Kelsang Menla has been an ordained Kadampa Monk for 10 years. He lives in Baltimore, Maryland, USA at Kadampa Meditation Center Maryland.
Summer Festival is the highlight of my year and one of the things that I look forward to the most. In a way it marks the beginning and end of a year for me. It is so wonderful to meet with friends from around the world, delight in each others company, learn from and support one another – and have lots of laughs!
Today was very special for me as it was the empowerment day of Buddha Vajrayogini. She embodies the blissful wisdom of all enlightened beings. Who wouldn’t want to be blissfully wise?!! I felt so fortunate to have the opportunity to make another connection with her through the empowerment ceremony and hear the inspiring words of our kind teacher, Gen-la Kelsang Dekyong. All of this shared with a group of over 3000 Kadampa Buddhists from around the world.
This morning I woke and had breakfast with my friends and community members from Baltimore. As breakfast rolls along people stream in and out of the dining tent. People have quiet conversations or just sit by themselves. It is so kind of the breakfast team to awake in the early hours of the day to start serving festival goers at 6:30am. Everywhere you look there is the kindness of others. The washing up team that I occasionally work with is mostly from Mexico with a splash of other nationalities. You know, washing dishes is pretty much a universal language! The joyful light mind with which people volunteer is infectious and creates such a warm and energetic atmosphere. Who knew that washing dishes could be so much fun!
After breakfast I took a walk on the beach to give myself a little energy and prepare for the empowerment. The big open sky, water, and vast landscape always help me feel like my mind is so open and light, and is a wonderful way to begin the day. Living in the city I rarely get the chance to enjoy the natural beauty and peace of the countryside. All around the Temple and grounds there are beautiful flowers and trees and many animals such as horses, sheep, cows and even visiting dogs who know where to get a good snack! My friend Nadia was greeted with affection by one of the local horses.
Throughout the day I asked people what was most special to them about the Festival, so I thought I’d share a few of their words with you:
“The teachings and way you can bring them into your life.” – Lucia, Mexico City
“Your mind becomes really relaxed and because of this you get glimpses of how things really are.” – Kelsang Samsang, Pocklington, England
“What’s so special is that people are coming here for Dharma even though Geshe-la is not teaching. This is about the flourishing of Dharma not just out there, but inside our hearts. This is not about a personality. The festival is like a huge flower garden. It gives such hope for World Peace.” – Petty, Eshowe, South Africa
“This is my first Festival. I like that there are continuous teachings and meditations. I love the immersion!” – Brooke, San Diego, California
I think these words show how people around the world are taking to heart the way to create inner peace and world peace, as explained by Buddha and our kind teachers. The Festival for me shows how close we really can be to finding the peace that we seek, not only for ourselves but also for others.
In the evening, the Temple was filled with people watching a video presentation on the International Temples Project. This project is dedicated to building Temples around the world for public benefit, so that everyone, everywhere, can meet with these teachings and methods to find peace. It was an extraordinary presentation showcasing the work that is being done around the world, especially in Brazil, Florida, Portugal, Asia, and a new school project in the UK. Several of the people around me had tears in their eyes as they watched the video and saw how peace is pervading our world.
For me, Summer Festival is a truly transformative experience that helps me feel more and more connected to people everywhere, to feel a part of a global village. I hope that everyone will one day have such an opportunity!