One time as I walked a mile-long residential road that leads from my mother’s home towards the Vihara I came across a batch of young boys vigorously playing in the street. It was a group with mixed backgrounds, several of them looking white, a few black, two or three perhaps Asian; a few of the black kids looked somewhat familiar from saying hello on past walks but the rest were new to me. They paused to greet me pleasantly as I passed.
Then one of the white boys, having gained the idea from who knows where, suddenly made a bow in my direction. Not an Asian anjali, for that gesture is unknown to our culture. Rather, he made a full Shakespearean bow, bending at the waist with left hand behind his back and right hand making an outward flourish. Quite surprised I nodded appreciation, exclaimed, “Oh very good!” and added: “Someone has trained you well!”
I heard a murmured echo of those last words, pronounced reflecting my accent: “…train’djee wayll!” Anywhere else in the world I might have thought it mockery, but my accent is normal around here. A child was drawing out the words in appreciation, marveling to hear such high praise.
Suddenly the boys surrounded me on every side, bowing enthusiastically, bending deeply at the waist, right hands flourishing, urgently seeking my attention and praise. Each boy repeated the gestures with greater exaggeration until he could catch my eye and get a nod and words of appreciation: “Very good, well done…!”
When all were satisfied they returned to their game and I resumed my walk, yet I paused upon noticing high-pitched wails coming from a nearby house. Squinting, I could just barely see over a porch railing the top of a little girl’s head as she cried out for my attention – doubtless the little sister of one of the fellows, still too young to leave the porch unsupervised. Then her head dipped below the rail, presumably making a bow as well, or perhaps a curtsy; I couldn’t see through the rails. Still standing in the street I nonetheless gave her my full attention, and estimating the right moment, expressed warm praise. The little head popped back up and no more wails came from that direction so I assume that we, too, had a successful transaction.
I smiled the rest of the way home. What a wonderful thing it is to be part of bringing Buddhism and the sight of Sangha to a new land!
– Ayya Sudhamma (2 Dec 2014)