My thoughts and activities in Dharamsala

Monday, April 13, 2009

Second year is a done son

So, yep that is correct, my second year of Tibetan Language study at Sarah College is finished. It is amazing to think that two years at Sarah has passed, but I am satisfied with my education from Sarah, my Tibetan has tremendously improved, though I am still light years from fluency. This year at Sarah has been tough, but my learning there has made it more than worth it. So what is next? Well, first my plans for next year is to stay in the same course that I have just finished, since is was quite challenging and I think that I will get a lot out of it next year. Also (keeping my fingers cross) next spring will be the exam for the Buddhist Dialectics course. I spoke to the principal of Sarah, he said that it might be another year after next year and though I really do not want to wait for that long I will if need be, pending that I receive the required visas needed to stay here. Regardless, I am really excited at the opportunity to be apart of such a course, for if I am able to do it completely then I will be a very good position to do the kind of translation work that I desire to do.

Ok to back track just a bit, my good friend from Bhutan Pawo just recently got married in Bir (about four hours east of Dharamshala) this spring equinox with Stephanie an awesome and beautiful Taiwanese woman. I along with a few Sarah students attended the wedding in which there were eight Rinpoches in attendance along with Pawo and Stephanie’s parents from Bhutan and Taiwan. The weather on the day of the wedding was very iffy, but when it came down to the time, the weather was perfect. Pawo was dressed in a white dhoti bare-chested, and Stephanie was wearing a Sari. They sat in front of a statue of the Indian goddess of wisdom and melody Saraswati. There was chanting in Sanskrit, Pali and Tibetan, they offered, white scarf’s (kataks) to all the Rinpoches and a great speech was given by Pawo’s Uncle Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche and also by Jigme Khyentse Rinpoche. Towards the end of the wedding we all threw rose petals on them and then the audience was able to offer kataks to the newlyweds. I hope that these two love birds achieve the highest that they can achieve with each other.

The utter highlight of the night though was when Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, told me straight up that his organization the Khyentse Foundation will sponsor me to study Buddhist Dialectics at Sarah/ I.B.D. and upon hearing at I almost started crying in front of him. I was so moved by that, though I still do not know if I will be accepted in the course at Sarah College, when he said that it felt like I am doing the right thing, that I am on the right path towards fulfilling a life goal, and that it is something that I love so much. I also owe a lot to Pawo who first mentioned my situation to Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche. The man has such a true heart and I owe soo much to him. So now I have to do the work, since only my tuition is covered I will need to figure extra expenses, like at some point I will have to return to the U.S.A., emergency money and etc. Even more crucial is getting into the course, for if I don’t get in and I have the funding specifically for that course that would so suck.

To assist me in that while I stay in McLeod Ganj this summer I will study some of the introductory dialectical texts with the German nun Ani Kelsang Wangmo la, who is a great teacher and whom I have worked with before. Also there is an ex-monk who knows debate really well and I will work with him also. I need to also work on my visa extension, so I need all the luck that I can get with the visa action.

To something that has just happen more conducive to Sarah College and I.B.D is that the founder of these institutions, Geshe Lobsang Gyatso la’s yangsi or reincarnation has been official enthroned at the main temple in McLeod Ganj. He is about nine years old, and was born in Ladakh, his father I think is from Lahaul and his mother is Tibetan. For the pass few days the little Tulku has been running around Sarah’s campus playing with the other kids. Last week during class, he was pressing his face up against the screen of one the classroom windows that faces a balcony, which is were I sit in class and unbeknownst to him the screen was not locked and it slipped a bit and he slightly fell. Everyone in class started laughing really hard, and I like a little kid pointed my finger at him shouting, “ha ha”. He moved a way really quickly. When I saw him at his enthronement he did not seem too happy with me, he gave me the eyes of, “I remember you, you laughed at me”.

Anyways, last Monday the State Oracle of the Tibetan Government in Exile came down to Sarah College, to go in the trance for the Tulku. This was the first time that I have been able to witness the state oracle called “Nechung” go into trance. It was quite wild. When you see him before trance he just looks like any old monk, but when he is preparing for the trance, he is dressed in elaborate garb and he sits in meditation. This took place in the Sarah prayer hall. Anyways, there were some monks around him chanting a kind of solemn chant, and slowly but surely he starts to twitch and the twitching gets more and more pronounced and intense and when he is really going they place a really heavy hat on him and then is jumps up and starts dancing. He then offers kataks to the all the statues in the prayer hall including the throne of HHDL.

Throughout this process he is guided by monks because it does not seem that he can move very well on his own in trance. Then eventually the monks sat him down, and then all the Geshes and higher ups from Sarah/ I.B.D went and offer kataks to him, I assumed that they must have asked a prediction for the young Tulku as well. The tulku was terrified of the oracle, for he does not look pretty in trance, he is drools all over himself while his body is shaking and he shakes his head back and forth, mumbling sounds in which a monk standing near to him seems to understand what he is saying and is furiously writing what the oracles says. After they were done, then the rest of the crowd lined up to offer kataks, once I had gotten close to the oracle on his right hand side was a metal bowl filled with red barley seeds in which he was handing to everyone who passed in front of him, and we also received a red piece of cloth to tie around our necks. After everyone had passed the oracle jumped on his feet with the bowl of red barley seeds and started to madly grab handfuls and threw them all over the place, and then we were told to leave. The oracle was still in trance convulsing everywhere and then some monks just picked him up over their shoulders and hauled him off to the side, the whole time his was still in trance.

Then that was that, is was over, though I was curious as to how long does his trances last and if the assistant monks have special techniques to get him out of trance, or if the oracle can control on his own, but from what I have seen it does not seem that way.
What is also interesting to me concerning the young Tulku was that he previous incarnation was essentially murdered by supposed advocates for another oracle called Dorje Shugden and now the young Tulku was scared of the Nechung oracle, I found slight amusement in that thought. The rest of the day was a celebration of the Tulku’s enthronement with a big Tibetan tent erected at the Sarah Park, with great food and games and was a really nice day. I did speak with the tulku for a second when he asked me if I was from Africa and if my hair was real, he seem have forgiven me for laughing at him.