When Gedhun finished his meal he waited at the table for everyone else in the family to finish their dinner. His grandfather, Pemba, was usually the last one to finish eating. There were 2 reasons for this. He had very few teeth left, and some of the remaining ones were very sensitive. Sometimes when he chewed down it bothered his teeth. Often times Gedhun would offer to mash his grandfathers food with a stone pestle and mortar to make it easier for Pemba to eat. His grandfather also liked to talk during mealtimes and Gedhun loved listening to his grandfather’s stories about life in the old days before the Chinese had annexed Tibet.
Gedhun took the all of the dirty dishes from the table and brought them outside. There was usually just enough water left to clean the dishes. Each morning Gedhun’s mother, Sonam, would walk the 10 minutes to the stream that divided the the families lentil fields from their root vegetables. The stream provided water for the crops and for the family to use for cooking and washing. She would fill the water jug, carry it on her head, and make this trip back and forth 3 times as the sun came up every day. Gedhun washed the dishes, set them to dry, and headed back into his home for the night.
Most evenings Gedhun’s 2 older brothers, Norbu and Karma, would spend time teaching and tutoring him. There were no schools anywhere nearby so children ended up working as part of the families subsistence farming efforts. There were usually no other options. 10 year old Karma, the middle brother, practiced drawing and writing with his siblings. He seemed to be the one in the family with an artistic ability. Norbu, at 13 years old, was the oldest brother. He helped his 2 younger brothers learn and practice Tibetan Buddhist mantras. Every young Tibetan learns Om Mani Padme Hung and Gedhun’s brothers had learned dozens more from their father, Jampa. Gedhun’s favorite mantra was Oṃ Amideva Hrīḥ – the sacred mantra of the Buddha Amitabha.
When it was time for bed Jampa blew out the tallow candles and the family turned in for the night. Gedhun pulled up his wool blankets and relaxed face up in his bed. He crossed his ankles and folded his hands. He closed his eyes. Silently inside he began to repeat his favorite mantra. Inhaling – Oṃ Amideva Hrīḥ – and exhaling – Oṃ Amideva Hrīḥ. He drifted off to sleep quickly and easily.