The Buddha said:
This existence of ours is as transient as autumn clouds
To watch the birth and death of beings is like looking at the movements of a dance.
A lifetime is like a flash of lightning in the sky,
Rushing by, like a torrent down a steep mountain.


What the caterpillar perceives as the end, to the butterfly is just the beginning.

Saturday, 29 December 2007

India, Day 1 - Arriving in India

Saturday, 29th December 2007

The flight from London to Bangalore was long and exhausting. India looked strangely familiar and I immediatly felt at home. It reminded me of the Algarve, where, like the Tibetan refugees in South India, I lived with several other Angolan War refugees who had fled to Portugal in 1975.

From Bangalore we took a Kingfisher airline to Hubli, where Donde-la (the younger monk on the picture above) was waiting for us. Donde-la directed us to a taxi that took us from Hubli 45 kms / 28 miles south to Mundgod.

Journey through country road. Horn is used for sophisticated communication with other road users. Not just to warn others to get out of the way but also to warn of danger not to deviate from chosen path. The character and rhythm of the horn varied depending on what was to be communicated. If a person was warned to get out of the way and they abliged, then a slight single note was sounded as thank you. 
This is a seemingly chaotic world where everyone is busy doing something going somewhere. vehicles are never new or modern but old and repaired. One can not imagine that insurance is either needed or useful. There are no rules which can not be broken. On a dual carriageway traffic moves in both ways although the majority sticks to the norm. Carts drawn by oxen are common. Dust is everywhere. Nothing is new. Everything looks as if it has been repaired many times and there is a care about this. Beauty is everywhere. [from Alan's travel diary] 
We finally arrived at the Doeguling Tibetan Settlement, one of the largest Tibetan refugee settlements in India, containing 11 camps and 7 monasteries, on Saturday 29th December 2007.

I stayed at Lama Camp N.2, where Drepung Monastery is located. Camp 2 is the home of more than 3,000 monks, making it the largest monastic community of the whole settlement, which has a population of about 13,500.

At the gate of Gyakham Khangtsen, the house we were going to stay for the next 3 weeks, the monks were waiting for us with big smiles. A big banner hanging on the wall by the entrance to the right read "welcome to our friends." In a sudden flash, I remembered my shamanic journey at Buddhafield during that Summer. I was unsure about the trip, but in that inner journey Geshe Damcho appeared very clearly in my mind, smiling and welcoming me. As if by magic, any doubts and concerns I had fizzled away. Instead, I knew I was meant to go and that everything was going to be OK.

At the gate of Gyakham Khangtsen, I was looking forward to have a good rest during the 4 days ahead, before the Dalai Lama's arrival.  

The monks were incredibly kind to us. During our stay, they all moved into Gyakham Khangtsen's main shrine room, in the first floor of the main house, behind a beautiful red door, where they slept together on the floor so that we could have their bedrooms. 

There were approximately 26 Westerners staying at Gyakham Khangtsen. A group arrived from South Africa, and there was a small group linked to Lam Rim Wales.  I was the only one from Lam Rim WG, and Alan one of the few dharma students from Lam Rim Bristol. For the first time, women were allowed to stay at the monastery. Now that was a true historical moment, and a real privilege!

After the initial helloes, I was shown the way to the room I had been allocated. From the gate, we turned right, took the stairs to the first floor of the accomodation block facing the main house, and then turned left into the long balcony-corridor. From there I could get a good view of Loseling's New Assembly Hall, which the Dalai Lama was soon to oficially open.

I quickly discovered the rooftop terrace, which quickly became the favorite spot for some of us, 

as it gave us the full 360 degree view, not only from the New Assembly Hall to the main building at Gyakham Khangsten,

but also to the open countryside views and, right behind our accomodation block, 

Drepung Deyang Monastery (Nechung's Monastery), which was also receiving its final touches. At Gyakham Khangtsen, the electricity was off. All was well, and I could finally relax!

Continues here.

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