Recent news from Lama Shenpen
This last month was very special to me as I remembered my dear friend Mike Lear and attended his funeral and memorial online. It was very moving to hear everyone’s memory of him as a generous, kind, humble and hospitable man – always looking for ways to help others. His family gave him the nickname ‘Goose’ and because he so much embodied those qualities they referred to them as being goose – reminding themselves to be more goose whenever they felt like being stingy or mean in any way. It made us smile to start using the term ourselves here at the Hermitage and when I told his son Simon he said it helped him in his grief t o know that. I offered to send him the Buddha image I had given Mike on my return from India all those years ago and that had given him such peace until he became a Jehovah’s Witness late in life at which point he very respectfully returned it to me. Simon and his wife were very happy to receive it and have set it up in a place of honour in what they call their conversation corner in their home. (see attached picture) I was so happy about that auspicious connection happening while Mike was in the bardo. I am sure it must have helped him on his way.
In our recent course with Lama Agnes’s sangha in Berlin we looked at the five Buddha wisdoms. We learn to recognise openness, clarity and sensitivity in DHB – in the five wisdom teachings sensitivity extends into qualities and activity. We can start to appreciate ourselves as expressions of all five wisdoms either in their pure or distorted forms and develop a love for them as who we really are. We are ’the solidness of earth, the fluidness of water, the motion of the wind and the burning heat of fire – unobstructed space of awareness beyond time, this five aspected display an eternal play of youth.’
I just want to acknowledge our gratitude to Katie for her series of talks on Trungpa Rinpoche’s Sadhana of Mahamudra – they have been so inspiring – especially in the sense of linking us more closely with Trungpa Rinpoche’s own thoughts about the Sadhana and its importance for our times. It is a very powerful teaching on Mandala Principle - built around the principle of the Mandala of Mahamudra.
It has been lovely having Rinchen Khandro with us for the last month or so and will miss her when she leaves mid June as we indeed miss Luke, Sudhana and Sumeru and all our longer term residents when they leave. They all assure us they will be back! We have had help in the garden from Namgyal, Tsering, Kamala, Cathy and Jenny. Josie died last week after a very long illness and 24 hour a day care from Jenny – those of you who do not know her she was Jenny’s dog who used to love coming to the Hermitage and circumambulating the stupa – good tendrel for her!
I have been giving talks online from time to time over this last month including the Rangjung Dorje Mahamudra Prayer transmission, answering questions from the group training with Tara and Rangdrol in preparation for taking Refuge Vows in June and a smaller group training for Bodhisattva vows. I have been contemplating what names to give to them all – I enjoy doing that – and it's such an honour for me. We have a really good training package for those taking Refuge and Bodhisattva vows now and I recommend it to those who took the vows before we prepared the training - it is all spiral learning. More will come out next year when we move on to the LAH area of the Vaster Vision.
I have been able to catch up with a few more of my colleagues this month – including Tulku Sherdor who is planning to visit us again in September when his daughter comes to study at the Yehudi Menuhin School near London. I also spoke to my old friends Rob and Cathy who are Tibet scholars specialising in Termas and Kilaya among other topics. I have known Rob since when I was a nun in France – and Rigdzin Shikpo, Rob and I talked all night in his house in Oxford the first night we met. Later we lived there for a couple of years so we knew his parents well. His mother Iona died last week after twenty years of hardly being able to speak or move – like Khenpo Rinpoche.
Jayasiddhi, Tara and I talked to the architect from the local architectural firm whom we are employing to manage the building of the big space. The next step is drawing up plans to submit to the planning office. Jayasiddhi has taken on the job of overseeing the whole thing with Tara and myself being kept informed about any major decisions. The electricians also came this week to check out our power supply and whether it will need upgrading to accommodate the big space and planned retreat cabins.
We all went for a walk on K-Tso’s birthday along the river near Llanystumdwy – enjoying the peace, the bluebells and lots of wild garlic. I got down to the beach a few times too. Tara is gradually recovering from shingles but is still very underweight and has to take things slowly – as do I. I have had various tests to see if there is anything wrong other than old age creeping on and it seems I am just having to get used to having less energy! I have decided not to go to Prague in July because of that but still I can attend a lot of it and give my talk online – so that is something to be grateful for.
Dashu is still getting on well in retreat and keeps sending me really interesting references to follow up on, not that I can keep up with him, but it is a great joy and inspiration to be in touch with him each month. Eli has been away for the last few weeks visiting friends and family. She caught Covid while travelling but not badly it seems. She is now back and taking care to not overdo it.
Pati went out to Poland for a couple of weeks to visit family and to support Ukrainian friends and Polish people working with refugees. She had a very moving and interesting time, exploring the true meaning of peace in times of war. She had put together a draft play composed of thoughts from different people she talked to. Especially moving was when she asked her Buddhist friends who fled from Ukraine what help they needed most – they said "the thing that is most needed is to help us create peace in our hearts. When people have anger or hate or fear in their hearts, there is war everywhere they go. So you have to have peace in your heart if you want peace in the world." Pati is hoping to address that need by bringing Awakened Heart Sangha to Eastern Europe. I am encouraging her to create a Polish version of DHB which is an idea she has had for a long time. Now seems to be the time to take it forward. Meanwhile, Pati, Damzig and Senge are collaborating with Marpa Network to deliver practical help for Ukrainans (you can read more about it here https://ahs.org.uk/news/2022/05/09/help-ukrainians)
There is so much activity in the sangha these days that it's impossible to keep up with you all – what a wonderful feeling! It is so inspiring. Thank you all of you.