I usually don’t post two days in a row, especially about the same topic. But I started thinking about what I wrote yesterday and worrying that it might have sounded like I’ve had a really terrible time here in Spain, or that I hated the Int’l Lay Buddhists Forum. In fact, though, this has been terrific fun for me and I regard it as incredibly positive.
I’ve come to realize that a lot of what I consider to be a good experience is not what most people think of that way. I find a rich and interesting but somewhat difficult experience preferable to something that’s easy and fun (in the standard way) and turns out exactly the way I expected it to. I also think it makes for better reading to pull out some of the more challenging and weird aspects of what I’ve gone through rather than deal with the things that were more enjoyable and effortless.
So for anyone who might have thought I was whingeing about having a bad time in Spain, here’s a little of what I’ve enjoyed at the Lay Buddhists Forum.
I’ve never been to Spain. But I kind of like the music. It’s a beautiful country and I’m really happy to have had the opportunity to be here.
LEARNING ABOUT THE NUNS OF BHUTAN
One of the presenters, Dr. Tashi Zangmo, talked about her experiences growing up in Bhutan and living as a Buddhist nun there. It was an amazing story. She then presented an appeal to donate to the Bhutan Nuns Foundation, a charitable organization founded to help these nuns make a difference in their country.
Kanae Kawamoto presented a paper called “Abandonment of Purity Quest: A Paradox in the Modern Buddhist World.” She shares my belief that one of the biggest problems for Buddhists today is the fixation on arbitrary ideas of “purity.” She sees this as the main reason for some of the real tragedies of contemporary Buddhism, such as Aum Shinrikyo’s attack on the Tokyo subway system in 1995. But best of all, she explained this with a PowerPoint presentation based on Dragon Quest! It was absolutely precious!
THE ENIGMA THAT IS PROF. BURKHARD SCHERER
What can I say about Burkhard? I knew I was in for something interesting when he phoned me from the hotel lobby to come down and meet him for the first time. We’d only spoken by email up to that point. He said I’d recognize him by his bright pink beret. Note that I have been using the pronouns “he” and “him.” Burkhard prefers to present as genderless and would like people to refer to B only as B and not “him” or “her.” I respect this, but in writing just now I realized I would have to introduce B first before I’d be able to do so without simply being confusing. B is one of the most amazing characters I’ve ever met. I’m very glad to know B.
THE STUDENTS OF CHRIST CHURCH
“What an amazing group of young people!” he said in a wheezy old man voice. But really, it renews my faith in humanity to hang out with a group of such intelligent and interesting college students. Maybe the future won’t be so fucked after all. Actually, I have a lot of faith in the generation currently coming of age. I think they’re, on the whole, a hell of a lot smarter than people my age were.
That’s just a small sampling of a few of the things I have enjoyed about this trip. I need to get packed up and check out of the hotel now. So I’ll stop here. Suffice it to say that I could go on for another 2,000 to 5,000 words about things I’ve liked about this experience.
And just to clarify one point. I was not trying to make fun of that Sri Lankan monk and his accent. I lived in Japan for eleven years. I know what it’s like to try to speak a foreign language with a heavy accent. Ask some of my Japanese friends about conversing with me! I was just attempting to describe the situation, part of which included hearing several long, long, long lists of obscure Buddhist terms recited slowly, slowly, slowly in a thick — and actually quite beautiful and appealing — accent.
If you donate to the upkeep of this page I won’t complain about that!