In early March I went to Birmingham to attend a seminar on Gampopa’s ‘Jewel Ornament of Liberation’, being given by Lama Lhundrup, a German lama of the Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism, who is based in France. I had been invited by Dhammarati, who chairs the WBO’s College of Public Preceptors. In the morning Lama Lhundrup expounded the text, and in the afternoons he met with an invited group of about ten of us to go further into the text and its implications.
Studying the text with him, I was reminded again of my early teaching attempts. I led a study group on the ‘Jewel Ornament’ soon after I was ordained in 1974. Thankfully I understand it rather more deeply now. I enjoyed Lama Lhundrup’s presentation, and appreciated his desire to explore the Tibetan text with help from Indian Buddhism.
Lama Lhundrup is the director of 3-year retreats at his centre in the Auvergne, and talking to him about them strongly stirred the part of me that would love to do a long retreat. I returned to Cambridge and told Vijayamala this. Her response was that she would love to do one too. We spent a few hours on Mersea Island, talking it through and exploring the implications. We have hatched a tentative plan to do a three-year retreat, starting in 2009.
I spent the rest of the month doing a personal retreat at home. I do these retreats at home as a kind of halfway house between going away and being completely solitary and my usual life. Basically I do a lot of meditation – this time about nine hours a day in four sessions – while still trying to keep the basics of my life going. It isn’t as good as going away by myself, but it’s a way of substantially boosting my practice while keeping the wheels of my life turning.