I just came back from the Buddhist Youth Festival, and like all participants, my heart is filled with love and inspiration. Probably a little more than half the participants were new to the Dharma. From what I've seen, every single one of them has made a good connection with the Dharma and many want to start meditating at home and learn more.
Wonderful as that is, I took home even more! I'm deeply touched by the Rimé spirit; the ecumenical or eclectic movement of respecting and studying all different schools and lineages of the Dharma. Sharing our devotion for our teachers and the Three Jewels I have been deeply moved by practitioners of different lineages, that I know little about. It has filled me with enthusiasm to study different traditions and receive teachings from many more teachers. My master, Sogyal Rinpoche, encourages students not to shop around too much but first to establish a solid basis in one tradition. At the same time, he invites many of the greatest teachers to teach and give empowerments in Rigpa's main retreat centre, Lerab Ling. So it has been through his kindness that I've received teachings from some of the greatest masters of our time, from all schools of Tibetan Buddhism, such as H.H. The Dalai Lama, H.H. Sakya Trizin and Kyabjé Trulshik Rinpoche and will receive teachings from the 17th Karmapa next summer. In my experience, even having received teachings from many other masters, it's easy to think that your teacher and your Sangha are the coolest. Simply because it takes a long time really to be able to see the amazing qualities of a teacher and the practices you do. Superficial knowledge of other traditions can never bring such appreciation.
But what I have found during this festival, meeting other devoted and dedicated practitioners, opening your heart to them and celebrating the profound beauty of the Dharma, can bring about this appreciation! There is a special joy in sharing your love for the Dharma with other young people. Those of us who are part of a Sangha mostly find ourselves amongst a majority of 40-60 year olds in our own groups. There is a kind of almost instant connection and depth of intimacy when you meet one of those rare young people devoted the to Dharma and dedicated to benefit all sentient beings.
I hope to make many more of such friends in the future and will make every effort to do so!
Mainly because the winters in Europe can be quite cold and wet, a large portion of the Rigpa Youth team migrated to Nepal for the coming winter. Apart from enjoying the slightly warmer temperature, they're also attending the Rigpa Shedra. This year we're studying the Madyamakavatara, or the Introduction to the Middle Way. But besides the shedra, the Kathmandu Valley of Nepal seems to be quite a good spot if you want to go Lama shopping. First we met Marcia Binder Schmidt at the White Gomba (Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche's Monestary), who was being called by Rinpoche's all the time because she was hosting the visit of Richard Gere. But before the tea was served, we rushed to have tea with Phakchog Rinpoche. It was very nice meeting him again, after the interview we had with him last spring in Lerab Ling. He gave us some advice on which commentaries to use to help our studies, after which we made a group foto. Before we left we also had the fortunate karma to bump into his father, Chokling Rinpoche, who was also very happy to hear we were studying at the Rigpa Shedra.
When we returned to our little village called Pharping, it was time for Khenchen Namdrol's opening adress. After a good meal with momo's and lemon tea, he gave an astonishing speech, as always. If you want to see for yourself you can find a link at the Rigpa news blog
But our week was not over yet, as Tsoknyi rinpoche was to visit and teach us. We had to purify a little bit of karma by waiting for quite a while in formal welcome line-up, but naturally it was well worth the wait. Tsoknyi Rinpoche was very happy to see many young western students showing special interest in Buddha-Dharma, and put special effort to come to this part of the world. It'a a bit messy, but somehow you can get a lot of good teachings here!
"First when I came to the west, I didn’t understand why Westerners were interested in Buddhism, such a highly developed and sophisticated country. Why would they want teachings from a Lama like me, coming from a village? But now after 15 years, I think you really need it!
After his teaching there was still time for some questions. In response to one of the questions, Rinpoche mentioned that it was fine to practice Hindu inspired yoga practices like hatha yoga, but just close your ears when they start talking about the theory!
Thinley Norbu was also in town, and rumors where going around that he was going to teach. Just as with our very own Sogyal Rinpoche, the only thing was that we had no clue when he was going to teach. But then finally it happened, and it was quite extraordinary! First he gave a lung on the Guyhagarba tantra, and then he directed his attention to the bunch of Westerners in the temple and taught until 12 o'clock in the evening.
And we're only here for two weeks! But drinking tea with Lama's can become a distraction, so now we're all back to our study books.
For those of you who think Nepal is a messy, stinking place full of bacteria’s, and prefer to stay in the god realms of the West, Rigpa Shedra West is resurrected after the three year retreat and has a very nice 'lineup' for next summer with Ringu Tulku Rinpoche, Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche, Khenpo Pema Sherab and more! See RigpaShedra.org for more inormation.
Tsoknyi Rinpoche's teaching to the Rigpa Shedra students