At the risk of sounding like a jerk, being a lama is not that big a deal. This realization becomes more clear after spending time in a Tibetan community. Anybody with a sponsor who can stay in school 12 years can be a lama - and for most Asians it seems to be second nature to stay in school, follow orders, don't ask questions, and get that piece of paper. Then you get the title "lama." (It would be a much bigger challenge for a Westerner.) They are walking the streets here, so they no longer seem exotic. I shared a taxi with one last night who kept hitting on me (and this one was a shaven monk in robes). Then there was the one who told me he wanted my body - and that was standing in front of the Maitreya statue in the lakhang of his monastery. Dharmsala is full of Tibetan guys hoping to get a foreign wife and a green card, trading on the Tibetan mystique the same way Indians did in the 60s and 70s.
My friend maintains that part of this (extracurricular monk behavior) is because so many monks are now Bhutanese and Nepalese, that the Tibetans are "different." Somehow, considering the more relaxed Tibetan attitudes toward sexuality, I doubt this. To be fair, I guess there are lamas and then there are Lamas. Also, definition of the word Lama seems to vary between the Buddhist schools. In some places anyone in robes is called Lama; in others only a current incarnation of a previously highly evolved soul gets this title.
Most of the Western Buddhists I meet here appear to be very miserable people. Is that what happens when you focus on Emptiness so much? I confess that I don't find it a terribly motivating concept. A great deal of the Baby Buddhists' motivation appears to be Being Part of Something Cool, particularly the younger ones who got involved once Tibetan Buddhism was already trendy. But they're just so gosh-darn cute and squeaky-clean "dharmic." I love the way they know nothing about Hinduism and the fact that Buddhism came from Hinduism (as much a shock to some of them as, say, telling most Christians that Jesus was actually a Jew.)They also assume an innate piousness on the part of ethnic Tibetans, who to me appear nothing if not terminally tough and practical.
Sirensongs: Indologist At Large
Somewhere between Kangra, Kashmir and Kumbakonam, India
Sirensongs moved to India in 2002 to complete her six years' study of the ancient temple dance, Bharatanatyam. Apprenticing with a revered master in Madras, she learned a great deal; however, most of it was not about dance.
Disillusionment and childhood memories of "Tintin In Tibet" have led her to adventures as a spiritual investigative reporter throughout India, Nepal and Sri Lanka; as documented on this blogsite, her Flickr photo portfolio and various newsmedia (see sidebar).
She holds a certificate in Spoken Sanskrit from Rashtriya Samskrta Samsthan (deemed university, New Delhi) and is a lifetime member of ABHAI (Assoc. of Bharatanatyam Artists of India). Sirensongs is inordinately proud of her ability to read street signs and argue (successfully) with taxi drivers in Malayalam, Hindi, French and Nepali languages.
Her Tibetan, however, is still a total disgrace. She's working on it.
Quote: "Why do people go to India to find themselves? India is where you go to LOSE yourself."
Unless otherwise noted, every word and photograph on this website, including the phrases "Spiritual Investigative Reporter" and "Indologist at Large," is original and copyright from 2005 into perpetuity by Sirensongs (yes, I have a real name I use for legal purposes). It is not public domain. It is not there for the borrowing. If you would like to use it, write and ask nicely. Karma is a bitch. Thank you.