The Shrine Room (3)

There’s a great deal about the packaging  of Tibetan Buddhism that turns me off completely. The particular shade of orange, for example, with which masters painted every available piece of wooden furniture they made contact with the moment they landed in Switzerland, Norway, England, France, or whereever; the stylized tradition of thangka painting that, until very, very recently, follows a set of written rules rather than requires an artist to look at or even imagine his subject (if there were any ‘her’ artists, I haven’t heard about them…); and the extremely impractical books (from the point of view of one who reads on the hoof and therefore values good binding extremely highly).

But it’s also an admirably practical religion. Anything to do with money, for example. In England in the 1960s, when I was growing up, we were taught by our proudly middle class parents to be wary of wide boys who flashed large wads of money. Do you remember that thoroughly objectionable character Harry Enfield made a fortune impersonating in the 80s, ‘loadsamoney’? I still remember being far more deeply shocked and offended by his ostentatious relationship with pound notes than I ever was by graphic sex.

Tibetans have no such hangups. The daily offerings made to the monastic sangha, which in the west would have been discretely hidden away in plain, unsealed envelopes, were doled out by one of the monastery’s administrators from the top of a massive wad that he wielded with a pragmatic, no-nonsense air that impressed me to my very core. But I still lowered my eyes, politely, as I had been taught, so I wasn’t tempted to try to calculate how much each group or wealthy individual gave—there are things about being English that irritate me even more than the colour orange…P1070712

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s