My thoughts and activities in Dharamsala

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Not in the know

I totally missed out on a great event due to sheer ignorance. Really, ignorance is the homeostasis that all of us live with, like it or not, and we are unable to separate from it, like trying to separate the milk from water after it has done been mixed. The coldness of the weather has created the perfect conditions for staying in bed, but in truth I do not have that luxury though I have acted as if I did. With three layers of thick blankets, a sleeping bag and two rubber hot water bottles wrapped in a shawl to the size of a small baby, breaking out of this cocoon every morning has been quite the “FAIL” this week for me. This engulfing cocoon of warmth has it faults. For starters, the foundation on which I and it rests upon is too bloody small. I am 6’4” and my bed, in who makers obviously did not think that a tall and lanky pseudo-rasta-negroid would have to fit its stringy limbs on it, is 5’ 4”. In the summertime is it totally fine letting my big ‘ole feet dangle off the end of it but now I have to fold up like a flip and fuck in order to be completely contained within this nocturnal cocoon and this requires that I turn over every now and then because one side of my body eventually gets numb from the bloody rushing to that side. One night I wished that I had a human-sized hot water bottle wrapped in a shawl to cuddle with at night just to create the illusion of embracing or spooning. But alas, these thoughts in the end must be allowed to do their natural business in the mind so that they will eventually dissolve into the flowing stream of other arising thoughts.

A solar eclipse it was, it had happen on Tuesday on this side of the globe and I was perturbed that I had missed the event when I saw it mentioned in the newspapers on Wednesday. I had not seen any thing about it prior when I think about it. I figure that I would have noticed it if were in the papers but I must have missed it. With my gradually arising lunar-philia (I have this odd notion that my crusty butt is somehow connected the moon) missing this felt like being stood up by a lover. I was really distraught. I remembered my experience of seeing a partial solar eclipse the year before and after it was done I thought or felt that I would not see another. That might be the case as it stands now. I am just amazed that it happened again and at least it can be said that there is some hope of witnessing another again and that I would need to be more attentive, keeping my eyes open to the possibility of it.

A few days after the solar eclipse, after the set sun had rendered the lower horizon of the western sky in a lengthy panorama of layered and whispery pinks, reds, maroons and oranges, above in the dark purple-violet of the near encompassing night smiled the pearly white smile of the Cheshire cat with a visible invisible shadow above it that completed the rest of its missing lunar circle. I mentally welcomed it back knowing that each evening the smile will grow wider and wider. I was glad to see it more directly, even though sensing its presence as it blocked the sun’s eight minutes worth of light would have been way gnarlier.

On that day of solar and lunar conveyances, Sarah was visited by an American scholar of Tibetan Culture and History; at least I presume that to be his profession, from Indiana University, Bloomington. Prof. Elliot Sperling spoke about Tibetan History, the issues of Tibetan independence found in ancient annals and how some of these annals have been used to justify Tibet as a part of China since antiquity by the Chinese propaganda machine. This has been the first time that I have seen a western scholar of Tibet visiting Sarah and the first time that I have heard one give the entire lecture in Tibetan. I was quite impressed to say the least and I know that my schoolmates were initially shocked for it was a first for them too. But he laid it down really well. I can say that many Sarah students study their history very well. We have a well-known Tibetan Historian on campus and though I have never taken any of his classes, I have interacted with his students and chatted about Tibetan history and history in general with them. So they know their shit. So having an American scholar busting it out straight up to them in Tibetan must have been a bit of shock to them.

He also demonstrated his knowledge of the Chinese language and Chinese history, especially when and where it dealt with Tibet, how Tibet was perceived by the Chinese throughout various historical annals written for different Chinese dynasties. He talked about pass Mongolian, Manchurian, Tibetan relations and it was quite fascinating. Also he mentioned a by-gone Tibetan-Mongolian treaty that I have never heard of. In a way, I felt that he was trying to impress on the students that they should have the feeling of responsibility towards their own history. To search through the many histories that exist out there in Tibetan alone will be great. I think many of them know this already. He definitely was not an advocate of the “middle way approach” taken by Tibetan Government in Exile as its main policy with the P.R.C. and he mentioned that here is an idea floating out there that maybe the Tibetans in Tibet can fight for their rights just as African-Americans did in the U.S. during the Civil Rights movement of the ‘60’s and maybe even have their own Obama, a Tibetan president of P.R.C. someday. When he mentioned this I laughed. I hope that these ideas are not taken seriously because it is utter non-sense and would be a major folly if pursued with any seriousness.

One funny little side note, as Prof. Sperling was giving his lecture the college secretary approached me and asked me if I could help the professor during the question and answer session that was to take place after the talk in case he did not understand the questions from the students. I was a bit confused at the request, for one, why me? and for two, an Inji guy giving a lecture on Tibetan history to Tibetans in Tibetan is not going to need my help. I told the secretary that I would but as my intuition told me Prof. Sperling had no major problems with understanding the questions.

With the coming of the HHK to campus we had to do some major cleaning. Our class was in charge of cleaning the temple but the cleaning was more meticulous than our normal Saturday afternoon cleanings. I saw the temple bare and naked for the first time. All the thangkas of past Buddhist masters were brought down; the upper balcony area was cleaned as was all the temple windows. Since I had the height to get at places my “too short” classmates could not reach I cleaned the top windows, also standing on a shaky, rickety wooden ladder I clean fans, lights and the huge thangkas. It gave me an opportunity to see these massive works of art up close for the first time even though I was feather dusting them. Our classroom on the top floor was also being macked out. We had no class for all of Thursday due to this mass cleaning which was accompanied by some horse play including explaining the profound symbolism behind the number 69 as it was written on one of my classmate’s shirt. In retrospect, I realized that that was not proper temple cleaning talk but they were persistent in wanting to know what was soo funny about that number. It seems like some of my schoolmates come to me to ask the meanings of some very inappropriate though unknown words, like how someone asked me one day during lunch in front of everyone what did the word “mercy fuck” meant. My mouth about dropped the ground. There is not even a Tibetan word for these kinds of things and if there was I sure don’t know it. What to do? Anyways, we cleaned that temple like nobody’s beeswax; some of girls of the other classes came and gave us a hand also. I heard that some of my classmates were in the temple until 9 that night cleaning and also helping prepare the classroom for our holy visitor.

There are a bunch of extra Tibetans floating around campus for the Tibetan College student’s conference and this is why HHK was coming. Also the Prime Minister Samdhong Rinpoche and Gyari Dolma appeared too. The road leading into the campus was decorated with drawings of the eight auspicious signs (bkra shis rtags brgyad, ashtamangala), which was done by the students. A colorfully elaborate gate was erected at the beginning of campus. We all lined the both sides of the road holding burning sticks of incense and kataks waiting for the guests to arrive that Friday morning. First arrived Samdhong Rinpoche and then Gyari Dolma and then with a sound of a siren came HHK and then all of them were led up to our pimped out classroom on the top floor. The rest of us crammed into the temple. Once everyone was in, after a short wait, they entered the temple and took their seats with HHK seating in the middle in the front of HHDL throne, Samdhong Rinpoche on his right and Gyari Dolma on his left.

Buttered tea and scrumptious ceremonial rice was served to all of us. Afterwards many speeches were given, which was started by our beloved principal who bored the crap out of us with his talk about the all the goals and accomplishments of the college. That didn’t set a good precedent of attention for the other speakers. All the guests spoke, with HHK being the main speaker along with the opening of the conference’s official website written in English and Tibetan, and some writing awards were handed out. It was done in about two hours I think. We all marched out of the temple and lined the road as we had done two or so hours prior. The participants of the conference had their pictures taken with the guest and then they were off. That was that. All those hours of cleaning and preparation for about two hours of visit; it is well sure that the temple will probably not receive another cleaning like that in a long time to come.

A special lunch was prepared for us. Sam, an American student, and his mother visiting from stateside were here also and I had lunch with them on the court in front of the girl’s dorm. We had to resume the rest of the day’s schedule meaning mandatory study at two o’clock and debate that night. Since it was a second Saturday week we should have had an all-night debate but since we had to prepare for the guest it was canceled, maybe even postponed until next week. Instead, what we did was extend the normal debate session by an hour and instead of having our usual Friday night small group debates we had more of a freestyle debate with the entire group, two different groups of defenders sat there 3 folks at a time. Of course, the monk from the Advanced Hindi Teacher’s Training course eventually showed up and did his thing. We were given tea and lots offering biscuits to eat. As the thesis was raging, I was hoping and wishing that it the future that I will store up enough courage to join in the challenge when we have group debates like this. I stink now so I can’t do it. They had me try once last week in our smaller group debate and I totally bombed it with the other guys looking at me with shame as to my suckiness; at least I tried though I was embarrassed. But also, as I have said, I much prefer one on one debates than group ones.

Before the debate started, one of my classmates, who owns an I-Pod touch with wireless internet on it came to where I was sitting pretty, drinking sweet milk tea and hide & seek cookies to show me a picture of me that another classmate had found on a Tibetan newspaper’s website. I was a bit surprised, for at first it did not register what the website was or why was my picture in there; also my classmate stated that it had come out this year. So I was bit confused and then I remembered that about a year and a half ago a Sarah alumna had interviewed me for a Tibetan newspaper. But afterwards I did not think anything of it until now; I mean I did even bother to ask her the name of the newspaper she worked for which I now know is called the Mirror of Society (spyi tshogs me long). Anyways, what my friends had found was that article which was released in January of 2010 and it took more than a year after the interview for me to see it.

Anyways, I think that that is enough of my ranting for the day. Every time I write I wonder if anything that I write is really interesting enough to read. Sarah is a very chill place and it is not like I am writing about living the high life in Las Vegas or some European city like Madrid. I guess I just hope that I am able to keep your attention and that when you read this you are not falling asleep. I have promised myself that I will try my best to write every week and I do put a lot of effort into it. This rant is mostly about my own insecurities coming up, but also I don’t want to be putting stuff out there that not one gives a rat’s ass about either. Anyways, this blog gets me writing and gets my ideas and feelings out of my claustrophobic brain of mine. Aite, I gotta bounce, C ya.


P.S. This time it vanished quite slowly, beginning with the end of the tail, and ending with the grin, which remained some time after the rest of it had gone.
- Lewis Carroll-


Anonymous said...

I'm glad you write.. I don't always get to read every post, but I do enjoy those that I read.

Anonymous said...

I found your blog through a google search about whether Ewoks spoke Tibetan, and I have been enjoying reading some of your many postings! I'm American living and working in a Tibetan area of China and have recently started studying Kham. All the best to you with your studies.