God's Little Acre

Friday, May 23, 2008

Let there be light

HH Dalai Lama at the Royal Albert Hall

The last time I was at the Royal Albert Hall was to watch the Black Crowes. I had a fantastic seat right on the edge of the stage. This time I would be sat on the very top row of this wonderful venue. The headliner was none other than His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The Tibet Society invited the Buddah of Compassion to be guest of honour of this special event designed to help keep Tibet Alive.

Along with this remarkable man was some charming Tibetan music from the Tibetan Community of Great Britain Dance Group. The musical highlight for me was when 3 lute players danced and sung a number. I could hear elements of blues and other more 'popular' music genres in the music. The 3 musicians somehow reminded me of ZZ Top! It wasn't because of any facial hair either!

Dalai Lama protestors

As I walked up from South Kensington station into Hyde Park a Buddhist monk handed me a small booklet. I thanked him and armed with that and a suitably vegetarian pack lunch to eat in the sunshine of Hyde Park. Getting closer to the venue I started hearing chanting. Not really Tibetan Buddhist chanting more the kind of thing normally reserved for football matches. "All we want is religious freedom!" or something along these lines. Getting closer I could see that this was coming from a group of Buddhists from across the road. Fists were punching the air with fervor and on the opposite side of the road a group of Pro Chinese supporters were holding banners. As I walked closer I was quite shocked that the chanting Buddhists were not supporting the Dalai Lama at all. My own pre conceptions had now given way to the reality that not all Buddhists are equal, far from it. I am only a fair weather buddhist scholar, and as you'll read on you'll realise just how ignorant I am of many aspects of the Buddhist faith.

Dalai Lama on stage

When the Dalai Lama walked onto stage, from my lofty perch I couldn't help but be overcome with emotion. My dad is having a tough time of life at the moment, and my feelings for his welfare were finally released along with my tears. The Ocean of Wisdom as his people refer to him, or the Buddha of Compassion seemed to feel this pain too, and I swear his eyes welled with emotion for an instant too as I gazed into his eyes on the big screen display. It seemed (well at least to me) that he was feeling all of the pain and fears in the room. In this highly charged environment, and after half a century of dedicated and devout practice, I thought that this remarkable man must be one of the world's best healers as well as spiritual healer. My own spiritual practice could be described as "could do better" just like my school report. I have for about 2 months now been clean of tobacco and other herbal smoking potions. I have replaced these with mainly good food and regular Tai Chi and Qi Gong practice. This Chinese martial art and energy work, has I am sure helped me through my nicotine addiction. Like any good addict, only I can help me stay off the nicotine path. Saving me money, helping me breath and possibly saving my life.

My life has finally moved onto a new beginning. Waving goodbye to inconsiderate neighbours I have moved into a new life in the New Forest. An estate agent told me that people generally move here because they want to, not because they have to. This is certainly the case for me, and I have been exploring the beautiful area I am so happy that I have done so.

October 7 is a very special and significant date for me. It is the birthday of my youngest daughter. It is also a significant date for many Tibetans too, when on this day in 1950 the Chinese People's Liberation Army entered Chando in Tibet. Less than a decade later the young Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama fled Tibet for India. He is the first Dalai Lama to travel to the West. His non-violent views have often been criticized and as these Shugden Monks and supporters waved derogatory banners about him outside the Albert Hall I was surprised by my own feelings towards them. Particularly as I had been listening to some teachings from the Dalai Lama in the journey to London from my new home. These Shugden Buddhists have done me no harm yet they were verbally attacking someone whom I have grown to love.

After the Dalai Lama's talk and we left the Albert Hall I thought that these Shugden Buddhists still might have a long way to go in there spiritual practice. When viewed in the light of his holiness their chanting seemed rather vulgar; more football terrace than spiritual. They obviously have grievances against the Dalai Lama, but I couldn't quite get their point. I gave up reading their leaflet, as it reminded me of fifties era Chinese propaganda, maybe they just need a new leaflet? I will try to learn more about their grievances though.

The Dalai Lama has his grievances too. His place of birth and his people are by most accounts not free. China have introduced new roads and in particular an impressive railway. The Dalai Lama is not scared of change, but today there are more Chinese than Tibetans in Tibet. Human rights are largely non-existant too. Arrest and torture threaten anyone from displaying the Tibetan Flag or an old man who wears glasses. Through his humour and compassion he has shown how even after half a century, the Tibetan cause is still gaining momentum and unlike the Olympic flame will always burn bright and is getting brighter. The Olympic ideal has diminished with me. Cynicism about the commercial reality of the modern games is easily relieved by the thought of the Games in London in 2012. The Dalai Lama first visited London in 1970 as a guest of the Tibet Society. He said about the Olympic Games in Beijing; 'I am happy to go, although there is no indication they want me to go.'

Free Tibet

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Sunday, May 06, 2007

Cycling in the moonlight

Trees in a Park in Surrey

Transport for London (TfL) recently didn't publish a document that suggested that cyclists that followed the rules of the road were more likely to be killed or injured than those who stuck to the rules.

By following the highway code, cyclists are more at risk than those who jump red lights. The report implies that many of the 2,490 cyclists that were killed or seriously injured last year, might have been better off wheeling through stop signs, ahead of the traffic behind.

Many bike riders get hit by lorrys, which have some dangerous blind spots. Often the victims are squashed while lorrys turn left, or when the cyclist ironically 'does the right thing' and waits patiently in the cyclist's advance stop area. The lofty perch of the Yorkie eaters, means the cyclist is hidden from view.

Jumping red lights

I know this from my own commuting rides. I jump the red lights, occasionally mount the pavement to avoid the dodgy sections of my route, oh, and I listen to my iPod while pedalling. Sure I could drive instead, but my work as a web developer means that my free gym does give me some much needed cardiovascular excercise and it is even faster (and a lot more eco-logically sound) than a Bentley too, on my commute anyway.

Medals for Cyclists

I think that the eco-friendly cyclist is often not rewarded or even encouraged for her efforts. We are all told to leave the car at home, but are presented with cycle lanes with more bumps than Jordan and more cracks than the San Andreas Fault. Then there are the less than perfect edges, drains and man hole covers which are kept out of the gas guzzlers sacred path. It's all a bit lame, surely cycle paths are a lot cheaper to build than new roads? The benefits of a fitter populace, to health from excercise and reductions in emissions surely make it ridiculous not to do? Sure petrol-heads can offset their carbon or buy a hybrid, but it isn't nowhere as sustainable a good old bike.

Richmond Park

It's not all doom and gloom for us cyclists though. Someone told me that cycling in the moonlight round Richmond Park is a truly devine experience. I only have done this in daylight. The 7 mile route is fantastic, even while avoiding the motorists and deer. There are some real gluteus maximus testing hills, that just as you think your getting to the summit, reveal ever unfolding altitudes that get even these nicotine painted lungs moving.

Watch out Bambi

So, watch out for the next full moon. Forget your warewolves, you might just see me flying down hill, free-wheeling to a little bit of AC/DC or Eckhart Tolle as the wind blows through my greying hair.

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