Treasures in the Marketplace
I first saw the bracelet at a music festival some years ago in Toronto. The copper color caught my eye, and I was attracted by the beautiful design of the letters cut from metal.
“What do these words say?” I asked the Tibetan vendor. “It’s a mantra,” he answered, “inviting enlightenment for everyone on earth.”
That sounded good to me. I bought the metal wrist band and slipped it on. It felt good. It fit.
I’ve worn that mantra on my wrist ever since and along the way learned a little more Tibetan. The letters on my bracelet portray the six syllables of the Buddhist mantra of Chenrezig, the mantra associated with Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of compassion. Om mani padme hum.
Knowing that made me feel as though I were in good company. In the morning, when I slip the bracelet on my arm, I feel connected to people the world around for whom this mantra carries guiding power.
When I walk among a crowd of people and move my arm, I imagine seeds of compassion settling around us, sown by the words I wear. As the years passed and my bracelet started to fall apart, first the decorative pieces falling off and then the letters themselves bending and loosening in response to the movement in my world, I wore it anyway, keeping watch out for a replacement.
Fortunately for me, the work of the Tibetans spreads far in the world, and through the years, when I needed them, I have found vendors at art shows with baskets of metal bracelets, om mani padme hum.
Sometimes I bought more than one, passing them on as gifts for others to wear.
I understand that some mantras have deep and special powers requiring appropriate training before they should be practiced. Compassion, a primary attribute behind the Chenrezig mantra, is within reach of us all, and I have seen and heard and known this mantra for so long, in so many places that I have been as a generalist, that I believe it true that this is a mantra safe for uneducated participation: can there be too many of us speaking these words?
And when it happened that my bracelet wore out and started to be dangerous, the thin metal letters catching on things they passed, I was glad I had an extra at hand. It soon seemed right to buy as many as I could, every time I could.
Living in Tucson now, I have become one of the more or less 50,000 people who look forward eagerly to February and the Tucson Gem and Mineral Showcase. Gems, irresistible and luscious gemstones raw and formed, are the primary focus of the shows, and rocks, minerals and fossils of such weight and value are displayed that it is a wonder the tilt of the earth does not change when the shows come to town.
But not all the shows in that great city event represent the mineral world. Beautiful woven rugs add texture to the colors of the gemstones, and many other trade goods share show space with the rocks. One year Michael bought a balafon at the gem show, and this year he came home with a goat skin, just what he needed to rehead his drum.
One year I found a Tibetan importer at the gem show selling mantra bracelets, so this year I had a mission. My plan was to buy extra bracelets so that I add them to our offerings at Living Traditional Arts and help the Tibetans with the distribution of the mantra.
We found mantra bracelets offered by more than one vendor carrying imports from Tibet and Nepal, and we also found silk and wool felted scarves that caught my eye at one booth and Michael’s at another.
“Come see what I found,” we told each other. We liked the concept, we liked the look, we liked the feel, and we had a great time choosing an array of colorful silk/wool scarves to bring to Living Traditional Arts as an offering in our shop.
At one time, working with friends at Earthsong Fibers, I studied the fiber world full time and learned to love felting. Still, I’d never seen felting like the wool on silk we found at the gem show.
Michael and I both found these scarves delightful – a blend of sensations in the feel of the silk and wool, and the warmth of wool carried with the lightness of silk. Hard not to stock up. We bought a few.
I try to imagine all the artisans making all the bracelets that show up as treasures at art fairs around the world, and then I try to imagine all those bracelets being worn around the world spreading seeds of compassion as we wearers make our way through our daily worldly rounds. And then I try to imagine beams of light connecting us, the makers, the buyers, the sellers, the wearers. Om mani padme hum. Is it not a better world?