In 1991, I attended my first teaching with His Holiness, the Dalai Lama. His commitment to compassion and nonviolence has been — and continues to be — an inspiration. Over the years, I have attended many.
In the west, depending on the venue, the attendance can be be anywhere from 1,000 to 15,000. In India, the number swells to 150,000!
Every two years, His Holiness gives a Kalachakra initiation. This is a ceremony for world peace. Pilgrims who attend may volunteer to dedicate their lives to helping manifest world peace, first within themselves and then to others.
Having attended two of these in the west, I was acutely aware of the difference between the east and west. In the west, the venue is climate controlled, large screens showing close-up of the stage, food vendors easily accessible, etc. In the east, it is outdoors. You sit on the ground, rain or shine, and you listen to an FM radio for translation into English.
Estimates of this year’s attendance are 140,000 to 160,000. Of those, 5,000 were foreigners. No accidents, no incidents other than two foreigners passing out from heat exhaustion (one day it was 107o Fahrenheit).
When I read that this year, the Kalachakra would be in Ladakh, India — Ladakh is part of the Indian state of Jammu/Kashmir; the capitol, Leh, at 11, 500 feet, is in the Indus River valley surrounded by the Himalayan mountains — it took me one second to answer the question I posed to myself: “Would I be willing to travel halfway around the world, sit on the ground for 10 days to take teachings with His Holiness?”
The answer: “Could I be so lucky?”