It must be good karma
It's nine am on Sunday morning. Normally I would be asleep on my hard matress but today I am awake. I'm not only awake but I am sitting in the meditation posture listening to a high monk lecture on the six perfections of Buddhism. The meditation cushion under me feels hard and my back aches yet my mind is held tightly in this room. The red and gold colors of the shrine room reflect off the window panes and twinkle in my eye. Out the windows to my left is the third highest peak in the world. The snow capped moutain tops reflect the glaring sun and watch over the valley below. My mind wanders from the Kempo in front of me to my aching back and pulsing foot. Then, as if something has snapped in my brain, I am once again completely present in the room, fixated on the stories and teachings I am being told. I look around at the faces of the others who are with me and can't help but think to myself how lucky I am. What did I do to deserve this? How will I explain to people who have not experienced this what it is like to sit on a meditation mat and listen to one of the great teachers of the Nyingmapa tradition. Kempo-la takes a sip of the tea that is served to him and immediately one student rises to go refill the mug. There is such ritual behind everything here. We bow when he enters the room to show respect for this great man. It is not that we revere him as a God, but we acknowledge that he has a wisdom far beyond ours-- and we are grateful that he is here to teach it. Together we do three prostrations to the Buddha to show that we are open to receive his blessings. We acknowledge that our body, speech and mind are open to learn the dharma- and that we are prepared to awaken our Buddha nature. Then we sit. We sit and we wait. Sometimes we begin right away but often there are a few moments of silence before Kempo-la speaks. Today we sat for what seemed like eternity, but as surely as the flowing river, the stories started coming and we were sucked into the great tradition that is Buddhism. The two hour talk stretches on past three hours and we are still sitting cross-legged in the shrine room. The midday sun beats down on my legs and I am reminded of the world outside our little room. All is emptiness he says. We are all completely interdependent. There is no table. There is no chair. There are no teachings-- at least none seperate from anything else in this universe. At first the teachings seem so foriegn to me, but gradually I start to see the truth in what I am taught. I try to remember that I am here for academic purposes but it is no use. I eat up the stories without thought, without knowledge. Everything seems so obvious, so real, how could it not be true? Eventually the gong rings and we dedicate all the merit we have attained for the good of all sentient beings. "By this merit may all obtain omniscence. May it defeat the enemy of wrong doing. From the stormy waves of birth, old age, sickness, and death, from the ocean of samsara may I free all beings." And then we rise, walk down the stairs and sit around for tea as if nothing out of the ordinary has happened. Welcome to India I remind myself.