Brilliant sunshine and clear blue skies greet us in the morning. The woods around Tharpaland create a magical hushed environment in which to quietly contemplate or discuss the teachings. Or the discussions unfold in the cafes over cups of tea and coffee, and the occasional cake or ‘Berliner’ jam doughnut.

And there is much to discuss as Gen-la Dekyong, in her morning teaching, takes us through the practices of developing universal compassion, bodhichitta and the practice of taking in conjunction with the six perfections. One of the main themes is how, as Gen-la quotes from How to Transform Your Life, ‘Compassion finds the suffering of others unbearable but it does not make us depressed.’ Rather ‘it gives us tremendous energy’ to benefit others.

Gen-la says, ‘it’s not lack of time stopping us’ from practicing and benefitting others, ‘it’s lack of wish.’ She says that if we follow Geshe Chekawa’s advice from Universal Compassion we can ‘Do all yogas by one’. In other words we can make all of our daily life activities meaningful and a cause of enlightenment by doing them with the pure motivations of compassion and bodhichitta.

The Festival is such a great opportunity to train in doing this. And because we are interacting with and working alongside other Sangha practitioners, we are constantly reminded of our pure intention. In each others’ good energy and joyful smiles we can recognize the truth of Geshe-la’s words. Through a pure intention we can transform our lives. We just need to do it.

In the afternoon teaching, Gen-la takes us deep into the experience of emptiness and dream-like phenomena. Understanding emptiness and that everything is created by mind is key to understanding how we ourselves and all living beings can become enlightened. We need to recognize that ‘there is no happiness other than mere name, no living being other than mere name.’ Therefore the profound transformation of enlightenment is possible.

Towards the end of the talk she gives us a quote from Venerable Geshe-la: ‘Be kind to yourself. Now is the time to realize emptiness.’