Kalachakra Initiations, Day 47 or so (lost track about a week ago)
Amaravati, Andhra Pradesh
My shoulders are aching from holding my camera up over my head all day long, it's 12.50 AM, I still haven't been able to download all my photos (don't ask) and we have to get up at 6.30 in the morning to get a good place for witnessing the dissolution of the Kalachakra Sand Mandala and its dispersion in the river. I think I have enough stuff now to write about the rest of the season.
I was all set to be a demure, novice, girl cub-reporter at the press conference and not ask any questions, and ended up wishing that I had. The questions were so unbelievably stupid (even after the Dalai Lama stated he didn't want to answer political questions, they persisted). The Communist party is strong in Andhra Pradesh state and there is a local gang of pseudo-intellectual, pseudo-secular skeptics whose idea of showing how modern and sophisticated they are is to try to make the Dalai Lama, or any religious figure, look like a hypocrite. There is one guy from a local Telugu-language paper (which shall remain nameless) who's always - I mean, every day at the 5pm press briefing - asking questions calculated to make the Rinpoche look stupid. (Rinpoche always kicked his butt verbally, but the guy never learned.) Someone must have warned HH about him, because the Dalai Lama got irritated at this guy, who'd been asking obviously-Commie-slanted questions all week. HH nearly rose out of his chair, pointing his finger at the irritating guy and saying "I think you are supporting the Chinese cause!" We all laughted because we'd been thinking the same thing all week. It takes a lot to provoke a living Avalokiteshvara (embodiment of compassion) but this guy deserved it.
After the official initiation (which comes after the semi- hemi - demi- initiations, and the 4 quasi-low impowerments, 4.5 the slightly higher impowerments and the 12 or so somewhat-slightly-higher-than that impowerments) we actually did feel initiated. You're bound to feel something after sitting there for four hours a day ten days in a row...even though you might not be feeling anything in your legs. Nobody seems to know what the actual practice is we're meant to be doing, but everyone feels like they got zapped. It has lots of technicolour deities and Sanskrit mantras draped all over it to attract the interest of Orientalist dilettantes like me, but basically it comes down to: be nice to people, don't be selfish, and anything good you do, do it for the good of all. I think this whole thing is a Dalai Lama trick to get lots of people in one place so he can instill bodhicitta (loving kindness and compassion) into them, bless them, force them to sit in one place for hours at a time to get the vibrations of all those chants reverberating through them, and draw their attention to the Tibetan cause -- all in one go. I love it. Good one, HH!