The omnipresent Dalai Lama
Bhuchung K. Tsering
Last Page column
Tibetan Bulletin, July-August 1994
This item comes without being discourteous to His Holiness the
What would you say, if I told you His Holiness recently displayed his omnipresence by manisfesting himself physically in two different places at the same time? Followers of Tibetan Buddhism would, without hesitation, say that this is possible given our belief in the divine power of His Holiness. In
fact, we generally believe that beings like His Holiness, who have reached a certain spiritual level, can manifest themselves in as many places as they so desire. Doubtful Thomases may, however, say, “But this can’t be possible.”
Yet, such an event really took place, and an Indian ambassador and a governor of an American state can testify to this fact. After reading this story, even a confirmed athiest or a diehard rationalist will have to accept the
fact that the incident indeed happened. The historic date for this phenomenon was April 14, 1994. In the afternoon of that day, while His Holiness was meeting with an Indian ambassador in one part of the world, he was also having tea around the same time with a governor of an American state in another part of the world.
Confusing, isn’t it? Well, if you still do not believe me, then
check the tour programmes released by our offices in Tokyo and New
York, because the incident took place during His Holiness’s tour
of Japan and the United States in May this year (discerning
readers would have noticed this in our report on His Holiness’s
visits in our May-June issue). If you go by the programme of the
Liaison Office of H.H.the Dalai Lama in Tokyo, His Holiness
definitely received Indian Ambassador (to Japan) Prakash Shah at
his hotel suite in Tokyo in the afternoon of April 14, 1994. But
then, if you see the tour programme released by our Office of
Tibet in New York, His Holiness definitely met Governor John
Waihee of Hawaii at his official residence in Honolulu in the same
afternoon. So, either His Holiness was in both the places at the
same time (in which case you will have to indulge in what in
literature is called “willing suspension of disbelief”) or else
one of our offices is indulging in falsehood. Where lies the
truth? Call Ambassador Shah or Governor Waihee to verify the
facts! Confusing, isn’t it?
The truth, however, is simple. His Holiness was definitely in both Tokyo and Honolulu in the afternoon of April 14, 1994. But this something called the
International Dateline made all the difference. His Holiness was in Tokyo, meeting the Indian ambassador, among others, on April 14, 1994. He left the same evening (Tokyo time) for Honolulu. However, because he was flying in the easterly direction, he was able to gain an extra day after crossing the 180th meridian, i.e. the above-mentioned line. Thus, he reached Honolulu on the morning of April 14, 1994 (Hawaii time), in the process going a bit back to the past, as one would say. This enabled him to meet with the Governor of Hawaii, among others, in the same afternoon.
Got it? Imagine how a simple-minded Tibetan in a remote village in Tibet would react if he hears about His Holiness being in two different places at the same time? I would love to see his face. By the way, the officer who maintains the appointment diary of His Holiness may need to order customised diaries in future which contain additional pages of certain dates to fill the necessity
posed by events like the one mentioned in this item.
A Bank Unlike Any Other
Talking about the powers of the Dalai Lamas leads me to another
aspect of Tibetan tradition which, in the true biblical terms, is
“mysterious and inscrutable”.
I am referring to the tradition of consulting oracles in the performance of our mundane and spiritual activities. In addition to the three state oracles, Nechung, Gadong and Lamo Tsangpa, there are countless other oracles who
are consulted by the general public for all purposes. However, I did not know until recently that the scope of these oracles even encompassed certain “banking” activities.
An elderly couple, who are my relatives by marriage, told me that in Tibet there were certain oracles who would literally cough out Tibetan coins when beseeched by the needy devotees. Of course, the “loan” had to be repaid after a certain period of time, by placing a similar amount of coins (washed sparkling white) before the oracle. After he goes into trance the oracle would collect the “loan” by literally swallowing the coins. No wonder there was no need for banks in good old Tibet!
Of Windmills and Designer Toilets
What could a windmill be doing in a Tibetan settlement? This question may arise in your mind when you see the photo of a windmill along with the article on the Appropriate Technology for Tibetans by Mr. Tsering Dorjee, in this issue. During a recent visit to Bangalore in South India, I visited the office of the South Zone Development Co-ordinator from where Mr. Dorjee functions. He was very enthusiastic about the different eco-friendly projects that are currently being implemented in the Tibetan settlements. His article testify to this fact. When asked about the most popular project, Mr. Dorjee replied that the smoke-less stoves (called Chula in India) seems to be the one liked best by the Tibetans.
The next most popular project was the designer toilet. The toilet comes with designer walls and ceiling. While Tibetans in Dhoeguling settlement (Mundgod) have accepted this toilet, lock, stock & barrel, Mr. Dorjee has been receiving complaints from a section of Tibetans in other settlements who say the narrow walls make them uncomfortable when they are doing their duty. Therefore, the designer toilet has been redesigned by the settlers with a wider inner space.
Interestingly, being a community which does not believe in letting an opportunity go by, settlers in Rabgay-ling have scribbled the sacred six-syllable Buddhist mantra Om Mani Padme Hum on the fans of the windmill, thus making double capital as the fans rotate. This is what I call appropriate technology for Tibetans: a blend of the traditional with modernity.