Bonked on the head--please explain...
Lyssa and I had a great day and stayed almost as busy as you have been keeping us. But we do have a few questions, and as we are unable to pester you immediately, we thought we'd find a slower method...
We did end up going to the Siddhartha School this morning - one of the highlights for me was actually the bus ride there, as we were in a smallish school bus (think size of the coach to Dharamsala, but with more seats) that eventually picked up approx 60 students and teachers! Most of the preschoolers had a tough time hauling themselves up the first step, and had to get hoisted by their peers. It was introduced to the entire morning assembly that we were going to teach an art class (oops) but it was a lot of fun, and we have a whole mess of student work to show for it...
Anyhow, the questions actually come from the second part of the day. We eventually made it back to the city in time to see the sand mandala ceremony at the monastery (which I hadn't realized was actually part of the group of related monasteries that Khen Rinpoche presides over).
When we got there, the gates of the main building itself were barred, largely because it was already full to capacity, so we found seats on the steps in the old lady section, which always seems like a good place to be.
The first stages were familiar to us: a procession of monks with horns and various musical instruments started at the gates and wended their way into the main building. Most of the rest came through the loud speakers -- a speech or homily of some kind that sounded like it was being translated in two languages, and then prayers and monks passing out prassad - both the sweet rice that we got at the Dalai Lama's birthday and
butter tea (but without bread).
Now come the questions -- the monks passed out red strips of cloth that we wrapped over our foreheads and tucked behind our ears. Some sort of petal-like seed pod was distributed, which some people held, and some put on their heads (under the trip, in the hair, tucked behind the ears...). The monks brought around a very yellow liquid (for want of a more apt description, the color of urine if you are somewhat dehydrated) that they scooped out of large vats, and which we refused because it seemed room temperature and therefore suspect. Everyone else drank most of it and patted the remainder on the top of their heads.
Finally, the lama (not sure who) and his retinue came through. At this point, sitting with the old ladies really paid off, as we were perfectly positioned in the first row.
The lama blessed our kata, and bonked us on the head with a smallish brass teapot topped off with plumes of peacock feathers.
Shortly thereafter we left (having stayed for two hours in the rain), but the music continued for about another two hours. So...everything starting from the red strip of cloth is a mystery to us. Any enlightening comments?? ("More cloth means more clothing??")
Also -- one other anecdote. Lyssa was particularly taken with three old men spinning mani wheels across the way from us. At one point we looked over and found that one of the men had left (bathroom break?) and his friend was spinning his mani wheel as well. It seemed highly amusing, and we wondered how the merit worked -- does the man on break continue to accumulate merit, or does the one taking over get double?
Hope your trip went uneventfully and quickly. Say hi to all if you get this in time...
Laura and Lyssa