Watching the day awaken over Uluru and Kata Tjuta. Cold fingers and big smiles. Peace and friendliness. Khenpo la’s teachings gave guidance on recognising, stabilising, and extending our experience of peace.
He gave 4 preconditions for experiencing peace:
Reduce desire, anger, and ignorance whose influence on our mind steals our peace.
Be grateful. This brings you into the present moment and cultivates positive mind.
Reduce unnecessary activities, which may tire and distract you. Make sure you have energy for meditation.
Live ethically, aiming to cause no harm and help when you can.
The 5th point is the cause of calm, which is a virtuous mind, an honest mind. Freer of desire, anger and ignorance, our mind is less disturbed, less intoxicated, and so can see things more clearly.
Thank you to everyone who joined us for sunset meditation tonight!
It was like waiting patiently, in the darkness, for an audience with a Buddha. This is how Buddha’s birthday began for us on the 3rd day of pilgrimage.
Led by Khenpo la, we chanted OM AH HUM BENZAR GURU PEMA SIDDHI HUNG into the chill morning air. Towering above us, the great heart of Uluru began to glow as if illuminated from within. And, as taught by Khenpo la yesterday, gratitude supported us to remain in the present moment. The cold air on our skin. The rustle of a puffer jacket. Budgies calling to each other. The warmth of tears rolling down cheeks.
We circumambulated the rock and were struck by the many different faces of Uluru: its majestic folds, its sheer cathedral-like cliffs, its secret waterholes, its textures, its colours. It struck some of us that you could never truly describe Uluru. Like the story of the blind men and the elephant (the one holding the tail said an elephant was like a rope; the one at the leg said it was like the trunk of a tree, etc), each different person would describe the rock differently – and each would be partially correct. But, as with any phenomenon, the true nature of Uluru is beyond expression.
On this anniversary of His birth, Khenpo la’s teaching today reminded us of the qualities of the Buddha. Though they are measureless, these qualities can be summarised into two: infinite skilfulness and infinite compassion. The Buddha never taught what he knew. He taught according to what sentient beings needed. Such was His skilfulness. Why infinite? Because the number of sentient beings is infinite and so then must the range of skilful methods be infinite to meet their unique needs.
The Buddha also expressed infinite compassion for all sentient beings: his mind being free from self-grasping, there is no longer any discrimination and so the Buddha cares for each being with equal tenderness.
Khenpo la reminded us that we all have the seed of a Buddha within us; that we can look beyond the dark clouds of our everyday thoughts to glimpse the vast blue sky of our Buddha mind.
“I should be asleep. It’s 12.30 am and I’m in my tent having just finished writing in my diary of one of the best days of my life. I’ve been up since 4.45am and will be up at 5am again tomorrow.
“I’ve been out to the rock (Uluru) a few times now, although this morning we sat at the base of it in the still dark and watched the light slowly come up as we meditated together. It was incredible! I almost had an out of body experience. I saw stories all over it like I was listening to the Dream time. I was one with all those that have sat here for tens of thousands of years in awe of this place. The rock does change colour, like they say, but what I wasn’t expecting is that it seems to be enjoying the light, not just reflecting it.
“That was the highlight of the day, but it was a remarkably close thing because after that we spent 5 hours walking around the base of the rock – it’s 10 km and it’s amazing. I loved every step of it.
“Today enters my top 10 all-time list. These photos and these words do not come close to doing the day justice.”
This day was both Guru Rinpoche Day and an opportunity to walk into the warm embrace of Kata Tjuta. Towering high above us, the massive forms gave us both a sense of vast time and space, but also intimacy and warmth.
I’m not sure if we were simply delirious from lack of sleep or giddy from the uplifting power of this place, but we were all in high spirits as we picnicked before Kata Tjuta at sunset: playing desert soccer – taking creative photos – laughing so much!
Khenpo la’s teaching today was based on the ‘The 37 Practices of the Bodhisattva’: mind which guides us to reframe situations so that we respond in a useful way rather than in a way which causes harm to ourselves and others.
When we suffer (through circumstances or at the hands of others) this is the exhaustion of one negative cause we created in our past. Khenpo la taught today that one cause has one result. Once it is exhausted, we are free of that karma.
At that point it is up to us: if someone takes advantage of us or gossips about us, how do we respond? Without mind training, we almost always respond negatively – getting angry, ‘getting back at’ that person... and in this way, we begin a new cause for our own future suffering. If we implement the mind training, however, we may be able to, at the very least, cause no further negative karma for ourselves or our assailant.
At best, Khenpo la explained, we can realise that they have given us a precious opportunity to deepen our practice of loving kindness, compassion, and wisdom. No-one is completely devoid of positive qualities. Also, all beings in previous lives have been our mother or child. So, we generate love for our assailant. No one seeks to harm others who is not already suffering themselves. So, we have compassion for them.
We are honest with ourselves about our own faults and our capacity to help (Is it better to act or to sit back from the situation and simply offer the person love and care quietly in our hearts?) In this way, we practise wisdom.
We are finding that we have become attached to this wonderful, sacred land. As we pack up our things and close our cases, I think we are not brushing off ALL the red sand. We have made a heart connection to this place and deepened our connection to Khenpo la and the Dharma. And as an aside: it turns out that by camel is a great way to see a Central Australian sunset!
What an amazing experience...
May all who attended be blessed to return with Khenpo la to this sacred place and may all those who have not been, have the opportunity to do so. Most importantly, may all of us keep in our hearts the teachings we have received here and practise them in our everyday life to benefit beings.