I have arrived with ease back in McLeod Ganj (Upper Dharamsala), Himachal Pradesh state, India, where His Holiness the Dalai Lama has made his home in exile. I will attend his March 4 to 14 public teachings on the classic 8th Century Mahayana Buddhist text by Santideva: Bodhisatvacaryavatara (Entering into the Conduct of an Awakening Being). I will return to Kathmandu on March 15 by air from Delhi.
I have travelled here with two other Nepal Fulbright scholars, we had to walk to the Kathmandu airport because of a general strike in the capital on Wednesday, but had no trouble upon arrival in Delhi, where we hitched a cab to the amazingly clean new light rail metro, which we rode to the budget tourist hippy district for shopping and food. After a great cheap Indian meal, we took the metro to the Old Delhi Train Station, and caught the 9:15pm overnight sleeper train to Paratganj. We arrived refreshed from a gentle train ride sleep at 7.30am in Paratjanj and took a bus to Dharamsala, and I am very excited that I have met up with my two old roomates from Kathmandu, Dan and Amber, who are both working as TA's for Emory University's Semester Tibetan Studies program in Dharamsala.
My birthday was on Feb. 24, and I celebrated it in a new way. Instead of having a party with booze and cake for me and my friends, I wanted to do something for the monks at the Chapagaon monastery. Therefore, I sponsored a Tara (female buddha) offering ritual in the morning. For the ritual, I had to distribute blesed food and money to all the monks (tradition of generosity). We then had a vegetarian feast, about ten friends came to dine with me and the 45 monks at Vajravarahi. I then went on a long walk around the countryside and played futbol with the monks in the evening. There were enough leftovers from the feast to feed all 50 of us again at night! It was one of the greatest birthdays I've had, inspired by Newari tradition of giving.