The importance of reconnecting with Sangha

I just got back from the Summer Festival.  I have been going to Summer Festivals every year since 1995, but due to all of the karmic changes in my life over the last few years, for the first time I wasn’t able to make it in 2010 and 2011.  I tried to go to Brazil, had bought my ticket, taken my vacation time, but stupidly didn’t bother to check whether or not I needed a visa until it was too late.  So this is the longest I have gone without being at a festival and reconnecting with my global spiritual family.  It was so nice to be able to go to the festival, reconnect with old friends and receive live teachings.

It is amazing how at a festival Dorje Shugden manages for you to have a personalized festival meeting up with everyone you need to and having the conversations you need to have.  Some of the highlights for me were as follows: 

  1. I was able to meet Venerable Tharchin, who I consider to be my main teacher for more than a decade now.  Normally when I meet with him, I just babble on and never listen.  So this time I said I was going to talk little so that I can listen more.  In fact, I even told him that in the meeting as a joke, but I made a new mistake this time!  I didn’t walk into the meeting with a question in my heart.  So when I told him I want to listen, I stopped talking and then he just stared at me in silence…  It was a very powerful teaching in and of itself, namely whenever we go for refuge, be it a meeting with your teacher, a live teaching or in your prayers, we should always have a question in our heart.  How can we receive answers if we don’t have questions? 
  2. I was able to meet with my old teacher Gen Lhamo.  She is now the Resident Teacher at Manjushri.  I haven’t really spoken with her much in a few years, and like me, she has been in a period of karmic flux over the last few years.  It was very nice to speak with her.  She started out the meeting by saying we don’t really give advice any more, rather we share our expereince and people take from it what they want.  For about the next hour, she then proceeded to tell an elaborate tale about jealousy, how attachment to what other people think of you prevents the flourishing of the Dharma, and how her job now is to just love people.  She had an amazing ability to see deeply into the hearts of others, see what their core problem is, and bring it to the surface so that we can work through it.  Even though she was just “telling a story” for me, it functioned as a very powerful teaching about something deep in my heart.  Amazing!  It was really great to see her again.
  3. I was able to have good, long conversations with two very dear friends from my time when I was in Paris about 14 years ago.  We have seen each other at various festivals over the years, but never really had the opportunity to have a real deep conversation about how each was doing and what we have been working on in our practice.  One friend has basically spent the last decade in hell, but through sincere reliance has managed to change himself completely.  He said what enabled him to change was realizing that “identifying our delusions is itself a spiritual practice, and even if we spend our whole life doing just that, it is a well used spiritual life.”  Because he didn’t realize this before, the more he would study Dharma the more he would see his faults, and therefore the more he would beat himself up over being inadequate.  So far from making him happier, he would feel worse and worse about himself robbing him of any joy.  But when he realized becoming aware of our faults is itself a spiritual training he was able to accept where he was at and therefore create the space to change himself as opposed to beat himself up.  With another friend, I was able to realize I have had all sorts of jealousy, competitiveness and insecurity towards him, but through talking we were able to both have a good laugh at our respective delusions and reestablish that vajra brother bond.
  4. I was able to spend a good deal of time with my fellow Kadampa in the blogosphere, Vide Kadampa, author of the blog “Daily Lamrim” (in the links section).  It was truly amazing how much we have in common in terms of our outlook and approach to the Dharma.  We discussed the benefits and potential pitfalls of doing a blog (also subject of a future post), but mostly we talked about starting on the Tantric path.  He has laid a fantastic foundation of Lamrim, and we discussed how to integrate our lamrim practice into our Tantric practice.  He too is a Kadampa Working Dad, and somebody I cherish very much as a close Dharma friend.

I have much more I will write about my experience at the Summer Festival, but an additional resolution I have made is to make my blog postings shorter and more readable.  So I will sign off here for now.  The main point is the virtual world is great for being able to maintain your connection with your global Sangha family, but it is no substitute for reconnecting with your spiritual family live.  While sometimes our karma may not allow it, in our heart we should always maintain the wish to be with them and to reconnect with them every opportunity we get.  In my view, this is vital for our continued spiritual progress and has the added benefit of creating the causes to meet once again our spiritual tradition in all our future lives between now and our eventual enlightenment!

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