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Wherever I go, there are Brisbane Buddhists

Ruth Gamble in Bodhgaya, January 2003

I some times think that people from Brisbane have some kind of aura velcro, because no matter where I go I keep getting stuck with them. Europe, Asia, New Zealand, wherever I go, I meet people from Brisbane - especially Brissie chicks. Last year I met Bob (who is now Ven. Lozang Zopa, our translator here in Brisbane) on the bus from Delhi to Dharamsala.

I was sitting next to a lady from Argentina, and because I have worked with a lot of Argentineans in the snow, I started to talk to her about snowboarding. But every time I tried to speak Spanish, I would end up speaking Tibetan!

But every time I tried to speak Spanish, I would end up speaking Tibetan!

So she had no idea what I was on about. It was really screwed up. Then a voice came from the seat behind me - "I'm sorry, but you have to be Ruth, don't you!" And it was Bob, so I met your translator. He is a really nice sun-shiny person isn't he? So I guess it shouldn't come as such a surprise that on New Year’s morning I was next to the Bodhi tree in Bodhgaya, seated between two Brissie chicks, desperately trying to keep up with the chanting of the thousands of surrounding monks..... Kara (Carolyn’s daughter) Sarah (of the pink hair) and I had all met up in Mc Cleod Ganj, Dharamsala and discovered we shared a mutual heritage - Brisbane, Langri Tangpa and the Big Day Out (where Ministry played) - and a common goal - we all wanted to go to the Kagyu Monlam in Bodhgaya and see His Holiness the Karmapa.

When the mission is to be in the presence of such a clear mind and receive teachings, Indian trains, busses and taxis and an uncertain destination (“When we get to Bodhgaya, we just gotta find a guy called Muhumed and he will give us a room”) don’t seem quite so daunting. We were still buzzing from our Christmas encounter with His Holiness - Kara sang for him and he gave us a beautiful teaching on having fun. So we set off from our safety zone in Mcleod Ganj, and with a quick pit stop in the five star god realm of the Taj Hotel in Delhi for brunch, arrived in dirty, polluted over crowded Bodhgaya two days later. Only to find that His Holiness wasn't coming for five days because the Indian security hadn't been worked out properly. (Anyone who has dealt with Indian bureaucracy shouldn’t be surprised by this.)

“Last life you were probably a monk who kept thinking, ‘Next life I become interpreter so I don’t have to learn all these prayers’.”

So we got up early every morning for a week, and went to our ‘spot’ overlooking the Rinpoches, the bodhi tree and the rest of the monks and nuns, and tried to keep up with the prayers. At one stage I got so frustrated I became determined to come back as a monk in my next life, just so I would know all the prayers. Tony from California, who we were sitting next to, laughed at me and said, “Last life you were probably a monk who kept thinking, ‘Next life I become interpreter so I don’t have to learn all these prayers’.” The day before I left we were waiting in the Mahayana Hotel’s lobby for His Holiness the Karmapa to arrive. To our left on a row of couches were about six Rinpoches in there sixties, sitting as quiet as the hills. On our right were about the same number of young tulkus, comparing shoes, looking at newspapers and completely oblivious to all the foreigner’s gaping at them. His Holiness finally arrived amidst a sea of Indian army officers and policemen, pushing crowds and blaring instruments. Un-phased, he yawned and walked up to his room. The next day he taught and gave a White Tara initiation. That night I had to catch a train in order to catch a plane. So the next day I missed out on seeing His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Karmapa leading prayers under the Bodhi Tree, but Kara and Sarah told me it was amazing. My train was so late I missed my plane, but that is another story......

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