26 September 2005

In The Mosh Pit With The Dalai Lama

Why is this man smiling? Click on his nose to find out! Posted by Picasa


I can promise you that this epistle will be short, disjointed, and altogether unsatisfying. (Funny, but that's the same way I used to preface evenings out with certain women.) The reasons for this are three in number: 1)A lot has happened since I last wrote, 2) I have a cold and am high on cold drugs, which is as high as I've been since I quit drinking five years ago, and finally 3) I have a cold and am high on cold drugs, which is as high as I've been since I quit drinking five years ago. Now then:

So, yeah, went to Tucson to see His Holiness the XIVth Dalai Lama at the TCC Arena last weekend. Weezer opened for him. I kid! Actually, it was something far cooler than Weezer. The chiefs of the Yuma tribe led the prayer to the four directions in thier native tongue. It is difficult as a writer to convey the awesome fullness and magnitude of such a simple yet ancient ritual, even when it's being recreated on stage in a thoroughly modern venue. So let's do it this way. Pretend that we're talking and I just said, "I said a prayer to the four directions with the Yuma chiefs", and then hear the sound of my voice die out, and listen to the silence that follows for a full fifteen minutes. That's about the best I can do.

The Dalai Lama, on the other hand, was not so much about reverence as light-heartedness, even to the point where I thought he might break into a vaudeville number. The guy was cutting it up practically the whole time. The highlights: A fly landed on his glasses during his talk, prompting him to start riffing on how bad he must smell because, well, he's a simple monk and he only has the one set of robes that he's been wearing for the past seven days. Later he acted out a story of a time when he was with a religious leader from Africa who got so cold during the conference that he passed out. His Holiness acted out the entire event, including wrapping his own robes around his head like a babushka.

So in short, it was a howling good time. But before the event started, as I was sitting in the mostly-empty arena, I had a strange sort of emotional experience, which I suppose one is wont to do when going on religious pilgramages such as these. I was sitting there in the cool, dark quiet, looking up at an enormous projection of a thangka of Avelokiteshvara, the Buddha of compassion, and I was suddenly filled with an incredible feeling of gratitude. The strange thing is, that it was gratitude for everything that had happened in my life, good or bad. It suddenly made me understand something that I've often said, which is that the events in your life don't matter, it's how you feel about them that determines your quality of life. And along with that, the sum of the quality of your life isn't determined by what happened to you while you were alive, it is how you felt about it and in turn how you acted on those feelings.

I've believed for some time that I could improve the quality of my life by moderating my interpretation of events, chiefly by getting rid of predilection to label them "good" or "bad". (AndI'm talking about events that concern me directly, and not world events which I have no control over. Gotta start somewhere, so why not in my own back yard?) Anwyay, not that I'm up for lama-hood or anything, but it reminds me of a bio of a lama that I read about who spent ten years in a cave and ate nothing but nettles. He knew he was "getting it" so to speak when he took a header out the doorway one day and banged his noggin on a rock, and instead of being caught up in the physical pain, was suddenly grateful for that opportunity for enlightenment. Incidentally, this lama sat two seats over from me when I went to see the Dalai Lama in San Francisco a couple of years back. I had no idea whatsoever to say to him after "namaste", because hey, what the hell do you say to someone like that? "How's that enlightenment thing working out for you? Got any good nettle recipes?"

So yeah, that was it. For a brief moment I got to see my entire past - which up to that point I had viewed as something to recover from - as a gift and an opportunity. I'm hoping that's something I'll be able to put to good use from here forward.

I suppose I could write more about it but I'm not gonna right now. I'm going to view my head cold as a wonderful opportunity to get a short preview of mahat samadhi through taking a wee nap.

Cheers, and give my best to Marie.


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