I’d already missed one opportunity to see the Dalai Lama over a week ago, so I was determined not to miss out again. It meant getting up at 6am, cramming into a bus packed with devotees and travelling the short distance to Choglamsar, a village with many Tibetans in exile.
By 7.30am a huge crowd had already gathered in a vast field and were eagerly anticipating the arrival of His Holiness. I picked my way through the throng and envied the families who’d come more prepared than I with mats and rugs and picnics. Many people were dressed up in fine clothes and several in traditional Tibetan costume. Several old men and women were sitting on the ground spinning prayer wheels in their hands.
By luck more than anything else, I somehow managed to make my way to the front where the Dalai Lama was due to appear and got a great view of his arrival. Two monks held enormous parasols to protect him from the sun. Lavishly dressed women bore flowers to welcome him.
I then realised that I’d also stumbled into the foreigners’ section which, perhaps unfairly, was right at the front to one side. His Holiness began his teachings which lasted almost 4 hours. There was simultaneous translation into English which was difficult to hear and many people had brought radios to tune into special frequencies broadcasting the translations.
But for me the most interesting thing was simply to be there, to watch the crowd and to admire the humility and compassion of the Dalai Lama.