Saturday, April 07, 2012

Falling into a stupa


OK, here's one for my brother who says I don't write enough personal information.

People's Palace

People's Palace photograph by Jacqueline Banerjee.

When I lived in England, men on the street owned my face.  If it wasn't fitting in with the décor they thought they should have around them while out and about, they'd tell me to change it. Wherever I went, particularly in London, they'd say, "Cheer up!" or "Smile!" or even, "Cheer up, luv, it might never happen!" As you can imagine this always put me into a better mood immediately.

One day I was walking to college on a wonderful sunny day and everything about the world felt absolutely right, as though every care and woe had fled.  And I was walking down the Mile End Road smiling, as the old song goes, from my head to my feet.

Approaching from the other direction was another college student, a slightly older Anglo man who was a self-professed Buddhist.  As he neared me he said, "What a wonderful smile!" He paused to look more closely. "Or is it vanity?"

At the time I thought, "This is a man, in fact a spiritual man, a man who lives in the eternal now or whatever it is, a man who goes to an ashram every day and chants Om Nama Shivaya a thousand times with little tinkly bells and joss stick smoke and has a personal guru who has accepted him as an official disciple  – and he thinks it's vanity. I am a bad person."

Now, of course,  I think he was being an utter dickhead projecting his failings and insecurities on to me. But it was too late by then as the remark had affected my life and couldn't be un-experienced.

Anyway, later, during the Yuppie eighties in London when it became suddenly possible to get very rich just moving paper around, I heard he'd become a stockbroker. His guru, Sri Gotmine Ayamrichi, or whatever his name was, sold out as well. Hope they both got wiped out during one or other of the big stock market crashes.  Never trust a hippy.

Today is the same sort of gorgeous sunny day.  I wasn't smiling so much, and Americans, unlike British people, rarely feel entitled enough to tell other people to rearrange their faces, but it still reminded me of the People's Palace on the Mile End Road. 

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