Sunday, November 30, 2008

Flat out and not on the beach!

This is my last blog before leaving for my four day marathon of flight after flight. It has been really busy since arriving in Cancun. The Tara retreat went very well, however we didn't finish the commentary on the 21 Praises to Tara, but we did yesterday at the end of the teachings I was giving in the city. Monday last, I visited the prison and taught to over a 100 prisoners and afterwards some of them came up to me and thanked me profusely for taking the time to visit them. It is the noisiest and most difficult prison that I had taught in; can't imagine what it would be like to live with that noise all day every day.

I have been staying with Hilda, who is 74 years young and drives so fast she reminds me of a racing car driver! Her sister is 83 and they both attended the retreat (every session) and every evening for the teachings. In addition Hilda cooked for me, and facilitated everything that needed to happen. She is a jewel and certainly will never be forgotten by me.

Don't think there is anything else to say, the group here is very nice and most definitely welcoming. They are doing their best to help others with the Dharma and individually to be good human beings, so I think they are doing very well. I didn't see much of Cancun, but it looks like a beautiful place. I am not keen on entering the water, as you all know, so I definitely did not go diving, but they say that the reefs and coral around here are beautiful. Hasta luego and see you soon!

By the way, the schedule of courses for my next monsoon programme has been finalised, so please check in the next few days on the Kopan website: www.kopan-monastery.com. It will be very interesting, including a New Habits course for Buddhist and non-Buddhist alike.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Xalapa more news......

The retreat finished on a really good note with Dorje Khadro fire puja and the following morning some of the students took refuge.

On Tuesday, I had been invited to visit the prison which is outside of Xalapa, about an hour's drive away. Patto had told me over and over it is a freezing cold place, and even though it has turned cold in Xalapa I really didn't believe it could be THAT cold. Anyway, it was! When we arrived at the prison, shrouded in fog, it was cold, but during the talk plus questions and answers, it got colder and colder. After more than two hours when we were leaving, we were told the temperature was minus 2C....then I really did believe Patto!

My constant thought was for the staff and prisoners - how they coped with the cold, which would get even more intense and bitter next month. I gave a talk on the Four Noble Truths and suffering; how to make maximum use of the time in prison. The prisoners and all the psychology staff who attended the talk seemed very happy with the meeting and I really enjoyed the questions afterwards. I felt privileged to have been allowed into the prisoner's private lives and very much look forward to seeing them again next year, if I return to Mexico.

Tuesday evening, a talk given for the Xalapa Buddhist Group, which belongs to Venerable Thubten Chodron. We had an interesting evening discussing emotions, particularly anger and this afternoon (Wednesday) I am visiting another prison and in the evening I will finish my talk on the emotions. Thursday morning we are driving about four hours to PUEBLA in order for me to catch a plane at 3pm for Cancun and the Tara retreat on the beach. The following week, Monday another talk in a prison, to about 400 people and then teaching every night before flying out to Nepal on the 30th. My time in Mexico has been extremely busy, as you can see from the schedule, but what I didn't mention are the interviews and letters to answer in between teachings. There isn't much spare time, which means I can't be getting into too much trouble, ha ha! I really love the Mexican people, they are so open and warm and they genuinely want to improve their minds, so it is a teacher's paradise.

When you next hear from me, I will be basking in the warmth of Cancun. Take care everybody, have a very enjoyable holiday season and remember to be careful with all that attachment and desire espcially for sensory objects!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Xalapa

We are in a wonderful location, surrounded by trees, birds and just nature! So nice after being in Mexico City with it's background of sirens and other noises. The people who are hosting the retreat are extremely nice, the gompa is beautiful and we are now experiencing a harmony amongst the group. More news soon........

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Help!

A friend of mine is looking for a photograph of the new gompa at Boudhanath stupa - the Padmasambhava Gompa opposite the stupa. This year Kyabje Zopa Rinpoche performed many ceremonies there in June. If you have a photo, please let me know. I am just leaving Mexico City, having taught to a group of interested people in the south of the city and then the fpmt group on Thursday night. Karla was extremely helpful towards me, lending me her apartment and her cat (who I tried to tame!) Now we are travelling five hours to Xalapa for the Medicine Buddha retreat.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

There is always hope in the world......

I received a photo of His Holiness with Obama but unfortunately I couldn't figure out how to reproduce it here. However, there is a copy of a letter written to Obama from Alice Walker, and reproduce that:


Dear Brother Obama,

You have no idea, really, of how profound this moment is for us. Us being the black people of the Southern United States. You think you know, because you are thoughtful, and you have studied our history. But seeing you deliver the torch so many others before you carried, year after year, decade after decade, century after century, only to be struck down before igniting the flame of justice and of law, is almost more than the heart can bear. And yet, this observation is not intended to burden you, for you are of a different time, and, indeed, because of all the relay runners before you, North America is a different place.
It is really only to say:
Well done. We knew, through all the generations, that you were with us, in us, the best of the spirit of Africa and of the Americas. Knowing this, that you would actually appear, someday, was part of our strength. Seeing you take your rightful place, based solely on your wisdom, stamina and character, is a balm for the weary warriors of hope, previously only sung about.

I would advise you to remember that you did not create the disaster that the world is experiencing, and you alone are not responsible for bringing the world back to balance. A primary responsibility that you do have, however, is to cultivate happiness in your own life. To make a schedule that permits sufficient time of rest and play with your gorgeous wife and lovely daughters. And so on. One gathers that your family is large. We are used to seeing men in the White House soon become juiceless and as white-haired as the building; we notice their wives and children looking strained and stressed. They soon have smiles so lacking in joy that they remind us of scissors. This is no way to lead. Nor does your family deserve this fate. One way of thinking about all this is: It is so bad now that there is no excuse not to relax.
From your happy, relaxed state, you can model real success, which is all that so many people in the world really want. They may buy endless cars and houses and furs and gobble up all the attention and space they can manage, or barely manage, but this is because it is not yet clear to them that success is truly an inside job.
That it is within the reach of almost everyone.

I would further advise you not to take on other people's enemies. Most damage that others do to us is out of fear, humiliation and pain. Those feelings occur in all of us, not just in those of us who profess a certain religious or racial devotion. We must learn actually not to have enemies, but only confused adversaries who are ourselves in disguise. It is understood by all that you are commander in chief of the United States and are sworn to protect our beloved country; this we understand, completely.
However, as my mother used to say, quoting a Bible with which I often fought, "hate the sin, but love the sinner." There must be no more crushing of whole communities, no more torture, no more dehumanizing as a means of ruling a people's spirit. This has already happened to people of color, poor people, women, children. We see where this leads, where it has led.

A good model of how to "work with the enemy" internally is presented by the Dalai Lama, in his endless caretaking of his soul as he confronts the Chinese government that invaded Tibet. Because, finally, it is the soul that must be preserved, if one is to remain a credible leader. All else might be lost; but when the soul dies, the connection to earth, to peoples, to animals, to rivers, to mountain ranges, purple and majestic, also dies. And your smile, with which we watch you do gracious battle with unjust characterizations, distortions and lies, is that expression of healthy self-worth, spirit and soul, that, kept happy and free and relaxed, can find an answering smile in all of us, lighting our way, and brightening the world.

We are the ones we have been waiting for.

In Peace and Joy,
Alice Walker

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Have a good laugh on me..........

  It is amazing how many new friends one can make driving from town to town. This man is a devotee of the Hari Krishna and gave me a free balloon, which he had fashioned into a dog!
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Monday, November 3, 2008

Whoops I lost Torreon....

Between Guadalajara and Durango there was Torreon and the Rinchen Zangpo Group, but somehow I either forgot to write something or it didn't get posted. I am sorry about that - you see I am not perfect!

The group was very warm and welcoming and there is a resident teacher, Jampa Shaneman a Canadian who has been living in Mexico for four years. Again lots of teachings, interviews and special people. What stands out in my mind is the teachings on the 37 Practices of a Bodhisattva which really stimulated people into feeling they must develop compassion. Carmen is the co-ordintor of the group and she very kindly invited me to lunch with her family - which turned out to be a big party, average for Mexico I was told. Delicious food and good company.

I visited the Bonpo stupa with Pilar a dear friend and her aunty - that is a memorable experience. It is a beautiful retreat centre with the stupa in the middle - very nicely designed and a really nice place for contemplation.

The group very sweetly asked me to return next year and continue the teachings and I very much look forward to doing that.

Serlingpa Medicine Buddha

 
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Retreat at Serlingpa

You can see the result of Medicine Buddha retreat on the faces of the people! We transformed the gompa into a pure realm, with so many water bowls, flower offerings, light offerings and the offering of prayer and mantra. Before sessions 35 Buddha with prostrations and finishing the day with King of Prayers dedication. Vajrasattva in the evenings. Everybody said they felt very purified, especially after we finished with Dorje Khadra fire puja!