They say that smoking is no longer cool. A guaranteed way to usher you along life’s path to an early grave, but in London you have no choice. The smoke from the obnoxious car fumes is breathed in every day.
If it’s not the smells from the bullying traffic. It’s the way too personal smell of other people when being stuffed along the tube line at some unceremonious hour in the morning. It was with great relief that I had received a letter recently from my friend Mara who had recently taken robes as a Tibetan Nun. She had been tucked away in a monastery hidden amongst the foothills of some non-descript Scottish town.
I had decided that it was a good excuse to get out of London and visit my spiritual friend, hoping that some of her accumulated goodness would wash away the filth from this belching town. It was convenient for me that this monastery, in the heart of Scotland, was just a direct train ride from London.
This was my chance to stock up on some good karma. Revive my work ethic and make amends for the wrongs that I had done in this unforgiving city. Before I could say, ‘Avalokitesvara’, which I couldn’t. I was off on a train towards the foothills of Dumfries.
The flags were flying not just from the washing lines but the houses and trees. Just as we turned a corner I could see a large golden turret sprouting into the skyline. I suddenly felt I had been transported into some dream land with all these colours shouting at me. The golden turret was part of a white monument known as a stupa. A ceremonial building used for worship.
Things almost took on a more surreal shape as more gold from the Tibetan Temple rose into view fighting space with the blue sky, and white clouds. I was reminded of the first stanza of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s ‘Kubla Kahn’ as the taxi drove through the gates;
‘In Xanadu did Kubla Kahn a stately pleasure dome decree.’
After a couple of cappuccinos I was given the A – Z of Tibetan Buddhism. In Zen it’s simple. You sit on your ass and one day you’ll become enlightened or maybe one lifetime. Tibetan Buddhism uses all things on the path to enlightenment; sight, sound, and colours are utilized to support and transform the thoughts and emotions of the mind from negative to positive. While in Zen you have Zazen. In Tibetan Buddhism you have mantras, visualizations, mudras and prayers. Anything to get you there.
After way too much coffee I joined my friend for a walk around the courtyard and into the main shrine room. I was immediately struck by the riot, splendour and magnificence of all the colours that were displayed inside the shrine room. I watched as my friend fell to her knees and then spread her arms out in front of herself and then came back up again.