As always, I met people on the bus to my next destination in India…Dharamsala/McLeod
Ganj. This is the home of the Dalai Lama and many Tibetan refugees as well as heaps of spiritual backpackers, mostly from Israel as I found out.
I stayed in a little area called Bhagsu, which was full of Hebrew signs and echoes from the restaurants and bars on the way up the hill, walking distance from McLeod Ganj. Who knew this is was a popular Jewish destination? Many just completed their 3-year mandatory stint (2 years for women) in the army and were taking a break. To me, they seemed to be spending the majority of their time smoking charas and listening to Pink Floyd.
The first day, I did the “circuit” hike from Bhagsu to McLeod Ganj up to Dharamkot and back down to Bhagsu. At one point, alone in the woods, I turned the corner and looked up to see about 20 monkeys staring at me. Well really, they were staring at my backpack. I had visions of them attacking me so I picked up a stick. They observed but did not approach me, only in my mind!
At the end of my short hike, I spoke with a Tibetan that was promoting a Tibetan Refuge Talk that night at 7pm. I went. I got there 10 minutes before it was supposed to start and NOBODY was there! I kept watching the
clock and envisioning that it was going to be just me and the speaker. Eventually a Canadian girl named Sonya showed up and then a few more and I felt more comfortable. The talk was okay except the translator was horribly slow. We learned that he was protesting back in the early 1990s with 3 other friends and they were arrested by the Chinese and served a brutal prison sentence of 10 years, sadly. He eventually fled to India in refuge.
One of the other travelers there was a cool, feminist from Boulder named Johannah who was researching the inequality of women in India. She was raised alternatively…as a Buddhist in some remote part of Iowa where she majored in Peace Studies and knew Sanskrit! Anyway, I ended up feeding off of her in-depth knowledge of Buddhism, and reminding/educating me of impermanence. We became good friends even though I brought very little spiritual knowledge to the table!
One conversation, within our little group, struck me…we were talking about the population spike from 1920 (2B) to today’s 7B people!! This makes you think about the future hunger problems and resource problems ahead. India has 1.3B and the growth will continue, fast and strong. One guy said that Earth only has resources to feed 12B people. Population control? Scary thoughts for our future on this planet.
I stayed in Bhagsu for a full week. One day, I hiked up to Triund, camped there at night, and hiked to the snow line the next morning, taking in amazing views of white-capped Himalayan mountains and fresh, honk-free, air! Nature in India…an appreciated respite.
My hatred for car horns reached a peak in McLeod Ganj, so the hike was killer timing. I met a Korean dude that planned to stay up here, in a freakin’ cave, for 3 weeks, practicing meditation techniques.
Another day, I followed the coattails of Johannah and went to visit the “other Dalia Lama”, titled the “Karmapa”, in Dharamsala. Every Wednesday, this leader offers blessings to the public. We also witnessed a class in session for young Tibetans.
The last day in McLeod, I visited the home of the Dalai Lama, but unfortunately he was not there. There was a week-long ceremony on “Being Compassionate” in progress. Hundreds of Buddhists and onlookers with prayer wheels were chanting and walking in a circle, clockwise, to represent the circle of life. These people were forced out of their own country and they are reminding us to be compassionate to all. Interesting.
The McLeod Ganj area was a very nice break from the craziness of past places in India. The air was fresh. The people were cool and grounded. The conversations were deep.
Hatred never ceases by hatred…but by love alone is healed. This is an ancient and eternal law.