Portfolio: Dalai Lama’s Temple in Dharmsala, India
Photography and commentary by Kara Fox
Majestic columns gracefully extend to the ceiling in the vast golden room of the Dalai Lama’s Temple in Dharmsala, India. They are blanketed with strings of bright yellow, dried marigolds. One flower in honor of each monk. And, no doubt, one of these marigolds is there to honor His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama.
Braving the chilly morning before the glimmer of the rising sun, we walked in the pitch dark with hundreds of other ’seekers,' along a muddy path filled with rocks and pot holes, careful to avoid the cars, freely roaming cows and dogs, and piles of dung, as we trudged along to the temple.
Through the chaos outside the heavy iron gates, came order once inside. Women separated from men as we were patted down and our bags were checked for electronics, cigarettes & lighters, and even here, in this peaceful line of pilgrims and worshippers, weapons. We were then invited to enter the temple.
Cushions and blankets in hand, we were led to our assigned places on the floor. We were asked to remove our shoes as we sat, and we waited, body to body, while young monks served us fragrant, freshly baked crusty breads out of large silver urns, which were not to be eaten until they were prayed over, and they poured for each of us hot butter tea, which we learned to decline after our first sip.
Of more than 5000 devout Tibetan Buddhists, our small group was invited to sit in the inner room and we saw the Dalai Lama praying gracefully as he seemed to be floating along the open perimeter of the temple. We glanced out over thousands of others sitting on colorful pillows and blankets, many followers dressed in traditional Indian and Tibetan clothing, prayer beads dangling from their fingertips. Hundreds of monks, young and old, men and women, in their burgundy or orange robes.
The trusted attendants stepped aside and The Dalai Lama quietly entered. We all stood and a breathtaking silence filled the magnificent room. Our sleepy bodies came suddenly awake as we felt an unexplainable energy. And the silence was broken as the world-famous belly laugh of the Dalai Lama filled the spaces.
With arms gracefully raised, he offered a welcoming prayer to all and in a very deep voice he chanted with the thousands of devotees who came to learn from him. Climbing onto his platform, resting before the Statue of Lord Buddha, he began…”Why do I look so young for my 79 years, a question I’m often asked." His answer, he said smiling, “is my top secret!”
“And good health,” he began, “is what most 7 billon (closer to 7,324,782 billion) people in the world wish for.” He continued, that a peaceful mind, filled with wisdom and compassion, and creating a paradigm shift from ‘I' to ‘WE,' with the intention to make others happy is the key.
It is in this dedication to the well-being of others, focusing on ‘US' rather than ‘I’ where we will find true happiness. “When we worry less about ourselves, the experience of our own suffering is less intense. Taking our focus away from what’s wrong in our lives helps us to be less self-obsessed. Compassion therefore diverts our attention away from problems which, when focused upon, loom large in our minds. Compassion, in effect, displaces negative
emotions from the mind because we can only focus on one primary emotional state at a time. Compassion helps us to put our own difficulties into perspective.”
He said, “On a day when I was feeling particularly happy I offered my arm to a mosquito so the mosquito could take a bite and have my blood. There was no gratitude. Dogs, cats, even birds show appreciation when you give them something. The mosquito, nothing.” Again, he fills the space with the warmth of his laughter.
"Our best hope for attaining true happiness is to dedicate yourself to others and to pay more attention to their well-being."
With your focus on yourself, according to the Dalai Lama, you will be suspicious and have no peace of mind. And, it is peace of mind that affects our health. Mental health equals healthy body. The Dalai Lama has no suspicion or doubt about others. He feels free. As a Buddhist Monk he is up at 3:00 in the morning and retires around 6:00-7:00 in the evening. Dinner is rarely eaten, he drinks no alcohol and in his precious words, he says he does not go to night clubs! His routine greatly influences his life. And, it is his attitude that fills him with peace.
"Above all,” he said, “we must never forget that we are all the same, we are all human beings. We can impact our brain by mere thoughts."
How can we create happiness, he asks. “Today there is a great emphasis on the material world. We place values on things when, in actuality everything is empty and what things become has everything to do with our attitude and when we learn to project emptiness we can gain peace.”
If you are peaceful in mind and dedicate yourself to others, rid yourself of anger and fear, you will live lives full of compassion and what do you get…this dear readers is His Holiness The Dalai Lama’s top secret and a question for you to answer!