Meeting the Dalai Lama

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Meeting the Dalai Lama

Carmen Mensink recalls her first encounter with the Dalai Lama:

“My very first encounter with the Dalai Lama was in 1998, in Dharamsala (MCLeod Ganj) in Northern India, where he lives in exile. 
It was my first time in Asia and I was blown away by the colors, smells and especially the temples.

I traveled in a group from Delhi upwards to Ladakh, and looked very much forward to going to Dharamsala, this little town close to the Himalayas, where a lot Tibetan refugees live. It consists of a few main streets, lots of temples, monks & nuns and a great atmosphere despite the amount of tourists that are attracted to the place.

Our group arrived in the evening and I set my alarm clock very early in the morning to go to Namgyal Monastery -Dalai Lama’s main temple- not far from my hostel. This early in the morning around 6am there were no tourists on the streets yet and I walked towards the monastery, not knowing hat to expect.

There was a great atmosphere. I loved the smell of incense, tea was being poured in cups and the monks were chanting their morning prayers in the courtyard. I sat down and simply enjoyed the sounds and all that was going on around me. So lovely, so meditative.

Suddenly there was a buzz going on. People stopped chanting, stood up and formed orderly rows. 

dalai-lama-india-1998And before I knew it, the Dalai Lama, surrounded by body guards, walked down the stairs of the temple, friendly smiling, notting and waving to all the monks and nuns present. I was the only tourists present and was able to make a few pictures with my camera.

This is the picture I was able to take of him (as I saw a month later after developing the film as we used to do in the old days)It was such an unexpected experience and I felt so blessed.

I carry this picture with me in my Tibetan amulet that I bought on the same trip. Besides the picture the amulet  together with the Tibetan name I received (from Geshe Sonam Gyaltsen, Maitreya Institute, The Netherlands) when I took refuge in the same year: Dikye Tsomo, meaning so much as ‘Happy Lake’.

Tibetan Buddhist Amulets
This is one of the simplest Tibetan Amulets, a paper one, surrounded by colored thread.
Click here if you want to read more about Tibetan Buddhist Amulets.
Taking Refuge

Taking Refuge

Taking Refuge is the first formal step on the Buddhist Path if one decides to really follow the path of the Buddha. It is conducted as a formal ceremony during which a person officially becomes a Buddhist.

Refuge is always taken in the ‘Three Jewels’:
1) By taking refuge in the Buddha we see him as the example of the kind of life we would like to lead in order to unfold our best potential.
2) By taking refuge in the Dharma (the Buddha’s teachings) we see the teachings of the Buddha as our spiritual path that leads us to freedom from our suffering.
3) By taking refuge in the Sangha (the community of practitioners) we see them as our companions who give us support, friendship, feedback and direction on the Buddhist path.

To constantly remind yourself of this path (during our often busy schedule), it’s best to recite the accompanying Refuge Prayer three times in the morning and three times in the evening, during your meditation.


(Picture by Jeppe Schilder, Rotterdam, 2014)

Attending the Dalai Lama’s teachings

After that first trip to Asia Carmen attended several of the Dalai Lama’s teachings, such as in The Hague (The Netherlands) in 1999, Copenhagen (Denmark) in 2003 and Dharamsala (India) in 2008 (as well as his later vistits to The Netherlands: Amsterdam in 2009 and Rotterdam in 2014, that you can read about below).

As this incredible being untiringly travels around the world to inspire so many people, we should be aware that here in the West we are so blessed to be able to visit him on so many occasions, something his own people in Tibet are not able to do at all.


Carmen’s painting to welcome the Dalai Lama in The Netherlands in 2009


Really meeting the Dalai Lama in person

Carmen about the Dalai Lama’s visit to The Netherlands:

In 2009 I was asked to paint The 8 Tibetan Auspicious Symbols to welcome the Dalai Lama to Amsterdam, The Netherlands. A big honour.
After the teachings he gave to over 18.000 people I was 
so fortunate to shortly meet him in person and shake his hand:

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I had the opportunity to offer a few of my thangka artworks to H.H. the Dalai Lama, who asked me if I had made them myself.

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Upon confirming he put the artwork (the Mandala of Avalokiteshvara) on his head by means of a blessing. For me it truly felt that I was on the right path with my thangka art & teachings. An amazing experience.

(Pictures by Jeppe Schilder, 2009)

For his subsequent visit to the Netherlands in 2014 I was asked to paint these famous and beautiful set of Tibetan Buddhist Symbols for the Dalai Lama again, something I did with a lot of joy – and with the help of some of my students.”


The 8 Auspicious Symbols
The Eight Auspicious Symbols

The most famous set of Tibetan Buddhist symbols consist of the following:

  • Endless Knot
  • Lotus Flower
  • Treasure Vase
  • Conch Shell
  • Pair of Fishes
  • Parasol (Umbrella)
  • Victory Banner
  • Dharma Wheel

Read more about The 8 Auspicious Symbols or the large paintings that Carmen created for the Dalai Lama


His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Dalai Lama

His Holiness the Dalai Lama (born July 6, 1935) is the spiritual leader of Tibet. His official name is Tenzin Gyatso. He is a lama of the Gelug order (also known as the Yellow Hat school of Tibetan Buddhism) that was founded by Lama TsongKhapa in the 14th Century.

The Dalai Lama is considered to be the successor in a line of tulkus (reincarnated Tibetan Buddhist lamas and masters) who are believed to be incarnations of Avalokitesvara (Tib.: Chenrezig), the Bodhisattva of Great Compassion.

The current Dalai Lama is the 14th in this lineage.

In 1950 China invaded and occupied Tibet brutally, leading the Dalai Lama to fled to India nine years later. Since then, he has been campaigning from exile for Tibet to be given greater autonomy.

Avalokitesvara (Chenrezig), the Buddha of Compassion
There are different versions of Avalokitesvara (called Chenrezig in Tibetan):
4 armed Avalokitesvara
– 8 armed Avalokitesvara
1000 armed Avalokitesvara

His mantra is OM MANI PADME HUM, and this mantra is often painted on Mantra Stones 

Carmen Mensink regularly offers workshops in drawing and painting this beautiful Buddha of Compassion 

Quote from the Dalai Lama
There’s a beautiful quote by the Dalai Lama where he speaks about the purpose of thangka painting thangkas.

The Four Schools of Tibetan Buddhism

There are 4 main Schools of Tibetan Buddhism:

1. Nyingma (the Ancient School)
2. Sakya School (the Scholastic School)
3. Kagyu School (the School Oral Tradition)
4. Gelug School (Yellow Hat / Tradition of Virtue School)

Read more on The Four Schools of Tibetan Buddhism and how they were founded