Thursday, July 2, 2009

I'm In Buddhist Kindergarden

ABC Buddha
Mixed Media on Paper & Matte board
8" x 8" black matte, image dimension 3.75" x 4.5"
$25 includes shipping in North America

Remember those lined writing practice books?  Do they bring back memories?  Good, bad, otherwise?  I love text and images mixed together and there's something so nostalgic about the look of these pages.  And it reminds me of grade school which reminds me of beginner's mind, the idea of being new to it all, practice that is.  And seeing it with fresh unknowing eyes.

Today we had an experience that felt grade schoolish.  I think we felt some of the enthusiasm that small children feel when they go off to school for the first time.  Today we're on Salt Spring Island and we drove up a very rustic pot holed road to what seemed like the top of the world.  It is a Tibetan Retreat Centre in the Kagyu lineage of Kalu Rinpoche that was holding a reopening ceremony after being closed for some years.  It was like the first day of school because we had no idea what the Purification or Fire Ceremony would be, or who Mahakhala is  (the focus of the transmission and retreat that followed).

At the Puja Ceremony we re-experienced what it's like to be a small children.  We couldn't read the chants.  We were unfamiliar with the intonation and we depended on the good will and kindness of others as we manouvered (or should I say bumbled) our way through.  My great good fortune was to sit beside a seasoned practitioner who chanted flawlessy in the most wonderful sing songy voice. Like small children we enjoyed the rhythm of the drums and symbols and chanting.  It was a very basic and rudimentary level that we entered on.  

We liked the homemade noodles we had for lunch and the cake that followed the ceremony.  Like kids we looked around to see what other people were doing and followed suit.  We turned pages, mouthed the words, threw rice, held our hands in prayer and took off our shoes when everyone else did.  People were kind and friendly and the weather was superb.  The views were as if we sat on top of the world.  We were above the turkey vultures that circled out over the arbutus trees and the ocean.  The surrounding islands were like tiny models in the great blue ocean and we delighted in pointing out things we recognized, like little people saying the words we knew.  Dog, cat, moon. ... Look at the ferries and there is Cowichan Bay and San Juan Islands and the Olympic Mountains.

In good childlike fashion I sat down with the black cat in a shrine room and petted a mellow fur friend for a while.  We delighted in finding mother deer and spotted fawns hiding from the heat of day under the raised buildings.  We needed a few toys before we left.  We bought incense and a mala and a little book  we couldn't resist.

It was a wonderful exotic day of chanting we couldn't understand and rituals we were unfamiliar with.  We learned a little about Mahakhala, the protector of monasteries and the Dharma.  Mahakhala is black and associated with black animals (except black cats apparently).  He/she has either 2, 4 or 6 arms and is the wrathful counterpart of Chenrzig or Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion.  It was a wonderful day with friends and sun and a wild ride up a mountain side.  No wonder the little Buddha in the picture has a red star.  It was a most excellent day.

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