January 5: Happy New Year!
Bodh Gaya was truly amazing and I taught a 9-day course at Root Institute that included pilgrimage to some wonderful local sites like the Mahakala Cave, Rajgir (where the Buddha taught the Heart Sutra), Nalanda (where there are ruins of the ancient monastery), and Sujata (where the Buddha realized the path was best following the middle way and gave up extreme asceticism to eat some rice porridge). For a Buddhist, there’s nothing quite like walking around the Mahabodhi Stupa, the site of where the Buddha got enlightened, practicing there, and basking in the vibration of the history of all the practitioners who have visited. It’s always lovely, as well, to have some time in the garden oasis of Root Institute.
From Bodh Gaya, I made my way down south to Bangalore where I taught one night at our lovely city center there.
So after a 6-hour car ride with some friends from Bangalore to Sera Monastery (during which I was quite sick), I happily arrived at Sera Monastery and Ribur Labrang, the home of the reincarnation of one of my teachers, Ven. Ribur Rinpoche. It has been an amazing experience to attend the 4th and final year of the precious Jangchub Lamrim teachings with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. I arrived on December 18 and went through the various registration procedures to secure an entrance pass to the teachings, as well as a police stamp (an hour or more in a line) on official documents. Settled in to my accommodations and the program began the next day at Tashi Lhumpo Monastery, just down the road from Sera Monastery.
Each day, our house (8 of us) was fortunate to have use of a car sponsored by a very generous benefactor so we would leave around 7:30am for the 7km drive that sometimes would take half an hour or longer due to traffic, etc. Sometimes the foreigners security line would be an hour long, but once in side the venue, it was quite spacious. Tashi Lhumpo Monastery did a great job organizing massive tents, food for 30,000(!), water, tea and bread distribution – all quite amazing.
I loved being in a “sea of maroon” as most attendees were monks and nuns who looked just like me so instead of sticking out in society with everyone staring at me, I was the norm. It was very renewing to feel this way.
Foreigners listened on FM headsets to various interpreters (English, Chinese, Italian, French, Mongolian, Russian, Vietnamese) as His Holiness read the final Lamrims and gave commentary. It was very moving and inspiring. At the end of the program there was a special initiation of the 16 Drops of the Kadampas that was wonderful as His Holiness led us through a series of visualizations. This was followed by a White Tara Initiation (a long life deity) and long life puja (ceremony) for His Holiness on New Year’s Day.
As many Lamas are in attendance, the evenings would be spent visiting various holy beings and making offerings so I was able to see His Eminence Ling Rinpoche, Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche, Khandrola, Pari (Dagri) Rinpoche, Khylongla Rato Rinpoche, Jangtse Choje Rinpoche, to name a few. Then some evenings, a tsog would be held with Lama Zopa Rinpoche at Kopan House or the special Vajrayogini self-initiation we were able to do last night at Osel Labrang with Lama Zopa Rinpoche, Pari Rinpoche and some other Lamas and visiting students.
Today starts Ngagrim Chenmo (Great Treatise on the Stages of Tantra) with Jangtse Choje Rinpoche every afternoon that by chance is finishing the day before I leave. What great fortune!
I am SO grateful to be able to be here and experience this. Thank you to all who have made this possible! On January 12, I fly from Bangalore to London to begin a month-long teaching tour before returning to the States on February 14.
Wishing you all the best in the new year.