Landing in Manchester Airport in radiant sunshine but all the flags are at half-mast. Another tragic event, another act of violence. For us, another affirmation of the truth of Dharma: I may die today.
Online, I watch a Manchester poet recite a moving poem in the town square to the large gathering there. ‘Choose love’, he says in conclusion.
This weekend we who are traveling to the International Spring Festival at Manjushri KMC are choosing love. People are traveling from all over the world to this special place to receive the empowerment of Buddha Maitreya, the Buddha of loving kindness, from Gen-la Jampa, whose name means Maitreya, means Love.
Choose love. A friend, traveling to the Festival, posts online: ‘I’m looking forward to hearing about a more beautiful world our hearts know is possible today.’ So true. So necessary. In these days of global insecurity and violence are we not fortunate to be able to attend a Festival in which we hear about and directly experience an alternative way of being arising from our practice of Dharma?
On the train going north the international family begins to gather. Sitting with five people, five nationalities are represented. Altogether, as Gen-la Jampa informs us in his introductory talk, we are 1400 people from 31 countries. Welcome home, he says, and then gives us encouragement directly from Venerable Geshe Kelsang to continually maintain a peaceful mind through listening to teachings and contemplating their meaning so that we will be happy all the time and show a good example for everyone, including our family.
The talk is on the benefits of affectionate love. Quoting Geshe-la, Gen-la Jampa says, ‘If everyone trained in affectionate love then all fighting and quarreling would come to an end. I guarantee this.’ In his gentle way, Gen-la Jampa encourages us to check whether we are actually progressing in our practice of love: in a group, are we genuinely happy to be with anyone? When we see someone, do we feel they are important? We conclude with the determination to develop a warm heart and feel close to everyone.
In other words, not just to choose love, but to actually accomplish this beautiful mind through a clear method. And then tomorrow we will receive special blessings to help us do so swiftly. How fortunate.