Thursday, July 9, 2009
It is just an ordinary grayish rock, weathered by time and the elements, grainy with texture, its rounded form irregular but comfortable in your hand. There are thousands of similar rocks visible in stream beds in that part of the Catskills. I longed for one, when I first saw them in those stream beds.
It had been gathered for a special purpose and was nestled with its fellows around a small pile of sticks and brush. They lay to one side of a lawn behind a small ordinary house, down a winding lane, far away from public traffic. Behind the lawn, down a steep hill, stood an open field in a clearing of trees.
A group had gathered. Anticipation was building. For the town council of this remote, sparsely settled area, upon learning that the Dalai Lama was expected at the tiny Tibetan monastery within their boundaries, had determined to hold an official welcome. Food and flowers stood ready on tables. Soon the helicopter would land. And the Dalai Lama would walk across the field, up the steep hill, and disappear into the monastery - as it turned out.
But first it was necessary to light the sacred fire. For the traditional smoke signal. And the stone played its role, along with its fellows, circling the fire. Never knowing the guest it honored in an ancient rite.
It was a strange sort of "official welcome" - with the guest of honor relaxing, unseen inside, while guests milled about - chatting and nibbling on exquisite tiny pastries, far from his view. I talked with someone whose path had crossed mine years and years before - though neither of us had known it at the tine. I vividly recall it as a brief but meaningful encounter. He asked about my "path" and I told him the truth: Right then - the only thing I was certain of was "the ground" I was standing on. He urged me to continue my practice.
The crowd outside seemed unsure whether or not to wait around. We'd been given to understand that there would be a chance to "meet" the Dalai Lama. But time dragged on. Nothing seemed to be happening. And many left. It was getting to be early evening on a pleasant summer day.
We were part of a small group still remaining, as we'd been guests of a town alderman - whose stepson went to the college where my husband taught. He chose to ask us. And the wonder of it still amazes me! We'd made the long drive a day or so before. And been welcomed lavishly - by people who lived very simply - in a mobile home - in the woods.
Suddenly, with hardly any warning, we were told to line up if we wanted to meet the Dalai Lama. White scarves were handed out - to present to him - the traditional Tibetan greeting of an honored person. I recall being amazed when my young son joined the line, looking solemn.
As I stood there, waiting, I recall mustering up all the awe and reverence I possessed - to honor this revered and holy man . I believe I prepared a short phrase and I must have said it as I placed the white scarf in his hands. But I honestly don't recall my role at all. It was not until much later, I think, that the experience crystalized for me - into a powerful awareness of what had really occurred in the briefest encounter with this man: The Dalai Lama's manner embodied far more reverence for me than I was capable of reverence for him.
Comprehension of that grew over time. Maybe it's growing still. I have pondered it often.
I believe the Dalai Lama taught me something very profound in that brief moment: The power of the presence of a holy person. The power of a holy person honoring a guest. The true meaning of Namaste. It sounds simple when I say it. But it's one of the most profound things anyone has ever taught me. By his mere presence alone. His manner toward me. I understand now what Jesus was trying to convey. What the Buddha must have conveyed. Why Hindus go to simply sit in the presence of a holy hermit.
Oh... the stone? Somehow before we left I had the presence of mind to walk over to the place where the fire had been. I selected one stone. A stone that fit my hand. I have told this story many, many times. Usually I give the person the stone to hold, as I tell the story.
It's just an ordinary stone. But it is invested with the meaning of that memory. I call it my Dalai Lama Rock. And I consider it holy.
I considered taking a photo of the stone. But where would I put it for such a photo? And how could you know its holiness without touching it... without feeling its weight, its grainy texture, its grayness with flecks of black. Without hearing the story and the gift of holding it at the same time.
The next day our kind hosts took us to a Zen monastery within the same township. It was a place of stunning beauty and serenity.
My stone has no such beauty. It is so ordinary.
Instead, I'm including this clip-art. Because I love it:
Posted by TheraP at Thursday, July 09, 2009