Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Independence Day

Today I worked hard to get off the job as quickly as possible, like A Good American.

I finished giving the exam at 10am, had it graded by 2pm, and turned in the students' scores by three. I cleaned and dicked around for an hour, and then went to say goodbye to the students and turn in my key.

The students had already begun their computer exam, so bag on my back I only saw them from outside the room. None of them noticed me. I didn't really give them a proper goodbye after their exam in the morning, but a part of me felt it was better to slip out when their minds were on other things. A lot of the girls cried at our year-end party the other week, and I didn't see any reason to uncork a small river before their examination. I returned my key, negotiated my phone bill with the building manager, and found a car to Kangding.

Besides, I've always kind of sucked at goodbyes. I get reminded of change fairly often, but have difficulty expressing the right emotion at the right time. I am most sentimental in periods of great comfort, ingenuous when parting, and usually don't realize how much people mean to me until after the situation has changed.

I'm feeling, again, the regret that comes from making the right choice.

I now have a bus ticket to Ganzi, halfway to Yushu (Qinghai Province, a part of Amdo) where another Bridge Fund teacher Jon and our old friend Meg are to meet me. After spending a few days with them, I'll drop back down into Kham and see a few more students before starting the long journey back to America. I'll try to be on my email from time to time.

Upon boarding the bus from Chengdu yesterday, a very outgoing Chinese man dressed in sweat shorts and a red fleece bordered by gold cloth began talking with me very directly. I felt he was probably a Rinpoche, and he confirmed this after some time. He was recognized seventeen years ago, when he was in Beijing. This Rinpoche is not Tibetan. He had a broad smile, unhinged and young for his age. The burst blood vessel in his eye gave him an impressive countenance.

He blessed and gave me his mala, small prayer beads made of yak bone. He told me he counted five different prayers: Guru Rinpoche Padmasambava, Avalokitesvara, Manjusri, Green Tara, and one other that escapes me at the moment. He told me he declined to say the prayers for wealth that he usually offers Chinese people. I gave him the black plastic mala given to me by a student in return, and a Kalachakra Mantra sticker I bought as a gift for someone at home.

Rinpoche had been to Europe and was clearly very hip to Western youth. I've had a question on my mind, and I told him that I have been thinking of getting a tattoo of some Buddhist iconography. I'm afraid that my motivation is not correct.

He immediately began performing a mo (ritual divination) in his bus seat, and after some time he told me that he had visualized Manjusri, with his blue sword and red lotus, and that if I liked I should tattoo the sword on my right shoulder and the lotus on my left.

The sword cuts through the obscuration that prevents us from understanding the wisdom of compassion. This thanka is for that Rinpoche, and also for my students, whose thirst for knowledge may never be matched by the apparitions of our world.

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