I don’t get to Kunzang Palyul Choling as often as I would like. I live in Fairfax and work in Chantilly. On Friday nights during rush hour, KPC might as well be on the moon for what it takes to get there. Even on Sundays, getting out to the country where it’s located isn’t easy. The effort, however, is SO WORTH IT. There is something so transformative, so rejuvenating, so uplifting about wading through the tidal wave of traffic to spend some time at KPC.
First, there’s the drive. I’ve taken to saying the Seven Line Prayer to keep me calm on the Beltway till I reach River Road. Once on it, you drive through Potomac, passing churches, neighborhoods, BIG mansions. There are almost always cyclists on Sundays – bright and colorful, like a live action modern painting, struggling up and coasting down the hills as suburb give way to forest. Right now, the canopy is bright green with the bloom of Spring; the air is fresher, smelling sweet and damp. You reach a point where it seems like the road is ending, but you’ve just made it to another, lesser traveled portion of River Road – you are in the country now. You pass beautiful gardens surrounding farm houses and wide open fields, a historic schoolhouse and reach the driveway of KPC just as the stresses of samsara have faded. You feel like you’re home.
Inside KPC on a Sunday, the building is buzzing like a beehive. Maroon and yellow fill the hallways as ordained flutter through their preparations for teachings, tsog, a crystal tour or a talk about Jetsunma’s early years. The bookstore is full of students and visitors. DELICIOUS smells waft from the kitchen/diningroom where Noreen prepares the lunch that will nourish body so that mind can open for teaching. Noreen is funny and direct, or is that direct and funny about it. She is also humble and loving. It makes her food taste better!
The Dharma teaching is from the archives again, a disappointment for me. Jetsunma came home when I prayed for her to, because I needed help praying for all of the sentient beings in my life. Maybe I’m kidding myself that she came back to Maryland from Sedona, Arizona after so long away, but it makes me smile to think that maybe she heard or sensed my call. So, I have to laugh when I arrive at the temple with our possible physical introduction visualized, to find that it ain’t happenin’ today either. I KNOW she is making me let it go before she appears to me. And I know that when we do finally meet, it will be as void of fanfare as any 2 people meeting for the first time, so I also need to let go of the maternal/fellow NYer hug that is part of that visualization. The day I arrive at the temple visualizing only my practice, there she will be… I’m working on it, Jetsunma!
It’s 3pm. I have been at the temple since 11am and it’s like no time has passed at all. I have absorbed Dharma, giggled along with the women who have been with Jetsunma since before she was Jetsunma, who later became ordained. They are reminiscing and sharing their stories about Jetsunma’s amazing presence and the work of their own paths. I am sitting in a lazy boy chair now, feigning an attempt to write my next blog entry, but the temple is still buzzing with laughter and conversation. It’s like Thanksgiving, without the fighting or football. Noreen appears from the lunchroom and asks who will make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for Occupy DC. Somewhere around the middle of the 2nd loaf of spreading peanut butter on bread, I realize how good I feel. I am a part of a family. I am helping that family to be nourished, and that family is nourishing me right back.
Holly sits down nearby and becomes the unwitting co-victim to my onslaught of questions. She and Noreen patiently answer every question – just the question I ask and no more. (I realized today the difference between someone who practices Buddhism and someone who possesses knowledge of Buddhism. Someone who practices Buddhism waits for the question and answers only the question. It’s like he or she knows that your path has taken you to the question you’ve asked and the path is YOURS to discover at your pace. The practicing Buddhist only shares as much as you ask. The person who possesses knowledge, however, doesn’t wait for a question. He or she hears something familiar sounding and imposes his or her interpretation of that knowledge without hearing that a question hasn’t been asked.)
The sun is shining brightly outside, the air is cool but the promise of warmer days is on its breath as I make my way to the prayer stupa in what has now become my parting ritual with the temple. The stupa BEAMS white light in the sunshine, the prayer flags framing it in color, the burning incense is pleasant to smell, the soft ground supports each step as I pray for my loved ones and friends, and for all sentient beings.
I am walking down the driveway to my car parked along the roadside. It is after 4pm and it is time to re-enter civilization. My head says I must, but my heart wants to stay. I don’t want to go back ‘there’ where nobody understands me or my new enthusiasm for Buddhism. The people who are selflessly loving and caring are so rare amid the self-serving who are lost in the Matrix of samsara. I want to stay where I am welcomed and loved unconditionally. It is an attachment I am sure I have to work on.
So is the attachment of excitement over finding my path. I doubt I will achieve Enlightenment within this precious life because I doubt I will ever let go of the attachment of excitement. I’m okay with that. I have found Dharma, I have found the path. For THIS soul – that is a huge leap forward. Maybe next life I WILL come back as a dog!