Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas With the Big K

Instant Karma-Pa
BodhGaya, Bihar

I guess am one lucky dharma groupie. Not many people can say they got to shake the Dalai Lama's hand, and got a blessing from the Karmapa, all in the same week. I am here for the Monlam celebration and adjacent teachings of His Holiness the 17th Karmapa, who just managed to escape from China to India a few years ago. Again, it was a total accident; I turned up late and unregistered, but somehow managed to get ushered in with just a few other people, to present the kata scarf and receive Amrit Tibetan medicine pills. Gate-crasher in the houses of the holy, am I!

I Feel (Not So) Good
The bad news is, James Brown is dead. On Christmas Day, no less. Actually his hair died about thirty years ago (and was reborn on the head of Condoleeza Rice).

There is one guaranteed cure for depression or homesickness, for me anyway: to hear James Brown's Greatest Hits. The best 200Rs I ever spent (in Bangalore).

I hope he has a funky funeral, and is buried in one of his satin capes.

But seriously, I don't feel so good
I am suffering from some kind of carpal-tunnel syndrome. Numbness alternating with shooting pains in my right hand and arm mean I am unable to work on the computer for more than a few minutes. I have loads of wonderful photos from this Buddhist pilgrimage to share, and am sorry I can't get them to you sooner. Now I'm getting physiotherapy and massage at the Root Institute (a Buddhist school here).

Bodh Gaya is an oasis in the otherwise dusty and uninspiring plains of Bihar. The local people, most of whom are Hindu, appear to be thriving only on the business generated by local monasteries and Buddhist-related tourism. It's a very international place, as well, wealthy Buddhist pilgrims making a real contrast with the threadbare Biharis. Each Buddhist country (Bhutan, Japan, Taiwan, China, Taiwan, Thailand, Nepal, Vietnam, Korea, Burma, Tibet and so on) has a temple built in its characteristic style. Visiting them is sort of like going to an embassy for that particular country. There are also very cheap and nice rooms available in each monastery guest house. Unfortuantely they are all taken, as it is not only Monlam time but holiday season for everyone. The town is swamped with big tour groups from Burma, Sri Lanka and so on, many dressed in their distinctive national clothes.

Maybe I can create a field guide: Know Your Buddhists. That is, if my arm and hand improve.

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