Because I am not only heretic, but a hypocrite, I was more than intrigued to make a pilgrimage to the Great Stupa of Dharmakaya. To be honest, it wasn't completely my fault. My daughter was visiting, and I'd been wanting/promising to take her there for years. Sabina, who suggested the hop, wanted to go during high summer, as opposed to late summer or early autumn, as we had done in the past.
"It's like fucking Disneyland," Elvis snorted the last time we went. Like me, he's not much for institutions, and we'd just passed the gift shop, which was a less than pleasant experience. I reached over and patted his shoulder.
"Wait till we get to the Stupa itself," I said. When we did, he stopped dead in his tracks, his jaw going slack.
A petty man would've made some crack. I am not a petty man, and Sabina probably would not have dug me making some crack to her very best friend as he stood in transfixed awe taking in the Great Stupa of Dharmakaya, which, it is said, liberates upon seeing.
So, I just smirked, understanding his awe. How could I not? The Stupa is a pretty impressive thing to behold. The closest I can parallel is the Buddhist equivalent of grand cathedral.
The Great Stupa of Dharmakaya sits in the main valley of the Shambhala Mountain Center, which was founded by the monk Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, who is credited with introducing Tibetan Buddhism to the western world. It is said he was possessed of crazy wisdom, and opted for nice suits over saffron robes, as to be more accessible to his new crop of students. Of course, he was also a drunk, a drug addict, and a womanizer, thus showing everyone is full of shit. Even the Buddhists.
I, of course, dig such an irony...
Still, the Stupa is kind of holy to me. Perhaps one of the only structures, that's not a ruin, that is. It is a place I go to only once a year or every few years. Perhaps my hypocrisy knows no bounds.
It had just started raining when we arrived. So, to wait out the storm, we visited the gift shop. Initially, Sabina and I felt kind of dirty about it. My daughter told me there are vendors around the Vatican City who are profane enough to sell Pope snow globes, which somehow made a gift shop in the shadow of the largest Buddhist monument in the western world not so bad, even if it seemed like most everything was a little overpriced.
There are those who accuse me, quite baselessly, I might add, of being contrary, paradoxical, and otherwise quirky. My father goes as far as to say these are traits I inherited from my mother. Me! I find such observations to vile slander against my chaotic neutral name. Be that as it may, there is something queer, and a little funny, about how in the gift shop I found the one book on African shamanism and picked up a compilation CD of reggae from all over the world.
Once the rain cleared, we made our way to the Stupa. My attempt to be holy at the whole affair is for me to make the trek barefoot. I suppose for someone who doesn't like shoes all that much, such a thing isn't such an effort. Still, it feels right to me, and both Sabina and my daughter followed suit.
My daughter was impressed by the Stupa itself, and the eighteen foot tall Buddha statue, which looks like it breathes-I am not kidding-contained therein. She marveled at the structure, and even sat lotus position with me. We left offerings that included prayer flags and mermaid tears.
Afterward, we walked the short distance to Shinto kami shrine for the sun goddess. I'm not sure why there's a Shinto shrine there, but it was very peaceful. My daughter made a cairn and I left a snake vertebrae. Such things felt appropriate.
We walked back barefoot and picnicked in the parking lot. For me, the pilgrimage was cathartic, even if part of it felt like fucking Disneyland. Having Sabina there, the very fact she suggested the whole trip, seemed to further prove she is the one for me. The fact my daughter dug the whole adventure and attempted to sit lotus position with me was just neat.
Although, my daughter, Sabina, and I agreed, such a thing only needs to be done once a year or every few years. Part of that, I'm sure, comes from the feeling of not requiring institutions. Another aspect, I think, is to go more often would just cheapen the profound experience of peace and, yes, even liberation.
Coming from a heretical bastard like me, whether or not that means anything is conjecture...