Saundra Young is Resident Teacher at Dharmachakra Buddhist Center, Palm Springs, California, USA. Prior to the Festival, Saundra enjoyed her first International Teacher Training Programme (ITTP) at Manjushri Kadampa Meditation Centre.
Dharmachakra Kadampa Buddhist Center is very new, having been granted independence in March this year. Ten delighted students and I—their delighted Resident Teacher—are enjoying Summer Festival together, eight of us for the very first time.
Palm Springs, California, is about 100 miles east of Los Angeles. The area is a desert valley. It is quite beautiful, quite dry, and currently, quite hot. It is the opposite of Manjushri Centre, which is intensely green, temperate (especially today), with flowers everywhere. The Priory looks magical to us and the Temple is nearly breathtaking. We are surrounded by over 2,000 spiritual friends on spiritual holiday.
Today is Day 3. After a morning meditation encouraging our minds to develop renunciation and an inspiring teaching by Gen-la Kunsang continuing with renunciation and methods for developing bodhichitta, the desert Sangha set out to explore the literal grounds and paths of Manjushri.
For desert dwellers, Manjushri Centre is like the Festival itself: what Gen-la Kunsang called “a special banquet of delights.” From the profusions of flowers, the lush lawns and the forests, to the Temple itself, we found refreshment for our minds as well as for our eyes. The afternoon filled us with wonder, offering us the opportunity to practice today’s teaching: enjoying fully every moment of our day but being careful not to become attached. And sure enough, we enjoyed it even more than if we had grasped at the experience. How wonderful to practice teachings while enjoying our spiritual home! This is a truly special aspect of a Kadampa Festival.
In yesterday’s teaching, Gen-la Kunsang pointed out that everything we experience at the Festival—books, teachings, the Temple, the Priory, the grounds, the Festival itself—has arisen from the heart of Geshe Kelsang. We have more gratitude for our opportunity to experience this amazing place than we can express. We are awestruck at our good fortune and so thankful to Geshe-la for his kindness.
We look forward to making more spiritual friends for the rest of the week and into next week, and for more fun together as a Sangha. But we are also really looking forward to taking this very special Festival experience back to everyone in our desert home. I’m glad there are photos, because I don’t think anyone back home would believe us without them.