In a lovely bedchamber within a lovely fortress,
King Chipon sleeps. He dreams
A dream that bodes of great things to come,
And a great assembly is planned.
While in this land of Tibet there was considerable strife, there also were pockets of prosperity thriving under the rule of strong and just chieftains. In one such area lived a wise king, Chipon Rongtsha Tragen [Elder Chief of the Tiller Clan], who lived within a fortressed castle. The king was an elder statesman, past his youthful prime, but still a sharp thinker and skillful tactician. His beard and hair were a smoky white and his discerning ebony eyes were creased by fine, sprightly wrinkles at their corners. When the wind blew, as it often did in the Tibetan highlands, his hair would flow behind him. His shoulders and chest were broad and he still had well-muscled arms and thighs. He was quick to smile, spoke softly in a low voice with melodious tones, and offered thoughtful, sound advice. He had no use for fools or small talk, but was generally pleasant to both his fellow warriors and attendants. Moreover, he was one of the Thirty Mighty Warriors.
As Chipon slept in his Lotus Sunrise chamber he had a visionary dream in which, just as the sun rose over the great mountain of northeastern Tibet, Magyal Pomra, the rays of the sun illuminated the entirety of Tibet and, in the midst of those rays, a golden vajra descended onto the peak of another mountain which was the home of the greatest zodor, or mountain spirit, in all the land of Ling [another name for Tibet]. On the broad plain below, the gods of the hunt were gathering. Miraculously, at midday constellations sparkled over the mountain pass with great ropes of colored light extending to Mapham Lake where Chipon’s youngest brother King Senglon [Lion Minister] stood, holding a parasol of white silk with a rainbow-like fringe of red and green. It was an immense parasol stretching thousands of miles, from Persia in the west to China in the east, south to India, and to Hor, the lands just north of the Tibetan plateau. Then from the southwestern sky came a lama, a great teacher, astride a white lion. A large white hat, shaped like a lotus flower, sat firmly on his head, and he had a vajra in his right hand and an ornamental spear, a khatvanga, in his left. On the blade of the khatvanga were impaled three human heads: one fresh, one a fortnight old, and one fully dried. A rather striking, naked woman, whose skin was deep red, accompanied him. Though unclothed, she wore intricately etched bone ornaments crafted from skulls and long bones on her upper arms, wrists, and ankles, and a thin bone skirt and necklace encircled her body, clanking whenever she moved. These two beings, speaking in unison, said to Chipon, “Great chief, sleep not, but awake. At the first light of dawn, the royal parasol of the sun rises over the great mountain — if you wish the sun’s rays to benefit Ling, no good will come from an old man’s foolish sleep. Listen, and do as we say.” Then in his dream they sang.
Listen, chief of the great tribe of Ling.
If you do not know the measure of your own sleep,
The slumber of your ignorance will be inexhaustible.
The omens are not bad — they are good.
On the eighth day of the second month of summer
Gather all your citizens,
From the mighty kingdoms abroad
Down to the fathers and uncles of the local clans.
At daybreak as the sky lightens,
Have them meet on the great plain of the Land of Snow.
Perform feast offerings and render praise to the local spirits.
Burn sandalwood and juniper,
And with the best of woods erect thirteen smoke-offering altars,
Hoist thirteen grand flags,
And lay out an abundance of precious alms.
When it is time to enjoy the feast offering which grants power,
It is best for the host not to drool.
In the same way, on the day when you set out these festive dishes
Do not be slack in your preparations.
If you have understood, your heart should be light.
If not, all our efforts have been in vain.
Their song finished, the lama and the red woman dissolved into the western sky like snow on hot coals and Chipon startled awake and shouted out to his attendants. Such a loud and fearsome voice was so unusual for the king that his attendants became frightened, wondering what could be the matter. What was more, Chipon then cried out an old Tibetan curse that translates as, “Go eat your father’s flesh.” The two servants put aside their fear, swallowed hard, entered his chamber, and stopped short, taken aback to see Chipon, who as king was typically unaccustomed to dressing himself, fully dressed. They were also surprised because usually he spent a few hours every morning meditating and reciting prayers, and here he was, dressed and ready for action. This did not make them any less uneasy and they murmured a few proverbs to gain some perspective.
When the avalanche falls down the white snow mountain
And the snow lion seeks its prey on the plains,
It is certain that wild game will be restless.
When dark fog banks roll down the slopes of the glaciers
And the gentle showers of rain wish to fall,
It is certain that the sky will be overcast.
When the dear chief arises early from his throne,
It is certain that the servants will be on edge.
These proverbs did very little to mellow their anxiety and as they stood there, still tremulous, they heard Chipon call out, “This morning I had a remarkable and subtle dream, perhaps the most impressive dream a king has had in the history of our people. I will need help to interpret the dream; we should call the powerful teacher Thangtong Gyalpo [King of the Empty Plain].” But immediately he reconsidered, saying, “Now that I take into account the importance and clarity of the dream, I think it best to skip the tedious interpretations these lamas are so prone to make and simply divulge my dream.” And that is just what he did, telling his servants, “I will send letters to Gyalwé Lhundrub [Spontaneously Accomplished Victor] and Kyalo Tonpa Gyaltsen [Teacher Victory Banner]. Now, please brew some tea and bring it here.”
Lhundrub was a relatively young but wise chieftain of one of the six districts of Middle Ling. He was a brave and powerful warrior who eventually becomes a loyal friend to Gesar. His valor is displayed as he fights in many important battles and, several volumes from now, dies while attempting to rescue Gesar’s future wife Drukmo.
Kyalo Tonpa, also a warrior, was a district leader in Ling, as well as Drukmo’s father. Wise, and reputed to be the richest man in Tibet, he was beloved by his people and in all things he was fair and kind. Though somewhat older himself, he too had broad shoulders and a strong, imposing brow. His black beard, speckled with grey, extended below his chin to a triangular point. Despite his size he had delicate hands and was renowned as much for his elegant calligraphy as for his wealth.
It was a great relief to the servants to hear that this was what all the fuss was about and they set about to comply with the king’s wishes.
Off they went to brew the royal tea, returning with a gleaming copper teapot fragrant with the steeping leaves. As is customary, Chipon offered the first portion of the tea to the gods, showing thanks for his auspicious dream and asking them to allow his speech to flow. Chipon, while a proud man, was not so very confident of his songs and speech, but he warbled a melodic chant of offering. Right as he was singing the last notes, just outside his window a beautiful and powerful turquoise dragon roared, veritably shaking the heavens. Chipon was overjoyed, taking this as further proof of the auspiciousness of his dream. And he settled down to enjoy his tea.