My thoughts and activities in Dharamsala

Sunday, January 02, 2011


How does one digest a cold week comingled with melancholia, wonder, and minute lackadaisia? The normal kaleidoscope of sensations appeared subtle yet powerful as the week and thus the year of 2010 ended forever. The melancholia is hard to pin down; my mind was flooded with reviews of my pass from 1995 until now. I thoroughly looked at each memory and did my best to acknowledge the wealth of all those experiences and I tried to remember that in some way they had led me to where I am now. Another part to the melancholia, I think was because I have not felt sadness, for myself at least, in quite some time which is badass because since adolescence I have always been in the habit of cultivating that low-esteem, self-depreciating view, and now those emotions were keeping me in reality in a certain way, in a humbling way. It is as if the emotions themselves were telling me, “You have worked hard, but you are far from finished”. I know that this is probably not new many any of you but this has been a hard battle for me and it has been nice that I have not suffered from them until recently. I know that these and any emotions for that fact do not last forever and that is my joy and my weapon that will hopefully lead to the gradual elimination or influence of these emotions that I have harbored since high school. Ugh! How childish can I be? Even as an adult?

One day in class Gen la spoke briefly about meditation. It is quite apparent that most of my classmates do not meditate though I think that some of them will eventually take to the practice. He was talking about that how now a days in the western world, the word ‘meditation’ is connected to only a kind of relaxation period were the mind can just blank out. He said that this concept is severely flawed for he believed that such a concept implied that the mind did not have to do any work, where in fact it is the opposite. There is a lot of work involved, not just blissing out. He told the class that for beginners it is good to take a particular scriptural passage and contemplate over it, word by word, phrase by phrase. This suggestion is also popular in many other Indian religious traditions as well. He added that this practice is closely tied to the practice of memorization in its entirety. As one verbally recites the object to be memorized one can not help but not think about what one is memorizing. It is true in some sense, but I do feel that if the mind is more focused during the memorization session then that can turn into a powerful and insightful practice.

When I am downloading my text I always bring my mind back to the object, just I would during meditation and though I might not understand what I am downloading at the time, when Gen la explains the passage I have it with a pretty good beginning clarity to start digging on the meaning. But there is a danger, I was warned by a senior international dialectics student that if one forces the mind during memorization instead of calmly and naturally bringing the mind back to the object there is a risk of suffering from ‘wind (rlung, vayu)’ disorder, which is similar to what we see in the west as a beginnings of a nervous breakdown. I remember when I started studying Tibetan at Cornell the summer of ’04 when someone pointed out to me that the bridge I was walking on which hovers over a high gorge was known to having at least one law school student per year jump into the gorge from all the stress of school; here that might have been considered as an untreated wind disorder. Anyways, I stopped and looked over the railing and hocked a big ole’ loogy over the side, I counted 20 seconds until it disappeared below me, that’s a long way down, boys!

Continuing, with this practice it really takes the individual to be mindful of the mental process as one memorizes or we end up like what Gen la called, “Those who recite the four immeasurables but are only thinking about the ‘I’”, The four immeasurables are: 1) May all sentient beings enjoy happiness and the causes of happiness; 2) May they be free from suffering and the causes of suffering; 3) May they never be separated from the great happiness devoid of suffering; 4) And may they dwell in the great equanimity that is free from attachment and aversion, (sems can tham cad bde ba dang bde ba’i rgyu dang ldan par gyur cig/ sems can tham cad sdug bsngal dang sdug bsngal gyi rgyu dang bral bar gyur cig/ sems can tham cad sdug bsngal med pa’i bde ba dam pa dang mi bral bar gyur cig/ sems can tham cad nye ring chags ldang gnyis dang bral ba’i btang snyoms tshad med med pa la gnas par gyur cig//), Gen la said, “that we must not to be like the person who from the mouth is saying ‘may all sentient beings’, or ‘may they’, when in actual fact one is thinking ‘may I’. We must learn to focus on the meaning within the passage and slowly the intention and motivation of it will gradually become clearer and clearer. Everyday right after Gen la enters the classroom and after we have done our prostrations we recite refuge and the four immeasurables and so Gen la’s advice really hit home.

This week we were given the boot out of our classroom on the top floor of the administrative building and had to set up shop in the temple. Though we normally study and sometimes debate in there this was the first time, since the prior Buddhist philosophy course, that we have had class there. We were booted out because next Friday a very special guest will be at Sarah College. His Holiness the XVII Karmapa will be here next Thursday on the 6th of January and so our classroom and the other rooms adjoining it needed to be cleaned up and pimped out for him. Though I am not sure why he is coming to Sarah, I have a feeling that it could have something to do with the Tibetan college student’s conference that will be held on campus next week bringing in Tibetan college students from all around India. I am looking forward to it, though. HHK spoke my very first week at Sarah so it is like the ending and starting of a cycle for me, one that started as a beginning Tibetan language student in ‘07 and another that starts as a beginning dialectics student in ‘11.

The sense of wonder struck me one day as I was downloading on the roof above our classroom. The roof stands at about 4 floors high between the boy’s and the girls dorms. On the roof of the boy’s dorm I noticed one of boys trying to get a kite airborne. The kite that he used reminded of the kind of handmade kites we used to make in Panama out of sticks and newspaper about 2ft by 2ft in a diamond shape though this kite was obviously factory made. The boy at first was having difficulty getting the kite to fly. I went back to the goal at hand and later at one point I saw a string floating towards the back of roof almost level from where I was standing. The string was white and thin so I was unable to follow it. At this point I turned to the boy’s hostel to see the guy was still trying to get the kite to fly. I was rather struck at this white string floating from the back of the building a few yards in front of my face though. Eventually I found the end of the string way, way off in the distance far passing the girl’s hostel. A small white kite flew over the village and was flying over a ravine where a river flows that is about perpendicular to the school. I was astounded at where that kite was in flight.

Again I went back to my task and after a while I noticed a piece of notebook paper swaying back and forth over the boy’s hostel. At first I thought, “Damn, dem’ boys made a kite out of a piece of notebook of paper! That‘s pretty badass”. But as I watched the paper swaying and elevating, I noticed that it was not moving as if the wind was forcing it, as if it is was leading, but as if there was something else that was causing it to move in its erratic swaying pattern, something else was leading it. So I slowly lifted my head following an imaginary 65 degree angle, taking in as I did this the full nude rocky face of the Dhualadhar range, the clear skies and the brisk ominous wind that was blowing the temperatures down a bit until I noticed a tiny black diamond with silver glittery tails flying behind it way above in the sky. It was another kite and this one was flying the highest I have ever seen a kite fly. The contrast was startling against the deep blue backdrop of the sky and the streaks of wispy cirrus clouds floating in rows that stretched themselves all the way to the mountains from above us where we stood. I assumed that the notebook paper was strung so that these ole skool aviators could keep track of the kite.

The another guy, the first one I noticed who was attempting to fly his kite finally got his fly and I watched as it floated pass me, gaining distance and height. And so, there were a total of three kites flying from the roof of the boy’s hostel, a black one and two white ones. Later I noticed that the string that was floating in front of me was severely sagging and that the kite that was flying over the river was not there anymore. That kite was lost and I had a feeling that they would lose it and so did the first guy also lose his kite. But the black kite reigned as victor of the skies that day, flying high with high soaring birds of prey as its only competitors.

That night the winds really started to kick in, I could hear doors slamming through the dorm. I could hear the water tanks on the roof squeaking as if holding on for dear life. I knew what was coming, from the sudden arising of the cold winds of the afternoon and from the brief glances I took at the newspaper. One headline read, “Cold and fog keeps planes on in down in New Delhi”, which means for us up here that eventually that those clouds and that that cold will visit the rest of North India eventually and that was exactly what happened the next day. A cold icy rain blew in that night rattling everything. I brought my poor orchid inside to protect her from the violence. After I had refilled my hot water bottles and wrapped them in my shawl, I cuddled with them in an unrelenting vigor as the temperature dropped and the delicate sounds of thunder tapped my ear drums.

The next day was completely overcast and the rain continued. After lunch the power went out and it stayed that way. Several times during the day the clouds would just break a bit to reveal what has taken place up on the hill. That night one of the B.A. classes had a roundtable debate scheduled but it had to be postponed due to lack of juice and so many of us had not prepared anything for that night’s debate. We did our initiatory prayers in the temple under candlelight and one of our classmates had brought us all sweet milk tea to drink. The mood of the prayers that night carried with it a laggard sense with it as if everyone’s mind was just not there, lacking somehow. I even tried to add some pep into my chanting but it was futile. The ambiance had done set in and it was too strong to remove. Afterwards, it was decided that we would have group debate reviewing previous topics from the “Presentation of Collected Topics” up until our current text. Everything was candlelit. Two impromptu debating groups were formed with each have three folks sitting as defender and everyone else could join the vociferous challenge. As soon as we started, the monk from the Hindi class showed up and started dropping bombs. The level of noise in the temple with the screaming, clapping and stomping felt like a huge phenomena adding to the eerie candlelit environment. I imagined for a second if this was how it could have probably looked like back in the pre-Chinese invasion days in Sera, Drepung and Gandan monasteries in Tibet. I quickly brought myself back to the moment happening in front me. Obviously my romantic side has not dwindled has much as I would have liked. Afterwards in my room with no light I was unable to refill my hot water bottles and slept a very cold sleep, the cold in all its coldness was my cuddle buddy that night.

The next day being New Year’s Eve, the sky had cleared up and we were gifted with a beautifully white New Year’s Eve gift. The white of the mountain burned against the blue sky and the snowline was very low, the lowest that I have ever seen it. The newspapers that day stated heavy snow through Northern parts of the Himachel Pradesh province and the province of Jammu Kashimir. Dal Lake in Srinagar had totally frozen over the first time in years. Indian tourists were flocking to these winter wonderlands to get first hand experience of the white frozen stuff. But not only India and it seemed like Europe and the eastern seaboard stateside has been hit with crazy-ass cold and snow. Too all of you who live in those areas, NYC, Massachusetts, Kentucky, etc and my European comrades I am thinking of you and hope that you might feel the warmth of my heart taking off some of the bite of the cold away. I know, wishful thinking, but I had to try.

That morning we had a surprise guest, though I had missed it as I had overslept. Tsering Shakya, a modern Tibetan Historian was speaking at Sarah. I was really disappointed that I missed his talk. I read his book, “The Dragon in the Land of Snows” many years back and was very impress with it. Some of my classmate filled me in on what he said though. During class the light came back on, we were all happy for that. The day started to overcast though and by afternoon it was gloomy again, but I saw something that I did not expect to see on such a gloomy day. At around 4pm I walked on to my balcony and I saw a partial rainbow starting from behind a tiny hill to the left of my room and it seemed as if to dissolve directly into the dark clouds behind it like it was entering a tunnel. It took me aback and I jumped. I was not expecting a rainbow with this weather on a cold gloomy New Year’s Eve day. Because of the foggy background, the colors of ROYGBIV seemed more brilliant than usual, I stared at it until it had completely dissolved back into the nothingness that it had once come from and towards the end I could not tell if a remembrance of it still remained or if my mind was playing tricks on me telling me that it was still faintly there.

The last rainbow of 2010 was accompanied by the last sunset of 2010 in its entire splendor that an Indian sunset has to offer. I was about to descend down the stairs to get dinner and I waited and faced the setting sun and gave him my goodbyes, “See you next year, duder!” After dinner another surprise came, I had pack all my things and was getting ready to go to prayers but I noticed that the TV hall is open and that the TV was on. I was like WTF? I walked into the TV Hall and I saw a bunch of my classmates in there on the floor watching TV. It was 6:30pm and prayers were to start, so I entered and asked one of my classmates if there was no debate that night. He said that the school captain had announced the rest of Friday night a holiday. Sweet I thought and returned to room. As midnight approached, I thought about how last New Year’s Eve I sat on the top of dining hall building with my German friend Katharina, I think that the waning moon was up too, and while looking at it we talked about life, our aspirations for the future and all that jazz. There was a bonfire party out in the woods somewhere that night, we were snickering because we could clearly hear a loud American girl’s drunken laughter from where we stood and if we could hear them then the principal could probably hear them too. These kinds of things are against the rules at Sarah, but many things also get a blind eye.

Anyways, Katharina and I took a toast of Old Monk for the New Year and went to bed. This year it was just me and the expansive skies. I placed my computer clock up on the screen at 11:59pm and watched it hit 12:00am Saturday, January 1st, 2011 and I thought that at 10:30am India time that day that the east coast state side’s clocks will hit 12:00 and folks will be partying down. I then prepared me a toast and walked a flight up to the roof. I toasted to the stars. Then ten minutes of fireworks were exploding in Kangra way down in the valley, a few screams of “Happy New Year’s” filled the halls but it was all over quickly. The International New Year really doesn’t mean squat shit here, so it is does not have the same feeling as Diwali does. If one didn’t read the newspapers or listened to the news one would not know that it was New Years. Anyways, after my toast with stars, those that I then stared at, whose light could have possibly taken billions of years to reach my eye consciousness. Many of those very stars could very well not exist right now, since we have only the light of those objects to depend on as far as their existence is concerned even if we use the most high-tech expensive telescope in the world we are still dependent on their light to know if they exist. It will be only when the end of a certain star or galaxy’s light actually hits the earth that it would be known that a star or a galaxy has died, billions of years after the fact. With that in my mind, after glaring and contemplating into our cosmic pass, I hope, decided, and intended into our forever unborn universal future.


1 comment:

venkat said...

Thank you for sharing this post.