As our time in Dharmsala comes to a close, there is an even higher concentration of speakers and activities as we’re trying to learn as much as possible from Tibet’s capital in exile before we leave for other places in India. We celebrated the 4th of July by going down the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives (LTWA), an important institute of Tibetan studies just down the mountain from McCleod Ganj. The library was established shortly after the Tibetans arrived in exile in order to preserve traditional Tibetan culture. We met with the Director of LTWA Geshe Lhakdor, a very learned monastic scholar who gave us an overview of the work the Library does to preserve and translate texts, oversee publications, and give instruction to current and aspiring scholars of Tibetan studies. He also gave our group an overview of Buddhist philosophy that could be easily applied in our daily life. Geshe la said, “Buddhism is very, very easy. The Buddha himself said ‘Do not do even a single harmful act, Cultivate all possible good, Thoroughly tame your mind, This is the teaching of the Buddha.'” He then explained how His Holiness the Dalai Lama summarizes the Buddhist teachings: “Do everything you can to benefit others. If you cannot benefit others, at the very least, do not harm them.”
Christi said she could feel the happiness radiating from Geshe la, an observation all our students agreed with. When Caroline asked Geshe Lhakdor if he was happy, he responded, “Yes. I think I am quite happy. And I will tell you why. I once had an American lady come and ask me to teach her meditation. I simply told her to spend the entire morning imagining she is a cow. This was my honest suggestion to her. Imagine where you would eat, imagine where you would sleep, imagine how difficult it would be if you had insects crawling on you. When I think about having this precious human life, being blessed with this human intelligence, with all these sense faculties, I can only feel grateful.”
Our students were so eager to learn from Geshe la that even after our audience was finished, we approached him again in the LTWA museum to ask him further questions, which he generously answered. The museum provided us the opportunity to look at priceless works of Tibetan art which were carried over the Himalayas when refugees fled their homes. Our guides explained that families were forced to make the decision to carry these paintings and statues or precious food but decided these objects must be preserved.
We ended our afternoon by going on a tour of the Parliament of the Tibetan government in exile, known as the Central Tibetan Administration. Our guide explained how the Dalai Lama established a democratic system of representative government almost immediately after arriving in exile and how this governing body works for both Tibetans inside Tibet as well as the 54 Tibetan settlements in India, Nepal, and Bhutan.
We will spend Friday celebration the 83rd birthday of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and then go down to the Norbulingka on Saturday for our final day and night in a Tibetan settlement and in the Himalayas. While the service work and Tibetan studies portion of our program are coming to a close, the people we have met and lessons we have learned will remain with us throughout the rest of the program and well beyond.