By Bill Ward
---- — Several years ago when I still owned and operated White Felt Company, I managed to be slightly involved with the Dalai Lama. It seems that one of our customers was a Buddhist, which we knew, and of the same branch of the religion as the Dalai Lama. The brother of the Dalai Lama was a professor at Indiana University and was expecting a visit from his brother. The reason for the visit was the dedication of a new Buddhist Center for IU. It seems the brother had been a professor for some years and was about to retire and he and the Dalai Lama wanted a Buddhist Center for those of that religion in the Midwest.
I had known for some time that my customer was a Buddhist and rather quirky, but never did I think I might be involved. We had sold cotton batting to the customer for several years and had made friends with her as we seemed to do with most of our customers. One day she came to the office and asked me if I could do a favor for her. She had been tapped to make a futon, pillows and other small articles for His Holiness to use while in Bloomington. Because the Dalai Lama is considered a God and the Buddhist religion, at least that which he was the head, required nothing but natural things to touch the Holy man, no man made material was accepted. This tended to cause a small problem. All of the items we used to make our cotton batting had at least 10% polyester in it. We used material that was an off fall from the Gin as well as material that fell off during the spinning of the cotton into thread.
I explained this to our customer and she again reiterated the need for nothing but natural material. I figured I probably could get something from one of the brokers we used, but it would take time. Any way in the end we came to an agreement as to what to do and what to do it with. I was told that a Buddhist priest would have to be around and check on the material used to be sure it was as stated. Well finding a Buddhist priest in Rush County was something of a problem. Finally, our customer had a couple from Bloomington come up and talk with us and check things out. I guess we made the cut as we finally received the order for the cotton.
We made the material to size per the customer’s requirements so we made two bales of cotton of the size needed for the futons and a couple bales of rolls for use in the pillows and other stuff she wanted to make. We managed to get one of our brokers to send us enough raw materials that were 100% natural cotton to make this individual more or less happy. We got the cotton processed and delivered to our friend in Bloomington. She was nervous as all get out and wanted things to be perfect. Just for interest sake, the guys in the back called her hairy arm pits which possibly will tell you a little about what we had to go through.
Any way, the Dalai Lama came to town, dedicated the center, stayed a few days with his brother and then went on about his business. I had never seen our customer as happy and serene as she was after the visit. She came up to get some material for her futon business and told us all about her visit with the Dalai Lama and his entourage. She had done as asked and prior to being used by the living God they had to be cleansed and blessed. Then they were available for His use. He used pillows on the floor to sit on so there were several of those, He also had two futons just for him one at his brothers and one reserve just in case.
After all the business religious and family was done and our friend had been able to have an audience with His Holiness, she was in 7th Heaven. She asked if it would be possible for her to have a small pillow the royal touché had sat upon as a memento of his visit and her involvement. Now it gets interesting, because the Dalai Lama had actually touched all of the things she had made for him, they had become holy and a part of His family and entourage not to be used by anyone else. Because He is a God on Earth all he touches automatically becomes so holy that no one can use it for anything. All the items he touches must be either burned to a crisp or placed behind glass in a Buddhist museum. Because of that, sorry but no way could she get even a scrap he had touched. She was crest fallen and my wife and I felt sorry for her but we both had difficulty realizing why it had to be that way. We continued to do business with her until we sold out and I have often wondered what ever became of her.
So not only was Rushville involved with the visit to Bloomington, but I guess were blessed because we had cooperated with Him and His disciple for the visit. This was just one of the many stories of my and my families 53 year involvement with Cotton Batting and numerous customers. And the fact that part of the land around our plant was involved with the only alligator ever to live in Rushville, but that is a story for another time.