Today was a day a day I will not likely forget. Being able to meet and shake the hand of His Holiness is an experience that few people get to have. After breakfast the group assembled nervously on the lawn of the guesthouse and we were given a quick lesson on etiquette. At this meeting I volunteered to carry the statue of Green Tara, the female Buddha of enlightened activity, to be blessed. The group then made our way down to the Dalai Lama’s temple; we arrived during the morning session of the weeklong puja and joined the throngs of people, Tibetans, Indians and westerners hoping to catch a glimpse of His Holiness. As people hurriedly lined the road between the temple and the residence I could not shake the feeling that we actually had a scheduled appointment and would be able not only to see His Holiness, but we would be able to engage and interact with him.
Standing near the entrance with Khata scarves in hand, it soon become obvious to those surrounding us that we would likely have the privilege of having an audience with His Holiness.
As a group we have discussed the notion of privilege at length. But at this moment I truly felt it. In a temple surrounded by devout monks and nuns, it was us, the group of Canadian students would have the opportunity to spend time with him.
After leaving Green Tara to be blessed and making the final adjustments with our Khatas we were escorted inside the main gate and joined a queue of roughly 200 others. After waiting roughly 20 minutes, it was our turn. Dr. Paras asked how to teach politics with compassion, after a few jokes about politicians and politics in general, His Holiness talked for about three minutes, most of which I missed, likely due to how awestruck I was by his presence. After some group photos, greetings and tears it was over. Our group gathered to collect ourselves outside the main gate, each one of us a whirlwind of emotion, all struggling to process the gravity of the situation.
I collected the Green Tara and made my way back to Temple courtyard. It was not long before I realized something extraordinary was occurring, with my Khata scarf still draped around my neck, I carefully carried the Green Tara through the courtyard; while walking I noticed many monks and nuns smiling widely at me and even bowing their heads and holding their hands in prayer. I was holding the statue of a recently blessed Green Tara in my hands. It’s a surreal feeling to have people bow and pray when you walk by.
I knew before how privileged we were as a group to have had the opportunity to meet His Holiness, but it was further cemented in the moments after. It’s something that I have struggled with individually and I know some other classmates have felt the same way. Many Tibetans don’t get the chance to meet his holiness ever, we were in Dharamsala for one month and we were given the chance.
Writing this blog I am still awestruck by my experience, it is something I won’t soon forget.