Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Monastic Fantastic

Kalachakra Intiation, Day 5
Amaravati, Andhra Pradesh

Having a media pass makes a big difference. It's much easier to contemplate being kind to all sentient beings when there are fewer of them to deal with. For one thing, I don't have to go to the 7am cattle call with the mere mortals; I can use the VIP entrance. Compared to the public seating I'm in Nirvana already. Here are just a few photo highlights of the day. I'm way behind on the Blog updates but hope to catch up now that I have (wait for it...drum roll)....Free 24-Hour Internet Access!

The 100,000 or so people are divided into very visible categories. Glancing around the vast tent, it sort of reminded me of the Indian caste system. Foreigners, here! Local Indians, here! Tibetan nuns, here; VIPs, here! Then Himalayan Region devotees, Japanese, Disabled, Senior Monks, General Monks, Nuns, Government, Chinese Nuns, and Press. Just like traditional Indian society, everyone has a very clearly defined niche and is expected to stay put.

Yesterday I finally laid eyes on His Holiness the Dalai Lama, from a distance of about 50 feet. I had seen him before, at a much smaller audience speaking at a college in Calcutta. His voice is truly mesmerizing, soothing and enchanting, even if (or perhaps especially if) you don't understand a word of Tibetan. Today we took Bodhisattva vows, a sort of lifetime vow to do everything for the sake of others rather than yourself, and began the initiation process. The monks completed the Kalachakra sand mandala today, though it will be publicly unveiled only next week; it's a sort of blueprint for the celestial mansion we will visualize ourselves abiding in - all part of the meditational practice. Tomorrow is the masked Chaam dance in which the dancers officially invite the 722 wisdom deities and the god Kalachakra Himself to inhabit the site. It's a good thing all those deities are occupying some other dimension; the tent is pretty crowded already.

Maybe they will have their own seating section..."Wisdom Deities Here."

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