Our early game was a morning prayer with His Holiness the Dalai Lama (HHDL from here on out). We didn't have to get tickets but like the ballpark, we did have to go through security before entering the temple complex (no cameras allowed!). We heard about the morning prayer from two sources: one of our fellow English class volunteers and from the town crier --- literally, a man who walks around town with a bullhorn making announcements.
At 7:30am (gasp!) we entered the temple complex and waited with thousands of people for HHDL to make his entrance. We later heard there were 7,000 people there. It's hard not to feel irreverent as an outsider at such a profound gathering. As HHDL walked past us everyone held their hands in prayer and bowed. The crowd of us were then allowed upstairs on the same level as the main temple. We sat down cross-legged on the ground, unfortunately not in view of HHDL or the main prayer room. For an hour, everyone prayed for the flood victims in Pakistan, India, Tibet & China. It's hard to describe what Tibetan prayer is like, but here's a video I found on youtube that is similar:
Our later game was a visit to see the 17th Karmapa. In Tibetan Buddhism there are four schools: Gelug, Sakya, Kagyu, and Nyingma. The Dalai Lama is the head of the Gelug school, while the Karmapa is the head of the Kagyu school. The Gelug school has been most prominent for the last century, hence the Dalai Lama's international fame.
We grabbed a taxi with our friends Terence and Nancy. Home run! No pre-partying for us, this was a holy visit. We lined up, received a protection cord from the Karmapa, and left. That was it. Short game. A shut out!
Although this post has been rather silly, time for me to be a tad serious. I wouldn't call myself buddhist or a follower of any religion in particular. But there's a lot about buddhism that I'm draw to. There's a joy and humility among the Tibetans here, especially among our students, who have led such difficult lives. It really puts things in perspective.