Dharamsala is amazing and breathtaking with its crisp and fresh air, mountainous regions of the Himalayas covered in snow, and countless colorful prayer flags hanging from tree branch to tree branch or from one side of the terrace to the other. I forget that I am in India sometimes, as Dharamsala feels like it is its own country as a Tibetan colony.
My experience has been changed by this opportunity for a home stay. These past two weeks, I feel as if I have gotten an insight into local culture at a close-up level that I would not have gotten, even if I were staying here for a month! I love the customs and traditions, the delicious food, and the beautiful chupa, which is a Tibetan traditional dress that women wear. Kristi is my PacRim host sister and my host family is fantastic. We are made up of a pa-la (father) an ama-la (mother), and three cho-cho-la (brothers), but the youngest is 17-years-old and away at boarding school, which is quite common, while the middle brother who is 19-years-old is studying for a huge exam. The eldest, I have become very close friends with. His name is Tenzin Gyurmey. I call him Gyurmey because Tenzin is a very common name amongst Tibetans.
Gyurmey has shown me many remarkable and incredible sites around Dharamsala like Bhagsu Nag (waterfall) with its vibrant prayer flags, clean and rushing stream, and marvelous hike through nature; and Gangkyi, which is the home of Tibetan history in its library archives and where the Tibetan government-in-exile is located. I wish I could write about every single day of my experience in Dharamsala, but I will spare you my ranting and tell you about kora in the McLeod Ganj district of Dharamsala.
Kora is the large circumambulation around the Main Temple of about 1 to 2 kilometers. The scene is stunning, overlooking much of the town of Dharamsala. As you walk along and recite the six-syllable mantra OM MANI PADME HUM, you come across a spectacular site of prayer flags. When you turn the corner, a plaque of Tashi Delek and OM MANI PADME HUM in Tibetan script greets you, then a myriad of prayer wheels. Give yourself a burst of energy to hike the hill up after you finish turning the prayer wheels clockwise. Close your eyes and inhale deeply; fill your lungs with the fresh air that flows in everything and keep walking. Keep walking. Keep walking. Let me tell you a secret about kora, which is how I came to fall in love with it: as a circumambulation, there is no beginning nor an end, which means there is no stop or start because it is all continuous. I walked kora at least once every day, sometimes once in the morning and once in the evening, in addition to circumambulating the Main Temple three times and paying respect to the Buddhist deities. With my religious and spiritual home stay family, I got in touch with my clock of internal happiness and I am so grateful. Dharamsala opened my eyes to a world of infinite possibilities. It is the place from PacRim that I found: one) my spiritual home, and two) my home away from home with the Lhadey family.