The Festival meditation marquee is warm and welcoming for our morning meditations led by Gen Ananda. The Festival organizers and volunteers have clearly been working hard to make up for the delays caused by the storm. How kind! Gen Ananda leads two lovely meditations allowing us to prepare our minds for the afternoon’s empowerment and the teachings on Universal Compassion. He gives us plenty of time to settle our mind into an experience of inner peace before guiding us into gentle contemplations. The emphasis is on making the meditations personal. For example, in the second meditation, where we contemplate the benefits of ‘training the mind’, he says, ‘it’s not enough to tell yourself to appreciate the practices’. He says we need to think deeply how these practices will function ‘like a diamond, like the sun, and like a medicinal tree’ for us personally, in this way moving our minds towards a heartfelt engagement with the teachings.

Over lunch and during the breaks people are enjoying catching up with old friends and making new ones over cups of coffee and tea in the cafes in the village-like atmosphere of the Festival grounds.

Gen-la Dekyong looks radiant and joyful throughout the Avalokiteshvara empowerment where around a thousand people fill the meditation marquee. Avalokiteshvara, she explains, is the compassion of all the Buddhas appearing as form. “As we improve our compassion, compassion improves us, purifying our mind and thereby purifying our world. This is why we need to rely on Avalokiteshvara.” The goal of all our practices, she says, and indeed of all of Buddhism is always world peace, which to us means the everlasting happiness of all living beings.

During the empowerment, Gen-la Dekyong skilfully guides us to letting go of our ordinary appearances, to allowing ourself to imagine that we are receiving the empowerment directly from a manifestation of Avalokiteshvara in a pure land. In this way we open ourself up to receiving powerful blessings. When the entire assembly recites the mantra of Avalokiteshvara, OM MANI PEME HUM, together, it’s easy to imagine the resonance of the mantra, the sound of pure compassion, radiating out to the whole world transforming the minds of everyone. How special to have the opportunity to participate in something so purely beneficial.

After the empowerment, as we step out into the cool, clear air, a full moon shines brightly in the night sky. May the radiant light of enlightened compassion shine everywhere!