What a change … the sun is well and truly out, the sky is crystal blue, and the Festival goers are outside, taking in the beauty of the Tharpaland grounds, enjoying the stillness and light of the surrounding woods and just generally drying out after the rain.
The morning begins with the heart opening practice of Avalokiteshvara combined with a meditation on appreciating Avalokiteshvara’s qualties led by Gen Ananda. Then Gen-la Dekyong takes us deep into the rich contemplation of equalizing self with others from Universal Compassion. One of the wonderful things about Gen-la Dekyong’s teachings is her deep familiarity with Venerable Geshe-la’s oral teachings. She combines her commentary with many quotes from Geshe-la’s oral teachings from previous Festivals, so that you very much feel the presence of Geshe-la thoughout the teaching. It becomes clear what an immense wealth of Dharma he has given us. And the slight deviations in, for example, his definitions of enlightenment and bodhichitta, show how Geshe-la was, and is, ever refining his message, drawing out different nuances in the Dharma, so as to draw us into the actual experience of these extraordinary minds.
The teaching on equalizing self and others is almost like a guided meditation as she takes us through the evolution of this mind of cherishing others step by step. She emphasizes the importance of freeing our mind from distraction in order for our meditations to be successful and elucidates the special method known as absorption of cessation to help us accomplish this swiftly. In the afternoon teaching Gen-la takes us further into the practice by explaining exchanging self with others. In particular she helps us to recognize the faults of the self-cherishing mind. She says, ‘Thinking I am important, and neglecting others is an ignorant mind because the object of that mind is the self that we normally perceive and it doesn’t exist!’.
In the breaks, everywhere you look you see living examples of the cherishing love of exchanging self with others. Volunteers, who are just festival participants themselves, helping other festival-goers, serving them food, washing dishes, working in the shops, stewarding in the temple, and just helping each other out with Dharma advice and the sharing of laughter and joy. The Festival is an embodiment of how with cherishing love everything works and gives rise to happiness. Such a necessary example in these times so full of conflict.