There is a radiant man, His Holiness (H.H.) the Dalai Lama, sitting beneath a giant golden Sakyamuni Buddha and I’m surrounded by nuns. Offering me biscuits and warm smiles. My mind should be at rest, open to the teachings, but my eyes are drawn to the ornate golden Buddha, the exquisite wall hangings, the elaborately decorated ceiling. I’m thinking, is this it? Is this all necessary? Why a large golden Buddha?
I have been fortunate to see the Dalai Lama on three seperate occasions recently. Once in Manali, where he was addressing the local Tibetan community and the other time in Mcleod Ganj, teaching the Diamond Sutras to a group of Korean Monks and Nuns. In Manali I sat right in front of him amongst white shirted school children, in Dharamasala I joined the huge international crowd at the Tuglakan Temple (you’ll have to forgive these spellings). A temple attached to the Dalai Lamas official residence and the Tibetan Government in Exile building. One intimate encounter, one that resembled a rock concert. Both highly enjoyable and enriching.
On both occasions I lacked a radio, or a working radio, to listen to the translations. The language was mainly Tibetan and Korean and after a while I found both rather therapeutic. I mainly gazed at H.H., regularly closing my eyes and drifting off. He’s such a lovely chap. Watching the reaction of the Tibetans gathered warmed the soul.
Most Buddhist Ceremonies I have attended are conducted with free flowing sweet chai then a salted butter chai, accompanied by Tibetan bread and Tsampa balls. These were no exception, young monks working tiredlessly to dish out hundreds of teas and nibbles. The scramble for Tsampa balls in Manali, turned into a scrum, with much shouting and pushing. The poor monks taking some serious stick. All this for a small ball of barley. One poor monk was wrestled to the ground by a group of women in bright traditional dress. H.H. looked across and cracked a joke, immediately lightening the mood. I nibbled my ball discreetly due to fear of reprisals.
So, the Golden Buddhas and all religions seemingly endless interest in money and shiny idols. I was hoping that Tibetan Buddhism would be different, it turns out in mostly ways it is, but the giant Golden Buddhas!? What waste and at what cost? Build schools, hospitals etc etc. I am yet to find a suitable reason for such lavish idol worship. I have a feeling Buddha would welcome the large golden Buddhas as much as Jesus would welcome his followers wearing the cross (as a reminder of what?). We seem to be missing the point here. Worship me, but not for free. I would like to formally distance the Dalai Lama and Jesus from any wrong doing at this stage. Generally people are the problem, creating the problems, but are also the solution. This is good news.
I am seeking a religious doctrine that is not based on shiny palaces of idol worship. I’m yet to find a religion that is totally disinterested in wealth. Where there is wealth, there can be no purity, no truth. It all seems tainted. The truly enlightened, spiritual few pass away and then its handed over to more normal people to distort, generally unintentionally. Where is the purity? When I meet this individual, they will have nothing. Of this I am certain.
The Dalai Lama shines in a packed room of grey robed Korean monks. Glowing brighter than the Golden Buddha and surrounding pageantry. Glowing with joy and positive energy. He makes me smile and laugh regularly. Carrying his karma with dignity and love. He chuckles regularly like a naughty schoolboy, 75 years young. At one stage he hits his head on the microphone and I almost fall off my prayer mat with laughter. Sitting before me is the talisman for non-violence, an energy that has changed the world forever and always will. Tibetans regard H.H. as a living god, he’s very special. The incarnation of the Buddha of Infinite Compassion.
He passes close to me on occasion, surrounded by square headed security. He blesses the crowd, shakes hands, changing us all in these moments. I heard later that he talked of many things, deep philosophy, but judging by his body language he could have been reading a comic strip from the Times of India. H.H. a man fighting for the existence of his culture, his people and his home. Doing all of this and much more with a chuckle, full of love.
Over one million Tibetans killed, many more imprisoned or presumed dead. Over 90% of Tibetan Buddhist sites destroyed, Chinese being taught in schools, cultural genocide in full effect. The image of the Dalai Lama illegal. Tibet is being used as a dumping ground for Chinese toxic waste, the list goes on. FREE TIBET.
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Good video about the future of Tibet: