Tuesday, December 8, 2015

the Dalai Lama redux

Yesterday, on an Internet Buddhist bulletin board, a New York Times Magazine piece about the Dalai Lama floated into focus and I decided to test myself and try to read it. Like many people of my acquaintance, I too have fond, if brief, recollections of encounters with the Dalai Lama. I read the piece (sort of) with that twinkly fondness in mind.

I was dogged. The piece went on and on and on and on and on and I could remember times when every spiritual hangnail the Dalai Lama might have was of keen interest: What he did, where he went, what he said, how he affected others, the problems of the world and his assessments, his mystical depths, what his daily schedule might be, his humor, his seriousness ... on and on and on and on and there was a time when I soaked it up greedily. What a shining light.

But reading the piece -- or rather, skimming it -- I realized I didn't much care. I liked the Dalai Lama and was grateful to the stimulation he once brought to my life, but ... but I was content with my inconsequential encounters. They were enough. Reading the piece was a little like running into an old girlfriend with whom there had once been fire but now there were merely pleasant embers. It wasn't something to ignore, but it also wasn't anything to write home about.

What a nice guy. Isn't that enough?

Strange to think how fierce the attraction once was and how lazily banked the flames were now. Not dismissive or critical, particularly, just a topic that others might jump up and down about but I no longer could. A serious and silly man and I like silly and serious people, flawed or otherwise.

What a nice guy.


  1. I feel i've lost interest in most things that were and are my life. Then and now. My now is now a then. I see time and my interests passing together right before my disinterested eyes. And i sigh a sad sigh to think of it. But it's ok. All the lovely things pass by this tomb that is me.

  2. Ah, but this is one of the joys and sadnesses of old age, all intertwined (as they become). The fire may be banked, but it leaves warm glowing embers. Some people have no embers at all, only cold emptiness. Be blessed.

  3. Judith -- Unless my memory is playing tricks (an increasingly frequent activity), I always liked at least one aspect of "The Varieties of Religious Experience" by William James. James was a careful thinker, not someone given to convenient hyperbole pro or con. He defined what he was talking about. And (here comes my potential memory fart)it was during an assessment of religious "conversion" that he told the tale of a man who underwent a profound conversion -- potent as a burning bush -- to ... wait for it ... gambling.

    Even if my memory banks are playing me false, still I like the story because it points to what I think is more true than not, i.e. that everyone has embers of one sort or another. Whether they are warming may be a matter of luck or grace or something ... but I have a hard time crediting a no-embers-at-all premise.

  4. I think the no-embers-at-all could be called "ashes."