When he came to Wellington in 2002 to give a talk I just had to go. I’d been delving deeply into the Tibetan Buddhist tradition for a few years, reading everything I could get my hands on and practicing some of the methods and meditation techniques. It had changed my whole way of seeing the world.
I had just got together with Jane then too and she was teaching me things as well – exciting times.
On the night of the gig I was strangely nervous and running the mantras through my head as I walked in to the Event Centre. There was a TV3 news crew there and they poked a camera in my face and asked me what I was doing there. I babbled some nonsense and gave them a big stupid grin and went inside.
His talk was very simple and straight to the heart and reinforced the reasons I had for being there. At one point he mentioned that you can’t really call yourself a Buddhist if you haven’t taken your vows and that got me thinking.
As I left the building there was another Lama with a group around him leaving from the other exit point. Our eyes met and he broke away from his followers – he came right up to me and took my hand as if he’d known me all my life and he asked me how I was.
I told him I was great and just blown away by the Dalai Lama. It was a magic moment – this high ranking Lama talking to me like an old friend in broken English but later as I walked home I had a nagging doubt about my credibility.
The very next day I was painting the walls of the Wellington City Art Gallery, prepping it for an exhibition of some of the great abstract expressionists – Rothko and McCann hanging side by side. I loved that job; it took me so close to why I wanted to paint in the first place.
At smoko I walked out onto the Para Matchitt Bridge, thinking all the while about the night before and how I was such a pretender. I went down into myself and didn’t know the answer – I really did not know what to do. I had embraced all the concepts of non-duality without experiencing the essence of it – the sangha.
I told him I wasn’t that great and that I needed to take refuge – take my vows.
He said –
“Come to Dunedin, we can help you”
The Ghost of Electricity – War Stories by Jon McLeary is a new initiative at Off The Tracks, a series of stories and reflections from painter, writer and musician Jon McLeary