Saturday, January 14, 2006


Kalachakra Intiation, Day 8
Amaravati, Andhra Pradesh

It's a DalaiLama-Rama!

Too bad there are only three days left of this amazing event. There is so much going on you would need to bi-locate (the way the Lord Buddha evidently did to deliver the original Kalachakra sermon) in order to cover half of it.

The Tibetan equivalent of Woodstock has been taking place every night for the past 3 nights here, with about 30,000 in attendance so far - the largest Tibetan music event ever. All Tibetan artists, traditional and pop, from 7 to 11pm every night. The young Tibetan generation impress me with their simultaneous fascination for hip-hop, rock and Hindi movies, yet total reverence for the Dalai Lama and their traditions. Usually what happens in such situations is that the kids want to run away from the past completely and dis the religion as well. The Tibetan kids, at least the ones who are here, seem keenly aware of their responsibility to maintain their culture. Some, like my new friend Sangye (whose favourite band is the Black Eyed Peas), express a desire to succeed here in India (the regional land of opportunity) and then return, they hope, to an autonomous Tibet some day in order to help their people.

The Amaravati museum, containing sculptural friezes of the 200 AD MahaStupa, is chock full of Tibetans praying to the Buddhist relics as well as local Telugu folks who are just now learning about the Buddhist heritage of their homeland. Many Indian families took the opportunity to combine the historical event with a family outing. It was great to see the locals mingling with westerners and Tibetans, everyone appreciating the beautiful sculpture depicting scenes from the life of Buddha (first sermon at Sarnath, escape from the palace, and so on). Though the signs forbid it, Tibetans run their fingers lovingly over the ancient stones - carved into lotus flowers, dharma wheels, and various depictions of the Buddha - sometimes bowing reverently to place their head at the base of the pedestal. Everyone, Tibetan, Hindu and western, bowed to the sculpture representing the Buddha's feet. Telugu ladies expressed curiosity at the Tibetan ladies' intricate braided hair designs - often interwoven with colourful ribbons and elaborate silver ornaments.

Everywhere I go, I am confronted by local Indians keen to know about the event, the Dalai Lama and the significance of this juggernaut that has hit their hometown. They are full of questions: Who is the Dalai Lama? When can we see him speak? Where is the preaching place anyway? Does it cost money to meet the Dalai Lama? Why doesn't the Chinese government like him? Who is the Panchen Lama? Does Tibet have modern facilities like engineering and medical colleges? What is the meaning of the deep-voiced chants the monks are constantly singing? When can we view the mandala? Why are you carrying this piece of kusha grass? Does he speak only in Tibetan? Can we meet him and consult with him? What is the meaning of this puja and the meaning of Buddhism? These were all literate, educated people with vigorous curiosity about the goings-on. It seems the local Telugu papers' information had been scanty and sometimes inaccurate.

Other locals expressed appreciation for what little they knew of His Holiness - that he had won the Nobel Peace Prize, and that "everything he is doing is only for world peace."


v_tel001 said...

Sirensongs, your posts are very informative, and give a first hand, informal account of what's happening in Amaravati. My mother tongue is Telugu, and I come from Tenali town, coastal Guntur (the district in which Amaravati is present). I have visited Amaravati twice, since I maintain a lot of interest in Buddhism.
Though im presently living in California, US, I am keeping in touch with the happenings during the Kalachakra. I maintain a Telugu blog,
where I have been collecting news articles on the Kalachakra in Telugu.
Though you might not understand the language, you can have a look

You can also have a look at my other page on Telugu - Italian of the East

miriam said...

Thanks for all the fabulous pictures and writing! I spent a lot of time with the Tibetans and was impressed by the youth's determination to keep their culture. However, the more I got to know them the more I realized how much weight was on their shoulders and how they struggled with this. Many youth apparentely get into drugs and fights, perhaps due to the stress. A lot of them were acutely aware of having to choose between personal desires and familial/societal ones. For instance, the pressure to marry another Tibetan and have more kids is strong. Another one of my friends wanted to go the U.S. to live with his mom but his dad thought it more important that he stay in India and work with the Tibetan government in exile. Granted, kids all over the world face this sort of dilemna all the time.