The Venerable Newsletter Spring 2009 Chöje Lama Rabsang (Lama in Residence) Reg. Charity 1098963 Lama Rabsang’s thoughts: On the Benefits of making a Pilgrimage “Pilgrimage enables us to receive the blessings. There are special places such as Bodh Gaya which contain the blessings of the Buddha and great practitioners. We can purify a lot of negativity by practising there, by doing Kora, prayers, prostrations etc much benefit can be gained. Even just visiting these places is very special, it is said that just going to Bodh Gaya can prevent you from entering the lower realms. Traditionally it is said that you should go there twice...one time should be devoted to practice.” Some of the Sangha were fortunate enough to go to Kagyu Monlam at Bodh Gaya, with Lama Samten, Neil was persuaded to share his experiences… Part One - Bodh Gaya The Journey. Ok, you kept a journal of the trip so will you write a piece for the newsletter? Well volunteered! Every trip has to start somewhere. I remember the conversation now: “26th Monlam, Bodh Gaya it is then!” ...Easy! Well after the passport, visa application(s) in some cases, injections, travel bookings, packing and other miscellaneous arrangements it was, any way. So after all the preparation stuff, there we were at daft o‟clock on a freezing New Years Eve morning on a bus to Heathrow. Everyone in winter clothing, but never mind it would be warmer in India wouldn‟t it?... Wouldn‟t it? The trip to Heathrow went swimmingly, we met up with a couple more of the gang there. Hopped on the Gulf Air flight to Bahrain and were well looked after on the flight while we watched films and checked the outside air temperature thingy every so often to remind us why it was a good idea to stay inside the plane... – 56 degrees is pretty cold I expect. Bahrain was nice, for all but one of us, I imagine (I won‟t mention any names to protect the innocent, but one of our gallant pilgrims only experienced the delights of the ablutions and the luxury sleeping facilities in the departure lounge disguised as hard back chairs (Well done Bubbles, you know who you are), while the rest of us celebrated New Year twice (The Bahrain Tour 2008 / 2009) whilst we whiled the 5 ½ hour delay due to fog in Delhi. A little bit of fog and the whole place stops, just like the UK with snow? When we got to Delhi however (Bubbles having made a miraculous recovery as soon as we got on the plane) we changed our mind about a bit of fog. This was nil visibility fog and the pilot landed the plane in this – Respect Dude. Having collected our baggage from amongst the curtain, carpet and bed sheet clad luggage of the locals returning home from Bahrain, we started the sense assailing walk out of the airport. Smell, smog and burning wood and rubber I guess, then sound, vehicle horns mainly ,followed by sight ...people and vehicles everywhere in the smog / fog or whatever it was . An interesting first experi- ence which was quickly topped by the car journey to our overnight stop in Delhi, Majnu Ka Tilla MKT ( Mine‟s a Tequila just to help me remember it). I still find it difficult to work out how traffic moves in India although it seems to manage quite well thank you. The highway code seems to consist of not using a particular lane, only indicating when the flashing light will add something to the confusion, not leaving any space between vehicles in case a pedestrian might get through and in all circumstances use the horn as often as possible. The whole thing, once the fear had worn off a bit, amused us immensely. I suppose we were lucky that we arrived during national road safety week and on „No Honking Day‟. Imagine what it would have been like otherwise? Following a fascinating road trip through the suburbs of Delhi, where it seems that just about everything happens on the road side, we arrived at MKT and were deposited in the local taxi rank to gather ourselves for the short walk through the narrow streets to the luxurious Potala Guest House and its many inhabi- tants. Here we gathered the remainder of our party and fed watered and resupplied ourselves for our intrepid journey across country which had been arranged for the next day. We did take an opportunity to visit the Punjabi Basti (market) to buy a de- signer, handmade shroud for my roomy, which was ordered, designed, cut and sewn as we waited. Whilst experiencing the fascinating delights of Delhi street life in all its glory, we also used the excursion to perfect our newly acquired, and much needed skills of washing our hands before during and after every ac- tivity, haggling effectively (this hasn‟t been much use since returning home though), interacting with the begging fraternity, checks to ensure safe water supply and how to breathe with face masks on. Before departing on the train, we were excited to find out that Lama Samten had arranged an audience with His Eminence Tai Situ Rinpoche at his resi- dence in Delhi. His Eminence talked to us about health and wellbeing and reminded us to make the most of our visit to India. With his blessing and heed- ing his guidance, we left feeling ready for the journey ahead. The sun also H.E. Tai Situ Rinpoche came out for a short while to see us on our way. We then shuttled ourselves to Delhi train station, which was a little crowded. Oh ok then it was manic. It called for some very effective team work to make sure we all New Delhi Railway Station got ourselves and our luggage onto the train and to the right carriage within the three minutes allotted for such a mammoth task. In the end, it worked very well and we settled down in the „opulent‟ sleeping quarters that were to be home, as it turned out, for the next 19 hours or so. The 7 hour delay was due to the fog throughout the journey that slowed the train considerably. Still we got to know each other a little better be- ing cramped 6 into a sleeper carriage, 8 if you take into ac- count the2 people who shared our space from the other side of the corridor. Gaya was „interesting‟. Having been cocooned on the train for so long I‟d sort of forgotten where I was, so arriving in Gaya was a bit of a shock, not dissimilar from arriving in Delhi. Still, soon got over that as we formed a guard around our luggage to await Lama and Kate‟s return from securing transport to Bodh Gaya, some 16 kms away. With the taxis loaded (under close supervision) we were off on what can at best be described as the rural equivalent of the Delhi road trips. Eventually we arrived at Bodh Gaya and our base for the duration „The Rahul Guesthouse‟. Run by the Indian equivalent of Basil Fawlty (Hope I‟m not being too unkind here but you ask for an extra blanket and see what happens!!!) the Rahul was really very good value. Clean, it had hot water and en- suite toilet facilities and a laundry facility (on a sunny day) was well situated and run by the biggest battery you could imagine when the mains electricity supply was interrupted. Anyway, this was home for the next 11 days or so, we‟d arrived in Bodh Gaya... day 3, but we felt like we‟d been travelling for a week. So, time to put my feet up for a rest then? No chance................ but I‟ll say more about that next time. TTFN Neil Taylor Paulina kindly sent the following account of Lama Rabsang‟s last visits to Finland... Newsletter from the Lama Rabsang's Finnish Sangha 2008 Lama Rabsang has kindly visited us in Finland already several times since the first visit in Oulu 2006. All the time he is touching more and more hearts where ever he goes. Last year Lama visited Finland four times which was the most so far. Before he has been invited to teach in Helsinki and Oulu but last year there were students also in Jyväskylä who wished to get Lama teach also there. Now Lama has been spreading the precious Dharma in south, in north and also in the middle of the Finland! There is increasing number of his devoted students and every visit there were people who took the refuge. Below there are some news from the groups and visits. Lama Rabsang's students´ Ngöndro retreat summer 2008 Palpung Changchub Dargye Ling Finland Ry (Oulu) Since 2006 there has been a small Palpung-group in Oulu. Thanks to the Lama Rabsang's visits our activ- ity has slowly but surely stabilized and grown. Finally last autumn our group was established as a registered association. We have found a small but very nice and cosy apartment from the city centre for our weekly meetings. There we do our pujas, meditations and enjoy tea and warm company of the sangha. In the autumn we also arranged a group trip to Tampere to the Tibet-exhibition. We still have in our dreams and plans to arrange a trip to the Dharma centre in Wales. We are especially grateful for Lama Rabsang's important support for our group. Time after time he has brought light here up to the north through his teachings! Lama's last visit in December -08 was again very warm and nice. The teaching topics were meditation, bardo and Medicine Buddha-puja. After the course Lama Rabsang had his first open lecture of meditation for bigger audience –it was made as an opportunity to people who just wanted to get to know something about meditation but did not yet have courage or interest to come to the course. It was also a good op- portunity to meet a true Lama! Lama Rabsang's teachings and visits offer to people all over the Northern Finland a great opportunity to study Dharma. We are already happy to see Lama again in March 2009! http://www.palpungoulu.org/ Lama Rabsang in Oulu summer 2008 Palpung Yeshe Gatshal Finland (Helsinki) Palpung Yeshe Gatshal Finland is located in the capitol of Finland, Helsinki. Centre's spiritual head is XII Tai Situ Rinpoche. There is a plan to get a Tibetan Lama in the Centre and Rinpoche has promised to send one there. http://www.palpungfinland.org/ Lama Rabsang's teaching visit in Helsinki 8.-10.12.2008 Lama Rabsang visited and gave teachings in Helsinki in December as a request of Palpung Yeshe Gat- shal Finland. During three day's teachings we learned about meditation, teacher-student relationship and bardos. There were about thirty people taking part and the atmosphere was full of warmth, joy and wis- dom. We again had an opportunity to listen to the important teachings which were transmitted in a very warm, down the earth and humorous way! I learned that even that serious topic as the death is, it is not an event that you need to be afraid of. Instead of being afraid of it, you can and it is useful to prepare yourself to that all your life through the practice. If you are not prepared there are still lots that can be done for the benefit for the deceased. The importance of the teacher-student relationship in Vajrayana Buddhism became very clear and the examples that Lama told were very touching. I hope and believe that many people got reminded again of the infinite nature of our mind that lies beyond our conceptual thinking and through that got inspiration to the everyday practice. I still would like to give my warm thanks for the teachings and wish Lama welcome to teach us again in the future! ( story of the visit by: Laura Julku, Jyväskylä group) Lama Rabsang's meditation group (Jyväskylä) There was an unofficial Tibetan Buddhist meditation group in Jyväskylä which got started in February 2007. At the beginning we didn't actually have any specific teacher or lineage but we got important support from one Finnish long term Buddhist practice person who also is teaching Buddhism. That way our small and varied group got started. Only one month after that there was one person from this group who went to Lama Rabsang's teachings for the first time in Oulu - that was the beginning of establishing networks with Oulu group. Since that we started planning to invite Lama Rabsang also to Jyväskylä. Fi- nally this plan became true in September 2008. There were two days teachings and practise of meditation and also talks about how to develop compas- sionate and relaxed attitude in everyday life. Lama inspired some good conversations about the topics even though Finnish people are known to be very shy and quiet. Altogether forty people took part to the course and last day five took refuge (only one was originally from our group!). Atmosphere at the course place was very warm and open and people were willing to help in the arrangements. Lama made his way to people's hearts again – many wished Lama to visit us again soon. Because we knew that our group would probably not survive very long without a proper teacher and since we felt a connection to Lama Rabsang we asked after the course Lama if he could become our group's spiritual teacher…and he said “Yes”. We were very happy about that – now we have safe path to walk and always so kind and understanding guidance. Group has now really living spark of Dharma in its gatherings and it can be felt. photo by: Karoliina Veijo Lama Rabsang teaching in Jyväskylä for the first time in September 2008 At Bodh Gaya we were thrilled to see Athena‟s lovely prayer displayed with the others on the perimeter fence. It was right opposite Karmapa‟s seat, and the Bodhi Tree. Thank you Athena! An Aspiration prayer for Lay Practitioners In the face of a multitude of demands may patience arise; May generosity of time and finances increase; All activities joyously contemplated as dharma practice; May work with dharma brothers and sisters be founded on fragrant morality When practising in diverse circumstances may diligence blossom; May happiness flourish following the path of skilful means and wisdom. Just one of the many wonderful prayers recited at Kagyu Monlam: The Offerings of the Eight Marks of Auspiciousness Blazing with light, its peak is a jewel And its vast canopy beautified by webs of jewels. It is supported by a handle of finest gold. May there be, here and now, the auspiciousness of the beautiful, precious parasol. With stainless clear vision, It darts miraculously through the water. It lives in the source of all that is needed and wanted. May there be, here and now, the auspiciousness of the auspicious fish. It is the best of all that is made from good, precious materials. It contains precious treasure that is the source of all that is wanted. It is beautifully decorated by divine fabric. May there be, here and now, the auspiciousness of the supreme good vase. These lotuses are newly come from Wish-fulfilling trees and fine gardens. They have enchanting fragrance, their hearts, and all their petals. May there be, here and now, the auspiciousness of the lotuses. They are of the utmost beauty and well-swirled to the right. They are like snow-covered mountains. Their enchanting sound Is heard in all directions. They please the Buddhas. May there be, here and now, the auspiciousness of the supreme conches. It is of the utmost beauty, the finest form the mind could draw. Colourful and bright, this symbol of his heart bestows all that is wanted. Beautified by all ornaments, it is beloved by devas. May there be, here and now, the auspiciousness of the glorious knot. Victorious over all directions, this precious victory banner is excellent. It is decorated by variegated silk and webs of jewels. It is beautified by a jewel peak that bestows all that is needed or wanted. May there be, here and now, the auspiciousness of the supreme victory banner. Well-made from gold, its hub is perfectly round. It has a thousand spokes and is beautified by an unbroken rim. It transports one from the first stage to utter victory. May there be, here and now, the auspiciousness of the precious wheel.