My thoughts and activities in Dharamsala

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Drunken Monkey

Due to the thus past Valentine’s Day this week, I will like to send a shout out to all those out there who have been able to find or have founded that special someone in your life. That special someone of either opposite, same or multiple sexes that you felt worthy enough of calling them your valentine and them to you. But I will also like to send an even more exceptional shout out to all those scrubs, zeros, scalawags, lonely hearts, neutered adults out there, those who have spend all their lives in the “friend zone”, who just through either sheer circumstance or other repeated situations have never been found worthy to be someone’s valentine and have spend every valentine’s day feeling like shit. If you are feeling me, to you my friend, I holla to ya. No day in the western calendar make us feel more sad than this one. This day being, according my sociology professor in college, the first holiday ever created in a corporate boardroom by a bunch of suits who chose to target one group of people for profit while making us acutely aware that on that day, no one is going to be sending us roses, chocolates, cards or none of that jazz. No secret admirers. No kisses, no spooning or other felicitous activity to look forward to that night for us. But we have been bamboozled by it because we have sent more than our share of these items to someone we wished to be our valentine only to have it thrown back in our faces. I know folks, if you are like me, you might be jaded to the fucking idea by now, the damage is done.

Valentine’s Day always brings this is out of me, even in India where it is not really celebrated. Sometimes it makes me wish that I had a gender neutrality button built into my body so that when I begin to feel that awesomely dreadful but at the same time lovely wishful sensation of smittenness towards the opposite sex I could press that button and thus eliminate the otherwise days and weeks of mental and emotional turmoil that I would have otherwise placed myself through. My initial idea of being initiated into eunuch-hood really caused me to doubt my sanity and so thus I stay as a libidinous 3O something male who appreciation for the sisteren remains unwavered. Luckily like any other emotion they too are impermanent, so they do pass and with studying Buddhist philosophy one sees gradually that nothing is filled with more false promises than the desire for intimate companionship but that idea alone is not powerful enough to prevent it from arising in ones mind, it must be accompanied by the work also. Ok, I will stop with this nonsense.

I know that I am not a fortune teller, but as I said after Tethong Tenzin Namgyal la spoke at Sarah College, I was banking or wondering if the other candidate for Kalon Tripa will speak on campus. And fo’ sho that he did, though I missed the first couple of minutes of his spiel. On Monday, Dr. Lobsang Sangay la wheeled a magic wand of charm and pizzazz. His sheer potency of character wooed our student body who were not used to seeing this kind of magnetism coming out of a Tibetan before. As compared to Tethong la, Lobsang Sangay la’s demeanor reminded me of a puffed up cock who has whooped all the lesser cocks into submission. These two candidates could not have been more polar opposites just based on what I saw at their respective talks. Though I felt that his rap was severely lacking in substance or concreteness, his efforts for traveling all through out India campaigning at the various Tibetan settlements seems to have done him very good. Thus far it seems very likely that this young man will possibly be the next Kalon Tripa if the results from the previous elections seem to be of any indicating factor. Supposedly he won close to 50% of the votes while all the other candidates had to share the other 50%. Shit, I guess with knowing that if I was him I might be feeling like hot shit too. But luckily as an outsider with not an iota of political science skill under my belt my opinion doesn’t count for doo-doo butter as far as the Tibetan community is concerned.

I have to say that on first impression I was quite taken with the guy. He dress was impeccable, the dude looks good in a suit and his ability to capture the crowd’s attentions is quite something. He seemed charming, witty, intelligent and funny which is always a plus. I have not thus far seen another Tibetan who has done so, that being said I had some issues with his lack of anything that seems like a strategy for the Tibet issue or any issue for that fact; he’s probably keeping them secret. In his Tibetan talk, he used the old ‘I come from the same background as you, a poor boy from a Tibetan settlement milking cows’ spiel or like in a more familiar context ‘I was an ignant farmer boy just like you’ line. He pushed the fact that he is a Harvard scholar so many times; it is like his whole campaign is based on the fact that he went to Harvard Law School which I found to be a bit disappointing. But it makes sense, the weight of merely saying ‘Harvard’ seems to mesmerize folks here. His English talk was definitely less impressive, and when a student placed a bit a pressure on him about a question that he tried to dodge he definitely got snappy.

I think that the study abroad students who were there know as much as about this guy before the talk as they did after. He did not answer any of their questions, besides saying read my booklet or my website. I have read the booklet and there are no insights there at all but I don’t know about the website. After it was all said and none, we all briefly gathered outside the meeting hall and he came around shaking everyone hand and shit. I ended up standing with some girls, old classmates of mine and they were so shy, like sheep. When he came by us they all tried to crowd into a corner behind me so as not to be seen by him. I was talking to them briefly and he said to me, ‘Wow, you speak Tibetan well!’ shook my hand and went on his way. I just smirked. I definitely found the whole scenario odd. To me it seemed very out of place. Definitely what it is putting out there is that he is the change for the Tibetan community, hmmm, “Change” from where does that sound familiar? His campaign style is definitely American or heavily American inspired and I guess seeing it superimposed in this environment made it even the more striking. The other candidate is the exact opposite and that seems to be what will cost him the election.

Though most folks here seem excited about this new change that might be coming to the Kalon Tripa office, definitely not every one is so impressed. A Tibetan friend of mine from the U.S. is not convinced by the sheer force of his charisma or by his erudition. I think that she feels a bit distraught that the wrong guy might be the new Kalon Tripa. She is familiar with this guy just by the mere fact that the Tibetan community in the states is not that big. From her perspective, this guy is playing on the general ignorance of the community, on their lack of access to information. With this being in some sense the very first big election for the Tibetan exile-community as a new budding democracy, many of the things that might not happen back at home due to broad internet access and citizens participating in online election forums can easily slide by unnoticed here. No sort of venue for critically weighing the pros and cons of each candidate is available for the majority who do not have web access. A paper was posted around campus providing a critique of Dr. Sangay la and it was torn down within a few days. Favoritism based on peer-pressure appears to be running very high, it seems. I know that it has to be frustrating for her and I know that she is working hard to provide a more open platform of critique but it seems like she is swimming against the current. Remember, our experience of the Tibetan exile community is based solely on what happens in and around Dharamshala which is of though major influence is still very small considering that most Tibetans in India live in an assortment of settlements that sprinkle the entire Indian Subcontinent. Regardless, Dr. Sangay la’s possibilities of becoming the next Kalon Tripa seems to be almost in the bag, but we won’t know until the 20th of March. If the people make a mistake, then they must live with the consequences which I think is part of democracy. When that power is given to the people then they must learn the responsibility that they have with that power. This responsibility is not always realized quickly and a new democracy just might have to fuck up a couple to times before they realize more critically the importance of their collective responsibility. That is the beauty and the curse of the democratic process.

We are now exactly one week a way from our first exam and the closer the date comes: Saturday February 26, 2011, the more my knees knock. Gen la continued leading us through “The Presentation of Mind and Awareness”. One day Gen la was talking how the mind is a like a monkey. In general it is also said that this mental monkey, is blind, drunk and is stung by a scorpion. As in a badly dubbed 70’s Kung fu movie, “Your tiger style is of no comparison to my drunken monkey style, take this!!!!! Keyyyyayyy!!!!!!!”. But, it is definitely true, our minds seem to be all over place just like a monkey, it is never still not even for a nanosecond. During my first two years at Sarah one only saw monkeys occasionally, but now they are everywhere and so we all have amble experience with these nasty ass intelligent critters. I think that the human urge to do parkour or any other extreme sports comes from our primal nature. For a monkey every time it moves is parkour, its climbing and jumping ability are, no pun intended, off the wall. Every time I see a monkey with a broken arm I assume that that was not the smart monkey for it must have missed its mark. I like just staring at them sometimes, for after all we are related and if you catch one by surprise it always reminded me of catching a young toddler who is doing some wrong and they know that they are doing some wrong but they look at you with that look like they are not doing anything wrong though you have caught them red handed. There is a lot of monkey business going on around here. Any ‘ole how, I like how the examples that we use in our philosophy class are things that we can witness everyday.

My memorization tasks are still going full force and I am almost ¾ through downloading the “Presentation of Signs and Reasonings” and after that probably through our short vacation after the exam I will start working on the root text for the “Presentation of Mind and Awareness” which is about half as short as the prior root text. So far I have been debating the topic without having downloading the root text and I felt a bit like shooting in the dark in debate though I have done ok so far. Last Tuesday evening I had to sit defender to with another classmate for group debate and I felt that we held each other well. There ain’t nothing like having a bunch of wiry Tibetan monks yelling at you, clapping millimeters in front of your face, trying to crack your assertions. I think that all of us are going through the same thing. In the courtyard, many of us are still debating the previous topic because it is it hard as hell, we have to study for this exam and some how continue with our current daily lessons. I feel that I have more interest in this topic and though it was the same when I started the prior one. At the beginning, no really knows what the hell is going on and then after more experience with it the heat is then piled on and the debates gets trickier. But this topic has been hot from the get-go, many tough issues going on from the start. I guess it was not the same with “The Presentation of Signs and Reasonings’ because it is so stinking tough. The current topic of course is also very difficult but it is not the same.

We had a very especial visitor come to our Monday morning debate, a German nun, the philosophy professor for the study abroad students, who is an extremely accomplished student of dialectics and though so far without the title, is a Geshema, came and scoped out our class. She went around to different groups of debaters posing questions here and there. I was involved in my debate and the monk sitting next to me asked me if I knew who this foreign nun was and if she was any good. I told him that she is the bomb and that she done finished Dialectics School. Towards the end of the debating session a bunch of us gathered around her as she was with debating our class captain who is a pretty bright dude, but he was of course not able to hold up his defenses against such a skilled practitioner. Her movements in debate are extremely smooth, fluid and she knows how to place weight on her proclamations with a solid clap and stomp deep into the ground. I quickly looked at the nuns from my class and they seemed impressed. This might have been the first that my classmates have ever seen a western nun debate and one that did so, so incredibly well. When the Hindi Teacher’s training course was here we were getting use to those monks constantly kicking our asses, but it was nice for a change to have a nun give it to us good. That moment will have a lasting impression on me.

Tuesday evening right before debate I was on the roof after a bad ass storm and a most beautiful scenery came to life as the sun was setting. Because of the rain, the normal haze that floats around in the air was minimized. The northwestern side of the snow mountain was shining like a pure crystal, utterly pristine with fresh snow fall. The eastern side was totally obscured by dark grey clouds. Above, several smooth circle-like cloud features reflected a deep orange pastel-like color that faded from a deeper pinkish-like pastel. These colors were bouncing off of the round protrusions and between the crevices of these protrusions the deep indigo-blue of the evening sky was making itself apparent providing an uncanny contrast. Facing towards the further northwestern side huge majestic pearly cumulous clouds were commanding respect as far as the eye could see over the valley. Following the same direction of sight one encountered the setting sun doing its awesome job, closing the day for us while opening it somewhere else simultaneously. I wish I had the capacity to capture such moments but nothing can, a fancy ass camera won’t do and definitely not my words, though I wished I possessed just that kind of compositional skill. Thus, you get stuck with my poorly written description of a scene that cannot be fully written about with any sense of justice.

As we were cleaning the temple today, one of guys figured out how to hook up his MP3 player to the temple’s PA system and was blasting Pink Floyd as we did our cleaning duties. Again, a combination of two things that seem at odds with each other in my dome was manifested. I used to love Pink Floyd when I was in high school especially while visiting the merry ole’ Land of Oz. Hearing these songs, Breathe, Another brick in the wall etc, blasting in the temple surrounded by Buddhas and bodhisattvas took me back to those days, my youthful innocent and severely immature days of wanton carefree-ness. Of course my classmates have no association with it and I am sure that they would have preferred some “Bolle, Bolle” or some Hindi film songs. But now at this point in my life, as I live this very different life that want I have live, having all these new experiences, made me hope for the more beautiful and touching experiences that are to come. I think that I might reflect a bit too much, even though being at Sarah after 3 years has become so familiar now, those past experiences never go away from the make-up of a person. I don’t know what I am exactly trying to say, but experiencing these two worlds collide like that moved something inside me. Regardless, I hope that all of you out is the world are treasuring and are feeling treasured.


P.S. A monk came up to me with a piece of paper one day during study period with some words written on it in English. After translating the meaning of most of the words, he then point to one word with his index finger and looks up at me saying in the most innocent face, “ ‘boobies’ ga re la go re?” “What does ‘boobies’ mean?” And thus I was stumped. Probably more stumped than I have been so far on the debate courtyard.

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