Mere 60 years ago, the term “Tibetan jungle” I’ve used would definitely have been an oxymoron. The Tibetan people had belonged largely to the rugged, arid terrain of the Himalayan plateau, where high altitude and scarce rainfall make bare survival tough.
Many Tibetans have been forced to flee the brutal Chinese regime since the occupation of 1959, finding haven in exile territories provided by the Indian government. These designated Tibetan areas, dotted around the Indian subcontinent, from Dharamsala in the north to Bylakuppe in the south, have become a second home to the refugees. They are now flourishing centres of Tibetan culture and religion.
Tibetans have adjusted remarkably to the climatic conditions of deep Indian South. The monks of Namdroling have mostly come from Tibet, Nepal, north India, and Bhutan, but some of the younger ones were already born in exile. The new arrivals, though, struggle with the tropical heat and spicy Indian cuisine, which is not surprising considering their robes were designed to protect them from the harsh mountainous environment and their stomachs are used to nothing but the staple diet of barley flour and yak meat. They eventually master the art of haggling in Hindi and become quite the locals in the Indian countryside.
When Penor Rinpoche first came to the Bylakuppe area, it was a plain jungle. Many Tibetans are said to have lost their lives due to disease and hard work making it habitable. The first humble monastery buildings were built from clearing out the jungle and with time, the amazing complex we have now has materialized, as if by magic, from Penor Rinpoche’s mind and his monks’ hands. The ordained community has grown from a handful to thousands, both monks and nuns. Namdroling is today one of the leading centres for preserving the Buddhist teachings and traditional way of study and practice and it’s the largest and most important monastic university of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism in the world.
Busloads of Indian tourists swamp the so-called “Golden Temple” every weekend to see this incredible sight in the middle of Indian nowhere. The huge gilded statues inside the temple especially seem to excite them, and the unbelievable neatness of the surroundings baffles them. It is a stepping into a different world. And the outward image is just for starters. Staying for longer will see you thoroughly immersed in the Tibetan Buddhist culture. But careful! Soon you may feel like you don’t ever want to leave.
More on the blog >
- How to use a mala A unique view on the common meditation accessory. Sourced from tantric text and sources not generally available. Written by a Namdroling student.
- You are not your mind’s boss The mind is out of control when it’s rigid. How do we make the mind malleable? Dzongsar Khyentse’s brief introduction to Shamatha and Vipassana. A quote from Prajnaparamita teachings in Nepal.
- Equanimity The Dalai Lama reminds tantric practitioners to include all beings without exception in their practice, and the importance of foundational practices of wisdom and bodhicitta in Tantra.
- Havel and Dalai Lama Exploring the special friendship between the leader of the Tibetan people oppressed by the communist China and the president of post-communist Czechoslovakia.