Six weeks have gone by since have come McLeod Ganj. July and August in Delhi, Indore, Agra, and Dharamsala left deep marks in my heart. Now, September smiles with a cool air approaching Northern India. This cool air chills green mountains and rivers from a heated summer, which now fades in time. Rains come down far less now often as monsoon season approaches its end. And so do I approach the end of my time in McLeod Ganj in pursuit of new airs, leaving behind the heart of Tibetan culture-in-exile. I now endeavor further north and east, towards the high deserts and mountains of Spiti.
Outside the window of this local Indian bus, cows, oxen, and monkeys forage alongside the Beas river. Around me, Indian women dressed in saris and Indian men with big mustaches keep me company. Hindi music plays at the bus radio, with sitars, and a small altar for Sai Babaji decorates my sight on top of the dashboard. The scenery and the general atmosphere, inside and out, reminds me of Brazil; not so much the pines and conifers, but the sense of humility and togetherness with this people. I let the air come in through my window, and memories and reflections of these recent days are ushered in, like the wind.
The memory of meeting His Holiness the Dalai Lama himself comes to mind. It was early in the morning when, the day after his public teachings were finished, several Brazilians and I congregated to pay him a visit. When his schedule allows, the Dalai Lama invites people from certain countries to say hello to him personally. For some miracle, we, Brazilians were invited in. It was hard to believe. Back home, it is said, jokingly, that God is Brazilian. After this experience, I might as well believe it.
The road shakes me up from my daydream, and I gaze outside the bus. A Tibetan Buddhist monastery flashes by on my left side, on top of a hill, surrounded by Tibetan prayer flags hung on pine trees. With this sight, memories of my own meditation retreats at Tushita come back to mind.
I remember those classes on non-attachment and acceptance, taught at the most appropriate time. One afternoon, after hearing about compassion for all sentient beings, I was drinking chai outside, with a chocolate bar a friend had given me on hand. By the second sip of chai, a monkey ran from behind me, fast as light, and snatched the bar away from y sight. What the heck. Then he licked it slowly, savoring it, almost for show, with a hidden smile, as he looked at me. I couldn’t tell what kind of joy he felt. “You’re welcome” was all I could silently think.
Thankfully, Tushita was more than monkeys: there I read Eckhart Tolle; there I turned 24 years old, in a silent meditation retreat, and ironically, sprained my ankle two days before the occasion, as a gift. Since no one was there to give me a hug, I found a way to embrace myself and be forced to take care of an injure foot. I walked with a bandage on foot, and was stared at by a hundred people in silence, all wondering how on earth I managed to hurt myself on a meditation retreat. Life is funny sometimes. And it teaches you the greatest lesson: do not be attached.
Wind comes in, and the sun continues its journey West before sunset. I approach Manali, where I will be for a day by the mountains. Everywhere I look in this town, I see Hebrew signs along cafés and restaurants. Israelis will be my number one company here, I can tell. “Shalom, Manali,” and “Thank you so much, McLeod Ganj!”