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#3586 - Tuesday, July 7, 2009 - Editor: Jerry Katz  

The Nonduality Highlights - The first periodical publication on nonduality - Submissions welcome    

On December 7, 2004, Highlights #1996 was devoted to dance. Three of the articles in that long issue included writer, film and Broadway actor, and monologist Spalding Gray.  

The third article in the series on Gray was recently revised and the author, Neda Pourang, sent me the revision, which is included here. The story is part of an anthology, 'Lost and Found: Stories of New York', edited by Tom Beller.  

Pourang sent me the revised story three months ago. I should have published it right away but I must have gotten distracted. I apologize for that. The story was "lost" and now it has been found.  

Here it is, following the first two articles that bring you Spalding Gray. Thank you, Neda.  

-Jerry Katz  

PS. Also, when Neda sent me the revised story she told me some of the story behind the revision. I accept her sharing as something I have in common with Spalding Gray and a green Honda: a spin with Neda Pourang.


Spalding Gray dances with The Dalai Lama [Accessed December 7, 2004. No longer available.]


Inside Out
The Dalai Lama interviewed by Spalding Gray.

Reprinted from the Fall 1991 issue of Tricycle: The Buddhist Review (premier issue).

Tenzin Gyatso, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, is the spiritual and temporal leader of the Tibetan people and the 1989 Nobel Peace Laureate. Born to a peasant family in 1935, in the northeastern province of Amdo, His Holiness was recognized at the age to two, in accordance with Tibetan tradition, as the reincarnation of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama, and a manifestation of Avalokitesvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion.

Spalding Gray, born in Rhode Island in 1941, calls himself a writer and performer who has been “circling my meditation cushion for almost twenty years.” His best-known performance is the stage and film version of his monologue, Swimming to Cambodia.

The paths of the revered Buddhist leader and the avant-garde performer crossed in a hotel suite at the Fess Parker Red Lion Inn in Santa Barbara, California, on April 8, 1991.

Spalding Gray: We’ve both been traveling these last weeks and the most difficult thing that I find on the road is adjusting to each location, each different hotel. I have a tendency to want to drink the alcohol, which, as you said in an earlier interview, is the other way of coping with despair and confusion. Just what are some of your centering rituals and your habits when you come into a new hotel?

The Dalai Lama: I always first inquire to see “what is there.” Curiosity. What I can discover that is interesting or new. Then, I take a bath. And then I usually sit on the bed, crosslegged, and meditate. And sometimes sleep, lie down. One thing I myself noticed is the time-zone change. Although you change your clock time, your biological time still has to follow a certain pattern. But now I find that once I change the clock time, I’m tuned to the new time zone. When my watch says it’s eight o’clock in the evening, I feel sort of sleepy and need to retire and when it says four in the morning I wake up.

Spalding Gray: But you have to be looking at your clock all the time.

The Dalai Lama: That’s right (laughs).

Spalding Gray: Did you do a meditation this morning?

The Dalai Lama: First I take a bath, then I sit on that bed (in the other room) crosslegged.

Spalding Gray: And when you go into the meditation, is it similar every morning?

The Dalai Lama: Similar, yes.

Spalding Gray: And can you tell me a little bit about what it’s like?

The Dalai Lama: (sigh, laugh) Mmmmmm…The first portion is the recitation of a mantra. There are certain mantras aimed at consecrating your speech, so that all your speech throughout the day will be positive. These recitations should be made before speaking. I observe silence until they are finished and if anyone approaches me, I always communicate in sign language. Then I try to develop a certain motivation, or determination, that as a Buddhist monk, until my Buddhahood, until I reach Buddhahood, my life, my lives, including future lives, should be correct, and spent according to that basic goal. And that all my activities should be beneficial to others and should not harm others.

Spalding Gray: How long does that take?

The Dalai Lama: Some ten, fifteen minutes. And then I do a deeper mediation where I mentally review the entire stages of the path of Buddhist practice. And then I do some practices aimed at accumulating merits, like prostrations, making offerings to the Buddhas, reflecting on the qualities of the Buddha.

Spalding Gray: Is there a special visualization going on?

The Dalai Lama: Oh, yes. Along with these are some cases of visualization. We call this guru yoga. The first part of guru yoga means dedicating yourself and your practice to one’s own teacher. The second part is deity yoga, transforming oneself into a particular deity. Deity yoga refers to a meditative process whereby you dissolve your own ordinary self into a sort of void and emptiness. From this state your inner “perfected state” potential is visualized or imagined as being generated into a divine form, a meditation deity. You follow a procedure known as the meditation of the three kayas—dharmakaya, sambhogakaya, and nirmanakaya. These correspond to the experience of natural death, the intermediate state, and rebirth as described in the Buddhist literature. With each different deity, there is a different mandala in my daily prayer. All together there are about seven different mandalas involved. These deity yogas, they involve visualization of mandalas. That takes two hours.

Spalding Gray: You can see the deity very clearly in your mind with your eyes closed?

The Dalai Lama: Sometimes very clear, sometimes not clear (laughs). My physical condition makes a difference, I think. It also depends on the amount of time that I have. If I feel that all my prayers must be completed before eight, then it affects my awareness. If I have a whole morning free, then my concentration increases.

Spalding Gray: Do you ever entertain the distractions, invite them into your meditation and let all of these women in bikini bathing suits that you must see here out by the pool come into your meditation?

The Dalai Lama: As a monk, I have to avoid that experience, even in my dreams, due to daily practice. Sometimes in my dreams there are women. And in some cases fighting or quarreling with someone. When such dreams happen, immediately I remember, “I am a monk.” So that is one reason I usually call myself a simple Buddhist monk. That’s why I never feel “I am the Dalai Lama.” I only feel “I am a monk.” I should not indulge, even in dreams, in women with a seductive appearance. Immediately I realize I’m a monk.

Spalding Gray: One Western writer called Ernest Becker, who wrote The Denial of Death, said “We don’t know anything beyond it. We must bow down to that mystery because there is no way of knowing what is coming next,” and the thing that has always confused me and interested me about Tibetan Buddhism is the extremely complex system of knowledge about after-death states and reincarnation.

The Dalai Lama: The most subtle consciousness is like a seed and it is a different variety of consciousness than the consciousness developed by a physical being. A plant cannot produce cognitive power. But in every human being, or sentient beings with certain conditions, cognitive power develops. We consider the continuity of the consciousness to be the ultimate seed. Then once you understand this explanation, subtle consciousness departs from grosser consciousness. Or we say the grosser dissolves into the most subtle mind.

There are some cases, very authentic, very clear, where people recall their past lives, especially with very young people. Some children can recall their pas experience. I do not have any sort of strong or explicit doubts as to this possibility. But since phenomenon such as after-death experiences, intermediate states and so forth, are things that are beyond our direct experience, it does leave some slight room for hesitation. For many years in my daily practice, I have prepared for a natural death. So there is a kind of excitement at the idea that real death is coming to me and I can live the actual experiences. A lot of my meditations are rehearsals for this experience.

Spalding Gray: Do you have one predominant fear that you often struggle with, the thing you fear the most?

The Dalai Lama: No, nothing in particular.

Spalding Gray: You are feeling not fearful?

The Dalai Lama: Because of the political situation, sometimes I have fears of being caught in a kind of terrorist experience. Although, as far as my motivation is concerned, I feel I have no enemy. From my own viewpoint, we are all human beings, brothers and sisters. But I am involved in a national struggle. Some people consider me the key troublemaker. So that is also a reality (pause). Otherwise, comparatively, my mental state is quite calm, quite stable.

Spalding Gray: How do you avoid accidents?

The Dalai Lama: (laughs) Just as ordinary people do, I try to be more cautious. One thing I can be certain of is that I won’t have an accident because of being drunk or being stoned on drugs.

Spalding Gray: But you are flying a lot and the pilots are drinking. That’s what I’m always afraid of. I’ve always said I would never fly on a plane where the pilot believes in reincarnation. When you get on a plane to fly, do you have to work with your fears?

The Dalai Lama: I used to have a lot of fear when flying. Now I am getting used to it. But when I get very afraid or anxious, then yes, as you mentioned, I recite some prayers or some mantra and also, you see, the final conclusion is the belief in karma. If I created some karma to have a certain kind of death, I cannot avoid that. Although I try my best, if something happens, I have to accept it. It is possible that I have no such karmic force, then even if the plane crashes, I may survive.

Spalding Gray: You walk out.

The Dalai Lama: Yes. So that belief, also you see, is very helpful. Very effective. [Accessed December 7, 2004. No longer available.]


Spalding Gray found dead
Body of writer, actor found in East River

From Jonathan Wald and Annie Castellani
Tuesday, March 9, 2004 Posted: 1315 GMT (2115 HKT)

NEW YORK (CNN) -- A body pulled from the East River at 3
Sunday was that of actor-writer Spalding Gray, who had
been missing since January 10, the New York City medical
examiner's office said Monday afternoon.


The body was identified after an autopsy through dental and
other X-rays, said Ellen Borakove, the medical examiner's
spokeswoman. She said the cause of death is under


The only identifiable evidence on the body was a pair of
black corduroy pants similar to the pair Gray was wearing
on the night of his disappearance, she said.


Gray, 62, was known for writing and starring in the
autobiographical "Swimming to Cambodia" and appearances in
films such as "The Killing Fields," "Beaches," "The Paper"
and "Kate & Leopold," but was most celebrated for his
autobiographical monologues, including "Cambodia," "Monster
in a Box" and "It's a Slippery Slope."


He had attempted suicide several times since a car accident
in Ireland in June 2001 in which he sustained severe
injuries. Family friend and spokeswoman Sara Vass said in
January that he had never been the same since that crash
and had subsequently received treatment at psychiatric


In September 2003 Gray left a message at his Soho apartment
in Manhattan saying goodbye to his wife, Kathie Russo, and
telling her he planned to jump from the Staten Island Ferry
that day. Russo called police, who notified authorities on
the ferry. A despondent Gray was found sitting on the ferry
and was escorted off the boat.


Russo and Gray's therapist thought he had been making
progress since then and that he was through the worst of
his depression.


His wife had held out hope he was alive during his
disappearance, she told The Associated Press.


"Everyone that looks like him from behind, I go up and
check to make sure it's not him," Russo said in a phone
interview with the AP about a week ago. "If someone calls
and hangs up, I always do star-69. You're always thinking,
'maybe.' "


Telling stories


Gray was sui generis: He looked like an Ivy
League professor and spoke with a New England accent, but
spent years in the often avant-garde downtown New York
theater scene and created a painfully confessional style in
which the stage practically became a therapist's office.


He performed sitting down, usually with only a desk, chair
and glass of water for company.


"This man may be the ultimate WASP neurotic, analyzing his
actions with an intensity that would be unpleasantly
egomaniacal if it weren't so self-deprecatingly funny,"
Associated Press Drama Critic Michael Kuchwara wrote in
1996. "He questions everything and ends up more exhausted
than satisfied."


Gray's monologues included "Cambodia," about his
experiences in a bit part in the movie "The Killing
Fields"; "Gray's Anatomy," about his struggles with a
serious eye problem; and "Monster in a Box," about an
endlessly growing semi-autobiographical novel concerning
his mother's suicide.


He appeared in a handful of Broadway productions, most
notably the 1989 Tony Award-winning revival of "Our Town"
and the 2000 revival of Gore Vidal's "The Best Man."


His 38 films include "Beaches," "Straight Talk" and "King
of the Hill."



A Dance With Spalding Gray

by Neda Pourang

When I was in college, I spent an entire night dancing at the Palladium in New York City with Spalding Gray. We danced and danced to every song- danceable or not. I didn't know who he was but my friends did and he was a very cool older man who seemed to still like the things I'd assumed you stopped liking when you turned gray.

I had been in a fashion show at the Palladium that night and I still had on my long white Mary McFaddon dress while bopping around to Madonna's "Express Yourself." My friends and I were new to the city and looking back it seems perfect that Spalding Gray was one of the first ambassadors to guide us into the mysteries of New York. He treated me like a grown up and was a perfect gentleman. More than anything, he reminded me of the shy art majors I was at NYU with. At the end of the night, my girlfriends and I walked him home before heading back to our apartment on Second Avenue -- the first of many apartments during my time in New York.

That old apartment is gone -- burned down. The Palladium is now NYU dorms.. All that thumping house and lit staircases -- razed to house the students who were babies or not even born when the dance hall was king. And this week I know for sure that Mr. Spalding Gray is gone too.

Years later I saw and read his work and wished I'd asked him clever questions when we met instead of just jumping up and down to George Michael.

I'm gone too. Over a decade of parties, boyfriends, school and false career starts awaited me in New York after we left Mr. Gray at his home. I am not anywhere close to being the un-jaded newcomer that I was.

I have left. I drive a green Honda in Los Angeles traffic and think about my own brief but unforgettable experience with depression. I didn't know what it was or how many pills there would be for it back when I was spinning around in my white gown with Mr. Gray.

And I didn't know that not everyone could simply take up jogging, fall in love and grow out of the depression like I did.. I didn't know that some people stayed trapped in the grief, no matter how good their lives got around them.

I always assumed I'd run into him again. New York is like that -- you don't worry so much about exchanging information because you live by the city's serendipity. But I never did, and for a long time, I forgot all about it. Now I feel a loss I don't really have the right to because it is not sadness for the tragic death of a talented man -- a good man -- I feel. It is more about the loss of everything that changes and passes. From legendary clubs, to my own unaccounted-for twenties. And then there is my feeling that I didn't so much leave New York as get spat out by it. Anyway, I danced one night in the nineties in New York City with Mr. Spalding Gray and he never got tired or missed a beat.

From 'Lost and Found: Stories of New York'  edited by Tom Beller. The book may be pre-ordered on

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