Figures. I was in the john and had just settled deeply into my reading material – “A Dingo’s Breakfast: A Guide to Aussie Lingo” (“a dingo’s breakfast”, since you need to know, is defined as “a piss, a scratch, and a good look around”) – when the phone rang. I was anticipating a call from the States, so I shouted for Lungtog to pick it up. He did, and quickly after, I grabbed the receiver and hollered, “I just knew you were going to call when I was in the bathroom!” There was a silent beat on the line. Then, “Um, hello, this is Colleen from Qantas Airlines.”
Oh. Hi Colleen. This is Brother Doofus from America.
Colleen was giving me a ring to cheerfully inform me my flight from Melbourne to Brisbane today was cancelled and would I mind leaving an hour later? No, of course not, I responded. Then I was about to add how this was really fortunate as it would allow me both to pack and whip together a blog post but I figured Colleen had had just about enough of me already and I forewent the explanatory discourse, threw in a “no worries” to show how culturally hip I was, and rang off.
I am completing the circle today with a return to Brisbane. If you are keen of eye (as we determined Sonja in Alice Springs was, as well as swift of foot, but that’s another story) you will have noticed changes and additions in the Australia Tour column to the right. More specifically, my final act before they toss me out will be to offer a public Dharma talk this Saturday, March 1, 2pm at the
Gabba Cricket Stadium Garden City Library Meeting Room. Summoning all of the gravitas and spiritual maturity at my disposal, I have titled the talk “A Buddhist Monk’s Guide to Wealth, Long Life, Power, and Love.” Do alert your Greater Brisbane friends and acquaintances and suggest they set aside picnics in the park, movie matinees, time with the children, and other dreary activities to come along and hear me rabbit on about who knows what. It’s free, I think. So it’s got that going for it. Which is nice.
My last Mongolia Project talk in Bendigo went just fine, especially as the attendees included two nuns and a monk from the nearby Atisha Center, part of the vast FPMT network of Lama Zopa Rinpoche. Lungtog and I paid a visit to their country retreat the next day. Atisha has many wonderful aspects to recommend it, but none more so, perhaps, than the fact that it’s the site on which they are striving to fulfill the vision of Lama Zopa and his guru, Lama Yeshe, to bring into being the largest stupa in the Western world.
Our tour guide at the beginning was Atisha’s senior monk, Ven. Lhundrup, pictured here with Lungtog and me at the stupa that graces their monastery grounds.
As we were shown around, I quickly felt the presence throughout of another Western monk from Atisha, Ven. Gyatso. He was mainly responsible for building the monastery itself; the upper perimeter of the temple was lined with some of the 30,000 tsa-tsas he’d made to accumulate merit preliminary to the three-year retreat he’s currently undertaking; this gorgeous Thousand-Armed Chenresig in the monastery shrine room was a gift he brought back from Mongolia.
Yes, Mongolia. For the four years just prior to my arrival, Ven. Gyatso was the resident teacher at the FPMT center in Ulaanbaatar. Among the Mongolians and others I met who knew him, I heard nothing but praise and fondness for him as a monk, as a teacher, as a medical doctor, and simply as a human being. Shoot, I never met him and already I’m fond of him.
I think some of what people saw in him is reflected in this photo. It accompanies a display of sacred objects from Mongolia he collected that will be included in the extraordinary array of relics placed inside the magnificent stupa they are constructing, called The Great Stupa of Universal Compassion.
I also quite fancy this display because of the odd statue to the left. It may be of one of the 16 Arhats, I’m not sure. But as we often do, I saw myself reflected in this image, in the sense that it looks like he’s been distracted from his meditation by a nearby birdcall with which he’s unfamiliar, and therefore the possibility of adding one more tick to his life list.
The physical manifestation of the stupa is still in its initial stages (it’s a massive job, to say the least – 50 meters tall and 50 meters in general diameter), but here is a model of the stupa as it will look upon completion.
This model is displayed in the exhibition hall in which one can see all of the astounding relics that will be enshrined by the stupa. These included something I’d never seen before, the actual hair of Guru Rinpoche:
Right now, the Atisha community has the stupa’s foundation poured, as you can see here (they've actually completed more than this photo shows). And there is a huge, extraordinary statue of Guru Rinpoche on site that was personally blessed by HH the Dalai Lama last year. The statue is now in an enclosure as they are busy applying gold leaf, so I couldn’t experience the whole splendor of it. But I was able to get two rather surreal photographs through the windows, with various interesting reflections.
I’m not certain how the statue will be included in the final arrangement, but maybe someone from Atisha will read this and illuminate the matter.
I was about to make an offering to this project, hesitated, and then doubled it, considering how auspicious and audacious it is. You can give your future lifetimes a thoughtful gift and kick in a little, too.
In other matters, I’m happy to announce that my over-inflated ego, especially as concerns my dubious contributions to Great Internet Literature, received a welcome pinprick: I did not win in any of the Blogisattva Awards categories for which DODR was nominated. But truly worthy entries did, and you’d do well to visit and click around a bit.