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Published: December 17th 2005
sleeping dogs lie
The street dogs in this area are unusually health-looking, attractive dogs, generally good-humoured. They would be: they sleep all day, get fed by buddhists, live in a decent climate...
They unfortunately use their stored energy for nightly choruses, meaning if you live near a road you are likely to hear their, um, chorus.
Who am I to pretend to understand impermanence? I am the most sentimental, backward-looking fool, despite years of goodbyes.
Less than a day away from boarding a flight to return home, I thought I'd take a bit of time to summarize some of the nice aspects of my time in McLeod Ganj during the past couple of months.
My initial goal in going was to learn a bit about the Tibetan exile community, to contrast it with what I saw in Tibet and in Nepal, to get an idea of where Tibetans stand on independence and what they are doing to achieve their dreams.
My secondary goal was to learn a bit of Tibetan, aside from my traveller's speak.
And my usual, continuing goal was to just explore and indulge in the different ways of life.
I was able to fulfill these goals.
Yet, leaving is difficult.
I have become fairly comfortable in Tibetan society, while far from Buddhist (though I do admire many buddhist ways and beliefs, i'm just not nun-like).
Considering Buddhism, though there are many practises of it and different methods of achieving enlilghtenment, different reasons for striving for it,
like the Dalai Lama says, the essential concepts are Love and Compassion, like in most religions/faiths/philosophical ways of living, whatever one wants to label them.
Many Tibetans Buddhists really practise this. If I contrast this with my experience of other people of other faiths, while many do practise these ideas, many also practise only on Sundays/Saturdays/Fridays, whatever the particular holy day. So it is just refreshing to be in an area where the is a genuine understanding and embedded practise of these. For whatever reasons (whether consciously striving for merit, whether well-taught by parents, whether imagining His Holiness presiding in every moment of their lives), Tibetans on the whole are so easy to be with, to feel good around, to pass time with.
Before I ostracize myself even before touching Canadian soil, I should add that this is not an exclusively Tibetan feature, that I have met countless good souls around the world and am returning to some such people. I just find the number heightened in Tibetan areas.
Anyway, to pass on some of the daily pleasures, I'll make a brief, point-form list of things I enjoyed:
-morning walks along the "Kora" trail (to do
"Kora" is to circumambulate a holy place; in this case, the trail ran through a forested area, weaving and undulating, to a line of prayer wheels and ringing bells, finally to the main temple). The sun rising over the surrounding mountains and the combined sounds of birds and prayer murmurs made this a very special ritual.
-feeling like I was in uni again, where the small population and town size meant that one could only walk a few meters before running into another acquaintance.
-the incongruities: it is in India, so Tibetan, Indian, and Western culture intermingle, often in strange ways. In India, blaring horns (and signs on trucks requesting such orchestra "use horn please") are the norm. As as the ubiquitous cow on the road (walking, lying, eating cardboard), roadside jewellery vendors, roadside shoe-fixers, beggars, watchers, food vendors...It is a big heap of activity in a very small area, ensuring that the senses are never unstimulated.
-the passion and extreme faith of so many people in a religion and in a leader; their love is etched in the lines on their faces; their faith is demonstrated in their efforts to be near His Holiness
in the Indian area of Bhagsu, away from the tourist stalls and hotels. There are two faces to Bhagsu: the tourist pleasures and the quieter, terraced-pathed Bhagsu of low earthen homes and cone-piles of hay. The houses are mostly small, some clay-coloured, others white-washed. Smoke smells prevail, with chapati scents close behind. This Bhagsu has regular families doing household chores. Radios waft bending Indian tunes.
-the cliffy knolls off Bhagsu roads, where a view of birds soaring, endlessly circling, distracted me many an hour. They glide and drift, occasionally flap, and glide more, over incredible distances.
-Most importantly: the many, many good people I met in a brief time, whose stories impressed upon me the vast differences in our lives. This is something I have known for a long time, travelling in developing Asian countries. But to hear straight from the source about persecution and difficulty, it is something that truly astonishes one's understanding of the world.
[As I recently read in Patrick French's "Tibet, Tibet..." westerners (in general, please!) have a sense of expecting the world to be fair. We expect that things should work out for everyone and we feel very outraged when injustices occur
(self included). French pointed out that Tibetans generally deal with injustice, acceptance that suffering is universal and impermanent. (While neither French nor I say that injustice is acceptable or justifiable, I think his point was the Tibetan mentality about problems.)]
Oh, so many things to emote about, to reminisce upon...
I'll end instead with some words of the Dalai Lama, again quoted from French's "Tibet, Tibet": I am what you want me to be... I am a screen saver for computers. I don't mind. People can use me as they want. My main practise is to serve human beings.
He also has said many more poignant, inspirational things; but this was an interesting quote, as French had just related how on different public occassions the Dalai Lama had been misrepresented on television by uninformed stars. His reaction is so selfless, humble, some qualities I'd like to consider enhancing.
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