Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Obama and the Dalai Lama

Many thanks to Martha S. for sending me this "picture of happiness and joy – a photo of two extraordinary humans." As she put it, "This photo speaks volumes as to hope and potentiality."

We are very fond of the Dalai Lama here in Bloomington, Indiana, where he has family connections. He has visited a number of times, causing a huge flurry of excitement (and prompting visits from Richard Gere and others). Some of the young people I know have had the privilege of meeting him.

There are two Tibetian monestaries here in Bloomington. The Dagom Gaden Tensung Ling Tibetan Buddhist Monastery represents the Gelugpa lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. The Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center hosted the Dalai Lama. It has a summer camp and grounds dotted with colorful cottages.

You see a lot of "Free Tibet" bumper stickers in Bloomington. One of my favorite memories of the Lotus Festival is of standing next to a Tibetan Buddhist monk during a Balkan Beat Box concert under a big tent. We were both grinning ear to ear, amazed by the antics of those wild and crazy musicians. The Tibetan monks make large beautiful sand mandalas during the Lotus Festival. Here is what they say about that:

On several occasions DGTL monks in cooperation with visiting monks have created sacred sand mandalas to bring healing energies to local and regional communities. Over a period of days or weeks, monks work meticulously to construct the image of an individual deity's celestial mansion from millions of grains of brightly colored sand and ground gemstones. The resulting mandala, which is deeply meaningful to tantric practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism, represents a map by which the ordinary mind can be transformed into an enlightened mind.

When the mandala is finished, the monks perform a sacred ceremony, destroying the mandala, distributing some of the sand to onlookers, and pouring the rest into community streams or rivers; the streams and rivers, in turn, send the blessed sands on a journey to heal all sentient beings. The swift destruction of the completed mandala often dismays Westerners, but it is a central part of the painting ritual, symbolizing impermanence, an important concept in Buddhist philosophy.

Martha's message came with a note from Slim Chandra-Shekar, of the Gayatri Project: "At 11.00 p.m. EST on election day, when Obama was declared President-Elect of the United States, there was a palpable shift in the energy of the country and of the world. It was not just moments of joy and celebration, but an upward shift in the collective consciousness of the human race!" You can learn more (and hear some prayerful music) here.

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