Thursday, June 3, 2010

Lessons from a "Buddhist" Wedding

It was a cold day, bone chilling and overcast like most days in San Francisco. WQ was invited to cover a "Buddhist" wedding near Golden Gate Park. The couple had met on a whirlwind trip. Caught up in the thrill of foreign travel, and bored with their frustrating lives, they thought: "Our love-at-first-sight means we should try to get pregnant right away and maybe marry later." The stars had other plans, of course, in spite of Jupiter's return. But after lots of trying -- it was a whirlwind week -- a subtle trap was set.

("Smother Love," see lyrics below)

Mara has a way; he's no Devil, but a Cupid who rules the Realm of Desire. See that week of foreign travel had meant cheating on her shiftless boyfriend, with whom she shared an incredible bond: They had dated, lived, and traveled together for years.

She said his advice on life, spiritual friendship, companionship, and all he had done for her still stunned her to think about. So she tried not to think about it, focusing instead on everything she didn't like. When you hurt someone you share so much with, rather than working it out, it's bound to have unwished for effects, as Mahapaduma learned.

Now that he was gone, what chance was there for setting off on this new relationship in an enlightened way? The new man, the groom, John, had already been "cheated" on -- but for the last time. That was the bride's very last time with anyone else ever. She said.

"All I am I give to you / You honor me, I'll honor you
Rich or poor or come what may / We'll forsake all other love
Just we two, one flesh, one blood / In the eyes of god
I am yours to have and hold / I'm giving you my love
Never look at anyone, anyone but me
Never look at anyone, I must be all you see
Listen to those wedding bells / Say goodbye to other girls
I'll never be untrue my love / Don't be untrue to me..."

So John, the groom, became her everything. They even planned to work together. This was not a good position to be in. Every one of his defilements annoyed her. And there wasn't anyone to confide in, get advice from, or really talk to in a deep way, but him. One should never betray a friendship, because one needs a friend. They are the most precious thing -- not half the good life, but the whole thing. John's friends were at the wedding.

His female friends were noticeably mean, as if jealous, and the men stood around drinking beer and eating cheese, talking about nothing worth talking about and eyeing the bride. This lifted her sagging self-esteem and made her notice them...especially the one who seemed disinterested. "What's this guy got?" she found herself asking.

There was much the groom didn't get, like the bride's request to begin the ceremony with a Buddhist meditation. Nervous and filling with worries -- because in the beginning John seemed to agree with and encourage all her ideas and dreams -- the bride telegraphed a message to me. ("Is it better to 'work it out' with someone you're tired of but are sure you love and sure loves you?" the bride asked. "Follow your lust, I mean bliss," I answered. A Freudian slip, was I coming on to the bride? Was everyone on the groom's side?) John thought meditation was stupid and in his anger had said so.

She pursed her lips and ground her teeth: "If that's going to be your attitude, why are we even doing this?" But judging by all the glowing cell phones in everyone's hands as we were supposed to be meditating, he seemed right. Another doubt and dispiriting spat was brewing. Now how was she supposed to explain her unwavering faith in Buddhism's Three Jewels?

The noise was grating on the bride -- you could tell -- as were the stress, the guests, and her aching stomach (or womb?) "There are no Buddhist lessons to learn here," we joked with her. She looked bittersweet in her imported Berketex bridal gown.

("Berketex Bribe," see lyrics below)

I had lived in the Bay Area. There as a student I listened to Crass, swore I'd never marry, studied and meditated every chance I got. There's not nearly as much meditation going on in the East Bay as one imagines. On first leaving LA, it seemed a welcome change -- such a Green place, progressive, and so dirty. It's like Honolulu City minus the plants. This was hardly "utopia." Haight-Ashbury and Telegraph Rd. were no freedom zones but pricey panhandling meccas.

The wedding was held at Neil's apartment, a friend of the groom. Although they couldn't get any monks to attend or officiate, they did manage to secure a lesbian minister familiar with the bride's favorite Buddhist protective chant: the Discourse on Blessings (Mangala Sutra). She left out the first blessing, not wanting to risk possibly offending anyone: "Not consorting with fools [unwise], consorting with the wise. This is life's highest blessing."

The groom, unfortunately, had been drinking in the kitchen and eating meat. Yet another frustrating fight had soured the occasion. Her thyroid ached, so she didn't want to speak up. (Herself a vegetarian, she'd made him a healing potion. That way he wouldn't have to drink. Most beer is not vegetarian. But to spite her, or assert himself, he used the potion as a chaser).

We sat on the bride's side with her brother Chance and his husband. Her parents wanted to come, that is, they said they did. Instead, oddly, they told her childhood friends. This meant keeping an eye out for one in particular, who might start rumors and disrupt the ceremony. "Fear and desire, the two movements of the unconscious state" (Eckhart Tolle), present at the beginning, were still at play even on this festive wedding day.

With the buried memory that someone had been wronged, and no way to work it out, it's a fairytale ending (as Grimm as many of Buddhism's Jataka Tales). That is, we think they'll live happily ever after. If only for the kids' sake, because there's no breaking up with them. This is a cautionary tale. Past karma does not force us into present action; there's a proper way of undertaking things.

LYRICS (by Crass)

"Smother Love"

The true romance is the ideal repression, that you seek
That you dream of, that you look for in the sheets
That you find in the magazines, the cinema, the glossy shops
And the music spins you round and round looking for the props.

The silken robe, the perfect little ring
Will give you the illusion when it doesn't mean a thing.
Step outside into the street and staring from the wall
It's perfection of the happiness that makes you feel so small.

Romance, can you dance? Do you fit the right description?
Do you love me? Do you love me? Do you want me for your own?
Do you love me? Say you need me, say you know that I'm "The One"!
Tell me I'm your everything, let us build a home.

We can build a house for us, with little ones to follow
The proof of our normality that justifies tomorrow.
Romance, romance. Do you love me? Say you do,
We can leave the world behind and make it just for two!

Love don't make the world go round, it holds it right in place
Keeps us thinking love's too pure to see another's face.
Love's another skin-trap, another social weapon,
Another way to make men slaves and women at their beckon.

Love's another sterile gift, another sh*t condition,
That keeps us seeing just The One and others not existing.
Woman is a holy myth, a gift of man's expression,
She's sweet, defenseless, golden-eyed, a gift of god's repression.

If we didn't have these codes for love, of tokens and positions,
We'd find ourselves as lovers still, not tokens or possessions.
It's a natural, it's a romance, without the power and greed,
We can fight to lift the cover if you want to sow and seed.

Do you love me? Do you? Do you? Don't you see they aim to smother
The actual possibilities of seeing all the others?
Do you love me? Do you? Do you? Don't you see they aim to smother
The actual possibilities of seeing all the others?

"Berketex Bribe"
Berketex Bribe. Berkertex bride. Oh! Berkertex bribe. Berkertex bride. Oh! The object unsoiled is packed ready and waiting, for the moment of truth in this spiritual mating. The object unsoiled is packed ready and waiting, to be owned, to be cherished, to be f****d for the naming. The public are shocked by the state of society. But as for you, you're a breath of purity. Well don't give me your morals. They're filth in my eyes. You can pack them away with the rest of your lies. Your painted mask of ugly perfection, the ring on your finger, the sign of protection, is the rape on Page 3 [British papers frequently feature a topless model on their third page], it's the soldiers obsession. How well you've been taught to support your oppression. One god. One church. One husband. One wife. Sordid sequences in brilliant life, supports and props and punctuation to our flowing realities and realizations. We're talking with words that have been used before to describe us as goddesses, mother, and whores, to describe us as women, describe us as men, to set out the rules of this ludicrous game. And it's played very carefully, a delicate balance, a masculine/feminine perfect alliance. Does the winner take all? What love in your grasping? What vision is left, and is anyone asking? What vision is left, and is anyone asking? She's a Berkertex bribe, a Berketex bride... Bribe, bride, bribe, bride...

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