Smiling Buddha :
meeting with a remarkably cheerful buddha
"In Leh we had found ourselves in the presence of a Buddha, who was well disguised in the being, personage, and character of the owner of a family-run hotel which we stayed in, on the outskirts of the town. This fellow had never been outside of Ladakh proper, except for a short trip to the city of Jammu. Other than that he had remained in this one area his whole life, and yet he was not only as worldly as any traveler who had spent their whole life on the road, but he also cast forth an otherworldly smile like I had never seen before, nor since. Good God could that man smile. And it was not a smile belonging to the demure, enchanting, Sophia-like grin of the Mona Lisa, but an all-out, ear-to-ear, I-canít-believe-how-great-it-is-to-be-alive, childish, spontaneous, unabashed, tremendous, uplifting smile. That man smiled a smile I had never seen on another person. And I had certainly seen Tibetans, Nepali, and Sherpas smile, and nobody on earth smiles like these folks, as if no other culture has tapped as deeply into the bottomless wellspring of joy hidden but not obstructed by the troubles of the day. In my time amongst those folks I had seen smiles that made me insane with disbelief, because they arose instantly, for only the slightest of reasons, and cast the rapture of existence out at me and wham!, one moment I was face to face with one of those hard-working, somber-seeming mountain folk, and then, in the twinkling of an eye, I was standing in the presence of Bodhidharma himself, whose joyous wisdom now radiated uninterruptedly out of his eyes, jowls, lips, and cheeks, destroying not only me but all agony in that smileís path. Those mountain people can surely smile. Compared to them no one in the western world has ever even smirked, except perhaps the laughing saint, who must have received his mirth osmotically, from so many years in that psychic atmosphere. And yet, all of those delirious, unstoppable, unquenchable, uncanny smiles I had witnessed in my Nepali friends and Tibetan acquaintances over the years were but mere grins of amusement compared to the smiling, unflappable cheer that radiated at me through the face of this humble husband, father, gardener, hotel-owning, bidi-smoking Buddha who killed me with his joy."
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