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In this post: the last day of the Drupchen, my final thoughts on the inspiring and clarifying week and precious words from the prayers we were saying on a daily basis.
1/2/10 – As I mentioned in previous posts, we ended the Drupchen a day early due to a slight plumbing problem. Therefore, the lamas packed a 3 hour empowerment, lunch, the mandala dissolution and naga puja into this bitterly cold day. Khenpo Tsultrim was the Vajra Master for the empowerment, and it was a beautiful ceremony. His English is improving, so he explained all the components and visualizations with patience and expertise. He also continued to look to Hun and I for translation assistance, which I feel a little guilty about. I have been studying the Tibetan language for two and a half years, and I am only starting to get into the Dharma literary Tibetan sections. Alas.
The empowerment was three hours long because it is a full empowerment, despite being for the Four Armed Chenrezig. All four empowerments were contained within it and we visualized ourselves, almost like a higher yoga tantra (not that I know much about this stuff). There were pictures for every aspect of the empowerment and Khenpo explained what each picture symbolized – there was the clothing of Chenrezig, his retinue (consort, son, daughter, the Five Buddha Family Lords, etc) and more. At least forty people showed up to receive the empowerment.
We then had a brief lunch and then the mandala dissolution happened very quickly. Khenpo, with vajra in hand, ran his hand through the sand at each of the four “gates.” Then the other ordained members helped to move the sand to the middle and then into a crystal bowl-like container. I was the designated photographer, so I was clicking shots around and above everyone else (thank goodness I am so tall). I got some good pictures. The lamas came outside, into the freezing weather (it was 15 degrees on the mountain that day, not counting the wind chill) and then they were escorted to the river, about twenty minutes away. Unfortunately I was coming down with something, a brief flu-like episode, so I did not feel up to standing out in the sub-arctic temperatures for the naga puja. However I have heard that it went well – although, at those temps. I am hoping it went faster than last year (which was almost two hours in length).
As far as further thoughts on the Mani Drupchen, I am definitely planning to attend next year’s retreat (intensive). As one of the assistants (managers), I felt like I was able to navigate through the chatter of the living room (at meal times) and stay focused on the practice and the retreat. I was feeling the need to drop in deep – having pushed myself through another semester at UVa, so I did not join in much of the pleasant conversations going on during meals. I had a little name tag which said, “Noble Silence Please.” And that was good – I only felt the need to wear it a couple of days. Next year I am sitting away from the sliding glass doors however – the cold draft coming off of them forced my kidneys to work overtime, producing strange dreams and visions, along with making me wonder why I was so cold all the time.
I felt my heart shift from a tight, self-orientation to an open, warm, expanded vastness. I went from feelings of revulsion and being harsh to myself to attraction and being compassionate with myself – quite a polar shift. I allowed some sunlight into the dark crevasses of my shadowy cellars and I made a deeper connection with emptiness and the Dharma in general. I became more at ease with my vulnerabilities, slowed down my process of self- and other-judgment, and I established some inner stability. And most importantly, I became a slightly better human being.
As one of my friends said, who has some experience on 90 day retreats, “when reality starts to bend, that’s when you know you are detaching yourself from the traditional ego structures.” This was very reassuring because that definitely happened to me – although now that I am back in life, I am struggling to find a good balance of practice and living so as to maintain what I have discovered and not fall back into the egoic patterns of action / reaction.
Khenpo, when asked about a possible desire to marry a Westerner in order to gain easier citizenship, responded instantaneously with, “I am focusing on my future lives! Why would I want to do that? I am surviving for this life and focused on next life.” It was a great answer. (Not that there is any possibility of it coming true.) He also mentioned something that I was glad to be reminded of. He said the Buddha lives, breathes and thinks every action for the benefit of sentient beings – if a breathe did not benefit sentient beings, the Buddha would not have breathed it.
Finally, a series of lines from the Supplication Prayer to Chenrezig which we said several times per day during the retreat – I find it to be very beautiful: Please bless my confused body that does not understand the dual appearance of holder and held, and so grasps at a self, to obtain a stable generation stage that moves as the illusory vajra body and completely appears as the uncontaminated form kayas. Please bless me to obtain realization of the completion stage so that all phenomena, bound by confused ignorance mind, permanently arise as the appearance of the Dharmakaya, luminous, self-appearing, self-liberating, the union of bliss and emptiness.
I take this to mean that everything in this world is like a dream. Dreams are like dreams, within the larger dream. View everything as illusory and practice the Dharma – allow non-attachment to arise as you familiarize yourself with emptiness and interdependence.