Location: Delhi to Dharamsala
Today was another fun day packed with travel and adventure. After navigating the chaos of the New Delhi airport, we were lucky to enter the serenity of northern India’s McLeod Ganj. As we stepped off the plane, many of us were surprised at how different the natural environment was from that of Delhi. The whole Dharamsala area is engulfed in lush, green mountains, and the weather is much more temperate than the summer heat of Delhi. We settled in at our guesthouse and enjoyed a tour of Tsuklakhang, a complex containing both the home and temple of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. We got to walk all around the temple, viewing the beautifully adorned rooms where the Dalai Lama gives teachings and where Tibetan monks assemble. Rabsel, who used to be a monk in Tibet, was able to give us a lot of background on what we saw so that we could better understand it. Thus, we began to understand some of the basic principles of Tibetan Buddhism and its view of human suffering and how we can make each work to make the world a better place.
In addition to visiting the Dalai Lama Temple, we walked through the winding streets of Mcleod Ganj and began to see the combination of Tibetan and Indian culture in this town. We are also in an especially good position to experience Tibetan culture because we are staying in a monastery’s guesthouse. This afternoon, we were able to hear the monks chanting, and some of us even got a chance to walk the monastery’s kora, a loop around the monastery’s main temple lined with prayer wheels (cylindrical columns containing Buddhist scripture) to spin and other traditional Tibetan Buddhist structures.
Our study of Tibetan culture and the Tibetan experience in exile will continue in much greater depth tomorrow as we start teaching English to our mutual learning partners at the Lha Charitable Trust. We will also teach and learn from college-aged students at Men-Tsee-Khang, an institute for the study of Tibetan Medicine and Astrology.
After several days on the road, it feels great to be settled into our rooms for the next couple of weeks. We’re really, really looking forward to another day of exploration and learning!