My thoughts and activities in Dharamsala

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Om ah ra pa tsa na dhi dhi dhi........

The Mantra of Manjurshee. The Bodhisattva of Infinite Wisdom. My students in the conversation class told me that if I chant his mantra "Om ah ra pa tsa na dhi" and repeat the dhi until I run out of breath, my Tibetan will become fast and clear. Now, I do not know about the actual power of this mantra, but it definitely give the mouth quite a exercise. I have decided that I will give the mantra a try. It sure won't hurt and even if my Tibetan doesn't improve cause of it or I don't gain any of Manjurshee/ Jampel Yang's wisdom, I will be giving my tongue a good exercise. Last Sunday I took the hike up to the Tibetan Children's Village (TCV). I think all or most of McLeod Ganj was in attendance including the beggars. I got there around 8 am and could not find anywhere to sit. I eventually found my landlady and sat by her. I had a pretty horrible spot for I had a tree in front of me. But I did get to see many of the tradition Tibetan performances, including a Western Woman doing a Tibetan dance traditionally reserved for men. She did a excellent job, and I could hear throughtout the crowd their amazement that it was a Western woman. I eventually moved from my crappy spot to a small roof that was on the other side of the TCV track field. I got a better view of the show and His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Karmapa. For me the shows are very interesting, but for many they have seen the same or similar performances for years. At lunch time I went to the nearby Dal Lake to eat some food that I had just purchased. My friend Wangyal was telling me that there is a myth about the lake. Many believe the lake was created by the urine of Lord Shiva. Thus the lake is holy to Hindus who come to the lake to take a dip in its glorious waters. There are more than one Dal lake in the Himalayan region each formed by a different action of Lord Shiva. If this Dal Lake is Shiva's urine, I am not sure I want to know what the other lakes are made of. The rest of the day at TCV was a delight. We went to the TCV temple and I circumambulated around it turning prayer wheels as I walked. We could see all the performances from above the basketball court. Eventually I went down to the court to get a closer view. While I was there I got to see HH the Karmapa walking about 50 feet behind me. I was watching the performance until all of a sudden I hear people murmuring "Rinpoche, Rinpoche!!!" Then the next second there he was the 17th Karmapa head lama of the Karma Kagyu. He is only 20-21 years old and quite handsome. I have heard some American girls who have a bit of a crush on the young lama. Anyways I have been wanted to see him and so I did. Things are going fine at MEC so far. Lakha Rinpoche gave a speech to the whole school on Thursday, and the school is implementing some changes. I am working more in the office because a more experienced volunteer has arrived and is teaching the beginners. I still have the conversation class which I enjoy the most. I am now tutoring Dorje Rinchen aka Dorje Momo every evening which is going good. I will go watch a Tibetan film called "Dreaming Lhasa" tonight at TIPA. I have seen only one other Tibetan film called "Samsara" which was quite good, but I had some issues with that film. One can see many newly released American film here but they are ripped from the Internet or bootlegged and I don't want to pay money to sit in a theater to watch bootlegs. I will get my fill when I go back to the states. I hope that everyone has a great Halloween. The Hindu festival of Diwali is around the corner, but being here in McLeod Ganj I don't think I will see the full effect of this holy day.


Sunday, October 23, 2005

Rocking Dharamsala

Last night, I went to a rock benefit concert at TIPA. The concert was for AIDS/ HIV and drug abuse awareness. The pitch was "turn off the drugs, turn on the music". The band was from Delhi and their name was "Basement Blues". It was held by joint collaboration of Students for Free Tibet Dhasa Chapter and Kunphen. Kunphen is a NGO the works on drug abuse and HIV/AIDS issues in the Tibetan exile community. My friend Tenzin Wangyal, who is a relative of Berea's own rocking Tibetan female Tenzin Khandoe, told me about this event. He was involved in the organization with SFT. I can definitely say that I had a good time, and also a lot of amusing laughs. As folks walked into the TIPA quad, you were given a packet with two condoms. Since I have been here, I have not seen a convenient place to purchase such items. What I taught was condoms wrappers hanging in every store in India, turns out to be dipping tobacco. Anyways, my feeling was that sexuality is a taboo issue like it is everywhere else, but more so here. Incidentally as the night progressed many of those condoms that had been given to us were turned into nice playful balloons with which we could bounce it to each other. My farovite, was when one of these balloons had fell to the floor. Anxiously waiting was a eight or nine year girl who dashed for that balloon. She had such a big smile on her face for the great treasure that she had scored. I figured that most to the "rubbers" ended as balloons. I totally got a kick out of it. There was some monks that this event and I was wondering if it was them that had first made their "jimmy hats" into balloons, since they can't use them anyways. The band was alright, though I had some issues with the set list, they had to repeat some songs. The sound needed some work, like the singer was louder than the rest of the band and he hit some way off notes. But the band was good, the guitarist had some rocking solos. I taught also that they should of let the drummer kick a beat for a minute to get the crown into it. But as some of you know I have a soft spot for drums. Their set list ranged from Tom Petty, Aerosmith, Nirvana to Limp Bizkit. Kevin and Tomer (Two MEC volunteers) and I were cheering for the band to play "Freebird" but that did not manifest. I might see Tenzin Wangyal tonight, I have hung out with him and he is a cool guy and tons of fun. At Tibet Charity, this pass Wednesday we had a meeting with the chairman and his wife. The Venerable Lama Lakha Rinpoce is the chairman. He is a high gelukpa lama from the Kham province of Tibet. He had left Tibet two days after HHDL had escaped in 1959 and has been highly involved with the exiled government. He moved to Denmark where he founded Tibet Charity. Tibet Charity has many projects spanning all over the Tibetan settlements in India and Nepal. From education to business programs. They have one program where they have Danish business outsourcing to the Tibetan settlements. Also, they have tailoring and computer processing programs. The Multi-education Centre, had just recently been added to Tibet Charity. Before it was running itself with its own funds. Which the addition of MEC to TC, there have been many changes that needed to happen. This was why all the volunteers and staff had a meeting. TC had just printing some language books for the school, but since this is the middle of the semester we have not used them as of yet. Also we have been having problems with students just going to which ever class they please and we have no guidelines as far as what the progression of the students should be. So those issues we had commence to hashout. We still have a long way to go, but I think it will be beneficial. There has also been some controversy regarding students paying Rs.500 to attend MEC. The volunteers were under the impression that all the students attend here for free. So, we have been quite confused regarding what some of the students had been saying. Some volunteers think that the director of MEC is pocketing some money. Now, I am hoping that this is not the case, and that the implementation of what we discussed on Wednesday will take hold. I have been very disappointed to hear such allegations, for it because of this place that I was sponsored to come here. You folks back in the USA are directly responsible for me being here, thinking at I am doing good work with a good place. So the effects, if the director is truly pocketing some money is far-reaching. But so far I give them the benefit of the doubt, for I have seen no solid evidence that the director of MEC is doing such things. Plus it doesn't make any sense, if the students are paying then why do we have such poor attendance? But we are talking about having a deposit that will be fully refunded as along as the students keeps up with his or her attendance. This makes sense to me, and I think it will help with the attendance. Since MEC has been under TC it has not held Tibetan, Chinese or Hindi classes, but they will start a computer processing class. The other classes needed paid teachers, since MEC is not going to find a Tibetan or a Indian who has enough money or time to volunteer, so these classes are on standby. As for us volunteers, they have either been sponsored like me, or saved up from summer work earnings. At least that insures that the volunteers are serious and dependable. Many good things came out of that meeting and I hope that serious progress will happen. I am here for awhile so I will have to play apart in this. Lama Lakha Rinpoche had just recently visited Kham for the first time in twelve years. His is the Head Lama of certain areas in Kham so when he arrived there, many flocked to receive blessings from him. I mean in the thousands. His wife said he was giving blessing for up to twelve hours a day. Many of the folks who came for blessings had impetigo all over their hands and he saw thousands of them. The next day he had came into the afternoon conversation class and immediately a lady had stoodup and bowed really low and he blessed her by placing his hand on her hand. It was a intense moment for I have never experience such actions before. He was really nice and I talked to him like I do to anybody else. This week I also got a second glimpse of HHDL, a virtual repetition of my first glimpse, except that it was after my morning beginners class. HHDL had been south to the other Tibetan settlements and was returning to McLeod Ganj. Tomorrow is the anniversary of the Tibetan Children Village, and HHDL is expected to be in attedance. I am planning on attending. One more story I would like to relate. A few days ago I was talking to a student. His name is Dorje Rinchen, but we call him Dorje Momo because his wife sells momos (Tibetan stuffed steamed dumplings) on the Jogibara Rd. Dorje is about 24-25 years old. I talk with him everyday because after class I go to the TC lobby and study Tibetan until lunch time. Dorje also eats lunch at TC. Usually I help him fix some sentence that he is working on. So he told me his story of how he escaped Tibet. Three years ago, he and eleven other Tibetans were up in the mountains about to cross the Tibetan-Nepal border. They had a map but for some reason they had loss their way. All of a sudden the Chinese border guards had found them and they all started running. Ten of the twelve had been caught. Dorje Momo and another girl had avoided been caught by blindly jumping off a cliff. Dorje told me that he did not know how high the cliff was but he had no choice. He showed me a huge scar on his right arm from the fall. He and the other girl had hidden under rock as they heard gunshots for about two minutes. After they realized that the border guards were not chasing them they continued walking. For nine days they walked, all they had was water. Dorje was from Amdo province and the girl was from Kham province so they could not even communicate with each other, but all they had was each other. Eventually, they ran into some French mountain climbers who were climbing Mt Everest or Chomolangma as the Tibetans call it. These French mountain climbers totally hooked Dorje and the girl up with clean clothes, a shower and money. They also took them to the Tibetan refugee reception center in Katmandu. After that Dorje and the girl came to McLeod Ganj, and got married. They have a very cute baby. They have both learned U-Tsang dialect so they can talk to each other. I thanked Dorje Momo for telling me his story, for he told it from the heart. Some times some Tibetans tell their story to receive some sympathy or to pick up Western girls, but others tell their story with complete humility and it is those stories that touch me the most. Regardless of whether I think the Chinese had any right to invade/ peacefully liberate Tibet or not, such human stories are experienced everyday. And also the romantic element of Dorje's story touched me. He married the girl that he had escaped with, though when they first met they were total strangers, they were locked into each other for the sake of surival. Such an experience with a mate has to create a strong loving bond that is hard to find. For in their situation the other knows the other's capacity to love and has seen each other in the worst of times. I hope that I am not boring you to death with my rantings. That is it from me, as I sit in Nyimon's internet cafe in front a window with a great view of a high mountain peak with the setting sun shining on to it.


Saturday, October 15, 2005

I feel the earth move under my feet, I feel the sky.....

Last Saturday a very catastrophic event happened. As many of you know from the news a huge earthquake happened in Northern India and its presence was definitely known here in McLeod Ganj. That morning I had just finished my morning meditation, so I was still sitting in posture on my bed. It had not been 2 minutes after my meditation that I felt my apartment building sway like a blade of grass in the wind. I heard some folks outside my window yelling something. It lasted for about 2 minutes and then it was over, so I did not think too much of it. I know that this area is earthquake prone so I went about my business, not knowing that in Kashmir the earthquake had devastated the area. That is all that I hear on the news now. It is such a sad event. This week has been interesting. I mentioned last week that I might attend that Miss Tibet pageant, but I ended up going to a party for people from the Amdo region of Tibet. There are three main regions in Tibet, Amdo, Kham and U-Tsang. Each one of these regions have there own dialects that are very different from each other. So much so that a person from Lhasa cannot understand a person from Amdo. The dialect that I am learning is U-Tsang dialect and most people use that dialect here. What ends up happening is that I learn many different pronounciations for the same words from Tibetans from the different regions. I think that McLeod with eventually develop its own dialect, McLeod Kay, or the McLeod dialect, due to the combination of Tibetan dialects,Hebrew, English and Hindi. So anyways, back to the Amdo party. There were tons of people there, many wearing traditional Amdo clothing. It was quite a site. For the most part, there was a lot of singing in the Amdo dialect, and this went on for hours.Then at one point a singing debate broke out between a man and women. It was kind of a Amdo version of a freestyle rap battle, but in Amdo dialect. This went on for another hour. The singing was absolutely beautiful and I could tell when one of the debaters had a good insult towards the other because the crowd would burst out with laughter. There was a guy behind translating the debate into U-Tsang dialect, so I deduced that they were debating over romantic matters, on how a man should treat a woman, etc.The lady had won the debate/battle since she was awarded several silk kataks and some money. The battle was abruptly ended by the lights going out, which is quite common in McLeod Ganj. Once the power came back Hip Hop and Hard House music was played for the rest of the night. Many people got up and started dancing. I of course, placed my "two cents" on the dance floor with some odds stares to go along with it. The party was broken up by 7 Indian police officers around 11:30pm, as far as Miss Tibet went, I was not to sad that I missed out. Several days later, I was talking to a student who told me that folks were angry at the show because it was advertised that there were eight contestants. The pageant was 150 rupees, which is no small change in India. When the people saw only one girl, they were supposedly very pissed. My student told me that he lives on top of a Japanese restaurant called Lungta. He heard some guys screaming outside his window, so he went to investigate. What was happening was that the crowned Miss Tibet was eating dinner at the restaurant and the guys were making fun of her for lack of competition. OK, moving on. Last Sunday I was forunate to visit the Tibetan Childern's Village and have lunch with the director. The Director is the father of Berea's very own Tenzin Nangkyi. (Thanks Nangkyi la!!!!). Tsewang Yeshi was such a educated man and we had a great time talking about religion and politics. Tsering La, the great wife is president of the Tibetan Women Association and is very busy, so I was very appreciative of them taking time from their busy schedule's to have me over for lunch. TCV is a bit aways of McLeod Ganj and is quite large. It is truly a village in every sense of the word. As a left Tsewang and Tsering La's place was nearly attacked by a gang of 5 years olds. I did some pseudo-kung fu moves to scare them away. That day it had also hailed pretty hard, so the temperature had dropped ever since. All the high mountains are snowed capped now, meaning that I will be watching that snowline slowly approach McLeod Ganj as it gets colder. Life at Tibet Charity is good, my co-teacher Sarah has gone on a ten-retreat at the Tushita meditation centre in Dharamkot, just above McLeod Ganj. She knows nothing about Buddhism or meditation. Her and her boyfriend Clayton are a bit nervous about the whole thing. I think it is mostly from the eccentric westerners that tend to attend such events. I think that they well do just fine, and I do admire them for just immersing themselves in Dharma with no previous knowledge. So with Sarah gone that means that I have been teaching alone. It has gone well, though I broke the classroom clock as I was erasing the board. I was having the students draw their families trees on the board. As I was erasing one of them and the clock fell from on top the board and shattered. It at least provided a break from the lesson. One day was walking up the steep Jogiwara Rd on my way to meet my new Tibetan tutor Pema. As I was walking up the hill, I see a tall blonde woman walking towards me. I thought nothing of it, until she stops and asks me if I am Wendell. I was shocked for I have never seen this woman before, thus I was wondering how she knew who I was. It turns out that she is friends with B.C. alumnus Kalden Sakya, who now lives in Dehradun. Kalden la had given her some parcels for me, but little information, beside the fact that I was black and the phone number for T.C. The woman told me that she has not seen many black men in McLeod Ganj so she deduced that I must be the guy Kalden was talking about. I was thinking, my goodness, it pays to be a black man in India!!! So we made plans to meet at a Tibetan restaurant the next evening. Her name in Julia and she is from Russia. She has been studying Tibetan language for four years and lives in McLeod Ganj. She goes to Dehradun frequently 'cause the Sakya lama resides there. She had been all over India to other Tibetan colonies in South India, and has been to Tibet. I told her that she now serves as my motivation because I have just started learning Tibetan. She told that due to all the tourist it is a bit harder to pick up Tibetan cause everyone wants to talk in English. Pema my tutor told me that I can write and read well in Tibetan but I need to talk, that when folk talk to me in English I should respond in Tibetan. Julia said that Pema gave me good advice, so I am trying. I guess I have improved since I got here, but I think I would be further along if no one spoke English here. I spoke with Julia for awhile, we then traded emails and I thanked her for being Kalden la's postal person. I hope to in the future to visit Kalden in Dehradun. Well I have been typing for a while so I think this entry is over. I hope you are enjoying this where ever you are.


Sunday, October 09, 2005

Movie stars and kung fu master

Since I have been in McLeod Ganj, I have gotten to hear about the numerous movie stars that have visited. Some of the stars have been a bit of a surprise to me. From the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Goldie Hawn who don't seem like harden Buddhist, to Lama Steven Seagal Rinpoche (recognized as a tulku by Penor Rinpoche himself) and Richard Gere. Richard Gere has seem to have a huge influence in the community, from setting up garbage/ recycling system to funding with the upkeep of Temple Rd, which leads to Tsuklhakhang. Thought they should change the name to Gere Rd. I have continuously heard the praises of what Richard Gere has done for the community. This is interesting to me, because in the US I know nothing about the guy, but here people are surprised when I have a neutral reaction when I hear his name. Now I can say I am glad to see a rich person using some of their hard earned wealth in good service. Right now, the Kung fu superstar Jet Li is in town, he is a die-hard Buddhist and has received teachings from H.H the Dalai Lama and H.H. the Karmapa. Now with Jet Li, I like him because he can kick some serious tush!!!. My ears popped up more to hearing Jet Li's name over Richard Gere's. Maybe if Mr. Gere did some bad ass kung fu I would have the same feeling toward him. But Kung fu masters will always have a place in my heart for the hard earned years of discipline to kick butt. Enough!!! Not sure where I was going with that thought anyways. This week at Tibet Charity, Sarah and I have been having a great time with the students. We have trying to use a more interactive methods with the students. For the most part they can write all day long, but when it comes down to saying something, it doesn't fly. And in class the students will speak Tibetan amongst each other. So we have been enforcing a no Tibetan rule in our class, so at least in that way they try some English. We had them try to construct sentences out of pictures that Sarah will draw on the board, or vice-versa give them a sentence and then they draw it on the board. This has not been perfect, like yesterday we have been teaching them about body types, chubby, thin, short, petite, etc. So we gave a student a sentence that went something like this "Sally is thin and has long hair". The poor student just laughed the whole time, she could bearly get the marker to touch the board. I tried to help her out, but she was too beside herself. We went with a another student, and he drew the picture of the sentence we had given him, but the drawing was something that made the entire classroom burst out laughing. With having the students attempt to construct their own sentences or draw pictures, we then to have a lot of fun at least, and I hope they learn something too. On other things, three days ago I had some free time, so I decided to sit on a Buddhist Philosophy teaching at the Library of Tibetan Works and Archive. The course is based on a Tibetan/ English translation of a Sanskrit text called "Nagarjuna's Letter to a friend". Nagarjuna is the main or first voice of the Madhyamaka school of Indian Buddhism, the school of the middle path. The Lama who was giving the teachings was very articulate in his commentary on the text. This text is basically used for beginners course in Buddhism for it outline the basics, focusing mostly on desire for worldly things and the consequence of having desires namely suffering. Suffering and desire keep us forever trapped in cyclic existence (samsara) and keeps us from following a spiritual life. I pretty much came in a few days after the teachings had started. I think that the Lama will elaborate on the text for about a month. The classes are pretty big and the room is small. Due the time of the teaching I will not be able to go. I think that I will need to dedicate some serious time to going to teachings regularly for me to learn anything substantial. Last night, I attended a multicultural show presented by the Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC). It was quite a site, it was held in the auditorium of the Tibetan Institute of the Performing Arts (TIPA). Most of the songs were sung karaoke style, in Hindi, Tibetan and Ladakhi. There was a Hindi, English, and Ladakhi dance routine to canned music. Most of the time the sound system would fail due to the overdose of electricity the sound person was giving the speakers. At these moments the crowd would scream Tibetan swear words at the singers. My favorite was a traditional Tibetan dance with about 10 guys and girls playing the dramnyen (Tibetan lute). The men did rhythmic stomping as they sung and played the dramnyen. I was quite impressed. Overall the show was good, and I had a good time. Tonight is the Miss Tibet pageant, with only one contestant. I have heard about the pageant for sometime, and I have been asking some of the female students at Tibet Charity to entire the pageant. I told them that, "you have to give that single contestant some competition, you can't just sit a watch someone win $2300 dollars for doing nothing, I know you girls are broke, so atleast make that lone contestant work for the money". But these girls are very shy, LOL. It is bound to be interesting, at least the crowd will have something to say. Khale Shu, Later Punks!!!


Monday, October 03, 2005

Endless Knot

The Patra symbolizes perfection, fullness and the glory of the five wisdoms. It is sometimes referred to as the "knot of eternity", and is associated with the concept of tendrel, meaning
"interdependence". This is one of the fundamental notions of Buddhism in general, insofar as all phenomena are regarded as being interdependent and linked to causes and conditions.
(The Manual of Standard Tibetan, Nicolas Tournadre and Sangda Dorje).

The reason I placed this symbol here is because you cannot walk anywhere in McLeod Ganj without seeing this symbol. It is seen in most window frames of homes, offices, classrooms, restaurants, and temples. In my own apartment, there are about 12 of these knots all across my window. In many of the speeches given by the H.H. the Dalai Lama, almost always it will come down to interdependence. With everything connected, if you harm one thing you harm yourself. As I have been here I have been unable to study Buddhism directly due to my responsibilities at Tibet Charity, but I have made visual observations. When I first arrived here I noticed that many individual families will have rituals performed in there homes. The sounds of cymbals, drums and prayers can heard daily as one walks around. When I was staying with Dolma, every mornig I would hear her reciting prayers to the bronze deities that she had in a altar, to a picture of H.H. the Dalai Lama, and a thangka (really nice religious wall hanging of a deity or lama) of the medicine Buddha. I spoke to her one day about it, and she told me that her prayers are for the sustenance of Buddhism. She does this by taking refuge in the Buddha, refuge in his teachings, refuge in the Sangha (community of practitioners), and the Lama ( the one to transmit the teachings to the laity). This is what she repeats every morning. Walking around you will also notice a stupa that has many prayer wheels in a row built into the wall. People circumambulate this stupa in a clockwise direction turning the prayer wheels as the move along. Another object of circumambulation is the main temple, the Tsuklhakhang, in which there is a long route and a short route. These are usually called Kora, with Lingkor being the long route. Personal prayer wheels are seen handy, and the people twirl them with such finesse that the hand barely seemed to move, rosaries are also very common. It is normal to hear people saying under their breath Om Mani Padme Hung, the main mantra of Chenrezig (Bodhisattva) who Tibetans believe H.H. the Dalai Lama to be a manifestation of. Reciting this mantra, it is thought that one accumulate merit. One top of roofs of some houses small mini stupas or chortens are seen, except that they are hollow on the inside and a aromatic shrub is burned within it. It looks pretty nice when one of these hollow chortens are bellowing with smoke combined with the sounds of prayers. For the most part, I have seen mostly the elderly with prayer wheels, going on the kora, and reciting mantras. But I have also noticed young people are interested in Buddhism, it is their source of identity as Tibetans growing up in exile. Many are interested in things western, hip hop, technology, etc. I was talking with a student who had been studying the treatise of emptiness from Nagarjuna. I could tell that he was very serious about his studies. Though he was not a monk, he felt that is was important for him to study Buddhism. You do you see more than plenty young monks and nuns milling about. One lady named Yangzom in conversation class told me that since she had three boys, her and her husband enrolled one in a monastery. It is custom that if you have a few children at you enroll atleast one in a monastery. This morning I met a young monk named Kunga Gyaltso. He gave me a tour of the temples of Tsuklhakhang. He first took the Kalachakra Temple, where on the one of the wall was a huge painting of the Kalachakra mandala. Kalachakra is Sanskrit for the wheel of time, it represents the mind, body, consciousness. The mandala serve as a huge mansion with various different deities housing in the many rooms. They reside in very specific rooms, according to the aspect of the deity. Some deities are mind deities, some are body deities. Kalachakra is also a deity that resides in the center of the mandala. The mandala is then protected by a vajra or dorje band (the lighting wisdom that comes from tantric practice), and band of Tibetanized Sanskrit letters in the color of its deity, and by a band of wind. This mandala is absolutely huge. Outside the mandala then there are many deities and lamas.The lamas shows the lineages of the four main schools of Tibetan Buddhism, Nyingma, Kagyud, Sakya, Geluk. All of the lineages start with Indian Buddhist Masters from antiquity. At the Center wall there a huge painting of Shakyamuni Buddha, painted by Kelsang. I met Kelsang's brother Palden Oshoe in Ithaca, NY. I saw a 3ft Shakyamuni Buddha statue that Kelsang had made at Palden's house. Another one that he made is in the Smithsonian museum. He is a reknown painter and a sculptor. The front of the temple, there is also a overdose of painting. On each side of the Buddha are smaller mandalas that show the residents of the Kalachakra deities in detail. There are six small mandala's on each side of the Buddha, each symbolizing a character of the Tibetan zodiac. Tibetan astrologers use the Kalachakra text for astology. In front of all this are two jars with butter candles in them. On top them, suspended by a wire are round paper prayers wheel that turn my themselves due to the rising heat from the candles. There is one more huge mandala, the Mind mandala, because all the deities that it houses are mind deities. Ones' personal Lama guides the practitioners as to which deity will lead them to enlightment. Eventhough there are many deities you only need one, that one is called your Yidam, your deity that you will focus on the emptiness of. Kunga said that are many texts that describes all the many aspects of the individual deities. When you read these texts and visualize the deity, you eventually start to have the aspects of the deity. As you progress and see the emptiness of the deity the practitioner will know the deity like his/her ownself. The seat of H.H. Dalai Lama is covered up, with many Katak's draped on them. People place their foreheads on it. In January in Andhra Pardesh, at the stupa of Amaravati H.H the Dalai Lama will give a Kalachakra empowerment. This is a huge event and I hope that I get the oppertunty to attend. In the next temple there three statues, one of the Buddha in the center, Guru Rinpoche Padmasambhava, and the Thousand arm manifestation of Chenrezig on the side. Parts of the Chenrezig statue was smuggled out of Tibet during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. This temple also houses the Kanjur and the Tenjur the main corpus of Tibetan Buddhist scriptures, which is over two thousand volumes long. Right next to this temple is a room with windows on all sides. Inside this room, are various tables with butter lamps, some lit and others unlit. Kunga told me that the public will come here to burn these lamps, some times they burn it for the safe travel for a deceased family member so that they have a good rebirth. It is a visual site, for these lamps are pretty small and there are so many of them. With them all lit it is a nice site. I was very appreciative of Kunga showing me around the temple and explaining things to me. All this religious activity that is incessant here, it is hard for it not to rub off of you. In the US, religion does not take on this quality of style. Most of the time, from my perspective it seems that religion is restricted only to setting and only used when one so feel like it. Of course there are exceptions to my perspective. But one thing is for sure, its the heighten religious activity here, the actions of the people reflect their religious lives. A big difference from back home. Eventhough home is mostly Christian and in McLeod Ganj there are alot of Buddhist, to me that is not so important. What I am looking at is the amount of time spend of out ones day that is devoted to religious activities. By sheer amount, religion is a live indentity, that you can touch, smell, see, and feel. Enough of my rantings.


Sunday, October 02, 2005

A glimpse of H.H. the Dalai Lama.

Last Monday was my very first day of teaching a Beginners English class. There are six classes total, Beginners 1 and 2, Intermediate, Advance, and Conversation Class with all the beginners in one and intermediate/ advance in the other. I have the beginners 1 class. That day was totally wretched, I had a cold and I was nervous. As I was teaching the class there was sweat running down my armpits. Through most of the class I was counting the minutes for it to be over. Jigme the director gave some encouraging words. But on Tuesday he almost gave me the axe. I was lucky that a Australian woman with teaching experience was willing to co-teach the class with me. On Wednesday, we thought them feelings with me acting out a particular emotion and the students guessing what I was doing. It was really funny for the must part, for I was as goofy as I could be. So that day the lessons were awesome. Thursday the whole school had their Midterm exam, but it was the same exam for all the levels, so my class was in a state of panic. It took them two hours to take the exam. My students are mostly my age and above with about 5 or 6 monks and a nun, a mom and some fathers. So with the lessons, it is interesting teaching them elementary English using pictures and writing sentences on the board and then have them saying the sentences as I point to each and every word. During the exam some of the monks, particularly one named Ata will come up to me each and everytime he finished a question to ask me if it was right. I stuck to my, "I don't know" or " I will not give you the answer". Ata was pretty persistent. Me and Anne the Scottish/ English women marked the exams and the scores were all over the place. Some students in the advance class got horrible scores, while other students in the beginner and intermediate class did great. So we had to shift some students to their correct places. What happens a lot is that some students will go to whatever class they want. Like I have a lady, Kelsang Tso, she needs to be in the beginner 2 class, but she has been coming to my class and she is a pretty aggressive one. I gave her the boot from my class, but she was trying to talk me into thinking that she was in the right class. Her exam scores reflect that she needs to be in a higher class than mine. So this happens quite a lot. Friday on my way to work I noticed a huge crowd of people by the Tsuklhakhang (the main temple). As I reached the crowd I saw one of my students and I asked him what was going on. His Holiness the Dalai Lama was due to arrive soon. Everywhere I looked, I saw people waiting, burning incense, or with Katak's (white silk Tibetan offering scarfs). I decided to continued my downward descent towards Tibet Charity. I saw many of the students standing outside opposite the Tibet Charity building. I thought to check the classroom just in case anyone was in there. Of course ZERO. So I went back outside and waited with the rest of the students. Obviously this was a special moment. Sarah the aussie lady that is teaching with me was right behind me. People were burning pile of some aromatic shrub of some kind so you could smell it everywhere. All of a sudden a bell started to ring from up the hill. A Tibetan man with a walkie talkie had us get out of the road. Then two trucks packed with Indian Army soldiers passed by and behind them sitting in the shotgun seat (which is opposite from the shotgun seat in the US) of a biege sudan was His Holiness Dalai Lama. I saw him as clear as day, smiling and waving his hand. All the Tibetans had their heads bowed and the bowing rolled up the hill like a wave at a sports events. It all happens so fast. What surprised me was that I was really ecstatic just after seeing him for a few seconds. It probably was just starstruckness, for seeing the leader of the Tibetan people and someone that I highly admire. I definitely was not excited to see him before I saw him, but afterwards there was a tangible change in my mood. Directly afterwards we all went to class and practiced saying, " I am happy because I saw His Holiness the Dalai Lama today". The class totally loved it.