Healing & Purification Retreat 2020 HELD AT KAMALASHILA TIBETAN BUDDHIST CENTRE
On the anniversary of Sakya Pandita’s passing into Parinirvana 769 years ago, the annual Healing & Purification Retreat at our Kamalashila Retreat Centre, Tilba commenced. We began with everyone making a light offering before Khenpo la bestowed the Vajrasattva transmission and commenced teaching on the Vajrasattva practice. We undertook a walking meditation and reflection looking out over the saddle area to Gulaga Mountain. It was a remarkably cool afternoon at only 14 degrees as we lit the wood heater in the morning to keep warm. Everywhere is very green after heavy rainfalls the past few days with more on the way. To think that this time last year it was so hot, windy, and dry, the fires were continuing to break out across Australia. Little did we know what was ahead of us the next few days right down the NSW South Coast and into Victoria. Twelve months on, we are all now dealing with the challenges of COVID-19 as we strictly follow all the COVID guidelines. Thankfully, we have the Triple Gem to take refuge in. Thankfully, we have access to Great Teachers who remind us of the impermanence of this short and most precious life and of our immense good fortune to have encountered the Dharma along with the freedom to practice it. We are reminded of the urgent need to take advantage of this special opportunity to deepen our practice. We are blessed to do so in such a wonderful environment surrounded by nature and many native animals and birds. What better way to finish up a year like no other than with the purification of the Vajrasattva practice!
The beginning of Day 3: Khenpo la completed the teaching on Vajrasattva practice and then gave transmission and commenced teaching on the Medicine Buddha practice. During the day we recited the Vajrasattva and Medicine Buddha mantras with visualisations along with our morning walking meditation – “a good day” commented Khenpo as he headed home after our final session in the Gompa that evening. This day one year ago we had finished up our retreat early due to the approaching bushfires. Last year, the evening sun was pink, the countryside parched, and the distant skies filled with hazy smoke. This year, no sun to be seen with the sky overcast, a light shower, and the countryside flush with green growth. Impermanence.
On the last day of 2020, Khenpo la gave teachings on the aspirations of the first seven of the eight forms of Medicine Buddha. We undertook our regular walking meditation, practised the visualisations and mantra recitations and Khenpo answered our questions. We enjoyed wonderful meals prepared by Alan and Annie at lunchtime, with Penny and friends in the evening. We then finished 2020 with Vajrasattva and Medicine Buddha practices. We reflected that this day last year we evacuated the centre in the early hours of the morning as the fires closed in.
Day 5: the start of the New Year began in very auspicious circumstances with a double rainbow appearing over both Khenpo la's house and the gompa as the morning sun came up along with a light shower of rain. Khenpo la concluded his teachings on Medicine Buddha and we finished the retreat with Vajrasattva and Medicine Buddha practices before our thanks with khatas were offered to Khenpo from a COVID-safe distance. We joined in for a final lunch prepared by Ani la before we set about cleaning up the centre as we headed back to our normal lives blessed with having had such a wonderful finish to 2019 and start to 2020. We rejoice in our immense good fortune to have encountered the precious Buddhadharma, to have had the opportunity to receive teachings in the incredibly special environment of our Kamalashila centre, to have such a wise, compassionate, and skilled teacher as Khenpo la give us those teachings and to enjoy the company of a warm, kind, and generous sangha. We pray for the long life of Khenpo la and all the great Sakya Masters. We pray that they all enjoy excellent health and that they continue to turn the Wheel of Dharma for the benefit of all sentient beings. Thu je che and Happy New Year!
Thanks also to local sangha for all the wonderful meals and special COVID VIP service in the dining room! Reflections by Jack