My interest in Buddhism was awakened during my school time already when I first read the book, Siddharta from Herman Hesse which speaks about the spiritual journey of self-discovery of a man named Siddharta during the time of Gautama Buddha. Little by little, I learnt more about Buddhism, which originated in Ancient India around the 6th or 4th century BC. In 2016, I went to Nepal andit was there that I totally fell in love with Buddhism and where my wish to meet the current Dalai Lama became stronger.
Some months later, I went to India and visited Ladakh, which is also called “Little Tibet” or “The Land of the Lamas“,due to the strong influence of Tibetan Buddhism. There, I must have visited more than 20 different temples, attended various Buddhist festivals, and spoke to different lamas (Buddhist monks). I was fascinated!
I travelled further to North India where I visited McLeodganj, Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh. This is a very special place since it is the current hometown of the 14thDalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet. In 1950, the Chinese invaded Tibet and 9 years later following the brutal suppression of Tibetans in Lhasa (the capital of Tibet), the 14th Dalai Lama had to flee from Tibet. At that time he was only 23 years old. His journey took over two weeks but he managed to safely enter India, which happily accepted him, his family and his followers and gave him exile in Dharamshala, which slowly developed into “Little Lhasa“.
After the Dalai Lama’s arrival in McLeodganj, he built up the Government of Tibet in exile as well as over 200 monasteries. In order to prevent his culture and tradition from dying, he also built various schools, universities, Tibetan children’s villages for orphans and the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts to enable Tibetan children to learn about their tradition. McLeodganj is truly one of my most favourite places in this world!
On this 10th May, the day Buddha found enlightenment under the Bodi tree in Bodhgaya, Bihar, India, is also the day I finally meet The 14th Dalai Lama. In the morning I go to the Dalai Lama temple in McLeodganj and even though I am half an hour early, there are already a lot of people waiting. I have to stand on the stairs as they are blocking the main gate and I can’t really see anything.
After 30 minutes of waiting, just when I am about to leave because I feel very uncomfortable in the crowd, I look to my left and see that the Dalai Lama and his security guards are approaching. Oh my! It is so beautiful and emotional that my eyes can’t help but well up. It seems like all the people around me feel the same, it is just something about the energy, the aura around us which suddenly became so powerful.
Once the Dalai Lama enters, the gate opens and I can enter the temple. I choose one spot in the bright midday sunlight, as no one else wants to stand there and it offers quite a good view. Around me there are people from all over the world, different races and different religions have all come together and a sense of Oneness is felt in the air.
Suddenly, there is silence and then the meeting begins with singing the Tibetan national anthem, waving Tibetan flags and feeling in harmony. Even though I don’t understand what the Dalai Lama is saying, it is very soothing to hear his voice, just like balm for the soul. The whole experience of being there and listening to all the stories about Tibet, that there are political protests in the form of suicides – nuns are setting themselves on fire, or that families have been split apart since they can only afford for one child to go to India and now they can barely talk on the phone, was very educative since we don’t hear (much) about such events in the news.
It is really admirable to see that even though the Tibetans have lost their country, they have lost their freedom, maybe also their family, they have lost neither hope, their kindness, their humour, nor their good heart. Even the Dalai Lama said that we will go back home, we will go back to Tibet and, when we do, we will dance and it will be a big festival. On this occasion, it was also mentioned that Nelson Mandela managed to make democracy in South Africa and Martin Luther King Jr. also had a dream which came true, so there are hope and faith.
We all then made space to let the Dalai Lama walk by. Everybody was showing respect and was kneeling in front of him, and even though security tried to protect him from the outstretched arms of the people, he himself went and touched the hands of his supporters. I didn’t get to touch him but just seeing his face and being able to be that close was more than enough – he just looks so kind, good-hearted and fulfilled. Pure bliss and joy radiate from his being.