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Tsuglagkhang Complex, McLeodGanj, Dharamsala, India                   Click here for photos of McLeod Ganj town ...


The seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile is in McLeod Ganj (upper Dharamsala), a picturesque town overlooking the Kangra valley, below the snowy peaks of the Dhaula Dhar range in the Indian Himalayas. At one end of the ridge in McLeod Ganj is the locus of the Tibetan community, the Tsuglagkhang complex, their Potala Palace-in-exile, though this is a rather modest affair by comparison. It contains the Dalai Lama's residence, a monastery, temples, and stupas. For visitors there's also a café, bookshop, and the Tibet museum.

Visitors are free to roam except to the monks' residential quarters.  The ambiance is warm and collegial.  Wistful sketches of the Potala Palace hang beside paintings that depict scriptural stories and fierce Tibetan deities. Most monks are refugees from Tibet (rather than born in India) and speak only a smattering of Hindi or English; their monastic education is entirely in Tibetan. Each day they study philosophy, tantra, history, geography, Tibetan, etc. (but not Hindi or English, forcing an additional state of exile on the monks, some mere kids drafted into the order). Few among the Indian-born Tibetans—or Tibetan-Indians, depending on how they see themselves—choose to become monks.

Student monks gather each day in the courtyard and, in small groups, debate nuances of Buddhist thought, even as other monks and pilgrims in the complex indulge in the un-Buddha-like practice of mechanically turning prayer wheels. The monks also perform Buddhist rituals and learn the art of making tormas (butter sculptures) and sand mandalas. As they approach adulthood, monks are free to quit the order and join the laity, as many do; a few proceed to get the monastic equivalent of Ph.Ds; fewer still become rinpoches, or precious teachers. The monks don't study science—surprising, given the Dalai Lama's own interest in and openness to science, and the lack of an inherent conflict between science and Buddhism—but then Buddhist philosophy too is preoccupied with using a (different) set of disciplined, rational techniques to understand the nature of reality (I've discussed this topic further in section 3 of this essay).

When not traveling, the Dalai Lama gives occasional public audiences. Over 140,000 Tibetans (including those born after 1959, the start of the exile) live in India as refugees, 80% of whom have not applied for Indian citizenship, hoping one day to return to Tibet and regain their theocratic state. Oddly enough, their largest strength outside the Himalayan belt is in Karnataka. Each year, about 3,000 refugees still make perilous journeys across the Himalayas to come to Dharamsala (a good recent documentary is Tibet: Cry of the Snow Lion). Given the Dalai Lama's emphasis on nonviolence, compassion for the adversary, and peaceful negotiations, their hopes for Tibet rest entirely on a more enlightened Chinese government coming to power in their lifetimes. Meanwhile, smart money is not betting on this outcome. [—May 05; Comment?]

Tsuglagkhang complex

Includes His Holiness Dalai Lama's residence, monastery, temples, stupas, Tibet museum, bookshop, cafe, etc.

Tsuglagkhang Temple

The Tsuglagkhang, or Central Chapel, is the exiles equivalent of the Jokhang temple in Lhasa and, as such, is the most important Buddhist monument in McLeod Ganj. -- Lonely Planet, India 2003

Sakyamuni Buddha (more)

A 3 meters high gilt statue.

Padmasambhava (more)

 Indian Buddhist mystic who introduced Tantric Buddhism to Tibet in 8th century CE and who is credited with establishing the first Buddhist monastery there.

Avalokiteshvara (1, 2)

The bodhisattva ("Buddha-to-be") of infinite compassion and mercy, possibly the most popular of all Buddhist deities, beloved throughout the Buddhist world. He supremely exemplifies the bodhisattva's resolve to postpone his own Buddhahood until he has helped every being on earth achieve emancipation.

Sakyamuni Buddha


Dharmaraja Tri-Ralpa-Chen (806-841 CE)
The 40th king of Tibet

A painting inside the central chapel

Monks immersed in study


Doctrinal disputation

Sitting ones defend

Language game or reality?

The teaching attributed to the Buddha was transmitted orally by his disciples, prefaced by the phrase

You call that an illusion?


Advantage nothingness


Hmm, a trick of the ego


Because all is impermanence!


He called me full of emptiness


Distraction in blue?


Melting pot

Outside the entrance to the Tsuglagkhang complex

Central compound


Two women


Dharamsala from above

View of Dharamsala from McLeod Ganj

Elderly monk


Walking monks


Talking monks


Elderly monk


Laughing monk


Gazing monks


Gazing monks


Monks in the bazaar


Chatting monks


Supplicating women


Teacher


Scene on the Kora


Bull horn exercise


Controlled blowing


Posing monks (1, 2)


Group portrait (1, 2, 3)


Stupas


Skull-studded architecture


Snowy backdrop


Home, sweet home

Painting of the Potala Palace, Lhasa, Tibet

Prayer wheel (more)

Near Namgyal Cafe

Wall painting (1, 2)


Wall painting (1, 2)


Where is the Panchen Lama?


Spinning tourist (1, 2)


Elderly monk (1, 2, 3)


Teacher & students (1, 2)


Memorial, Tibet museum

Memorial for the 1.2 million Tibetans who died as a result of the Chinese occupation. Artist: Pekar, April 2000

Doctrinal disputation


Heated argument


Disagreement (more)


Mixed gender debate


Kalachakra temple (1, 2)


Kalachakra temple


Prayer time (1, 2)


Earth moving woman

One of the three women laborers on a small construction project inside the complex.

Dalai Lama's summer view

The Dhaula Dhar mountain range

Elderly monk


Bored looking monk


Elderly woman (more)


The Kora

Path that circumambulates the Tsuglagkhang complex

Dozing man


Earth moving women

There was some construction work going on inside the complex

Chopping wood


Dhaula Dhar range


Tibetan woman


Young Tibetan-Indians


Poster on a wall

       

 

 

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