The Experience of Religion: Buddhism and Consumerism in Collision

FromW05 – the first is by a student that term, the second by my daughter who attended the same event:
I thought that I would share this amusing story with everyone. Last year I went to see the Dalai Lama at Sky Dome because I was interested in his words and Buddhism in general. There was no crowd control at the ticket boxes at the Sky Dome, or proper lines set up, it was just a mass of people pushing each other to get through to buy tickets. At one point some crazy forty-year-old man, who had his wife and kid with him lost control and started punching a teenager who he thought cut in front of him for tickets. My friend and I couldn’t believe this and restrained the guy and pushed him out of the area. This sparked other people to start pushing and swearing at each other; it was unbelievable. Here was a spiritual leader who came to Toronto to talk about peace and toleration, his tour was called the power of compassion, and people were going nuts and fighting each other. It was one of the most surreal experiences of my life.
Also, I was expecting some kind of spiritual enlightenment or at least spiritual atmosphere at this event. But it is here that I really realized the importance of religious venue. The Catholic Church I attended for this assignment, I thought, did a pretty good job of creating a spiritual environment through the architecture of the church and structure of the ceremony. When I was at the Sky Dome to hear the Dalai Lama speak, it was absolutely impossible to experience anything spiritual because of the venue. At the Sky Dome, one is surrounded by B. S. advertisements, and other marketing nonsense. The Sky Dome is so big and empty, cold and gray that it made a spiritual feeling during the Dalai Lama’s talk unattainable. The talk would have had a much higher spiritual impact if it had taken place at a temple or in a field with a natural setting.
AND, from my daughter who is a Buddhist:
I have always been attracted to the notion of Buddhism, I knew a little from my undergrad but it wasn’t until after my daughter was born that I really felt drawn to it as a religion, a way to structure my life. I am not sure why this happened when it did, it must have been a divine, karmic intervention. Anyway, I studied with a Thai Monk for a year and then set out on my own to try and keep Buddhism in my way. When I heard that the Dalai Lama was coming to T.O. I made sure that I would attend his talk, as a means to continue my spiritual growth. I guess that I envisioned it as a pilgrimage of sorts like those one sees on t.v. and in the movies. I hoped to be moved. Well I was moved, but not in ways I had expected. My first taste of what was to come occurred when I realized that my group would be paying 20$ to park our car miles from the event. As we trudged through the rain to our entrance, we were met with some joyful, some sullen faces, and many who appeared to be there for show. When the lines began to move in, people began to jostle one another, shoving to get in. Once inside, the chaos stepped up a notch. I recall feeling as I imagined survivors of some horrible natural disaster would feel, trying to stay close to those you knew while strangers ran idiotically around you, making it hard to walk together. People were rude, yelling to one another, shoving, desperate to rush to their assigned seat. Insanity was all around and closing in. Heaven forbid you had to use the washroom!!! Where was the love, the compassion, the concern for fellow man? Where was the letting go of the material, of all that binds us??
Once we fought our way to our seats this surreal experience continued to unfold. As I tried to get in the mood, as I tried to listen to this man I admired, whose presence itself moved me, whose words made me glad, I found it difficult to block out the hockey game mentality and disrespect running rampant around us. I watched couples looking for their seats while juggling hot dogs, pop and a jumbo popcorn (a more economical choice, for only 50 cents more). I looked around for the beer stand as I watched another man saunter back to his seat, munching on his pizza slice, seemingly oblivious that a few feet away was the icon and spiritual leader of Tibet. I anticipated the ads around the stadium, but I did not expect the actions of those filling it to be disrespectful, so self indulgent and self centered. I am glad I went, as I wanted to hear him speak, however, I would have liked it if somebody’s mother had at somepoint knocked some manners into those around me.

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