“This is your life”, Gen-la Dekyong says near the beginning of her talk on Friday night, the first teaching of the International Spring Festival 2016. “Whether our life is meaningful or meaningless is up to us. It’s our choice, our responsibility.” The blue sky is clearly visible through the windows in the upper tier of the magnificent Kadampa Temple. The birds are singing in the distance. The evening light (the sun sets late here!) fills the temple.

Gen-la begins her teaching by reminding us that Venerable Geshe-la had requested us back in 2009 to ‘keep the intention” to come to the International Festivals year after year, generation after generation. “By being here,” Gen-la says, “we are keeping that intention and helping Kadam Dharma to flourish throughout the world.”

A lovely light energy fills the Temple. At this Festival, Gen-la explains, we will receive the blessings of the Wisdom Buddha Je Tsongkhapa Dorje Shugden and learn how to rely upon him. We need this because “there’s a momentum in our mind that can cause us to waste this life because we have done this countless times before.” The only way to fulfil our common wish for pure happiness and permanent freedom is to follow “correct internal paths which are only explained in Dharma.” How can external paths accomplish that, she asks? Seeking happiness in external things will never pacify our “restless, discontented mind.” Even if we take a spaceship to the other side of the universe we will never succeed in ‘getting away from it all” because we take the causes of suffering with us. With “more wisdom we will have less ignorance, and with less ignorance we will have less suffering.” Therefore we need use our life to go for refuge in the Wisdom Buddha.

It’s still light as we leave the temple. The spires of Manjushri KMC look stunning against the clear evening sky. Hugs and greetings abound. The teachings are eagerly discussed. The queue for the veggie burgers is already forming. Yes, we are back at the Festival, enjoying a spiritual holiday at our spiritual home. We’ve made a good choice!