Thursday, September 29, 2011

{ Dharamsala - the Dalai Lama & Tibetans! }

This is one cool guy!
The Dalai Lama. I love his teachings on love and compassion. 
I kind of live by this - 

Never give up.
No matter what is going on
Never give up
Develop the heart
Too much energy in your country is spent
Developing the mind instead of the heart
Be compassionate not just to your friends but to everyone
Be compassion. 
Work for peace in your heart and in the world.
Work for peace and I say again,
Never give up.
No matter what is happening,
No matter what is going on around you.
Never give up.

Jungle and mountains = amazing!

{which means "virtue house/spiritual dwelling/sanctuary" in sanskrit}
Mcleod Ganj.
Located at about 4,700 feet.
Beautiful little hillside towns situated in Himachal Pradesh, in the Western Himalayas, in Northern India.
Not just the mountains, in the jungle.
And also where the 14th Dalai Lama (Tenzin Gyatso), one of the most influential religious leaders in Tibetan Buddhism and in world religion, lives and is exiled with the Tibetan Government, 
Unfortunately, I wasn't able to meet him (he was in Brazil) but I did go to the Dalai Lama Temple and Palace.
It is beautiful there!
And we did a lot of "monk stalking" - that was our hobby for this weekend.

On Friday evening, we left work a little early to take a 6:30 pm 12-hour (yes, you read that right) bus to Dharamsala - where we would stay for one night. Our journey started out very interesting. It took an hour by taxi to get to the boarding location - on this random dirt road in a random community (Majnu Ka Tila) - we had to ask so many people where to go! While waiting, we went to the bathroom in a little Asian alley market. Thank goodness it was an Indian toilet. We got on the bus only to find out that the air conditioning was broken. We sat there for 45 minutes before they finally ushered everyone off the bus a couple of blocks away to fix the air. We sat on the curb, next to a sewer, with the smell of urine permeating our senses, for about an hour and a half. And it was 90 degrees outside. It was crazy! We were sitting next to a little market by the slums as well, where we found some decent-looking mineral water and coke (for Sarah-ji). After temporarily debating whether or not to take a taxi back into Delhi, they announced the AC was working and we were on our way! After the air was fixed, the ride was rather uneventful...for a while. We stopped at about 11:00 pm at a shady little place on the side of the road. Believe it or not, I ate. But it was only some naan to calm my tummy. I couldn't stomach the dai (yogurt) they brought me.

After that, we were back on the bus and we all fell asleep but I don't know how! - as Katie says, it felt like we were riding "Indiana Jones" in Disneyland!!! Insanity. Before too long, we were freezing from the air conditioning! We tried everything we could to get warm. Then, the air would temporarily stop working and we would get hot and claustrophobic. It was a cycle all. night. long. At one point, the air conditioner box fell out of the ceiling onto Katie while she was sleeping. That woke her up! We tried to stuff it behind her chair but it was very difficult. We had to stuff Sarah's pillow (brought all the way from the States) into the empty hole to keep the freezing to death! What a night! 

Views of the himalayas on our way up the mountain into Dharamsala.

We finally arrived in Dharamsala at about 9:00 am on Saturday and walked up the street from the bus stop to our hotel, The Annex. We picked a good hotel with a beautiful view from our balcony! We could see out into the lower valleys. 

A beautiful buddhist temple we spotted on the way to our hotel.

We spent Saturday touring around the area. We visited a local hot springs, drove through the jungle, visited a rock temple - the Masroor Rockut, a set of 15 temples in one built in the 8th century, a world famous cricket stadium, a tea garden, etc. My favorite part was when we visited the Kangra fort. It was built in approximately 1500 BC. OLD. During the beginning of the Katoch dynasty, the oldest living dynasty on the earth! It was incredible.

The tea garden.

Rock temple.

I love the beautiful reflection pond. This rock temple is a collection of 15 temples. 

The Hindi shrine/altar.

I love to pickup bananas from the markets on the side of the road to snack on during the day :)

The Kangra Fort. Dating back to 1500 bc. 


The view from here was INCREDIBLE! It looked like a jungle version of the grand canyon (kind of)

Another gorgeous sunset!

World famous cricket stadium in HP :)

War Memorial for those lost in the war between Pakistan and India.
Saturday evening, we went to dinner at a very nice little restaurant - the Cream of Almond soup was DIVINE! and we shopped around a little bit. We met some new friends and Sarah got a great deal on a scarf/shawl for her great smile. On the way back to our hotel, we found this little gem :) Isn't he adorable?! We wanted to take him home. 

We went to the Dalai Lama's temple. And then we hiked to the Bhagsu (just outside of Dharamsala) waterfall. It was incredible! If I weren't LDS, I think I would be buddhist. Just sayin'. It's so pure and simple :) I loved being in the Dalai Lama's temple. All of the beautiful tibetan monks and people filled the temple and chanted beautiful prayer mantras. We each spun the prayer wheel - the mantra "Om Mani Padme Hum" is written on the wheel in sanskrit. Traditionally, spinning the wheel provides the same merits as if you were to orally recite the mantra. It was a beautiful experience. After the prayers were finished, everyone went to the foyer of the temple and they were fed by some of the monks. 

Om Mani Padme Hum: Mani means "the jewel" and Padme means "the lotus." So, it means jeweled lotus. 
Here is the definition of the mantra according to the 14th Dalai Lama:

"It is very good to recite the mantra Om mani padme hum, but while you are doing it, you should be thinking on its meaning, for the meaning of the six syllables is great and vast... The first, Om [...] symbolizes the practitioner's impure body, speech, and mind; it also symbolizes the pure exalted body, speech, and mind of a Buddha[...]"
"The path is indicated by the next four syllables. Mani, meaning jewel, symbolizes the factors of method: (the) altruistic intention to become enlightened, compassion, and love.[...]"
"The two syllables, padme, meaning lotus, symbolize wisdom[...]"
"Purity must be achieved by an indivisible unity of method and wisdom, symbolized by the final syllable hum, which indicates indivisibility[...]"
"Thus the six syllables, om mani padme hum, mean that in dependence on the practice of a path which is an indivisible union of method and wisdom, you can transform your impure body, speech, and mind into the pure exalted body, speech, and mind of a Buddha[...]"

Check out my favorite video, recommended by my good friend, Ameen, of the mantra here. Or, a more Tibetan version here

This is the Tibetan script of "Om Mani Padme Hum" with the six syllables and representations that the Dalai Lama speaks of.
On the way to the temple, we saw this sign. In 1995, just after he was named the 11th Panchen Lama (the 11th reincarnation of Amitabha Buddha), he was stolen by China. Where in the world is this 21 year old man? Deprived of any religious or academic training? Interesting. 
Dalai Lama's Palace.

I love this image. 

These are Mani wheels - handheld prayer wheels that you can spin - the mantra is written on stationary inside the wheel. The have a little chain on top that spins around with it. We saw many of these in the temple. 

Participating in the ceremony with the monks!

Tibetan children are the CUTEST. Hands down.

I love this view of the monk and Dharamsala. 

Spinning the prayer wheel for compassion of the Om Mani Padme Hum mantra.

Some cute guys that wanted a photo with us.

A cute young (14ish?) monk.

Funny story. At the train stations, there are rooms with signs above them that say things like "upper class resting room", etc. Well, I saw a sign in the temple that said "retreat room" so I just walked in! It was this monk's home! He let us take a picture with him...too bad he is a monk. No chance for me! hahaha pretty cute, right? 

After the temple, we headed to Dal Lake, Naddi view point, and then to baghsu to hike to the waterfall! We had no idea what to expect...definitely not a bunch of drunk, half-naked Indian men! What an experience.

A little family selling tattoos on the way to waterfall. Look at this little boy, it just kills me...

We got $1 ice cream on the way to the waterfall - so yummy - we were so excited. 

Little kids playing in the river. 

TOGETHER LET'S CLEAN THE PLANET. More half-naked Indians.

Lots of monks hanging by the river!


I was the only one that actually went all the way to the waterfall - but that's okay! However, I had to have another Indian baiyyah take my picture so here I am, not with the full waterfall :( But it was absolutely beautiful! I was standing between these two rocks, in the water, and it was hard to get out. I was stuck when a bunch of half-naked men ran to me to get their picture with me. I think I took about 20 pictures with different men. See image below of one example. One guy asked, "Do you want some beer?" Another "Can I touch you??" and another "Are you alone??" Uh...NO to all 3 thank you very much! Phew - thank goodness I got out of there! It was slightly uncomfortable. I was the only white person I saw up there. 

Why am I smiling??

There are all kinds of cafes surrounding the waterfall up there - so cute and quaint! I would have loved it if I felt more culturally comfortable haha

We spotted a swimming pool! Of course no women swimming but it was a pleasant surprise. 
We spent most of Sunday afternoon doing some crazy shopping! We first stopped at Cafe Coffee Day (one of our favorite Indian cafe chains) and had some lunch. Then shopping! I bought a beautiful Kashmiri/Tibetan poncho - I'll have to update later on that one! It's purple. There was so much shopping there! I bought a northface (okee, so it's a knock off but so what?! It says north face!) backpack for like $5 or Rs. 300 - it's small and the perfect daypack! I bought myself some prayer beads at the Dalai Lama's temple, more sanskrit bracelets, some earrings, a tibetan singing bowl, a hati (elephant), etc. I love love shopping in INDIA!!!!!

Sarah's hot crush! She wanted to go back in this store a million times to see him. We had to get a picture.

As we were leaving, the clouds were moving up the mountain, swirling through the air! It was beautiful!

Unfortunately, we gave our return printed bus ticket to the guy when we first got on in Delhi so it was an adventure to get back on the bus! Thank goodness the man that rode with us there was going back Sunday evening and recognized us! Phew! was a long night. 

We arrived back to Delhi just as the sun was rising - it was beautiful! We arrived at 6:30 to the drop off location and to our apartment by 7:20 am. We had to be to work by 10:00 am on Monday morning - it was a draggy day but worth all of the fun adventure! Dharamsala, some of us will be back! Who knows, maybe next time we will meet the Dalai Lama?? :)
I think I'll go back.

To view all of my photos on Facebook (you can only see it if you click this link, it doesn't show on my profile) visit: