I’m in Toronto this weekend to draw closer to God, Spirit, Essence, Love … whichever word you choose.
After lunch yesterday, I headed to the Tibetan Canadian Cultural Centre on Titan Road. How did I know it was there? Well, the hotel I was staying at displayed The Toronto Star at the front desk, and the Weekend Life section’s front page had an article entitled “Hometown Tourist: Tibet”. We readers were directed towards the best of Tibetan culture, religion, restaurants and shopping. And I found myself directed to Titan Road for the 80th birthday celebration of the Dalai Lama. Someone is taking care of me. And I bet her name is Jody.
As I walked towards the centre, I saw families gathered under the trees, many of them dressed in Tibetan dresses and robes. Happy faces in the shade. Colourful prayer flags were strung between the branches, and were lifted by the breeze. At the entrance stood two eight-foot prayer wheels, which folks were turning clockwise. The adults tended to rotate the wheels slowly but when it was the kids’ turn, the symbols on the cylinders blurred in the spin. Both were perfect expressions of God animating our world.
Inside, after a few minutes of looking around, I came to the conclusion that I was the only non-Oriental person present. And it was a good feeling. Not once did I feel excluded. I sat down with hundreds of others to hear Tibetan music and listen to speakers, all in a language I didn’t understand. It still felt like home. A woman had graciously offered me a chair near her family. Later in the afternoon, there was a buffet spread out on a few long tables, and people started lining up, including several monks in their red robes. A woman approached me and in English invited me to join the line. She had such a big smile. I couldn’t help return it. One male server kindly warned me about the sauce I was about to glob onto my noodles. “Very hot.” So I took just a bit, still enough to attack my innards for a few hours. Oh well. When in Rome …
I wandered around the room, looking at the homemade posters on the walls honouring the Dalai Lama. Many of them were done by kids. Here’s a quote from His Holiness:
The planet does not need more “successful people”. The planet desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers and lovers of all kinds.”
Last night, I sat on the steps of the Metropolitan United Church in downtown Toronto, becoming friends with Andrea and David. Hundreds of us were waiting for the doors to open. Krishna Das had come to lead us in two-and-a-half hours of Sanskrit chanting. We sang the names of God in a huge sanctuary framed by tall stained glass windows. Krishna would sing a line such as “Om Namo Bhagavaate Vaasudevaaya” and we would send it right back to him. Just as earlier in the day, I didn’t know what the words meant, but the speaking of them touched the core of me. As we chanted, I was often lost in love. Sometimes the music sent my arms and legs into spirals and rhythms. At other times, I was perfectly quiet, head bowed, just listening to the choir.
Where did those hours go? I don’t know. Strangely, I didn’t feel the urge to pee, or to shift my bottom on those hard wooden pews. Lost in a lovely space. And Jody was right there with me. Thank you, Jodiette.
At the end, many people, including David, walked up to the front to say a word to Krishna. I saw David wait patiently as Krishna talked to other people first. And the man of the hour was so gracious … smiling, hugging and posing for photos with his new friends. The Spirit is alive in him.
“The man of the hour”? Well, that’s really not right. In the afternoon and in the evening, each of us – male or female, young or old – was the person, not of the hour, but of the moment. Such a huge family.