using the arrow buttons.
by clicking on the page.
the page around when zoomed in by dragging it.
the zoom using the slider when zoomed-in.
by clicking on the zoomed-in page.
by entering text in the search field, and select "This Issue" or "All Issues"
by clicking on thumbnails to select pages, and then press the print button.
displays sections with thumbnails and descriptions.
displays a slider of thumbnails. Click on a page to jump.
allows you to browse the full archive.
about your subscription?
Buddhadharma : Fall 2006
fall 2006| 96 |buddhadharma Blessings in the Time of nighT sweaTs By John R. Killacky mikeholmes igrew up in the tailwind of sixties epochal unrest. While still in high school, I protested at the Chicago Democratic convention and was bloodied when the police got this close with clubs and tear gas. I never made it to Woodstock – dropped acid, took a wrong turn, and wound up in an Iowa cornfield instead. When the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater came to town, my teenage gay boy soul found dance, and with it, a spirit context and community. In 1973 I moved to Manhat- tan to study at The Harkness Ballet. That summer I performed Off-Off Broadway in Jonathan Ned Katz’s Com- ing Out, a documentary play depict- ing gay and lesbian liberation struggles throughout American history. On my twenty-first birthday, our cast shared the stage at Gay Pride with Bette Midler. I spent many a postmodern night at Judson Church and Meredith Monk’s Tribeca loft. Sweatpants replaced dance tights. I danced barefoot in Jean Erdman’s dance theater works at St. Clements and NYU. A boyfriend showed me religion. On Friday and Saturday nights, we sat zazen with Isshu Miura Roshi. He was too old to take on new students, so I was only allowed to sit, never to speak or be spoken to. The meditating itself was revelatory. I wanted more. The Tibetans were friendlier, so I began attending their teachings, including one by the visiting Sixteenth Gyalwa Kar- mapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, performing his Black Crown ceremony in 1976. I was convinced. Taking refuge, my name became Karma Sonan Gyatso. Two years later, I spent a month with the Karmapa at his monastery in Rumtek, Sikkim. White khatag scarves were exchanged in greet- ing. I watched sacred dancers and singers arrayed in bright tasseled costumes and masks welcome monks back from their summer retreat. Long days were spent in the meditation hall with the young monks serving buttered and salted tea. Evening meals consisted of steamed dumplings and fermented barley beer. I tried to learn about infinite loving compassion, selfless- ness, and emptiness, but few spoke Eng- lish. A translated Tibetan Book of the Dead had me pondering the transitional bardo state between death and rebirth. Time with the Karmapa was spent sit- ting in his aviary, where he talked to the birds. His Holiness healed sick devotees from around the world. I would sit at his feet when he taught and prayed, watch- ing him leave his body, as if molecularly disintegrating, and then return at the end of the chanting. One morning, monsoon rains were stopped so concrete could be poured for a new retreat center roof. At dusk, rainbows emanated out of stupas. When I left, the Karmapa gave me long-life pills, and his monks asked me to go to Calcutta to liberate impounded Buddhist statues. Customs officials had refused to release the Buddhas; since each was sealed and soldered shut with conse- crated material inside, perhaps they feared drugs might be inside. Perhaps they did not want to face the karmic consequences of desecrating holy objects. After two weeks of spirited nego- tiations between Hindu officials, young Tibetan monks, and myself, we brought a screwdriver and opened the bases of all the statues, emptying the sacred contents into a large garbage bag. I hand-delivered half of the contents to Paris and the other half to America. I landed in San Francisco in November 1978. It was time for a new life chap- ter, post-vision quest. It was not an easy month. On the 18th, a Bay Area congre- gation of over nine hundred people, with their leader Reverend Jim Jones, died in Jonestown, Guyana. Nine days later, Mayor George Moscone and Supervi- sor Harvey Milk were murdered in City Hall. During this time I received a call from Isshu Miura Roshi wanting to visit on his way back from Koon-ji Monastery in Japan. I was thrilled, thinking at last he was going to accept me as a student. When I met him at the airport, he was not feeling well, so we drove directly to the hospital. After signing forms, he walked in for an exam. Some forty-five minutes later, a doctor came out and asked if I was with the Zen priest, and what arrange- ments I wanted to make for the body. Phoning Japan, I learned the monks already knew. When Roshi had left the monastery, the dog cried, so they went into his room. He had laid out his crema- tion robes, and his last calligraphy on a fan announced that even though the mas- ter was gone, spring would come again bringing plum blossoms from the East. After the funeral ceremony, I was handed his ashes and told to complete his journey home. It didn’t matter that I never really knew Roshi. I boarded a flight and returned to Manhattan with his ashes. I stayed for another eight years. Living there, I recon- nected with my political self as I began to live in a state of emergency. Night sweats and purple lesions from an unnamed dis- ease were overtaking my generation. I saw the Karmapa one last time in 1980, one year before he died. I shared my fear and sadness with so many friends sick and dying. He said it was a very old disease and not to worry. Blessing me, he told me to carry on. John R. KillacKy is a wRiteR, aRts administRa- toR, and video aRtist living in san FRancisco. JouRneys