Monday, August 4, 2008

A Teaching from the Dalai Lama

While we were in McLeod Ganj, the Dalai Lama gave a series of teachings, something he does every now and then around this time of the year. We only went to one session, because I was battling a brutal flu, and it was a struggle just to get out of bed. The security was incredibly tight – we had to pre-register to attend, upon entry we were both given the most thorough frisking either of us had ever enjoyed, and guards armed with machine guns patrolled the crowd while the Dalai Lama talked.

Photos were forbidden on the day, but this is the statue the Dalai Lama sat in front of

There were hundreds of monks there, along with lots of Tibetans, Koreans and Westerners. Everyone sat on the floor, and bands of monks wandered through the crowd pouring butter tea for everyone (butter tea tastes like normal, milky tea, but with half a stick of butter mixed in). Seated atop a small altar, the Dalai Lama delivered his teaching (which focused on effective meditation techniques and the difference between reality and what we perceive) in Tibetan, and every fifteen minutes or so he would stop so the Korean translator could translate over the microphone. There were English and Chinese translations broadcast over the radio at the same time. For those whose view of the Dalai Lama was blocked by a pillar or a tree (the ones the hall had been built around), a scattering of large plasma screens showed his spritely gesticulations as he talked. Like every famous person, he was shorter than I expected, and also quite a bit plumper, but he moved like a man much less than his 73 years.

Prayer wheels behind the temple

The teaching went for about two and a half hours, which was clearly too long for the large group of elderly Tibetan devotees near us – they spent most of the time throwing balls of paper at each other and giggling quietly like naughty schoolkids. At the end, everyone stood up and the Dalai Lama left, encircled by an entourage of monks and serious-looking, swivel-head men in suits.

It was fantastic.

No comments: