Is that a Kata in your Pocket, Mr. President, or are you just Sacred to see me?

Via Waylon Lewis
on Jan 22, 2009
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Hard to believe it’s true, but word on the Buddhist street is that President Barack Obama (oh it feels good to say that, let’s do it again) yes President Barack Hussein Obama had a ceremonial, sacred white Tibetan Buddhist scarf (“kata” or “khata”) from the Dalai Lama in his back pocket during his swearing in. Below is a new version of an email we’ve been alerted to.

From: victoria macdonald 

Sent: Thu, 22 Jan 2009 12:26 pm
Subject: Khata in Obama’s Pocket  

As many of you know from watching the Inauguration, Richard had a prime seat and a role as escort for the First Lady.  Richard sent this  email to Lodi yesterday.  
Lodi shared it with the Tibet world via the Voice of America this morning and he said I could share it as well… 
Forwarded Message From: “Richard” 
Date: Tue, 20 Jan 2009 14:40:46 -0800 
To: Lodi  
Subject: The Inauguration 
Dear Lodi: 
I hear that during the ceremony you were on the phone to Kathmandu; presumably to Norbu. You will be delighted to know that I had a Khata at my house that His Holiness had given me.   I offered it to President Obama before the ceremony.  I said that I could get it delivered to him later.  He said, no, that he was going to take it and have it with him; in fact, it was in his pocket when he was sworn-in.  Please let His Holiness know. 
I’ll talk to you soon. 
Best personal regards.


About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available.


13 Responses to “Is that a Kata in your Pocket, Mr. President, or are you just Sacred to see me?”

  1. Janet says:

    It helped (and perhaps I'm not as well-versed in political name recognition) to look up Richard C. Blum and find the first entry of the search listing him as Dianne Feinstein's husband. It was much easier to figure out how it all could have happened. Another inspiring note to an incredibly inspiring day.

    While I understand the frustration and anger all too well about George W. Bush, I think those who "Boo'ed" him and sang, "Nah, Nah, Nah, Nah, hey, hey, hey, Goodbye" as he got on the helicopter give more proof of Jarvis Masters "Angry Faces" story, (see "Finding Freedom" pp. 133-135) and Pema Chodron's warning to see it as a red flag when your self-righteousness flares up. Borrowing from one of her humorous anecdotes during a teaching, "Your shenpa is showing" you Bush Boo'ers. As she went on to say, someone will probably want to slug me for pointing it out, but in all humility shenpa tends to be my 24/7 existance, so you can say it right back to me. I'm glad the former Prez is back in Texas and we have President Obama, kata or no kata, but it's comforting to think he had it since he didn't mention Buddhists in his list of creeds, religions, and etc. (perhaps because Buddhism can be practised with any of them?) Nice one Waylon, you've got some powerful connections!



  2. admin says:

    Debra Gehrke at 11:53am January 21
    This is very cool. Thanks for sharing. Any other sources confirm this?

    David Frevola at 12:34pm January 21
    i too love the obama but i didn’t see any kata. during the speech he referred to christians, muslims, jews, hindus and the rest of us were put into the general category of “non-believers”. hey, i’m not raining on this parade. i’m feeling the love…i’m just sayin……..

    Waylon Hart Lewis at 12:46pm January 21
    thanks, y’all–but please comment on the site link itself, so others can see! And yah, David, I guess it’s a complement to be among the non-believers, we are non-theistic after all…still, we gotta throw enough weight around that we get direct shout-outs!

  3. […] today, elephant journal reported that Obama was keeping a prayer shawl from the Dalai Lama in his pocked at his […]

  4. sj* says:

    yay for the kata. and yay for obama’s pocket no yay for lack of mention of Buddhists. and double no yay for being sworn in with his hand on a bible and for all the Christian practices connected with the people’s representative body- or government. i am really pushing for a true separation of church and state. not just lip service.

  5. Mister Khampa says:

    I have to wonder why Obama would have gone to the trouble of carrying a buddhist ceremonial item in his pocket for this event and then not include Buddhists when he listed the world’s religions in his address.

    As a Buddhist, I find these kind of rumors embarrassing. It comes off as another attempt by Buddhists to inject or associate themselves with a powerful event they basically had no ordinary connection with. It makes the sangha look foolish and hurts our credibility.

  6. admin says:

    Amen, Mister Khampa, I find it hard to believe…that said I took no offense that we weren’t mentioned, as you yourself said we play almost no active role in politics, for better and worse. We are non-believers, however, non-theistic at least…so we got a (very) indirect shoutout.

  7. Mister Khampa says:

    Lumping hindus and christians together as "believers" might make sense to buddhists but makes no sense at all to christians — I promise you. Hindus are pagans and, as such, are non-believers from a christian point of view. From a jewish and muslim point of view, buddhists are idolators (as well as hindus and catholics). The only folks who believe in the togetherness of all these groups are probably universalist unitarians, god bless their sweet hearts.

  8. Mister Khampa says:

    I just googled this story again and I’m disturbed to find it listed on various Shambhala sites. Are we moonies or what? Yeah, wow, like we are so excited about any rumor that might show we’re on the right side. What happened to hard-headed-no-spiritual-materialism approach — buddhadharma without credentials. If we’re going to be a beacon to the world we better stopped acting like this.

  9. Julie B says:

    My understanding is that there was a request to hold the information closely, if indeed it was true. Yes, it was posted to Sangha-announce (not the best way to hold information closely, admittedly).

    Why couldn’t that be honored?
    There were more reasons not to repeat it on a public blog than there were to repeat, AFAIK.

  10. Dear Julie B,

    It was actually given permission from the friend, this post you’ll find is entirely separate in terms of source from Melissa’s sangha-announce post. Thanks for your concern, however, it’s important to be confidential when asked.



  11. Mister Khampa says:

    Once an email goes out to more than one person there’s really no way to keep it confidential — that’s just reality. I’m not coming from a moral or judgmental place on that. That’s just the way it is. It would be like sending a postcard (not sure people under 40 know what I’m talking about here) to several people with a note at the bottom asking them not to keep the information confidential.

  12. Mister Khampa says:

    p.s. the word “not” shouldn’t be in the last sentence of my last post.

    p.p.s. — the someone would send an email to sangha-announce and ask that it be kept “close” is like posting a flyer on a public kiosk and asking the same. Do people really believe that sangha-announce represents some sort of “close” sangha? Anyone can get on sangha-announce and there are a number of recipients to it that are hostile to the Shambhala sangha.

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