July 2008, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
I was sitting next to a Buddhist nun with a Starbucks coffee and a day planner. Her head was freshly shaven and she was in orange robes and sandals. I suddenly felt self-conscious of my own Coach sandals and took my feet out to cover the label with my toes.
Apparently, she worked in advertising for years but decided it was the 'wrong way of life.' Now, she lives in a one-room apartment and sleeps on a cot on the floor. She eats only one main meal a day and supports herself as a house cleaner.
Buddhist Nun: Life can be simple. You really don't need that much to survive. Where do you live?
Me: Manhattan. I live in a one room apartment too. Ha! A studio!
She didn't laugh. I bit my lip.
I could feel the sting of her disapproval.
As for the DL himself, I love that little monk. I've read The Art of Happiness and The Wisdom of Forgiveness and as it turned out, I would have the rare opportunity to hear him in person. My alma mater, Lehigh University, hosted the Dalai Lama himself for six days of teachings in the summer of 2008.
For six days, he sat on stage and read and spoke on an ancient Buddhist treatise. I took notes but it was all very technical Buddhism - terms and theories I'd never heard of or could possibly understand in a few days.
But, one afternoon, he took questions from the audience and someone asked about life after death. The Dalai Lama responded in his adorably imperfect English with, basically, this ~ we shouldn't waste so much of our time arguing with each other about what we think happens after we die. We should focus on the here and now and being compassionate during our lifetime.
So ... just be nice?
Buddhist Nun: What do you do?
Me: Well, talk about the wrong way of life. I'm a lawyer. Ha!
Silence. Another sting. Another toe wiggle.
WTF? Shouldn't you be feeling some compassion for those of us still stuck living the 'wrong way of life'? And, if your life is so damn simple, what the hell do you need a day planner for? Huh?!
When I returned to Manhattan, I met my friends for cocktails. (The Dalai Lama is very wise and so was Jesus. One cannot live on bread alone. One needs vodka.)
My friend CW: So, you just spent six days with the Dalai Lama and all you learned is 'Just be nice'?
Sip. Think about it. Sip. Think more.
Today, I am grateful ~
1/ For that rare opportunity.
2/ For faith, in general. How lonely it must be to not pray or have a relationship with G0d, whoever your G0d is.
3/ For the simple Golden Rule... which I know isn't so simple when the airline loses your luggage or the cable guy doesn't show up or you feel Buddhist nuns judging you. But, practice makes perfect ...
Baha`i Faith - Ascribe not to any soul that which thou wouldst not have ascribed to thee, and say not that which thou dost not - Baha'u'llah
Buddhism - Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful - Udana-Varga 5:18
Christianity - Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself - Luke 10:27
Hinduism - This is the sum duty: do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you - Mahabharata 5:1517
Islam - None of you (truly) believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself - An-Nawawi's Forty Hadith 13
Jainism - A man should wander about treating all creatures as he himself would be treated - Sutrakritanga 1.11.33
Judaism - You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your kinsfolk. Love your neighbor as yourself - Leviticus 19:18
Taoism - Regard your neighbor's gain as your gain, and your neighbor's loss as your own loss - Tai Shang Kan Ying Pien
Zoroastrianism - Whatever is disagreeable to yourself do not unto others - Shayast-na Shayast 13:29