The Festivals are carefully designed so as to give us all the conditions to be able to gain actual realizations. We receive qualified teachings, have guided meditations on those teachings, and engage in evening pujas so as to accumulate merit and receive powerful blessings. And then we have retreat in which we have the opportunity to immerse ourselves in the experience of the teachings and take them deeply to heart so that we can bring that experience home with us and integrate it into our daily lives.

Today is retreat day and with great delight Gen Devi leads us through the series of meditations explained by Gen-la Dekyong. Following on from yesterday’s meditation on equalizing self with others, this morning we meditate on exchanging self with others, and then great compassion and bodhichitta. In the afternoon we meditate the practice of taking in conjunction with the six perfections, and then giving in conjunction with the six perfections. Gen Devi emphasizes how this way of practicing taking and giving is the nature of shepherd-like bodhichitta, is very profound and depends on an understanding of emptiness. Then in the final session we contemplate ultimate bodhichitta.

Of course, the retreat is brief, but it allows us to get a special taste for these meditations, to experience how they interconnect, and to get a sense of the profundity and grandeur of this unbelievable practice of training the mind given to Venerable Geshe Kelsang. And how wonderful to be able to do retreat here at Tharpaland, the NKT’s first International Retreat Center, blessed by Venerable Geshe-la’s own three year retreat, and to be able to experience the wonderful retreat conditions here firsthand; to enjoy the peace of the grounds and the stillness and serenity of the surrounding woodlands in which one can walk for miles.

It’s great to see how many people have remained for the retreat, but of course the signs of the Festival coming to an end are everywhere. Like a powerful dream the Festival becomes your whole world and then suddenly it’s over and time to say farewell … till the next time. But with the joyful knowledge that this was truly a time well-spent. We have all created powerful causes of enlightenment, and inner causes and methods for authentic happiness to bring home with us and offer to the world. Thank you Geshe-la!