THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: ‘‘Not everyone can be a Buddha,’’ leaning forward in his chair, his close-cropped head gently shaking from side to side, Lobsang Phuntsok tells you solemnly. ‘’If you are a Buddha, you can never be angry with anyone. You will have to overcome jealousy, anger and hatred,’’ he says, as his companions-all Lamas from the Tibetan settlements in Bylakuppe-smilingly nod.
The 15 Lamas belonging to the Gelug tradition of Tibetan Buddhism are in the state capital to attend a Buddhist Conference planned at Sai Gramam, Thonnackal, on Thursday. With their flowing maroon robes and shaved or close-cropped heads, it’s easy for the Lamas to stand out in a crowd. Being a Tibetan Lama is a tough enough vocation, and in modern times, you also have to grapple with tricky problems like the offer of Indian citizenship to the Tibetan exiles.
“It’s my view that the citizenship is beneficial on a personal level. It’s good for building a life in India. But as Tibet struggles for freedom, our goal will be lost. It’s my view,’’ says Lobsang Sherap, who came to India in 1998, then aged just 15. With India-China relations being what they are, travelling to Tibet has become a difficult enterprise. The Lamas, many of them young, have come to India to pursue religious studies in monasteries in places like Bylakuppe, but their families are back in Tibet.
‘’It’s extremely difficult getting a pass to enter Tibet. I came here in 2004. Since then I’ve applied twice. After three months I got a letter saying I won’t be able to go,’’ explains Lobsang Phuntsok.
Life in a Tibetan monastery can be gruelling. Himachal Pradesh-born Pasang Dawa, the ‘captain’ of the 15-member team, gives an insight into a normal day at their monastery. “We get up at 5 am. The morning pooja is from 5.30 am to 7 am. The debating sessions are held from 9 am to 11 am, after which we have lunch. Classes follow. We have supper at 5 pm. From 6 pm onwards the debating sessions resume. Some of us go to bed by 11 pm, others even later,’’ he says.
Is revival possible for Buddhism in India, it’s birthplace? It’s not easy, says Pasang Dawa. “Indians have their own traditions - Hinduism, Islam, Christianity. Also, literacy levels have gone down among the Buddhist population here,’’ he says. On Wednesday, the Lamas visited Varkala. For many of them it was also their first day at the seaside.