Tibetan Government in Exile
Back into colder mountain weather, my anticipated next stop is Dharamsala and the home of the Tibetan Government in Exile. I spent most of my time just above the village proper in McLeod Ganj, also called Upper Dharamsala. Administration buildings, monasteries, the home of the Dalai Lama, Parliament House, and schools have turned with place into “Little Lhasa.”
Since 1960, several thousand Tibetans have relocated themselves to this area transplanting their monasteries and culture into the surrounding Hindu backdrop. McLeod, a couple kilometers walk uphill, is what you consider “touristy” with guest houses, Western cuisine, and souvenir vendors lining the streets.
My schedule has slowed much in the past month and my stay of almost 2 weeks was rather quiet and relaxing. I met a few local Tibetans and got into a habit of playing pool everyday, along with lots of reading and chess games.
The most notable thing I did was attend some philosophy classes at the Library. I would love to have several months to spend studying here with many kinds of Buddhist teachings offered. As it is, I attended a class given by a Tibetan lama and his interpreter, an English woman in her 60s. The translator was excellent, having spent many years here in study.
The focus of this class, which runs about a month in total, is on “The Wheel of Sharp Weapons Effectively Striking the Heart of the Foe” composed in the 10th Century by Dharmarakshita. The text is essentially an investigation in the effect of karma on our lives, the vital role of cause and effect, and that all our suffering is self-imposed. Our own selfish actions come back to us and cause harm, which is why a life of compassion for all living things is cultivated. “The Wheel of Sharp Weapons comes back upon us full circle!” was the repeated phrase in these talks. Very interesting text I will pick up later to study in depth.
I also briefly saw the Dalai Lama as he returned from a speaking tour in Japan and Europe. Unfortunately his motorcade drove through the closely packed streets quite quickly and I bungled the photo operation before I could get a good shot! I had someone else man my video camera so perhaps I got something there (will have to wait and see…). I did see him though and her was in the front seat of vehicle waving both hands at one and grinning.
Dharamsala, shortly before my arrival, held a series of important talks concerning their stance on the occupation of Tibet by China. One cannot help but feel a sense of despair hanging over the setting here. Some sport shirts that say “Tibet was Raped by China” in bold lettering and an anti-Chinese feel permeates the literature, DVDs, thoughts, and mentality that are produced here.
You also find many foreigners here volunteering and working for all types of causes. Not negatively implied, this sort of “do-gooder tourism” attracts certain kinds of people. I myself have done this kind of thing extensively (in Jamaica) but it brings up mixed emotions on the effectiveness of this and the fine line between tourist and community member. Some people walk the streets with wine in their belly; others searching for some religious experience and it’s quite impossible to tell the two apart.
One “local-foreigner” approached me one night with bundles of raffle tickets supporting some charity for which she probably spent the day painting benches for. Prizes were big TVs and other electronics. What the hell am I going to do with a flat screen TV here? Why, donate it to charity of course!
Her (to anyone listening): “Where is the ________ Shop?”
Her (to me): “Where is the–, How long have you been here?”
Me: “Ummm, about–”
Her (to anyone listening): sigh, “I guess I’ll just have to go myself”
She tromped off with her raffle tickets.
I can’t figure out of this girl (and others) is motivated by her compassion to help people, or her sense of self-worth derived from her compassion to help people.
Since its off-season, I found a room for very cheap (100 Rps = $2) during my stay. I enjoyed the mini-enclave of Tibet in India and hope to return someday to explore further north into Ladakh, which is reachable by plane in the wintery months.