Ladakh – The Relics Of Naropa
This is what 150 thousand people looks like. This is Naropa 2016 – the largest Buddhist festival in the world, an extravaganza of epic proportions and outrageous energy spanning all cultures and lineages, all peoples and all ages – unlike anything I have ever seen before. People stretching farther than I could see, far more than I could try and count, the myriad of colors and sounds ripping apart my preconceptions, screams of Julley flying through the air as Ladakh carries out its once in twelve years ceremony and it seems the entire country has come. There is great cause for celebration as Hemis Monastery, normally quaintly tucked away into the quiet mountainside has exploded into a full fledged international happening looking more like a righteous rock concert like Woodstock or even a desert soirée like Burning Man than what one could expect for a “normal” Dharma event. Hundreds of tents glimmering in the afternoon sun, thousands of cars coming up the dusty drive, flags from around the world, people spilling out of everywhere, one enormous tent and main stage with towering speakers and huge projection screens preparing for the great unveiling of the Naropa Relics along with the empowerment of Chakrasambvara, and the subsequent musical and cultural performances set to take place every night. The concert set list contains famous international and local musicians, The Drukpa Kung Fu Nuns and all sorts of assorted performances cascading over the entirety of the week long celebration that is Naropa – there is so much going on here, even forgetting about the amazing Dharma activities and the most sacred of ceremonies about to take place one could easily get lost in all the extra curricular activities planned. It’s hard to even come to terms with the grandiosity of the whole thing, like some sort of beautiful monstrous spectacle. All under the glorious perfect blue sky and mountainous awe inspiring landscape that is Ladakh. Simply incredible, Julley Indeed. The unveiling of the Naropa relics is something I have always wanted to see for myself, having heard about it for years, it is truly a once in a lifetime event. Brought down from way up at the top of Hemis, in full precession with the Gyalwang Drukpa presiding, the Relics were escorted through the roaring pushing crowd to their resting place for the next week inside the Naropa Palace. After all the fanfare of the installation of the relics the empowerment of Chakrasambvara began, and at one point the relics were brought out and actually worn by the Gyalwang Drukpa himself, donning the six pieces, wearing a splendid green brocade robe with golden accents and many other special accoutrement. The relics appear like beautiful ornamental jewelry, worn by the Gyalwang Drukpa in regal fashion, it is said that even gazing upon them brings extraordinary blessings and purification. The Gyalwang Drukpa himself is extraordinary. He smiles and laughs a lot, his warmth, humor and jovial attitude were contagious and everyone around him seems to be glowing and joyful. He treats people with such visible kindness, holding their hands, touching their heads, walking about with open arms; everyone seems to get his full attention when they around him. He gave a speech for the opening ceremonies and he has such an elegant presence – both in his graceful way and passionate devotion for not only the spreading of the Dharma, but for saving the earth’s precious resources, caring for animals, gender equality and empowerment through education for all. He speaks eloquently, even to the gigantic crowd who watched the goings on via the enormous screens, I cannot even see where the crowd ends and yet he seemed to captivate all their attentions with a simple grace about him. Ladakh, Ladakh, what an incredible place. I simply cannot contain the joy I feel being here. The sky is simply incredible. The people so full of joy and warm smiles. Being here amongst the hundreds of thousands is hard to explain, from all over the world we have all come for this momentous and historic event and yet somehow it feels like a giant family picnic, everyone just stuffed together under the tent joining in the majesty of it all. Endless rows of monks, locals from every corner of Ladakh, friends and family, young and old alike, this is a great family event for all the world to take part in. Seeing the Gyalwang Drukpa in person, witnessing the breath of his impactful presence and inspiring demeanor is so precious. Being present for the unveiling of the relics in this once in a lifetime historic event whilst taking in the breathtaking views and all the sights and sounds, it is like a wonderful dream. There is much more to say and much more to come, but for now I leave you all with this: Naropa 2016 has finally begun! Dharma Family United and Julley everyone Julley, may all your wishes be fulfilled!