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To be honest, I’m so happy that I’m able to write this post because writing it means that I have seen the Dalai Lama in India in his home town in Dharamshala and now I can share with you, how to meet the Dalai Lama in Dharamshala!
There are a few ways to see the Dalai Lama in India and a few ways to perhaps meet the Dalai Lama in India too.
The first thing you need to know is that the Dalai Lama resides in Mcleod Ganj in Dharamshala in the state of Himachal Pradesh in North-West India so this is where you are most likely to see him.
How To Meet the Dalai Lama in Dharamshala
1 – Go to the Dalai Lama’s Teachings in India.
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama has his speaking and teaching schedule online which is kept very up to date so you can plan your trip around seeing him speak. View the Dalai Lama’s Schedule here.
If you’re wondering ‘where does the Dalai Lama teach in India?’ well, he teaches all over India, and all over the world, however, from the looks of his recent schedule he seems to be staying in India more these days and doing a lot of teachings in Dharamshala rather than teaching around the world which makes sense due to his age.
This is also good for those wanting to see the Dalai Lama in Dharamshala as Dharamshala is such a beautiful part of India, people often get stuck in the towns of Mcleod Ganj, Dharamkot and Bhagsu so arranging your India trip around the Dalai Lama teaching in Dharamshala is not a bad thing at all.
Things to note about the Dalai Lama’s teachings in Dharamshala:
Usually, his teachings are 3 days long although you don’t need to go every day.
You need to register in his Security Branch Office in Mcleod Ganj a few days before with your passport and a fee of 10Rs. More details can be found on his website about this.
His teachings are usually held in his Temple in Mcleod Ganj, also known as the Main Tibetan Temple.
On the day of his teachings, the temple gets extremely busy, there will be lots of Indian and Tibetan people going as well as foreigners.
You will need to sit on the floor for quite a long time, a lot of locals take meditation cushions to help make it more comfortable.
You cannot take your phone or camera’s into the Temple, you are searched on the way in. I heard there are lockers in the Temple but handing them into a nearby cafe is also an option (Tibetan people are very trustworthy), or better yet, leave them in your room.
One important thing to note is that the Dalai Lama teaching is live and the Dalai Lama will not speak English during his teachings, so how do you understand? Well, you can rent and buy translation radios. I’ve heard they are not great but they are the best and only way to understand what he is saying, although there may be translation showing on some of the screens too.
The Dalai Lama meeting etiquette is to let him walk past you and to bow with your hands in prayer as he does. He will walk up to some people however you shouldn’t put yourself in front of him, and if you do, his guards will remove you anyway.
Lastly, in terms of practicality, accommodation books out fast when his teachings are on and I noticed that flight prices from Delhi to Dharamshala go up a lot.
Staying in Mcleod Ganj is the best place to stay when going to the Dalai Lama’s teaching in Dharamshala so you don’t have to walk far. I love Ram Yoga House in Mcleod Ganj, I’ve stayed there twice, you can look into the hotel on Booking.com here and here are more hotel options in Mcleod Ganj.
Alternatively, you could stay in Bhagsu and Dharamkot but you will need to walk 30-40 minutes there and back (up and down hills) or get a taxi.
It’s possible to fly from Delhi to Dharamshala Airport (also known as Kangra Airport) which you can book on Skyscanner and then get a transfer from Kangra Airport to Dharamshala, or get an overnight bus which you can book on RedBus.
If you are seeing the Dalai Lama teach elsewhere in India like in Mundgod, Karnataka or Aurangabad, Maharashtra I can imagine the above points apply, just in a different location. However, if the city or town he is teaching in in India doesn’t seem like a main place which foreigners visit, be prepared for many people to not speak English and for you to be the minority as a foreigner over local Indian people from the area.
2 – Go to a Dali Lama Morning Ceremony in Dharamshala.
As well as regularly holding teachings in India, the Dalai Lama also holds Ceremonies and Long Life Offering Ceremonies. These ceremonies last just a few hours and have similar principles as above.
I saw a morning Long Life Offering Ceremony in Dharamshala. There was no need to register in advance for a ceremony to see the Dalai Lama in India. Instead, I turned up at the Dalai Lama Temple in Dharamshala, Mcleod Ganj at 7:30 am as the ceremony was due to start at 8:30 am. There was a side for locals and another side for foreigners.
Although I could have gone inside the temple to see him do the ceremony I actually ended up outside the temple in the perfect position to see him walk out and into the temple and I must say that I think I did it the best way. I saw him walk in at about 9:00 am, I got to see his smiley face in real life and once he had walked into the temple a bit the crowd where I was standing were allowed to move into the grassy area opposite where a big screen was set up so we could watch him go through the rest of the temple and finally arrive to do this ceremony.
I didn’t have a translation device so I only stayed for a bit to watch, but for me, the important thing was just seeing him in real life.
Another thing I heard is that if you find a seat in the temple, firstly it will be very busy and secondly, once you’re in, you’re in and it’s hard to get out which I didn’t want.
Because the ceremony is just for a few hours, I didn’t see an increase in accommodation prices or availability like with the teachings so it’s cheaper to see the Dalai Lama in Dharamshala by going to a ceremony rather than teaching, and less busy.
Again, it’s good to stay in Mcleod Ganj to get to his ceremony early in the morning, you can search for accommodation in Mcleod Ganj on Booking.com here.
3 – Stay at Tushita Meditation Temple Near Dharamshala.
Tushita Buddhist Meditation Temple is located in Dharamkot in a beautiful setting. They offer drop-in morning meditation lessons but you can also take part in the teachings and Buddhist Retreats which range from 1 to 10 days. Check out their calendar here.
The 10-day Introduction to Buddhism Course at Tushita Meditation Temple is quite intense, you are silent for pretty much the whole 10 days and have to follow a tight schedule but two women I met in 2018 who had just finished said that the Dalai Lama visited them whilst their course was on.
This is not a guaranteed way on how to meet the Dalai Lama in Dharamshala but if you’re lucky you might just see him if you decide to dedicate some of your time to learning Buddism up here.
I hope these options help you understand where you can see the Dalai Lama in India and the possibility of meeting the Dalai Lama in Mcleod Ganj which is his home. Getting an appointment with the Dalai Lama is hard work but it’s possible to get a sightseeing of him one of these ways, which was enough for me!
Travel Insurance for India
Have you got travel insurance for India yet? I am insured with World Nomad’s who I really like because they designed by travellers, for travellers, you can even purchase insurance with them once you have left for your trip. Whilst you’re thinking about it, get a quote for them here!