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Dalai Lama Renaissance
A precious moment with the Dalai Lama
  so many swamis so little time in shambhala

Dalai Lama Renaissance

Dalai Lama seeking ShambhalaDalai Lama in shambhala
Shambhala is in the seeking - not to be found












































It was years later that I started to piece
together that that chilly winter conversation.

Swami Dayananda, Manali Ashram
Swami Dayananda, Manali Ashram

Epilogue: Fate carries on to some closure.
On the banks of the Ganga lives Swami Dayananda of Manali. In 1996 I had traveled to Manali not for healing, bathing in the headwaters of the Ganges or enlightenment but to score the best, Manali Hashish. A chance encounter with Swami Dayananda occurred on my return from that beautiful valley, the Himachal Highlands and the Tibetan New Year Celebration in Dharamsala. On a trainstation landing in Pathankot we parried for a number of hours. Swami Dayananda managed, through methods known only to Swamis, to make me reveal my meeting with the Dalai Lama; I confessed to that percious moment with the Dalai Lama, a moment that tested our faiths, both my faith and his. Swami Dayananda was enlightned a touch further too. Without Six Degrees of Separation and the Dalai Lama in Auroville there would be no chance to understand this encounter.

Swamis swamis swamis
It was a chilly mid-winter evening in Pathankot. The grimy little city was asleep but for we who were waiting. The place was under martial law, as Kashmir separatists had bombed some military emplacements just beyond the train station the week before. I had just come from Dharamsala for the Tibetan New year. I had been waiting at the train station for several hours with at least four more to go before boarding to New Delhi; a trip I was not looking forward to, third class and rupee poor.
While standing on the station deck, sheparding my luggage and trying to stay warm, I couldn’t help but notice a very handsome white beard swami simply dressed in full length handwoven grey woolen robes –– watching me. As a Westerner I had become accustomed being watched. He was tall and dark making his shock of hair glow white in the muted florescent flickering of the landing, a Guru perhaps; he wore no bidi. The landing, as always, filled with vendors and pilgrims, beggars and the desolate; the station depot was crammed to capacity with all manner of children, old men, smells and filth. I preferred the relative quiet of the outdoors.

He hailed me in a friendly baritone and with flashing hazel eyes asked, "where are you going? We sat together after introductions: I thinking he wished to toy with his english and find what I was doing on the frontier at this time of year.
His english was good, clipped and precise, easily understood by anyone -- his robes floated as he sat. he was warm and I was not. My coat had been pinched two months before at the marina in Tel Aviv, leaving me ill-prepared for Himalayan winter.
The Swami asked if I could buy some tea and bread for a pilgrim. He was hungry, I was too. Enroute to New Delhi for some Hindu festival, he was obliged to beg on his travel as a devotee to his sect. I explained I had few rupees as I was broke and planning on leaving India as soon as booking was possible. I was ready to leave this place of contrasts to the extreme. I had already gone back to Cairo in my mind, I was going back to Egypt to sail the Nile.
“Where have you been?”
Shaken out of my chilly torpor, I explained, I had just come from Dharamsala. He cocked his head, wrinkled his thin straight nose and looked with what might have been a scowl.
“Those Buddhists in McLeod Ganj," he said, "They have all the attention, they have new shoes and wear fine robes, they live well and get all the westerner’s wealth, they even drive cars -- I don’t understand -- did you have audience with the Dalai Lama?”
I said, "I met the Dalai Lama but not in Dharamsala."
“Where you meet.”
I said," I ran into him near Mandi."
“Mandi?” he said.
The Swami listened as I told him, I had come to see the Himalayas and had traveled for some distance, along the base of the uplands of Himachal Pradesh, staying in many places in the southern folds of the range that dominates two continents.
The swami wanted to know where I had been, When I mentioned Manali he slapped his knee, rolled his eyes and shaped a broad smile showing his large perfect teeth and exclaimed, “My ashram is there in Manali, did you like it?”
“Manali," I said, "yes beautiful.”
We rose and wandered over to a chai stand and ordered two chai and some bread roles. The vendor obliged, we talked and ate. “This Kashmir conflict is a pain for everybody.” He agreed and stated that, “it’s not going to be over soon. There should have never been a Pakistan carved from the mother country.”

We ordered more chai and bread sticks and returned to our seats.
Getting to Manali from Kullu is beyond 3rd world, the road had been gone for several years from flood and avalanche; hundreds of tibetan laborers broke and stacked stones to allow the occasional vehicle to pass the single track; their grimy robes were a tatter as they squatted in huddles with hammers smashing big stones into small ones, their anvils were yet begger stones. Filled baskets of gravel were dragged to the disappearing roadbed and dumped to repeat again and again. Twelve kilometers took two hours of bumping and grinding. Autos, busses, buildings and hulks of all sorts lurked half buried in the floodplane below. At any moment the perch of the track could slip into the abyss making relaxation impossible. I chose to ride next to the driver in the lorry -- there were few passengers. Once in midwinter Manali, the town was deserted, I had made the trip to find the best hashish in the world at the headwaters of the Dakshin Ganga. Within an hour I had run into Peter the broker and he provided a big ball, fist size, of black leathery oils from the cannabis -- he sold me a pipe too, a package deal for 120 rupee. I negotiated well –– he had no customers.
I had spent several days hiking and touring the outlying area, mounds and piles of snow were heaped here and there, grass was greening and the old British Raj hide-away was perfectly peaceful, no beggars and no hassles. The ski area was not functioning as anything a skier from the Idaho Rockies would find challenging; I chose to stay off the slopes. My body had waned after months on the road, stamina sapped, travel in India was work. The only open restaurant was Tibetan, clean, good food and warmed by a wood heater in the middle of the dining hall made the place perfectly cozy. They played tapes from the Mammas and Pappas, some Beatles and no Hindi music.
I was stoned most all of the time. I was stoned when I met the Dalai Lama.

He said again, “What was your audience like, I have never met the Dalai Lama?”
“I met him near Chachyot.”
”Yes, I know of the monastery and sacred lake there.”
“I met the Dalai Lama on a hair pin curve coming from the Buddhist monastery in Chachyot near Mandi.”
“What you met on the road?”
I was lodging in Mandi on the temple square and exploring the outlands when I decided to visit the Buddhist temple in Chachyot.
"Yes, I had met the Dali Lama on the road, on a blind curve, as most curves are in the Himalayas. He in his big maroon mercedes sedan and I up front, next to the lorry driver. The single track was tested, our brakes were tested and the Dali Lama’s driver was tested. By the time we got stopped there was not room for a skinny cow to pass. We both had skidded sideways to the outer edge of the roadbed resting on a perch 800 meters above a tranquil valley of nested farmsteads and cropland -- bumper to bumper. I looked through the windshield onto the maroon mercedes as we backed away from a fate that only the Chinese would applaud. The Dalai Lama was adjusting his robe, his assistant was speaking to the driver and the bodyguard was motioning to us to get moving. We ooched past one another and he was gone."
The Swami chuckled and said, “So -- that’s your meeting with the Dalai Lama?"
"So -- you got no guidance or inspiration from you meeting?"
“I got another inspired insight. Just thinking of dying in a head-on crash with the Dali Lama was an inspiring moment, wondering of our respective oblivions, he off to his and me to mine.”
I complained of the cold, and he suggested we have more chai.
“Manali is beautiful, he said, but what about the Ashram,” The Swami said, “Did you enjoy our Ashram?”
The Tibetan Restaurant was my Ashram as the food was cheap, solid, well prepared and safe. “No I didn’t make it to your Ashram.”
“You can’t miss it, it’s just a kilometer up the valley -- beautiful, serene and clean -- It’s my Ashram.”
“Sorry, I did not find it.”
“Those Buddhists, they have all the luck, we Hindu, even in India get no respect, we are in the hundreds of millions with millions of Swamis, beautiful temples and many many gods, we still have no luck when we are pitted against the Dalai Lama.”
“I don’t know, I’m not Hindu.”
“We swamis are left out, we don’t get the attention as before. When the Chinese drove out the Lama, we here in the Himachal Province are swallowed up by the Buddhists and Muslims. American movie stars come to see him, It’s not fair, our religion is very old, we have many deities and there are many many learned Hindu scholars. The Swamis give their lives to their religion, Why don’t you Westerners come to we swamis for inspiration?”
With a moment of quiet in our patter, like a great teacher of wisdom I turned slowly to look into his eyes.
He looked perplexed and bewildered -- childlike -- as if seeking guidance.
An unrestrained shibboleth poped into my head, then, uncensored, my lips moved.
“Well, I said, I can only speak as a westerner but you know -- there are so many swamis and -- there is so little time."
He sat for a moment, seemingly stunned, as if the computations were too complex; the calculation of this theorem required some time to digest. He looked into my eyes.
I remained silent -- as I had spoken.
His full lips began to part, a burst -- unsolicited unrehearsed unrestrained laughter burst forth. He laughed and laughed. Tears trickled down his dark skin and disappeared into his white beard as his hand grasped my arm. He looked, if just for a moment, enlightened.
As he regained his composure, we rose and ordered two more chai and bread roles. The vendor obliged as before. We sat and chatted in the still cold evening as others milled and squatted in the nooks of the train station landing.
As the train arrived for New Delhi we shook hands and hugged, in his flowing robes he departed -- his shock of white hair trailing, light and feathery. I went to the chai stand to pay my bill. I had few rupee and did not want to buy food on a train-station deck but it was what it was, my fate to be fleeced by a swami.
I approached the vendor and asked for the bill.
He looked at me and waved his hand and went about serving the last of the traveler’s orders for the trip. I thanked him and he waggled his head in affirmation -- a hindu custom that must be in the genetic makeup of the Indian by now.
As I lofted by bags to board, I turned and saw the swami boarding, he embarked up the station platform into the first class cars.

So many swaims, so little time

Gus O. Kahan





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