HELD AT KAMALASHILA TIBETAN BUDDHIST CENTRE 11-13 November 2022
The universal comment of participants in this final Autumn Buddhist Philosophy Course Retreat for the year seems to be ‘Wow, we are so lucky to be doing this course!’
The Autumn Buddhist Philosophy Course is quite unique in so far as it offers a 3-year comprehensive training in the three Buddhist Paths of Hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana.
This 2nd retreat of our first year has been the culmination of our study of the Hinayana or the Foundation Vehicle, comprising the first set of teachings that the Buddha gave.
Khenpo la likened the Three Paths to a great tree: the Hinayana is the roots without whose discipline and ethical conduct, our progress would be unstable. The Mahayana is like the trunk of the tree and the Vajrayana, its fruit.
Today was particularly special as it was the Anniversary of Atisha Dipamkara, who caused the Dharma to flourish and spread in Tibet during the 11th century. On this very auspicious day, several students of the course chose to take Refuge with Khenpo la, which was both beautiful and inspiring.
“Now you have Buddhist citizenship!”, chuckled Khenpo la.
May all of us citizens always work in harmony with each other to do as we have promised – to follow honestly in the footsteps of the Buddha, to work with our mind, to free ourselves and others from suffering.
We have also been blessed by very clear teachings from a Theravadan teacher, Venerable Mahinda whose words are so brilliantly precise. In the retreat, Ayya Jitindriya offered further teachings from the Theravadan perspective.
We examined intellectually ‘The Twelve Links of Dependent Origination’, being a wonderfully inspiring opportunity to connect what we had learned with experiential practice. Khenpo la began with advice on how to motivate ourselves to practise Shamatha and Vipassana, followed by a walking meditation guided by the mentors.
On one of the loveliest of warm days, many of us took Khenpo la’s advice to start our outdoor meditation with a large object of meditation, such as our local mountain, Mt Gulaga, then progress to a single tree, then to a leaf or a blade of grass in order to gradually develop our mind’s capacity to stay with a single object.
Ayya Jitindriya also taught on ‘The Four Foundations of Mindfulness’ and guided us through meditations on the breath, body and the four elements. As one student expressed, “Well, that was kind of mind-blowing!”
Our heartfelt thanks to our Theravadan teachers of the Autumn Buddhist Philosophy Course, whose clear minds and clear teachings have deeply inspired us. As Khenpo la said, “It is good to hear the teachings of the Buddha again and again from different angles. This deepens your understanding of the Dharma.”
Khenpo la expressed on our first day of the Autumn Buddhist Philosophy Course Retreat that we are all like family, no one of us is higher or lower than the other, we are all learning together and helping each other. His words ring true as we took the opportunity today to look back on our year in the ABPC and reflect with each other on what we have gained from the course:
“Our greatest defilements are our greatest tools” ~ Peter A.
“Our group appreciated and connected with each other around the ‘why’ of practice and the importance of motivation and preparation.” ~ Bel, Nathan, and Sally
“We CAN change!” ~ Andy
“We have appreciated the encouragement to investigate ourselves. The requirement to summarise the video teachings really helped us pay attention and it was useful to have to carve out a space in our everyday lives to really attend to them. Watching the teachings, then summarising, presenting our own and listening to the other summaries in the mentor group, we found to be a gentle approach, as each time we revisited the material, we understood a little more…” ~ Tara
“I appreciated learning about the foundations of Buddhism and meeting the teachers who were representatives of that system. I have reflected a lot on the Buddha’s words of his awakening: ‘Suffering should be fully perceived, and it has been fully perceived. The cause of suffering should be eradicated, and it has been eradicated. The cessation of suffering should be realised, and it has been realised. The path [to free oneself from suffering] should be developed, and it has been developed.’” ~ Chiaki
“When the mind can concentrate and is stabilised through Shamatha, the wisdom part naturally arises. (Vipassana)” ~ Doug
“The cause of suffering is self-grasping. The cause of happiness is the practice of virtue.” ~ Zara
Now at the end of retreat, we must offer our heartfelt gratitude to Khenpo la and Dr Carole Kayrooz, who developed the Autumn Buddhist Philosophy Course. Without their vision, experience, and hard work, we would not have been able to access these precious teachings so deeplt. Our palms are pressed together at our hearts too for our wonderful mentors whose warmth, diligence and rigour supported us to progress our understandings of the Dharma.
Khenpo la’s final words for us today were, “Always be a new Dharma practitioner”.
Indeed, we look forward already to being a new Dharma practitioner again next year!