The visit by the Drepung Monks has ended — at least in a temporal sense. But their visit is still with me in my thoughts. I am finding the experience to have “remnant effects” — as many experiences do; otherwise, experiences would not be either instructive or transformative. But there was something about their presence that affected me in unusual ways. As I expressed to a friend, the leader of the delegation, Geshe Tsewang Thinley, affected me in a unique way in the impressions he made with the brevity of his presence.
Looking back on my anticipation of their arrival, I admit to some anxiety. “Will we be able to communicate?” “Will we provide ample resources for their stay?” “Will we gather enough of an audience to make their visit productive?” Not having attempted such a project before, I realized that we would be flying by the seat of our pants and that lots of volunteer help would be needed.
Thankfully, we had a number of volunteers step forward, one of which — Armene B — offered planning, volunteer coordination and hosting of the monks during their stay. Other volunteers provided lunch on each of the days, some provided contributions to cover food purchases and restaurant visits. And, of course, many people participated in the events, made cash contributions to their monastery and purchased products to support their efforts. Thank you, one and all, for your support of their visit. I am told that their stay was very worthwhile. I know our community has been blessed in obvious and subtle ways — even in ways not yet realized.
As I expressed in the closing ceremony on Monday night, I felt a deep connection with the one monk with which I spent the most time, Geshe la (“Geshe” indicates his level of attainment within the monastic community, “la” is an honorific). I said, “He has inspired me to do better.” To do better — in my relationships, in my ministerial work and in my personal spiritual work. He expressed a presence I can imagine Jesus expressed, each being a Light of the World.
In fact, each of the monks were Lights, unique in their expression, their individual skills and their personality. Some were more outgoing than others but each seemingly present in their interaction with each other and with those around them. They were focused in their work on their shared effort of the sand mandala and they were joyful in their leisure. During their lunch on the last day, they were comfortable enough to “let their hair down” and share lots of laughter about an interaction they had had with one in our community the prior evening (that’s where the phrase “monking around” arose). While I am unable to appreciate what was so hilarious about that interaction (I was told they laughing about the person greeting them with “good morning” when it was late in the evening), they were genuinely entertained by it.
Here were six people, steeped in their contemplative tradition, expressing their humanity in the most joyous ways. And present on Facebook (at least two of them, each of which has “friended” me)! Perhaps the most startling realization for me was their ever-present smartphone — when they weren’t kneeling over the sand painting, it was as likely as not they were on the internet, perhaps referring to a Tibetan-English dictionary, listening to podcasts in Tibetan, communicating with others (I’m guessing back at the monastery in India), or browsing the internet! Now I feel vindicated for my internet-centric lifestyle. 🙂