Posts tagged travel

(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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Shelter from the Storm

Rose Valley, Cappadocia, Turkey, 15/11/14

Rose Valley, Cappadocia, Turkey, 15/11/14

My heart is sung out,
But to where does honesty carry
The buoyant caste.

Metallic clouds ring the sky
With grey,
Circle my stilling mind
With a heavy halo.

Lightning strikes the village pond;
Lashing black striation
Of awesome calm and power,
Baby frogs take cover
Beneath the blades of quivering grass.

The fields sway in controlled ways,
The well rehearsed bird song unfolds;
The reason we are reaching out
Only to return to centre.

All things that flip and flow
Off centre,
Balance redressed when gaze
Turns back;
To the source of heart and soul,
The primal clicking of some things
Unseen; some more,
Without cause or measure.

Where once we rested
Naked in the dark,
Small bells tied to our ankles
In a cascading melody of calm.

Drops of storm rain cleanse
The silver mirror,
Slipping on over surfaces; snagged on
Rougher edges,
Lost in the engravings of the
Ceremonial plate.

Cappadocia, Turkey 15/11/14

Cappadocia, Turkey 15/11/14

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Bardsey Island – The Island of 20,000 Saints

Yesterday we walked around the northern coasts of the Llyn Penisula (North Wales), braving the high winds and feral seagulls.  There is something quite dramatic about  the Llyn, with the trio of mountains (known as ‘The Rivals’) forming a gateway to a landscape dotted with remnants of ancient settlements and worship.  It seems that each time I visit the Llyn I am drawn deeper into its story.

At the tip of the Llyn Penisula we find Bardsey Island and there is definitely something about Bardsey.  In English its name refers to an island of bards, in Welsh (Yns Enlli) it suggests an island in the currents.  It sits like a small jewel off the tip of the jagged coast line and has been inhabited since neolithic times.  Bardsey has been a pilgrimage site for many years, three trips to Bardsey was the equal of a trip to Rome.  A hermitage has stood here since the earliest days of Christianity in Britain, although it has been knocked down a few times along the way.  Brave and devout souls floated over from France and Ireland on rudimentary rafts to preach the words they regarded to be true and lead this wild and untamed island nation away from sin, towards redemption.  These remarkable old saints, hermits and pilgrims were very wise, putting a little ocean between themselves and their rabid flock (although that didn’t help when the vikings showed up!).

The history of this isolated retreat is fascinating, its location stunning, but as usual, the myths and legends are what sets it apart and fuels the imagination to imbued a large rock with magical properties and some intangible, mystical allure.  20,000 saints are said to be buried on the island, making the soil rich and fertile.  It has even been claimed that Prince Arthur is buried in a cave there.  To get there, you still need to call a local chap in a small fishing boat to take you there and hopefully back.  If the weather flares up, you can be stranded on the island, where there is still no electricity.  It suggested that you draw up a will before visiting Bardsey, it is said that the Llyn extends into the ocean just as life extends into the unknown emptiness and once we have reached Bardsey, we are relieved of earthly cares (meaning we are now number 20,001).

What can be said about the allure of Bardsey, it seems so close from the shore, we feel that we could touch it, except it is far enough away for us to fall and perish in the fierce waves of the Irish Sea.  I see Bardsey Island as a metaphor for our spiritual journey through life, as we build a bastion from rocks and earth to hide us from the endless waves and commotion, deep inside our soul is ever drawing us deeper towards harmony, as we venture out into the raging oceans of calm and set sail into the blissful unknown.  One pilgrim wrote that Bardsey is “the land of indulgences, absolution and pardon, the road to Heaven, and the gate to Paradise” and on a day like yesterday, I can see why.

I have included some photographs and poetry that I hope captures something of these sentiments:

 

Bardsey Island in the distance

Bardsey Island in the distance

Gorse and Heather

Gorse and Heather

There is an island there is no going
to but in a small boat, the way
the saints went, travelling the gallery
of the frightened faces of
the long-drowned, munching the gravel
of its beaches. So I have gone
up the salt lane to the building
with the stone altar, and the candles
gone out, and kneeled and lifted
my eyes to the furious gargoyle
of the owl that is like a god
gone small and resentful. There
is no body in the stained window
of the sky now. Am I too late?
Were they too late also, those
first pilgrims? He is such a fast
God, always before us, and
leaving as we arrive.

There are those here
not given to prayer, whose office
is the blank sea that they say daily.
What they listen to is not
hymns, but the slow chemistry of the soil,
that turns saints’ bones into dust,
dust to an irritant of the nostril.

There is no time on this island.
The swinging pendulum of the tide
has no clock; the events
are dateless. These people are not
late or soon; they are just
here, with only the one question
to ask, which life answers
by being in them. It is I
who ask. Was the pilgrimage
I made to come to my own
self, to learn that, in times
like these, and for one like me,
God will never be plain and
out there, but dark rather, and
inexplicable, as though he were in here?

“Pilgrimages” by R. S. Thomas

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And that’s why I have to go back
to so many places in the future,
there to find myself
and constantly examine myself
with no witness but the moon
and then whistle with joy.
ambling over rocks and clods of earth,
with no task but to live,
with no family but the road.

Pablo Neruda

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We passed the ice of pain,

And came to a dark ravine,

And there we sang with the sea:

The wide, the bleak abyss

Shifted with our slow kiss.

Space struggled with time;

The gong of midnight struck

The naked absolute.

Sound, silence sang as one.

All flowed: without, within;

Body met body, we

Created what’s to be.

What else to say?

We end in joy.

The Moment – Theodore Roethke

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Lazy Love

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Beach on Bohol Island, Philippines

In the clouds over the beach,

The wonders of the world.

 

In the sands, buried hands

And jewels yet to sparkle.

 

Oceans filled with pearls and promise,

A sky open to a return.

 

Shorelines of many colours and

Carved wooden Gods line the jungle trail,

 

All things envisaged

Refreshed in a beauty profound.

 

Our naked bodies in the waves,

The dark oceans carried us

In phosphorescence warmth and

Forces unknowable.

 

Our hearts warm and open,

Like buds they burst,

Free in the new world.

 

Here we passed many lives,

In a tin shack filled

With lemon trees and

Lazy love.

 

We live there still;

How do we lose such memories?

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Last Words – Theodore Roethke

Sunrise, Thar Desert, India - 26/1/14

Sunrise, Thar Desert, India – 26/1/14

Solace of kisses and cookies and cabbage,
That fine fuming stink of particular kettles,
Muttony tears falling on figured linoleum,
Frigidaires snoring the sleep of plenty,
The psyche writhing and squirming in heavy woolen,
O worm of duty! O spiral knowledge!

Kiss me, kiss me quick, mistress of lost wisdom,
Come out of a cloud, angel with several faces,
Bring me my hat, my umbrella and rubbers,
Enshroud me with Light! O Whirling! O Terrible Love!

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The Poetry of the Bauls

Bauls, the wandering mystics and minstrels of Bengal. Their branch of thought pre-dates even the Rig Vedas; for me their poetry and songs evoke all that is magical about India.

My soul cries out,
caught in the snare of beauty
of the formless one,

As I cry myself,
Night and day,
Beauty amassed before my eyes,
Surpasses moons and suns.

If I look at the clouds in the sky,
I see his beauty afloat.
And I see him walk on the stars,
Blazing within my heart.

I am returning to India in early January and ‘Riding effortlessly……’ will switch from a mainly poetry based blog to being a mainly travelling poetry blog.

Wishing you all a peaceful Christmas time and prosperous New OneX

 

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