Doesn’t this guy just piss you off?

If you are the Chinese government he does. They aren’t to happy with George W. Bush who met him in public at a recent ceremony and said, “I admire the Dalai Lama a lot. I support religious freedom.”

It’s good to see a public official do something that’s not in the best interest of trade and money now and then. Go Bush!

How can you not just love the Dalai Lama? He’s always wearing that holy smile that has a bit of mischief behind it like he might have slipped a whoopee cushion onto some dignitaries chair.

Speaking of monks…below the cut you’ll find a story I wrote way back in 2004 about one that is Bulletproof.

Bulletproof Monk
By Kelsey Timmerman

I feel the chanting- long, drawn-out, and monotone. A group of robed men sitting on the floor at five in the morning give life to the damp morning air. I hear the incense slowly burn, releasing musky overtones in long white rising whips of smoke- ever disappearing. For each of these men the rising sun will shine on a day more important than most; to prepare, they come together in prayer. I am in the middle of my own preparation- sleeping in- when the chanting wakes me.

My room sits high on the hillside, overlooking the comings and goings of life in the valley below. Here, south of Kathmandu, in the foothills of the Himalayas, I am wide-eyed at first blink.

Breakfast is ladled out of a smoldering cauldron. The kitchen occupies an open terrace far below my room. Young monks, eyes filled with sleep and mischief, run about.

“Ta-shi de-leh, Tepto.” Dorjee, my appointed translator and buddy, lights up as he pats me on the back. Tepto is the nickname that Dorjee has given me. In Tibetan it means rough and tough, it was bestowed upon me after I aborted a weeklong hike after one day because of a painful infection in my foot. Apparently being a wiseass does not affect one’s karmic score. “Please sit my friend.” He pats on a bench.

“Are you ready?” Dorjee hands me a bowl of steaming porridge.

Taking in a spoonful of creamy white goop, my face contorts with bitter hot waves of pain and repugnance. I motion to the video camera and give him a thumbs-up.

“It’s good my friend?”

At times, being a good guest requires nothing more than cleaning every bowl and plate set before you. “Yes, very good.”

“His Holiness is very powerful. When Chinese forced us away from our homeland he was one of the last to leave. He left with many men and women. The Chinese follow them to the mountains with guns. They shoot and kill many people around His Holiness, but the bullets fall at his feet and their grenades do not explode until he has passed. The hike over the Himalaya is very difficult and others die of cold and hunger. His Holiness injures leg which hurts him even today. 300 left Tibet only 30 make it to India.” As the car of His Holiness Penor Rinpoche, the present day reincarnation of a monk first born in 1679, comes to a stop at the base of the monastery, the gathered crowd surges forward hoping to glimpse or touch him. A saffron-clad Secret Service emerges and clears a tunnel for the short squat holy man to limp through. Katas, white silk cloths used in greetings, are thrown at his head like panties at a rock star.

His Holiness is here for the revelation of Padma Sambhava, a Tibetan deity, and the opening of a new lamasery headed by one of his former students, Khenpo Sange, whom I befriended on a plane of enlightenment 30,000 feet in the air somewhere between Bangkok and Kathmandu.

Around me are Nepalese, eyes filled with religious fervor, hoping to be blessed by the man who they honor in their prayers each day. As His Holiness passes up the stairs to the monastery and into a small ceremonial hall, the Saffron Secret Service weeds the crowd down to 100 lamas and respected guests to participate in the prayer. With Khenpo Sange as my escort, I am among them.

Two-and-a-half hours of praying while sitting on the floor cross-legged kill my back. Finally the rhythmic chanting comes to an end with bursting horns, crashing cymbals, and gonging drums, an essay to dissonance mixed with the right amount of incense that makes the atmosphere magical.

One by one we file up to His Holiness seated on an elevated throne. I kneel before him and present him with a kata. His face turns from a bulldog grimace to a warm smile as he places his hand upon my head and ruffles my blonde curls.

Why am I here and why are many of the Buddhist faithful outside? Is it my blonde hair and western dress that hint at a bank account full of donations? A view that is cynical and not probable. More likely my presence is a result of great compassion, an age-old story of a few monks helping a young traveler.

At the very least I was accepted into a world and an event steeped in tradition for my perceived wealth, walking away with colorful memories of intricate ceremonies. At the most, after my blessing, I am bulletproof.

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