Journal Entries from Olivia
Olivia painting with Siddhartha students
3am---------Dharamsala July 6th, I think. Oh my, so far an amazing journey. This hotel Pema Thang is charming, a view of the mountains, lovely balcony-just terrific. My body on some other time zone. The trip from Delhi on a small bus didn't work out very well. It was an adventure---grueling but we are here after a sleepless plane ride, bus ride—jeep ride that I shall never forget. The trucks and bus horns will be with me forevermore---70 miles an hour passing trucks that are highly decorated, personalized and look like toys a child might create---no side walks --women in beautiful brightly colored clothing always hard at work, always beautiful with beads, veils. Men handsome and dark. People sleeping almost anywhere, on meridians, along the side of the road--truckstops playing Bollywood, a dog barks outside. I have not walked through town yet. I want to go to the Temple at 6:30 for morning prayers.
We don't have a clear itinerary at this point and we are all very tired. Dehli was a whirl through some zone I could feel but only react to on the most elemental levels. It's mostly the heat, traffic, sounds and smells that take over the psyche and the beggars,hawkers always approaching, staring at you wanting this and that ---postcards, fans, belly-dancing hats, funny looking beards---woman with babies following you, old people looking sick staring waiting for money---and always Dust, Dust, and more Dust. The Sikh temple serves food to all----we attended. It was like nothing I have ever experienced before. My description must come later, I think I had better rest a little more before six o'clock call.
July 16th, 2006 back in Delhi at Likir House. It was just two days ago that we were at Likir Monastery in the mountains of Ladakh. Looking back at the day of His Holiness’ Birthday, I remember walking through Dharmasala by myself wondering what would be---------no expectations. I found the Temple walking in a spiral through people lining the street setting up their wares for the day. Clearly, I was a foreigner taking it all in. I found my way and chanting was in progress---someone called to me. It was some of our group. I was glad and went to sit with them. A lovely Tibetan woman handed me a pillow to sit on----------gave me chai and a biscuit. I sat with her through the chanting. People prayed and greeted their friends as the chanting emanated from the monks and the populous. I wanted to stay forever but was told that we needed to find a spot downstairs so we could observe the festivities. People had already staked out spots at 9am-----------the dancing was to begin later --------the entire downstairs and upstairs was filled with bodies---------old and young, those in orange and not. His Holiness was present earlier in the day but left--------we were told.
(Occupied Territory) Today--the Karmapa—Tibetan Medicine, The Nunnery, Mountain Drive, Absorption of time--talk--question and discussion-----the present---completely under Chinese control--Tibetans lost purpose---no International support. We listen to a talk by Lhasant Tsering and are shaken---his wrathful energy motivates us to plan some action---perhaps an art exhibit that Lotus and I will put together---still thinking it through and must discuss later. “I'm not from Shangri-La” he says, and much more.
July 8th, 2006
In a Jeep down winding mountain roads, monkeys, cows, shrines and people like roots form a tree line the path as horns announce their passing in tones unknown. Rain on way to Amritsar from Dharamsala--Sikh's and the Golden Temple await-------tat tat truck--tin cans corrugated huts sell fruit, housewares in sign incomprehensible script ---green---green---green and the smell of diesel fuel fills the air. We read about the Karmapa---the Gentle Guru Nanah, talk about Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Thoreau, Emerson and the plight of Tibet and why the Dalai Lama takes the middle road. No more. The trees are marked like zebras—lines in the road, motorcycles sway, people walk--glitter, bright colors and deities fill the space--------stop--toll tax barrier sign across the road, bridges, blow horns. There is a striking difference in the dress of Indian and Tibetan women.
These buses and trucks would make a great photo essay.
Ah, first elephant along the highway 108 miles from Amritsar. The land is flat now poplar trees--Sikkkkkkkhhhhhh police in red turbans sash hanging---no picture please---small towns and water buffalo. I wonder what it takes to live here? I am so glad that today I sit comfortable in this jeep with Geoff and Lyssa able to think, write, photograph and look comfortably out of the window letting my mind flow. Only jolted by sharp horns, turns to and fro---no gossip, talk, idle words filling the space---------------Blessed be India and we.
Now on a train headed bak to Delhi after a visit to Amritsar and the Golden Temple-----As we entered Amritsar the heat rose to the highest degrees---dust everywhere ---the Golden Temple a counterpart, opposite---a beautiful mirage amidst an ancient city and ancient ways---white glowing marble----water flowing, pure and clean---people circumambulate while music wafts through the entire space mesmerizing and comforting a group of ll. A huge pool in the middle of the complex reflects the dreams of heaven offering hope----food to the masses---prayer and some equality ---The Brotherhood. India---rickshaws operated by old men pulling this fat old woman---the Sikhs---the women look at me andlaugh at my clothes---my lack of grace and knowledge. I am clumsy, I see someone feeding the beautiful carp---I want to do something with the offering---food---sweet peanut butter and honey covered with leaves---food for body and soul. A lovely woman befriends me and tells me that I am not to do this---I must instead take the butter with both hands eat it and be blessed------------I try at first but fear for my health---she is so kind ---I do my best. I love India and I will come back. She is proud of her beautiful country and this glorious temple built for the betterment of mankind------------To serve a man is to serve God----------------it says on a large billboard near the temple. This train is pleasant 2nd class with A/C------Amritsar is full of contrasts---------an oasis in the middle of a dust bowl.
July 9, 2006
From the Dust Bowl of Amristar to Dehli by train-now in Leh, after a breathtaking one hourplane ride. I am blessed to have a room with a view, a garden walled by poplar trees and a stone fence. My door opens to an old craggy willow tree--stone stupa just to the left. Chirping birds and children play in peace while I breathe more deeply than usual. I am in a light-headed trance feeling head and body swell, so much in so little out. Our luggage has been left in Delhi and will arrive tomorrow. I am so very happy to be here---Blessed---Thank You, I want to cry I am filled with such joy. I will not speak too soon, but it appears that I have a room to myself, by just drawing lots. Oh my, in the distance I see snow capped mountains. A bird nests above the window and flies to the apple tree here at Hotel Snow View. It is nearly 3pm and I must get ready for our meeting and a walk through town.
July 10th, 2006
Today-Up early---breakfast talk by Alex on the development of various Buddhist sects as preparation for our visit to Hemis followed by Tiksey. What to say? Wondrous monasteries centuries old in the midst of a harsh and mostly barren landscape. Here and there a patch of green, a rivulet, tributary of the Indus River. "Ladakh Pride of India" it says on a sign along the road where women of Tibetan dissent work carrying rocks from one place to another—dust blowing all over them. (I was told that they were actually Nepali women)Tar melting and smoking
wrathfully filling the air with a stench that overpowers---pulling up to Tiksey two monks blow huge horns toward the valley where, I believe soldiers barracks lie. In the heat of the afternoon a procession of monks surround a chorten and perform a ceremony on the full moon. Jeeps and cars fill up the area so the monks squeeze together, I snap photos, I am in the right place at the right time fortuitously.
They chant and pray, I put my camera down and observe. This ceremony performed many times before, they chant on, Vajra here, a bell there----gold flecks in the air, rice is thrown as a blessing over and over again, a few flecks touch me, one on the hands, another on my heart. The monks finish quickly in the heat---tourists, trucks and dust are everywhere---a procession moves up to the temple. I pick up a few grains of rice and want to take them with me as a remembrance but don't. I place them on the altar. Whose remains are in this structure, I wonder? I ask that the monastery thrive and is preserved.
I pray for the people of this ancient land. I am deeply touched by their spirit. Walking up toward the temple I observe wood carvers at work under a canvas. I ask permission to photograph them. They carve a bird and much ornamentation that will be used to spruce up the temple. I notice scraps of unusable bits on the ground and ask if I may pick one up. I will cherish this small piece, perhaps I will use it in one of my own pieces. Thiksey seems a complicated monastery. The music and chanting so powerful. I want to stay longer. The six or seven year old boys learning to become monks are being monitored as the monks chant---they are instructed to move in between bellows or notes, the monks constantly aware of their own practice with an eye on their students undisturbed. Earlier, I walk off the beaten tourist path following my nose or sense of exploration and walk through a dark tunnel over a filthy carpet set in the middle of the path to another courtyard of sorts. Windows, doors, some with locks, cans of milks opened and through here and there, used bags of chips, filthy dust, hot, hot sun always throbbing on the craggy landscape, garbage and more dust. There a smelly open air W/C around the bend---I wonder who lives here? Some one does---it looks like an entire community--clothes lines, etc. But I do not see a live person at all. I want to continue to listen to the chanting but am told I must go back to our meeting place at the prayer wheel. So I get up from where I set at the left of the monk on the floor, his sound vibrating through me. How very moved I am. In the heat at this altitude I can barely walk down the steep stairs but do.
As I approach the Prayer Wheel---children are laughing, whirling themselves on the huge wheel---a bell sounds with each revolution. They are silly, it seems almost sacrilegious. I want to tell them to stop but they move on as I arrive. In the shade I look down at a series of steps and see three figures clad in red walking up the mountainside. I snap a photo, watch. One of the figures stops briefly in the shade. She looks up and we smile at each other. She gestures that it is hot and she is tired. I smile and nod in agreement. A few moments later I see that they are next to me at the Prayer Wheel. The Monk, Nun that gestured to me smiles again. Oh, what a beautiful face she has, I want to treasure it in a photo but don't ask---I fear it will be intrusive and spoil the moment. I bow to her hands folded and say Jule-Julay. Her smile broadens and she takes my hand to shake it. I am so honored! There are twenty-five females living as monks at Tiksey, I am told. We move as a group looking for a place to eat. This
is not so easy. We venture to find a place sit and wait, walk up and down steps make of metal that are not stable. Finally we reach the "Wind Horse" where indeed we are served a meal of rice, soup with noodles, another bowl of broth and pepsi cola. The meal is a hit---onward to the Siddartha School. Many of us carry gifts for the children. School is still in session but there's been a miscommunication and Guru Kenrippoche isn't present. We will come back tomorrow.
I hope all is well--------------this is a most incredible experience.