HELD AT KAMALASHILA TIBETAN BUDDHIST CENTRE easter weekend, april 2021
Reflections over the few days…
Khenpo la began by leading the retreatants with teachings on the Shamatha/Peaceful-Abiding practice. He taught on the four foundational points for establishing a good Shamatha practice, of the need: to reduce desire; to be grateful; to lessen activities; and to live an ethical life. Khenpo la also stressed how important it was to find a suitable location for one’s practice and that being away from the busyness of everyday life and close to nature was the ideal setting. In the morning session, Khenpo la led a walking meditation session and we spent time in contemplation looking out on the saddle to the magnificent Gulaga Mountain. In the afternoon session Khenpo la gave more teachings and we practiced the Shamatha meditation focussing on the blue flower. There was an extensive Q&A session including our Zoom retreatants from around Australia. In the evening, we practiced Shamatha before retiring for the evening in noble silence.
Continuing with a glorious April day, Khenpo la gave further teachings on how our secondary mind has such a big effect in our lives and thus is so important to train and move from a negative state of mind to a positive state of mind which creates the sense of peace and calm. Due to our deep habituation, it is not easy to transform this secondary mind, but it is possible. In addition to our own effort, we need the right teacher who is deserving of respect and trust. This respect renders our mind more fertile to grow and develop wisdom. We also need to bring a deep commitment so that we enjoy the practice with compassion and loving kindness assisting our progress. Finally, because our minds are fragile and we are inexperienced, it is important that we have spiritual friends to help and support us and keep the flame alive. Khenpo la then expounded on how to use force, relax and rest in the nature state of mind, and went on to cover the five experiences of meditation. He spoke on how important the motivation we bring to our Shamatha practice is ranging from the mundane, to the renunciation, then to the bodhicitta motivation. We then undertook our daily walking meditation and sat to meditate once again facing Gulaga Mountain. In the afternoon, Khenpo la taught-on mindfulness and the roles of remembering what it is good and bad, conscientiousness, and vigilance. He spoke on the two ways to develop the rejoicing mind and how we can subdue our desire, anger, and ignorance mind through training in discipline, meditation, and wisdom. He emphasised how the bodhisattva who seeks to help everyone but in this huge task does not feel a heaviness of mind due to their great joy. Khenpo la also urged us to “remember the teacher” not for their being friendly, smiling, or humorous but for the actual teaching they have given us.
On the final day of retreat, it truly was a special time with Khenpo la and his precious teachings passed down the centuries through many great Masters. We also experienced a warm and growing sangha who were held together with a special bond with many people being on their first retreat at the Centre.
The teachings today focused on the practice of mindfulness with Khenpo la speaking to the definition of mindfulness, the disadvantages of not practising mindfulness, the methods and causes to develop mindfulness and the benefits of mindfulness. With the analogy of our mind being like a wild elephant that needs to be tethered to a pole, mindfulness was defined as tying your mind to the virtuous. It is through wisdom that we can tame this wild elephant mind and transform it into something that is gentle, powerful and of enormous benefit. Khenpo la spoke on how our world is driven by a toxic mind that fails to realise our habit of unhealthy thoughts that run from day to day. We need to be honest with ourselves about our lack of mindfulness while maintaining a hope - when we are despairing ourselves it is a good time to start because there are so many other people around the world in the same state. We need to develop compassion for others who are suffering like us. We understand their pain and wish them to be free of this state. We draw comfort from knowing that everything is changeable and that there are methods to transform this mind. Khenpo la then spoke on the six different breathing techniques that help us develop mindfulness. He gave the example of how we need to protect our mind with mindfulness in the way that someone with a boil on their arm exercises particular care in crowded places. It is the same with COVID and wearing a mask and sanitising our hands – we need to apply the same to our mind. Khenpo la urged us, however, not to isolate once we have developed our mindfulness but to go out into the world and practise mindfulness.
In terms of the cause of cultivating mindfulness, Khenpo la stressed that the critical importance of a wise and kind teacher who can give us the courage to develop our mindfulness as well as the methods to do so. He also emphasised the value to have mindful people around you in the beginning, before venturing out to places and situations lacking in mindfulness. He encouraged people to join together as a sangha on a regular basis, wherever possible in person.
He then finished up on the very practical benefits of mindfulness and how it can protect us from getting hurt or disturbed. We then took our final walking meditation to Mount Gulaga and people offered their very honest and inspiring journeys over the course of the retreat along with their deep heartfelt appreciation for Khenpo la and his teachings. Retreat concluded with khata offerings and thanks to the many people who contributed to creating such a warm, supportive, and comfortable retreat environment. A tremendous thank you for we all enjoyed continuous delicious food prepared by Ani la, Penny and others, thank you for their wonderful meals supported by a very hard-working kitchen sangha along with everyone else, providing kind support for this retreat. Jack H.
May all being have happiness and the cause of happiness. May all beings be free from suffering and the causes of suffering. May all beings never be separated from the joy which is sorrowless. And may all beings live in equanimity free from attachment and aversion to those near and far.
It is tricky to try and put the Kamalashila dharma journey into a paragraph, but here it goes. This being my first time at Kamalashila Tibetan Buddhist Centre at the foothills of Mount Gulaga Tilba, I was a bit nervous yet also excited as to what the new experience ahead might be, embarking on the Shamatha & Mindfulness Easter Long Weekend retreat. My mind was soon put at ease by the tranquil atmosphere, super friendly caretakers and by Khenpo la, the Tibetan master. As the course went on and I slowly picked up on the swing of things, it became noticeably clear to me that this Centre had a very pleasant sangha and a family atmosphere. The program felt very natural and relaxed, with lots of laughing. All the while the chief physician, Dr Khenpo la, was administering his medicine, a direct lineage of the Buddha’s teachings which were absorbed straight into my heart! The teachings were truly clear and simple but comprehensive at the same time. For me, this experience showed me how kind, loving and compassionate the Buddha’s teachings are, which can only be passed on by a teacher not by a book. My wish is that all beings can have this experience. A big thanks to all the members and staff/helpers of the Centre and to the master Khenpo la. May all beings be happy. Jason H.
I attended the eight-day Shamatha retreat with Khenpo la last October via Zoom. I learned a lot about meditation, particularly compassion and exchanging meditation, but was not successful with the single-pointed meditation, which was my main focus. Later, I listened to some of Khenpo la’s recorded teachings from the retreat and thought to myself ‘Did I hear this? I don't remember!’ So, I followed his instructions and thought I had made one step forward in just focusing on the object – perhaps for one minute, but it did not last. That was why I decided to attend this Easter Shamatha & Mindfulness retreat to push myself a little bit more. In this retreat, I realised that my approach to meditation was wrong: instead of looking into my mind, I was trying to align my mind with some fragmented ideas about meditation – ideas I had gathered from books or teachings. I have heard Khenpo la say “It’s all about your mind” countless times, but at last the penny suddenly dropped for me. That has made this retreat memorable for me. Chiaki A.