A Day at Memorial Chorten, Thimphu Changed the Way I Looked at Life

Memorial Chorten Thimphu Bhutan

After having a memorable time in the beautiful valley of Paro, I left for Thimphu where I was supposed to renew my permit. I took a bus and it took me about 2 hours to reach Thimphu. I got my permit renewed the next day and then spent some time to familiarise with the city. I spent next couple of days taking long walks around the capital of the country.

Although I enjoyed exploring the city, there was this one thing bugging me inside. It was the feeling of being lonely. This was the first time loneliness had struck me during my journey. Even though I was surrounded by people, the feeling of loneliness was holding me down.

I spent a whole day doing nothing in my hotel room. My productivity was slowly dying. The excitement and energy I was carrying when I began my trip was dying, too. I skipped my lunch and didn’t have a proper dinner that night. The next morning, I woke up hungry. I gave myself some time to think about the life I had chosen and whether I should continue my travel.

I got my answer pretty quickly. I wanted to continue with this. This is what made me happy, after all. I decided to get out of my room to seek some inspiration and to find a meaning out of my journey, out of my life.

I followed the map on my phone to reach Memorial Chorten. This article shows how I spent my day at Memorial Chorten and how it changed the way I looked at my life.

About Memorial Chorten

Conceived by Thinley Norbu, the Memorial Chorten of Thimphu was built in 1974 in memory of Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, the 3rd Druk Gyalpo. Phuntsho Choden, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck’s mother was the main patron. The idea behind the Chorten was to present it as one of the most visible religious structures in Thimphu.

Memorial Chorten can be reached in less than 15 minutes on foot from the city center where a 300 Ngultrum entry fee is charged. “That’s quite a lot of money for this place,” I told the girl who gave me the ticket.

A Closer Look at Memorial Chorten Building, Thimphu
A closer look at Memorial Chorten building

Out of four gates of the shrine, only one is opened to visitors. I entered the place and saw the white Chorten building in the middle of a large complex. It was a warm day blessed with sunshine and the Memorial Chorten building was looking absolutely beautiful.

There are large prayer wheels at the left of the entrance. Many elderly people were sitting near these wheels – some of them praying, others talking with each other. At the right, there was a bench where I saw some other locals sitting.

The whole complex was relatively clean and peaceful. There were some pigeons busy feeding themselves while some kids were playing nearby. Many locals were circling around the Chorten in the clockwise direction – some of them with small prayer wheels in their hands.

Good Vibes Coming Along

After spending a few minutes sitting near those prayer wheels, I walked towards the main building of Chorten. Walking around, I saw an old man sitting nearby. We exchanged an eye contact and I could see this mysterious glow on his face as he smiled at me. He invited me to sit down beside him with a gesture – without saying anything.

For some reasons, his smile meant a lot to me. He seemed friendly and welcoming. I sat down. He looked at me and smiled again as if every time he wanted to say something, he just smiled. As I sat down, a lady came there and offered me a cup of tea and some biscuits. I was already hungry – not having a proper lunch or dinner the previous day and having skipped breakfast this morning. She gave the old man a cup of tea, too – which was his second one – as I figured out.

An Elderly Man in Bhutan

The old man looked at me again, with the same mysterious smile on his face. This simple tea and biscuits seemed like a very delicious meal to me. This very moment I realised how those who don’t have the privilege of eating what I ate twice or thrice a day must be living their lives. I enjoyed this food with great pleasure and as I finished, I no longer cared about ‘proper breakfast.’ I was satisfied with a cup of tea and three small glucose biscuits.

After finishing my tea, I started taking some photographs as the old man looked at me, occasionally shaking his head as if he enjoyed seeing me doing photography. A few minutes later, he stood up and slowly started walking before gesturing towards me to join him. I put down my camera and began walking with him.

We spent about an hour circumambulating the Chorten. None of us spoke a single word but walking beside him gave me a pleasure that was missing from my journey. His vibes were exceptional and I loved his company as if I had found a fellow traveller to hang out with.

The Man Disappears

After some time, I sat down to take some rest while the old man continued his prayer. I clicked some more pictures and noticed after a while that the man had disappeared. I took a walk around to find him but couldn’t. He was gone.

I had spent almost two hours with this unknown old man. We didn’t say a single word to each other but for some reason, sitting beside him – even without a conversation taking place – made me feel more comfortable. Every time I looked at him, he would turn his face towards me and share a smile. I didn’t realize that my state of loneliness had slowly faded away.

During those two hours, he taught me the difference between being alone and being lonely – without saying a single word.

No words were exchanged, no conversation took place. But during those two hours, he taught me the difference between being alone and being lonely – without saying a single word. As it turned out, I was never really alone. Or lonely.

Don’t Overthink: Advice from an Unknown Lady

After the old man disappeared, I spent my time clicking pictures and playing with some kids. One by one, people around me got busy with their prayers while some of them left the place. I put down my camera and sat down in silence.

I slowly slipped into my past, thinking about my job that sucked but could earn me money at the end of the month, leaving that job and the mediocre life behind and deciding to hit the road to travel the world. I was thinking if my decision had turned out to be a wrong one and what life was holding for me ahead.

A Buddhist Lady Praying
A lady offering her prayers at Memorial Chorten

“Excuse me,” I heard a sweet voice as I dived in the pool of my past, swimming towards the future.

“Excuse me,” I heard the voice again. “What’s wrong?” A lady was asking me as I opened my eyes.

“Nothing. Just thinking,” I replied in a soft tone, feeling a little lost between my past and future.

“Don’t overthink. Everything will be fine,” the lady said with a smile before I could figure if this conversation was even taking place.

Bhutanese Elders in Thimphu Bhutan

I smiled back and she left the place before the next moment had arrived. She disappeared into the crowd of people that was circling around the Stupa – leaving me thinking about what she had just said.

This small advice from an unknown lady hit a note in some part of my brain. She was right. I was thinking a lot and I decided not to overthink, not to think at all, in fact. I got up and clicked some more photos, then left the Chorten by 4 PM to find a place to eat something.

A Day at Memorial Chorten, Thimphu: Summary

I prefer to travel alone. It’s a choice rather than a situation. But for the first time during my travels, I had felt lonely. I never figured out why I felt lonely, why I thought I had made a wrong decision, or why my productivity and excitement were dying. But in the end, I didn’t want to know.

I never visit a religious place to pray but to spend some time in peace, to seek inspiration. Spending a day at Memorial Chorten where my intuition had led me taught me a thing or two about life. After this day-long visit, I had come to a conclusion: My life didn’t suck, after all. The decision to leave my mediocre life behind and hitting the road wasn’t a wrong one.

There are no wrong or right decisions if you believe that everything will turn out fine in the end.

Spending my time with that charismatic old man – even though we didn’t exchange a single word – taught me I was never alone. I can’t explain in words his aura, his charisma. But I know his presence meant a lot to me.

Same goes for the unknown lady who advised me not to overthink. I didn’t know when she sat down near me and how she came to learn about me being lost in useless thoughts. She disappeared within moments before her advice – “Don’t overthink. Everything will be fine” – hit my ears and I could not find her again. I know she was right and I know I think a lot – mostly about things that don’t really matter. But by asking me what was wrong, she made me aware of my useless thoughts.

When I left the Memorial Chorten, I was no longer a lonely man. I could easily get rid of those distracting thoughts when they hit my mind. I am a man in his pursuit of happiness and a day at Memorial Chorten, Thimphu taught me two very simple but useful things about happiness: One – You are never alone in this world. Two – Instead of thinking about the past that has gone forever and future you know nothing about, you should focus on present.

What about you? What do you do when you feel lonely? Do you think similar experiences can change the way you think about life? Do share your thoughts with me.

That’s all ladies, gentlemen, and everyone else. This was Parvez and you were reading A Day at Memorial Chorten, Thimphu Changed the Way I Looked at Life on Parvezish.com. I hope you liked this article and I’d like to thank you for reading.

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