So while Darren was chilling out on beautiful beaches of the Andaman Islands I had signed up for a meditation and Buddhism course for ten days. The course was in Dharamsala (12 hours north of Dehli in the foothills of the Himalayas) which is where the Dalai Lama lives--an appropriate place to learn about Buddhism I thought. I spent a few days being a tourist in Dharamsala before checking in at the Tushita Centre and taking a vow of silence along with 45 others in hopes of learning something about inner peace and the path to enlightenment. I know, I know---ROCK ON eh!!
Basically my day was spent meditating (about 5 hours a day--split into small chunks), learning about Buddhism (about 4 hours a day), doing yoga for an hour, an hour of discussion group (when we got to break our silence), eating and sleeping. Our Buddhism teacher was an incredibly good looking, 31 year old American monk. Yes, I know how wrong that sounds--for real though, he was so nice looking that it was a bit distracting. Not only that but this guy had the freakin' mind of Einstein. He taught 4 hours a day and went through these incredibly complex logical and philosophical explanations that make up Buddhism with such a natural ease---it was amazing to hear him speak.
The highlight of the course was definitely the day we attended the Dalai Lama's teachings at his residence. Hmmm, what to tell you...the residence is a big complex which includes the Dalai Lama's living quarters, the main temple, a small museum and an active monestary. I guess the Dalai Lama can't visit some countries because he can't get a visa (I know! How crazy eh!), because he's living in exile. So whereas most countries who want him to come can sponsor a teaching and invite him, some countries sponsor a teaching and then go to him in Dharamsala. There was a Buddhist group of Russians and Mongolians who had sponsored a teaching and then raised money to all go to Dharamsala (because the Dalai Lama can't go to Russia), so that's why he was giving the teaching.
When the teaching starts he walks over from his residence and has a few CIA looking (black suits etc) body guards and a few traditional (big red Mohawk hat) monk guards. It's so low key though...there is no announcement made or anything, he just walks on over. Of course everyone is behind a railing, but he walks really slow and makes eye contact with what feels like everyone....he shakes hands and nods and talks to some people on his way. Then he sits in the main temple and does his teachings. The Russian and Mongolians get the best seats of course (in the temple with him), the refugees who have most recently come from Tibet (because they are still coming all the time) have the next best seats, then all of the monks and nuns are on the left outside the temple and then westerners (me) are on the right outside the temple. His voice is projected over speakers through out the complex but of course, he speaks in Tibetan so there is an English translation that you can listen to on FM radio. He has such a nice voice though, that I actually just listened to him speaking in Tibetan for a lot of the time. He broke for lunch (and walked by everyone again) and then resumed in the afternoon. At a couple of these "walk by's" I was maybe 15 feet from him, and happy to say that he looks fantastic. All the clichés you hear about him are very true—he really does glow, there is definitely energy and vibration around him—it's quite amazing.
The end of the course was quite sad. Even though we were all in silence for most of time everyone felt like they had this definite bond with each other (I know this sounds all hippy-ish, but it's true). I don't know how much closer to enlightenment I am (lol), but I felt really good about things in general and I DEFINITELY learned a lot about Buddhism (and am a big fan of it). On that note...the 800 rupee sleeper seat that I paid for to get to Delhi from Dharamsala was apparently "over-booked" and I spent the awesome 12 hour, over-night ride in the tiny driver's cabin with 5 other "bus worker guys"--you know the ones that hang out the doors and yell at people (who were all chain smokers) on a fold down seat the size of one of my ass cheeks.
This would have normally pissed me off and put me in a foul mood, but I think I must have still been in Buddhism/meditation/just met the Dalai Lama mode because the whole thing was just hilariously funny to me, and I ended up having a great time pulling an all nighter and hanging out with the bus crew...who knew. Cheers to the meditation high! I'm think I'm a believer ;)