The next day I was sitting on the plane, relaxed and ready to take off. I had “The Celestine Prophecy” in my hand for reading. Even though there was no air conditioning on the plane, I made due with my bottle of water to cool off. Just as we were about to take off, the plane stopped and announced that there was some technical issue. They loaded the 30 of us onto a bus where we sat for almost two hours waiting. They didn't provide us with any details, but I did observe a small Indian man drag a staircase up to the propeller. He proceeded to inspect the inside of the propeller with his bare hands for about half an hour. There was barely any air conditioning in the bus either and I was certain that if I didn't die on the bus from heat, the plane would not make it.
Alas, they loaded us back on the plane and we had a relatively smooth flight to Dharamsala, India. Dharamsala is at the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains and absolutely beautiful with the peaks in the backdrop. It is the home of the Dalai Lama as well as many Tibetan monks and nuns who sought refuge from Tibet in 1959 after the Chinese kicked them out. We are staying at Sarah College of Higher Tibetan Studies. There are monks here who are studying Buddhist texts to get their degrees within the monkhood as well as Tibetan students attending the college as a regular university. I conversed with some of the Tibetan students here and it was interesting for me to learn that they were westernized and very similar to the Emory students. Most of them hadn’t meditated before and were at Sarah College to learn about philosophy or science.
The rest of the week went by pretty uneventful until Thursday.
In the morning we wake for meditation from 7-8 am. Then we eat breakfast and have some time to do our assigned readings until our first class at 10:30. It is titled Mind, Medicine, and Healing and explores the relationship between Buddhist philosophy and science. After that class, we have lunch and then another reading period before our class at 3:30 that is about the culture of Tibet. After that class we typically hang out as a group until dinner at 7. I sometimes do yoga before dinner on the rooftop. It has absolutely breathtaking views. Most people go to bed around 9 or 9:30 pm since we must be up so early for meditation. Our classes are led by Geshe Lobsang. Geshe is a term similar to “Dr.” in the U.S. for those who have received their PhD. Geshela (a shorter name common for all monks who have earned this degree) was a monk who got the highest scholastic degree possible in the monkhood, earning his Geshe. But about 10 years ago he renounced his vows because he fell in love and got married. However, he is still very active within the Dalai Lama’s affairs. He helped to initiate the Emory-Tibetan partnership and teaches a few Tibetan philosophy, religion, and language classes at Emory.
I also liked her perspective on love. She said the most important thing is to put others before ourselves. This isn’t in the sense that we become a doormat and let people walk over us. But when things occur, we must be actors, not reactors and forgive the person not the action. People are naturally good, they just get caught up in their ego—desires, wants, and attachments—and oftentimes hurt us without intention. If we can see that people’s actions are a culmination of karma from their past lives it is easier to forgive. Buddhism doesn’t believe in a concept of the self so a lot of these philosophies get confusing for me sometimes. For example, Geshela said that our annoyances and agitations with others is just a reflection of some inadequacy within ourselves. Which I believe. But if we come to accept this concept of no-self and meditate to the point where we begin to see it (the concept of no-self) as a reality, I think that these agitations wouldn’t even occur because we have nothing permeating from ourselves onto others that gives us these negative or even positive perceptions. Anyways, it was a very interesting lecture and it really got me thinking. One of the last things Geshela spoke about was intention and although suffering is bad, sometimes we need short-term suffering for long-term happiness. It’s all relative, though. Mostly she said to try to love unconditionally and have compassion for all people we encounter. Easier said than done.