Wednesday 23 November 2011

The Importance of the Guru

Canvas Painting by Nicholas Roerich, Maitreya
Maitreya, Nicholas Roerich
The Master, Guru or Teacher, call him/her what you will, can come in any form. They do not necessarily have to appear in a human body.  Essentially the 'Guru' enters our lives in order to precipitate the crisis of 'awakening' and it has been said that 'when the disciple is ready, the Master will appear'.

Few have been able to capture so completely and so poetically in words, the importance that the Guru can have in our lives as Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche has done in the following verse;

"The master is like a great ship for beings to cross the perilous ocean of existence,
  an unerring captain who guides them to the dry land of liberation, 
  a rain that extinguishes the fire of the passions, 
  a bright sun and moon that dispel the darkness of ignorance, 
  a firm ground that can bear the weight of both good and bad,
  a wish-fulfilling tree that bestows temporal happiness and ultimate bliss,
  a treasury of vast and deep instructions,
  a wish-fulfilling jewel granting all the qualities of realization,
  a father and a mother giving their love equally to all sentient beings,
  a great river of compassion, 
  a mountain rising above worldly concerns unshaken by the winds of emotions, 
  and a great cloud filled with rain to soothe the torments of the passions.
In brief, he is the equal of all the Buddhas'
To make any connection with him, whether through seeing him, hearing his voice, remembering him, or being touched by his hand, will lead us toward liberation. 
To have full confidence in him is the sure way to progress toward enlightenment. 
The warmth of his wisdom and compassion will melt the core of our being and release the gold of the buddha-nature within." 

May we all be blessed to make the connection with an authentic Master, because it is via this connection that we can most swiftly come to realize our 'true nature'.

Read more in Never Not Ever Here Now

Saturday 19 November 2011

Ramana Maharshi

" Do you know what Moksha (liberation) is?

The Sage of Arunachala
Sri Ramana Maharshi
 "Getting rid of non-existent misery and

  attaining the bliss which is always there,  that is Moksha."

Sri Ramana Maharshi, was the living embodiment of a Master, par excellence.

He led a life of utter simplicity and  humility. This man could have passed for any one of millions of Indian men, in appearance.  Yet, in the quietest and most unassuming manner he had the whole world bowing at his feet.

From princes to paupers, from the old to the young, from the richest to the most humble in circumstance, they were drawn to him from far and wide. 

Animals of various kinds were also inexplicably attracted to this man.   All manner of people and from all corners of the globe were drawn to him like the iron filings to a magnet.

Yet, here was an uneducated man, who never traveled anywhere.  Whose wanderings in five and a half decades took him no further than the circumference of a modest 'hill', in a small dusty town, in the South of India.

His story is remarkable and has been told countless times, but it has such a profound significance for us all that it can bare retelling endlessly. 

 At only sixteen years of age, for no reason that could be outwardly accounted for, he felt that he was about to die.  This inexplicable certainty, arising as it did, seemingly out of nowhere, was so shocking that it had the effect of turning his mind inward.

Normally we move through life with our minds always attuned towards the world and it 'happenings'. In other words, 'outwardly'.   When the mind is focused 'inwardly' however, even if only for a short time, one has the opportunity to see 'what is'. The intense fear of being suddenly confronted with 'death' focused all the boy's energy into looking at 'what it actually is' that is going to 'die'. 

He realized that the very awareness, that knows itself as "I" is in actuality, the only thing that 'exists', and that this 'I' is deathless.   Realizing this completely transformed his life... 

Read more at;  Never Not Ever Here Now

Friday 11 November 2011

Hidden Valleys of the Himalayas

Mountains shrouded in mist
Hidden Valleys.
Throughout the Himalayas there are pockets, valleys, hidden oases and refuge places.  The trails which lead to them are known only to a few.  These places are said to be blessed and consecrated by 'holy beings', guarded by invisible forces and carefully protected in order to preserve their sanctity and usefulness as sanctuaries and refuges in times of human and planetary strife.

They are scattered along the Himalayan belt, from the fabled land of Pemako in Arunachal Pradesh, in the far east to the western reaches of this enormous range of mountains.

In recent times a Lama from Tibet tried to open one of these valleys near Kangchendzonga, a vast mountain which dominates the horizon to the north of Darjeeling, in West Bengal.  He had several hundred followers, all of whom had sold their worldly belongings, bringing with them only the possessions they could carry.  All believed that the Lama would lead them into a sacred valley where they could begin a new life...

A number of other Lamas including Dudjom Rinpoche and my own teacher, Chadral Rinpoche, warned him that the time had not yet come for this valley to be opened and that they faced grave danger in going.  However none of their warnings or advice were heeded.

The Lama and his flock made the perilous and arduous trek into the mountains.  Right at the threshold of the entrance to the sacred valley, the Lama entered a cave where he and his attendants began to perform the opening rituals, which pacify the guardians and open the way into the protected area...

Wednesday 9 November 2011

Lion of the Mountains

Tibetan Yogi Lama, Chadral Rinpoche
Lion of the Mountains

Chadral Rinpoche was always full of surprises. During the monsoon months in the Mountains of Nepal, the weather was often misty, damp and cold. It could be depressing day after day.

If Rinpoche felt the general mood among our little camp needed lifting, he would order a picnic, right then, on the spur of the moment and we would all run after him up the trail in one direction or other, usually to some green, flowery meadow and there we would sit around him enthralled, as he told us tales and shared memories from his life, or just made us all laugh with his jokes and funny stories. He knew just how and when the routines needed to be broken.

We would all return from these day-long excursions into high mountain meadows, well-fed and considerably lighter of heart.

One day after we had finished our noon meals, he called us up and set us all to work preparing a fire. We were mystified. What on earth was he up to now? He took a few of us over to a collection of rocks in a stream nearby and then very specifically pointed out just the stones that he wanted us to carry back to the fire, which was by now blazing and hot.

After much-united effort and lugging of rocks we accumulated quite a pile of these stones near the fire, which had, till then, been carefully tended by one of the Lamas. He then told the monks how to place them inside the fire, one by one.

While this was going on, he asked some of the men to bring the large metal bathtub that lived, usually upside down, out the back of his hut. This was to be filled with water...
Read more in Master, Mice and Men

Tuesday 1 November 2011

Tibetan Mountain Yogis and Yoginis

Group photos of two Tibetan Masters and their disciples
Dodruchen and Chadral Rinpoche with students in Neyding, Yolmo
I spent several summers in a number of remote retreat centres in the mountains north of Kathmandu. This area is directly north of the Kathmandu Valley. My teacher, Chadral Rinpoche had a number of small retreat centres high up in the Rhododendron forests of Helambu, in the Sindupalchok region of Nepal.

Many in the Western world are quite unaware that such places exist and that such a ‘lifestyle’ is possible. In the nineteen nineties the living conditions were extremely basic and often physically challenging due to the harshness of the elements, the high altitude and many other factors that could make it a struggle to survive.

Yet those excursions into the mountains were among the happiest and most interesting years of my life. Even though we were scattered around in three different locations, the practitioners in these places all looked out for one another, this was a necessity more than a nicety. We were very much dependant upon one another. 

Very often we could be subjected to various and often unexpected ‘adventures’ many of which, demanded that we let go of any former preconceptions or rigidity with regards to conditions and circumstances in which to ‘practice the dharma.’

The months spent in the mountains were a fertile ground in which one could conceivably and with relative ease crack open not only the ‘mind’ but also the ‘heart.’

Reaching this area at that time involved a three-day trek which began in a small village called Melamchi Bazaar. From this little outpost, a trail wound its way through tiny settlements along the banks of the bubbling Melamchi River. Initially one threaded one’s way through fields of ripening rice paddy but these soon gave way to scrub and then forest as one began to climb the hills that rise up steeply into the Helambu region.

The spring cum summer months usually began from late March and continued until around the middle or end of August while from June onwards the monsoon rains commenced. Rinpoche chose these months to visit his students in the three locations which formed a triangle in the mountainous terrain. Neyding housed a number of male practitioners; Tropodang was a collection of shelters for the women and Lhakhang had both men and women practitioners living there.

Often, while Rinpoche was visiting the centres he would teach. Therefore a handful of the more hardy students from other places in Nepal and even further afield would trek up in little groups to be present during these months.

By trekking standards in Nepal, the three days walk up to the small hamlet of Tarkygyang, the nearest village to all three centres, was a reasonably easy and modest one. However, as most of us came there intending to make a longer stay, we had to plan our journey and the provisions we would take up with us quite carefully. 

There was little in the way of food or supplies of any kind to be had in this area. One also needed a tent and all the equipment required to keep it in a relatively dry and liveable condition in the damp, high altitude environment for many months on end. This meant that one also had to carry tarpaulins and mats, along with food supplies, cooking utensils and all the basic living paraphernalia needed to set up camp at high altitude.

We faced many problems during those months. Food was scarce; the weather was misty and often wet. The monsoon rains were preceded by tree snapping, heart-stopping storms, which in a moment could wipe out one's entire makeshift home!

It would take me three days to set up my camp. The ground had to be levelled and then a trench dug all around the perimeter of the tent so that it would not be washed away in a pre-monsoon flash flood or storm and then later in the season be inundated by the daily monsoon downpours.

Conditions in the retreat centres were extremely basic. Usually, they consisted of little more than a collection of makeshift huts with a mountain stream running somewhere nearby. The ‘huts’ in which the Lama lived were made of a framework of wooden poles; the walls were usually only a thick black plastic. The roof was most commonly made up of roughly hewn planks of wood. To say they were basic and flimsy was actually an understatement.

Volume Three in the series; Shades of Awareness