OK, I know DODR has been neglected terribly just as we’ve launched on a big adventure. Lemme wield the feather duster a bit, clear out the cobwebs…there. Much better, don’t you think?
Though there’s sometimes little evidence from your side, I actually think about the blog all the time, like a fretful daddy. Two considerations dominate: Is what’s happening worth writing about? And do I have the time/strength/faculties to write about it properly?
At first I thought the answer to the former was no – do you really need to see pics of my travel companions in the UB airport? Well, OK, yes you do, because they were so adorable in their unrestrained excitement:
But do you really need to see them posed in front of the White House? No, because you-know-who lives there, and anyway it’s corny. Or at the Natural History Museum among what seemed like three quarters of America’s adolescent population? Not really. Or shots from our visit to the zoo? Maybe just one, cuz it captures something of Enkhtsetseg’s endearing goofiness and her sheer pleasure that day – Mongolia, for obvious climatic reasons, has no zoo and we had a real ball gawking at all the critters:
But as the inevitable tourist jaunts came to an end and more important events shaped up, the second consideration came into play – my debilitating jet-lag morphed into a nasty cold complete with fever. I needed rest so badly and there never seemed time.
But yesterday was a magic day, and I suddenly feel much improved this morning, so let’s git to it.
Though KPC Maryland is open 24/7, Sunday is our big public day. I really wanted to go because I knew it would be my chance to reconnect with everyone I hadn’t seen in so long, promote next weekend’s events a bit, etc. But it didn’t look good at first. I woke up feeling awful, the original plan to go out with my mother seemed to be dissolving, and I wasn’t rousing any enthusiasm among others in the house to ferry me there.
I thought, “Well, maybe I should just sleep off the cold today.” And an inner voice responded, “No. You have to go.” So I called the one person from the temple I knew lived close. Oddly, he was home, and willing to take me. Off we went.
What hadn’t even occurred to me was that I might see my teacher that day. But it soon became clear that she would teach at 2pm. Darisuren was there, and my young friend Oyungaa to translate, so I made sure they had front-row seats. Once I’d taken care of those I needed to care for, I sat and let my own eager feelings rise as I waited. I had not seen my teacher’s face in nearly four years.
When she arrived, and I first saw her, I spontaneously felt just as the texts describe – all my hair stood on end, tears streamed down my face, and I was suffused to my core with such devotion and love as to resist description. Jetsunma ascended her teaching throne, saw me, lit up, and beckoned me over for a big Italian lama bear hug. I introduced Darisuren, and then we settled in for her teaching.
Jetsunma has been making music. She’s deep into a process of creating really smoking hot tracks bearing meaningful lyrics and the sound of mantra – dharma you can dance to. But at the same time, she has also turned her mind to more contemplative, devotional music based on our traditional chants and prayers. And just this week, she released her latest creation, a new way to sing a prayer to Amitabha Buddha, from a practice called Phowa, the method to achieve an auspicious transition at the time of death. She described Amitabha’s special qualities, the melody’s genesis, and the benefits of playing it for those approaching the time of their passing (not just people – animals, too). The teaching was so gorgeous in its hopefulness, even in these strangely dark times.
You can hear the prayer online here on a continuous loop or as a download, and there’s a click over to Palyul Productions, where you can order a free CD. Please take advantage of this. The prayer, and this melody, provides a blessing for those approaching death that has nothing to do with being Buddhist or not. And it’s even nice to listen to while we’re still very much alive! And, you know, it’s totally free.
After the teaching ended, Darisuren made an offering of several gifts – a carpet for sitting, a silver bowl, bolts of exquisite fabric, and they had a very sweet conversation.
But after, that was the surprise. Jetsunma came down and began to leave, but then stopped next to Darisuren. She then took off her upper robe (called a zen) and told her she wanted Darisuren to have it. I spoke with Jetsunma’s attendant later, who said Jetsunma remarked that it was a totally spontaneous gesture, and she’d never offered her Dharma clothing to anyone before. It seemed a strong indication that a visit to Mongolia was all but assured. And I managed to get a fantastic photo of the moment: