As a blind man feels discovering a jewel in a heap of rubbish, so am I amazed by the miracles of awakening rising in my consciousness. It is the nectar of immortality that delivers us from death, the inexhaustible treasure that lifts us from poverty into the wealth of giving to life, the tree that gives us shelter when we roam about scorched by life, the universal bridge that takes us across the stormy river of life, the cool moon of compassion that calms our mind when it is agitated, the sun that dispels darkness, the butter made from the milk of kindness by churning it with the Dharma. It is a feast of joy to which all are invited.” [Shantideva: The Bodhicharyavatara]


India always comes as a shock to your system, and it takes some time to adjust. No matter how many times you’ve been to India, it hits you with shock waves of harsh reality. We come from a much ‘softer’ environment in the West, cushioned by comfort. I experience reactions of resistance and aversion, which make me question my sanity for coming to this country (again). Pollution, terrible poverty and too many people. After being in India for some time, the ego surrenders to the noise, dust, dirt and discomfort, and then it becomes possible to experience the magic of India. Suddenly your heart opens and you are filled with immense gratitude for being in this incredible country, land of beggars and saints.


McLeod Ganj (also known as Upper Dharamsala) is a small village located in Kangra Valley, in the foothills of the majestic Himalayas. It has a spectacular setting: surrounded by pine forests, with a backdrop of high mountain peaks on three sides, and superb views over the valley. The snow-capped Himalayas, stark and white, loom into the blue sky. They seem to commune with the gods, declaring that purity is possible, and inspiring you to reach new heights. They are a powerful reminder of what lies beyond, within our reach and yet not within our reach, for their very height makes them untouchable, inaccessible, beautiful and mysterious. McLeod Ganj is the home-in-exile of Tibetan Buddhism and culture. The village has a spiritual atmosphere, especially when the Dalai Lama is in residence, and it is filled with maroon robed monks and nuns. Dharamsala (upper and lower) has several thriving monasteries, where monks of the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism practice their rich spiritual heritage of learning, debate and meditation.




Thousands of monks and nuns, Tibetan Buddhists, and people from around the globe, fill the large Temple to overflowing. We have all gathered here to attend the Annual Public Teachings of His Holiness, the Dalai Lama. We have come to see and hear the spiritual leader of Buddhism in person, to be blessed by His holy presence, and to receive vast and profound teachings. In 2001, we were blessed to attend teachings on the LAM RIM STAGES ON THE PATH TO ENLIGHTENMENT; and in 2003, we were blessed to attend teachings on SHANTIDEVA’S BODHISATTVA WAY OF LIFE and MIND TRAINING.


The teachings are given every day for about two weeks at Namgyal Monastery Temple. They start with chanting of prayers by the Tibetan monks, who chant with low, growling undertones that reverberate through your body and mind. The Dalai Lama then speaks for about two and half hours in native Tibetan, which is simultaneously translated into most major languages, and we listened with small transistor radios and earphones. Conditions inside the Temple are tough – you sit on a cushion on the hard concrete floor, with no space to stretch your legs and no back support. In the afternoon, the hot sun streams under the roof, and if it rains, the wind blows the rain under the roof. Once or twice, we had to sit under umbrellas, but the rain still drips off the umbrellas and makes you wet. We must accumulate a lot of merit attending teachings in such conditions! However, the spiritual benefits of receiving live transmission of teachings hugely outweighs the physical discomfort.




The Dalai Lama is wonderfully kind and humble. He is regarded as an incarnation of Chenrezig, the Buddha of Compassion, yet he refers to himself as ‘just a simple monk’. One cannot help having the utmost respect and admiration for Him, and His kindness, compassion and sense of humour steal your heart. He is one of the Great Beings on this planet, working tirelessly for peace and harmony. The Dalai Lama is a very sophisticated teacher. It is a blessing to sit in His holy presence and receive spiritual transmission of teachings. Since the time of the Buddha, teachings have traditionally been orally handed down from Master to disciple. You feel part of a living lineage, which has been carried forward from generation to generation over the centuries. You feel blessed to be part of this stream of humanity, flowing towards its highest destination of Enlightenment and Buddhahood. You feel like a Bodhisattva-in-the-making.




“Every day, think as you wake up: Today I am alive, I have a precious human life. I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself; to expand my heart out to others; to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. I am not going to get angry or think badly about others. I am going to benefit others as much as I can.” [Dalai Lama]


A Bodhisattva is one who is walking the Path to Enlightenment and is learning how to develop and manifest the enlightened mind. The ordinary worldly mind is filled with negative qualities and afflictive emotions, the source of delusion, confusion and suffering. The enlightened mind is filled with positive qualities such as loving-kindness, compassion and wisdom. It may take lifetimes to purify our mind-streams or consciousness, so that our Buddha nature or inherent pure essence can manifest. We all have the potential to evolve into enlightened beings, and it is up to us to realise our unlimited potential. It is a blessing and a privilege to receive spiritual transmission of these great teachings from such a Great Being and Master teacher. It is inspirational to be in the presence of the Dalai Lama as he embodies the qualities that we aspire towards, so he serves as a living example that it is possible to transform our negative behaviour.




“Abandon wrongdoing. It can be done. If there were no likelihood, I would not ask you to do it. But since it is possible and since it brings blessing and happiness, I ask of you: abandon wrongdoing.
Cultivate doing good. It can be done. If it brought deprivation and sorrow, I would not ask you to do it. But since it brings blessing and happiness, I ask of you: cultivate doing good.” [The Buddha]


Your mind is the most powerful instrument that you possess. It is important to study our minds, because our minds are the creators of our experience of life. A positive mind creates positive experiences, and a negative mind creates negative experiences. Our bodies are temporal and die, but our mind / consciousness continues after the death of our physical body. We spend so much time taking care of our body, which doesn’t last; but so little time taking care of our mind, which does last. Our priorities are wrong.


Meditation and mind training help you to cultivate inner awareness of what is happening inside your mind, and then do something positive about it. Thoughts are the basis for words and deeds, so if you are not aware of what you are thinking, you will not have much control over your words and actions. Your minds are undisciplined and uncontrolled. They are full of thoughts and emotions that you cannot control. They are like a garden that has been neglected and allowed to grow full of weeds. You have to start weeding the garden so that beautiful flowers can grow.


Buddhism emphasises meditation, mind training and transformation. It teaches techniques to discipline and transform our minds, gradually eliminating negative qualities such as anger, aggression, fear, hatred etc and developing positive qualities such as peace, loving-kindness, generosity, compassion etc. Buddhist techniques of mind training can be practiced by everyone, irrespective of their religion, because everyone has a mind and will benefit from transforming negative and destructive states of mind into positive and beneficial ones. If our minds are disciplined and we have more conscious control over our unhealthy and negative thought patterns and bad habits, this will positively effect our lives. The inner cause gives rise to the outer effect.


If you are unaware of the Law of Karma and you don’t practice meditation, you will think that things happen due to external forces. You will remain unaware of how you help to set those forces in motion. Positive thoughts and emotions cause positive behaviour, which creates good karma and happiness for ourselves and others. Negative thoughts and emotions cause negative behaviour, which creates bad karma and suffering for ourselves and others. The real enemy is not outside. The real enemy resides within your heart and mind. It is time to stop projecting our negativity onto the outside world, and take responsibility for our state of mind. It is time to change. Mind training teaches you how. A Buddha’s mind is totally liberated from all defilements, including all subtle negative and dualistic imprints. A Buddha has eliminated all the gross and subtle defilements of the mind and has fully developed its positive potential. A Buddha is totally selfless.


Our problems, both those we experience externally such as wars, crime and violence and those we experience internally as emotional and psychological suffering will not be solved until we address this underlying neglect of our inner dimension. That is why the great movements of the last hundred years and more - democracy, liberalism, socialism, Communism - have all failed to deliver the universal benefits they were supposed to provide, despite many wonderful ideas. A revolution is called for, certainly, but not a political, economic, or a technical revolution. We have had enough experience of these during the past century to know that a purely external approach will not suffice. What I propose is a spiritual revolution.” [Dalai Lama]


The teachings of the Buddha date back 2 500 years, yet their timeless truths are especially relevant and important in today’s degenerate age. The message of peace and non-harming is resonating in the hearts of more and more people, who honor the preciousness and interconnectedness of all life on earth. In order to make peace on earth a practical possibility, we must start with ourselves. 


Through training our minds we can become more peaceful. This will give us greater opportunities for creating peaceful families and human communities that are the foundation of world peace.” [Dalai Lama]

Visit HH the Dalai Lama's teachings


HH the Dalai Lama arriving for the TeachingsTeaching Buddha at Tushita Meditation CentreLeela at Prayer WheelsStupa at TIPAMonks of Namgyal Monastery

Photos by Maurice Barker