Posts tagged tibet

(More) Messages from His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Mcleod Ganj – 5th March 2015

Holed up in cosy cafe in Mcleod Ganj, decorated with prayer flags and embroideries of the Potala palace, monks slap tables and play with their mobile phones, the mantra ‘Om Mani Padme Hum’ is played quietly from a giant, flashing speaker.  I’m sipping a special teas, Tibetan in origin it has dried lychees, plums, goji berries and some unknown foreign fruits floating around in it.  More of a fruity soup than a tea really.  As the rain lashes down in the narrow streets and freshly snow capped peaks are cloaked by by a swirling silver mist, I am left a window from which to reflect on my times so far up here in the heart of the Tibetan community in exile.  An wonderfully homely and inspiring place.  Mcleod Ganj is a place that cannot help but capture and challenge your heart equally, when the reality of the situation here sinks in,  humanities light and dark sides are finely exhibited.  This is especially true when you hear individuals tales of suffering and incredible human feats of courage, grief and resilience.  Every Tibetan citizen here has seen their lives violently uprooted and have suffered great loss and torment.  

Being in Mcleod Ganj feels a long way away from India at large, it’s like being in the centre point of the most vital page of an ancient cultures history.  History seems to move slowly at  the moment, too slowly for some of the younger Tibetans, but the Dalai Lama stands firmly within the peaceful, middle way, the way of Guatama Buddha.  The only way form him and Tibet.  Their way.  

In Mcleod Ganj we witness a displaced and gloriously elaborate community re-establishing its culture, proudly maintaining its unique identity in a melting pot of craft, cooking, music, literature, art and worship; whilst attempting to face up to incredible and almost impossible circumstances.  Dealing with the Chinese Government, a real life David versus Goliath situation, with peace and re-conciliation as their only weapon.  An awesome feat, led by an awesome human being….

Today I watched the Dalai Lama teaching from the eight verses of mind control.  The discourse related directly to esoteric Tibetan teachings but His Holiness always kept (and keeps) things contemporary and relevant to the audience, mainly the Tibetan lay community.  The Dalai Lama embodies ancient Tibetan ritual, ceremony and scripture and yet remains focused on moving Tibet forward, assimilating Western practices and technology.  

Witnessing the veneration of H.H. by Tibetans is a deeply moving and humbling experience.  The Dalai Lama speaks like an empassioned father, amazingly forceful and yet tender at the same time, the audience is utterly rapt to his every word, you could hear a pin drop, if you could find an empty scrap of floor space to drop one.  The large courtyard is a sea of shaven heads, wide eyes, craned necks and the occasional cluster of hairy Western travelers, highly incongruous and yet warmly very welcomed.  A little FM radio was offered up by a friendly nun sitting on my foot and I was able to catch bits and pieces of the English translation.  The Dalai Lama is irrepressible, radiant and a wonderfully pleasant person.  Being in his presence brings a sense of peace and always a chuckle or two.  This goes for the Tibetan community at large, when they weep and angst fills their faces, it seems like the world is filled with the deepest woe, all hearts lie broken and bereft; but when they smile, its as if sunshine and joy were never ending.  Gladly, in Mcleod Ganj, you will mainly see Tibet’s lighting up the streets with the broadest grins and much hearty laughter.   

After yesterdays post, I started to read more of H.H.’s quotes  and couldn’t help but share more.  The Dalai Lama is 80 years old, but is still the worlds most outspoken advocate of peace, tolerance and compassion.  Our only options for a better world.  

Spending time in the presence of His Holiness and so many softly spoken and devote Tibetan Monks and Nuns emphasises the importance of not only kind words, but practice, discipline and action infused with good intention.  I am a great one for talking about peace and spirituality, but in practice; the actual daily experience of living, well lets just say that things can be a very different matter!

The Dalai Lama brings sometimes complex philosophy and metaphors into such simple and profound phrases.  He speaks to us from a universal space of love and a sense of deep rooted humanity.  He shares his own life experiences and subsequent revelations.  He claims to be a simple monk, but we all know that he is much, much more……  

The words we need for dramatic evolution and end to the travails of existence  and  harmonious new dawns are all below.  They are simple and yet profound.  The big challenge is can we put them into action?  Can we stick to them?  Do we really want to make the sacrifice, change, give it a try?  We are at a point in human history where something needs to give, we either destroy ourselves, our planet and everything that we share it with, or, we wake up to our current situation.  Ignorance rules.  Money and material gains do not bring peace or happiness of oneself or ones society.  Can we individually break down cultural, religious and all mind based delusions of separateness?  Can we realise true happiness?  Can we embrace our precious human life?  Can we see the light and potential that shines within us all?  The Dalai Lama would smile an indefatigable yes.  Then he’d concisely show you how…….Be loving, be fearless, be free.

 Long life H.H. the Dalai Lama!

 

You can find the official account of yesterdays ‘Long Life Ceremony’ here.

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Messages from His Holiness the Dalai Lama – 4th March 2015

I am travelling around India at the moment and had the luck and great pleasure of spending time at the Long Life Offering today for H.H. The Dalai Lama in Mcleod Ganj, the home of the Tibetan community and government in exile. Pictures and messages from the Dalai Lama are found everywhere here and I thought I’d share a few that I read whilst having a coffee and reflecting on the wonderful ceremony.

The peaceful and compassionate attitude that the Dalai Lama embodies gives us all hope for a brighter tomorrow.  If he can forgive the Chinese government for their atrocities in Tibet, then forgiveness must be an option for all of us (at all times). 

For more on my travels in India, have a look at the ‘The Jalebi Express’.

Free Tibet!

“If you think that you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.”

“Old friends pass away, new friends appear. It is just like the days. An old day passes, a new day arrives. The important thing is to make it meaningful: a meaningful friend – or a meaningful day.”

“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries.  Without them humanity cannot survive.”

“It is very important to generate a good attitude, a good heart, as much as possible. From this, happiness in both the short term and the long term for both yourself and others will come.”

“When we meet real tragedy in life, we can react in two ways – either by losing hope and falling into self-destructive habits, or by using the challenge to find our inner strength. Thanks to the teachings of Buddha, I have been able to take this second way.”

“I find hope in the darkest of days, and focus in the brightest. I do not judge the universe.”

“We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.”

“There is no need for temples, no need for complicated philosophies. My brain and my heart are my temples; my philosophy is kindness.”

“I think that true religion is the kind heart.”

Today the Dalai Lama finished the ceremony with these words:

In short, may all the vast prayers of aspiration
The lord Avalokiteshvara made for the land of Tibet
In the presence of the Buddhas and their bodhisattva heirs,
Swiftly come to positive fruition here and now!

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‘The Western Guru’ – Albert Einstein and Tenzin Palmo

I have heard people in the East refer to Albert Einstein as one of the great Western gurus of the modern age and have had the pleasure of reading more into his life of late. The more that I learn about the man, the more I realise what a shining light of spiritual wisdom he was, especially when considering the cultural and social backdrop that he was living amongst.

‘A human being is part of a whole called by us the universe, a part limited in time and space.  He (or she) experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest, a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal selves and to affection for a few people nearest us.  Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.’  Albert Einstein 

I think the picture and words above show a man at ease with the nature of existence and possibly operating on a different level of awareness to most of us, behaviour certianly befitting that of a ‘guru’ (who traditionally takes seekers us from the dark and into the light).  Most of these spiritually charged quotes come from later in his life, when his science seemed to go a little awry.  I guess you can’t have the best of both worlds!

Milarepa

As the great Tibetan Buddhist saint Milarepa said:

‘Accustomed long to meditating on the whispered chosen truths. I have forgot all that is said and written and is printed in books.

Accustomed long to application of each new experience to my own spiritual growth, I have forgot all creeds and dogmas.

Accustomed long to know the meaning of the word-less, I have forgot the way to trace the roots of verbs, and source of words and phrases.’ 

The greater the level of spiritual inclination or exploration, the greater the intention to free ourselves from the bonds and restrictions of a purely ‘mind and material’ based existence; this in turn leads to a dissolution of concepts that once seemed to define our existence and ‘ourselves’.  We see a higher path to be tread.  We are free to perceive life for what it truly is, undistracted and pure.  Our focused consciousness encompasses all and is clearly immersed in the glory of the all pervading present; radiant in its simplicity and luminosity.  To exist in such a state, life can be equated to:

‘Music heard so deeply that it is not heard at all, but you are the music while the music lasts.’  T.S. Eliot   

If we can make this our life’s work, make this quest, this great disrobing, one of our priorities in life; then we may for once, collectively, unearth a remedy for human kinds many woes and unearth the route of all temporal suffering.

‘The whole of the worlds troubles are due to mans inability to sit alone in a room.’  Pascal      

Quotes and inspiration taken from the book ‘Cave in the Snow’ based on the life story of Tenzin Palmo. 

Tenzin Palmo

Loving kindness is spontaneous.  Obstacles the teacher, develop patience.  The way we die will be the way we lived.’  

‘We need to wake up, but the desire to keep sleeping is so strong.  We like dreaming.’

Tenzin Palmo

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Lessons for Living – The Dalai Lama


I read this list of rules when living and working in London, I had them posted near a light switch in my bedroom.  London is a place that sometimes seems inhumane (inhuman) and certainly a little immoral, especially when you are trying to earn a living.

Guidelines/ wisdom from great teachers are a huge boost to my spirit, they remind me that the grey concrete world is out of line, not myself.  They focus the mind on the way that I’m are interacting with it all, from thought to action to stillness.

His famous quote:

Approach love and cooking with reckless abandon.

Always made me smile, as I was working in catering and am constantly in love with something or other.  It also conjured up an image of the Dalai Lama in my kitchen cooking dinner!

I was so blessed to actually be around the Dalai Lama for a short time in India (see my post here); regardless of his position as a ‘God King’ or whatever you feel about him, you cannot argue with the wisdom that he bestows upon us, his non-violent approach and the karma that he is making his way through.

I love the simplicity of these lessons, they had a profound effect on the way that I viewed my actions and came along at just the right time.  They certainly help me navigate the turbulent big city environment and emerge relatively unscathed.  I hope they resonate in your space, bring light and perspective:

1.Take into account that great love and great achievements involve great risk.

2. When you lose, don’t lose the lesson.

3. Follow the three R’s:
– Respect for self,
– Respect for others and
– Responsibility for all your actions.

4. Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.

5. Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly.

6. Don’t let a little dispute injure a great relationship.

7. When you realize you’ve made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.

8. Spend some time alone every day.

9. Open your arms to change, but don’t let go of your values.

10. Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.

11. Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older and
think back, you’ll be able to enjoy it a second time.

12. A loving atmosphere in your home is the foundation for your life.

13. In disagreements with loved ones, deal only with the current situation. Don’t bring up the past.

14. Share your knowledge. It is a way to achieve immortality.

15. Be gentle with the earth.

16. Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.

17. Remember that the best relationship is one in which your love for each other exceeds your need for each other.

18. Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it.

19. If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.

20. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.

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The Science of Miracles – Gregg Braden

How are you today?  I hope you are shining away.

Do you have time for a little inspiration?

This is a 59 minute clip that changes everything.  A wake up call to a timeless, collective awareness offering a link to an underlying field that connects us all.  This mirror, our reality, which reflects what we have become within.

This is an incredible video. Greg Braden explains the nature of miracles and the coming together of the ancient spiritual with the modern scientific.

An empowering programme that leaves me feeling in tune with the infinite potential of human energy to heal and enhance our collective love.

“We can always have the feeling of peace within our hearts….we are part of all that we see…..in the language of those that have come before us, we must become that which we chose to experience in our lives……in that way building a better world.”

Peace and Love to you all X

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Dhankar Monastery, Spiti Valley, India, July 2010

Dhankar Monastery, Spiti Valley

Dhankar Monastery (or Gompa) was built as a fort monastery (Dhan=cliif, Kar=Fort) built on the the Tibetan pattern.  Nestled on a 300 metre rock spur, high above the confluence of the Spiti and Pin Rivers.  The gompa stands at 3894 metres above sea level.

I stayed here for a while, in the nearby new monastery, home of more than 150 monks.  The old monastery only has a few hardy monks living within.  Most of the monasteries buildings are derelict, including rooms full of old frescoes, images of Buddha in his many incarnations and Lamas.  The main monastery building has an incredible energy, ancient, with its crocked stairways and small musty rooms.  Very little renovation has taken place, giving it ancient mystique and a reverential air.

From my bedroom window I could see Dhankar hanging on its precarious rock tower, above the silver veins of the rivers and the mighty granite Himalayan peaks that surround.  All along the valley I witnessed similar rock towers collapsed, piles of red rock beside the only road.  This is due to an increase in rain fall in this, the highest desert on earth.  Global warming seemingly to blame.  The views around Dhankar are truly magical and imprinted on my minds eye forever, this is the most beautifully situated building I have ever seen.

Its history dates back to the 12 century (maybe longer) and was the capital of Spiti for many years.  In the 17th century the rulers of Spiti, The Nonos, used Dhankar as their capital.  Its main feature is a statue named ‘Vairochana’, it also holds many important ancient scriptures and tankas.  The Dalai Lama has visited many times and it is possible to see the small bed that he, and every Dalai Lama has slept on in the main ceremonial room, below a large golden prayer wheel.

Making prayer flags in the monastery

I spent time with the monks, who were very open and hospitable, inviting me to meditation and prayer sessions.  One memorable session ended with Mary and I being offered gifts of decorated sweetened barley stupas, biscuits, crisps and chocolates.  The giant golden buddhas were offered the same, but they also received bottles of coke.  We were always well looked after, lots of sweet chai or salted butter tea on offer.  After hours chanting, the monks needed some liquid refreshment.  I loved how they all had their own decorated mugs.  It seemed to keep most of them awake, there where many bobbing bald heads in the morning sessions and much yawning.

A gang of young monks in the old monastery invited me to watch an England world cup match, but after trekking over there and bashing on the old red door (nearly taking it off its hinges) there was no answer.  The old monastery is fitted with its own Tata satellite dish!  These young dudes seemed interested in all things modern, which could be down to the Shakira videos they were watching most days.  It must be hard to be a teenage monk up here.

Most of the monks were locals, living in the village Shichilling directly below, but many of the younger monks came from other villages in Spiti Valley.  Dhankar is very prestigious monastery, one of the most important in the whole region, along with Tabo and Key monasteries.

Dhankar Monastery with sun low

I stayed in the hostel attached to the new monastery and many travellers and seekers make the steep ascent, I regularly had company.  Always and interesting crowd.  I became friendly with the owners of the hostel and one of my favourite times there was helping to deal with over 40 English public school girls, who turned up unannounced with a huge amount of baggage carried by an army of donkeys and porters.  They had the look of  an epic expedition as they came over the brow of the valley.  They were a nice bunch, strange to bump into so many English people in this little isolated pocket of the world.  I helped to cook them omlettes and a curry, with vats of tea, as the cook was detained in a local police station.  The hostel only has around 10 rooms, so their were young, shrieking English girls littered all over the place.  Still, they left seeming happy enough, in a brisk, detached British fashion.  We were glad to see them disappear in a huge cloud of orange dust and goretex, getting back to the business of doing nothing.

With Manik and S********(could never remember his name!), Team Hostel

I have many happy memories of clamouring down the steep, loose rocked, village paths to one family home or another, looking for barley wine for an evening tipple.  This happened normally with only moonlight to guide me and without a common language.  The villagers seemed to know what I wanted, especially after a few attempts and I invariably ended up sitting in an old crones kitchen, above the cattle, with immaculately arranged shelves of silver pots and pans.  The old dear would scoop empty plastic water bottles of the potent spirit, out of a pale and then we’d sit and laugh; pull drunked faces, sip the brew, pick hay from our teeth.  The wine seemed to evaporate before it reached the gullet and after 15 minutes you were actually completely smashed.  This stuff had turned many a monk blind.  Being well oiled, the walk home was always a little easier, the crevasses seemed not so deep, the shepherds dogs just feisty puppies.

Dhankar kids, Upper Dhankar Village

I liked the guys from the hostel and the monks and villagers, so I used it as a base for exploring this part of Spiti Valley.  I was overwhelmed by the beauty and isolation of this area.  The diversity of landscape and colour leave you speechless and humbled.  It was difficult to imagine such a place in winter time, when temperatures plummet to around minus 30oC and the entire valley is cut off.  The locals told me they just sit at home with the family or visit friends, drink barley wine, laugh and sing old songs.  This seemed to me like a good way to spend a large part of the year.  Reaffirming bonds with the ones they love past and present, it would go some way to explain the strong sense of culture the people of Spiti have maintained despite being colonised throughout history.

Dhankar Village

Buddha with cosmic enlightenment surround

The people of Spiti Valley are peaceful, and there aren’t many of them, around 10,000 in modern times.  Throughout history they have been invaded and re-invaded by the Tibetans, Hindus, Sikhs, British etc.  I was glad to hear that the Brits did some good up here, documenting the history of the area for the first time, building roads and bringing a form of democracy.

Dhankar is part of the Gelupa (the yellow hats) branch of Tibetan Buddhism, the same as the Dalai Lama, the reality is that many Indian (or Spiti) elements are woven into the belief system.  Its more Indo-Tibetan Buddhism.

Padmasmbhava, the Tibetan tantric mystic, responsible for bringing Buddhism to this part of India, passed through here in the 8th century.  Converting and incorporating local belief systems.  One such cult still exists, the ‘Bons’.  The holy men wear colourful garments and have dreaded, long hair.  Their religious ceremonies resemble a circus performance.  They chop large rocks off each others chest, using swords.  The men also hover in mid air, their full body weight balanced on the tip of an upturned sword.  I regret that I could not see this with my own eyes, the Bon monastery is quite remote.

Dhankar is sinking and nobody can tell how long it will cling to the rocks.  The World Monument Fund have listed Dhankar as one of the worlds 100 most endangered sites.  Have a look here for a website that is helping http://www.wmf.org/field.  I just feel blessed to have spent some time there and got to know such wonderful characters.

I left one morning for the sharp path, descending hundreds of feet, fully loaded with back packs and a heavy heart.  It took me a while to scramble down to the main road below, where I’d hitch back to Kaza and modernity.  I remember thinking that in all this travelling; all these places, there is little true beauty to be found. And even when you find it, one day you awaken and leave.  You move on, seeking the magic hidden around each new bend.

Dhankar from a hilltop overlooking Spiti Valley

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The Poetry of India – Rabindranath Tagore (1861 – 1941)

Tagores poetry captures the energy and diversity of India, which saves me attempting a feeble summary after my recent visits.  I discovered ‘Gitanjali’, his most famous work, in a little book shop somewhere.

Written just after the death of many members of his family, and with a glorious introduction by W.B. Yeats, this is a work of sheer beauty from the darkest corner of grief, with a depth of devotion and love that lifts the soul.  Fittingly he became the first non-european be awarded the title of Nobel laureate in 1913.

On my travels it led me to a greater understanding of Indias faith in the divine, its all-encompassing power of survival, fortitude and joy.

His elegant and magical poetry was originally written in his native Bengali.   These are two of my favourites.  The first encomapsses the beauty and romance of life, the second the resolve and struggle that has been a trait of Mother India throughout its long, long history.  It is a rallying cry to the human spirit.

Later in his life he turned his wonderful talent to painting, many now ehibited in the Museum of Modern Art in Delhi.  He commented:

‘words are too concious; lines are not.  Ideas have their form and colour, which wait for their incarnation in pictoral art……My morning began with songs and poems; now, in the evening of my life, my mind is filled with form and colours…….  Love gives evidence to something which is outside us but which intensely exists and thus stimuates the sense of our own existence.  It radiantly reveals the reality of its objects.’

Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore’s

Gitanjali

Light, my light, the world-filling light, the eye kissing light, heart sweetening light!

Ah, the light dances, my darling, at the centre of my life; the light strikes, my darling, the chords of my love; the sky opens, the wind runs wild, laughter passes over the earth.

The butterflies spread their sails on the sea of light.  Lilies and jasmines surge up on the crest of the waves of light.

The light is shattered into gold on every cloud, my darling, and it scatters gems of profusion.

Mirth spreads from leaf to leaf, my darling, and gladness without measure.  The heaven’s river had drowned its banks and the flood of joy is abroad.

The end of Spiti, June, India 2010

Ekla Chalore “Walk Alone”

If they answer not to thy call,

Walk Alone.

If they tremble and cower mutely

Facing the Wall,

O thou of evil luck,

Open thy mind and speak out alone.

If, when crossing the wilderness,

They turn away and desert you,

O thou of evil luck,

Trample the thorns under thy tread,

And along the blood-strewn path,

Walk alone.

If, when the night is troubled

With storm,

They do not hold up the light,

O thou of evil luck,

With the thunder flame of pain,

Ignite thine own heart,

And let it burn alone.

Om

Streetside Hampi, August, India 2011

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