the dalai lama

We were in Bloomington, Indiana this morning for the dedication of the Chamtse Long Temple by the Dalai Lama himself.

No electronics here in the VIP tent where we get to be up by the stage with a table of snacks at the back.

We’re in the front row too. All of the attending clergy have been robing themselves right around us — 2 protestant ministers with suitably handwoven stoles, and a Buddhist monk in refreshingly austere black and brown.

Still 50 minutes to go — had to get here early for the security checks — they didn’t seem to think I presented much of a threat. The front edge of the tent drips on us — payment for daring to take the front row seats? The Native American representatives are already kitted out — one complete with eagle feathers and a drum.

Many monks here… some were out front just now, selling jewelry, malas, and “I (heart) Tibet” t-shirts. The TV crew from Indiana Univ. is hanging out by the corner of the temple that the Dalai Lama is here to dedicate, collectively wishing it had a cigarette. One crewman focuses his camera onstage. Various VIP’s hang out in clumps. One woman with a kata evidently did not get the notice that the Dalai Lama will not be doing any personal audiences today.

9:25 – Things filling up. Congregation of ministers etc. on stage, learning what they’re to do. On the flat roof of the temple, people have been setting up golden statues, wrestling them into place: dharma wheel in the center flanked by 2 deer, and squat little round posts on the corners. I wonder if that’s real gold leaf covering them.

Little boy runs around with a camera, followed by his sister. Security men in blue suits & sunglasses quietly at their posts, ears plugged in to their shirt collars. Members of the press hovering in front of me, focusing. Staff members, making sure they have enough handouts, because the copier in the temple is of a primitive sort that won’t collate.

More VIP’s greeting each other. Muhammad Ali is supposed to be here, too. A shot about that on the news this morning: he’d gone to a local fast food place last night and spent 15 minutes signing autographs.

10:10 – Robert Thurman introduction. Dalai Lama and monks are in the back temple doing the actual dedication — shown on a monitor. Blessing it with wishes for peace for all sentient beings. Some drinking of tea. There is a translator, but he has no microphone, so I can’t tell what he’s saying.

Someone must have done something funny, because the Dalai Lama is laughing. Everyone in the audience here by me starts laughing too — his laugh is so infectious, you just have to go with it even if you have no idea what he’s chuckling at.

Tibetan has a sing-song sound to it even when it’s not being chanted. It’s the sound of a cold wind howling around a sharp rock, and brass bells being rung.

10:30 – The Dalai Lama and Muhammad Ali come out together to the main stage. Where I’m sitting, I can see behind the stage too, and saw Ali being driven up. His Parkinson’s has him shaking so much that, when they walk to the stage together, it’s the Dalai Lama who is supporting Ali’s arm.

The rest of the ceremonies are as expected. The Dalai Lama gives some remarks in Tibetan, which are translated, and then switches to English for a bit. I do wish a bit that my husband hadn’t written down the part about not buying every pretty thing you see, but it’s to be expected.

We left after this was over, it being lunch-time. Now home, and back to cats and full electronic gear.