Back in October I covered the Mind & Life Conference with His Holiness in Washington, DC. Adam Engle and the people of Mind and Life Institute pulled together an interesting group of educators, scientists and Buddhist teachers to discuss meeting the challenges of our educational system for the 21st Century. They included scientists like Richard Davidson, Buddhist teachers like His Holiness, Joan Halifax and Matthieu Ricard and writers like Daniel Goleman. You can see the whole line-up here. http://www.educatingworldcitizens.org/
My job was to capture interesting encounters from the social gatherings, VIP lunches and dinners to the actual panel discussions. While it was interesting eavesdropping on the conversations of so many brilliant minds, and having a few paparazzi moments with the likes of Richard Gere, Goldie Hawn and Gabriel Byrne, for a simple Buddhist the highlight of my time in Washington was being able to get close to His Holiness. After 37 years on the Buddhist path this was the first time I had ever come close to His Holiness and had a small personal encounter. Watching His Holiness over the course of several days and seeing how he moved with such humble confidence and treated everyone with the same warm open heart and attention, whether they were important or not, helped me realize one of the goals of the Buddhist path, this ineffable marriage of compassion and emptiness. OK, so he is the incarnation of Avalokitesvara, but hearing that and seeing that are two different things.
The other day a client asked me how it was to see His Holiness in Washington. I told her the story of my encounter at the end of the conference. I was asked by Diego Hangartner, the new directory of Programs and Research at Mind and Life to go on stage and photograph His Holiness’s exit as he offered katas to the staff and then take a group shot back stage before he left. I had rarely used a flash during the course of my coverage but I used it on this occasion. It went pretty well on stage considering how fast everything was moving. When I got back stage His Holiness was already arranged in a semi-circle with the group. I tried to take the shot but my flash wouldn’t fire. I then had to excuse myself to the next room to get a second flash while they all waited. Again the flash wouldn’t fire. I realized later that I must have drained the batteries while shooting on stage. Finally sweating and completely anxious in the presence of The Dalai Lama I got the shot.
During this whole time I was acutely aware of my own self-consciousness and at the same time aware that His Holiness was also seeing my discomfort. I had a kata in my pocket that I wished to present to His Holiness and started to pull it out awkwardly with my cameras dangling and a reflector held between my legs. In a room that was now bustling with the activity of everyone saying their goodbyes, His Holiness noticed my small gesture across the room and starting making his way directly to me. Many people tried to intercept him to say farewell but he never fully stopped and came directly up to me taking the kata dangling awkwardly in my hand he placed it over me. He then put his arm around me and asked the videographer, who had my same camera, to take our picture. I’m still waiting for that picture – probably my own karma coming back to haunt me for all the times in my travels I failed to send someone a picture they had requested. Ah, Joey Cairo the Videographer just graciously sent me that photo – WOW I’m never in the picture.
Mind & Life Slideshow – Images by James Gritz
For the conference I had borrowed a back up camera, the Canon 5D Mark II with HD video, from Canon Pro Services. Although my job was essentially to take stills, as they had hired a pro video crew for the actual event, I couldn’t resist playing with the video functions during the conference. I started out shooting in full HD 1920 x 1080 but found it was eating up all the space on my 8 Gig cards in no time so I switched it down to 640 x 480, thinking this would be good enough for youtube. I did record Matthieu Ricard’s interview with Spanish TV in full HD and will send out links to that later or add them back into this blog. Below is a sampling of the video footage I took during the actually panel discussions with His Holiness. It was edited by my friend and assistant at the event Amanda Lewis. Its a bit fuzzy compared to HD uploads I have made with the same camera (here’s a link to an HD short I made in NY at the Roebling Tea Room, a restaurant my son Daniel was working at if your interested in the what the camera is capable of producing hand held) – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iup4951cZLU
Amanda Lewis also helped the video crew during His Holiness the 17th Karmapa’s 2008 U. S. tour. She is one of those dedicated Dharma volunteers now living a semi-monastic life in Ithaca, NY. Here’s what she had to say about the Conference.
It is incredibly exciting to witness the continued dialogue between expert meditators, scholars, and scientists, as they come together with a shared interest in finding practical ways to build a more compassionate society.
For me, one of the most poignant topics of discussion was the importance of creating classrooms that support a healthy family-like atmosphere, allowing for the natural development of a sense of deep care and affection between teachers and students. Within such an environment, it is instinctive to engage with others in a more concerned and responsible way.
The typical model of education clearly over-emphasizes the division of students through test scores, which engenders competition and challenges self-esteem. This standard is in urgent need of a new approach–one that unites the motivation of intellectual precision with the recognition of our precious connection to one another as human beings.
-Amanda Lewis, videographer/editor
If you want to see a bit of Matthieu Ricards interview before I get around to uploading the HD in parts here’s a link to a low rez first edit I did for youtube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K3PhWnl_QMI
If you are really interested in the full conference you can buy the professionally made video at Mind & Life website. http://www.educatingworldcitizens.org/
Or if you are only interested in His Holiness you could buy this picture from me and always have those eyes of compassion around.
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