Trip To Tibet

Robert Thurman is a scholar, author and academic who founded Tibet House and was in 1965 the first American Tibetan Buddhist ordained by the Dalai Lama.

For many years, Thurman biannually lead groups on tours of the holy sites in Tibet. In the late 1990s, I sought to join Thurman on such a tour.

I contacted Geographic Expeditions (GE), the tour organizer, two years before Thurman’s next trip. I was told that as I was the first inquiry, I would head the list of those going. After, periodically I called GE for an update on the timing and particulars of the trip. Finally, some months before the trip, I was told that as they had received more interest from people than available slots, 15, everyone was required to write an essay as to why they wanted to go; however, as mine was the first inquiry, my essay was proforma and I could rest assured that I’d be included on the trip. In my essay, I spoke about my collection of ancient Himalayan and Tibetan Buddhist art and that I had read a couple of Thurman’s books.

As the tour was coming together in final form, GE contacted me to say that Thurman was only accepting applications from “serious Buddhists” which he didn’t deem me to be one. Thus, my application was rejected. I was surprised as “serious Buddhists” seemed an oxymoron. Inquiring further, GE said they had 16 essay applications. I was the only one rejected from going on the trip.

My reaction to this news: a hearty laugh. It was funny, like other similar situations I’ve been in, but I hadn’t thought why until recently. What’s funny is imagining that some people in my situation would be upset about it, something that’s passed, instead of otherwise rejoicing about their good fortune. After waiting two years, spending time with inquires, writing an essay, being told they are good to go and very much looking forward to the trip, some would be upset being rejected. However, their consolation prize was having the financial resources, health, time to take such a trip and now, not going on the trip, extra time and money to spend on something else. As such, they should be grateful for their good fortune; especially as thinking about a trip is more than half the experience of it.

It’s funny to think that some people choose to view their circumstances in ways that make them unhappy. Maybe that’s what serious Buddhists do. If so, it’s good the serious Buddhists were allowed on the trip and not me, as that precluded anyone becoming unhappy.