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Lions Roar : November 2009
SHAMBHALA SUN NoveMBer 2009 24 knocked. standing in front of us was a tall lama with clear eyes. “Tashi delek,” the lama said in the traditional greeting. then he started laughing. “How strange,” he said to sonam in tibetan. “today i made lunch for three!” it seemed like we’d entered a bad episode of kung Fu: The Legend continues. (the old master opens the door, “ah, i have been expect- ing you.”) but it was true. the lama had made lunch for three— three servings of cabbage and rice. i was hungry and afraid the meal wouldn’t fill me. yet it did and it was the best food i ate during my six months in india. we were clearly in a very high lama’s presence. i felt like my body was filling with pinpricks of light and that at any minute i’d burst into giddy laughter. i could hardly contain myself, but i ate in silence, as if my experience was completely normal. sonam and the lama spoke in tibetan, translating for me. how was the lama’s health? Was he getting enough food? sonam then told the lama about his plans to go to america and to tibet to see his family. to my surprise, the lama smiled and said it was a good idea. the lama took my hands in his and said in tibetan, “you are a very good person. thank you for helping sonam.” i remember thinking his eyes alone proved that the prayers monks recite every day actually work to transform their hearts. He rubbed my hands and chanted under his breath. i was consumed by warmth. we walked down the hill singing the same old songs, and sonam said, “i am so very happy. we are going america, tibet—see family. my family will say, ‘wah, wah, sonam!’ many, many hugs.” i was in a euphoric state. everything was as it should be, including the breakup, including this plan to bring a tibetan monk home with me. why stress about it? something inside me had been transformed in that hut. life was full of possibilities again. sonam and i worked daily on his u.s. visa application. we obtained a letter from the dalai lama’s office, and collected letters from buddhists in California who pledged to support sonam when he came to the states. sonam borrowed hundreds of dollars from his monastery for the visa application (more than most monks spend in a year) and we performed pujas, try- ing to clear away karmic obstructions that he said could keep him from going to america. word about what we were doing spread around dharamsala, and other monks in town would give me the thumbs-up, as if to say, “we’re rooting for you.” sonam was so optimistic i began to believe our plan might work. “every night i dreaming of america,” he said. “i see family. Very happy.” yes, it would work. we believed. so when our bus lost a tire and nearly drove off a cliff on the way to the u.s . embassy in delhi, we took it in stride. “no problem,” sonam said. “many, many happen.” we didn’t sweat it when my passport was stolen at the delhi hotel and, when i reported the theft to the police, they tried to sell me cocaine. when the line to get our application reviewed was six hours long, full of people who had previously been rejected even though they had legitimate reasons—say, getting into yale—we ➢ page 90