Monday, May 25, 2015

Under the Tent in Woodstock and Back Up the Mountain to KTD (Karmapa Pilgrimage 2015, Part 5)

Wednesday Afternoon

Karmapa was scheduled to give a talk to the people of Woodstock at Andy Lee Field, a short walking distance from the center of town near the village cemetery, at 2 p.m. on Earth Day. While the talk had not been publicized, I decided to get there early, a little after 1 p.m., and was glad I did because a steady stream of people followed me through the security gate, across the muddy ground and into a large tent that had been set up to protect us in case of rain.

I took a spot where I had a clear sightline of the stage and rooted myself there, wishing I had thought to bring a folding chair but committed to stand for as long as His Holiness would speak. I stood a little bit to the left of a woman who was sitting in one of those seats that is attached to a walker; I assumed she had a mobility problem but she seemed content and I took care not to block her view.

More and more people arrived and all of a sudden, I felt a tap on my shoulder and heard someone behind me saying, “You can’t stand there.”

I turned around and said, “I beg your pardon?” Two women who had recently arrived were standing behind me and one of them repeated, “You can’t stand there, you’re in her way,” (nodding at the woman in the chair next to me), “and we just had to move so she could see.”

Now, these women had arrived after I did. Neither the woman in the chair nor I had moved an inch. If I had been thinking, I would have asked the woman in the chair, “Am I blocking your view?” because I clearly wasn’t. But I was so taken aback by the cheekiness of the woman who had told me, “You can’t stand there” (because obviously I was blocking her view), that I simply bailed. “I’ll move back here,” I said, and hastily moved to the back of the crowd. I have never figured out how to handle rudeness; what I should have said or done always occurs to me much later, after the fact.

Yes, I was angry; in fact, I was seething. But when I got to the back of the crowd, I ran into Debbie, a sangha member from Florida who now lives in Woodstock and works for my other primary dharma teacher, Bardor Tulku Rinpoche, at Kunzang Palchen Ling, his center across the Hudson River in Red Hook. I had seen Debbie briefly at the Karma Pakshi empowerment in Kingston but this time we had a chance to chat and get caught up on what we had been doing, so my anger evaporated as I realized that had that rude woman not tapped me on the shoulder and told me to move, I wouldn’t have had a chance to visit with someone I like. And I still had a clear sightline to Karmapa, even though I was a bit farther away from the stage. It’s funny/odd how seemingly adverse circumstances can often take a 180-degree turn. I certainly had a better time talking to Debbie than I would have had if I’d joined in an argument with two cheeky women.

Karmapa’s remarks to the crowd were surprising, informative and inspiring (see previous blog entry). I had no idea he had heard about Woodstock as a child in Tibet! I had no idea he would compare the people of Woodstock to the Tibetans of old! (Which makes me wonder if some of the folks in Woodstock today have past-life connections to Tibet—but I don’t wonder that for very long.) But I wasn’t surprised to hear him refer to climate change as an environmental emergency, or that he urged us to continue working to preserve our world; those are consistent, often-repeated messages of his and one big reason why I adore him.

One of the coolest things that happened was that after he finished speaking, he took a bottle of water that was wrapped in a gold cloth and poured water onto the trees that the children of Woodstock were planning to plant later that day. The children had asked that the trees be placed on stage while he was speaking, so Karmapa generously blessed them with a large drink of water from his own hands.

As we left the tent, the rain—which had held off just long enough for Karmapa to give his talk—started again. I pulled up the hood of my raincoat and headed briskly back to town for a warm snack at my favorite Woodstock eatery, the Garden CafĂ©.


Finally! I got a phone call confirming that Namse Bangdzo, the bookstore at KTD, was open, so I headed back up the mountain, back up the prayer flag-festooned dharma path, and satisfied my shopping urge with the purchase of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s three-volume set of The Profound Treasury of the Ocean of Dharma and a labradorite mala. I couldn’t linger, though (which probably saved me quite a bit of money), because my friend Nancy was arriving that day by bus for the Friday event with Karmapa at Kunzang Palchen Ling. I had promised to meet her shortly after noon.

After being on my own all week, it was good to have a friend to talk to and share meals with, and a bonus was that we were able to meet Colleen, another friend, at the Bread Alone coffee shop for a nice visit before Colleen headed over to Kingston in preparation for the Friday teachings, which would be the only time other than the empowerment in Kingston when I would see Karmapa at a formal event.

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