2014年10月6日星期一

Visiting the Tibetan Mindrolling Monastery of Dehradun

During my stay in Uttarakhand, the northwestern province of India last month, I visited Mindrolling Monastery in Dehradun with V. I went there not only because the place is top-rated on tourist sites for Dehradun, but also because I have been interested in the Tibetan struggle for independence and I have visited Tibet before this trip. 

First I visited the dharma hall, which was hosting a dharma class upstairs. Some monks looked down curiously. I could not step in the dharma hall 法堂 but I admired the wall paintings and drew some sketches of the deities portrayed. 




Then we proceeded to the Great Stupa, the major point of interest. Construction just completed this year in May.





We had to take off our shoes before we entered the temple grounds as well as this pagoda, which is customary for most religious sites in India. I thought was a sign of Indian customs combined with a Tibetan religious setting (Religious sites in Tibet did not require tourists to take off our shoes.). 

Aside from the Dalai Lama's blessing of the stupa, which was commemorated in 2002 on a plaque, I also found a plaque that wrote in Tibetan and English that "the foundation stone for this stupa of Buddha's descent from Devaloka which liberates upon seeing has been laid by the honorable [Indian] defense minister George Fernandes on the 29th of April 2000." So it clearly has some geopolitical significance as well. I looked up the word devaloka: "In Indian religions, a devaloka or deva loka is a plane of existence where gods and devas exist." Another point of synthesis between Tibetan and Hindu culture.

Inside this pagoda structure were two floors. There were two exquisite installations of Tibetan cosmic mandalas, which were surprisingly better than the ones I saw in Lhasa, one Buddha statue, as well as wall drawings of stories, flower vases, and Tibetan medicine diagrams. No photography was allowed. I paid my respects to Shakyamuni and left.



The English text below says, "This representation of the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet has been built in the year 2002 in order to commemorate the 360th anniversary of the establishment of the Gaden Phodrang spiritual and temporal government of Tibet."


Some mini-stupas with a giant Tibetan prayer wheel inside. While I was pushing one, an Indian girl asked me in Hindi what that was. I could only shake my head since I only knew the Chinese name at the time...


Monkeys seen on-site



Very inspiring words from the 14th Dalai Lama

Flag with sutras written on them

Amusing sign (along with no loud voices etc.)

I was slightly amused to discover that the monks and people who worked there speak fluent Hindi. V spoke to a postcard shopkeeper in Hindi about Xi Jinping's recent visit to India, while I had to speak him in English. I realize that as I write this, my impression of "the exiled life" is limited to elites, who have the luxury to retain a clear identity distinct from their host culture. Whereas the Tibetans who have lived in Dehradun assimilate very well, at least on the level of language.

Here is some background from the Mindrolling Monastery website regarding the particular sect of Tibetan Buddhism based in Tibet: 
The Nyingmapa or Nyingma School has six main monasteries of learning and practice. Of the six, Mindrolling was one of the largest and most important practice and study centers in Central Tibet. Established in 1676 in the Drachi Valley by the great Dharma king Chögyal Terdag Lingpa, Mindrolling attracted monks from the length and breadth of Tibet.
Mindrolling was, and is today, considered by all the great masters of Tibetan Buddhism, and especially by all the teachers of the Nyingma lineage, as an inspiring example of the practice of the pure and profound Dharma of Vajrayana Buddhism. An unbroken lineage of great masters continues up to this day. With the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1959, many Tibetan masters were urged to flee in an attempt to protect their lives and thus the precious teachings.
Brief history of the monastery in India:
Mindrolling began to re-establish its monastic seat in exile in Dehra Dun, India in 1965, through the untiring efforts of His Eminence Khochhen Rinpoche and small group of monks. Embarrassed by the wilderness and rough conditions on the land they had selected, they first worked to build monk's quarters and the main shrine room before inviting His Holiness the XIth Mindrolling Trichen to assume leadership. His Holiness then moved from Kalimpong to Dehra Dun in 1976.
Finally, on the subject of exile and nostalgia, it reminded me of a Tibetan song the U. Wisconsin Madison summer language class presented, that left a deep impression on me. Basically it's written from a kid's voice, asking her father, mother and relatives to teach her Tibetan and maybe show her Tibet one day. As I left monastery grounds, I saw a Tibetan girl hop on a motorcycle with her family. Without much time or resources to research, one can only wonder how many Tibetans still can speak Tibetan while in exile in India.