My General Experience in Dharamsala
We boarded a train in the evening to Dharamsala from Delhi. This was a very nice experience. I had thought that the train would be noisy in transit, but everything was cool, calm, and comfortable. I slept and woke up several times, looking through the windows to behold the beauty of India.
At the train station in Pathankot we were warmly received by the President of the Dalai Lama Foundation, Tenzin Tethong a very humble and kind Tibetan, and gentle man. We drove from the train station and a little bit out of town, where we all had breakfast and drove down to Dharamsala. The journey took us through high mountains and deep valleys creating so much fear, which later transformed to excitement.
We visited the Tibetan children in Upper Dharamsala in the evening for a cultural show. There we met Yeshi Khando and her students and a number of other guests.
We went back to the Tibetan Children’s Village for a study circle with all the students from the US, Nigeria and TCV, along with their teachers. We dialogued, shared, and exchanged ideas. This experience was great and wonderful. I also made a good number of friends and taught the entire group some Nigerian dances.
From there we traveled back to town along with the other students. We went to the market to see the shops and meet the local residents. It was indeed a nice experience that cannot be forgotten in a hurry.
Today we made a journey down from Upper Dharamsala to the temple complex of Norbulingka. The temple housed some of the most beautiful Tibetan art work I had ever seen. Before entering the temple we had the privilege of seeing the craftsmen and women who create the wonderful tonkas (Tibetan murals). The tonkas, they explained, take a huge amount of discipline and training to create. The amount of detail that went into each rendering of Buddha was incredible. Every inch of the art had to be exactly to scale. Seeing the Tonkas made me think a lot about the art of patience. One of the masterpieces that we saw in the room took the artist an entire year to produce. If that doesn’t show an immense amount of patience and commitment, then I don’t know what does.
Entering the temple my jaw dropped open. In the center of the temple sat a solid bronze statue of Buddha sitting in his peaceful moodra, towering over the room. For a moment I literally lost all train of thought. In my mind all I could take in was Buddha, and all I could think of was how at peace I felt. In front of Buddha was a seat with a picture of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. There was a very surreal presence in this temple. I know that I felt very privileged to be in the presence of such an impressive idol.
We were definitely in the presence of masters of their crafts when we entered Norbulingka. We got to meet the man who built the massive Buddha that sat peacefully in the temple. He is known as the “Michaelangelo” of his time, a true inspiration. I have so much respect for a man who has worked so hard and so long to create truly beautiful works of art that bring an immense sense of meaning and spiritual power for so many people.
Tomorrow is the interview with His Holiness, and yet everything remains so surreal. Our journey’s purpose, the reason for this amazing trip, lies merely hours away, but I still haven’t come to terms with its actual occurrence. How can I have legitimate questions for the Dalai Lama when I still have questions about the interview itself: What will be the effects of this incredible opportunity? Am I really prepared for this opportunity? Do I deserve this opportunity?
It is this last question that causes me the most apprehension. What have I done that makes me worthy of this once-in-a-lifetime experience? Out of the hundreds of millions of teenagers in this world, how was it that I had the fortune to be born into the vessel of Jonji Barber, interviewer of the Dalai Lama?
I ponder these questions while time rages on, and I am forced to accept the inevitability of tomorrow’s event. My questions remain, but my apprehension has been transformed into recognition of my mission. I am still not certain what I have done to deserve this, but I am certain that it is happening, and this certainty has pushed me into acceptance.