There’s a bit of Tibet within the forested rolling hills and meadows of South-Central Indiana. Located seven miles from downtown Bloomington is the Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center.
With eight buildings on 108 acres, the center includes a pagoda, two oval-like Buddhist stupas and a narrow building with Tibetan prayer wheels. The Dalai Lama has visited here several times and its mission is to preserve and protect Tibetan and Mongolian religion, culture and heritage.
The highlight of my recent visit was a meditation session led by Arjia Rinpoche, the center’s spiritual leader and monk. We listened to chanting in a lotus position with crossed legs, back straight and shoulders loose, and then meditated in abject silence. “Don’t think anything, don’t do anything, just control your mind,” advises Rinpoche. “Mediation helps balance us.”
One exercise included imagining breathing in your right nostril and out your left nostril three times, and then reversing it. “Breath in and think about the good things coming in, like life and happiness,” explains Rinpoche. “Breathing out, you have to purify yourself, releasing stress, depression and burdens.”
It was my first time in such a meditation session, and I found it a bit tiring to sit too long in the lotus position. And no doubt I’m a novice, as the faint shrill of a ringing phone in a far-off room was a distraction, breaking my concentration.
“Breath in, breath out,” instructs Rinpoche. “The idea is try to keep your mind free and calm.”
For more information: http://www.tmbcc.net
If you’re in the mood for some Tibetan food, go to Bloomington’s “restaurant row” on 4th Street and stop in Anyetsang’s Little Tibet Restaurant. Try the Mo Mo or Sha-sha mo mo – homemade steamed dumplings filled with ground beef or chicken and vegetables, and flavored with Tibetan seasoning.
Restaurant owner Thupten Anyetsang, who escaped from Tibet in 1959 when the Dalai Lama fled oncoming Communist Chinese forces, says he opened the restaurant to help people learn more about the culture and religion of Tibet. “Our main concern was to educate people, because not many knew about Tibet 40 years ago,” he says. “Our culture is how to be a good person and kind to all people.”