Monday, May 25, 2015

Bodhisattva Activity: Waffle House and the Bodhisattva Vow (Karmapa Pilgrimage 2015, Conclusion)

Tibetan Buddhist teachers say that when you are planning to visit an important teacher, obstacles can arise and that working through these obstacles enables you to purify past karma. I usually have no trouble getting to such teachings; for me, however, the obstacles tend to rear their ugly heads on the trip home.

I remember driving through Tropical Storm Barry after attending a teaching with Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche in Miami, doing Tara mantras all the way up I-95 from South Florida to Gainesville because I was afraid I was going to die in the rain and wind. I remember driving home from a teaching with Bardor Tulku Rinpoche in Tampa when the friend I was with had to go to the ER with what we thought might be a heart attack but turned out to be a bad gallbladder.

So I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that I had an experience roughly equivalent to the Tropical Storm Barry event the day I left Poughkeepsie for Florida. I had a wonderful dinner with my friend Stirling on Friday night and marvelous conversations with her about subjects of mutual interest that resumed and continued through Saturday morning. I left Poughkeepsie a little after noon on Saturday, determined to make it through Washington, D.C., before I stopped for the night.

That plan would have worked, and worked well—traffic was mercifully light all the way to and through D.C.—if it hadn’t been for the rain that started just as I was leaving the D.C. area and if a big race of some sort hadn’t been cancelled in Richmond, Virginia, because of the rainy weather. The upshot of the widespread rain event and the cancelled race was that I-95 was filled with travelers and there were no motel rooms to be had!

There was no letup in the rain after the sun went down. There were dark areas on the bypass around Richmond where it was hard for me to see the road, where I thought I might drive off the highway because of bad visibility. Luckily, however, there was usually at least one set of car taillights in front of me that I could follow.

Finally, with the rain still falling and feeling sleepy and a bit desperate, I stopped at a Waffle House somewhere in Virginia for a grilled cheese sandwich and a cup of coffee. I called home to let Forrest know that I was still on the road and might be for quite a while. One of the waitresses overheard my call and very generously called around to try to find me a motel room. She had actually located one that I would have had to backtrack to get, but I decided to go for it and was on the phone trying to secure a reservation when my cell phone dropped the call! I thanked her profusely and left a good tip, determined to keep going until I could locate a room.

I drove on through the rain and darkness and stopped a couple more times, but the motels were either already full or had long lines of people waiting to see if they could get rooms, so I kept driving. 9 p.m., 10 p.m., 11 p.m. and midnight all rolled by. I was getting really sleepy by that point and thought about stopping at a rest area, but didn’t think that was a safe idea. I wondered if I should just drive to a local police station to ask if I could sleep in my car in their parking lot, but somehow I thought that would just turn out to be more of a hassle than a real solution to the problem. I kept reminding myself that I had just seen Karmapa, was infused with blessings, and that I might not be asleep at that hour even if I were at home.

Finally, about 1 a.m., I drove into the parking lot of a Travelers Inn that was literally the first motel I saw after pulling off I-95 somewhere near Rocky Mount, North Carolina. I was in luck! A nice Indian gentleman and his wife said yes, they had a room, and I took it sight unseen. It took all the energy I had to get my little overnight case and laptop up to the room, call Forrest to leave a message that I was safe, and then collapse into a welcoming bed.

And yes, it was still raining the next morning, but right down the street was another Waffle House where I had a good breakfast and some energizing coffee.

Driving through North Carolina, still in the rain, I passed that same field of yellow flowers that had opened my heart on the way to New York. My heart broke open again, thinking about how Karmapa described apathy and the lack of love as our greatest danger…thinking about my spiritual friend whose information had inspired my trip…thinking about the kindness of everyone I’d encountered up north (yes, even the two women in the tent who had inadvertently connected me with another friend)…thinking about Forrest and our cats waiting for me at home…thinking about Florida’s precious freshwater springs and the environment that sustains us…thinking most of all about Karmapa and my other Buddhist teachers.

My heart opened, and love and tears came pouring out.

And I realized that my job, now, is to keep that love flowing. For everyone.

Bodhisattva Vow

driving south through North Carolina
on Interstate 95
a field of yellow flowers is
blooming in the median

I get these words:

nothing you could ever say
or do
would make me
loving you

and get that this


is one true meaning
of the
Bodhisattva vow


1 comment:

  1. Totally uplifting and inspiring write. Thanks for sharing this amazing experience - where actions and Buddha activity meet.