Australia Tibet Council

Enabling everyone in Australia to be part of change in Tibet

Meeting the Dalai Lama on the 2014 Dharamsala Insight Tour

Friday, 17 April 2015

Mary Anne joined the Insight Tour in November 2014. Here she shares some thoughts on meeting His Holiness the Dalai Lama and here experiences in Dharamsala.

The Dalai Lama

The day that we arrived in Dharamsala (or rather McLeod Ganj which is 4 km up the mountain from Dharamsala) we heard that we would be granted an audience with the Dalai Lama. I could hardly sleep!!!!! After breakfast in a funky café drinking ginger and lemon tea, beetroot with apple and carrot juice and roasted barley porridge with banana and honey, we walked through the small town of McLeod Ganj just as the streets were coming to life. The shop keepers were uncovering their stalls, unpacking their wares of shawls, knitted socks and jewellery and displaying them into colourful arrangements for the day. Others were sweeping their stoops or cleaning their steps with water, walking their children to school or moving through the super narrow streets on motorcycles or cars, honking the pedestrians out of the way.

2.HHDL group2 webIt took us about 15 minutes for us to walk to the residence grounds where the Dalai Lama’s apartments, his offices and Temple are located. Once in the grounds, we were screened through an airport like, walk through metal detector, our bags were searched for cameras and other undesirables, and we were frisked to ensure we were not hiding anything harmful in our clothing!

From there we went into an office where we had to complete a form and hand over our passports. We were metal detected, searched and frisked a second time, then ushered into a small room with our group and asked to wait. We sat there quietly, just contemplating this amazing opportunity that we had been granted. You would not believe it but the spiritual teacher from my Buddhist centre in Townsville, Lama Chodak, who lives in Canberra and comes up to Townville to do retreats, was there with a group as well. I knew he would be in India some time in November, but to think that I would meet him here in the Dalai Lama’s residential area is pretty crazy!!

From our little room we were ushered up a hill towards the main entrance of the residence, past army officers and guards in plain clothes carrying machine guns. In contrast, the area was surrounded with beautiful pots of pink, yellow and red flowers and gardens with lovely trees. From the opposite direction, about fifty monks in maroon and yellow robes moved towards the central covered entrance area to the main building. The Dalai Lama was amongst them, apparently having given teachings during the morning.

After the monks, and then Lama Chodak’s group had bowed to His Holiness and received his blessings, we were asked to move in and shake his hand, all seven of us in our group. He knew one of the leaders of our group, Paul Bourke, who runs the Australia Tibet Council. The Dalai Lama mentioned the G20 meeting, giving it thumbs up for having made some progress. We had a group photo taken. Then we all shook his hand again and bowed our respects before moving back down the road from where had come.

When I looked into the Dalai Lama’s eyes they were strong, intelligent, sharp and in the here and now, not soft and kind like I had expected. I felt very small, a mere one in the millions of people the Dalai Lama meets every year, but for me this brief exchange was extremely powerful and has caused some very potent reflections on my part. What a gift and excellent preparation for when I go to the nunnery in about a weeks’ time to work through all these amazing experiences in a quiet and peaceful environment.

I still have a week here. We are visiting lots of very interesting organisations and gaining great insight into how the Tibetan people have created communities, social organisations, religious and cultural institutions and their government in exile in India. But more on that in the next instalment.

Mary Anne

Read Mary Anne's blog on her experiences on the Insight tour.

Download the detailed Information Pack for the 2016 Dharamsala Insight tour here