Thursday, May 20, 2010

Dalai Lama's Point Man: Fitting to be in the Fashion & Style Sections

Even I have heard that the Dalai Lama is coming to town, er, New York City.  The NY Times on line (and presumably its paper incarnation too), has a story on one Nicholas Vreeland, grandson of Diana Vreeland, some fashion glitterati woman of the 70s and 80s.  Besides being a scion of glitterati, Vreeland  is also a Tibetan Buddhist monk.

Well, good for him, as one of my son's classmates is wont to say, albeit with a note of sarcasm.

No, seriously, good for him.  I would say being a Buddhist monk of the Tibetan variety is far more useful for society than fashion, except when it comes to procreation, and in that department I will cede the argument to fashion (unless it's a Dharma burger?).   But its clear that from the observation point of the NY Times reporter, fashion and "Buddhism" share much in common  at least in its Dalai Lama as pop star variety.

No detail is too frivolous. Mr. Vreeland stopped in at ABC Carpet and Home recently to choose an armchair for the Dalai Lama to sit in on the stage of Radio City; he likes to sit cross-legged. “I went through the whole collection of sofas and chairs to choose the appropriate chair for His Holiness,” Mr. Vreeland said, adding that the chair will be on loan.
At Radio City Music Hall, the Dalai Lama will speak for the first three days about two Buddhist texts that teach the concept of emptiness and the way to enlightenment. For this, he will sit on his Tibetan throne. On the fourth day, he will hold a public talk about how to lead a life of happiness. (That’s when the chair will be put to use.)
The crowd undoubtedly will veer from robe-sporting Buddhists to Fendi-carrying, Louboutin-wearing devotees, the two groups holding two things in common: a passion for Buddhism and their trim waistlines.

Perhaps what the NY Times reporter takes to be the money Buddhist quote from Vreeland is this:

“People who cause you difficulties, you should think of them as very, very valuable teachers because they provide us with the opportunity to develop patience.”

Now I would say this is incomplete, from a Zen perspective: "People who cause you difficulties" is quite a bit dualistic, and "they provide us with the opportunity to develop patience" sounds like you're hoping to get something for your "suffering."  

I would say you "get" the "opportunity" to be in that place, but the minute you think "get" and "opportunity" you're in a different place entirely.  Maybe Vreeland would agree and say I'm saying the medium, and the medium is the message, and he's just using skillful means. I dunno. I do know if somebody gave me, when I'm getting seriously hassled that I'm getting the "opportunity to develop patience," I'd say that person was availing himself of an opportunity to engage in a form of spiritual materialism (and perhaps I'm doing the same thing with this post).   Rather than pose the whole affair as a cost-benefit relationship, at least with this practitioner at any rate, I think it's more helpful to promote the skill of dealing with such circumstances.

That said, I hope Mr. Vreeland  has a good time with the Dalai Lama and I hope he likes his chair.  And I hope someone holds the DL to actually practice compassion in dealing with people who are non-Tibetan Chinese.

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