Many times my grandmother has told me how dead people spend three days reliving their lives down to the tiniest detail. At sunrise on the third day the consciousness returns to the body, not realizing what has happened. Then the dead wander among the living but no one acknowledges them, no one talks to them, looks at them or touches them. They want to be with the living and they do not understand why we ignore them – until a terrible suspicion dawns upon them. To test their fears, they walk across sand, seeing to their horror that they do not leave footprints. They lower themselves into water and see that they make no waves ……… until they realize they are no longer among the living ….. After these three days, the consciousness of the dead comes across forty-two peaceful and fifty-eight wrathful deities. Anyone who has seen pictures of these terrifying divinities can imagine how disturbing and frightening such encounters must be. Therefore it is important that the dead are accompanied by the monks’ prayers, which prepare their souls for these meetings.
On the day of His Holiness’ [Dalai Lama] long-awaited arrival, Kunsang was churned up with anticipation and excitement …… Kunsang wore he best white apron ……. Suddenly His Holiness himself was standing right before her. She still remembers every moment of the encounter. ‘He looked exactly like his portrait on the thousands of amulets and pendants printed with his face, but there was a presence about him that no picture in the world could capture. I felt a sense of warmth, love and intimacy emanating from him ….. He … asked … “Are you a cook?”’
‘It was a small eternity before I could answer, for I had not been prepared for such a personal greeting. All eyes were on me, yet this bodhisattva, this enlightened existence in human form, expressed no impatience; he did not seem in any rush for me to answer. It was as if His Holiness had all the time in this world just to stand in front of me and look at me and smile and wait for me to answer his question.’
“Yes,” I finally murmured. My body was bent low, my hands were folded at my chest, and I did not dare lift my head to look the Dalai Lama in the eyes. It would not have been respectful for a nun such as I to do that.
“Show me your hands,” the Dalai Lama said to me, and when I hesitated, His Holiness simply reached for them with an incredibly gentle gesture and pulled them towards him. Still smiling, he looked at my dry, chapped hands. They were rough from my work in the kitchen …… But the Dalai Lama held my hands for a long time, turning them over in his own soft, flawless ones. Then he patted them and said simply, ‘They’re so hard.’ His words were almost lost in a chuckle of laughter. ‘You’ve worked too much.’
‘I was filled with happiness. Smiling, he released my hard hands, gave me a laugh and a nod and went on to talk to the woman standing next to me. Now I won’t have to work so hard, I thought to myself, because he was here, because he touched me.’