The heat wave finally broke minutes before the Maitreya empowerment with a massive rainstorm that ushered us all swiftly into the temple. To the backdrop of the sound of heavy rainfall Gen-la Jampa introduced us to Buddha Maitreya, the Buddha of loving kindness, with the famous story of Asanga who spent 12 years in solitary retreat in order to have a direct vision of Buddha Maitreya. Whenever he became discouraged a strange encounter, such as with a man filing a piece of iron with a peacock feather, would encourage Asanga to continue. The compassion Asanga developed for a wounded dog finally purified his mind sufficiently to see Maitreya directly, who explained to Asanga that actually he had been with him all the time as the man, the dog and all the other encouraging appearances had been emanations of Maitreya protecting and guiding him.

During the empowerment we regard the empowering teacher, in this case, Gen-la Jampa as an emanation of Buddha Maitreya and we imagine we are in Maitreya’s pure land. This special view opens us to the extraordinary possibility of our own enlightenment. From this perspective it looks like the whole festival is part of the empowerment and that everyone and everything within it is an emanation leading us to Maitreya’s pure land: Gen Tubchen’s beautiful and clear morning meditations on developing affectionate love, our Sangha friends and our lunchtime conversations, the temple stewards, the cooks, the food servers and washer-uppers, the behind-the-scene managers, the cafe volunteers, the evening puja – are they not all functioning as emanations taking us into the heart of a Buddha Maitreya.

And not just the manifestly beneficial things but the challenging ones too: the lunch queues, the volunteer jobs, the person coughing, even the rainstorm itself – are they not all emanations of Buddha Maitreya encouraging us to practice Dharma? How kind is the whole Festival! If we choose to look with wisdom we can see ourselves surrounded by emanations giving us a clear vision of a magnificent world in which we are all drawing close to Enlightenment.

As we exit the temple with Buddha Maitreya firmly planted in our hearts the rain, gentle now, still falls, like a gentle rain of blessings nourishing the seeds of enlightenment sewn in our hearts.