Lama's Full Moon letter December 2023

Solstice, Lama Dashon, THB Transmission

Sat 09 Dec 2023

Dear all,

Last time I wrote it was just after Tulku Sherdor’s visit and the very special transmission of Longchenpa’s Treasury of the Dharmadhatu (Choying Dzo). Lama Dashon has been working with this text quite intensively and feels that it expresses the whole of the DHB and THB – it is in fact the textual source for all the teachings given there.   Rigdzin Shikpo Rinpoche never stated that explicitly but he definitely felt it was an important source of his inspiration and received teachings on it from Trungpa Rinpoche. 

I went straight from the weekend with Tulku Sherdor to Tyn y Gors and four of us who received abhiseka from Rigdzin Shikpo together over ten years ago practised together for a few days and then I stayed on for another few days to practise on my own.  It was a very powerful experience practising together like that for the first time since Rigdzin Shikpo Rinpoche passed away. Practising on my own there afterwards was perhaps even more powerful.  While we were all there together we were able to talk for the first time together about where we thought Longchen Foundation would go from here. There is a lot of uncertainty because Rigdzin Shikpo Rinpoche didn’t really say very clearly what he wanted to happen once he had passed away.  So it is good reminder for me to make sure things are as clear as possible and Lama Tara has been helping me with this over the last few months.

I have also spent a few nights at Tyn y Gors discussing various renovations with Sudhana and various trades people – getting the whole place double glazed, removing trees and branches that threaten to fall on the house, clearing all the trees that were starting to fall into the lake and blocking the way around it and so on.  I quite like that sort of thing……. makes a change from my usual routine.

The Trusting the Heart of Buddhism (THB) transmission on the next Saturday was well attended – I think every time we revisit it the more we find in it. I certainly do. I realised just how powerful it is as a preliminary to doing sadhana practice – especially this time I noticed how powerful Rigdzin Shikpo Rinpoche’s teachings are on how Reality (or The Living Truth) draws us to itself, possesses and protects us.

 We were delighted to receive teaching from Francesca Fremantle – she is such a spontaneous speaker – her words seemed to flow from her with such relaxed ease – seeming to demonstrate the very state she was describing. I felt that the way she taught resonated well with our AHS ethos – a sign that Rigdzin Shikpo Rinpoche’s spirit lives on in his students both in Longchen and AHS.  She re-aroused in us the wish to go deeper into teachings on the five wisdoms, a topic I have hoped to go into in more detail for decades. She would be happy to teach more on that topic – and it would be good to have these teachings from her soon since she is already in her eighties.  I thank Alan and Maggie for hosting her talk at their house in London – and Francesca says she would love to come and visit the Hermitage next spring since Alan has offered to drive her here.

We have the enviable problem of having more good teachers to draw on than there are months in the year to do them justice!

So let’s see what happens next year.

I forgot to mention that last month Stephanie Johnston interviewed me for a global meditation summit.  The summit consists of recorded interviews with various Dharma teachers on the topic of mediation.  Elizabeth Callahan and Ponlop Rinpoche will both be contributing on the same day – the day set aside for Tibetan Buddhist meditation. The other days are different Buddhist and non-Buddhist traditions including secular mindfulness and neuroscientific approaches. All the talks are pre-recorded and it will be made live the last week in January. We will share the details once we have them. 

Liz Cochrane, the Ponlop Rinpoche student who put together Keeping the Dalai Lama Waiting for me is due this evening to talk through plans for the Mandala Principle book that has been on hold for most of this year.  Then it’s the run up to the solstice and Lama Dashon coming out of retreat. The programme for the day is quite a full one and you can register here – it is not just the Solstice but also Guru Rinpoche day.  So it’s a very auspicious day and a big turning point for our Sangha.  I shall be handing over the directorship of the AHS to him and then take a back seat as I focus on retreat, writing and study. Lama Dashon has so much to offer after all his study and practice over the last two years.  He is brimming with enthusiasm for what he would like to share with us all.  I hope I have the energy to keep up with him.  I don’t intend to give up teaching altogether – and I want to continue to be there for all my students and especially those involved in teaching and doing retreats. 

Next year looks like it is going to be a year of change and yet in many ways just the same as always now we are firmly on course as a Sangha.  Also the theme for next year is pranidhana and we are reviewing out sangha priorities to make sure we are happy with how we are doing things and planning ahead for the next five to ten years.  There is much to discuss and although my intention is to keep out of things I still have to work out with Longchen Foundation what to do about Rigdzin Shikpo Rinpoche’s precious relics – installing them in a stupa at Tyn y Gors according to his wishes and the traditional rituals for that.  That is one of my main aims for when I am in Nepal next February and March.

My pranidhana for next year is for our sangha to go from strength to strength so that it can play its part in stablishing a vehicle for the genuine transmission of the Dharma both for this and for many generations to come – in spite of all the crises the world is faced with right now.  The path to Awakening is the only antidote to samsara – but we need a peaceful and stable world in which it can thrive.

With all best wishes for the festive season and a happy 2024!

With much love and gratitude to you all.