Wednesday, March 12, 2008

first night and day in dharamsala!

well... i got here safe and sound! despite minor delays in dublin and delhi i made the flight to dharamsala and arrived late afternoon in mcleod ganj, above dharamsala and where the tibetans have settled mainly
based on a recommendation in lonely planet i went straight away to find the KUNGA guesthouse on bhagsu road where they had a good room vacant so i took it for the first couple of nights til i find my feet and settle down somewhere for sure
the room is, i believe , where richard gere and ciny crawford stayed when he first came to find the dharma
however, legend has it, they actually broke the bed!
thankfully, it's not the same bed anymore and the sheets are all new and everything [i asked!]
there is a nice balcony with stupendous views over the valley and hills below and you can look up to the snowy peaks of the high himalayas [pics to come soon]
it is scorching with a light breeze and chilly at night... perfect!
the restaurant there is fabulous... tibetan and italian veggie, with deserts to die for and a terrace with the same views
met a wondeful tibetan monk, BAGDRO, aged 38 [the image of Ringu Tulku Rinpoche]
he was imprisoned and tortured by the chinese for years in the late 80s and has several books to his credit... the most famous is Hell on Earth
nowadays he goes about wherever he is invited to speak about it [with HHDL's blessing] but he also organises major protests wherever he goes including publicity stunts related to sports and cultural events
you can expect to see him parachuting into the olympic stadium in beijing no doubt at some stage in the future! he is fearless and cares nothing for his own welfare - a loose canon with a huge heart full of crazy wisdom!
he is quite well-known and, of course, is on the chinese black-list
there have been huge monastic protest marches in lhasa over the past few days
i'm sure if it were covered by tv and newspapers it would make burma look like disneyland
many monks and nuns arrested and 'disappeared'

sleeping is difficult because at night the stray dogs rule the streets and laneways [mental note to self... dont be out late!]
earplugs are a must as they bark and howl and scrap all night

TODAY i went walkabout and discovered what's where
i ended up going for broke and hiking down the hillside to find NECHUNG MONASTERY - the main reason i have come here
you remember i wrote earlier about last year's invitation from Nechung Kuten Rinpoche [the State Oracle of Tibet] to come here and learn some chanting...
and how i got no replies when i txted and emailed recently to accept it...
well, i followed all the advice to just come anyway and remind him face to face if i could find him
so that's what i did today
he was there!
he remembered me and swimming together in goa and the invitation and all that
he didnt seem particularly surprised i just came anyway and reassured me he would organise everything when we meet again tomorrow
he is suggesting i learn from the best available lama at GYUTO !
they have all the experience and tradition for the kind of deep chanting with overtones i will be learning

i also visited the NAMGYAL monastery and HHDL's residence on the way there

Nechung Gompa[=monastery] is right beside the Tibetan Government in Exile complex so i popped in there too on the way - they have a wonderful library and museum and it was also very easy to go into goverment buildings and meet ministers and officials to offer moral support
looks like the current protests could become something of a mini uprising and that is why the chinese will undoubtedly cut it down with brutal force
please think of them all
HHDL supports their protest and reminds everyone to follow the middle way of non-violent, non-aggressive action
and above all to see any perceived enemy as one's greatest teacher in this lifetime ... furthermore, never lose one's love and compassion by allowing anger and revenge to take control [even momentarily]
that sounds like a plan to me!

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