Now that the virus is back with us again, and the more sensible among us are all huddled indoors WFH, binge-watching movies and generally giving in to feelings of despair, may I offer a suggestion? Let us shore up our personal beyuls.
What is a beyul? The word stands for ‘hidden valley’ in the Tibetan language, and signifies a glen of peace and refuge somewhere in the Himalaya. Not every Buddhist desperately in need of peace of mind/body/spirit finds a beyul, though; it appears only to those who are spiritually qualified, the deserving insightful traveller. And once these travellers go into a beyul, they rarely if ever re-emerge.
At this point, if readers have made the Shangri La/Lost Horizon connect, well, huzzah. Like all stuff of legend, the beyul is a place of great beauty, serenity and contentment. There are deep gorges, high mountains, sylvandales. There is birdsong, thick tree cover, lush vegetation, impenetrable mist and of course, there is a river holding mythical sacred waters. There are raptors wheeling about in brilliantly blue skies. It is indeed, sacred space.
Beyuls are supposedly hidden amidst the high ranges of Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan and India. The ancient texts say they were the preserves of Padmasambhava aka Guru Rinpoche, the sage who brought Tantric Buddhism to Tibet. Termas or scrolls which had details on where a beyul was located and directions on how to get there, were hidden in caves, stupas, in crevices of rocks at random places. The tertons, spiritual seekers, would find them after arduous searching; yet others would seek endlessly but in vain.
Beyul Khumbu, part of the Sagarmatha National Park, is now a tourist spot, a trekking spot, a gawping spot. However, when we are talking of the beyul as a construct of the mind, the protection and maintenance of your beyul and its ecosystem lies in your hands, and you can keep out the casually curious hordes. The vibe of the physical beyul sits at the intersection of faith and fable. The vibe of your inner beyul is all about harnessing your inner resources. Given that the beyul is a place where physical and spiritual worlds overlap, this refuge as a state of mind is even more wonderful.
HH the Dalai Lama says the beyul isn’t so much a sacred environment to escape from the world, which is how myth and lore would have it, as to enter the world more deeply. Like most of his deceptively simple sayings, this statement too contains within it a world of meaning. The way I interpret it, finding a beyul is magical but creating a beyul can be life-transforming. Because after the creation comes the maintenance. And just like you nurture your garden, you would have to nurture your beyul, ensure it stays clean, quiet, peaceful, happy, the best it can be.
Those who believe in the beyul believe in keeping it pristine, therefore eschewing violence on human, animal, bird and plant. You take just as much as you need, you nurture what grows. You live a life of quality quietly, peacefully. You align your inner and outer lives, always keeping in reserve large swathes of gratitude. Now I ask you, isn’t a beyul a wonderful thing to have?
Of course, to set up such a sanctuary in the fastness of your mind is a challenging task, calling for much resourcefulness and calm determination. If finding a beyul is the fruit of a lot of labour, so is creating a beyul in the mind.
Why would you need a beyul? To escape the pulls and pushes of stress, harassment for your beliefs, antagonism for your values, opposition to your way of life. After a spell inside your beyul, you buck the legend and actually emerge to re-engage with life on a calmer level, not ruffled by what you see, hear and experience in the world at large.
Your beyul is your sanctuary, that shot of strengthening agent, the third eye through which you see things so much clearer. Your beyul goes beyond regional, national, international boundaries, it flies free as the mountain hawk soaring high above the mountain peaks. So, do make Dalgona coffee, bake banana bread. But do create and maintain your own beyul, too.