Thus have I heard.
HH the Dalai Lama was dwelling on the Himalayan Valley of Nubra in Ladakh, together with a great community of monks and nuns, lay and village people, and a select group of Westerners. Surrounded by ancient Buddha mountains with pure snow peaks. The recently blessed, hundred-foot Maitraya looks down upon the procession from the Gompa mount. Prayer flags of red, green, yellow, blue, white - representative of the five elements - color the sky, blowing prayers in the gentle winds.
Squished like bugs, we sit roasting in the Himalayan sun, waiting for His arrival. A sea of red; bald monks sizzle like lobsters, waiting to receive the precious buddhadharma. Waiting. Waiting. Cultivating scorching patience - wiggling Westerners get restless. "Put the umbrellas away!" They say, "I can't see!" When there's nothing to see. The Dharma is to be heard. Through a crackling speaker box, an English translation transmits through. The drums and horns sound. Here we go...
A big Dalai Lama smile and bow spreads through the crowd. We return by dropping our ego-minds in three prostrations. Thousands in attendance. The tea blessing begins. Thick, salty, yak butter is served up warm in big bronze pots by monks and Ladakhi women, adorned in their finest garments, deep blue turquoise chunks and big yak wool top hats. Along with the tea is served thick Tibetan bread, made fresh by the village women the night before.
The Dalai Lama raps on about emptiness. Nothing exists from it's own side. Cultivate the wisdom that knows emptiness. Interdependence is the other side of the coin. Perception, logic, ration, epistemology, subject/object, Prasangika Madhyamikya says... Nagarjuna, Chandrakirti, and Shantideva say... bodhicitta! Tongue twisting mouthfulls of Tibetan and Sanskrit, names and texts linger in the dry desert heat.
"Scientists are showing that those who constantly think of 'I' are more at risk of heart attack." The ego-mind is attacking the heart. Thoughts can kill.
The suffering of sentient beings is felt throughout hot, aching, itching, wiggling Western knees and spines. While the mountains sit strong, watching the endless procession in stillness. No wiggling mountains. No itching rocks. Pure Being - at the natural level. The cool snow peaks appear a mirage as giant beads of sweat slide down my brow. The Dalai Lama laughs and all suffering is momentarily ceased.
After an incredible week in the small rural villages of the Nubra Valley, on the Dalai Lama tour, drinking yak butter tea, spinning big prayer wheels, photographing big white stupas, eating momos and chow mein, saying Juley all day, taking ice cold bucket baths, living a life a little closer to a Ladakhi, a little closer to the Earth - something amazing happened. On the afternoon of the final day of teaching, HH the Dalai Lama announced he would be granting the Westerners an audience!
With a group of less than a hundred, we rallied through all the Ladakhis, security, and up to the DL's residence. The excitement was so high. The whole week we had felt so blessed to even be there. The Dalai Lama had been giving high teachings and initiations to the local monks and nuns of the Nubra Monasteries. At each one, we were fortunate enough to have a private section, right up front, with an English translation. This made for a rather unique and intimate gathering - a truly special Dharma transmission. And now we were to meet HH up close and personal!
He "lama walked" out to our group, smiling and waving, apparently unshaken by the heat, or the 3 hours of teachings he had just dished, at the end of a long week of teaching - he was not finished yet. In English now, he addressed us as his friends, speaking of the universality of the human heart. After about a fifteen minute dialogue, filled with much laughter, he willingly suggested a photoshoot. Thus our week in the Nubra came to a climactic end, with a meeting with HH the Dalai Lama.