September 4th, 2008
“And you find this kind of rootless existence appealing?” So said the rich, first class mother on the movie Titanic, to which Jack, the third class vagabond told her that he did, for when he woke up he didn’t know where we’d end up or who he’d met that day. This is conversation ran through my head as we pulled away in a rickshaw yesterday afternoon as we left the Karuna House after a few hours.
We’re kind of in a limbo state right now, waiting for a few things to work out so we don’t have a lot planned each day. Our only plan on Thursday was to met a contact’s brother. We showed up to his store and he greeted us and then took us to a rickshaw, haggled the price with the driver and welcomed us to get in. He said the driver would take us to his brother, but nothing else. We all got in and kind of laughed. Well, this will be an adventure. The driver drove us somewhere between Kushalnagar (where we are staying) and Bylakuppe (the Tibetan village), somewhere kind of the middle of no where except this gated area. “Here” he said. We all kind of looked at each other. Here? Marc confirmed with the guy, this is it? He said yes. We got out and walked toward the gate. What do we do, knock? So we knocked and waited. Nothing. The Indian rickshaw driver then smiled and came over and knocked harder and insistently. Well, its an adventure right?
A Tibetan man came out and waved us in. We were seated outside one of the buildings on some beautiful benches next to a built pond, surrounded by sleek tiles. In the pond were some beautiful plants and some of those Japanese fish (sorry, I don’t know the real name). A little black dog with long, shaggy fur greeted us calmly and happily. The place was clearly very well taken care of, which contrasts greatly with the buildings we are used to seeing. I don’t know how else to explain the place except serene. Completely serene.
A Tibetan man came out and greeted us. He told us he was the founder of the house, a home for disabled children and young adults. He told us about how he had started the place, what goes on, about some of the children, how the place is run. Honestly, I don’t think I could have been more impressed. He took us on a tour of the place and the whole place was beautiful. But it was so much more than just the beauty of the buildings or the quietness of being away from everything. The place itself was just serene.
The Karuna Home (Karuna is the sanscript word for compassion- completely fitting, no?) was built in 2004 by this man, Lama Khube Rinpoche. He was educated at the monastery and finished his studies (20 years of study at the monastery, yes 20) and then began traveling and teaching. He decided on this project and finally got it working in 2004. He now has 22 students living and learning there. He is hoping to take in 5 more students a year until they reach capacity. Some of the children cannot walk, some cannot see, some cannot hear, some have mental disabilities, some cannot speak. But all are treated the same and all are taken care of, go to classes to learn and improve, get the medicine and therapy they need. All at the expense of the home.
He explained to us that since Tibetans cannot have a refugee status ( because that would be admitting that Tibet is a free nation, which India cannot with the pressure from China), the government cannot grant them a lot of things, including homes for the disabled. They cannot go to Indian homes either. SO, there is no place in Tibetan society for these children, that is until this Rinpoche build this home.
There are so many things I could say about this home… but none of them would do justice. But we met some of the kids and as he talked about them, tossled their hair lovingly, you could tell how much he loved these kids, and you could see in their eyes how happy they were. All of the children were happy, vibrant. They were quite a site. A beautiful site indeed. I’ve never seen a happier bunch of children. HE said they have a set structure, they treat the children as people and they have seen much improvement in the discipline, learning, and happiness of the children. I completely believed it.
The Rinpoche took us into an office/sitting room after the tour and just chatted with us for a while about what we were studying, what we were doing, about his life, his work, about the Tibetan community, Buddhism, and many other things. It was fantastic. And to think we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into when we showed up…
If you want to know more about the place, check out http://www.karunahome.org/. There are pictures and better explanations. Ask questions though too, if you have them.
Oh, and just for fun, here are some pictures of the gorgeous fields that surround Bylakuppe, which we get to drive by every day we go to Bylakuppe.