The Half-closed Eyes of the Buddha and the Slowly Sinking Sun

The Half-closed Eyes of the Buddha and the Slowly Sinking Sun Main Summary

Shankar Lamichhane’s short story “The Half-Closed Eyes of the Buddha and the Slowly Sinking Sun” is a straightforward tale recounted via dialogue between two characters: a visitor and a tour guide. It was a part of the 1991 compilation Himalayan Voice: An Introduction to Modern Nepali Literature. The setting for the narrative is Kathmandu, the nation of Nepal’s capital.

Both of the characters serve as narrators for the narrative. In this text, the half-closed eyes of the buddha, the first character is a foreign traveller, and the second is a Nepali tour guide. However, the western traveller poses as an authority and offers to show you “your ancient methods.” The Nepali tour guide says, showing that he knows more about the topic at hand, “You are my tour guide for today, but I feel I can assist guide you as well.”

The story opens with a lovely atmospheric description of the Kathmandu valley, filled with visual splendour and a variety of colours of dwellings, blue hills, and so on. The visitor then mentions the Purans, antique tools, ivory jewelry, palm leaf writings, and copperplate inscriptions as contributions from the East. The guide then narrates the story of Manjushri and how he stroked his sword at Chobhar, allowing people to settle in Kathmandu Valley later on, as well as “the samyak gaze” of shaven-headed monks and nuns taking alms and spreading Buddhist teachings near the Kasthamandap, which symbolizes purity.

They then talk about their love of wooden figurines, Nepalese folk music, different civilizations like Aryans, non-Aryans, Hindus, and Buddhists, and drinking wine. The visitor thanks the guide for providing him both Nepali and Newari food. Following that, they look at Princess Bhrikuti and King Amshuvarma’s lives and histories, as well as how the King nurtured his connections with his neighboring nations, a story displayed in the image and told to his grandson by an older man.

The traveller is thrilled by the warm smiles he receives wherever he goes, comparing himself and the people’s hospitable behavior to the farmer’s son returning home from hard labour. They have one more drink for the wonderful grin of the Nepalese people.

Then they look at different sorts of eyes, such as those in the windows, on the door panels, on the stupas, on the people, on the Himalayas, and on the half-closed eyes of the Lord Buddha, referring to the nation as a land of eyes. These eyes convey a new culture, religious variety, civilization, deep recollections, and a lengthy journey.

The guide informs the tourist about the Adinath temple, the Shiva shrine surrounded by numerous other Buddha images—a live example of Nepalese tolerance and coexistence—but the guide leads the traveller to a residence where he learns the pulse of reality. It’s a farmer’s family with a paralyzed child (polio-affected kid) whose complete body is useless and he can’t speak, move his hands, chew his food, or even spit, save for his eyes, which are opposite his sister’s. The parents are pleased when the guide presents the guest as a doctor. There is a depth of faith, connection, kindness, and thanks in their eyes.

Finally, the guide explains that these are the eyes of the mountains, and their lashes are rows of fields where rice ripens in the rains and wheat ripens in the winter. They are as magnificent as the setting sun’s reflection in the Buddha’s eyes.

About the Author: Shankar Lamichhane

Although Shankar Lamichhane (1928–1975) was born in Kathmandu, he spent an early age living with his uncle in Banaras. He graduated from Tri-Chandra College in Kathmandu and began working at the age of 22 for several governmental and cultural organizations in the nation’s capital. He eventually rose to the position of manager of a business selling handmade goods. Lamichhane often socialized with international tourists to Nepal and loved contemporary American fiction. His language is rich and beautiful, even though his stories frequently lack a traditional storyline and are more closely related to essays in terms of structure and symbolism. This passage was taken from Himalayan Voices: An Introduction to Nepali Literature, which Michael Hutt translated and edited.
The storyline is recounted through the monologues of two characters—a foreign traveller and a tourist guide in the Kathmandu Valley. The narrative differs from traditional narratives in that it uses a stream-of-consciousness style to record the thoughts of the two protagonists, rather than depicting actions and events.

Characters: The Half-closed Eyes of the Buddha and the Slowly Sinking Sun

  1. The tourist: A Westerner or a Guest who holds an aesthetic vision regarding Nepal based on his study of history, culture and religion.
  2. The Guide: A Nepalese person and a tourist guide having good knowledge of Nepalese art, culture, geography and religion but have a feeling of inferiority in comparison to the westerners.
  3. The farmer’s family: The simple farmer’s family living in a remote village has high faith, intimacy, kindliness, and gratitude in themselves.
  4. A paralyzed child: A boy who suffers from Polio disorder and can’t speak properly, nor he can move his body parts except his eyes indicating purity.

The Half-closed Eyes of the Buddha and the Slowly Sinking Sun by Shankar Lamichhane Exercise: Questions & Answers Class 12 English

Understanding the Text The Half-closed Eyes of the Buddha and the Slowly Sinking Sun

 Answer the following questions.

a. How does the tourist describe his initial impression of the Kathmandu valley?

➜ The tourist describes his initial impression of the Kathmandu valley as green, with geometric fields, earthen buildings in red, yellow, and white, and the aroma of soil and mountains in the air.

b. According to the tourist, why is the West indebted to the East?

➜ According to the tourist, the West is indebted to the East for the pleasant atmosphere, religious and cultural sculptures, the Purans, ivory ornaments, manuscripts of palm leaves, inscriptions on copperplate old tools, and many other things.

c. How does the tourist interpret the gaze of the monks and nuns?

➜ The tourist interprets the gaze of the monks and nuns as ‘the samyak gaze,’ which denotes pure and uncontaminated perception; a sight that detects everything in its genuine form.

d. Why do the tourists think Nepali people are wonderful and exceptional?

➜ The tourists think Nepali people are wonderful and exceptional because of their ability to create exceptional wooden images, as well as numerous ornamentations and beautiful images of deities, enchanting music from traditional musical instruments, and hospitable behaviour through diverse cultural and religious ceremonies.

e. What are the different kinds of communities in the Kathmandu valley and how do they co-exist with each other?

➜ The different kinds of communities found in the Kathmandu valley are Aryans, non-Aryans, Hindus, and Buddhists and they co-exist with each other in harmony.

f. What does the tourist feel about the temple of Adinath?

➜ The tourist feels the Adinath temple is a live example of Nepalese tolerance and coexistence.

g. Why does the guide take the tourist to the remote village?

➜ The guide takes the tourist to a remote village to show the tourist the pulse of reality through the eyes of a farmer’s family, their hard labour, clean environment, and miserable living.

h. What does the innocent village couple think of the doctor?

➜ The innocent village couple thinks of the doctor as the ray of hope for life.

i. What are the differences between the paralyzed child and his sister?

➜ The difference between the paralyzed child and his sister is that the paralyzed child’s entire body is worthless; he can’t speak or crawl, and just his eyes are living parts of his body, but the sister’s entire body operates normally. She can speak, crawl, and move her body freely.

j. Why does the guide show the instances of poverty to the tourist?

➜ The guide shows the instances of poverty to the tourist so that he understands the really terrible poverty of people living in remote locations, as well as their lack of security and modern conveniences despite their hospitable behaviour.

 Reference to the Context 

a. Which narrative technique is used by the author to tell the story? How is this story different from other stories you have read?

The author, Shankar Lamichhane, used the stream-of-consciousness storytelling approach to tell the story “The Half-closed Eyes of the Buddha and the Slowly Sinking Sun.

Most tales I’ve read are delivered in the first person, with the narrator or persona narrating the events in his own words; however, this narrative is recounted through the monologues of two characters, a tourist guide in Kathmandu Valley and a foreign visitor. In addition, unlike traditional stories, the story employs a stream-of-consciousness style to capture what the two characters are thinking rather than depicting actions and occurrences.

Stream of consciousness, in this sense, refers to a literary style or storytelling method that mimics the natural flow of a character’s prolonged thinking process, typically by adding sensory sensations, recollections, incomplete ideas, distinctive syntax, and poor language. This stream-of-consciousness method, on the other hand, is not present in any of the other stories I’ve read.

b. How is the author able to integrate two fragments of the narration into a unified whole?

The author of “The Half-Closed Eyes of the Buddha and the Slowly Sinking Sun” aims to combine two pieces of narrative into a coherent whole by connecting them with instances of eyes and identifying them with two distinct universes. The author describes occurrences in the town as well as the activities that individuals conduct for a living. On the other hand, he connects it to the world of farmers, where people are unaware of the actual world and are afflicted with a variety of traditional beliefs and maladies.

Thus, by linking two distinct worlds or conceptions of the East and the West, he delivers the idea that one should picture things thoroughly through their deeper eyes in order to realize the full meaning of the situation. On the one hand, he links the guide’s journey with the tourist and seeing the item, and on the other, the guide explains the significance of the sights and activities by examples of eyes and his storytelling skills of stream of consciousness.

c. The author brings some historical and legendary references in the story. Collect these references and show their significance in the story.

➜ In the story “The Half-Closed Eyes of the Buddha and the Slowly Sinking Sun,” the author Shankar Lamichhane brings some historical and legendary references. The following are the references and their significance:

  • The mention of Manjushri and his sword stroke at Chobhar, which caused the Bagmati River to overflow, represents her contribution to allowing people to live in the valley.
  • The Puranas, depictions of brass and ivory ornaments, palm leaf manuscripts, and copperplate inscriptions all demonstrate that the Nepalese people are rich in culture, traditions, religions, and art and crafts.
  • The eyes of the shaven-headed monks and nuns represent ‘the samyak gaze,’ which implies pure and uncontaminated perception; a sight that perceives everything in its genuine form.
  • The mentions of Princess Bhrikuti and King Amshuvarma illustrate historical ties or relationships with neighbouring countries such as Tibet.
  • The beautiful light of the sunset reflected in the Buddha’s eyes shows Nepal as a country of Buddha with many more hopes and peaceful sentiments in the people.
  • The Adinath temple is a live example of Nepalese tolerance and togetherness.

d. The author talks about the eyes in many places: the eyes of the shaven monks and nuns, eyes in the window and door panels, the eyes of the Himalayas, the eyes of the paralyzed boy, the eyes of the welcoming villagers and above all the half-closed eyes of the Buddha. Explain how all the instances of eyes contribute to the overall unity of the story.

In the story “The Half-Closed Eyes of the Buddha and the Slowly Sinking Sun,” the author mentions the eyes several times, including the eyes of shaved monks and nuns, which indicate “the samyak gaze,” which is the sight that observes everything in its actual form. The carved lattice windows’ eyes, the eyeballs painted on the entrance panels. The stupas’ eyes, the people’s eyes, the Himalayan eyes, the paralyzed boy’s eyes, the welcome villagers’ eyes, and above all, the Buddha’s half-closed eyes.

All of these examples of eyeballs suggest that it is a realm of eyes, a place guarded by the Lord Buddha’s half-closed eyes. Even if all of the world’s history books were destroyed today, it is through these eyes that a new culture, civilization, religion, natural beauty, and Buddha’s country are revealed. The recollections gathered by the eyes make the voyage more significant.

In this way, the author relates different instances of eyes to memories that individuals acquire and cravings that never come true as they picture something with their inner eyes and hearts, and therefore unifies the novel as a whole.

Reference Beyond the Text The Half-closed Eyes of the Buddha and the Slowly Sinking Sun

a. Write an essay on Living in Proximity to Nature.

Living Proximity to Nature – An Essay

Everything we see around us is made part of nature, including trees, flowers, plants, animals, the sky, mountains, and forests. Nature is vital to humans for a multitude of reasons, the most significant of which is survival. We get air, food, drink, shelter, medications, and clothes from nature. The diverse colours of nature are what make the Earth beautiful. Nature contains everything that surrounds us, such as air, water, animals, the sun, and the moon. Nature is colourful and comprises both living and non-living species. Nature also offers food and shelter for animals, fish, and insects. Nature is essential to the development and balance of life on Earth.

People are intrinsically related to environment since it is the best place for them to survive, and life would be practically impossible without it. It provides numerous energy sources, organic agriculture, and so forth. We should, of course, aid people in limiting natural harm, reusing products, and recycling used materials to make new ones. People from all across the world should work together to alleviate environmental stress and restore environmental equilibrium.

b. The half-closed eyes of the buddha talks about the ethnic/religious co-existence of different communities in Nepal, where the Buddhists and the Hindus and the Aryans and non-Aryans have lived in communal harmony for ages. In your view, how have the Nepali people been able to live in such harmony?

The author of the narrative “The Half-Closed Eyes of the Buddha and the Slowly Sinking Sun” discusses the ethnic/religious coexistence of diverse populations in Nepal, where Buddhists and Hindus, Aryans and non-Aryans have lived in communal peace for centuries.

In my opinion, the Nepali people have been able to live in such harmony because individuals of many ethnic and religious backgrounds worship certain shared deities alongside their clan or family deities. This is because of historical, cultural, political, and geographical considerations. Nepal’s many ethnic groups arrived from various directions, carrying with them their religious traditions. There was, however, no one dominant group, and no one society could completely force the other to renounce its spiritual system. Because the religious systems of the East are not authoritarian like those of the Abrahamic faiths, it is easier for people to accept the deities and rituals of others.

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