International Modern Buddhism festivals and celebrations are held all year round. Visit KadampaFestivals.org for more information.
For months, energy has been mounting to welcome people to the 2012 NKT-IKBU Fall Festival.
Volunteers have come from around Spain and around the world to create a sublime experience for the Festival and to prepare Kadampa Meditation Centre Spain and the Festival venue. Cooking, cleaning, building, organizing, and countless other activites have gone into making the event. In this way, the experience and the benefits of the Festival began long before people began queuing for registration: the volunteers experience first-hand what it means to work together for world peace.
KMC Spain hosted numerous working visitors from England, Spain, and elsewhere in the weeks leading up to the Festival. The rooms at the KMC were thoroughly freshened up for the many guests who would be staying there during the event, and the grounds were prepared for campers who would stay among the many fruit trees. In the final days before the Festival, scores of Kadampa volunteers began arriving from around the globe, bringing all the necessary skills and assistance to transform the local Polideportivo (sports complex) into the Festival meditation hall, shops and cafes.×
Many Kadampas arrived in the beautiful town of Alhaurin el Grande today, welcomed by familiar faces and wonderfully warm weather for the start of the 2012 Fall Festival.
With views of the Sierra de Mijas mountains on one side, and panoramic views over the surrounding valley on the other side, the Festival site at a local sports complex is a beautiful environment for our Kadampa holiday.
In the evening, Gen-la Kunsang started the introductory talk by reminding us of our amazing opportunity to receive immense benefit and inspiration from International Festivals and then be able to benefit those around us.
Gen-la relayed a message from Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, "send my love to everyone", and on his advice taught from the preface of Modern Buddhism and encouraged everyone to memorise these 7 short paragraphs. The instructions in the preface are the basic foundation for the stages of the path to enlightenment, and are personal advice that we should encourage ourself to practice.×
It’s a gorgeous morning in the traditional Andalusian town of Alhaurin el Grande, with warm weather and a spectacular vista of white and terracotta villas covered in hot pink bougainvillea. In this setting we began the amazing day with two meditations guided by Gen-la Khyenrab.
In the meditations, Gen-la Khyenrab emphasized the main point from last night’s teaching, the need to learn to control our mind if we wish to be happy. We bring our mind under control by mixing it with Dharma. The object of the meditation was the wish to learn to control our mind; this was the perfect foundation for receiving the empowerment.
Before the Empowerment there was a long afternoon break. The lawns were filled with people relaxing in the shade with friends, and sharing the amazing Spanish cakes and coffee. Other people tucked themselves away in quiet corners of the grounds to continue meditating on the teachings.
Finally, Gen-la Kunsang granted the empowerment of Buddha Vajrapani to the inspired and peaceful assembly. Gen-la explained that the function of Buddha Vajrapani is to bestow the power to help us recognize, reduce and destroy our delusions. This power is necessary if we are to fulfill our oldest wish, to be happy and free from suffering. At the conclusion of the blessing ceremony, Gen-la encouraged us to remember Buddha Varjrapani at our heart so we can be peaceful and immediately pacify delusions. With faith in Vajrapani we can overcome delusions and experience pure inner peace. How wonderful!×
The Festival is now in full-swing, with people from around the world enjoying each others' company, milling around the friendly local village, and sampling the delicious Spanish food. Late at night, some of the Kadampas can be found sharing tapas in the restaurants on the main street.
In this morning’s teaching, Gen-la Kunsang encouraged us to think about our spiritual path and in particular to make a plan for our future. Gen-la explained that our actions themselves are inner paths; every action we do takes our lives in a different direction. We naturally want to experience happiness all the time, but to reach this state we need to engage in the correct actions. Actions that lead to the lasting happiness of liberation are what we call spiritual paths.
The afternoon’s teaching focused on Sangha, supreme spiritual friends. To progress on the spiritual path, we definitely need the assistance of others. For example, our ability to attend a Festival or study at our local Dharma Centre depends on Sangha's help. She reminded us of the good fortune of having such a community around the world: people with the same kindness, intention and Spiritual Guide. Wherever we go we can feel at home.
Although taught in English, almost half the participants received translation into Spanish and other languages. The final prayer in each session is also sung in Spanish to help everyone further appreciate the international community.×
The Festival venue is a sports complex, and the pool and outdoor ball courts remain open to the public. As well, many of the Festival attendees are spending time in the shops and restaurants around the venue. There is a decided air of curiousity about the Festival on the part of the local people. In particular, the saffron-robed ordained people get lots of curious stares. As conversations develop it is clear that the rural pueblo of Alhaurin has never seen anything like this event. It is common here to say "Hola" to strangers on the street; but there is something in the smiles and warmth of the visiting Kadampas that is making a deep impression on the town.
The appearance of Buddha Vajrapani is strikingly fierce. It would be easy to not understand the purpose of this. In the morning’s teaching Gen-la Kunsang explained that at the time of Buddha, Vajrapani was one of his disciples. Renowned for his spiritual power, he became the lineage holder of Buddha’s Tantric teachings. Gen-la explained the wisdom underlying Tantra, the understanding of how our mind creates our identity and the world that we experience. With this knowledge we can use belief or imagination to completely re-create ourself and our world in a beneficial way. Vajrapani's ferocious appearance shows that he is ruthless in opposing our ignorance, leaving our minds free to enjoy reality without obstruction.
In the afternoon teaching, Gen-la introduced the practice of the five forces, the essence of all Dharmas. In particular she emphasized the force of motivation and familiarity. Motivation refers to the power and importance of developing and maintaining a pure motivation for everything we do, free from selfish intention. Even ordinary activities like talking, resting, or eating can be done with a good motivation, and can thus make our lives meaningful. The force of familiarity refers to the power of repeating, enjoying, and becoming accustomed to helpful views, intentions, and actions. As our mind becomes more familiar with cherishing others, for example, our life becomes an easy path to happiness.×
The first part of the Festival concluded with advice from Gen-la Kunsang on the five forces and encouragement to practise sincerely.
The five forces explain in brief how to accomplish success in our spiritual activities. In explaining the third force, faith in Buddha and his teachings, Gen-la explained how Buddha's job is to touch our hearts, making us peaceful and encouraging us to practice virtue. Knowing that virtuous actions lead to happiness helps us to experience joy in our practice right now.
The fourth force refers to overcoming the inner obstruction of wrong views. We all have views that interfere with our spiritual life and make it difficult to progress. One of Vajrapani's special functions it to help us uproot these.
The final force is the force of making sincere prayers. Prayer helps us to strengthen and stabilize our good intentions. Prayer creates the inner, mental causes to experience good results on behalf of ourself and others. Gen-la concluded by guiding dedication prayers so that our Festival would become the cause of a pure and peaceful world. She reminded us of Geshe Kelsang's request that we memorise the preface to Modern Buddhism, taking those brief words as personal advice and encouraging others to do the same.
The first part of the Festival over, a long afternoon break gave the opportunity for hundreds of people to board coaches to see KMC Spain. Gen Tharpa, the Resident Teacher of the Centre, guided tours beginning in the beautiful meditation room and continuing around the orchards, accomodation, and pool. Gen Tharpa described how the Centre had begun as a hotel, the first of the Hotel Kadampas, and only recently turned its full emphasis towards offering meditation classes and retreats in the local area.
In the evening, the second part of the Festival, the retreat, began. Guided by Gen Chokga, the NKT-IKBU National Spiritual Director for Spain, the retreat gave the chance to deepen experience of the Festival teachings. A longer post-Festival retreat is scheduled at KMC Spain and at other Centres around the world.×
The final full day of the Fall Festival was spent in retreat led by Gen Chokga. Her commentary and guided meditations in conjunction with prayers to Buddha Vajrapani gave a chance to enrich our experience of this profound practice. She spoke little during the meditations, just enough to remind us of the teachings and to let us feel their meaning more deeply. Many people find meditation challenging, since distractions are such a pervasive part of our culture, but guided retreat in such a blessed assembly can make powerful meditations very easy.×
Fall Festival 2012 concluded with a video showing of the play, ‘The Wheel of Life’, the story of King Bimbisara, a friend and contemporary of Buddha Shakyamuni.
Following the video, Gen-la Dekyong shared a brief teaching on renunciation that Geshe-la had given after the play was originally performed in Paris at the 2008 NKT International Festival.
"The final result of watching this play is that we will develop and maintain the strong determination to liberate ourself and others permanently from the sufferings of this life and countless future lives - this is its purpose. It is a wonderful play of holy Dharma."
- Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, 2008
Gen-la encouraged us to seek security in the mind of renunciation and travel home and beyond with a happy and peaceful mind.×
Every year, the New Kadampa Tradition organizes 3 International Festivals: the Spring and Summer Festivals at Manjushri Kadampa Meditation Centre in the UK, and the Fall Festival elsewhere in the world. Next year, in 2013, Gen-la Kunsang will grant the empowerment of 1000-Armed Avalokiteshvara at the Spring Festival from May 24-29. At the Summer Festival, July 26 - August 10, Gen-la Dekyong will give teachings on Lamrim and Gen-la Kunsang will grant the Highest Yoga Tantric empowerments of Heruka and Vajrayogini.
The events culminate October 25-31. Out of his great kindness, Geshe Kelsang himself will be teaching in Sintra, Portugal. During this Festival Geshe Kelsang will give teachings on his newest book, The New Heart of Wisdom and open the new Kadampa Temple in Portugal. An opportunity of a lifetime, not to be missed.
Each Festival is open to everyone and provides a tremendous opportunity to build our inner peace and good qualities, connect with spiritual friends, and enjoy a meaningful holiday. Find out more about the many International, National, and Regional Dharma Festivals and Celebrations offered each year at KadampaFestivals.org.×