Little Tibet in Parkdale

“Do not commit any sins. Practice all the virtues. Subdue your imagination. This is what the Buddha teaches.”

This English tag is painted in small capitals, red on yellow, under a line of Indic abugida which I take for Tibetan. Though if it were Dzongkha, Drendjongké, Ladakhi, Balti, or Purik, you could have fooled me. Rotating prayer wheels provide another clue. (Whipping and whirling in a Lake Ontario breeze.)

Let me go out on a limb and declare it to be a secluded Tibetan temple — tucked away on a side street in what was once a nice middle-class Parkdale house, and sure doesn’t look like one any more.

I passed it just now, returning to the High Doganate with some groceries. (Plums: gorgeous soft yellow plums. And blueberries, fresh from the bushes: very cheap. It is July, and Ontario’s foodlands are exploding!)

Actually, I was being coy. I know it is a Tibetan temple, from a Tibetan girl who prays there. She is a nurse in the “home” where my late mother resided: Kelsang, let us call her. There are several Kelsangs in there; and even some Tibetans with other names.

An enchanting girl: ridiculously young and pretty. Modest, soft-spoken, cheerful, attentive. Went to Saint Joseph’s, at “Ooty” (Udhagamandalam), where many Tibetan refugees had gone before her. It is in the Nilgiri Hills. (Some day I will tell you about the tea they grow there.) Speaks better English than I do. Also kinder, more intelligent, and harder working.

As an old Saint Anthony’s boy, from Lahore, I’d met girls like her before. They raised them, in considerable quantity, over the high brick wall, at the Saint Anthony’s girls’ school. You might see one if you went into the Cathedral. They were all so enchanting.

There would be no point in trying to convert Kelsang to Romanism; no point at all. She had already been taught by Catholic nuns, back in south India. They were very strict; and she adored them. She knows the Catechism inside out. She described it as her “second religion.” Catholic Christianity is “very wholesome,” she conceded. But Tibetan Buddhism “will remain my first.” Notice the modal verb.

“And your third religion?”


A quietly fanatic opponent of abortion, incidentally: “All Buddhists are opposed to murder, in that or any other form.” Also opposed to contraception, divorce, sodomy, … you name it. Says Canada is a beautiful country. “But full of crazy people, with no morals, no faith, no manners, no reason.” Fears young Tibetans are being corrupted by them.

Which takes us back to the temple:

“Do not commit any sins. Practice all the virtues. Subdue your imagination. This is what the Buddha teaches.”

We may or may not have other matters to dispute. But so far as this goes, I think the Buddha teaches correctly.