Bodhgaya, India — January 8, 2012
From Ven. Roger:
They are saying that 400,000 or more people are at the Kalachakra Initiation, among them thousands of monks and nuns. It’s a spectacular sea of red when you look out over the crowd.
Some Tibetans start lining up at 1 a.m. in the morning, 12 hours before His Holiness the Dalai Lama starts at midday. The teachings have been lasting four to six hours. People are crammed in tight. I have Tenzin Phuntsok Rinpoche (the eight year old incarnation of Geshe Lama Konchog) sitting beside me. He listens on my headphones to the English and the other ear is free to hear His Holiness in Tibetan. Both his hands are busy drawing, using toilet paper delicately balanced on the top of his small thermos. He creates amazing little sketches of the eight auspicious signs and then passes them over to me. I put them carefully in my bag.
Bread and tea are being handed out, young monks come racing into the teaching area real fast! Some monks start skillfully, some not so skillfully, surfing the sea of red, delivering paper cups, bread and tea. It’s hot and stuffy with Tibetan bread everywhere. There are plenty of TVs for people who can’t see His Holiness directly. Outside this massive tent there are thousands of people sitting on the roads. The police have blocked all traffic and rickshaw walas from going anywhere near the teaching site.
When the teaching is over the crowd surge is massive. The likes of a tsunami! We try to form a circle around Rinpoche so he is not knocked over or swept away! It is a real struggle and reminds me of a rough game of rugby.
At the beginning of the teaching, His Holiness recites a prayer giving permission to all the celestial beings to listen to the teachings. So you have more than 400,000 sweating humans sitting crossed legged and happily squeezed together and I guess countless celestial beings comfortable in space all around us.
Richard Gere is staying with us and comes with us in the car. The police are more than happy to provide an escort for him, so we are escorted back and forth to the teachings. Richard is really enjoying his stay at Root Institute — “an island of peace” he calls it, at this time in Bodhgaya.
His Holiness’s teachings are excellent and His Holiness seems to hardly pause during the four to six hours of teachings/initiation. The monk in front has a strange white sweat salt design on the back of his dongka.
At the end of the last session today, when the kusha grass etc., was handed out … it was crazy. You’ve got to have a good imagination to know what it might be like handing out the initiation materials to over 400,000 people! If everyone stayed seated in their place it wouldn’t be so bad … but they don’t!
Leaving the initiation site with such huge crowds is dangerous. We had to use another escape route.