NKT-IKBU Summer Festival Diaries 2012
International Modern Buddhism festivals and celebrations are held all year round. Visit KadampaFestivals.org for more information.
Today people from over 40 different countries arrived at Manjushri Kadampa Meditation Centre for the start of the International Summer Festival.
Although there were a few clouds in the sky, happiness filled people’s hearts as they traveled up the long driveway and saw the spectacular roof of the World Peace Temple in the distance.
The festival teachings began with an introduction with National Spiritual Director of the United States, Gen Kelsang Jampa. During the talk Gen Jampa encouraged us to appreciate our Summer Festival by practising Dharma with everything we do, walking, talking and listening to the teachings. He inspired us by recalling Geshe-la's words, 'when your mind is peaceful and happy – that is enjoyment'.×
Having assembled from all over the world, attendees marked the first full day of the Summer Festival with a special ceremony, taking Refuge and Bodhisattva Vows. Through guided meditations and uplifting teachings by Gen-la Kunsang the group focused on building a pure intention and a good heart. Everyone develops a benevolent intention from time to time, but the vow ceremony gave the opportunity to clarify and stabilize this wish into a promise to always strive for the benefit of others. In an atmosphere of joy and friendship, the Kadampa World Peace Temple was buzzing with the enthusiasm of people’s renewed commitment to leading a life of kindness. As Gen-la Kunsang said, it is clear from gatherings like this how world peace is truly possible if we simply change our minds.×
On this beautiful sunny day Gen-la Kunsang explained in the World Peace Temple how all of our daily problems come from attachment, our uncontrolled desire. Using examples that we can relate to very well, such as our car breaking down or the end of a relationship, she helped us identify that the real nature of suffering is unpleasant feelings. Where do these unpleasant feelings come from? Because of our attachment, whenever our wishes are unfulfilled we experience pain. To minimise painful feelings and stop them altogether, Gen-la encouraged us to follow Buddha’s advice. Finally she asked us to think about our life plan and we came away discussing with our friends how to become better people and ultimately the best person possible.×
What do you wish for, strive for, daydream about?
Is it material possessions, a well-paid job, reputation, excitement, good looks or relationships?
Today Gen-la Kunsang explained that even though these things can make us happy for a short while they can never give us the lasting happiness that all of us, in our hearts, long for. She encouraged us to meditate on death and impermanence, so that we transform our life into a dynamic spiritual path, rather than continue with the frustration that comes from relying on things that can never make us truly happy.
Gen-la explained that there is a contradiction in wanting to be free from suffering without learning to control our mind. We came away feeling that we all have the potential to experience supreme permanent peace of mind through improving our inner good qualities. How wonderful!×
What happens if our wishes are unfulfilled?
Contemplating this question opens the door to understanding Buddha’s profound instruction on how our mind creates our experiences.
For most us, when our wishes are not fulfilled, our automatic response is irritation and anger. This response is normal, but it doesn’t help and it doesn’t make sense. We are only one person while other people are countless — why do our own wishes seem so much more important than everyone else’s? If we can’t fix a situation, getting upset will only lead to suffering our suffering.
Gen-la Kunsang explained that the way to overcome this mental habit is to develop a mind of loving-kindness and concern for other people. This beautiful mind will even change the way the world appears to us. The teaching left people empowered and motivated to train in the mind of loving-kindness. What we experience is our choice. As Geshe Kelsang often says, ‘everything depends upon the mind’.×
Where is the rose? Today Gen-la shared her deep experience and love of Buddha’s wisdom teaching on emptiness, the way things really exist, as opposed to the way they appear. Slowly picking apart a rose, she asked us, “Where is the rose?” It’s not the individual parts, nor the collection of the parts; but without the parts what is there that can be called a rose? Intrigued? You can read more in The New Heart of Wisdom.
This afternoon we began a short retreat, led by Gen Kelsang Jampa. The meditations are based on the Modern Buddhism teachings given over the past few days. It is a wonderful feeling to settle into retreat and deeply contemplate the meaning of Dharma — a real holiday for the mind!×
Buddha taught that love is the great protector. It protects us from negative states of mind and helps us enjoy good relationships.
Based on the teachings Gen-la Kunsang gave during the week, Gen Jampa guided us through the stages of developing and increasing our love for others. He guided us in meditations that enable us to increase our love for others step by step. First we learn to sincerely cherish others and then we learn how to generate wishing love — a mind that wishes all living beings to experience pure and everlasting happiness. Gen Jampa encouraged us to contemplate the benefits that come from wishing other people to be happy and, in particular, the huge amount of positive mental energy we generate.
This wonderful meditation can continue into our meditation break where we simply hold the wish for people to be happy wherever we are and whomever we are with.×
In Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life Shantideva says:
‘All these branches were taught by Buddha for the sake of wisdom’.
Having built great positive energy by learning and practising the teachings on love, compassion and the supreme good heart of bodhichitta, our minds are now perfectly prepared to meditate on the ultimate nature of things, emptiness. Gen Jampa guided two meditations on the emptiness of the body as explained in Modern Buddhism to help us gain familiarity with this profound practice. Engaging in the retreat left people feeling confident and encouraged to practice wisdom and compassion in our daily lives and looking forward to the next week of Summer Festival!×
Following an extraordinary week of Sutra teachings, today we enjoyed a free morning and afternoon, in which we could put the teachings into practice. Festival goers had many options, from enjoying the Lake District, the local town of Ulverston or staying on-site at Manjushri KMC.
The sun was shining as a thousand additional smiling faces arrived from around the world to participate in the second week of Summer Festival.
As an inspiring introduction to a week of Tantric teachings, Gen-la Dekyong emphasised how Buddha’s teachings are international. They are for each and every living being. She encouraged us to remember Geshe-la’s words, ‘All difficulties come from delusions. Dharma is the only method to control delusions. How important Dharma is for human society!’. Then as the basis for practising Tantra, Gen-la explained briefly but powerfully how to practise the three principal aspects of the path to enlightenment - renunciation, bodhichitta, and correct view of emptiness.×
Today we received the blessing empowerment of Je Tsongkhapa which meant we awakened our potential for wisdom and compassion through connecting with his pure positive energy.
Gen-la Dekyong explained that by practising the teachings and meditations that Je Tsongkhapa (1357-1419 AD) shared in his epic life we will exchange artificial happiness for real happiness and finally become someone who experiences permanent inner peace.
The empowerment ceremony was also a reminder of Geshe-la’s extraordinary kindness in making Je Tsongkhapa’s ancient Tantric teachings accessible to the modern world.×
We like it when things deliver what they promise. Sometimes the things we turn to or use in our daily life do deliver the results we expect, sometimes they don’t but either way we are never really satisfied.
Today Gen-la Dekyong explained that by training in the scientific methods of both Buddha’s Sutra and Tantra teachings explained in Modern Buddhism we will definitely experience the result - permanent inner peace. Practising these proven methods we will become someone who is happy all the time regardless of external circumstances.
We came away feeling confident that if we apply effort step-by-step, day-by-day the results will definitely come.×
Gen-la Dekyong emphasised the importance of our intention in determining the power and effects of our meditations. The teachings presented in part 2 of Modern Buddhism offer profound ways to transform our lives, but they will be truly effective only if motivated by a kind heart. Last week's teachings focused on the importance of cultivating contentment and loving-kindness; this week's focus is on maximising our power to actually benefit others. Clearly these two are both essential to fulfil our goal of permanent inner peace for ourselves and others.
Gen-la Dekyong reminded us of the importance of starting off our meditations with the correct motivation. She emphasised how the wish to help others, which is developed in our Sutra practices, will make our Tantric meditations become incredibly powerful and propel us along the spiritual path.×
Today Gen-la explained the profound practice known as self-generation. The extraordinary and imaginative practice whereby we actualize our potential for enlightenment swiftly. Gen-la reminded us that meditating and taking to heart Buddha‘s teachings on emptiness, the understanding that things only exist in dependence on the mind, is the life of our self-generation practice.
To conclude the teaching part of the Festival, Gen-la guided a dedication prayer for world peace, helping us to see how our actions over the past days are causes that can bring harmony and happiness to a world in turmoil.×
Today we had the precious opportunity to experience the Tantric instructions revealed throughout the week with the start of a two-day meditation retreat led by Gen-la Kelsang Khyenrab.
Gen-la encouraged us to relax throughout the retreat, something that is easy to do at Manjushri KMC with lovely sprawling gardens, forest and beach paths. He also inspired us to gain familiarity with the instructions from part 2 of Modern Buddhism by contemplating them again and again in our own time but also to be happy with our current understanding of the practice.
With this gentle but reassuring approach the meditation sessions provided a chance to enjoy peaceful and beautiful meditations.×
The final day of retreat gave another chance to experience the meditations on transforming ourselves through Tantric practice. With the World Peace Temple and surrounding marquees filled with people absorbed in a deep and peaceful stillness, a special feeling pervaded the whole Festival. So many people gathered together and united by the wish to improve themselves and benefit others makes a lasting impression on the mind.
In the last session of the retreat, Gen-la Khyenrab emphasised how successful meditation depends on relaxing and enjoying the experience. Meditation is mental work, but it's a joyful action, not heavy. Especially with the wise and careful guidance given throughout the retreat it was easy to feel a genuine shift inside: a change that we'll be able to bring back to our friends and family at home.×
As every year, the Festival finale was the delightful play, "The Life of Buddha". Organised and performed by Festival-goers, the play brought the story of Buddha to life, with a variety of new scenes, amazing music and costumes, and a joyful and talented cast supplemented by professional actors.
"Buddha walked on this earth more than 2500 years ago" the narrator began, "and his teachings are still practised today. There are many people who have become Buddhas in the past, and many people will become Buddhas in the future". Depicting the struggle of Prince Siddhartha to find a real method to bring an end to suffering, and the ways that he skilfully guided others after he had attained enlightenment, the play made the whole spiritual path visible in a way everyone could enjoy.
As Gen-la Dekyong said at the end of the play, "we see our own lives in this play." We can all relate to the relentless challenges of daily life; we can all relate to the wish to find relief and happiness for ourselves and those we love; and we can all relate to Buddha's transcendent example of peace and kindness. Having received teachings on the whole path over the last two weeks, and having seen this path enacted in such an inspiring way, it's easy to see how we too can embody the path of compassion and wisdom in the midst of our modern lives.×
Every year, the New Kadampa Tradition organizes 3 International Festivals: the Spring and Summer Festivals in the UK, and the Fall Festival elsewhere in the world. This year, the Fall Festival will be held in Spain at KMC Spain. The following year, in 2013, everyone will have the enormous good fortune to be able to receive teachings from Geshe Kelsang himself in Sintra, Portugal. During this Festival Geshe Kelsang will give teachings on his newest book, The New Heart of Wisdom and also open the new Kadampa Temple in Portugal. This is definitely an event not to be missed.
Each Festival is open to everyone and provides a tremendous opportunity to build our inner peace and good qualities, connect with spiritual friends, and enjoy a meaningful holiday. Find out more about the many International, National, and Regional Dharma Festivals and Celebrations offered each year at KadampaFestivals.org.×