It was a bright beautiful morning and I set out to go to Karmapa. But before that I did my usual visit to the The Dalai Lama temple and sat there for some time.
I had my regular Chai at Vishal’s shop and he refused to take money for it saying I had some company to have Chai with me today so please don’t pay. I thanked him and left.
I didn’t want to take a taxi alone to Dharamsala that was 6 kms away. So I walked to the Main Chowk (centre) and took a shared jeep till Dharamsala bus stand and there were plenty of buses to get to the Monastery from there.
Karmapa Monastery was the home of the 17th Karmapa of the Kagyu lineage in Tibetan Buddhism. He was considered the spiritual head of Kagyu sect.
Tibetan Buddhism had 3-4 sects, Nyingma, Kagyu, Sakya and Gelug. The Dalai Lama belonged to Gelug. Essentially all the sects with their own spiritual heads regarded His Holiness The Dalai Lama as the overall Spiritual head of Tibetan Buddhism.
The Monastery was in between Dharamsala and Palampur. The scene completely changed, we were descending so there was very sunny hot weather and absolutely no tourists, just locals and Monks.
As I got down right in front of the monastery, I saw the magnificent architecture. I was later told by Geshe Lobsang that the monastery was modeled on the Tsurphu Monastery in Tibet that was the original seat for the Karmapa sect.
I walked inside the Monastery campus and called Geshe-La, immediately a young Geshe came out and greeted me warmly and I got inside the Monks dormitories. It was always a pleasure to spend time with Geshe Lobsang.
A chance meeting with him at a cafe in Mcleodganj last year led me to a wonderful association. Thanks to him, Pankaj, Jogen and another friend Kumaran and I could attend a Buddhism-Science Symposium in Mundgod – the tibetan colony and see Dalai Lama speak in close quarters.
We were always in touch with each other. Whenever I had this self doubt or had questions, on life, on existence, he would patiently email me or call me. Pankaj and Jogen were also in touch with him.
He had very kindly sent me a rare book on Shantideva’s The Way of the Bodhisattva from Bodh Gaya, Bihar when I couldn’t find it anywhere. It was precious to me.
We spoke about many things. From today’s situations in the world, North Korea, the conflict, the peace that was so needed more than ever now, Shantideva’s book.
He introduced me to the young Geshe, he was from Zanskar, Ladakh just like himself and he told me the young Geshe specialized in Chanting and yesterday evening they had a special prayer for 4 hours! He had called me yesterday afternoon to check if I wanted to come but I was out of network area.
I so regretted missing it when I heard that because I have experienced the Chants and prayers at Mundgod monastery and it’s indescribable..
Pankaj, Jogen and I were lucky to attend one along with the Oracle ceremony in the presence of Dalai Lama. It is an experience, an out worldly journey where you come close to the Divine, a deep mediation.
Seeing my disappointment he assured me that next time he would definitely let me know in advance if other meditation and chanting ceremonies came up. 2-3 hours just passed by conversing with Geshe Lobsang. His presence was calming and assuring.
It was already afternoon, so the young Geshe showed me around the Monastery explaining about Kagyu sect and the 17th Karmapa. As I entered the hall, I looked at it open mouthed.
Even in it’s opulence, there was simplicity and you will find this at any Buddhist Monastery, Silence.. That silence we so seek within and outside, this also explained why I was drawn to the Mountains so much.
The Young Geshe left me alone inside to have my space and I sat in a corner and closed my eyes. That same feeling of contentment and emptiness.. It was as if I was emptying all that baggage, negativity, emotions out of my mind and heart and what was left was this openness.
I had no idea how long I sat there until I looked at my watch and realized it was past 2! The young Geshe was patiently sitting outside, I came out and apologized and he simply said, You needed that I can see,don’t apologize.
Geshe Lobsang took me to a place next to the Monastery for lunch. A smiling Assamese man had this dhaba and he made good vegetarian meals. Three of us had Thalis and it was delicious! This was the first time I had Assamese food. There was so much to explore within our own country..
Saying a warm goodbye to Geshe Lobsang and the young Geshe with the promise of seeing him soon again I set off to Mcleodganj. Throughout the journey I was smiling. I was feeling blessed. Chance encounters with such amazing people were rare and here I was filled with gratitude for having met so many.
It was 4 pm and I wanted to indulge myself and I knew the perfect place to do that.
On the route to Dharamkot was this cute small house, a cafe called Commonground and I remembered their yummy home made Toffee Almond biscuit. The place was very beautiful. Books, comfy chairs and mattresses to relax and read. I remember sitting there in their portico for hours and watching the rains last time.
I walked in and ordered Ginseng Tea pot and yup the delicious Toffee Almond, I went in raptures when I ate, nothing changed! I could hear Soft Hindi acoustic music in the background.
After a couple of hours, I felt like going to the Samosa shop. Only Vishal was around watching the world go by. He asked about my Monastery visit and I was chatting with him as usual.
Tomorrow’s plan was to go to Naddi view point and then go further. I told him I was going to search for this beautiful temple called Guna Devi. It was a pilgrimage site for the locals and I could see the elusive temple on the other side of the mountain from Naddi view point when I visited last year.
Hearing this Vishal got excited. He told me he was fasting because of Navratri and he has been thinking of visiting Guna Devi temple for a long time. The last time he was there was when he was 10 years old. He would ask his boss for leave and if he agrees he can join me tomorrow! I was delighted! We already started planning!
It was time for him to leave too, so he walked with me until the hotel and said goodbye. He stayed in Dharamsala and I saw him take shortcuts cutting through the hills.
Sure enough he messaged me late evening saying he got his day off and he would meet me at the Chowk, 8.45 am the next morning.
I was pretty excited! Tomorrow would be my last day and night in Mcleodganj and I got this wonderful opportunity to walk up to this beautiful Devi temple way up in the mountains.
I knew it was going to be one amazing and significant day tomorrow.