Mcleod Ganj is no longer a quiet little mountain town. since the dalai lama will be doing his teachings soon, people have slowly been arriving in town. the teachings he will be giving are mostly aimed at tibetans, and they account for most of the new arrivals, but there are lots of westerners as well. and if i thought there were a lot of monks here before, there are many many times more of them now. when we first got here 2 weeks ago, there were hardly any people around, but now all the streets are packed w/ people. from what i hear, pretty much all the hotels are full by now. the town is tiny… really tiny, and can barely handle the amount of people that are here now.
yesterday, we finally signed up for the teachings, and after getting a little badge w/ our info and a photo, we headed to the main temple here to claim a spot to sit. we had already been informed about how crazy finding a place would be. basically, the teachings are general admission, and they expect to get an insanely huge crowd of people… anywhere form one thousand to five thousand. of course, everyone wants to be as close as possible to the dalai lama. so what people do is they come to the temple a couple days early and put down cushions, blankets, signs, or whatever to claim a “seat” on the pavement in front of the temple.
when we got there, there was stuff sprawled everywhere, with tiny handwritten notes as to who was claiming which spot. some people used cardboard taped down w/ duct tape. others tried to tie down blankets. it was absolute chaos! pretty much everything by then was full, but we ended up finding this *tiny* little strip of empty space (a couple yards long, but only about a foot wide!!) that we saved for 5 people by taping down some paper plates with our names on them. but the chaos doesn’t stop there. we’ve heard that a lot of these saved spaces end up getting shuffled around by people who try to squeeze in one of their own spots. apparently arguments ensue, people yell at each other. utter madness. people who are *buddhist monks*, who are supposed to hold peace and compassion above all else, fight each other tooth and nail on the day of the teachings. people are willing to do just about anything to get close to the dalai lama.
oddly enough, after we saved our places, we found out that the dalai lama does the teachings from the second floor *inside* the temple. you dont even see him (except when he walks in and walks out)! there literally is no advantage to being close to the front or not! so people are fighting over these spots just to be near where he is, even though they wont see anything anyway. crazy.
the temple itself is an incredible place. inside and outside there are many many prayer wheels, some big some small, some red some golden, and even a few that are absolutely enormous (7 feet tall). there’s a long path around the temple that goes through the woods where people circumambulate the temple. along the path are tons of stones with what i assume are tibetan prayers on them. the prayers are written in many different colors, and the walk around the temple is so beautiful and serene. incredible mountains and forest on one side, the majestic temple on another, and the path is filled with tons of tibetans walking slowly while holding prayer beads and muttering prayers.
watching the tibetans around here is quite a sight in itself. their devotion to their religion and to the dalai lama in particular is so overwhelming. watching them say prayers, fidget w/ their beads, and do prostrations on the ground in front of the temple is so incredible. everyone is decked out in fancy costumes. they get up from before 5:30am to go do their prayers at times. such a devout group of people. but i guess it makes sense that they love the dalai lama so much. he’s incredibly charasmatic, he’s a political leader, he’s a spiritual leader, he’s an incredibly wise author, he almost singlehandedly brough the “free tibet” cause to the world stage, and many people’s eyes, he literally is a god.. a reincarnation of a buddha.
i can’t wait till the teachings start…