A Cultural, Spiritual and Political Adventure
Ernie loves politics. Honestly, I don’t.
So, it was with deep reservations I agreed to attend an event this evening encompassing the cultural, spiritual and political rolled into one.
Ernie found out about this event taking place at a local Buddhist center. The community includes mostly people from Sri Lanka, an island nation of 20 million people off the southern tip of India. Congresswoman Dina Titus was making a campaign swing through Vegas and was coming to speak.
The Nevada Buddhist Vidara is located in what was formerly a modest home. Except for the large, golden Buddha statue surrounded by flowers on the altar, it was a simple room with folding chairs that looked like it could use a fresh coat of paint.
The people were amazingly gracious and kind. Women wore traditional saris in tissue-light cotton and silk, embellished with beautiful embroidery. Men wore standard-issue Indian-style Nehru shirts and lungi. Say “loon-geeys.” Think of a wrap skirt in lightweight cotton sweeping down to the ankles. Several Buddhist monks wore bright orange and deep gold robes.
This was a big occasion for the temple. A dignitary announced the temple was founded in 1996. Tonight was the first time ever an elected official has visited. A colorful fresh flower garland was draped around the Congresswoman’s neck. A high honor. She lit candles while three high school girls in white saris sang traditional songs in Sinhala, the Sri Lankan language. Titus laid a tray of flowers at the feet of the large Buddha on the altar. A monk tied an orange string around her wrist and chanted a mantra wishing her victory in the election this November.
There was no air conditioning. It was 102 degrees outside and every chair was filled. Halfway through the event the girls quietly walked around with trays filled with cold water bottles and icy cans of soda to help everyone be more comfortable in the stuffy room during the ceremony. The pop, pop, pop of opening soda cans punctuated the air for a few minutes.
Congresswoman Dina Titus finally took the tiny platform and spoke for ten minutes about issues of importance to Sri Lankan Americans. Terrorism that formerly gripped the tiny island nation for 26 years has recently ended supported by a vote she made in Washington. She also spoke about improving education and other concerns.
A bountiful potluck of Sri Lankan cuisine was served afterward.
As we strolled to our car I thought how I didn’t want to come earlier. I ran around all afternoon in the heat and a quiet evening at home sounded ideal. I’m glad I let Ernie twist my arm, opening my eyes to the gentle, kind people of Sri Lanka and their interest in making America and their homeland a better place. We have so much more in common then we often believe.