Monday, June 26, 2006


It's really wonderful, when you are trying to learn a practice, to watch a master of that practice at work, whether it's yoga, kindness, or music. Last night, I saw Michael sitting in the cafe, and had a rare impulse (I'm generally very shy) to hit him up for a guitar lesson. So I went downstairs, got the guitar out, and very unsubtly walked up to where he was sitting with Camillo. Camillo's eyes bugged out when he saw me with the guitar, but Michael just smiled his usual slow, gentle smile, reached out, and took the guitar.

He spent a minute or two kicking its tires, and told me that he thought I should adjust the neck a little bit, and also that the bridge looked like it was too high. Then he asked me to show him my stuff, so I wandered through all the chords I could remember. He wanted to know why I wasn't using a pick, and wound up giving me one of his - he said that I should learn to play with and without, because the sounds are different, and you never know what you're going to need, so you should have everything in your toolbox.

Then he told me to put my thumb on the neck and use it as a lever to get more pressure in my fingers. And he showed me how to make barre cords, and how to do arpeggios alternating sides of the strings rather than plucking them all in the same direction. I could go into excruciating detail - he managed to pack a huge amount of information into a fairly short lesson. Then he showed me the ultimate goal of this particular path, walking his hands up and down the neck of the guitar moving from one chord to another, making it look, if not easy, then at least possible. Having the guitar has been a really sweet thing - if I pull it out, some master comes over and shows me something, whether it's my father or Michael. I need to practice more.

We actually closed the hotel restaurant. They were too nice to kick us out, but someone noticed that they looked like they'd like to shut down, so we paid our tabs and went downstairs. Michael showed me one last thing on the guitar, and then went off with Camillo to watch the World Cup games.

They lock the front gate here at 11:00, so they actually locked it behind Michael, who is staying at the hotel, and Camillo, who is not. Earlier in the day I'd talked to Rebecca, who was coming in from Palampur to stay for a night or two amidst the bright lights of Mcleodganj. She was going to stay with Susan, who I thought was staying at Hunted Hill House, but who is actually staying at Tenwang hotel, quite a bit up the hill. I was afraid Rebecca was going to give up her cab before I got the door open, so I waited up for her. She finally got in around 11:00 or so, and I gave her directions to the new place.

Unfortunately, the road is too steep here, and her cab was one of the little ones that don't have very large engines, so it couldn't make it back up the hill. I heard them trying to back up and then failing, around the corner where our little offshoot road goes down to the main road, which is much less steep. I stayed up for a while listening to hear if they seemed to need help, but I didn't hear anything more. When Chukyi and Nancy came in a little later, I let them in (I'd figured out where the front door padlock key was), locked up, and went to bed.

Today was pretty relaxed. One of the challenges that I'd thought I was facing down here at the bottom of the hill is that the internet cafes all ask you not to do any huge downloads. So I assumed I was really out of luck for getting email, since I tend to get about six megabytes a day to sort through. One of our friends was feeling pretty down, so Andrea and I spent the morning with her, and while we were wandering around up at the top of the hill, we decided to visit an internet cafe.

When Andrea and I first got here, we'd heard that there was wireless at the Green Hotel Cafe, but we got distracted from that by the hunt for coffee and the meltdown in the Tibetan Security office. So Rebecca and I decided to check it out again. It's *really nice*. At least by McleodGanj standards. I think they must have a 512kbps connection. The connection was faster than the connection at the Shangri-la (which, admittedly, was quite slow).

I was able to download all my mail in under five minutes, which is practically a miracle. But I still managed to run off the end of my hour of wireless (they charge fifty rupees an hour) with my personal mail unread, so I signed off and we went back down the hill to hang out in the Hunted Hill House cafe.

I have a standard table at the hotel cafe now - it's the one right by the door, with my back to the wall, were I can watch everything that's going on. Which is probably not the best idea since I'm trying to get work done, and people keep talking to me, but I'm on vacation, so I'm not sweating it. We had a little snack there, and I did a little work, and after a while Camillo walked in with a huge grin on his face and said "his Holiness said something really amazing at the teachings today: the reason why everyone has to get enlightened and you can't just let some Buddha who's already enlightened save all sentient beings is that not every being has a karmic connection to every other, and only beings to whom any particular Buddha has a karmic connection can be helped by that Buddha. So there are beings that only you can reach!" I'm going to have to cook that one, but seeing Camillo so excited and happy was a lot of fun. Camillo seems to be having a really good time in India.

Unfortunately, a lot of people aren't - a lot of our group have gotten some kind of illness or other. It's pretty sad to hear about another student going down for the count and having to start a sequence of Cipro. Makes you wonder when your time will come.

We had dinner at the Hotel Snow Lion restaurant. Chapman had recommended it to us, or so we thought. It turns out that she'd recommended a different restaurant. But this restaurant had deep-fried momos, which were quite yummy, although I could have done without the spinach-and-cheese momos. We also had aloo chips (french fries), and Chukyi ordered a large thermos of tea. When they said "large," they weren't kidding - it was one of those giant Chinese thermoses that are about two feet tall and seven inches in diameter. We didn't finish it.

Andrea couldn't get the waiter to bring her lime mix in a cup that wasn't wet, so she finally gave up and tried adding sugar to her seltzer water, which promptly exploded. Ain't chemistry wonderful? My theory is that water likes to dissolve sugar more than it likes to dissolve carbon dioxide, so adding the sugar kicked all the carbon dioxide out of the soda at the same time. It's just a theory and probably wrong - it's probably just an issue of partial pressures seeking a new equilibrium.

The rain from last night didn't stop until this afternoon. When it did stop, the clouds slowly rolled away, leaving picture perfect views of the Himalayas. If I were a smart person, I would have taken some pictures. Sigh.

Anyway, here it is, 11:00 PM. Not much accomplished, but maybe I can get to sleep at a decent hour tonight.


Blogger Will Shetterly said...

"his Holiness said something really amazing at the teachings today: the reason why everyone has to get enlightened and you can't just let some Buddha who's already enlightened save all sentient beings is that not every being has a karmic connection to every other, and only beings to whom any particular Buddha has a karmic connection can be helped by that Buddha. So there are beings that only you can reach!" Buddhist Calvinism? Hmm. Maybe something was lost in translation. On the other hand, if it means you can't help everyone, who can quibble with that?

Monday, June 26, 2006 8:48:00 PM  
Blogger Ted Lemon said...

Well, I think it means that you can help everyone, but only your everyone. It's a long story... :')

Tuesday, June 27, 2006 11:48:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But when He talked about the great Bodhisattvas helping those who torment them with defamation, etc. -- and referenced the Jataka tale of the five Yakshas who ended up as the first Hinayana Arhats -- I thought of Michael Roach. Later though, thinking of how the five yakshas repented of drinking the Great Bodhisattvas blood, I prayed that RMR will repent quickly in this very life.

Friday, June 30, 2006 6:59:00 PM  

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