Remembering the Presentation of the Banner of Peace
to the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, India
While we were in the northwest of India, presenting the Banner of Peace to the ”Global Cooperation for a Better World” program, in the picturesque region of Mount Abu, Rajasthan, where the Spiritual University Brahmakumaris is located, a producer from New York Television who had planned to make a video for the community of Tibetans in exile, attended the ceremony where the Flag was accepted by our much loved and respected Dadi Janki and Dadi Prakashmani on behalf of the University. The producer was very impressed by the ceremony when, as has been occurring for over 22 years throughout the world, a great silence fell over the thousands of people attending and many of those spiritual beings could be heard sobbing. When the ceremony ended, some of those attending commented that when Dadi Prakashmani embraced me and received the Flag, a ray of light joined our brows. Others said that when I began to give my speech, they did not hear my feminine voice; rather, they heard the voice of Mahatma Gandhi... and finally, that an aura of mysticism and harmony enveloped the moments in which the Flag was received the Flag, which represents one of our most elevated and treasured values: PEACE. This Flag promotes a new and necessary Culture of Peace, respect, and peaceful, harmonious coexistence, regardless of race, politics or religion.
The producer had waited six months for them to give him an appointment with His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, and after seeing the Peace Flag presentation ceremony, he exclaimed: ”Now I know why I worked so hard to get an appointment with the Dalai Lama so that you, Alicia, can deliver the Banner of Peace to him.”
The problem was that in India, with its millions of inhabitants, one must buy a train ticket several months ahead of time; and in that environment, it was nearly impossible to find a way for me to get from New Delhi to the Himalayan Mountains. I was very excited about the idea of presenting the Flag to His Holiness, especially since, before leaving Mexico, I had heard my own interior voice during meditation telling me I should take two Flags and not just one, as had been planned. Being very obedient, I had put them in my bag, not imagining that one of them would be for the spiritual leader of the Tibetans.
Finally, we were able to get a third class train ticket, in addition to the first class one we already had with us and that he had reserved some time before. As we really had no other option, we decided to depart that same night, and we headed for the Delhi Station, which is one of the most picturesque in the city.
That night, there were thousands of people, all running hear and there, carrying suitcases on their heads, while other exhausted travelers slept on the ground amid the filth, as soundly as if they were on clean mattresses covered with lush quilts. All the sounds blended, from the sellers of street food to the serpent singers. Everything was hubbub and movement. Salvatore contracted a very strong man from the Siks religion, with a red turban, who ran ahead of us carrying the heavy video camera and our bags. It truly was chaos. In this confusion of men and women dressed in jellabas, saris and turbans, we managed to find our train to the Himalayas. We would travel for fourteen hours. We heard three whistles announcing the departure, and, filled with respect and emotion, I boarded the train to continue fulfilling my mission.
We got on the first-class car, crammed with passengers, nearly all Hindus. A sign in English pompously stated: ”First class with air conditioning.” But in reality so much air entered through the cracks in the ramshackle windows that it caused an intense cold I could not fight off, even with the fur coat I was wearing. Half an hour passed and the train conductor came by and asked for our tickets. Seeing that we had one third class and one first class ticket, he became furious, taking my passport and disappearing with it.
In the meantime, in our na?vet? we had thought that the train would have a dining car, but that was just a utopian dream There was no restaurant. We had with us only one package of American style bread, which we gave to a little girl, the daughter of a Hindu family with whom we were sharing the cold compartment. My friend was on foot in the passageway, and with a look at him I asked what I should do with the bread, while the little girl continued to cry. He made a gesture that I should give it to her, and that is how we began our journey, giving away our entire store of food. Shortly, they began to eat, and they gently they offered us some of their simple food. It included a green chile, which I bit into without thinking. It caused a great stomach problem that had me making trips to the bathroom all night long, stepping over the the passengers who peacefully slept in the corridor.
After some time passed, the conductor returned with my passport; and changing his expression from a knitted brow to a great smile, he said ”What a pretty passport! What are these figures?” Very nicely I explained that they were mayan figures. Trying to make a joke, he said to me, ”You must pay a fine for going into the first-class compartment with a third-class ticket. That will be 6 dollars!” Happily I paid the fine, he returned my passport, and we continued the all-night journey to the Himalayan Mountains.
After the fourteen-hour train trip ended, we hired a taxi from the station that would take us on a four-hour trip through impressive snow-covered mountains to Dharamsala.
THE COMMUNITY OF TIBET IN EXILE
When we arrived in Dharamsala, it was Tibetan New Year and all the community was celebrating. Every month of February on the night of full moon, Tibetans celebrate the Festival of Prayer during which the community and the Lamas do not stop praying day and night. Everyone was dressed in the typical garb of Tibet, predominantly in colors of maroon and orange, with magenta tunics. They seemed to have been yanked from a painting. In very familiar fashion, they came close and greeted us sweetly, as if we were old friends. Soon the sonorous Tibetan prayer trumpets could be heard, and the entire community went face down on the ground to await the appearance of the XIV Dalai Lama of Tibet, who in this moment was not be to look upon, as a symbol of reverence. No one dared to look. It was a moment of great reverence, passion, and respect for His Holiness. We had the privilege of attending this New Year celebration and filming it to be part of the documentary for New York Television about the life of the Tibetan community in exile.
The television producer was granted a very rare privilege: that of sleeping in a Buddhist monastery. And off he went with his television camera. Later he told me that even though they had loaned him a blanket, he had never passed such a frigid night in his life. However, the experience of eating from the cup of his hand, the same as the lamas, and accompanying them in their prayers and chanting, had been unforgettable.
I stayed in the hotel that His Holiness had had reserved for us, but since the electricity had been cut off, there was no heat, and the cold in the room actually froze my breath. My only choice was to sleep wrapped in my fur coat. At dawn, I awoke to a light tapping on my head. I got up and realized that they had put on my head a kind of silver sombrero with a silver beak in front, which I could see quite clearly. I didn’t understand its significance, but I accepted if spiritually with humility and joy. Months later, when I returned to Mexico, in a meeting that I had with the young director of Casa Tibet, Tony Karam, I told him what had happened. He told me that what they had authorized spiritually that morning, the day before the presentation of the Peace Flag to the Dalai Lama, was a buddhist distinction called ”Pandhita’s hat.” What is certain is that on many occasions I have sensed the protective spirit of this symbolic touch which I had the honor of receiving with humility in the north of India.
Finally, the awaited day arrived when we were to present to the Dalai Lama the Peace Flag, whose founder was the illustrious artist, Nicholas Roerich. We went to the palace, modest in comparison with the majesty of the ancient Palace of Potala in Lhasa. While I was waiting, my heart beat like a giant drum. I heard only the powerful beating of my heart. I carried the Banner of Peace on my forearm, with the Sacred Symbol perfectly visible. I heard murmurs... he’s coming, he’s coming... Soon He appeared, with his dazzling aura. There was His Holiness, in front of me, with his characteristic childish smile. Then, to the surprise of everyone present, something inexplicable happened. To the amazement of his collaborators who witnessed the scene, the Dalai Lama extended his arms, fell on his knees before me, and kissed my two hands.
Dra. Alicia Rodriguez
Translated to English by Carolyn Kinsman
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© Alicia Rodríguez, 20052010, site content © Gai Sever, 20052010, site development