‘You won’t be needing your head at all for this. From now on you want to do all your thinking in your heart,’ Gen-la Thubten said, introducing today’s retreat. He explained how Venerable Geshe-la has designed the Festivals so skilfully. First we receive the blessing of the empowerment, then the commentary to the practice (and further blessings), and then we take the teachings to heart and gain actual experience through the retreat.

There are five sessions on the first day, (with two more to come tomorrow) so the sessions are brief, only an hour long, and frequent. Each session leaves you a little hungry for more. Geshe-la’s new sadhanas, such as the Buddha Maitreya practice are so elegant and concise, covering all the essential practices with very few words, giving us plenty of time to really absorb into the meditations. It’s such a special opportunity and the blessings of being here at the Festival are so powerful! What a treat!

For the first four sessions the emphasis is on the preliminaries, refuge, bodhichitta, Guru Yoga, and emptiness. The last three will emphasize the practice of self-generation. After the session emphasizing emptiness, Gen-la Thubten gave some special advice for the meditation break. He said that we are so familiar with self-grasping, we’ve been misapprehending reality for countless eons! We need to gain continuous familiarity with emptiness. That’s why we need to maintain the experience of emptiness during the meditation break. We do this by recalling Venerable Geshe-la’s instruction from the book Oral Instructions of Mahamudra: We contemplate as we encounter the various phenomena during the break: Even though it appears, it doesn’t exist … like an illusion. Or we can think: Even though it doesn’t exist, it appears … like an illusion.
By the smiles on people’s faces it’s clear that we feel so fortunate to be able to do this retreat, deeply mixing our mind with these sublime practices … for the benefit of all.