08 march, 2010
It’s the story of the new millennium. Exhausted by the dizzying pace of corporate life, jetizens are trading in fat salaries and fatter waistlines for an improved life as full-time volunteers in spiritual orders. Some have also become monks.
A hospital bed is a fine place for some delayed introspection, discovered Malaysian Jigme Semzang as she lay sick in bed, having been brought in with high blood pressure. Further tests confirmed diabetes, high lipid and early menopause. For the 43-year-old jet-setting executive with a pharmaceutical corporation, it was time for some serious rethink.
That was five years ago. Today, Semzang is a size S, unrecognizable to her friends who remember her as an XXL weighing 135lb.At 49,shes fit, energetic and having a whale of a time as a spiritualist in the 12th Gyalwang Drukpas order (( head of the Drukpa lineage of Tibetan Buddhism).
Semzang is not alone. Over the last few years, several corporate execs have joined the 12th Gyalwang Drukpas order. In her 20s, Los Angeles lawyer Carrie Lee found her way to Buddhism, discarding a lucrative career to be the sect’s media coordinator.
For 47-year-old Hector Reveroll, his corporate life as MD of Universal Music is a thing of past. In 1996, on a visit to Ladakh for a documentary to be filmed on the Gyalwang Drukpa, he lost all his equipment camera, lights, tapes in a small fire. I never felt so helpless. It was the first time I cried, he recalls.
The Drukpa gurus words stayed with him for long after the incident. He said that no matter what the achievements of corporate life are, there would always be things beyond our control. I realized that despite the perks of a high-paying job, I felt cold, hungry and miserable. The seeds of discontent had been sown, and it wasnt long before Reveroll chucked his corporate life to join this Mahayana sect. Today, he handles the Mexico centre and runs a clinic as a private psychologist for a living.
For Semzang, too, the transition had to be thought through. Lying in hospital, Semzang says she recalled a meeting with the Drukpa guru on a chance pilgrimage to Ladakh. He had gently nudged me to slow down pointing out how one forgets to smell the flowers and appreciate small pleasures of life in the mad rush of daily grind, she recalls.
It was a life-changing decision for the self-confessed ambitious, aggressive, executive. I was least bothered about how the long hours at work affected my health and family. All I knew was that I was willing to do whatever it takes to reach the top, she says.
She decided to heed the Drukpas calm words. For the next couple of years, she saved carefully to pay for her apartment in Malaysia. Once she owned it, she put it on rent. With the rent income her security net, she quit corporate life. Her search found her travelling a new life of stopping over at Buddhist retreats where she learnt meditation and helped serve the needy. With no deadlines to meet and nobody to report to, she found immense happiness. It was just me and my time to myself.
The men and women who make their way to Buddhism have done so with a sense of deep devotion and a sense of purpose. A policewoman for 10 years in Delhi, Chandigarh and Jammu-Kashmir, Ladakh-born Jigme Thupten Palmo (36), the high-school dropout quit to become a nun at Kathmandu’s Druk Amitabha Mountain (DAM).I wanted to help others and felt that my profession as a policewoman failed to provide this sense of altruism. I opted to become a nun as it gives me an opportunity to serve.
At the DAM, Palmo is in charge of the monasterys maintenance from painting to gardening, plumbing to cooking. Equally feisty is Jigme Zangzom Dedun (24) from Vietnam who teaches Kung Fu to the nuns at the monastery and Jigme Chening Khandro, a 20-yearold princess of Nang Chen province in China both are nuns at the DAM.
Today, at 49, Semzang not only looks thinner but a lot younger, fitter and happier. It was simply inner happiness that changed my life. Now, no one can tell that I am a grandmother with grown-up nieces and nephews, she laughs, carefree and spirited.
Source: The Times of India, New Delhi.