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Happiness

I am not a Buddhist but one doesn’t have to be to appreciate the nature of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Buddhism’s highest living priest and a peaceful symbol to the raging debate of Tibet.

I received an email from a friend and quiet Buddhist just before Christmas inviting me to see the Dalai Lama speak today in Delhi.  Having never seen him before, I didn’t know whether this would be a small or big event.  The scale of a crowd in India can be exponentially larger than in other countries.

I estimate that 5000 people attended the lecture, held in the auditorium of Delhi’s most prestigious high school.  This number was far less than I had imagined.  The audience was quiet and reverent as it waited to see HHDL, as he is referred to in printed material.  I wonder whether this is an official short-cut or if the acronym is peculiar to acronym-loving India.  (I dare you to decipher the headlines in the newspapers here.   It takes committed reading to recognize the often used, un-defined acronyms… but that’s fodder for another post.)

When His Holiness entered the stage, everyone stood, bowed their heads. When he sat, much of the audience went prostrate several times.   No one spoke and the awe or respect or faith or reverence shared by everyone in that room was palpable.  Something hung in the air  – a spiritual aura for believers perhaps, but at the very least the sort of energy that arises from 5000 people directing extraordinary attention to one man.

What did he say?  For those of us who are mildly informed about what it means to be Buddhist, the message was compelling and complicated.  He spoke about the different levels of happiness, physical pleasure versus mental fortitude, and the joy of freeing ourselves from worry and stress;  how positive action or virtuous living gives birth to positive karma.  When we act virtuously we live in the positive outcome of our behavior – it’s like sewing seeds on the field of our mind.  Good seeds grow into good plants, bad seeds are weeds…. and ultimately, we don’t want weeds on our mind when we die because the mind is not substance, it is the intangible, subtle entity that survives our body and determines the quality of our rebirth.  (Did I get that right?)  It all gets really complicated, like any religion.

I left His Holiness feeling contemplative, wondering this:  How does one simply let go and not worry?  I know that meditation is an important vehicle to achieving mental strength, but how do you meditate, how do you truly ease your brain from thought?  This is the challenge…

So what did I do when I got home after the lecture?  I promptly yelled at the kids, drowning in anger any virtuous seeds that I had planted today.

There was george, naked, as usual, stretched on the sofa like the subject of a Raphael or Rembrandt, eating fairy bread and spilling the colorful, sugary bits all over my favorite pillows;  and Eddie, sitting on the coffee table, looking like an urchin in his daddy’s t-shirt.  Hundreds of toothpicks lay spilled on the floor.  Lala was where she’s been all weekend:  cocooned in her bed reading Harry Potter.  She’s obsessed.

The problem is this:  If I let go, George will take over…

I told Jim that we needed a surrogate parent to raise the boys for a few years. He suggested Angelina Jolie.

——————-

Earlier this week I went to see Anish Kapoor’s first-ever exhibition in India. That’s him, above – I shot this photo from a movie.   Kapoor is an Indian sculptor and installation artist who moved to England as a young man.  His work is über contemporary – but interesting.  There’s color and form and fluidity and function in what you see, but not necessarily a message, he argues.  Sometimes a thing is simply a thing, and nothing more.  He works on grand scale and creates fantastical stuff, like cannons shooting balls of wax through door frames.  It sounds bizarre but somehow it works.  For my American readers, you may recognize a piece of his in Chicago, locally called “the bean”.  It’s a large reflective sculpture, rounded and curved and shaped much like a coffee bean.  “Cloud Gate” sits in Millennium Park and is Kapoor’s first outdoor work in the U.S.

Some of his early work and the stuff that got him noticed looks like this:

These are solid structures covered in a chalk-like powder.  I tried to name some of the symbols here:  the lotus, the Islamic sun and moon, the minaret and the tall piece in the back looks like a celestial instrument built by the Mughals.  I think the knobby thing in the front is a pomegranate.

Kapoor represented the UK at the Venice Biennale in 1990.  He won the prestigious Turner Prize a year later.  ( The Tate Gallery sponsors the award which recognizes the work of young British visual artists.)

One of his famous pieces, Sky Mirror, sat in Rockefeller Center for a few years. Here’s a version, but the museum here in Delhi got it all wrong and put the mirror on a pedestal.  It should sit on the ground so that you can see the reflection of the sky, watch the clouds move across the screen, and enter the “space” of the mirror:

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Sorry, no photos of the Dalai Lama – security was tight:  no bags, no phones and no cameras were allowed.  But here’s a few shots of life this week.  Saturday, I went to see Ritika sing at a school performance.  These guys opened the show:

It was very cold in the auditorium:

Here’s Lala in the back and Ritika, far left:

Eddie in action.  I have to brag because all the soccer-dads sidled-up to me this week complementing Ed’s soccer skills.  I told them that he’s athletic… just like his mommy!  (If you want to change the story, Hubba, you’ll have to write your own blog,..)

Staying warm:

After my post-Dalai-Lama-yell at the boys, I felt guilty of course.  I took a walk around the block to breathe fresh air and to collect myself… and  I found these angels.  The little guy in the middle, in yellow, made me laugh and filled my heart with his own gorgeous smile.  I went home happy and far more tolerant.

And you thought I exaggerate when I talk about George and his nakedness. Here he is building a train-set:

5 thoughts on “Happiness”

  1. Letting go of the idea we can be perfect is a great first step.
    In the strange, wonderful dance of this universe loving and yelling may be inseparable!

    Seriously, one of my favorite books on buddhism is “Buddhism without Beliefs”, by Stephen Batchelor. http://www.amazon.com/Buddhism-Without-Beliefs-Contemporary-Awakening/dp/1573226564
    A wonderful guide to the core philosophy without the often complicating layers of a specific religion’s interpretation of how to follow the path.

  2. talking of perfection, remember the 11-th hour fix of my cupboard in new orleans the night before the buyer’s walk-through? so long ago! remind me why we left the velvet rut…

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