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12/27 – I am sleeping in the living room, on a friend’s air mattress (as that was another item I forgot in my haste – ugh!). This means that every morning by 7 am, I must have my stuff packed and back in another room to make space for everyone to sit and enjoy breakfast. Personal space is something you cannot expect to have much of at the ManiDrupchen! I was actually lucky to have a little room around my sleeping area – sharing the living room with two other retreatants who slept on the couches. Downstairs people were packed in like sardines – one woman actually slept curled up under a medium sized display table.
9 am – we have a meeting for the retreat participants detailing what to expect, what conduct to maintain, a list of the jobs needing to be done daily and signing up for those as well as talking about candle donations. I mention that I might want to have some days of quiet and that I would be wearing a name tag that said “Noble Silence Please” when I wanted it. This is because I am feeling the need to get the most out of this upcoming week and I remember last year, when the kitchen and living room were full of chatter and some minor chaos.
10 am – Khenpo Tsultrim gives a Dharma talk about the practice of Chenrezig. He is such a great teacher – his english is decent so he can reach us without the need of a translator. He talks about the common and uncommon preliminaries which one must practice and maintain in order to conduct a yoga tantra like Chenrezig (Avalokitesvara). He emphasizes that Bodhicitta (the mind that wishes to attain complete enlightenment for the benefit of all beings) is mandatory and necessary to attain successful and positive results in tantrayana practice (vajrayana or mantrayana as opposed to mahayana and hinayana).
Around 1 pm we actually start the Manidrupchen chanting. There are typical opening prayers and blessing mantras. Then this particular practice has some gorgeous prayers – a supplication to Avalokitesvara and the lineage of masters and more. Then we start chanting the slow, melodic Om Mani Padme Hung Hrih mantra (or Om Mani Pemme Hum Hrih in Tibetan).
Once the Mani Drupchen starts, we will be chanting around the clock – taking shifts at night where some people sleep and others keep the mantra going. We decide, due to the lower number of participants to have two night shifts. One group sleeps from 11 pm to 3 am and then chants from 3 am to 7 am and vice versa for the other group.
On Sunday, there were a good number of people attending and participating – maybe 25 to 30. There are many new faces this year – some participants come from Boston, Charlottesville (Virginia), Va Beach, Georgia, Texas, Ohio and Indiana and beyond. I hear that there are also groups in Vietnam and Malaysia chanting along with us. Hooray!
The above picture is of tormas or ritual cakes, made from flour and butter. From my limited understanding, tormas are used for a number of reasons – some of which are to feed (pacify) numerous spirits who might create obstacles to the practice and to make offerings to enlightened protector deities, etc.