Back to
Photo by Caleb Brooks

Buddhism in Dharamsala

Throughout our time in McLeod Ganj we were introduced to Buddhism and Buddhist thinking. As the current home of the Dalai Lama, McLeod ganj is the center of Tibetan Buddhism. We had the opportunity to meet two Rinpoches, which translates to “precious one” and refer to very respected lamas. We first met Rinpoche Karma who introduced us to the concept of samsara and nirvana, to the suffering of attachment and to the importance of mantras. He explained to us that the beads on his necklace were used to count the number of “Omani Padme hum” mantras. He performed a traditional Tibetan cemetery ceremony which involved him blowing on a phemur bone. He also told us that the library we were meeting belonged to another lama, Rinpoche Serkong. We met with him the following day. He sat in the corner cross-legged wearing a gap 1969 T-shirt depicting a bulldog. He told us about the culture of debate in Buddhism and the acceptance of thoughtful “doubt” as opposed to “faith.” He said that he was 80% sure the concept of reincarnation was genuine. This given that he himself was discovered at a young age as the “reincarnation” of the Dalai lama’s teacher. We had the opportunity to attend the long life ceremony of the Dalai Lama. Amongst a crowd of monks, locals and spiritual tourists, we watched as the Dalai Lama emerge followed by a throng of security. The ceremony was a combination of mantras, uttered by the prostrating monks that surrounded “his holiness,” the teachings of the Dalai Lama ( in Tibetan), and a seemingly endless procession of offerings.

We learned about the logic and various treatments of Tibetan traditional medicine. For example, we learned how certain ailments are caused by temperature imbalances in the body’s energy, and how all foods depending on whether they have a cold or hot nature can be used to rectify these imbalances. For example, sweet food is “cold” whereas   sour food is “hot”.