We absolutely love that more and more these days we have exchanges on email or Facebook that lead us to community members who have valuable experiences to share with all of us here on the site. Back in July, we received a reply on our newsletter list from Carolyn Wells, who was in Ladakh attending His Holiness’ Kalachakra initiation. We jumped at the chance to ask Carolyn to share her experience at the Kalachakra as a guest post and she has kindly agreed. Thanks so much, Carolyn! It’s so nice to get a flavor of what it was like, through her thoughtful and sensitive reflections on the teachings :-)
The 2014 Kalachakra Initiation in Leh: A Personal Perspective
Guest post by Carolyn Wells
Preliminaries to the Kalachakra
July 1, 2014, Likker Monastery, Ladakh, far north India, elevation 11,500 feet.
His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama sits on his teaching throne not 75 feet from me and I wonder how it feels for him to be so close to Tibet.
My friends and I are at the “Top of the World” sitting on the ground at Likkir monastery for a teaching on the Heart Sutra, three days before the beginning of the Kalachakra initiation. My group is multinational: Australia, Canada, Italy, Israel, Ladakh, India, Taiwan, Tibet, and the USA.
Looking around I see the stark spectacular snow capped mountains that make up part of the Tibetan Plateau, and I realize that although this is not Lhasa, it must surely remind His Holiness of Tibet. I breathe a deep sigh and quietly think of the Long Life Puja for His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama:
In the land of snowy mountains
Is the source of all happiness and benefit,
Lord Chenrezig, Tenzin Gyatso
May you stand firm until samsara ends.
The surrounding landscape brings new context to this prayer and I know I will remember the feeling of this place for the rest of my life.
Ladakh, which translates as “land of high passes” and which is sometimes known as “Little Tibet,” is located in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. For this trip my travel companions and I are staying in Leh, the largest city in Ladakh, approximately 8 kilometers (5 miles) from Choglamsar where the Jiwe-Tsal (“Shiwe Tsal”) or teaching grounds are located.
The teaching grounds are outside on a flat dirt area. In the photo above, you can see the teaching pavilion with a gold roof on the right, green cloth shades cover areas for foreign visitors on the far side, monks and nuns in front of the building, and vipʼs on the closest side of the building. The flat open area to the left is for general seating, and the gold roof of His Holinessʼ summer residence can be seen surrounded by trees further to the left.
Because of its proximity to the teaching grounds His Holiness often walked back and forth in order to greet the devotees. The silt filled summer waters of the Indus River run behind the venue.
The teaching pavilion contains His Holinessʼ teaching throne, cushion seating on the floor for the high Lamas and dignitaries, along with a floor to ceiling glassed-in area for the Kalachakra sand mandala.
After several days of cooler temperatures with intermittent rain squalls wetting down the teaching grounds, the rain clouds have dispersed and the high altitude desert heat is back. Summer rain is unusual in this high desert climate. Many thought it was an auspicious event prior to the teachings.
At the beginning of Kalachakra the Jiwe-Tsal hosts a moderate crowd, but as the start of the Kalachakra Initiation gets closer more and more people arrive and elbow room diminishes. Choglamsar and Leh are overflowing with people and cars increasing the road dust, diesel pollution, and population. Many wear face masks to help filter dust and diesel fumes.
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