Volunteer Dinner – Blue!

Over a wonderful evening with delft blue table settings, flowers and flickering tea-lights, 16 wonderful, precious and most valued volunteers sat down to enjoy delicious dinner and good company over the theme “blue”. We are all volunteers here at LTC, and our volunteers are the reason LTC is still here more than 40 years on! Volunteering at LTC is offering service to all the Buddhas by offering service to sentient beings. These dinners are a way we can demonstrate our profound gratitude to our volunteers for offering their time, expertise and good-heartedness. It’s also a way to share some LTC culture over desert rather than a tiring afternoon seminar or class! Much joyful conversation was had over the curries and salad and naans and chutneys and raita, and …blue.

Blues ain’t blues, they are so much more; there’s blue as in azure, but there’s also blue Monday, blue note, feeling blue, grooving to the blues, having a blue, blue movies, and in our classic Aussie Yeah/Nah parlance – bluey!

The Mirian webster dictionary defines blue as “of the colour whose hue is that of the clear sky”. The modern English word blue comes from Middle English and Germanic meaning ‘shimmering, lustrous’. Lapis lazuli, the pure land ground, or more accurately a sapphire blue. This reminds me of what Rinpoche refers to as Dharmakaya Blue, in the altars behind the statues (and the colour of the sky in our library). Rinpoche’s Dharmakaya blue leads us to what to do when we’re feeling blue!

Blue is a dependent arising. Several languages use the same word to describe blue and green, as the Tibetans do to describe Tara, who is sometimes Blue Tara. Linguistic research indicates that languages do not begin by first having a word for the colour blue. Colour names typically begin as dark and light, then add red, and only much later – usually as the last main category of colour accepted in a language – comes blue, probably when blue pigments could be manufactured reliably in the culture using that language. Blue is the rarest pigment in nature (think those amazing blue butterflies), so it took a while.

Does this mean that you really can’t “see something if you don’t have a word for it”? That may be the case, according to Wikipedia! The Himba tribe in Namibia has no word for blue. In an experiment, psychologist Jules Davidoff studied the Himba and concluded that without a word for a colour, it is more difficult to differentiate that colour from others. So even though our eyes could perceive the colour blue, “we may not have noticed it was unique until much later.”

Isaac Newton included blue as one of the seven colours in his first description of the visible spectrum. He chose seven colours because that was the number of notes in the musical scale, which he believed was related to the optical spectrum. Synaesthesia aside, categorising colour according to music is an interesting diversion.

And finally, there is no blue in blue – it actually absorbs the red and scatters the blue wavelengths, they reach our eyes, so what we see is the very thing it isn’t! We also think the blue is ‘out there’, but in fact the blue depends on us seeing it!

What a wonderful way to enjoy and honour Rinpoche’s teachings on emptiness, and our own Dharmakaya blue nature. But how to get from dinner to that Dharmakaya blue?! To nourish us along the journey we need some aspirations. There’s bodhicitta, the big one, but there’s also some more tangible ones. The conversation starter tonight was “if you could do any of the Dharma activities on offer around the world, what would you wish to do?” Sharing your Dharma bucket list is a joyous way to re-fuel resolve. Retreats, course, pilgrimages, jobs, study, visits…. Don’t put any boundaries – let yourself dream as vast as the deep blue sky!

Over desert we filled up our Dharma Delights jars. These mystery jars, decorated with a blue sparkle, were found on each dinner plate at the start of the evening. We filled them by writing on small sheets of exquisite origami paper (you can do this too):

  • The people who love you
  • Something you are looking forward to
  • Things you can do to bring forth your dharma bucket list
  • A good thing that happened to you (milestone, luck/karma ripening…)
  • A good thing someone did for you
  • A good thing you did for someone
  • A Dharma achievement in the last 12 months or so
  • A quality you have developed since coming to LTC
  • What you need to remember when things get difficult

As the jars filled with the decorated paper they began to look like jars of jewels, or very expensive chocolates! We also wrote a paper for the people at our table, about a quality they possess that we have noticed about them. This was most enjoyable, and jars were quickly overflowing!

So, when you are feeling a bit down or low or…blue, get out your Dharma Delights jar and get a reality check! Remember your Dharmakaya blue nature, the people who love and care for you. Recognise and value your contribution to LTC and the Buddhadharma. Remember your bodhicitta dreams, fuel up, and never give up!

Our evening concluded with a lucky door prize. Whose merit was it that ripened tonight? Ven. Lhagsam’s! But the prize, all three volumes of Lama Tsong Khapa’s Lamrim Chenmo, was already owned by the Venerable, so instead she drew names out of a jar, and it was Liam (who many of you know as class host) who won the ultimate prize! Ven. Lhagsam was able to choose a book from the Sheryl Delacour book surprise box of goodies.

Thank you to all the volunteers who came along to the dinner, it was such a pleasure offering this to you, our budding bodhisattvas!

(Spiritual Program Coordinator)

PS. If you would like to join our wonderful volunteer team, in any capacity, please get in touch with Alison at secretary@langritangpa.org.au or Laura at director@langritangpa.org.au.