Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Face of Holiness

Woke this morning at 6:50am and decided almost immediately, after last night's uncertainty, that it was important to attend the Long Life Ceremony for HH the 14th Dalai Lama.
By 7:10am I was en route to the main temple...the following is what I wrote by hand while sitting and watching. (I am going to type it as it appears in my notes, replete with expressive capitalizations)

Seated upstairs at the main temple, again not exactly sure what to expect. I'm enjoying watching an elderly Tibetan monk seated on the ground nearby trying to convey something to some westerners in animated gestures.
Sometimes language is unnecessary.

You don't look at clothing here, so much. You look at faces. At motions.

The constant chanting of mantras passes into my core. A strange soft warmth fills me.
For a moment, I understand EVERYTHING.
These people are not here for me to "love" in western terms. They are here for me to LOVE, purely, unconditionally.
They are my GURUS!
The energy is pure life force...although until today I just had no other way to interpret it except as "sexual". An invisible thread is pulling bodies to sway in unison.
I know HH is near when I see a monk pour his tea...I know it is his tea because the mug is set next to his "dias", I have seen this ritual before.
Then the horns, the cymbals...crowd rising to its feet, hands steepled.
HH arrives, passes into the temple sanctum, takes his seat as attendees bow.
Indian military with machine guns stroll the perimeter as the pocha and sweet rice servce begn.
I don't so much hear the chants anymore as feel them straight through my ribcage and lower abdomen.

HH is seated on a dias just out of my line of vision. Every now and then I catch a glimpse of his hands, the hat on his head as he leans forward, his red-robed knee.

Monk robes hold great appeal for me, aesthetically. Draped, sweeping, graceful, elegant...they lend an air of mystery; they are the creatures under them are ethereal, something "more than". Transcendent.

After the prayer ceremony and offerings and blessings, the guards shift the crowd to make a path for HH and the other dignitaries. High Lamas with their conch shell horns herald the passage of HH.
To my shock and delight, HH stops about 3 feet in front of me to talk to some girls holding "Free Tibet" signs. He is so close I could literally touch his arm without stretching! I hear his natural, unaided voice ask them "What country?" and thank them for their support.
The Tibetan man beside me and I look at one another simultaneously, both absolutely beaming at our shared good fortune. A few feet further on he paused again to accept some Buddha and Hanuman statuettes being offered by a local inchi hippie guy. HH looks amused at the Hanuman, turning it over in his hands, even playing with its movable tail like a child delightedly examining a new toy.
Totally unpretentious.
This IS where I need to be.
This is the answer to everything.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Contemplating Goodness and Happiness

A dear friend of mine said something today that really made me think about what it means to be "good", to be compassionate, to be happy.
Words are concepts. Concepts are open to cultural and personal application, at least in terms of application.
One person may think they are being "good" while to an onlooker their behaviour may seem devious or inappropriate.
I want to, for the purposes of this post, define "good" as acting towards others with kind...or with zero intent to harm or control.

When a monk says to you, "I am a good boy"...and the look on his face reflects an openness and, for lack of a better term, naivety rarely seen in westerners except in early really have to think about your own behaviour.
Silliness is one thing. But when ulterior motives and attempts to control begin to creep in...
I have said some things, lately, seeking to illicit a particular response. I thought it was all in good fun. Now I realize it may not have been perceived as intended, and may in fact have caused someone else emotional conflict.
This was not my INTENT....but does that make it okay? 

Mainly, the question is, how can I do BETTER next time? Is it simply a question of stopping to think a moment longer before opening my mouth?

Which brings me to "happiness"...and what may seem like a conflicting perspective. 
If life is all about happiness...whose happiness is the most important? And what KIND of happiness?
Are we talking about superficial "ok I'm gonna smile now no matter what" happiness or deep internally bursting at the seems with joy happiness?
If I do something that makes me happy in the short term but harms someone else in the process, intentionally or not, is that justifiable? 

I had a day of true happiness yesterday. I do not know exactly how it developed, but I truly was RADIANT all day. I was so in love with everything about my life even the parts which haven't been working. I felt a deep gratitude for all the people around me and for all the lessons I'm learning and growth I am experiencing.  
I felt prepared to ALLOW and ACCEPT everything and not attempt to control outcomes.

Perhaps that last bit is the most important thing I've said. Possibly ever.

To ALLOW and ACCEPT everything and not attempt to control outcomes.
 If things aren't perfect, just let it be! Whatever it is, it is happening for a reason. I need to remember to look for the lesson inside the "pain".
Everything IS exactly as it should be, even if it is not as you WANT it to be.
I have struggled against that concept with all my might for as long as I can remember...
I know I will forget. I know I will flounder and fail and have to dig my way back out of emotional pits.
That's ok.

Ultimately this post may not have defined anything nor taught you anything you hadn't already thought for yourself.
It was a way for me to state something it has taken me a very long time to even begin to grasp.
For ME, important lessons lie in the above words.
Hopefully my experiences and failures and progresses can be useful to someone else reading this.

In closing, it is now late afternoon. The sun is sinking into thickening clouds over the Himalayan foothills.
This day did not evolve as I had hoped...and yet, I am content, because other unexpected blessings and lessons presented themselves. 
And that is exactly the point.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Only Constant is Change

I am not a Buddhist. I only know the most basic teachings of Buddhist philosophy. I live in a community which is predominantly Tibetan Buddhist, here in north India, headed, as per the previous post, by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Sometimes I see Buddhist philosophy working in miraculous ways, here. More often than not, I am surprised by all the ways even the monks/nuns seem NOT to adhere to Buddhist teachings and yet...overall, probably the only reason this community hasn't crumbled is because of Buddhism.

I don't know. I feel like musing, this afternoon.
The more I learn, the less I know.
All the complexities of human interaction are present, even when dealing with monks. Probably even more so because our vastly different cultures make MEANINGS unclear even when words and actions seem to indicate one thing...One thing, my acquaintance Caroline says, viewed by my American glasses.

She described it this way: 
Imagine 3 people seated around a table. One is American. Let's say the American wears blue glasses.
One is Swedish, the Swede is wearing red glasses. One is Tibetan. The Tibetan wears green glasses.
On the table is an apple. Each of the people is asked what they see on the table.
The American sees a blue apple, the Swede sees a red apple, the Tibetan sees a green apple.
It is only the same in its most basic form.
Now imagine applying this analogy to EMOTIONS and abstract concepts which do not even exist in one another's cultures!

You see my dilemma. OUR dilemma.
Girls are much more intimate with other girl friends, both emotionally and physically. The same with boys. Men walk around openly holding hands, rubbing each other's arms or legs, sitting side by side with arms around each other's shoulders. To the western eye it often looks like their is a lot of homosexual behavior...and yet, it is the exact opposite. They (mostly) shun homosexuality, but there are very few opposite sex friendly interactions.
Which makes having any kind of romantic (as a westerner would perceive romance) relationship with a member of the opposite sex equally complicated. 
Do not get me wrong. I am very fortunate to have a GOOD man as my partner. I care about him deeply and I know he cares about me.
The interior FEELINGS are the same. They are just perceived, interpreted and expressed in vastly different ways.
Even explaining the idea of interacting with your love partner as an intellectual and emotional equal (or even as an intellectual or emotional ENTITY) is proving extremely difficult. 
It seems like the only people who understand "romance" are Buddhist monks and nuns! They are just so fun to be around, so free, so expressive, across the board with all fellow humans.
And, of course, as monks, they can only "romance" by innocent "play" flirting. 
Maybe the burden is meant to be on me, for a learning to let go of my preconceived notions of what a romantic relationship "should" be.
Is it possible that I've had the wrong idea about what "love" SHOULD mean all along?
And if so, how do I change and put the focus elsewhere?

There are days when I would love for a sudden bolt of lightning to make all of us understand one another. There are days when I feel there are glimmers of hope, when a teeny shift in the fabric of the universe makes it look like a break-through is about to happen.
There are days of utter confusion and frustration, too...when I wonder if true understanding is possible.

It's like beating on a door louder and louder, non-stop, not even knowing if there is anyone home, but having to be determined to continue even if no one ever answers!
Success can never happen without repeated attempts, and there are never any guarantees!

Every day, something changes. Sometimes it feels like progress, even if tiny progress. Sometimes it seems like we are sliding in the wrong direction.
As so often happens with me, the struggle is beginning to define my life.

The past week has delivered so many changes (hence the title of this post). 
My daily schedule changed first because my usual internet cafe closed for construction. Blissfully that resulted in me having a new favorite hangout. 
Then I changed my pattern of where I was going and who with because of communication issues, plus several of my "long" term acquaintances (fellow foreign volunteers working in McleodGanj) left town.
Now I am on the verge of taking on a new teaching project...a group of 4-5 close associates who want to practice English conversation. 

I should also focus on feeding my creative passions, as well. I need to do more daily photography uploads and work on my paintings.

Life is good. Don't get me wrong. 
I am blessed in so many ways, right now. The people I am surrounded by are touching my life in ways I never imagined possible. I love them ALL more than you'd think possible for someone you've only known a few weeks. I do not love all of them in EXACTLY the same ways...but I love them all with the same level of intensity, if that makes any kind of sense.
These are ultimately GOOD (kind, compassionate,open, friendly,funny,intelligent) HUMAN beings.

We are all doing the best we can. 

THAT is sacred. This is truly a sacred experience for me, although I cannot exactly say it is a "sojourn".