17 Jul A Crash Course in Tibetan Buddhism, Culture, and Political Activism
Written by our 2014 India Gender and Religion team.
Arriving in the darkness, the rolling foothills of the Himalayas in Dharamsala were lit up by tiny lights – a magical sight. The next morning we were awoken by another beautiful sight: the sun peaking over Triund, the mountain we were going to climb later that day, and camp out on that night. We took our time on what James, our Program Leader, told us would be a ‘level 3 hike’. Turns out ‘level 3’ is subjective! In fairness, the hike was gorgeous and not so hard when accompanied by group singing, laughs, and story telling.
We then had the immense honour of attending a private meeting with His Holiness the 17th Karmapa, the head of the Karma Kyagu, one of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism. While the Karmapa is a very powerful religious figure, we were struck by how subdued and inspiring we all found him to be. He offered insights on his childhood, his philosophy, and offered each of us a personalized gift and a copy of his book to share. He has some very interesting insights on gender, and was happy to know that our group was in India probing these very concerns.
The Tibetan Women’s Association provided us with an unbelievably informative week, and we were exposed to so many courageous individuals working hard to advocate for a free Tibet. From working with Students For a Free Tibet, to visiting the Norblinka Institute where students train in traditional Tibetan art, to presentations on the state of democracy and acts of self immolation in Tibet, to visits to the Tibetan Nun’s project, our week in Dharamsala was a crash course in Tibetan Buddhism, culture, and political activism. Our group learned why Tibet is such a special place, and why it is worth fighting for.
The week we spent at Heena Cafe made Daramsala another home for us all. The beautiful staff quickly became our mountain family, sharing smiles and positivity day in and day out. Not to mention the watermelon curry- to die for! They provided not only a friendly atmosphere to come home to each day, but also a great insight into the wildlife around Himichal Pradesh and the more intimate insights into Indian family life. It was very hard to leave Dharamsala, which is why so many of us decided to stay during our own Independent Travel Time!
2014 India Gender and Religion