One of the themes emphasised by Gen-la Dekyong has been the Dharma mirror. We use the teachings to reflect our own lives back at us. For example, today’s teachings were on renunciation which enables us to ‘make suffering meaningful’ and be positive all the time. We need to ask ourselves the question: Are we doing this? How do we relate to our suffering?

Suffering for a Dharma practitioner, Gen-la said, is like manure for a farmer. ‘We already think about suffering all the time. It’s called moaning!’ Gen-la compared this to Geshe-la who recommends, ‘Never think about your own suffering unless you are training in renunciation.’ Our difficult conditions remind us of the faults of samsara and encourage us to develop the peaceful, positive mind of renunciation. If we live with a peaceful, positive, happy mind we can then die with a peaceful, positive, happy mind. And if we die with such a pure mind we activate the previous good karma in our mind causing us to be reborn, Gen-la said smilingly, as a baby Kadampa! Or else to be reborn in the ’International Teacher Training Program in the Guru’s pure land where we continue our training’!

However there wasn’t much suffering in evidence at the Festival today. The afternoon sun made Manjushri KMC look like a pure land right here and now. In between sessions, one could see people enjoying coffees and teas and deep conversations on Dharma … or just quietly contemplating or reading on their own.

The first teaching Gen-la concluded with an oral instruction from Geshe-la giving us a special and very powerful meditation on developing renunciation (you’ll have to ask your resident teacher for that one.) In the afternoon’s teaching, Gen-la emphasised renunciation is not a gloomy mind. Quite the opposite! It’s a happy mind that transforms our life into a blissful journey and joyful path to liberation. Because we are ‘happy in the knowledge that there is a way to become free from suffering, contemplating suffering actually encourages us to engage in the methods that will produce actual freedom. Like someone leaving a bad job, we think, she said, quoting Geshe-la, ‘Samsara bye bye!’

As this was Gen-la’s concluding teaching, she explained how to achieve liberation. She pointed out that delusions, in particular self-grasping ignorance, are for us who wish to eradicate them ’meaningful objects’. Recognising them in our own mind, in our own experience, is meaningful. ‘If we look with wisdom in the mirror of Dharma’ we can see how our own delusions cause our suffering and through that develop the happy mind of renunciation determined to eradicate them, especially self-grasping ignorance.

After this powerful encouragement, the day culminated with a wonderful Offering to the Spiritual Guide practice with a tsog offering. With the Temple full, and so many voices chanting together, it was easy to feel ourselves surrounded by all living beings and even to envision all beings in a pure land, liberated from suffering. During the tea break, Jim Belither read a beautiful dedication commemorating Geshe-la’s 40 years of kindness. 40 years! And here we are now, voices lifted together in joy. Thank you, Geshe-la, long may your activities continue and may you remain in our hearts forever.