This is the first of my journal entries for a trip that turned into 27 days through India and Nepal. It was a "sacred journey" led, guided and taught by a Tibetan Lama Tulku Jigme Rinpoche. It was both enlightening, to use the word lightly, and extroardinarily difficult. I know that the journal reflects the awakening I experienced as well as the doubts along the way, and which continue today. I apologize for any spelling errors in advance. It was obviously too much to take in all at once.
February 9, 2015
Packing this evening for a trip to India and Nepal-traveling with a group of Buddhists (I do not designate myself as such, but that is okay) guided by Tulku Jigme Rinpoche. The Tulku, I am told, means that he is the reincarnation of a particular saint; The Rinpoche a title meaning meditation master. We leave early Wednesday morning.
We have spent the last four Sundays studying Ngondro, or the basics of Tibetan Buddhism with Rinpoche.
In traditional Buddhist cultures my age is the time for refuge (for those who have worked a lifetime). My hope is that the trip will be "enlightening" though I have no pre-conceptions about what that would be like.
We are packed-two each backpacks, and suitcases as planned, though there is more of what we likely will not need, like Benedryl, antibiotic, Immodium, toilet paper, etc. Perhaps I should say I hope we don't need these.
I know there is a part of me that would rather not be going, likely the part that would rather not have gone to Viet Nam, the part that would have stayed in my hometown, and played it safe. However, that is not who I am, and also not what is desired. There is also an unknown part, my Buddhist or true nature (?), that needs to be fully released. So we go bright and early. We take a shuttle bus to Portland for a flight to Seattly, on to Dubai, which will be a long flight of 14 hours and on to India.
Sixteen hours on a plane (13.5 to Dubai and 2.5 to Delhi). My ankles are swollen with edema, and I am immediately overwhelmed by the masses. We are at the Krishna Hotel in old Delhi. The new part of Delhi is beautiful and new. The old part has narrow, dirty streets, huge numbers of people, cars, trucks, Tuk Tuks (little taxis), bicycles, buses, and the occasional cow, all honking their horns-except the cows. It is truly a cocophony that even New York City cannot produce. In the midst of this is an area with many nice hotels. The Krishna is nice enough, except for the bathroom, which is a little moldy, not too clean, and the shower often cold. This is a challenge so far, the plane ride brutal, very little sleep, and we start the tour at noon.
This morning I went for a walk or tried. We actually only went a couple of blocks before turning back to the relative safety of the hotel. The narrow streets are crowded with thousands of people, vehicles all honking. One young mother, and her young boy would not let me alone. She kept saying: "Baby hungry, money." I was wondering if there is an archtype for the Great White Father, and I was it. They weren't malicious, just persistant, and conditioned by those of us who give to them. Rinpoche, who lived in Delhi for a time, suggests that what they need is not the few Rupies that we give them, and that you can't give to all of them. He suggests compassion, and to give when your heart moves you. As we enter the hotel I give them a few Rupies. We spent part of the afternoon at Gandhi's Memorial, an oasis in the midst of slums and bumper to bumper traffic that redefines chaos. We quickly discover that the driving style in India is different from American. No one stays in the lanes, rather it is a herd fighting for position in a continuos mass of humanity, cows and dogs. The honking of horns is continuos, not in anger, it is simply how they let each other know where the other is.
We moved on in the evening to Akshardham (spelling in India is varied often due to the corruption of names by the British) the world's largest Hindu temple standing across from the worst slums I've seen. The temple itself is extroardinary, new, taking five years to build. It is all marble inside, with an incredible gold room, that you cannot enter, housing an 11 foot high staue of Bhagwan Swanisnaryan, a famous Hindu saint for which the temple is dedicated. They had an incredible 50 minute light/water show that is state of the art technology that produced clouds, shapes and images beyond imagination. It was a creation story told with such realism as to be staggering. This technology was beyond anything I have seen.
As we were waiting to leave a sweet, precocious young boy (maybe 3-4 years old) walked across the courtyard to introduce himself to my wife and me. "Hello, my name is Hiram," he said. He shook our hands and truly seemed as interested in us as we were in him. A tale of two boys.
Rinpoche talked about being here to let go of our conditioned thinking. He says that India will do that to you. It's like a wave, he says, that will dwarf you if you let it so just dive in, be an ordinary person who does extroardinary things.