Arriving at majestic Tharpaland for our International Kadampa Fall Festival 2017 you feel like you’ve entered a fairytale. Set deep in the woods outside Berlin, the stately castle, Schloss Sommerswalde, has been transformed into a quaint village with white marquees all around and tents spread across the park grounds. Everywhere you look there are familiar faces – our Kadampa family – but now meeting up in this new, magical, environment. The sounds of delighted greetings pervade everywhere.

Here we are … at the famed International Retreat Center Tharpaland! In this year of celebrating 40 years of Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso Rinpoche’s kindness, this beautiful retreat center  is yet another extraordinary example of how Venerable Geshe-la is giving us perfect conditions for our practice.

During this Festival, as Gen-la Dekyong explains in her opening talk, we will be studying Venerable Geshe-la’s book Universal Compassion, and she makes it clear that the topic of this book couldn’t be more timely.

A storm has just blown through this part of Germany. Many branches are down. The temperature has dropped. Many of the tents have been ‘temporarily relocated’ by the wind! It’s a reminder of the unstable natural elements which have recently been causing so much suffering in our world – earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, wildfires. As Gen-la Dekyong says, these days it is easy for us to recognize that our times our impure.

Gen-la Dekyong describes the 5 impurities of environment, conditions, body, mind, and actions. For example, she discusses how in these impure times, things look beautiful, like our food, but are artificial and cause suffering. Or how these days in general we are not interested in meaningful actions, but in meaningless enjoyments like computer games … even though there are so many dangers in the world.

However as training the mind practitioners we don’t need to worry because we have the instructions of training the mind.

‘Now is the time’, Gen-la encourages us, to put these teachings into practice and gain actual experience.

She gives us one specific method to start with: When we experience suffering we turn our suffering into compassion by thinking, ‘there are many others who have it much worse.’ This compassion will in turn destroy the basis of our suffering, our self-cherishing.

You can feel the effect of the teaching immediately. Because it is cold …  but immediately, as a group, that slight discomfort is transformed into compassion and the energy lifts.

Gen-la says, ‘Ask yourself, can I do this now?’

Now is the time!