Tibet Foundation

BIM - My Year In India - Taken from TF Newsletter 45.

Dec 15, 2004

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BIM - My Year In India - Taken from TF Newsletter 45.

In 2001 the Buddhist Research Centre at Mongolia National University commenced an ambitious three-year programme with funds from the Buddhism in Mongolia programme. Their programme aims to assist in the revival of Buddhism in Mongolia with an emphasis on improving Tibetan and Buddhist Studies and incorporates publishing, research, translation and media broadcast. As part of the programme, the Centre has sent two groups of four post-graduate scholars to India to study at the Centre for Higher Tibetan Studies (CHTS) in Sarah, near Dharamsala for one year. The second group returned to Mongolia in May 2004 after their busy and exciting year, during which time they made impressive progress in their Tibetan language skills. It is clear that they also benefited in many other ways, not least of which was being able to attend the teachings of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and travelling to sacred Buddhist sites in India. Gantsetseg, one of these scholars, has written about her experiences in India, as follows: My year in India From July 2003 to June 2004 I studied modern Tibetan in Dharamsala, in Himachal Pradesh state in India along with three other students from Mongolia National University. This training was made possible with funding from Tibet Foundation’s Buddhism in Mongolia programme. Dharamsala is well known to Mongols as the place where His Holiness the Dalai Lama lives and where the Tibetan Government in exile is located. It is a place surrounded by high snow-covered mountains and beautiful nature. Dharamsala itself is quite a crowded place with so many tourists, students and pilgrims they almost outnumber the Indian and Tibetan locals. When we first arrived it struck us as a totally unusual and alien place with a unique culture and climate, but very soon we became acclimatized. Mongolian students who have lived there for many years told us, “you arrive crying and you will return crying.” They were right. For me it was such a special place and will remain in my heart and memory forever. Our college - the Centre for Higher Tibetan Studies, Sarah We studied at the Centre for Higher Tibetan Studies in Sarah which is about an hour and a half bus ride from Dharamsala. Being lower in altitude, it was warmer in winter and hotter in summer. The Centre has about 300, mostly Tibetan, students studying Tibetan linguistics, Buddhist religion and culture, and philosophy. We four Mongols joined a special class for foreign students from countries including Russia, Tuva, Buriat, Korea, India, Mongolia, Columbia and Chile. When we were in Mongolia we studied classical Tibetan so we had little difficulty studying the language except for the pronunciation of modern Tibetan, which was quite difficult for us. When we first arrived we could hardly understand what the teachers were saying, but after three months we were able to understand a little of Tibetan people’s conversation. We began to realize that it is impossible to learn to speak and comprehend the language without being in the environment where it is used. I realized that I could learn vocabulary and grammar from books, but without the chance to use my linguistic knowledge on a practical level, my ‘book’ knowledge was like a dead body. Receiving teachings from His Holiness the Dalai Lama At the beginning of August the school administration allowed us a two week short break to attend His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s teachings. His Holiness gave teachings based on those of the founder of the Gelugpa tradition, Tsongkhapa. Some of the Mongols who had lived in India for many years helped us to understand the teachings by translating for us. It was a wonderful opportunity for us to see him and listen to his voice. We had other opportunities to hear him teach in December and February. In November, with the help of one of the CHTS students, we were granted a short audience to meet this great man and receive his blessing. I never had a chance to see him at a close distance during his few visits in Mongolia, so it was great luck to receive a blessing from a him in such a personal way. Visiting the sacred Buddhist sites In February we planned a trip for the winter vacation. We wanted to travel to many of the sacred Buddhist places and other famous sites in India. We began our journey in Bodhgaya in Bihar, which is the place where Buddha became enlightened at the age of 35 and became a great teacher. We saw the tree beside which Buddha meditated, as well as a number of big and small stupas. We stayed there for a few days to pray and do some offering rituals. We had an extraordinary feeling of the sacredness of the place: it felt really holy. Around the whole place a fence surrounds the site and this feeling of holiness exists only inside the fence. We had been told some frightening stories about Bihar before we went on our trip: that it was one of the most dangerous provinces in India. We were a little bit worried about going there but to our great relief we only had good luck and nothing bad happened to us. I was really shocked by the huge number of beggars and I felt a very great sorrow for them. I had thought that I would only pray for my family and close friends when I was there but found I could not resist a feeling of compassion for these people and I prayed for a good life for all living beings. Seeing the jewel of India, the Taj Mahal The legend of the Taj Mahal and its unique construction is really amazing and touches the heart. We all know that it was built for the beloved wife of a great emperor. Inside there are now two mausoleums: one for the king and one for the queen. The outer beauty of the palace, the green garden and the fountains are all beautiful creations of man. At the same time I kept remembering the story of the architect of the palace who had to lose his arms, according to the kings directive, so he could not build any other palace. So our journey finished in Delhi. During our trip we visited many beautiful places and met with many interesting people. Generally we had a very pleasant journey and our travels went well except for one occasion when we had to wait for the train for fourteen hours. A last word There is a saying that “if you want to see the world you have to see India.” For me, as someone who had never been abroad before, it was really very fitting that the first place I traveled to outside Mongolia was Buddha’s birthplace, India. During my year in the country I became familiar with Indian culture and also got to know the exiled Tibetan people and their culture. One year is not a long time, but it is a significant period of time and, for me, it was an unforgettable year and a very precious time. Gantsetseg is now studying for her PhD in Buddhist studies at Mongolia National University. H. Gantsetseg