Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Hello Dalai

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.

1 comment:

Vikram said...

Nice blog. Information is very good. Though I'm 60km away from the occasion, unable to attend.Is there any buddhist who attain the Nirvana beside Lord Buddha?