The first time I ever set foot in India or Nepal was in 1997. Sogyal Rinpoche invited me to the enthronement of Khyentse Yangsi and so I went. Most of my friends expected me to come down with all manner of horrifying ailments—I have always been what 19th century commentators described as ‘delicate’—but no, I felt fabulous throughout the ten days and had the most wonderful time.
Khyentse Rinpoche was there, of course, and we were lucky enough to see him a couple of times. He had a terrible cold, I remember, but soldiered on, as he always does.
In this snap the Rinpoches were being entertained with Lama dancing, which, even then, I felt I’d already seen enough of to last a life time. I simply don’t have the merit to be able to appreciate quite a large swathe of Tibetan culture.
What struck me most was the atmosphere of devotion and love that enfolds you almost the moment you step off the plane—along with the dust and the chaos of course. I’d never experienced it before. Maybe it’s unique to India and Nepal, where the culture is still so steeped in spiritual values that an appreciation of the unbelievable and the unseen can be felt in the very air you breathe. It was such a relief to lean back into. It was as if I’d left my critical mind back in Europe, which, it has to be said, is the best and most relaxing kind of holiday possible; I could view things from an entirely fresh perspective.
Sadly, I had no way of bottling it, and, inevitably, my critical mind clicked back into place the moment I returned home and has now become a terminal affliction. But the tender memory of that time of innocence and wonder continues to encourage even this broken old war horse.