Looks like we are getting a press conference in the next couple days. Write to me and tell me: What should I ask the Dalai Lama?
Kalachakra Initiation Day 6 Amaravati, Andhra Pradesh
We thought the Dalai Lama was taking a day off. He had told us on Tuesday "there will be no special teaching tomorrow morning," and some friends were even considering sleeping in. The days here are packed - morning call for a good seat at teachings, hustling to get lunch without heatstroke, if you're lucky a short nap till tea time, then a one-time-only, living Buddhist-Hindu-Tibeto-Indo-Euro city waiting to be explored, then photos to download from 10 till midnight. Maybe today we'd sleep till noon!
Destiny, the Bodhisattvas, and good karma intervened. We ran into a French couple at the idly place (never seen them before, but no intros necessary here - this part of India is like Richard Pryor's joke about white folks in Africa waving at each other) who asked, "have you heard about a private audience for foreigners today?" We choked down our chai and ran to the Media Center to verify the rumour. Amazingly, it was true - be at the gate at 1pm, we were told, "and bring your passports."
Every face was glowing with anticipation in the hot, dirty, crowded tent, a sort of annex behind the main Temple tent. All foreign visitors were allowed to enter in national groups (Australia first, then US, and so on) after showing passports and several security pat-downs. We squashed together seated on the jute matted floor, gladly knocking knees and elbows. Most of us folded katas (the traditional white blessings scarf) in hopes we'd each get a personal blessing.
At last we caught a glimpse of the famous maroon umbrella (the first thing you always see of His Holiness - it shields him from the scorching Indian sun and is a sign of respect) bobbing above the heads of the crowd. A reverent hush fell over the crowd, every single one of whom was beaming like a kid getting every Christmas morning all at once.
"Please remain seated! Remain seated when His Holiness enters!" I was glad for this announcement, since the custom of doing three short prostrations upon seeing a holy person, in this crowd, would have been unmanageable - and a waste of time. "And remain seated the whole time!"
You could have heard a pin drop as the beloved bespectacled face appeared, beaming as always, hands pressed together in greeting. His Holiness walks with a slight stoop, possibly from age, but more likely from a lifetime of constantly saluting people with the customary semi-bow. We all raised our praying-hands likewise. I noticed that for footwear, he wears only something like flip-flops. Since he won't wear leather, I am sure these are just plastic. An avatar in flip-flops.
His Holiness never sat in the comfy cushioned wicker chair provided for him. Instead, he stood on a small platform with a microphone in hand, and did a national roll-call.
"Is anyone here from Australia?" The Ozzies made a rousing response.
"What about Scotland?" Some hardy cheers ensued. "I must make this distinction between England and Scotland...otherwise, you may scold me!" We roared with laughter.
What followed was a brief combo of comedy routine, grandfatherly advice and Buddhist history lecture. We didn't get a personal blessing, but couldn't have felt more fortunate if we had.
It's past midnight now and I am 2 days behind on this blog. I have to be up at 6.30 to get a good seat in the teachings. Apologies for not transcribing everything yet. Here are a few photos from the day. I had wanted to swamp you with photos but they are uploading very very slowly - one at a time.
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.