Cloth Wrapped Tantras and Sutras
Tibet Tales by Sallie Mason
Flash red saris
Elegant women within
Hawking their wares
To the unwary
Smiles and namastes
Expecting $ in return
Antiquity notwithstanding the
7.6 Richter tremor
Under the watchful gaze of
Vishnu, Shiva and Brahma
But belief is not enough
To quell earth rumbles
The unwary to buy
Festival day approaches
In the holiest Tibetan Buddhist
temple — outside Tibet, that is
Its treasured, cracked spire
Now central to the preparation
Of perfumed flower heads
Amassed in their thousands
Garlanded, arranged and offered
To glorify the 100-metre diameter of
This white rotunda of worship
Each corner of the football pitch
Sized area beneath,
Covered with swathes of individual flower heads in
Vibrant reds, oranges and yellows
The effect — pulsating
This devotion brings a sense of awe
Nothing is too much here
The vast girth of the stupa
Is festooned with strings of marigolds
The effort — almost effortless
Fresh prayer flags are hoisted
In red, yellow, green, blue and white
On the new, towering golden spire
There is a bustle of generosity
Of mind, body and pocket
Marjorie, in my local village church
Curates her weekly sparse arrangements
With restrained devotion
Under greying skies
And lacklustre attendance
She communes with a quiet God
Flamboyant strings of marigolds and yak butter lamps
Are too boisterous for festival days in her chancel
Where East only faces West…..
Never did I believe that after nearly fifty years, I would stand atop the Potala Palace,
something my immature but, indignant, teenage mind could never imagine
after watching images of maroon and saffron robes in flight
and, later, alight.
I witnessed, powerless, ancient wisdom fleeing its spiritual home.
And now, the red, white, yellow, dark wood-edged fortress was towering above me,
rocky-perched, elevated, ascended
Seemingly, in time and space suspended (or perhaps that is me?)
With bare mountains encircled
I am here, filled with awe
Each step takes me closer to what once was.. in this rarefied atmosphere
I climb up and up, and up, buoyed by years of waiting
Until the inner sanctum is reached.
Nothing could have prepared me for the spiritual wealth within:
A vast library of cloth-wrapped sutras and tantras,
Stupa’d, bejewelled tombs of Dalai Lama’s past
Overwhelmed by centuries of enlightenment,
I take a deep breath in the Dalai Lama’s personal meditation room and
look out through a single, open window
At the mountains of inspiration beyond.
No longer owner-occupied, suddenly I feel the weight of unfathomable loss.
I am here and he is not.
© Sallie Mason 2017
Sallie Mason has recently picked up the pen after a long career in UK arts administration before moving to Sydney in 2005. Having recently closed the door on her Kinesiology practice, Sallie can’t wait to do more reading, creative writing and travelling.
Photos by Rob Mason except where indicated.
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Next Writer’s Journey trips heading out:
Backstage Bali, Oct 14–21, seven days, mountains and ricefields retreat.
Moroccan Caravan, Mar 4–17, 2018. A camel riding/writing adventure into the Sahara. Add on a five day residency at the end.
Haiku Writing in Japan, Mar 27- April 3, 2018. Walk the Nakasendo Way in cherry blossom time.