I am the boy who lives by himself. I don’t do anything in particular, I just live—that’s the way I am. I spend my life playing and I make up my own toys. I have no one to play with. The sort of things that interest me are stones and rivers and trees and clouds. Since long ago I have had no parents or brothers and sisters, so I just live alone. Sometimes I want to do like the grown-ups, but then I realize there’s no point in that. I have my own world to live in, and I’m known as “the boy who lives by himself.”
When I was born, no one gave me a name. Perhaps my parents did give me a name, but somehow it never entered my mind. So I remain nameless. Grown-ups like giving each other names. And they like inventing names for objects as well, without stopping to consider whether the name really fits the thing or not. They learn these names by heart and write them down.
Once a friend of mine was given a name by his father and a different name by his mother. His father’s friends called him by one name and his mother’s friends called him by the other, and this rather confused him. As a result, he wasn’t quite sure which was his real self. This bothered him for a long time, until one day I suggested to him that he should be nameless like me. At first he didn’t like the idea. He said, “If I didn’t have a name, how would I know who I am?”
I found it difficult to explain to him in words, so I just said, “Well, why don’t you give it a try and see what it’s like?” So he did. But this upset his parents very much, because he no longer answered to the names they had given him.
Now he was able to see what his nameless self was really like, and he became like a tiger who had broken his chain.
I don’t really have a home, and I never spend more than ten days in one place. Originally, I came from East Tibet, then I traveled westward to the lands of Lho and Mon. Grown-ups tend to stay in the same place for a long time, and when they do travel, they’re so busy they never have time to look at the valleys and mountains around them. They don’t even notice the interesting stones on the road, or the flowers, but just trample over them. Of course they never have time to play and all they talk about is how many silver coins they’ve got and how many yaks their neighbour has. If you ask them to tell you about Lhasa, they only know about the big shops in the Barko Market and things like that. They don’t seem to know about the birds’ nests under the edge of the roofs and the millions of insects that live in the city—beside themselves. So the only way I can see them is by going there myself.
Tibet is such a beautiful country and each part of it has its own particular quality. There are lots of mountains and lakes and trees and things. There are so many things to see that my journey may take me a hundred years. The grown-ups race and fight against time, but for me time is a friend, and I have no need to hurry.
Today is the first day of my journey, so here I am, playing in the road. I’ve only traveled fifty yards or so, but it would take the grown-ups ten years to learn what I’ve learned in this one day. When I looked up and saw the snow-mountain on the other side of the river, I composed the following song:
O pillar of the sky, you high-peaked mountain of Tibet,
You’re surrounded by hills with flowering shrubs and many kinds of herbs,
But your all-aloneness and your stillness still show through
As you wrap your peaceful cloud around your neck.
The peak of this mountain pierces the sky, and his snowcap glitters in the sun. The clouds move slowly across his shoulders, and when you see him, it’s as though you see the whole of Tibet in one glance. I spent the whole morning looking at the mountain, but it’s impossible to understand it all. Sometimes he seems to be smiling in the brilliant sunlight, and sometimes he stands solemn and aloof while snowstorms rage around him. Occasionally, he shows himself in all simplicity, without adornments, and at times like those one sees him directly and feels very close to him. His stillness and dignity are always there and remain untouched by the changing seasons. The days and months of the year don’t really affect him. This mountain seems to have a kind and compassionate nature, as he allows all kinds of birds and animals to live on him and to feed off his body. But I felt I should know more about him, so I stopped to ask a magpie who was perching on a rock.
“Tashi delly,” I said. (That’s how we greet people in Tibet.)
“Tashi delly,” said the magpie in a rather suspicious tone of voice.
“I wonder if you’d be very kind,” said I, “and answer some questions for me.”
“I haven’t time to waste on chattering with you,” said the magpie, I’m busy looking for food. And in any case you humans are usually full of trickery and you might be planning to kill me.”
[The story ended here, clearly unfinished.]