Delhi felt far, far behind as we flew over the Himalayas. When we landed and stepped outside into the warm bright sunshine, we were surrounded by white-tipped mountains, blue sky and greenery. We breathed the fresh air deeply. Well, at least I did. Kevin had picked up a cold, along with his sickness.
I swear Dharamasala sparkled. We rode up an incredibly steep mountain on a tiny road that looked small enough to be one way but somehow managed to be two… with no guardrails and breathtakingly sharp turns. We passed pretty orange and purple roadside wildflowers. Dharamsala is nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas and has become the refuge of the Tibeten monks as they fled from China. I also heard that it has become a town of Westerners, and I was curious to see how this all interacts.
We journeyed down to the yellow building nestled into the side of the mountain that is the temple for the Buddhist monks and home to the Dali Lama.
After a security check, we made our way into the temple.
Kevin pointed, “Look at that, they built the temple right around the trees.”
“Wow,” I replied, thinking that this must be part of the Buddhist philosophy of respecting all of life.
Several people were walking around a large rectangular shaped section of the building, spinning golden colored wheels as they passed.
“Each wheel is a prayer; just spinning it activates the prayer,” Kevin told me, “C’mon. Let’s do it.”
I followed him around, spinning each cube, and although I didn’t know what the inscriptions on each one meant, I imagined my prayers going out into the world where it most needed healing.
When we finished we walked into a room with an enormous golden Buddha. Ancient Tibetan books that the monks carried over from Tibet (to save them from imminent destruction by the Chinese), sat on shelves on each side of Buddha. As per tradition, Buddha was graced with food offerings too. I leaned over and whispered to Kevin, “Look. Buddha has been offered a box of Oreos.” Not just Oreos, but boxes of all kinds of snack foods graced the wall behind Buddha.
“Interesting combination of ancient Tibetan culture and the new Western influence.” Kevin whispered back.
As I stood in front of Buddha, I felt peaceful and at rest. I stared at the manuscripts on the walls, imagining the haste as they got pulled out of their ancient spots and chosen to go off to this new land of India. I imagined monks wrapping them, delicately placing them in bags, and holding them close to their side as they made the arduous journey across the Himalayas in the wind and cold. I imagined the monks’ relief when the manuscripts arrived to their new location safe: bittersweet and tinged with grief for all they had lost.