I was inside a gompa for a retreat recently. A retreat is a spiritual term for taking time off to pray, reflect or meditate, ponder about life and death, and perhaps gain some realisations. It was not easy sitting on the cushion for a long period of time and doing what I needed to do but I think I am well trained by my guru Lama Zopa Rinpoche (who can teach very long hours between 6-16 hours in a stretch). So it meant I was able to sit still with no body ache, no sickness, no obstacles... and it turned out to be an awesome experience. Yup, if this was what it is going to take, baby steps, to attain Buddhahood, I think I can live with it.
During one of the sessions, while I was sitting on the meditation cushion, chanting mantras, and reading a text, I did not notice a bee flying and landing on the inside of my right palm. I only realised it when I felt a sharp pain. Shocked to see a bee on my palm, I instantaneously swung my hand and pushed it away. The bee landed on the floor of the gompa. Within mere minutes, its tiny body writhed and curled up and it died on the spot. It should have been a honey bee, which could only sting you with its stinger, lodge into your skin and by doing that, it teared loose its own abdomen, leading to its own death in minutes.
For the first time in my life, I was officially stung by a bee. Within 24 hours after being stung, my hand became numb and painful, and the next day, it became swollen. Luckily someone gave me an anti-histamine pill. The small wound took about 2-3 weeks to dry up and heal. I was not really bothered by this little sting.
A Dharma sister sitting next to me was shocked (to see the bee dying) and she chanted prayers and kept blowing onto the bee on the floor. Because I was not supposed to get up during the session, I spent time cleaning my wound, and also chanted and blowing onto the dying bee too. I was wondering why it had sacrificed its little life just to sting me with its venom. I hope it will have a better rebirth. Nonetheless I think it was blessed to die in a holy place. I hope it was, literally, liberation in the palm of my hand! Incidentally, there is a book called "Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand", a discourse on the Path to Enlightenment written by the great Pabongka Rinpoche, which we are studying. So it became sort of a joke really, my this bee sting. Om mani padme hum!