McCleod Ganj, Dharamsala, India. September 2012.
A ray of sunlight shines into my room. The romantic sounds of someone playing traditional flute. I wake up slowly. A car drives past. The driver announces his presence by blowing his horn loudly and a horde of dogs start barking against each other. So much for my peaceful morning ritual. I switch on the warm water and wait for my shower.
My first Tibetan breakfast. Momos; Tibetan dumplings filled with vegetables. I am in the residential village of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan government and the home of many Tibetans. The village is surrounded by pine tree forests, fresh mountain water and white peaks. And garbage.
The small streets are busy. Villagers walking around, carrying goods or trying to sell their items to travelers. Taking their cattle for a walk. Monks going from one destination to the next. Cars trying to escape the small streets as fast as possible. Sometimes they get stuck when another driver from the opposite direction tries to do the same. Spiritual and less spiritual travelers in all kind of variations.
The Tibet Museum. Closed on Monday. Too bad. At the square of the Tibetan temple complex monks are debating. They debate in pairs. One of each pair is seated while the other stands in front and makes his or her point and seals it with gestures and a powerful hand-clap. It is impressive to see.
I walk through the rest of the temple complex. Touch my first prayer wheels and listen to the Buddhists whispering mantras around me: Om Mani Padma Hum, the mantra of Chenrezi, the Buddha of compassion.
I wonder about the many Tibetan refugees – their points of reference. Who not only had to leave their houses and family behind to cross some of the world’s highest mountains, but also had no home to return to after. How they had to establish a new ‘home’ and how many people on this world are in the same position, every day. Their silent stories. And their perspective on compassion — how they are able to rise above themselves. To carry on with compassion, dignity and respect for every living being. And to accept the suffering.