Monday, 19 September 2011
Meditation and Momos
I can hardly believe the Tibetan Bazaar has come and gone!
Every year (this was the 19th) Gaden Samten Ling Tibetan Buddhist Meditation Society hosts a bazaar that brings the Tibetan community and their friends together for a weekend of travel and cultural presentations, music, meditation and momos!
Momos are a Tibetan and Nepali delicacy; delicious dumplings that are steamed or fried and served with hot sauce. There are different designs for different celebrations, New Year momos, birthday momos, bon voyage momos and welcome home momos, sweet momos and savory momos, each little works of art!
I look forward to the bazaar and those savory little bundles that make me Om-sick for India and especially Dharamsala, the home of the Dalai Lama in exile and the Tibetan refugees who gather around him.
I spent just a couple of weeks there several years ago practicing yoga and meditation, and volunteer teaching English to the Tibetan refugees. We read Paulo Coehlo's The Alchemist together sitting on the basketball court of a local school in tight little circles.
It was inspiring and humbling to meet these hardy and beautiful people who suffered so much, and yet maintained an attitude of dignity, courage, and kindness.
In addition to sampling momos from every restaurant we visited, I took a momo making class.
It was taught by a young man who had been a monk in Tibet but was forced to break his vows in a Chinese prison. (They made him drink beer, he told us, though I strongly suspect from talking with other escapees that was just the small part he felt ok sharing.)
In Dharamsala, he had a tiny room with a single bed, a wooden wardrobe, a small table, 2 chairs (two of us sat on his bed), and another small table which served as a counter space for the single burner he used to teach cooking classes to tourists for a living.
I can't say I learned the method all that well. I was distracted by his story. It was hot, and I was self-conscious of the nasty smell rising from my only pair of travelling shoes. It was difficult to understand his English, and impossible to ignore the monkey reaching through the bars of the one small window to steal his shoes.
He was a calm and smiling model of resilience, and it was a delicious cross-cultural reminder of the sacredness of "breaking (or baking) bread" together.
We crowded together to chop the veggies, and make the dough. We struggled to fold the tidy pleats that seal in the filling. But even our sloppy results were delicious, and the basic concept is practically universal.
For traditional momo recipes and to see Tibetan momo makers at work click here.
Each year at the bazaar, I sit with friends eating momos. We laugh, we cry. We discuss our travels, our purchases and our lives. We see the merchants and their families, the volunteers, the shoppers, and the resident teacher, Kushok Lobsang Dhamchoe greeting each other warmly.
It is something of a ritual for us. It feels like an annual real-life meditation on who we are and where we are.
And it is a great reminder of the fragility of this precious human life.
think as you wake up,
today I am fortunate
to have woken up,
I am alive,
I have a precious human life,
I am not going to waste it,
I am going to use
all my energies
to develop myself,
to expand my heart
out to others,
to achieve enlightenment
for the benefit of all beings,
I am going to have
kind thoughts towards others,
I am not going to get angry
or think badly about others,
I am going to benefit others
as much as I can.
- H.H. the XIV Dalai Lama
So thank you everyone! It was wonderful to see you again, and to eat with you, and to laugh with you. It fed my tummy and my heart, I am so grateful!
Tashi Delek! Blessings and Good Luck! May all auspicious signs come to you!