20th Gurukul with His Holiness The 14th Dalai Lama
The program organized by The Foundation for Universal Responsibility of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to understand closely the Tibetan Culture and Buddhist Philosophy is a remarkable endeavor for university students.
Following a prescribed academic pattern in the selected field of study is a regular norm for every student but what makes this initiative distinctive is the fact that it allows students from different walks of life to come together and understand something which is not a part of their everyday system.
Program scheduled from June 1, 2014 till July 7, 2014 is a long period away from home where you are given a series of events and projects to undertake in order to understand how a totally different set of world ( i.e Tibet) has created a replica in your own country- India and are in a serious struggle in order to gain back the right to live peacefully in their native land.
Dharamsala, a small hill station in Himachal Pradesh, India is a refuge to Tibetans who have escaped from their native land in order to sustain their values and virtues and have settled here till the time comes when China is willing to give them a humanitarian level of sustenance.
As a student with vague information about the Tibetan cause it left me flabbergasted when I actually came across the facts and ongoing brutality being practiced on the Tibetans in Tibet and how difficult it is for Tibetans-in-exile to survive and sustain.
We were fortunate enough to have personal audience with the Prime Minister Sikyong Lobsang Sangay of the Tibetans-in-exile community and have a dialogue with him on how he perceives the present and the future of his people.
Not only was it fascinating to know that being highly educated and at a prime position in his career he chose to serve his mother country over a luxurious life in the United States.
“You are utilizing our resources and populating our country. What if this independence mission is fading away under the liberty which Indian government is offering? What if you never wish to go back and may be start articulating your control over India and make it an extension of Tibet? What is it that you are giving back to us?”
To my amazement and to almost bring me down to a level of personal shame on asking such a question, he politely answered:
“We are grateful that India has offered us refuge in times of crisis and continues to support us in our ongoing struggle. All the more India has given us our religion Buddhism which originated in India and now Indians are forgetting and we our trying our minimum best to offer back this long lost culture which has answers to everything. Tibet is not just any other country it is the oldest surviving civilization which needs to be preserved and it is for that cause under the guidance of His Holiness The 14th Dalai Lama that we all are operating.”
This response from a man of such repute left me in tears and it was at this very moment I realized how unaware and insensitive we as normal citizens of India are towards the great revolution that is going on for their true citizen stature in Tibet.
Though we didn’t get to interact much with His Holiness The 14th Dalai Lama but for the few minutes that we met him and the blessings which he showered on us, I had never felt such calm and peace before ever in my life.
It is a fact that he is ageing but seeing him perform all his chores and the dedication with which he is devoted, being very young I felt he should have the years of my life too so that he continues to be the face of Tibetans and the hope lingers on.
We also met His Holiness the 17th Karmapa and had a wonderful question-answer session.
His Holiness’s route of the Middle Way Approach is remarkable as it has been developed on Gandhian terms and is absolutely non-violent and just. If China opens its arms with an understanding of mutual harmony may be Tibetans-in-exile would go back to their roots.
Getting in conversation with many locals in Dharamsala it was painful to hear their stories when they mentioned that they have settled here from more than three generations and are unable to go back because of the Chinese policies.
One incident which probably I will never forget ever in my life happened in very initial days of our stay.
Our Tibetan friend from the group Kunchok Sonam said something which keeps on resonating. A member of our group lost her wallet on the very third day and she was out of money and was on the verge of quitting the program.
It is then he said, “Don’t Cry! You have just lost your wallet, we have lost our country; yet we are smiling and optimistic. Don’t give Hope!”
Gurukul is more than just a sponsored program where most of us came to spend some quality time in a hill station and along with it to learn something about Tibetan Culture. It has changed our lives for better. After returning back to Delhi I am no longer the same person as I went.
Not only we were given an opportunity to live in nunnery and understand their plight but were also made sensitive to the rich cultural heritage that they have and are practicing and preserving. I stayed in the Shugseb Nunnery and Institute extremely distant from the rest of the monasteries and nunneries and had such experiences which can only be felt with the nuns there.
Yeshe Tsogyel and Pasang Chodon have become our friends for life. They left a week before for Kalachakra in Laddakh and we wept for hours because we were bonded so well and also realized that we both don’t know when we will meet next. We also had a close bond with a monk at Namgyal Monastery namely Tenzin Geche( Eerie). Not only he bestowed us with immense love and warmth but also flooded us with series of gifts.
Almost 40 days in Dharamsala showed us different facets of life – Some happy, Some sad. We missed our families back home but we also miss our little family that we created there now.
Geshe Lakhdor La’s Buddhist teachings were not just any Buddhist course that anyone can sign up for. He as a person and as a teacher has taught us such lessons of life which I am sure will make us and has already started making a much better human being out of us which the metro life corrupts everyday.
To act in order to make our next life better and to be thankful for the present life is something which we have been blessed with is an unusual realization. No amount of words will be enough to elaborate our experience at Dharamsala under Gurukul for it has given every individual something which is now part of our souls.
I was also fortunate enough to get an internship in The Central Tibetan Administration Press and Media and utilized my time and skills in helping and learning more about the operations from an insider’s perspective. My primary project was to develop a researched document on the Middle Way Approach Policy.
We have left behind a part of us back at Dharamsala but the one with which we have returned with will continue to enable us to promote and vocalize the Tibetan cause in our city and to add our bit in their struggle.
Some memories, some lessons and some never ending stories – Tashi Delek!