Today is Vesak, or Buddha’s birthday, an anniversary traditionally celebrated by Buddhists across the Asian world. And among the celebrations around the world were several events at the UN headquarters here in New York. So this evening saw me at the opening of an exhibition or Buddhist art in the foyer of the General Assembly building. I was there to record some sound effects, to help me put a package together. It was like all the other exhibition openings I’ve ever been to – started late, a flurry of activity as the main man – in this case, the permanent rep to Sri Lanka – arrived to cut the ribbon, and then polite applause. It reminded me of the opening of the book of photos I went to in Kabul, not long after I arrived in Afghanistan.

I drifted around, looking at the pictures – remembering the huge reclining Buddha statues at Dambulla in Sri Lanka – recording the murmer of different languages, and trying to record a piece to tape - and constantly seeing the pictures and not hearing the sound - until through the exhibition boards I saw a group of Buddhist monks. In their orange robes, and with their shiny shaved heads, they were the manifestation of the spiritualism of Buddhism – until I realised the biggest one had a mobile phone pressed to his ear, chatting away, just like everyone else does in New York, but it seemed very un-Buddhist….


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