Tag Archives: buddha

hot dog performance art

the last installment. part v of why meditate, thoughts on my two 1-week back-to-back meditation retreats: part i, part ii, part iii, part iv, & part v. An abridged version for moderns exists at Shambhala New York.

And that was it. After lunch there was a banquet to close the week, and a bit of a talent show with poetry, songs, skits, and the like performed after the meal. As I enjoyed my desserts, Seth asked (snarkily) when I was on. “I thought you were going to share something with us.”

“Hmmm? What do you mean. I already did. You missed it?” I snarked back.


“Oh, you mean at lunch? The bawling over your hot dog?” As if his words weren’t enough, he brought his hands to his mouth, grasping an imaginary whole foods organic hot dog with caramelized onions and nori, rounded his shoulders, closed his eyes, pulled down the corners of his mouth, and snapped his diaphragm up (he’s obviously done some yoga) which bobbed his torso and head a bit to mimic that ungodly heaving that accompanies a big cry.

My gawd.

It was pretty funny.

We laughed. I’d never met Seth before but, as always happens on retreat, by the end of a week I felt like I’d known the people around me forever, even though we’d never spoken. I was thinking about this on the first day, when everyone felt so strange to me, which I wasn’t used to at Shambhala. I was used to knowing people. But it had been a while. I wondered then how these strangers would quickly unfold as we sat together in silence. And they did. It is like magic.

NewYork_2012-06_SummerNY-38When the festivities and the retreat were over, I went home and emailed Zka, telling her more or less what I’ve told you. I cleared my schedule completely for the next days, and we had dinners, coffees, drinks, and walks over three boroughs in her last days in NYC. I took her to JFK and we sat quite near a NEW YORK HOT DOG stand while we chatted before her flight. I didn’t cry.

A few times I’ve had to explain to people that because I felt sad about Zka’s leaving does not mean I’m defined by it, or that I’m depressed. As a culture we are so against sad that we’ve forgotten that to feel sadness and let it pass is a fine, healthy thing to do.

It is almost fall now, and I’m more able to stay inside and get things done. I still angle for the sunny spots on the sidewalk because the sun feels so good, but a part of me is relieved by the cooler air and the softer light. See? Even summer girls can adapt.

So, that’s why I meditate. It’s one thing to get it intellectually. And it’s another thing to sit. You really, really have to sit. There’s a great story about the Venerables Mahakasyapa and Ananda, about why the Buddha chose Mahakasyapa to succeed him rather than his cousin Ananda. (Ananda didn’t practice!) Yes, this is a myth. There’s some argument over who succeeded the Buddha, and this story seems more popular in Zen traditions. That’s not the point though. The point is, you have to practice.

The story is pp 123-125.

why meditate, thoughts on my two 1-week back-to-back meditation retreats.
part i, part ii, part iii, part iv.

buduruwagala~buddhist rock carvings~southern sri lanka

WalawelaPretty, right? Such was the scenery en route to Buduruwagala. The elephant-shaped rock (below) has seven huge Buddhist figures carved into it.  We went with Samantha and the requisite guide. I’m not sure that the following info was explained as the guide was quite hard to understand, the midday heat was, well, hot, and cheeky Samantha was on the lookout for snakes. He eventually found one hanging in a tree.

Guides in Sri Lanka (okay, the planet over) tend to prefer local lore to current historical scholarship (especially the case at Sigiriya in the north).  I don’t mind this, as the history can be found in a book, and lore tells at least as much about people and their identity.

buduruwagala temple02Reading about Buduruwagala now, it doesn’t seem to be called a temple, but I’m quite sure that locals referred to it as a rock temple. It was  carved in the 10th Century, at the end of the period when Mahayana Buddhism was popular in Sri Lanka, as well as Theravadan Buddhism, which continues to thrive in the present day. These Mahayana carvings feature the Buddha, tall at center; Avalokiteshvara, in white at left; and Aryathara (Tara) and an attendant further to the left.

In the slideshow (part iii), there is a photo (before the incense box) of three more figures. On the right is Vajrapani holding a dorje, a thunderbolt which is a tantric symbol seldom seen in Sri Lanka (but common in Tibetan/Vajrayana Buddhism). Natha, the future Buddha, is in the center, and Vishnu is at the left.

Buduruwagala translates from Sinhala as “stone images of the Buddha.” At 51 feet it is the tallest rock carving of Buddha in Sri Lanka and arguably the world, after the loss of the Bamyan figures to the Taliban.