DREAMS OF THE DALAI LAMA
His Holiness the Dalai Lama was making an unscheduled appearance on campus. I happened to be in the auditorium with my daughter at just the right time. Spectators started entering en masse and the DL’s staff stepped forward and began arranging them around the area where the leader would stand. Even though my daughter was no longer a child, the handlers must’ve liked the idea of filling in the crowd with young people—so there we were, stationed near the head of the line like solemn attendants at a wedding. Our college provost led the procession, offering me a limp handshake while dropping a catty comment about being surprised to see me there. Then the DL came out, pausing to smile and nod to my daughter and ask how I was doing. For some reason, I panicked and made an idle remark about meditating regularly. He continued down the line quickly, as if able to trace this falsehood on my face.
It was the Blessed One’s funeral. Two ornate horse-pulled coaches waited on a side street near my apartment building followed by a line of buses. Each carriage had been fitted with a decorative pagoda turret. A man emerged and announced over a bullhorn to pilgrims that buses would leave in five minutes. Until then, I hadn’t considered attending this event myself. But I was too casually dressed and wished to retrieve my camera. To save time, I climbed the fire escape. Pressing my back against the building, I balanced along the ledge to my window, but found it locked. Below, the little caravan was just leaving.
Before me on a table were placed four objects. An old pair of wire-frame glasses, a worn prayer book, a wooden begging bowl, and a comic book. Select! I was instructed by a brusque-mannered junior monk. So I picked up the comic book and began reading. You clearly aren’t the Buddha of Compassion, he snorted. Just what sort of Buddha are you? He made a gesture with his arm as if to dismiss me. Wait, said the senior monk, stepping forward and grasping the junior one’s sleeve. That actually was one of His.
M.V. Montgomery's book Speculations will be released next month by Winter Goose Publishing in Sacramento.