I uploaded a “Facebook Status” when I got back from Pangong Lake. It read “I was reminded the meaning of A Vast Expanse today “… And that’s when it struck me. How do they survive the winter?

“ Julley” they old shop keeper under our guest house in Choglamsar said every time I went to her to buy toiletries and other knick knacks. The constant for Hello, Good Bye, Thank you, Welcome, Good Morning, Good Night… It means GOOD WISHES. Simple. The Ladakhi’s are simple people. Happy.  Content. I almost envied their way of life. The Mountains are Majestic. And Im sorry Himachal and Uttrakhand Lover’s but you arrive in the mountains in Ladakh. The rest are hills. The Neat Army Barracks line the ways to most places. The tension isn’t there as compared to Srinagar or Kargill. Leh as a city simply amazes you with the wood fired oven pizza’s and bars and a tourist culture as vibrant as can be.

Jivetsal, Shey.  About 8 Kilometers away from Leh, on the Manali Highway is a Serene and quiet place. The meditation grounds being just adjacent to His Holiness’s residence on the banks of the Indus River. The atmosphere was like at a rock concert from the 60’s. Everyone wanted to be in the front row, yet everyone was nice to each other. I’m quite sure no one was on drugs though. It was as if euphoria was in the air and no external stimulus was needed. Everyday starting from the first discourse, everyone was happy even if it rained, was scorching heat of the desert or just plain cloudy and windy. It didn’t matter. What was important was that over a hundred and fifty thousand people had congregated to listen to one man.

Us being part of the fortunate ones saw a swarm of people walking from Leh (some of them) those who were not able to get accommodation closer to the grounds. The hunger for education prevailed. No cars were allowed in a five Kilometer radius and yet every day the crowds increased. Richard Gere made a statement on His Holinesses Birthday, “we are lucky to be alive in at the same time as his holiness and we are lucky to be able to receive his blessings in person”. I believe he spoke for all present at that time.

The Kalachakra Initiations were preceded by teachings from Nagarjuna’s letter to King Satvahana. Then came the days during which the Mandala was created. Majestically, if I may add. Each day had specific chants in the morning which pertained to the rituals of the day. Even though there were translations in sixteen languages, anyone who wasn’t listening also could grasp the importance and the divinity of that moment. His holiness as usual was light hearted and not one person would think he is a day over Sixty, however it was his seventy ninth birthday on the 6th of July, 2014.

The real vast expanse that we truly need to conquer is the one that exists in our minds. It is similar to Ladakh. Abundant yet harsh, full of highs and lows, warm and fuzzy at times, ice cold and bitter sometimes too. We need to understand that the keys to our mind exist solely with us. We will always need guidance and at times even hand holding but the real power to harness our thoughts lie within us. We decide our path. Let us not wander like nomads within our minds. True happiness, the feeling of having led a purposeful day comes from clarity in our minds. There will be storms, regular harsh winters but the magic is what we are able to achieve when the sun is shining. Just like the people from Ladakh.

Neeta Bheda