Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Re-entering Bodhgaya

Sadly and joyfully, the Chittamani Tara retreat ended today at lunch. It is incredible how quickly it went, seven full days, it seems like two.

For those of you who have been reading along over the past week, I think you know that for me this was at times as much of a confrontation as it was a retreat, perhaps it’s best labeled a retreat into confrontation. That said, it was a great experience, grueling and rewarding; Khensur Rinpoche is simply wonderful, he is such a kind and wise teacher, traditionally Tibetan, and oh my gosh, those eyes . . . those of us who participated were aware from the beginning that we were sharing in a most precious aspect of Precious Human Rebirth, and we never lost that awareness.

So I come out of the retreat with a newly planted mind-resident, Tara, who is going to be extraordinary to have along for the ride (I suspect she's going to be driving at times). I like her, and I think she likes me. She'll have to be properly fed and nourished, and I think I understand how, what and when to feed her. I look forward to nurturing her, and introducing her to all the wonderful folks back in Florida.


I've been in retreats before, and it is always a little jarring to emerge and re-enter the world. This was certainly true today as I went into town to run some errands. This place is crazy, bursting with energy!!

As you know, His Holiness the Dalai Lama is arriving next week for five days of teachings beginning on Jan. 5. There is a huge tent-like structure that has been built for the teachings, it is in an enormous field known as the Kalachakra Fields, named that after His Holiness gave the Kalachakra initiation there years ago.

This is not New York or Atlanta or Denver, where His Holiness' presence would be noted by many but be just another event in town. This is Bodhgaya, the place of the Buddha's enlightenment, the most significant Buddhist site on the planet, and it is turning into what is clearly going to be "Dalai Lama-ville." I can't imagine the extraordinary love and respect and admiration that are going to be flowing through the collective mindstream of this town. Talk about psychedelic!!

One needs a pass to attend the teachings, the passes are free, you just need to have a passport and two passport-sized photos. There was a huge line for monks (there are already thousands of monks in town for the Karmapa’s teachings, which end tomorrow) but the line for foreigners was short. After about 20 minutes I had my pass.

From there it was to my favorite eating place in town, a tent restaurant named Mohammed’s, for a plate of potato/cheese momos and a cold Coke. Ran into a Swedish friend there, it was nice catching up.

Then a quick visit to the ATM to get some rupees followed by a cup of freshly squeezed pomegranate juice at a roadside stand – the seeds squeezed while you watch, it's completely delicious and costs 20 rupees, about 40 cents. This is living!

The walk back to where I am staying is about 30 minutes, about a mile either along the main road or a little longer through the neighborhood streets and fields. That was my route, it was my first time along that way since I was here two years ago and it hasn’t changed . . . chickens, buffalo, ducks, cows, pigs, naked kids running all over, people outside, sweeping, chopping vegetables, etc. Amidst all the dharma-energy, on the back roads Bodhgaya is still just a Bihari Indian village, simple and beautiful.

I can’t begin to describe how happy I am to be back here, in this most holy of places. There is such energy, the place is filing up, there are lamas and monks and nuns in their beautifully colored robes; vendors everywhere, the road is jammed with bikes and rickshaws and tuk-tuks and busses, all with monks hanging off, shouting to friends, being joyous. Chai stands, chipatis being cooked over open fire, saffron and gold robes, Tibetans, Asians, Westerners, horns honking, colors, smells, dust, complete joyous chaos. It is impossible to keep your heart from singing (why would you want to?)

Tonight is just kinda hangin’ out, doing some writing until 9:30pm (about 30 minutes from now) when I’m going to meet some fellow retreatants in the gompa to do the Tara Sadhana together.

Tomorrow will be a little bit of a sleep-in (meditation at 6:45 rather than prostrations at 6:00) and then into town for some reflective time at the Mahabodhi Stupa, and who knows what else. There is a full moon tomorrow, New Year’s eve, and we’ll be doing a Medicine Buddha puja followed by some prayers and chants to the Dharma Protectors.

I say with all honesty and humility, right here, right now, to me this is the best place on the planet to be. And as wonderful as the “outer” is, it pales by comparison to what is happening in the “inner.” My mind is soaring, I am so unbelievably fortunate to be experiencing this perfectly lovely existence, lotus flowers in my brain, woken up and alive and excited; if I can bring back just a piece of this joy to share with all back home . . .


As one decade turns to the next, a very noteworthy passage of time, the words of the great Kagyu lama Kalu Rinpoche: “In this world, every second, someone dies and someone is born. This world is constantly changing. In this world, human beings experience many kinds of phenomena, however they all have to undergo birth, old age, illness and death. Everything is impermanent. Always keep this in mind. It is essential.”

May everyone reading this have the most wonderful and auspicious of New Years, and please remember to include the cultivation of bodhicitta in your New Year resolutions, especially the ones you’ll keep!

Ok, stopping the finger now. Thanks for reading.