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Practical Advices for Attending the Teachings in India

His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet. Photo: Outlook Tibet

During public teachings of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in India you are advised to bring the following items: a cushion, a FM radio, a cup, and a sunhat. Given the security checks that take place at the teaching venues, as little else as possible should be brought to the teaching venue.

Registration
In general, all teachings in India are free and open to the public. For teachings in Dharamsala, you will need to register in person at the Tibetan Branch Security Office in McLeod Ganj (near Hotel Tibet). There is no advance registration service. Registration begins approximately three days before the actual start of the teaching and ends the day before the first day of the teaching. For registration, you will need to bring 2 passport size photos along with your passport. Since up to several thousand people can attend the teachings, we recommend that you plan to arrive at least two or three days before the teachings begin and ensure that your accommodations are arranged well in advance. There are a number of hotels and guesthouses in Dharamsala. Teaching hours are also decided a day or two before the teachings begin and then made public.

Seating
Seating is usually reserved on a first come - first serve basis. In the West, seating for public events is in most cases designated by your ticket and seat number. In India, seating for teachings is usually on the ground. The conventional practice amongst Tibetans is that you take your seat on the first day of a series of teachings, mark it with your cushion or piece of cloth, and thereafter, keep to that same seat for the duration of the teachings. This is how Tibetans have traditionally avoided hassling with each other over who sits where every day.  So, following the old adage. When in Rome, do as the Romans do, it seems reasonable to suggest that when among Tibetans, do as the Tibetans do.  Usually, people come to the teaching venue 1 or 2 days before the teaching begins to reserve their seating space.  For people requiring translation services, there is a designated area at the teaching venue.        

Translation
His Holiness teaches in Tibetan.  Therefore, on most occasions when His Holiness is teaching in India an effort is made to provide simultaneous translation into English.  If you wish to listen to the translation, you are advised to bring a FM radio.  Headphones are a must since you do not want to disturb the majority of listeners nearby, who may not be listening to the translation.  Although the quality of the signal varies according to the local conditions, you can often improve reception by changing the angle and position of the antenna of your radio, which is often incorporated in the headphone lead.

Tea and Offerings to the Monastic Community
It is customary for tea to be served to the gathering attending the teachings, so it is worthwhile for you to carry your own cup.  You will often notice that money is offered to monks and nuns.  This is an offering to the spiritual community.  Both the tea and offerings are paid for by contributions from patrons and the general public.  If you would like to make a contribution, an office near the teaching location is usually set up where such donations can be made.  How much you give is entirely at your discretion.  

Protection from the Sun and the Weather
His Holiness makes a point of encouraging those who are sitting in the hot sun to cover their heads in order to protect themselves.  Similarly he advises people to use umbrellas or take shelter should it rain.  It is therefore useful to carry a hat or visor and/or a small umbrella depending on the local weather conditions at the time of the teaching.   Shoes   Tibetans tend to keep their shoes on when they are sitting on the ground, or at least keep them on until they sit down.  Taking your shoes off and carrying them in your hand through a crowd sitting on the ground means that you are carrying your shoes right in front of people's faces, which most people prefer to avoid.

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