Dagyab Rinpoche and Teaching in Cambridge

The beginning of the month saw Vijayamala and I flying to Germany to attend Dagyab Rinpoche’s Easter Course at Kamalashila Institut in the Eifel region. Dagyab Rinpoche has been my teacher since the late 1980s, and I have attended his courses at Easter whenever possible since then. As well as seeing Rinpoche, it is also a chance to see my friends in his sangha.

The most notable part of the course for me was meeting Rinpoche one-to-one, and talking through my idea of doing a 3-year retreat. Rinpoche enthusiastically endorsed the idea, and outlined for me how he felt I could best use the time. After this meeting the 3-year retreat idea became a plan. Vijayamala also subsequently talked to Rinpoche, and he also gave her his blessing. So we are now exploring doing a retreat together, starting in the first half of 2009. It will take us 18 months to 2 years to clear the decks to go off. I do want to start as soon as possible, as I notice I’m not gettig any younger, and I want to do a long retreat and still have time left to make a useful contribution through Dharma teaching afterwards. (Although I’m aware that life is very uncertain, and plans always have to be provisional…)

In the latter part of the month I did a stint of teaching at the Cambridge Buddhist Centre. First I led a weekend retreat on The Open Heart at Vajrasana, a retreat centre near Bury-St-Edmunds. Then I did five nights at the Centre. Each night was different. On the Monday I focused on mindfulness of the breath (anapanasati). Tuesday was a night for members of the Western Buddhist Order, and we looked at visualization practice. Wednesday was Bodhicitta night (Bodhicitta is the heart of the Buddhist path, developing the desire to gain Awakening for the sake of all living beings.) Thursday was maitri bhavana – loving-kindness meditation to open the heart. Friday was more meditation and then puja. On the saturday I did a day for more experienced people looking at formless meditation practice.

Sunday was Buddha Day – Wesak – celebrating the Buddha’s Enlightenment, and I was supposed to lead most of the day. However I woke up feeling really ill, and celebrated the day by spending a lot of it vomiting into a bowl. These bouts of sickness happen from time to time at unpredictable times. I find them very frustrating as they make me unreliable. I hate having to ring up and ask people to change their plans at the last minute. But there doesn’t seem to be anything I can do about it. It was a disappointing end to the nine days, as I had very much enjoyed teaching in the Cambridge Centre, and getting to know the sangha there better.