Dharamsala, Dalai-Lama and the Reality- a subjective experience

This planet’s religions have met on this land God blessed: Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Christianity and Sikhism… I find it impossible to think about India as a culture without involving the spiritual side. Traditions, customs, clothing, music, relationships- all is connected to religion and has spiritual symbolism. In India God is on everybody’s lips: form the Hindu priests (saadhu babas) on the holy river Ganges to the Buddhist monks on the top of the mountains.

Four kilometers up from Dharamsala is McLeod Ganj, an old British garrison. Built at over 2000 meters altitude in 1850, the garrison was the administrative center of the region until an earthquake determined the British to move at a lower altitude. Now McLeod Ganj is the headquarters of the exiled Tibetan government and Dalai Lama’s residence. In the midst on the Indian Himalayas, this Cashmere-influenced Tibetan city is generous to the tourist looking for comfort: many hotels, friendly and almost clean restaurants, Western food, Tibetan souvenirs and the latest in cinema.

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Two days a week the McLeod Ganj clubs go live. People from many continents play many strange or weird-looking instruments. Ranging from Manu Chao to James Brown, the jam session atmosphere makes me miss the concerts back in Romania.
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Asian multiculturalism: in a Tibetan bar, a Japanese plays an Indian instrument

It’s raining. It’s the monsoon season and it rains most of the time. The monsoon is a wind but in India and surrounding countries it brings a lot of rain. It rains even when it doesn’t rain! The rain is so thin you don’t actually need an umbrella but in a couple of hours you get all soaked up. In here, the rain stopped being an issue: it’s a part of the daily, ordinary life.

When it comes to classes, you find here all you can imagine and more: massage, yoga, meditation, Indian cookery, teaching musical instruments, palmistry, Tibetan painting, jewelry-making… salsa classes based on donations (you come, you dance and upon leaving you pay as much as you feel like). Just when I was thinking there is no poster for Tai-Chi classes (of  Chinese origins), one appeared. 🙂

The Tibetan Uprising Movement invites me to speak at the Pro Tibet conference, together with 17 other people from all over the world. It’s long time I haven’t spoken to such a big crowd. Before my speech they tell me that the Chinese authorities use Google as one of the means for deciding who gets visas  :)  If that is so, I’ll probably get to China after ten years… After my speech I receive a white scarf  with Tibetan embroidery from a poet.

The Chinese invasion in 1949 destroyed 90% of the Tibetan religious institutions, all in the name of the red revolution. After 10 years of occupation, Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, in danger of being assassinated, decided to leave Tibet. In order to get to India he crossed the Himalayans by foot. 250 thousands Tibetans have followed him ever since, most of them finding refuge in Dharamsala.

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In recognizance of his efforts to peacefully free Tibet, Tenzin Gyatso was awarded the Nobel prize for peace in 1989.

In his meetings conversations with scientists Dalai Lama speaks about the Buddhist principles as they were offered to the world by the last Buddha – also called Sakyamuni or Gautama – 2500 years ago. What scientists need is not  a text but a living creature that that deposits all of those teachings, a wise man that understands the teachings beyond words and beyond rationality.

There is but one reality, still when we try to put it into words everything essential is lost. It is when people that have got to an understanding of reality try to depict it the best way they can. Thus the multitude of religions speaking about one and the same god that yet cannot find a common language. What all religions do is try to justify their existence and preeminence based on holy writings and historical evidence. Nonetheless, a written text is nothing but an array of words with a meaning. No matter how well written, profound or full of significance it is, it will never manage to replace the own personal experience.

During our development as human beings we are conditioned to look at life in a certain way. We see life through our own personal filter. Is just like wearing a pair of glasses we’re unaware of, thus we cannot take off. There are 7 billions people in this world, each with its own personal view on reality.
Our mental processes have taken hold of what we are and we got used to conceptual thinking. If  something has no clear logic we  find it hard to accept it. Yet, scientists now need to understand beyond concepts. Experiments, in quantum physics especially, lead to the discovery of realities that contradict the conceptual laws we all learned in school.

“All human beings in the Universe are connected” – an affirmation the human mind perceives as fantasy, even though scientists confirm it. The results are purely experimental and cannot be confirmed by the mathematical logic but were expressed, over the time, by people with a deep understanding of reality. Buddha was one of the first.

Even nowadays there are lots of them, deeply connected to reality but for the groups of scientists Dalai Lama is good marketing, with his status and credibility.
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Source.

To get there in time I travel all night long. I often fall asleep and hit my head on the car window. Curiosity cancels all bumps and exhaustion. Security is at a maximum and there are lots of people around the temple. The atmosphere is peaceful and festive. I climb the stairs, pass over the last security-check and I get inside the room. I look around and I investigate like a child discovering the world. I see him and I stop. Dalai Lama waves friendly and smiles at me. I’m confused, I don’t know if he really waves and smiles at me (we are not acquainted  ), so I turn and take a look behind me. He waves again. I blush and lean my head forward and salute him. What figure more representative than Dalai Lama himself I could have met during my “Hitch-hiking for peace and soul” experience? I enjoy every second of it. And I think that me being here is not because of me but because of all the wonderful people I have met…

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In his teachings, Dalai Lama speaks about the way to the final truth, about the difference between appearance and reality, about the disappointment people experience when they live at appearance level.

He radiates kindness and optimism. A few meters around him, the positive energy is contagious. He explains in great details the basic positions for meditation and he waves his open hand. His vitality, the tone of his voice and the confidence in his moves remind me of the Samurai warriors. He points forward with one or two fingers. He swifts slowly from side to side and he often scratches his right ear. Although very concentrated and very serious, there are smile wrinkles on his face, as though he’d burst into laughter anytime.

To my left- an English nun, recently converted, explains it is forbidden to touch each other. To make sure, she places a handbag in between us. To my right- a monk that escaped two years ago from Tibet. His father was asking him to return home and help him get his retirement fee back. But if he goes back home, to Lhasa, his father will get his pension back and in return, the son will get torture and Chinese jails. He has one more sister, a nun in a monastery from the top of the world. He smiles a lot, he’s friendly and he tries to teach me some Tibetan words. At tea-time, he serves me first. He only speaks Tibetan and we communicate with the help of an American nun (she took up Buddhism  12 years ago).

Buddhist meditation is a form of inner exploration. In its most pure form it’s called vypassana. It has been preserved intact over centuries in Burma (Myanmar) and it’s among the most precious gifts of Buddha.

Almost all methods of inner discovery talk about the relationship with a “guide”, somebody in a higher level of understanding. Depending on the place we’re in, the “guide” is called priest, master, psychotherapist, lama, guru… Perfect substitute of a parent, such a guide can easily generate addiction… and there are plenty of fake gurus that take advantage of their disciples’ weaknesses.

Most of them “explain” how things really are and give solutions. The thing is, our life scripts are different and the guide’s solution comes from his life and his experience to supposedly solve a problem from my life. Our roads in life are different and my way is not his way. They can happen to be similar; not identical. Even when he perfectly understands and explains what happens to me our communication is inherently limited. No word man speaks and no thinking mind can comprehend the wideness of the human being. I interpret the information I receive, I put significance and meaning into it and I filter it according to how I was conditioned…

No matter the domain we refer to, the best treatment or learning method is the integration of the own personal experience. Unfortunately, the modern society led us to “function” based on the law of cause and effect: in order to clear away the unwanted effect we hurry to heal the pain and we often forget about what is beyond it, what caused the pain. Nonetheless, a solution coming from outside us and the system we are, no matter how appropriate, is nothing but a momentarily solution. The problem will eventually come back, perhaps in a more complicated way. The cure is the personal effort put into self-exploring and exploring the problem, in understanding the personal experience. A spiritual guide that is helpful indeed is the one that encourages the process, offers freedom and assists the exploration.

During the ages saints and mystics have tried to find a way for the understanding of reality. But here is no “one way”, a universally valid solution; we are different and we are conditioned in different ways. Religion is the most embraced path. Zen is known mostly as a style of dressing or automobiles design. Romanians see yoga as a devilish thing due to the MISA affair. It’s a pity, but the media never presents people that do good things. Mario Sorin Vasilescu is an internationally acclaimed yoga teacher. He cannot practice anymore but he knows and understands the dynamics of every muscle. He teaches the purest yoga and he has prepared exceptional instructors.

I warmly recommend psychotherapy, first of all because it’s the professional path I chose (I’m being subjective, obviously). Second of all, because the psychotherapist-client relationship is a natural, profound and reality-connected one. Psychotherapy is addressed to any normal person: is another way of personal development. A good psychotherapist is much better than any guru telling stories of  little angels and fairies.

Despite appearances and despite recurrent pain and suffering, life is about bliss and joy! No matter the hardship and difficulties, nothing can stop us from enjoying our every breath of air. I sometimes think I might be mistaken: maybe things are not like that, maybe all this spirituality will eventually lead me to the understanding of some sort of mystery that will freeze me into silence and contemplation. I’m afraid I’ll lose my joy of living, loving and joining Life in a dance, the joy of laughing out loud. Nonetheless, all fear is in the future. On the path zero, fear disappears. Here and now, all we have is harmony, freedom and a strong grasp of reality.🙂

Some kind of “Hotel California”

Bombay is probably the most expensive city in India. It is where the richest people from the movie making and IT industries live. Their palaces conceal treasures and luxury beyond imagination. Renting a simple room in your usual neighborhood 50-60 minutes away from the center is 600 euros. So I choose Salvation Army Hostel because is the cheapest and it has the Lonely Planet recommendation. Huge mistake! The official story is that the hostel is highly institutionalized and the rules are strict, because Salvation Army is a religious organization. The unofficial reality is that one can drink, smoke and use drugs in here basically everywhere. The dirt in here is hard to describe, one wouldn’t know where to start from. The most useful items I own are the antibacterial gel and the sleeping bag!

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In the bedroom, two-leveled beds. In the bed “downstairs” is where Joseph lives. I say “lives” because he’s still got 19 more days of waiting for the results of  college admission exams. A trip back home would cost him too much. Joseph is 19 and he comes from the far East of the country, in Mizoram, farther away from Bangladesh. Everything is different back there. He doesn’t speak Hindi and I initially thought he’s Japanese. He abides by everything happening around him with great stoicism and although he lives in this polluted environment he never used any drugs or alcohol. He spends most of his days reading. He asks many questions and he’s a fast learner.
I meet many interesting travelers, with interesting stories and great ideas. There are people that in the mornings practice yoga in the hallways and also citizens of  respectable countries (Sweden, Switzerland, England) that have hashish running down their veins. It’s a long time their visas expired, some of them even sold their passports. All they live for is the next cigarette. Some kind Indians picked them from the streets, brought them to the hostel and send them food every day. They smoke in bed, lying on their backs. They beg, lie, fight for every cigarette and have cut-off crises that leave them shaking for half an hour. They wake up in the middle of the night and light very concentrated joints. I get sick and spend my second night throwing up. I get high fever and miss one of the meetings in the Bombay International School. If  I stay here I probably won’t get any better. Barely walking, I leave the “Salvation” hostel.

Sonam

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I am curious about how the temple looks in the dark so I go and let my candle late in the evening. I find Sonam at the temple’s entrance. His parents came from Tibet in 1959 and raised him in a deep and wild region of India. He gets to see them during the winter holidays. Sonam in 30 and he’s wearing the monk habits since he was 14.

He lives a simple life, following the Dharma (The Way, the Buddhist teachings) and this makes him feel happy. Monks like Sonam cannot get married or have any sexual intercourse. He’s very open and answers my questions without hesitations but in the end he asks me to don’t publish his photo.

Sonam lives in the main temple, where he has a bed, meals, space for studying, praying and meditating. He receives around 2 euros per month for buying soap, toothpaste and so on. He doesn’t want more and he doesn’t need more. We have a very interesting conversation on Buddhist teachings and he clears many of my doubts and questions. Which clarity leads to more questions.🙂

I ask him what he’s passionate about and his mind searches the answer for a while. Because he loves everything he does…

He sometimes goes swimming, in the weekends. He likes to study grammar and Tibetan poetry.

“May all the human beings on this earth live in peace and harmony!”

Sonam is one of those who forget about themselves and pray for all of us… For me, for you, for the Chinese people…

The Olympics of Shame

The reason I’m writing right now is to ask to light a candle. Because I feel a bit guilty for not writing here for long time, I’ll tell you more about it.

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Sursa: http://tchrd.org/images/poster/olympic.jpg

The Olympic Games of Shame. It happened in China. Meanwhile, thousands of Tibetans have disappeared or are imprisoned in Chinese camps.
The Olympics want to:
– contribute, through sport, to the construction of a better and more peaceful world;
– promote a peaceful society, where human dignity is a core value;
– promote respect to the universal and fundamental principles of ethics.
All this while:
– the gold medals that makes everybody talk about it was obtained by illegal mining in Tibet, where 1.200.000 Tibetans lost their lives to the Chinese invasion and occupation;
– the silver is illegally obtained from Tibetan monasteries, 6.000 of which were destroyed, thus leading to the loss of thousands of years of Tibetan culture;
– bronze, the most honorable third place is nothing but a big mark of shame on the face of Chinese authorities, who break in the most miserable way the basic human rights.,
A hundred kilometers away from a cultural genocide, thousands of athletes will performed in the name of peace!

I’ve gone through so many adventures meanwhile…I have recorded some of them and I’ll tell you about them here or when we meet.
In the period I spent in Himalaya I lived among Tibetans and I am deeply impressed by their simplicity, joy and inner peace. They are probably the most peaceful people in the world. In march 2008 had bitter clashes with an oppressing regime that has nothing to do on these lands.

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Sursa: http://laspalmasport.com/Dalai%20Lama.jpg

In Dharamsala, India, is the headquarters of the Tibetan government in exile as well as that of Tibet’s political and spiritual leader, the Holy Tenzin Ghyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama. I am here after I solicited, by phone, to be received. A Tibetan official invited me to a the lectures Dalai Lama himself holds.
I never could imagine that one day I’ll be given the privilege to sit only meters away from this king of kindness and compassion, to receive his teachings.
Security is at a maximum, each day the guards here check me in detail. No mobile phone or camera are allowed.
For 5 hours a day Dalai Lama talks to us about soul, path, ignorance, wisdom, truth, body, mind, spirit and enlightenment.

At the temple’s gates there are the militants for a free Tibet and for the release of political prisoners as well as lots of journalists and many tourists. 6 of the monks are in their 10th day of hunger protest, with no water and no food. They have fainted several times.
I have seen last night a very objective presentation of the actual situation In Tibet, by Robert Burns, journalist and professor specialized in Tibetan studies. Tomorrow in the afternoon we’ll go to an orphanage for Tibetan children, whose parents are in jail or died. Together with some Israeli friends, trained in psychotherapy and/or theatre we’ll organize some interactive games and activities. It actually is that occidental feeling of “I want to do something…”. The children don’t suffer: they have no way to tell the difference and to understand their situation.

Besides, Tibetans smile anyway, no matter the disgrace they are in…
“March to Tibet”: tomorrow, supporters from India will march between Rajghat and Janta for a free Tibet.

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The reason I’m writing right now is to ask you to light a candle. “A Candle for Tibet”. While the candle burns I want to ask you to spend some moments thinking “how would that be”:
– not to be able to call your own father because if he answers he goes straight to jail;
– to don’t have a clue whether your own brother died in jail is alive or somewhere in between;
– to witness the disappearance from right under your eyes of a culture as rich and great as the Tibetan culture is;
– to not be allowed to pray to your own God;
– to be denied access to education;
– to be moved from place to place over night, to be cut away from your roots together with thousands of other families, all in the name of “protecting grass”…

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Thank you! Right now you are in a harmonious connection with 100 millions more people!
If you can, do promote the idea. If a friend of yours will light a candle, maybe he’ll thank you to.  :)

Roopa

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I start to miss somehow deeper conversations, those ones that go deeper than intercultural dialogue. In thesame day Roopa and two smart guys appear: Francisco from Spain and Anurah form Canada/India. New topics, stories, recent information, midnight thoughts…It all happens with harmony, honesty and authenticity.

Roopa is very natural and spontaneous. In the category “nothing just happens”, it seems that she’s one of those persons I simply had to meet. Roopa comes from Mumbai but she spent many years out of India. She’s got the body of a 20 years old and I cannot believe her when she speaks about her age. Life offered her the chance to understand so many things and her spiritual perspective has strong grounds.

I leave from Arambol the next day but we meet again, by “coincidence”! We travel the same direction so she offers me transportation.  :)

Our ways cross again in Mumbai and Roopa takes care of me when I get sick. Very attentive to my states and needs, full of affection and protective, Roopa is the perfect mother!

She’s got an amazing house and her daughter is a student in USA. I have no good enough words in my vocabulary to express my gratitude! A deep feeling of humanity. Pure and unconditional.

Arambol Beach

My room: very big, airy, with a huge bed and a fan just as huge on top; access to individual bathroom and a hall where I can dry clothes. I did not ask for all this comfort but they don’t have a lot of guests and they hope I’ll stay longer. It is, actually, the first place where I sleep for two nights in a row. 🙂

It is the perfect place for a junkie (drugs user). You can laze for many days, weeks, months… The largest LSD amount in the world was not used in Los Angeles, London or South America but here, in Goa. One can buy 10 grams of hashish with less than 10 euros.

For over 400 years, until 1961 Goa was under Portuguese domination. The time of the Portuguese domination has marked architecture, religion (the vast majority are Catholics), even table manners! Goa is one of the few places in India where cutlery is being used. The occidentalization takes nothing out of the excellent Indian cooking. In the menus in Goa there are many occidental elements, but I prefer the local dishes. There will be a distinct article on this, stay tuned!😀

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There are very few people, that’s because the season is closing. Now you can only find here Indian tourists and people in love with the place. The scenery is amazing, like in the most beautiful dream. There are majestic cliffs, sweet-salty water (“The sweet lake”, 10 meters away from the Ocean), friendly people and tranquility. Nonetheless, Goa being a tourist destination, people are more commercial-oriented. Arambol is the north-most of Goa beaches as well as the wildest. This sounds weird to any European: the season is closing because of high temperatures! Although the Ocean breeze make the temperature bearable, this time of the year is considered to be off-season. To me the weather is perfect: there is very little difference of the night-day temperatures; the sea is always warm and welcoming; the monsoon (the rainy season) is yet to come.

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Is not such a welcoming place for who doesn’t look for drugs: I cannot find my place in this small society where the vast majority are drug users. I finally find compatible people: a Spanish guy, a Russian girl, a couple coming from Singapore, a Indian girl, a Canadian guy and two Israelis with a guitar.

I first found out about the term “Goa” at the Rosia Montana festival FanFest, where there was one Goa tent installed. That’s another story, for the next time we meet.🙂

Thoughts

The frustration I feel right now comes from the lack of being present, here and now. The surrounding atmosphere can only be enjoyed and this is not enough for me.

On one side there are the duties, the promises I have made: the take me back in the past. I am way behind with my notes for the site. I have to talk about things and events that happened and are now finished and this also takes me back in the past.

The “here and now” is not enough for me. I am not in a state of total acceptance of things that happen, no matter how they happen and that’s why I start to plan my future in greater details. Here I am with a tourist guide of India (1200 pages) in my arms, deciding what I should do next, what I shouldn’t do next, how to and how not to, where to stay…

Future… human mind needs past and future in order to exist! In the present all what I have is sensation, feeling, living. Even if I have pain, there is a path that leads to death of… thought… is the path zero!🙂 I cannot measure path zero, I cannot fully comprise it in some sort of mental pattern, yet it is there, present, in every moment…

This balancing movement between past and future, with only fugitive moments spent in the present (if I don’t simply ignore the present altogether…) really does affect me. It deprives me of my joy of living, it deprives me of being alive and being in contact with everything that surrounds me.
We were raised and conditioned into being materialists. We either are affected by the past and live in its shadows or we eagerly look towards the future to get our… fulfillment. All of this is transformed into a mechanical oscillation past-future, interrupted by brief sparkles of present. The longing for childhood actually is the longing for the continuous and uninterrupted joy, the longing for present tense. There are no other tenses but present tense!

Religion also uses the need for time, when it promises a future of… enjoyment of the present!🙂 Blind as we are, we are looking for the paradise in the future and we fail to notice the beauty, the joy and the love to be given and to be received all around us.

Here’s how, out of longing for the present, I might even reach Goa to buy living and to buy feeling. Cheap and flavored, it stops thoughts and it freezes moments. Or I might try extreme sports, forcing me to live and feel at high intensity. The danger carves into time and expands present. When both drug and danger pass, the “occidental” state of search, insufficiency and torment returns, yet again…

As I talk about all of these things I look at the feelings and the suffering occurring inside me. The mere gesture of being in contact with me and being observant and acceptant of all that I am brings back presence…

I thank YOU for being with me, here and now!🙂