HELD AT KAMALASHILA TIBETAN BUDDHIST CENTRE 27 December 2023 - 1 January 2024
Day 1 of the Annual Healing and Purification retreat commenced with Khenpo la giving the Vajrasattva transmission and providing brief yet detailed teachings to explain the history of the ancient practice and unbroken lineage. Khenpo la explained the benefit and meaning of the visualisation practice ‘to use the mind to heal the mind’ and reminded us that our minds have the same potential as all the previous Buddhas and great masters: we practise polishing the mind and eliminate the negative states, but the nature of mind is always pure and perfect. On this first afternoon, we all marked the first anniversary of His Eminence Luding Khenchen Rinpoche passing into Mahaparinirvana (according to the western calendar). Khenpo la led the sangha in prayers and light offerings.
Day 2 of this retreat involved Khenpo la giving more detailed instructions about how to do the Vajrasattva practice (the visualisation and the mantra), the benefits (all actions of body, speech and mind can be purified) and the disadvantages/consequences of not doing the practice (accumulation of negativities like a snowball). Khenpo la emphasised that dharma teachings are practical ways for us to understand our minds, that we must be humble and accept the current unfocused and distracted nature of our beginner minds, and to use our emotions to magnify (turbo boost) our practice. We concluded the day by doing a Vajrasattva group practice to purify our negative actions of 2023 in preparation for the New Year.
Day 3 commenced with Khenpo la giving the Sutrayana transmission of the Medicine Buddha practice. Khenpo la explained the ancient lineage (aeons) of the practice from previous Buddhas to Shakyamuni Buddha and that it led to the flourishing and establishment of the Buddhadharma in Tibet because it was one of the first meditation ritual practices established in Tibet by Shantarakshita in the 8th century. One of the repeated instructions from Khenpo la throughout the retreat has been to focus on the essence of the practice (the meaning and raw feeling), to bring our genuine and ordinary (samsaric) minds to our practice because we have to start with our troubled messy minds to heal, purify and transform our minds with our wisdom mind.
Day 4 involved Khenpo la providing more detailed teachings about the wishes and healing properties of the eight Medicine Buddhas (seven Medicine Buddhas and Shakyamuni Buddha). Khenpo la explained that the Medicine Buddha practice was stronger during degenerative times (our current times) because the suffering of sentient beings was much greater. Throughout the teachings, Khenpo la emphasised that the Buddhadharma provides us with the tools to understand our minds and see ourselves and potential; this is more beneficial than approaching Buddhism as a religion or a cultural ritual.
Following the teachings and practice sessions, the sangha enjoyed New Year’s Eve celebrations with each other by sharing much laughter, songs, chants, dance, incredible food and the unique (trademark pending) Ani Nyidon’s Fortune Cookies experience! The Healing & Purification Retreat concluded 1 January 2024 after four days of teachings, group practices and Q&A sessions with Khenpo la. Retreat participants were a diverse group encompassing practitioners with many years’ experience to those coming to their very first Buddhadharma retreat.
Some reflections shared by participants about their experiences
“It was a wonderful oasis of time to stop, reflect and reset. I gained clarity, energy, and insight about what to let go to create a more joyful, loving and compassionate way forward in life.”
“This blind person has been given the glimpses of beauty that lies ahead if I continue to follow this path with its sacred teachings.”
“The retreat has given me the tools for a strong heart in hard times, and the tools to find clarity in unbearable confusion. We are incredibly fortunate to have a teacher such as Khenpo la.”
“As the universes that we occupy dawn in the new year, our awareness of so many multitudes of these bubbles that exist also dawns. Very grateful to be smiling.”
“Like a baby bird safe in the comfort of its nest, taking food from the mother, I feel the same. Safe and held in the space of Kamalashila Tibetan Buddhist Centre at the base of the mother mountain (Gulaga). I’m taking what I am being fed with immense gratitude to all involved and all that led me here. Grateful to conclude 2023 and welcome 2024 in awareness, awake, feeling alive, and connected. Leaving this nest, I will take with me the food I have been fed, the teachings and continue to keep the practice alive, to keep planting and spreading seeds. Thank you from my whole heart.”
“A blessing doing this end of year retreat and so valuable doing this retreat a second time to take my practice deeper. This is an opportunity for me to reset my practice and it was beautiful seeing everyone’s transformation and how much we all received. Thank you in gratitude, Khenpo la.”
“Strange old, new world near the mountain. Old ways meet new questions. New ways search old mysteries. Worn paths can merge with fresh streams.”
“Is it a mirror?”
“I feel transformed from this retreat, as well as deep love that has infiltrated my sad being. The power of Kamalashila gives me so much appreciation and gratitude, feeling a new joy lightening my heart and trust that my journey is OK. Our precious teacher Khenpo la, whom I feel is a reincarnation of a Buddha, for his full presence shines love, sweet genuine kindness, embodied in equanimity. The way he responds and treats every being is so powerful, bringing alive the teachings in such a way that is so useful and accessible, this skill is incredible to witness. The sacred setting held by the mother Gulaga Mountain, along with the respect, creativity, and richness of the sangha and the divine food – grown, picked prepared and served with love, my gratitude is shining! Thank you so very much.”
“The beautiful timing of this Healing & Purification retreat was so special. The calm, gentle and knowledgeable way Khenpo la teaches is truly wonderful. Thanking you for letting go of 2023 and welcoming 2024.”