We are staying at the 8 Auspicious Signs Him View Guesthouse, in the Victory Banner Room to be exact (which according to the owner symbolizes the victory of the activities of one’s own body, speech and mind over obstacles and negativities). It has lime green walls that I instantly forgive on account of the window-and-balcony view. We look out on the magnificence of mountains. Only a few scattered village homes on the pine green slopes beyond which the higher ranges rise. Soaring, irregular rock pyramids glazed with sunlight and snow.
MacLeod Ganj is such a global melting pot, restless backpackers, avid scholars, monastic aspirants, serious mountaineers and everyone in between or so it seems. A passing encounter with a retired science professor in the gardens of the Norling café this morning, he is here to immerse himself in a study of Buddhist philosophy. “I have a lot to unlearn,” he says in a rueful British accent and then gives us a short and fascinating description of how the Karmapa’s lineage works. Overheard at our lunch table, the rhythmic chanting of Om Mani Pade Hum in the distance and a young American girl chatting with her European companion, “We don’t really have traditional food in our country. Burgers and fries mostly…and even the fries are French”. Dipping into a tiny thangka store after lunch we discover Marlene, a Flemish woman who points out the difference between Nepali and Tibetan Buddhas, tells us that you can feel the frequency of the artist in the painting. (She listens to the three-minute version of Dr V’s lifework with widening eyes, “So miracles do still happen,” she says with genuine warmth.) Later the same evening we dip into a cozy Japanese restaurant filled with people who look like they’ve just walked in off the streets of Berkeley.
And of course you can’t forget the Tibetans who bring this corner of the world alive in a deeper way. This morning we dipped into the artist studios of Norbulingka. Watched rows of students at work — each painting is the product of the artist’s study of a particular scripture. There is a red robed monk seated in front of one canvas, across the room from him a young Tibetan in jeans with a silver earring and a walkman. The consummate skill of the latter I must admit, takes me somewhat by surprise. The paintings themselves are truly exquisite; The Tibetans have such a feeling for jewel-like colors and flowing form. There is a measured pace to the way these masterpieces are created, a meditation in each stroke and such intricate symbolism. Watching them, I think unaccountably of standing in the operating room at Aravind, watching the surgeons and sisters at work. Their eyes above the green masks filled with that same quiet focus. The same quality of stillness in the room, the same purity of action.
A quiet sense of gratitude swells within for all the varied and multiple artists of the world.