Saturday, October 1, 2011


First day of teachings today! I got to see His Holiness the Dalai Lama for about four seconds as he walked into and out of the temple. It's not really made for big talks- there's this inner temple, and then most people are sitting outside, watching the simulcast on TVs or (in our case) nothing. But I'm getting ahead of myself- let me explain a few things that will be handy if you too are going to see the Dalai Lama's teachings.

- you have to register a day or three in advance, at the Dalai Lama's office on Bhagsu road. Done!
- stake out your seat the night before, and put a sign with your name on it. I didn't do this; luckily, some friends did, and they had space for me. We had a bench! That was rare.
- if you want a good seat, go early! The talks started at 9:30; I was planning to roll up at 9. Instead, I arrived at 7, and luckily so; there was a long line for security.
- I'm not sure if it's worth trying to get a good seat, as you probably won't be able to see HHDL anyway, as I mentioned.
- bring: FM radio for translations (available around town for ~170rs), headphones, a cup, a cushion, a bottle of water, and your pass (from the registration).
- don't bring your cell phone or camera; they won't be allowed in.
- also don't bring: food, especially fruit or crinkly wrapped things. Monkeys descend upon you like a SWAT team. Two friends literally got punched by a monkey (did not win a free ipod) before a bunch of us scared them away. Because a bite means many hospital visits and rabies shots, they're scary little buggers! Ram and Julie: you know this, of course.
- when the monks come around with butter tea and Tibetan bread, enjoy! You brought a cup, right?
- when the monks come around with stacks of 100-rupee bills, those are not for you. They are for other monks. Haven't figured this one out yet.

As for the content of the talks themselves, YMMV. The first session was kind of an intro to Buddhism, comparison to other religions, etc, and as such I thought it was a pretty good talk, though I didn't get much out of it. The other sessions are about "In Praise of the Dhammadhatu" by Nagarjuna, and like most ancient Buddhist texts, I don't get it. I can never tell whether it's all super simple, or whether it's insanely over my head. Like this:

While it's blended with the milk,
Butter's essence appears not.
Likewise, in the affliction's mix,
Dharmadhatu is not seen.

So Dharmadhatu is some clear-mind state within us. And so this verse is saying, we all have enlightenment within us, but we don't realize it, because we have all this other stuff clouding it. Okay, fine. But then the next 5 verses say the same thing. Why all the flowery language? This is simple! Right?

Or else it's so incredibly complex that I am totally lost.

Either way, funny moment: HHDL asked the Taiwanese group who requested these teachings, "is Taoism a theistic religion or not?" Nobody knew. That pretty much sums up what I know about Taoism too.


  1. Sometimes I think ancient writings were affected by Opium or some other substance. Same for some more modern texts. Try to decipher Beatles lyrics, or Stairway to Heaven. So I think your analysis is spot on, or better than most.
    Next time you go to see the HHDL, you should have a tailgate party :D

  2. Dalai Lama Tailgating: awesome idea.