Transcendental journey to Dharamsala

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New Delhi, Oct 1 (UNI) The presence of the Dalai Lama who is deemed to be the live embodiment of 'Compassion and World Peace', the coming back of Buddhism to the country where it was founded and then pushed into anonymity, and the Tibetan diaspora who took refuge here in 1960s has had a marked spiritual effect on Dharamsala.

Tibetan Buddhism has seeped into life and culture of the city. Its old Devi temples and wandering sadhus, glimpses of monks turning the prayer wheel or clacking rosaries while chanting and centres for meditation, yoga and alternative therapies that have cropped up recently, all form a rich tapestry of old and new spiritual traditions.

This was stated at a function here last week where Geshe Lhakdor, the monk teacher and Director of Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, released the book 'Dharamsala Diaries', a travelogue highlighting spirituality of Dharamsala written by Swati Chopra and published by Penguin Books of India.

The inaugural ceremony was held at Indian International Centre, where Lama Geshe Lhakdor and Tenzin Tsundue, a fiery activitist of Tibetan diaspora, were invited as guests of honor.

Chief Editor of Penguins Ravi Singh said, "Dharamsala Diaries is a lovely and deeply satisfying travelogue that has managed to successfully capture the spirit of Dharamsala." "The most baffling part of that Dharamsala is not a pretty town at all and yet it is rapidly becoming a cosmopolitan city while keeping its spiritual essence intact", he added.

Swati Chopra, clad in the beautiful maroon saree in sync with the color of monks' robes, narrated how she became deeply connected with Dharamsala when her uncle, who had renounced the world and became a wandering yogi, often stayed and preached there and surrounding areas.

Ms Chopra has not only touched upon the tremendous freedom and access to grace and transcedental wisdom of 'Geshes' or Buddhist monk teachers but also the drawbacks of Dharamsala as a growing, crowded cosmopolitan city with its day-to-day problems.

She read out extracts from the book - 'Dharamsala is no Shangri-La. There are no dakinis swirling in the twilight, no elixir-sprouting fountains, no supermen or women. It is not a mountain retreat frozen in time and pin-drop quiet." "Dharamsala is a hill town with acute water shortages and inefficient sewerage. It is crowded with tourists who pop in to get a darshan of Vishnu's tenth avatar at the Dalai Lama's temple", she went on.

Priced at Rs 295, the book captures the hilarious effect of the corporate culture on rituals and religious rites and yet the captivating appeal of the city as the one offering the path to the inner-self.

It also talks of the tantalizing imagination of the author of the book, as she walks through the lanes of Dharamsala.

Dharamsala Diaries rightly point out that 'Dharamsala is today emerging as the centre point in the global upsurge of interest in Buddhism...Access to knowledge secreted away in remote monasteries on the Tibetan plateau until recently draw students from around the world to Dharamsala".

Most of the Tibetans live in the suburb area of McLeodGanj, also known as upper Dharamsala, where Dalai Lama resides. The place has increasingly acquired the status of pilgrimage for many.

During the inauguration Mr Tenzin with red band on his head, shared his experiences as activist demanding Tibetan freedom.

Born to refugee parents in Manali, Tenzin has staged agitations in front of Chinese emissaries visiting India.

He has forayed into Tibet on foot, where he was arrested by Chinese authorities. He spent three months in Lhasa jail before being deported back to India.

Geshe Lhakdor pointed out that Dharamsala is intriguing because it is the seat of Dalai Lama, where Tibetan Buddhism and culture has been preserved in its original form. "Dharamsala is indeed 'Dharmasthala' (Place of Religion) for me", he said.

"In Buddhism, we have no push-button enlightenment system. It needs intense concentration and desire to reach your inner-self", he answered when asked where should one start on the road to spirituality.

About the book, Geshe Lhakdor said, "Dharamsala Diaries is an accurate representation of Dharamsala through personal experience and observation. It gives a flavour not only of the place, but also of the spiritual path. Most importantly, it is an engrossing read." Rajiv Mehrotra, author and honorary secretary of Foundation for Universal Responsibility of HH the Dalai Lama found Dharamsala Diaries captures the spirit and textures of Dharamsala with sensitivity and passion.

He recommends this book saying that it offers you insights, understanding and experiences of Dharamsala and Buddhism that is next best only to the actual visit to the place. It can also serve as a perfect guide to the city.


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