body could not be separated, so all things were without a separate self.
- He saw that everything changed, and that impermanence and the emptiness of self are the very conditions necessary for life. He saw that a grass seed which was not impermanent and empty of self would never grow into a plant; it would simply remain static. Similarly with all things, including us.
- The monk Gautama, he who became Buddha, realized that everything was interdependent, everything was part of the oneness. And the teachings of the Buddha influenced all who lived in these mountains, especially the Amchi, the ancient healers.
- The true Amchi, the followers of Tenzin, learnt from the Buddha that to heal the body you must heal the mind, for they are one. Also, they know that a man or woman who is not in harmony with the environment and those around will continue to suffer dis-ease.
- The true Amchi seeks to create harmony and balance within the body, and with the body and what is perceived as the external world, for they are all one. So it is that all true Amchi attempt to bring harmony between all that is one.
- The Amchi know that to exist we need to take into our bodies that which is outside, and let out that which is within. The true Amchi understands this process and seeks to balance what is taken in, what is within, and what is given out. And they do this through plants, oils and medicines, and good counsel and teaching.
- Often these medicines are created by men and they are made in the peace and harmony which comes through chanting and meditating. When we take them they change and pass through us, as we change and pass through the world and the universe.
- To overcome sickness we need to live in harmony and balance with the world around us, especially those things and people we value highly. To be free of dis-ease we must seek to balance that which is within, as we seek to balance that which is not. For all affect us as we affect everything, for we are all one.
- The Amchi’s counseling and teaching seeks to help us live in balance and harmony. We know that conflict, anxiety, fear, despair, jealousy, anger, sadness, hate, separation from those whom we value highly, all these things bring dis-ease and suffering.
- It is for the Amchi, the healer, to help restore the harmony of body and mind, and the world, and to bring peace and joy, and to do this we have to help those who are suffering from dis-ease to be mindful of that which they value, and mindful of what they seek to develop and nurture.
- The Lessons of Life are the practical application of the Amchi’s art in seeking to harmonise the person with his or her oneness.
‘This man we are going to meet, he is not a follower of the Buddha. He is influenced by his place in the universe. He is typical of those we seek to help, for this is a meeting place of many great ideas and cultures. These ideas come and are changed by those experiencing them, as all ideas and teachings are changed, for they are as impermanent as all things. We Amchi counsel that they meditate on what they value, knowing that being mindful of what they value will bring understanding, and understanding defeats ignorance and brings love, and love will bring nurturing, and nurturing will bring joy, and joy is the end of suffering. So, understand that when we attempt to heal someone who is suffering we seek not only to balance the body but to help balance that sentient being with all. Do not see only the herbs and medicines. Do not hear only the words. See the suffering and see all the ways we seek to ease the suffering and bring joy to all.’
Chapter 8: Love