By Rachna Singh Chopra
Initiation happens in many a mysterious ways. Through touch, through gaze, through word, and did you know, sometimes through rain? When a sudden shower of rain takes you by surprise and drenches your spirit in inexplicable bliss, and your cheeks once again sweat with the dew of youth, you know that you have been initiated by the power of a spirit higher than yours.
You know that love has crossed your street, that you have leaped into an unknown dimension and it will never be the same again. From the height that you have been ushered into, you would never slide again! How fast this distance from bondage to freedom was covered, you fail to fathom. But then isn’t freedom about not caring how the prison bar clicked open, and how you were set free?
Once the road opened up, I saw myself moving towards a small dwelling in northern India amidst towering peaks and narrow lanes that are filled with the aroma of thukpas, the tinkle of prayer wheels and the click click of rosary beads.
The colour-filled streets of McLeodganj beckoned me as I jumped off the bus with my luggage and headed towards Tara Guest House. Strolling through the Tibetan bazaar, tucked warmly between old town houses, the curios shops, baskets of freshly baked bread, the bright tribal handicrafts, sacred symbols and tankhas continually attracted my gaze. My ear caught the echo of a million mantras that have been absorbed by the walls and bricks of this town.
I finally bought one tribal wooden rosary with counters. Days rolled past smoothly in McLeodganj as effortlessly as the prayer wheels roll forth with one gentle push of a devout hand. It often rained heavily. The streets were almost always moist but not just with rainwater. The continual yearning whisked out from the hearts of Tibetans perhaps prompted the clouds to gather faster. The weather was unpredictable, as is the season of wait! Suddenly, the sky twists, turns and writhes in pain, pouring down tears of yearning. Suddenly the sun shines, and suddenly again, the clouds gather and begin to drizzle with soft longing, for the place called home. When the weather clears up a wee bit, one could march forth in the direction of steaming momos and appetising vegetable soups. Mornings meant lazing in the guest house over a book, and evenings meant a walk down to the Namgyal monastery to soak in the rhythmic chant of the monks.
Cute children, warm houses lit up with the lamp of hope, bookstores, poetry, pain and prayers—these are some of the things that made Little Tibet so special. Strangely, for a while my mind grew restless for a sniff of freedom in this town of repose. My soul met with peace in a place where freedom sleeps, aching to be kissed awake. Fifty per cent of the town’s population comprises monks, the others are half-monks with half smiles adorning their peaceful countenances, and rosaries adorning their hands that are clutching on tight to the beads of hope clicking all the while.
The whole town is waiting patiently gathering around the Dalai Lama’s love, as bees gather around honey or as children gather around the mother for solace in times of need. Strong currents of his compassionate presence envelopes each soul in its fold. I, too, longed for his glimpse, whose presence is like a sun to this town covered perpetually by the dark cloud of receding hope. Wearing my rain cover on the morning of the last day of my stay, I went requesting for a dialogue with the great monk who had walked barefoot to McLeodganj through the Himalayas in 1952 with two lakh pairs of feet following. It was pouring when I reached his doorstep with tiny pink flowers plucked from the bush as an offering. I was ready to receive my teaching, the teaching that frees.
Disappointed on learning that His Holiness was observing silence and a meeting would not be possible, I was walking back in slow sad steps, when inspiration struck. The teaching descended from him. I curled open my palm, and in a gesture of courageous knowing, sprinkled the pink offering flowers on my frame, and exclaimed: ‘Om Mani Padme Hum’. I am the jewel in the lotus of the heart!’ I knew, then, that I had received the teaching meant for me, the teaching that freed! The earth beneath my feet swelled up, the grass smiled. My gait became bouncy. I removed my rain cover, drenching completely in this rain of initiation, and like a dainty deer, leapt forth to explore the seams of this newly found consciousness. The sky suddenly cleared up and the sunshine shone in my moist eyes.
How to reach : Overnight bus from Himachal Tourism Building, Janpath, New Delhi. A day trip to Bhagsu Nath temple and Norbulingka Institute may be arranged for a viewing of traditional art.
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