Today, in the chilly shade of Downtown Charlottesville, I stood among dozens of Tibetans, along with a few other non-Tibetan people, waiting just to get a close up glimpse of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. I had arrived at the Paramount Theater much too early to get inside. As I pondered what to do next at that early hour, friends of mine in the Tibetan community mentioned that people were going to wait for Gyalwa Rinpoche behind the building, to greet him as he arrived.
We waited for nearly two hours. I started shivering and wondering what the hell I was doing. Luckily I met a young Vietnamese man whose pleasant, yet idle conversation distracted me from the cold. I obviously had not dressed for chilly fall weather.
We were rewarded though, for off in the distance we could hear sirens. Then dozens of police motorcycles poured down the street, followed by state police and then by several dark official looking state-department vehicles. Sure enough, a black Cadillac pulled up to the curb, and we were nearly all, in a hushed manner, chanting little mantras and prayers, being so glad for this good fortune.
I was somehow among several Tibetan children and young adults, which I thought was fitting. My afflicted mind, when compared to some devoted Tibetans I know, is very child-like. His Holiness slowly got out of the car and looked around. The dark sunglasses surrounding him allowed him to come toward us, knowing his routine. We were lined up along a street, and the police had stopped traffic, so His Holiness slowly went up the line of local pilgrims. He did not shake many hands or take any Khatas (the white offering scarf with heartfelt Tibetan words and the Eight Auspicious Symbols on them). He did pat multiple children on the head.
His Holiness seemed a little frail or weak or tired. I’m not sure which. I had no idea why I expected otherwise. Maybe I was just hoping that he could bypass the aches of time (he just turned 77 in July). I think he glanced at me initially, along with viewing the line of Tibetan youngsters and others, and my ego was hoping for recognition or a smile at least. I did not get one, which I also think was fitting.
Gyalwa Rinpoche went halfway down the line of Tibetans and well-wishers before he was herded back toward the Theater where he would be talking shortly. Then he was gone.
So why am I even writing this? Because as I walked the three or four blocks to where the end of the terribly long line had settled to enter, I felt a huge wave of cathartic gratitude and grief wash over me. It was one of those moments which I have only felt in the presence of true masters. I wanted to just let go and cry right there, in my hometown, among so many people who I knew standing in line. But I had been shaking too many hands and saying too many hello’s to keep my who-am-I-being-observed-by mind out of the process. Therefore the tears welled up, but barely any fell by the time I got to the back of the line.
Nonetheless, something had happened. My heart had widened without my seeming to do anything. Expansive feelings of warmth and kindness had rushed through me, and I had wanted to cry in the one place I would have been so hesitant to do so previously.
I think, that without actually touching His Holiness, I had been hugged. Brought into a cosmic embrace with his vast awareness and universal compassion. And it was awesome.
I wonder though, in hindsight, if in expanding like I did, I also caused or permitted a subsequent contraction. After attending both of the Dalai Lama’s Charlottesville events, I felt very tired, just exhausted. My parents had also attended the afternoon event, and it is never easy for me to be completely at ease around them (I think old stuff – conditioning and the like which I am still working through). But I doubt this had anything to do with my condition.
I had been invited to a dinner with friends from out of town, and to a house blessing of another friend, with a visiting Lama from the TMC (from Frederick Maryland). Instead I just went home and collapsed. I now find myself beating myself up over this. Instead of sharing my time with friends, I slept and then went out to eat by myself. So I am noticing a mixture of emotions from the day – large surprising highs, contracted self-isolating lows, and several in between.
At least I got to connect with several Tibetan friends who I had not seen in a while and I told them I would call them. Perhaps that is the answer for me – continue to study and practice speaking Tibetan. At least I can put Geshe Jamphel Thardo’s advice into effect. Or maybe, one day I will be kind to myself and stop comparing myself to others. 🙂