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In April last year, I was lucky enough to be granted an audience with H.H. the 17th Karmapa, Ugyen Trinley Dorje. I remember his pure radiance and his calm, assertive energy. He seemed so different from anyone I’d ever met before. I asked him a question based around forgiveness–and even though my memory of his actual words has faded, the message has not.

I was surprised when I found out he is visiting the U.S. Part of me wishes that I was able to fly up to NY, WA or somewhere and see him. Yet, another part is glad I cannot. I have a special memory of the meeting that was held near Dharamsala, in Himachal Pradesh at his “home”. I’ll never forget that meeting and I still have the red cord with the blessing knot tied around my wrist.

For some reading regarding his U.S. visit so far:

The 22-year-old living Buddha seemed joyfully aware to feel no jet lag whatsoever. So far. “Maybe tonight,” he said in English on Thursday. “But not yet.” He had just arrived at a Midtown hotel with his security detail after a 14-hour flight from New Delhi to Newark.

“It is the first time I’ve ever visited the United States, and it’s a bit like a dream,” said His Holiness, the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa Ugyen Trinley Dorje, one of the most important leaders in Tibetan Buddhism.

Despite his youth, he is revered by followers as a master teacher, and on Thursday he began his whirlwind tour of the United States, an 18-day visit to New York, New Jersey, Boulder, Colo., and Seattle.

Yes, he is that Karmapa: the young master who made headlines across the world at age 14 with his daring escape from China to India across the Himalayas in 1999.

His followers regard him not only as the reincarnation of his predecessor, the 16th Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, who died in 1981, but also as the 17th incarnation of the first Karmapa in the 12th century, in an unbroken lineage going back 900 years. They revere him as leader of the Kagyu sect — called the black hat or black crown sect — one of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism.

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This time last year I made my own pilgrimage of a lifetime. I traveled with the Tibetan Nuns Project to Dharamsala, India. It was a soul-changing experience. The dust-filled Delhi days whirled by giving way to the molasses slow Dharamsala mountains. Oh, how I miss them. And the sky, the blue awning stretching wide overhead.

Adam Zilinskas passed away around this time last year. It was sudden, it was unexpected, but in away it was beautiful. Even the butterflies said so.

I remember Adam and his gentle words and his caring being. I light a candle in his name this day and many days after… I remember the sweet, kind nuns and their words to me, “When Tibet is free, you’ll have a home there with us.”

So far there seems to be little action. The relay is scheduled to start at 1.15EST which is in just a couple of minutes. Scouring the web and news channels throws up little information other than a few tidbits regarding the ‘alternative torch relay’ arranged by human rights protesters, and the gathering of Falun Gong protesters.

I’ll keep updated as best I can.

The communist government’s leading newspaper called Saturday to “resolutely crush” Tibetan demonstrations against Chinese rule.

The statement came as international criticism against the crackdown on Tibetan protesters swelled.

Monks protest in Dharamsala

Going through the photos coming out of Dharamsala, I intake a breath sharply as I recognize some of the people I met this time last year when I was there. It seems so strange to me now. Only one year later. I feel so USELESS over here. What can I do? It seems so hard to be here and so white.

Faces in the crowd stand out to me. My heart leaps. I remember their kindness and their assuredness that Tibet would once again be home.

originally uploaded by discordiasdharma.

I remember my time in India fondly; it clouds my current melancholy with hues of gold and bright azure blue. The smell of spices waft lazily through the cobwebbed corridors of my memory and I smile. I think of all that these brave young women fought against to get to freedom. They walked for months over the Himalaya mountains, evading Chinese guards. Sometimes they were unsuccessful and endured beatings, rape, torture. Some made it to Nepal only to be turned in by Nepalese working for the Chinese. Yet still they pressed on; their belief in the Dalai Lama, in freedom, in their religion keeping them going.

I long to return, to refill my own flagging spirit with their overflowing ‘great mother’. They all have such a feeling of mothering. Of each other, the world, even of the people who hurt them. I am very sick, spiralling out of control. At least that’s how it feels. I would love to be able to return and cradle in the arms of the nunnery. Rest, eat, pray. Listen to the chants echo over the still morning mountains. Everyone in India is a friend.

Everyone in America is an enemy. Someone who will steal your car, rape your child, or shoot you.

Maybe that’s what’s killing my soul.

originally uploaded by discordiasdharma

Remembering India

Copyright Christina Cooper-Cummings; All Rights Reserved.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately–just quietly thinking. I am very sick at the moment, with something that has yet to be diagnosed. I think it’s probably more autoimmune stuff, nevertheless it’s very disturbing to find myself ebbing away like this again.

My mind returns often to India and the peace and calm surrounding Dolma Ling and the nuns. I long to stroll out into the fields behind and lose myself amongst the long stems of wheat and barley. I long to awaken to the silence of the towering mountains, disturbed only by the call to prayer and the rythmical chanting of devotion.

It is a feeling I will never forget. A moment I will never forget. A journey that I could never forget even if I should try. India changed me, in ways I am still not sure of. The people I met changed me, the things I saw, the sounds and smells… all of it.

I forgot about illness and stress when I was over there. But since being back I’ve undergone over $6000 worth of testing and treatment. Luckily my insurance still pays most of the tab (though not all) and I hope that this round will be the last for a while…

At least, that is my prayer.

I let writing here slip. Just as I let everything slip, eventually. It became too hard to read my journal entries and process the feelings and faces from the trip. I miss India. Somehow it feels tainted because Adam died. I don’t mean that in a bad way, but just the knowledge of his passing is reflected in every photograph, every word written. Our group was a mismatched group, abrasive and yet caring. Each locked into his or her own journey, sometimes oblivious to the things around them. No one has shared pictures. No one has written. Each encapsulated back into their own monotony. It’s strange how things happen. How even the best events can become soured with remembrance. I wanted this trip to be a new beginning, and in a way it was–yet it’s a mirror image of so many other open doors. I don’t know why Adam died. I learned many things from his death, just as I learned many things from him. I also learned from the group not to trust, not to share, and not to believe others words. I thought, in their Buddhist way, that they would be more real and more honest… but that wasn’t the case. One or two–like Adam–spoke only truth when they did speak, but others spoke constantly and veiled themselves only with deception and masks.

Jaded? Perhaps. Disappointed? Certainly.

I wonder how everyone is doing, but know there is no reason to mail any one of them. I know because the mails I sent have remained unanswered. Perhaps Adam’s death polarized the feelings that separated us all… or perhaps it reminded us all of our mortality. Either way, I still cry when I see his picture, or remember his kind words to me. Of all people. I wonder why it was him and not me–but I already know the answer. He was a great and gentle man. He was far more enlightened than I can ever hope to be in my remaining days here.

It’s the small things I remember. The children as they swarmed over him, clamouring for his attention. The garden filled with butterflies flitting around his meditating form. The kind words and gentlemanly actions. The peace. The wisdom in his being that shone through his eyes. I take these things from the trip. Not the harsh words and actions of others, not the unanswered emails, not the feeling of rejection and lies told by others. I have been silent here for too long. It’s eating away inside. My mala rests undisturbed for weeks now, because I am afraid to practice. I am afraid of the festering feelings knocking at the walls of my heart. I cannot face my Buddha with the internal conflict that tugs at me now. I can’t even face the pictures of His Holiness or the Karmapa that adorn my altar.

I remember what the Karmapa said to me–in order to forgive others, I must learn to forgive myself. It’s hard. I try but inevitably come full circle. I know some of my actions will have others feeling the same anger towards me, and I wish to eradicate that by removing the hatred I have of myself. Why can’t I be a better person? Why can’t I have people like me, genuinely, for me? I know I am confused and have one hell of a past to deal with–but does that invalidate me as a person? Sometimes I feel as though it does. As though I can’t be close to anyone because they are afraid of me.

Perhaps I’m even afraid of myself.


The days seem endless at the moment.

I am somewhat lost for words.

Adam shaved his head–he looks amazing. Why can’t I look that way? I don’t feel so pretty these days. Something inside is shifting. I can’t explain what. Instead I will draw or doodle or… stare aimlessly into space. I don’t seem to have words anymore. I feel almost like I’m losing as much as I’m gaining…

Well, today was the day. We saw His Holiness the Dalai Lama!!!!! I never thought it would happen in my entire life-but here I am. Sitting here. I was only three feet away from him at one point. Amazing.

Anyway, the day from the beginning; We rose early, and left Kashmir Cottage a little after 8am. The puja wasn’t set to start for a while, and HHDL wasn’t even set to show up for certain. Ju Lee and Adam had walked up around 6 via the Lingkor. I wasn’t brave enough for that. There was a steady stream of people into Namgyal when we got there. The security was quite heavy, but by now I’m sort of used to that; getting patted down and scanned everywhere. Eventually we got through into the yard and I found a seat vaguely between Ju Lee, Jana, and Adam. 

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