Obama's call for "change" resonates in Buddhist padyatra

by Kripa Krishnan, PTI, June 1, 2009

Manali, India -- What does Barack Obama have in common with the Gyalwang Drukpa, spiritual leader of the 800-year-old Buddhist sect? The answer involves some hundred volunteers who march alongside the monks and nuns of the faith through the Himalayas on a 'padyatra'.

Many of the volunteers like Carrie Lee from Los Angeles have been inspired by Obama's clarion call of "change" to take up volunteer work in the remote areas of the world like the villages in the upper reaches of the Himalayas they will be crossing during the 400 kilometre yatra.

"I have been a disciple for past 5 years and we have seen a spurt in the number of volunteers from the US. With Barack Obama coming to power, there has begun a huge movement in the American youth to go out in the world and do good.

"The president's message of making the change you want has made us look for ways to make a positive difference around the world and this is a perfect opportunity," said Lee, a finance lawyer by profession who also manages the LA centre of the Drukpa lineage.

The number has gone up from just a handful during the faith's first padyatra in 2007 to the more than hundred people who congregated in the foothills of the Himalayas for this year's 'pad yatra' which was flagged off from the Kardang monastery in Lahaul, Himachal Pradesh on 25th May and will culminate in the Hemis festival in Ladakh later next month.