• what the dalai lama taught me

What the Dalai Lama Taught Me About Life in McLeod Ganj

While in McLeod Ganj, we heard the news of the visit of the Dalai Lama coming back to his “new” home. Knowing this would be one of the coolest experiences of my life, Chloe and I took a break from continuing our trip as planned and we stayed in town to learn from His Holiness.

We spend 10 days in McLeod Ganj touring the Tibetan Children’s Village, learning about the atrocities on Tibet during the Chinese occupation, checking out the important temples of McLeod Ganj, stuffing ourselves on Tibetan food, watching the marching and nighttime vigils for those lost due to self-immolation, we learned Thai Yoga Massage, and FINALLY learned life lessons from the 14th Dalai Lama himself.

what the dalai lama taught me

While we were in McLeod Ganj, the self-immolation count was raised to 72. People in Tibet set themselves on fire yelling, “long live the Dalai Lama” and lose their lives in the most horrible way as a protest. This isn’t condoned by the Tibetan leaders, and they hope that people will stop- although on the streets of McLeod Ganj, it seemed the monks were celebrating at the same time they mourned the young man’s life. I could have misunderstood, as it’s hard as an outsider to know what’s going on under the surface.

When a Dalai Lama dies he is obviously reincarnated as the Buddhist faith implies, so it’s the Panchem Lama’s job to find the child who is the Dalai Lama.

So How did Lhamo Döndrub, born to a farming family in a small town, become the next Dalai Lama?

First off, the next Dalai Lama would be born around the same time the previous one dies.

The head of the deceased embalmed body of the 13th Dalai Lama turned NE which helped decide where the child was, then a vision from the Regent helped locate the lake the boy lived near. They showed the little boy many toys, some of which belonged to the 13th Dalai Lama, and the child grabbed them all saying “they are mine!” It was concluded he was the next Dalai Lama and political as well as spiritual leader of the country.

He then became Holy Lord, Gentle Glory, Compassionate, Defender of the Faith, and Ocean of Wisdom.

what the dalai lama taught mephoto credit: flickr

The exiled Holiness now runs his government with the newly appointed Prime Minister in 2011, from McLeod Ganj, the tiny mountain town I fell in love with.

While he travels extensively around the world, he often comes “home” to teach his own people at the Kalachakra temple as well as some tourists like me! One day we were asked, along with all tourists, not to come as it was “advanced” and he needed to focus on Tibetan people. I thought that was really cool.

He’s a complicated dude. Some famous (and to some, controversial) views from the Dalai Lama include his idea that shooting in self defense is okay as long as it isn’t fatal, abortion is okay if the child would have a serious birth defect, vegetarian is the way to go as killing animals for food is wrong, and he considers himself a communist.

He claimed consensual sex is okay no matter is it’s heterosexual or homosexual, then contradicted that saying same-sex sex is immoral. He condemned the monks killing Muslims in Burma and he also calls himself a feminist.

mcleod ganj tibetan children's villageHis Holiness has said multiple times it’s up to him what his next life will be, and he may not want to be the Dalai Lama. As his role as 14th, it may be the last Dalai Lama ever.

Are you getting curious yet wondering, “so, what does the Dalai Lama teach people who visit?” Here you go!

 What the Dalai Lama Taught Me

  • First of all, to SMILE. He never stopped. You just see him and think, “wow, I want to learn everything from him- he’s so happy!”
  • He told us the importance of training our minds with Dhamma and becoming acquainted with our past (which uses Vipassana Meditation, the type I spent weeks researching).
  •  ALWAYS use reason and logic but always study and meditate with enthusiasm.
  •  Mediation is important to Buddhism; you cannot practice the religion without becoming familiar with meditation. This is what separates it from any other religion.
  •  You have 10 points to morality, similar to the 10 commandments. You can be Christian or Muslim and use Dhamma to meditate, but Buddhism NEEDS Dhamma.
  • While there is is “focusing” meditation, the “analytical” type will keep your mind sharper. Do not let meditation make you numb, therefore making your brain go dull. You must stay sharp.

what the dalai lama taught me

  •  Do not give the poor gold, give them warmth, food, and love.
  •  Learn not to let other’s negative thoughts crush your mind.
  •  We are BLESSED to be born as humans and have these lives of leisure.

  •  The only way to liberate your mind is buy learning.
  • The mind is intrinsically pure. We are born pure. Meditation is what will bring you back to that.
  •  Don’t focus on this life. You must examine past life to be liberated to a higher being.
  •  Recognize life is impermeable. You can die at any time. Be ready for that.

  •  When you die you will be alone. You won’t have your loved ones. You need to make sure your life is without ego and attachments.  Dhamma is all that will help you at the time of your death.
  •  Karma is real and simple. Cause and Effect is real. Even a moment of anger is wrong.
  •  Why reject the option of rebirth? Non-believers reject because it can’t be proven, but why not stay open minded?
  •  There are only 4 sufferings in life. Heat and Cold. Hunger and Thirst. If fear of these is overwhelming, work harder with Dhamma.

  •  The only thing in life unbiased is a mother’s love. We are lucky to have a mother’s love.

mcleod ganj travel tips

 7 Tips for The Dalai Lama’s Teachings

1. He does not speak English; you must buy a radio and listen to the interpreter. Go early because it’s hard to get the station in at first.

2. Take some meditation classes prior and read up on Buddhism and meditation or this will be a waste of your time and go over your head. Luckily, I had read a very important Vipassana book and practiced meditation for over a month before his teachings. My yoga teaching class helped as the teacher was Buddhist and taught us quite a lot that the Dalai Lama touched on.

3. Take a seat pillow! The teachings are long and the floor is cold cement.

4. Go early as the line is quite long and you’ll want to sit near the front.

5. You need a 2×2 photograph and your passport for security purposes. Do not forget these! I always keep one in my purse with other important travel documents.

6. Take a journal to keep notes. You won’t regret writing down his important words. I often go back and read what he told us.

7 .Look on the official website to see when he will be in town.

mcleod ganj travel tips

mcleod ganj travel tips



About the Author:

Rachel Jones left a career in nursing and lived on the beaches of Goa, India for the five years. Now she lives in Mexico where she gives advice on the 40+ countries she’s visited in the last 10 years. She’s the author of two India travel e-books: Guide to India and Insider’s Guide to Goa. Her blog, Hippie in Heels, like its name, is a contradiction combining off-beat adventurous places with glamorous and bespoke travel. Hippie in Heels has been featured in ELLE, Marie Claire, Grazia, and Cosmopolitan magazines. She’s a writer for Bravo TV.


  1. Empty Rucksack June 16, 2014 at 1:42 am - Reply

    Lucky you, we have always been around but twice left the day he came in.
    He is very humble n polite but also diplomatically smart to handle such an important post.
    This time around we were told the next dalai lama is being kept hidden for security reasons, its a shame such a wonderful culture has to live in exile.

    • Rachel Jones June 16, 2014 at 2:24 am - Reply

      well third time will be the charm for you guys then!

      • akarshan July 29, 2014 at 10:41 am - Reply

        Hi i was going through the history of mclodeganj as i got your page..It is very intresting if i want to contact you please give me your contact number

  2. Lakshmi June 16, 2014 at 5:40 am - Reply

    I wish I could meet the Dalai lama sometime.. I hope one day we could all visit Tibet in peace

  3. What a wonderful opportunity! That sounds so interesting. I really want to study Vipassana. Sigh so many things to do.

  4. Myriam @OffToWanderland June 16, 2014 at 9:27 am - Reply

    Such a nice article to put things in perspective.
    It is easy to get caught with our (little) daily problems and forget the whole picture and to aim for a simple happy life.
    I would be interested to know which meditation book you read (you mentioned one in your post)? I am very keen on learning/reading about meditation and the Buddhist philosophy. Any book you would recommend?

    Have a great day in India :)


    • Rachel Jones June 17, 2014 at 2:46 am - Reply

      Hi Myriam, it was the Art of Living! It isa slow read but one that helped me decide whether or not I’d like to join a 10 day class.

  5. Stef June 16, 2014 at 10:10 am - Reply

    Wow, sounds like a very interesting experience. I haven’t known that he teaches “normal” people, I will definitely keep that in mind :) Thanks for sharing!

  6. Emily June 16, 2014 at 11:14 am - Reply

    What an incredible experience! I love the teachings you garnered (think I will write a few down to look at from time to time!).

  7. Karyn @ Not Done Travelling June 16, 2014 at 11:24 pm - Reply

    What a fantastic experience! And Tibet has such a sad history.

    • Rachel Jones June 17, 2014 at 2:48 am - Reply

      It does, yet the people I’ve met from there are so happy.

  8. Rekha Devarapalli June 20, 2014 at 3:17 pm - Reply

    Hi Rachel,

    You might have already heard of Vipassana meditation center in Jaipur…my friend spent 10 days there and if you are interested, I can share her experience with you and your readers.


    • Rachel Jones June 21, 2014 at 12:28 am - Reply

      I haven’t looked into that particular one but I’m dying to go to one- I don’t know if I’d last though! 10 days is a long time with no Netflix ;)

  9. Joella J in Beijing July 3, 2014 at 9:29 am - Reply

    I can’t believe I missed this post until now! It must have been around the time I was busy moving apartment. Anyway, glad I have read it now. As I’m travelling in the Tibetan regions now and have been to some of the most important Tibetan monasteries, it is especially interesting. The Chinese government bans photos of the Dalai Lama but I have been happy to see that many monasteries and temples do have photos of their important leader. The authorities seem to turn a blind eye in this region. I think it’s a different story in Lhasa though where they really crack down. I hate the way the Chinese government treats Tibet and Tibetans.

    • Rachel Jones July 5, 2014 at 9:33 am - Reply

      I bet you see such an interesting view to the Chinese/Tibetan situation. Apparently there is another side that people don’t talk about!

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