lac mahon, la peche, qc.

lac mahon, la peche, qc.
photo by graham law.

Friday, November 4, 2016

my prostration issue.

not long after arriving in india, in 1976, i decided to do a seven day retreat at the toshiba centre near mcleod ganj, above dharmsala. other than one aged monk, whose job it was to cook for me, i was totally alone. that was not the problem. the problem was that every time i opened my eyes i saw monkeys fornicating, everywhere, all over the damn place. everywhere i looked there were monkeys doing it. i'm no prude, but that was ridiculous. so i left after only a couple of days, moved down to the 'tibetan library of works and archives'.

while at the library, taking in a few lectures by the lamas was of course the thing to do. however, i refused to prostrate to them. that would be too much, i reasoned. so when the lama would enter the hall and everyone else stood and then proceeded to prostrate flat out a few times each, i would pointedly, proudly remain seated. as a vippassana bikku monk, shunning all rites and rituals, prostrating seemed tremendously inappropriate.

i attended a lecture each morning and nobody cared that i refused to prostrate. after a few days, however, i at least began saluting the lama with folded hands as if to say 'namaste.' still, there was no way i would actually prostrate. no way. but, after another couple of days i stood, saluted and remained standing until the others finished their prostrations. that felt ok. i could do that. but then, after about a week i decided there was no harm, and it'd be a more proper sign of respect, to do a weee small half-prostration. only, something happened during that weee half-prostration. some rigid part of me let go, released, and i found myself flat out on the ground doing a full formal free frontal prostration along with everyone else, then another and another. i began to laugh in the middle of the routine. the lama, watching me, began to laugh. some of the others began to laugh. it was wonderful. and as the days passed i realized that i looked forward to the prostrations more than the lectures.

by that time, while wandering around the village during those hot afternoons, watching the old tibetans reciting mantra while fingering their mala beads, i wondered. i wondered about their trek across the mountains to save themselves and their kids, their beliefs, their way of life, to be free, to worship the way they knew. and once in a while i'd spin the prayer wheels in the temple at the top of the street.

"i sometimes can't believe, after all, that we made it to canada. my kids are safe. my daughters can go to school here." syrian refugee.

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