This was another amazing little pilgrimage, treading on the path of Dharma again with Lama Rabsang and a few friends. There seems to be something very special when these trips are made with a teacher who holds the space and the mandala with such ease and kindness, so that everything always somehow seems to go well, even though it might not! Like any pilgrimage, which already starts before the feet step out through the door, so did this one, with a multitude of arrangements. At last, after many twists and turns, hopes and fears, and a couple of panicky moments, we were all finally sitting in a rented car, six people squeezed in with their luggage. This was really a “travel light” challenge! Luckily, one of the pilgrims lived in France and had very kindly agreed to drive all the way, so we were saved from the stress of changing to driving on the right. For most of us this was the first time we would ever hear Mingyur Rinpoche’s teachings live, and for some also the first time to meet him live. Lama Rabsang hadn’t seen his guru since 2008, so this was also a wonderful reunion for him. The teaching took place in the heart of the Dordogne, at a remote place in the French hills, Songtsen Chanteloube. Its principal activity is arranging three-year retreats, and over the years it has also hosted many visits by great masters like His Holiness the 16th Karmapa and His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.
The teachings were held in a big tent, and there was another tent with video streaming for those who wanted to be around but could not be fitted into the main tent. Altogether about 800 people had gathered there, which I have to say was a great achievement, taking into account the fact that nobody was really aware what the teaching would be about, and you could not get to the place without a car since it was in the middle of the forest! All the arrangements and organization were great and went smoothly – a big thank you to all the hard-working volunteers for hosting this event and allowing so many to enjoy the rain of blessings!
Over the three days Mingyur Rinpoche gave teachings on meditation, awareness, wisdom, loving-kindness and compassion. He said the topics were view, meditation and conduct, and he related meditation to developing awareness, view to wisdom, and loving-kindness and compassion to action. During the first day Rinpoche led us through many meditation techniques to help us learn to rest, relax and recognize our innate awareness. The second day was dedicated to exploring loving-kindness and compassion, and the third day was a complete surprise. On the full moon day in Guru Rinpoche’s birth month, in his birth-year anniversary, around 800 people received the Guru Rinpoche Shower of Blessings empowerment in the remote French hills. Rinpoche also bestowed Vajrasattva empowerment on the participants. We all felt truly blessed and inspired to put the teachings into practice: training in maintaining awareness more and more in our everyday life and removing obstacles from the liberation. There was a sense of someone having given you a kick on your lazy bum! I guess that could be called inspiration or blessing?
The following is only a short excerpt from the notes I made during the teachings. I apologize in advance for any mistakes!
MORE PHOTOS HERE
Awareness, Meditation, Loving-Kindness and Compassion
Awareness is already free, non-conceptual, happiness
Being aware means recognizing awareness, recognizing our own mind’s knowing quality. Rinpoche compared space to awareness. The problem is that we can’t see space, space is completely free, and it is the same with awareness. Awareness is like space, it is already free, non-conceptual and it is happiness. Through meditation the mind just becomes more workable, peaceful, pliable. Rinpoche reinforced many times the message that the essence of meditation is awareness, which is actually non-meditation. He also said that “let it go” is the technique we use in meditation, whereas “let it be” is actually what is non-meditation, the essence of meditation. Rinpoche linked this to the Buddhist path by saying, “The essence of awareness is cessation of suffering. The recognition of awareness is the path.”
If you see the river, you are out of the river
Rinpoche gave the example of a river: if we see the river, we are out of the river and that is freedom. (“River” refers to the stream of thoughts with which we identify ourselves, and most of the time we are “in the river”, but the moment we can see our thoughts, we are already out of the river and there is much more spaciousness). If we can see our thoughts, that is thought meditation. However, if we cannot watch the thoughts, and when we try to do that the “screen” becomes blank, we can just rest in that and that is open awareness.
Another example Rinpoche gave was on dealing with a hazy mind in meditation, and it shed light on what we usually think meditation should be. If our mind feels hazy or foggy, we just need to be aware of it as it is, since knowing the haze IS clarity. We don’t need to have an “experience” of clarity, because awareness of any experience IS clarity. We should not search for anything else. Normally we don’t know that consciousness IS clarity, consciousness IS awareness.
The river does not have to stop
Rinpoche gave many options for dealing with emotions, which we can apply depending on the situation and our capacity in each situation. The basic thing to remember is that when you watch the emotion, you are outside the river, not in the river. If you feel / see the emotion, you are outside it. It is not that if you watch the river it has to stop.
- Watch the emotion (this means just being with it, being aware of it. If the emotion becomes stronger this way, then don’t watch it).
- Then try something different. If you resist the emotion, change the focus into breath, visual object, sound or open awareness. Or you can also arouse another emotion, e.g. if panic is too difficult, make it into anger and watch that. Then slowly, you can also watch the difficult emotion. If this does not work, try to…
- Step back – emotion behind emotion like panic behind panic, and watch the emotions that are behind the emotions. If this does not work or is too difficult…
- Take a break. When other methods don’t work, go for a walk, sleep or rest, because you might just feel exhausted by emotions.
Rinpoche explained that emotion is not just one big thing, it is composed of word, image and sensation, so you can try to watch one part of it. He encouraged us by saying that it’s better to try and fail, since eventually you will become better at what you are trying to do.
Proof that we already have love and compassion
Rinpoche asked: how can we know that beings already have loving-kindness and compassion within? After we discussed this in groups, Rinpoche pointed out a fresh way of looking at this topic. He said that loving-kindness and compassion are with us all the time, like awareness. We can see loving-kindness in the way we are all looking for happiness with our every movement, and compassion is seen in how we try to avoid suffering. The basis for loving-kindness is in looking for happiness and goodness. The basis for compassion is that all beings want freedom from unhappiness. When we see how our every movement is towards happiness, we can see that in others too and hold them dear; there is a sense of endearment, affection. We no longer see them as separate from ourselves. Rinpoche gave the example of anger, and said that people who get angry actually just think they are aiming for something that would bring happiness for themselves or someone else. Through this way of understanding we can see that the basic underlying motivation behind the movement of all sentient beings is love and compassion, first for themselves and also for others. However, the problem is in the ways we aim for this happiness – we don’t know how to create the causes of happiness.
At the end Rinpoche gave a very generous reminder of the importance of bodhicitta motivation. He said that if in this lifetime we have bodhicitta motivation for even one second, our life becomes meaningful. We should just try that, and eventually it will lead us to genuine bodhicitta. It is good enough if we want to try.
Written down from the notes: Pauliina Kossi