Maralyn Lois Polak is a Philadelphia-based journalist, screenwriter, essayist, novelist, editor, spoken-word artist, performance poet and occasional radio personality. With architect Benjamin Nia, she has just completed a short documentary film about the threatened demolition of a historic neighborhood, "MY HOMETOWN: Preservation or Development?" on DVD. She is the author of several books including the collection of literary profiles, "The Writer as Celebrity: Intimate Interviews," and her latest volume ofMore ↓Less ↑
Whew! Whatta week. None other than THE Dalai Lama came and went just a half block away from my house. Right, the charming brick townhouse I have yet to sell because “The Universe” has not “TOLD” me if it’s “time to leave yet” or “where to go next.” Good thing, because suddenly a Living Deity, or at least an approximate version of a venerable saint, was appearing right around the corner, at the Kimmel Center for Performing Arts. Amazing, huh? Tix $75 dollars each. Rock-star prices for a simple message!
The Kalmyck Mongolian Buddhist Brotherhood Society of America is honored to announce a public talk by His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet, “Buddhism in the 21st Century.” … We welcome His Holiness to share with us his compassion, love and wisdom.
To some, the Dalai Lama may represent the moral equivalent of the pope, in terms of his popularity, influence and sanctity among a particular segment of the religious world. Wouldn’t I want at least temporarily to be part of that historical moment?
And so I, the Buddhist wannabe, debated going or not going, I really did. I struggled with the idea of paying more to see him than I’d pay for my adored once-and-future therapist “Dr Briggs,” not her real name, or my beloved once-and-future personal psychic “Sforza Destino,” not his real name either, or perhaps, well, Leonard Cohen or Bob Dylan or maybe The Fine Young Cannibals or even Huey Lewis and the News – and I felt way guilty.
Nevertheless, I actually hightailed it over to the Kimmel box office the beginning of the week – first time I ever dared venture inside that building, with its awful gentrifying impact on my once-quiet neighborhood – but alas they were “sold out.” I even entered a Buddhist lottery to get a free ticket for the Dalai Lama’s talk. Needless to say, I didn’t win. Obviously, “The Universe” did not intend for me to see him live.
Unless I could view the simultaneous streaming video on the Internet. And so I attempted to sign up for that. But first, an instant online test to see if your computer was capable of receiving streaming video. Alas, my computer, with its arcane dial-up connection, was found technologically wanting.
Oh, well. Life goes on.
Around dinnertime, after his midday appearance without me, I pass by the Kimmel and, in the distance, I see demonstrators parading up and down Broad Street. Rushing to an appointment, I couldn’t check it out. But, apparently, a dissident Buddhist sect was protesting the Dalai Lama. Imagine that!
Later, I see PR Web: “The Western Shugden Society (WSS) along with hundreds of Tibetan and Western monks, nuns and others will be protesting the Dalai Lama outside the Kimmel Center this Wednesday, 11:30 a.m.-4 p.m. The protesters who have traveled from over 18 different countries hope to shed light on a wealth of evidence and firsthand testimony available showing the Dalai Lama’s current and aggressive acts of religious persecution through ban on a 400-year-old mainstream prayer to the Buddhist Deity Dorje Shugden, including a campaign of forced segregation and denial of basic human rights such as food and medical treatment. The protesters will be greeting the Dalai Lama and the 2,000 others attending his public talk with colorful banners and loud persistent chants.”
About the demonstration, veteran Washington political savant “Fordham McNedrick,” not his real name, observed: “I have a feeling the Lama is well-connected to U.S. intelligence. Though I have little sympathy for the Chinese government, a Stalinist monstrosity in every sense.”
That same evening, I hear from someone who actually was there: “I saw the Dalai Lama today, who was not encouraging non-Buddhists to follow the path. I was very excited about his message of world peace. …”
Then, over the following weekend, I bump into an old meditation friend, who informs me she had the same reaction – not wanting to pay $75 for a ticket. Despite having a car, “Alice,” not her real name, took a bus halfway across town after reading in a newsletter how “about 40 very good tickets will go on sale Tuesday 7/8 [for $25 at a small grocery store in the Fairmount section of the city].”
When “Alice” got there, despite her having just confirmed by phone that she was coming over to purchase a pair of tickets, the fellow had sold them out from under her to someone else.
What a mad scramble for crumbs. Very spiritual, indeed.