We have just returned from Sydney where we were part of the Dalai Lama’s teaching on the Stages of Meditation and 1000 Armed Avalokiteśvara initiation.
We got off to a good start: Rachael (of surewhynot fame) who was staying with us at the B&B pointed out that the night manager there was a young guy with dark hair and glasses, named Harry. And his room was under the stairs 🙂
Together with 5000 other people we spent five days with His Holiness as he explained the finer points of Kamalashila’s classic text, the Middling Stages of Meditation. Now, of course the teaching was wonderful and the presence of the Dalai Lama even more so. By now it may be self induced hypnosis, but as mentioned in this post, whenever I am in his presence I feel the immensity of the blessings he holds.
Al Billings in a recent post on the Karmapa’s visit to the US, Starbucks Buddhism, talked about how off putting he finds the rock-star Buddhist teacher phenomenon. In Sydney it was similar. There was incredible security, “Dharma Shopping” to meet anyone’s taste, a few strange folk and fake Sangha. However, I found it easy enough to forget all this and concentrate just on His Holiness and the teachings.
To be fair, this was largely possible due to the wonderful organisation of the event by the Dalai Lama in Australia folk – who are a non-profit venture with open books. It was amazingly cheap – five days of teaching and an initiation with the Dalai Lama all for $350 (many local teachers charge far more for a weekend new age journey). Local Sangha were sponsored, as were several hundred people who could not afford tickets. During the breaks and lunchtimes there was a silent meditation room, guided meditations, panel discussions of Sangha from different traditions and a chance for personal one-on-ones with Sangha to ask them questions.
All of these things made it easy to stay in the right frame of mind and spirit for the entire time. So, congratulations and thanks to the organisers, underwriters and volunteers.
The teachings themselves were very complex and deep. At the end of the teachings in Melbourne last year, the Dalai Lama specifically suggested he may return for a longer, in depth teaching in one location rather than several public talks across the nation. And this is what he did. I am still a bit weak from trying to comprehend them and integrate them into my psyche. There is little point in discussing them here right now, though I am sure they will filter down through my posts over the next period of time.
At the start of each session the Dalai Lama took questions. Several of these centred on the concept that the self is empty of intrinsic existence as an independent entity, a concept discussed in this recent post. Getting a full understanding of this truth, especially in connection with reincarnation and karma is a great challenge. To fully understand it and the related concept of emptiness is to be liberated and achieve enlightenment so we may help our fellow beings. Struggling with this concept is part and parcel of the Mahayana Buddhist path.
We did however bump into an acquaintance from Perth amongst the thousands on the trains, who seemed to have gone someway to this understanding – or in some way had ingested something or other. The conversation (names changed to protect the innocent):
Tom: Hey. How are you? You’re Tom, right?
Me: No, I’m Peregrin. You’re Tom.
Tom: …Yeah… I’m Tom. That’s right.
This is a literal rendition. I have witnesses to prove it. As I said, some strange folk 🙂
The 1000 Armed Avalokiteśvara initiation was lovely. Being a low Tantric initiation it was different in some ways to the Higher Tantric initiation I took with Lama Zopa Rinpoche. However, the Dalai Lama as an incarnation of Avalokiteśvara was able to transmit the blessings so beautifully it left me speechless. The essence of Avalokiteśvara, the Dalai Lama and all the teachings was of course compassion to all beings.
The Dalai Lama continues to inspire as one of the great spiritual masters of the world. His honesty and humility touched me deeply once more. As an incarnation of Avalokiteśvara he was course fully empowered to transmit the blessings. However, he clearly and simply explained his initiatory authority as would a regular monk or lama. He acknowledged his ignorance continually yet shone with wisdom in the same instant. We are so blessed and lucky to be able to receive teachings and initiations from him; in Tibet even having his picture can result in imprisonment and torture. So it is all the more poignant, all the more important for us to take what we have been given and practice for the sake all.
May All Beings Be Well; May All Beings Be Happy
Peace; Peace; Peace.