My thoughts and activities in Dharamsala

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Returning Back: The Starting of a New Year (written Saturday April, 2nd 2011)

It has been awhile, several weeks in fact, since I have been able to use the internet, check my email and so forth. But don’t fret, I have been desiring to write another entry but circumstances had deemed it difficult to do so. I had three weeks of vacation which initially started with cold and gloomy depressing weather but luckily that ended with the commencement of the Tibetan New Year. It was so nice during that time, comingling with my schoolmates within the normally gendered dormitories; Losar is the only time of the year where we are free to enter the opposite sex’s living space. Because of the lateness of the New Year and the various other events the happened after it, like the second Saturday of the month and HHDL’s teachings, the New Year vacation was longer than usual. This allowed many students to visit their homes in the different far off settlements within India and thus the student population on campus during Losar was very low. Normally only three days are allotted for Losar, but this year it was extended to two weeks. For us in the dialectics course it was three weeks, hella nice!

I spent a lot of me time hang out and watching TV shows on my computer of series that I have never had the opportunity to watch before. A friend of mine loaned me her external hard drive that had all the seasons of the show called “Six Feet Under”. When I was in college I was aware of this show but had never seen a single episode, but during break I watched all of them in a row and I have to say that I quite enjoyed them and that I was quite impressed with it, it was not like other shows and I will recommend it to anyone if they have not seen it, although it is macabre it actually has a deep meaning to it which is not normal for TV shows.

Besides that, I went to Bir to visit to some friends who were attending a Classical Tibetan Language course at the Deer Park Institute for a month. I attended the last two days of the course just to see what it was like and how it was taught. It was taught by an American and so I was curious to see how he approached teaching Classical Tibetan. I got the impression that he was very knowledgeable and I was very impressed and inspired by him. At the end he told me that I have a good skill in explaining Classical Tibetan grammar clearly and concisely and that I might think about teaching it in the future. But I don’t know; I will see how the un-arrive-able future pans out. Like the wise old turtle Oogway said in Kungfu Panda, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery but today is a gift, that is why it is called the present”. I have to try to live day by day and be mindful of whatever may come.

It was nice to be outside of Sarah for a bit, I was feeling dumpy and through getting out and through the great criticisms from my friends I was able to see clearer. I spent about a week in McLeod Ganj which was my first time visiting there this year, the HHDL was giving some teachings, interestingly enough to the Thai Sangha. I think that this had to have been one of the first times that they had sponsored teachings from him. Normally, it will be sponsored by other Mahayana Buddhist Sanghas such Korean, Taiwanese and Altaic Russian. Thailand being a Theravadin Buddhist country where the Buddhist have many main and strong assertions counter to the Tibetan Mahayana/ Vajrayana view. It was interesting to be in McLeod Ganj at this time, most of the times it takes a lot to get me up that hill, sometimes not even HHDL’s teachings can get me to leave my cozy cave of a room. I had a great time, hanging out, being social, though I suffered from one hell of an eye-ache from all the eye candy. McLeod Ganj was überly filled with tourist. I have become very accustomed to the modestly clad Sarah mamas.

The Gelukpa prayer gathering ( dge lugs smon lam) was also in effect while I was there, meaning that a shit ton of monks where praying their asses off for several days. The sounds of guttural throat singing with deep over and undertones undulated and reverberated all throughout the town, what a welcome to the ambiance! In the morning and in the evening I.B.D. held thesis debates of an hour at a time. I attended a session one evening curious to see my upperclassmen in action. I have to say that, although we still have two years before we will move up to I.B.D., I am very intimidated. At Sarah on the debate courtyard we only have our classmates, but up there all the classes share the courtyard and I know that the higher classes love to challenge the lower students. I think that it might be some sort of rights of passage type thing.

Classes started about a week ago and it was very noticeable that no one opened a dialectics book during vacation. Everyone was fumbling over divisions and defining characteristics that, weeks ago was being spitted out with furious speed. The first week back was a bit trying, but after some reviewing and lectures we slowly were getting back up to speed and once again the dialectical fireworks of debate were exploding. But this time also there is a sense of relaxation or to better say ease. Right before our exam everyone was consumed by the fury of study especially since it was our first exam. Being back though we are all still studying like mad, in three weeks we will all have two months of summer vacation. Everything feels so loose because of that regardless that we are studying just as much as we where before.

Though our topic of study is extremely difficult, I absolutely love it. It has been forcing me to be more mindful of my thoughts and my consciousness in a way that I have never been before. In the pass I defined different consciousness depending on whatever external substances that I had ingested. We have been presented with different types of criteria for different types of awarenesses and unlike many of the types of consciousnesses that one finds in the study of Buddhist philosophy such as the wisdom that realizes emptiness (stong nyid rtogs pa’i shes rab), many of the types of consciousness that we are analyzing speaks to everyday experience. Gen la was very clear about this. We can use the divisions and the defining characteristics provided in our main “Mind and Awareness” root texts, compare it with other such texts from other traditions and test it out. I have been tickled to death by this though it is not easy. It has helped me so much recently using my own experience and measuring it up against the different views from various Buddhist scholar practitioners from antiquity up to modernity to see if they are full of shit or not. Of course many things are over my head and the reasonings for them tend to be terse and technical, but the ones that apply to me are my own and can be examined.

Some organizational restructuring has taken place within class, we elected a new class captain, who so far has been doing an excellent job and has brought new ideas up to bat, for example: before if one was absent without permission from class and could not pay the fine, one had to act as the temple caretaker for a certain period of time, meaning that butter lamps and water bowl offerings had to be taken care of, but now instead of that for every event that one misses without permission, there are five per day, and if they can’t pay the 40 rupee fine per session then they will have to do 30 full body prostrations per each session missed. I thought that that was a wonderful idea, even though being the temporary temple caretaker is a larger responsibility, doing full body prostrations ain’t no walk in the park either especially if one misses all five events for several days. He has reorganized our groups for group debates, so we are all in different groups now and during cleaning times he dispersed cleaning responsibilities to the different groups on a rotating schedule. And lastly we elected a new chant master who rocks it out. Overall, all the changes are great.

Along with the new mindfulness that my studies provide in conjunction with the kind and loving insights and criticisms from my friends, I am coming to realize that I have been suffering from a grave error (probably one of many) in my view and perception about myself. I have been nursing the idea that I am a good for nothing piece of shit, not worth the love or the attention of others. I seriously could not conceive why anyone would like to spend time with me, why they would think that I am an awesome this or an awesome that. I was seeing myself as a mess, as a shame, as something to be disgusted of. Such thoughts stretch longer than the river Nile and measure as much as the grains of sand that make up the banks of the river Ganges. I was thinking that in order to put myself in my proper place which I thought to be the lowest of the low, that I had to think in such a fashion. I am always thinking, “Who the fuck am I? I ain’t no one!”Though I know that I have good qualities and bad qualities like everyone since, I focused so much on the bad ones without being able to appreciate the good ones. I did it so much so that I think that was developing the opposite of narcissism, in other words I was seeing myself a-narcissistically meaning that I was focusing on “me” so much but in the sense that I totally disvalued myself.

It is always, “I suck”, “I ain’t beautiful”, “I ain’t worth the time of day”, this “I” grasping (bdag ‘dzin) is still the center of my world no different than that of a narcissist but in the other direction. It took the words from an external source to act as the cause to examine my normal every day statements about myself. I think that there is some truth to the thought that what we say in our normal everyday lives can reflect to a certain extant what the sub-conscious is up to and how we view ourselves. Through my everyday self-depreciating statements a friend totally called me call me out on it and though it was very painful to hear and I was initially hurt by those statements instead of rejecting them I examined them. This new turn of action, comes I think also from my new training, where we must always reexamine our assertions when they don’t hold up and one finds themselves in a contradiction. And so, with the change of the Tibetan New Year: the Iron-Hare year, the change of the weather into spring (finally!) and the many other inevitable changes that will transpire, May we all learn to be open enough to see the strength of our infinite potentiality, since I struggle to see mine. May we all learn to live in that precious realm that we are all gifted with called life, regardless of the fact that none of us consciously chose to be born. Most importantly, through our realizations of life experience and the new positively embodied outlook may those we encounter pick up the spark and spread it far and wide. Oh God, I hope that that didn’t sound too fucking cheesy, Whatever!


P.S. Also over the weeks a lot has transpired globally, the tsunami that hit Japan; my heart goes out the Japanese. A young Tibetan monk in Ngaba, Amdo, Tibet self-immolated himself five days after the anniversary of the Tibetan revolt in Lhasa March, 10th. I have not been reading the newspapers much, but WTF! The U.S. is now involved militarily in Libya? Well gees, they sure didn’t give a rat ass about the other revolutions that were happening in the Arab world, I mean why the fuck should we care about Bahrain anyway, Oh shit I forgot, Libya has oil!


Danielle Capillo said...

It was great to read your thoughts. I got updated on where you are in the world. After asking the universe to tell me what to do I have heard/been encouraged to follow a Buddhist mindfulness practice specifically focused on the present moment and accepting the feelings that are present without judgement/classification/reflection on my worthiness. It is wonderful to hear that you are getting a similar message. You are a wonderful, dedicated, fun-loving, beautiful, generous person. I know when you don't feel that about yourself or even if you accept those things when they don't seem like enough it is so hard to get out of your head. I am so heartened to hear you are struggling and seemingly succeeding in a similar vain as I. I will think of you when I struggle to stay in the moment and off the subject of me. Maybe we will give each other strength even over such a large distance.

Rachel said...

I just discovered your blog and I am really interested in the things you have to share. I just arrived in McLeod Ganj two days ago and will be doing an undergraduate project here for the next three months. Hope you do not mind if I follow you and learn from some of the things you have experienced int he area.