“Don’t worship the Dalai Lama.”
By Lev Jackson
A group of Canadian teenagers recently returned from two weeks learning the mysteries of Buddhist teachings at the knee of the Dalai Lama in his monastery in northern India.
The 12 girls spent three days traveling over 16,000 kilometres from Vancouver to make their way to the doorstep of the Tsuglagkhang Complex, the official home of the Dalai Lama, located near the Tibetan border and 2,800 kilometres north of Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay and the capital city of the state of Maharashtra.
Michelle Staples, one of the Teen Journey organizers who accompanied the girls, says the trip was deliberately unstructured. The girls left Canada prepared to absorb whatever words of wisdom the Dalai Lama might impart to then.
The Dalai Lama is considered by followers to be a reincarnation of a series of spiritual leaders who have returned to enlighten others. The first Dalai Lama was born in the 14th century, while the fifth became the political ruler of Tibet in the 17th century. The current Dalai Lama was enthroned in 1950 during the Chinese invasion of Tibet and in 1959 fled to northern India, where he was allowed to set up a government in exile.
Dear Beacon readers. Please help us serve you better by filling out this brief survey form. We thank you for your feedback and your commitment to local online news.
The Dalai Lama has become an international celebrity, renowned for his teachings and his spirituality.
One morning the girls were awakened by the doorbell at 6 a.m. with a lama excitedly shouting, “wake wake up, you must hurry, get your papers, its happening, its happening his holiness is waiting to meet you.”
The girls rushed out of bed, ran to the back of the monastery, where the teachings were held. They were given white scarves and placed in the appropriate position.
One-hour later they were just feet away from the Dalai Lama, or high Lama. The teens were awestruck in the presence of the holy man, according to Staples.
Sensing the level of respect for him among the group, the Dalai Lama began his teachings by addressing Staples personally, noting she made the first mistake of the lesson.
“The right path is to only follow the Buddha, no other idols,” he said cheerfully. “Don’t worship the Dalai Lama.”
The lesson was a long one that touched on the topics samsara, which is Sanskrit for “continuous flow,” the repeating cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth, as well as “naraka,” the Buddhist concept of hell.
“It was a teaching that left us all tired, full of questions with heavy hearts,” said Staples.
Their lessons weren’t over for the day, however. That afternoon the group was taught by a high lama from Darm Sala.
The next day, while the majority of the teens participated in morning lessons, Staples and two teens decided to photograph their new surroundings, as they were not allowed to take any photos inside their dwelling.
While wandering about photographing the village to “capture the essence of the place,” according to Staples, the three girls heard a lady scream, “run, run, faster, faster, over there.”
The girls were pushed by police behind a line of monks. The three had no idea what was going on but decided to go with the flow and opted to stay behind the line of monks.
“From around the corner comes a procession of yellow head dresses and smoking pine needles, an entourage of lamas escorting his holiness into the monastery. Once again we find ourselves feet away from the Dalai Lama,” said Staples.
“We laugh about the synchronicity of everything that has happened,” she continued. “Just when you can imagine nothing greater happening, India sweeps you off your feet and offers her gifts to you.”
Teen Journey’s founder, Ela Rezmer, was inspired by her own travels with monks and chose India as the first Teen Journey international trip. She recognized the benefits that could occur for Canadian teenagers to experience the monastic life of monks in India.
Staples said the experience was a once in a lifetime experience and will play a critical part in the teens’ development into adulthood.
“This journey removes teens from the daily cultural teachings of televisions and social media and introduces them to a new world of experiences, helping to transition them from innocence to adulthood and supports them through their journey of self discovery.”
Category: British Columbia