Jedi Skills of Grace, my Chinese-Buddhist Sister


I return, lunch consumed.
There’s still time before the
Dalai Lama’s public
teaching resumes.
Grace’s smile radiates greeting,
as she beckons me
with her hand.
“Join us” she instructs.
Curious, my face questions –
“We go see Dalai Lama:
special group meeting”.
No hesitation – I join.

Back of the arena,
we file through double-doors
They close behind us,
and we wait corridor corralled,
expectant with hope and excitement.
I chat to Grace, I chat to others,
group majority are strangers to me.
As I stand in my new herd,
a feeling gradually becomes conscious:
my normally diminutive height, now,
sees me with my head above the crowd.
It dawns on me that I’m the
ONLY white person here,
everyone else is Chinese!”

I look back to the doors –
should I retreat/escape?
But the group is moving,
I’m caught in the rip-tide;
no use resisting, I’ll see
where it takes me.

Security looks serious:
black suits and glasses,
big shoulders, folded hands,
wires curling from ears,
observant, trained to spot
anomalies, like me.
He steps in.. to..I don’t know…
I suspect interrogate or extricate,
but Grace dismisses him with
a wave of her hand, and the words:
“She part of our group”.
Security steps back, echoing:
“She’s part of the group”.

We continue along
white winding passages,
until we reach backstage doors.
We are about to enter the room
where we’ll meet His Holiness.
Again we have to pass security.
Different, but the same:
suit, glasses, shoulders, hands,
wires, and me: white and wide-eyed.
He steps forward to waylay me.
But Grace is there with her Jedi skills.
It is as if she’d trained under Obi-Wan,
her “She with group” translating to
“These are not the droids you’re looking for”,
he repeats and steps aside…we enter.

He Holiness speaks in Tibetan,
his translator repeats in Mandarin,
Grace whispers English in my ear.
He holds hands with Grace, as he
moves amongst us, photos are taken,
and his robed attendants
give us blessing pills.
I’m heartened by his youthfulness –
soft, glowing skin, so healthy.
But, all too soon he has to leave
to take the stage once more.

In the quiet that follows, I ask:
“Grace, I wasn’t supposed
to be here, was I?”
She looks puzzled, I continue:
“the meeting.. was for Chinese..”
She frowns at me, wags her finger.
Etiquette of time and place no matter,
as she remonstrates:
“YOU know better – we all same heart!”

This is rather rough, due to its length, but it is so memorable, it is hard to shorten. I do have a photo of the meeting, but 1) I don’t have permission to reproduce it on a website, and 2) many group members fear repercussions for their family members who are still in China, if it was known they were familiar with the Dalai Lama. Instead the picture is of the blessing pill gift. Linking in to dverse


33 thoughts on “Jedi Skills of Grace, my Chinese-Buddhist Sister

  1. This is a wonderful, wonderful poem. What an experience you had, to see the Dalai Lama so up close~ And what a wonderful and brave friend Grace was to bring you along with her. Yes indeed, she IS right….”We all same heart.” It is too bad you couldn’t have shared the photo. I would have loved to have seen it. By the way, the Dalai Lama was in my state this past week. He IS youthful, ian’r he? Thanks so much for sharing this.

  2. what a fascinating experience…to be liet in on a world you might not otherwise had…and to hear the dalai lama…we are of one heart…i like that…ha. to hear it in 3 tongues as well would be an interesting mix…

    • Some teachings can take a while with Tibetan teachers: the teacher speaks in Tibetan, and then there is both English and Mandarin translation (luckily with the tech now, the translations can be done simultaneously on different band widths)!

  3. …you for sure gathered all the thrill in here… ha… to be surrounded by such a mysterious group of completely different looks & culture is something. def gulping…haha… and mind me that group has no room for escape…lol… entertainment wise Rowan… smiles… loved it!

    • I was used to being with Grace and her Chinese friends, so it took me a while to realize that for this occasion I perhaps wasn’t meant to tag along : )

  4. How wonderful to be included in such a way…it’s beautiful! It must have been an amazing experience to see and hear the Dalai Lama and to have such a friend as Grace…”We all have the same heart” so true and a beautiful closing. Wonderful story thank you for sharing your experience.

  5. we’re all the same heart….so true…i love that she took you along and how she told the security that you belong to them…what a fascinating experience it must’ve…really very cool and i can imagine how much you treasure the pic

  6. Rowan, you are amazing.
    And I am getting hooked on that voice.
    Thank you so much for taking the trouble to record as well as write.

    • Thank you so much Aprille! I find recording and listening is often an important part of the process for me, especially when it comes to judging the enjambments. : )

  7. Meeting the Dalai Lama must have been very exciting. Being the only white person is is very intimidating at first but then after a while you forget you are white which is not always a good thing.

    • One of my biggest difficulties is dealing with mediocrity and too much conformity, so I find being the odd one out every now and then a refreshing relief. When I was in Japan (for a short time), I reveled in being the clumsy person relative to the Japanese wa, rather than being the polite English woman that most other people normally percieve. I hadn’t changed, but relativity is great : )

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