LarryLarry Pollock

In August 2007 I went on a 15-day Spiritual Yoga Journey to Tibet led by Tenzin Bhagen, a native Tibetan and practicing Buddhist who’s lived in the U.S. for 11 years. As part of our journey Tenzin had arranged for our travel group of 9 people to have a private audience with the monk at Sera Monastery who’s the head teacher there.

This turned out to be quite an amazing experience for me. All of my fellow group members had received a kata (i.e., a scarf offered by Tibetans as a symbol of good wishes), had entered the monk’s one-room cell, and were seated on the floor with the monk across the room on his couch. The welcoming party had trouble finding a kata for me, so by the time I got one, I entered the room with everyone seated looking (maybe staring) at me. Since I hadn’t seen them enter, I wasn’t sure of the protocol. But when earlier we had visited Jokhang Temple, as I recall – maybe erroneously, we had each bowed down on all fours and been hit on top of our heads with a shoe of the 13th Dalai Lama as a form of blessing. The monk, by the way, was a somewhat heavier version of Yoda in appearance. I was quite amused by my not knowing what to do, but figured I should bow down on all fours in front of the monk as we had done at Jokhang Temple. When I bowed down actually chuckling at my fumbling, wondering if I was the only one who was doing this, I experienced something quite remarkable. I felt my identity, or egoic self, completely melt away. I stood up and seated myself next to the others.

The monk fielded our questions one of which was, “How can we help Tibet?” His response: “By developing a compassionate heart.” Another group member asked how he could improve his meditation practice. And that’s when I thought of the question I wanted to ask: “What makes you laugh?” Another group member asked a question regarding how to respond to another person in a scenario where adversity arose. In his answer the monk began laughing and I thought, “Well, I got the answer to my question.”

The monk then signaled that we needed to end our meeting. And then quite unexpectedly, he turned toward me smiling with his hands in a position of prayer and started bowing toward me. Now what the heck are you going to do when a monk is doing this to you? So I automatically started mirroring him. And then he said, “This man (meaning me) is a very happy man.” And out of my mouth (I don’t think “I” was talking) came the words, “I’m only reflecting what I’m seeing.” And we continued smiling, hands in prayer, and bowing to each other. I had been aware when I entered the room that I was simply open to whatever this monk would say or do. And here we were sharing this precious moment. Imagine being like that all the time with everyone we encounter in life.

Well, as the guru said, “Today’s breakthrough is tomorrow’s prison.” So upon leaving the monk’s cell and noticing that my status in the group had risen from “goofball” to “very happy man,” my identity quickly reasserted itself to bask in my newfound status. “Hey, I’m the very happy man – the Sera monk said so – did you hear him?” The observer in me noticed this “ego grasp,” but you know what? Both then and now, I decided, “I am a very happy man.” Yeah, I can live with that, no matter what happens in my life. And that was my moment with the Sera monk! May we all have such a wonderful experience.

I highly recommend Tenzin’s trips for those seeking a remarkable experience. More information on Tenzin’s Spiritual Yoga Journey, trekking trip, and cultural tour, is available at his website at www.tashidelektravel.com.