Sunday, November 16, 2008

cherry blossoms in november

the house i am occupying in north india, in kangra valley, is now home to three nuns from three different buddhist traditions:

- myong-do sunim, a korean nun now doing a 100-day retreat (and whose haunting chanting of the name of the buddha of compassion now fills the air of this autumn afternoon). it was myong-do sunim who found this house in the first place, a house whose three other vacant rooms nangpel, alicia and i were all too happy to make use of;

- my friend, sister metta, who is ordained in the theravada thai forest tradition, and normally resides in the amaravati monastic community in england. she will be with me for the month of november, and i have been finding it deeply inspiring to share the monastic life with her here even for this short time in our improvised 'nunnery', and to learn of life in her nuns' community; and

me in my tibetan robes.

here are three photos, all taken on our roof, each to various degrees featuring the cherry trees that are now puzzling us by bursting into bloom in november. perhaps this is the time here.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

old tibet

came across some marvelous old documentary footage shot in lhasa in the 40s.

as described by the BFI national film archive, which owns the clips, and posted them on youtube, the first clip shows the parents and siblings of his holiness the dalai lama in its opening scenes, "and a procession of high-ranking men and women. this is followed by a clip of a procession with the dalai lama in a golden palanquin, his presence indicated by the peacock feather umbrella being carried alongside. The final scenes, in contrast, show ordinary children dancing and ice-skating in lhasa." the others do a nice job of capturing some of the texture of lhasa in that truly lost era.

check out the dart scene in this following clip.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

conditions gathering

twice a week, when he is in residence, his holiness the karmapa receives the public and often gives a dharma talk at gyuto monastery here in dharamsala. during the audience held on november 5, when a friend of a friend had her moment to greet his holiness, she held out a barack obama pin. initially his holiness took it to be something he was supposed to bless, until she indicated it was a gift for him. when he looked closer and saw it was an obama pin, his holiness brightened noticeably, and accepted the gift with visible delight!

at that same audience, several european friends congratulated me on what our country has managed to do for itself in this election.

indeed, one feels there is a whole world of goodness waiting to arise from the conditions that are gathering now...

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

welcoming new life - literally and metaphorically

as voters on the other side of this planet are lining up, i rest on this side in confident anticipation of positive results. i heard from the kind clerk at the little town hall where i vote in wisconsin that my absentee ballot - sent oct 24 by "two-day express delivery" from india and still not there to be counted as of nov 1 - had managed to land on her desk today, monday. she also mentioned that they had received double the number of absentee ballots that they had last presidential election. and the initial reports suggest that americans are ready to try living up to the vision of themselves that barack obama offered them: as compassionate, tolerant, dignified and responsible members of the world community.

but wonderful new beginnings have already taken place today: it was with great, great joy that i learned that this world community has another member, who i am sure will contribute greatly to its beauty: ayla jade sylvia, the child of my dear friend (and fellow tibet site seminarian) leigh sangster.

i received word that leigh was in labor early this morning, but later in the day somehow found myself suddenly moved to express in words some aspirations for the child. when the message of ayla's safe delivery came through, i learned that this spontaneous aspirational prayer for her was composed just 15 minutes after ayla began her life outside the womb. (makes me wonder just what sort of karma baby ayla and i have together!)

in the hopes that you who read this will add your voice to mine in making this aspiration for ayla, i include it here:

dear baby, even before you develop the words to name this experience, may you always recognize that you are surrounded by love. may you always carry in your heart the knowledge that this precious life you have now is only possible within a matrix of kindness and caring linking many, many others to you.

as you acquire language, may only the words for happiness, delight, love and joy be comprehensible to you, and may the words for suffering and unhappiness make no sense to you at first, because they do not match any of what you have known yourself.

just as you caused joy for many people in many directions today just by entering this world we all share with you, may you continue to be a source of joy and peace to all those around you, awakening love spontaneously in all who see or hear you. may you live always within the embrace of that love.

may your actions always reflect the goodness that is your deepest nature. may your life be long, and full of meaning and wonder. may it inspire others.

may you be happy, dear baby.