Friday, 6 August 2010

Summercamp teachings 2010 - The Songs of Milarepa

A very short synopsis of the summercamp teachings:
The focus for this years teachings in the beautiful setting of La Petite Pierre, was 'the Songs of Milarepa', translated into french by Lama Tsering Paldron from Portugal. La Petite Pierre, a medieval village not far from Strasbourg in France, was established at the end of the 12 century - 100 yrs after Milarepa was born.
Rinpoche began with a short introduction to Milarepa's life, and rigorous spiritual training with the great Marpa. He spoke of the two 'Heart Sons', Rechungpa and Gampopa, the latter was to become the founder of the Karmapa lineage. Rinpoche recounted a talk given by the 17th Karmapa on importance of View, Meditation and Action, in relation to the life of Milarepa, who was made to build and rebuild ( three times) a stone house for his teacher, Marpa.
According to the Karmapa, of the three aspects, it is our actions, the way we do things, that are most important, because right action by its very nature must include right view, and this arises from good meditation.
Rinpoche spoke about 'namtok', the Tibetan word that describes thoughts, feelings, and emotions both positive and negative - that arise 'like the Irish weather' - you wait two minutes and it changes!
In elucidating the 'Song Of Impermanence', Rinpoche spoke of living as a process, because living means change, moment by moment, if this doesn't happen we are no longer alive and it is most important to have a deep understanding of this because with that understanding then there is room for everything to happen.

The second teaching was on 'The Story of the Yak Horn' describing the way Milarepa worked on the pride of Rechungpa, after he returned from India with the remaining 6 secret teachings that Milarepa had hitherto not gathered for himself.
Mila-re-pa means 'Mila, the one who wears the cotton' and Rechungpa was so called because he was the small one (chung-pa) who wears the cotton. They were called father and son because the student is born out of the wisdom of the teacher. According to Rinpoche, while Rechungpa was said to be the closest of the two Heart Sons, he was not destined for the role of Karmapa as he remained somewhat in the realm of worldly activities, whereas Gampopa renounced all: Rinpoche spoke about pride being a huge obstacle, because the way to full realisation is then blocked by arrogance. "Mind polluted with arrogance renders the teachings useless".
Rinpoche's commentary on the song of 'The Woman's Role in Dharma' included an explanation on the lineages of the three kayas: 'Mind to Mind', 'Signs' and 'Mouth to Ear', as well as an amusing discussion on attitudes to women as potentially enlightened beings. Milarepa had four female disciples who, when they died, dissolved completely leaving no trace, to the astonishment of observers who hadn't been aware of the enlightened qualities these possessed and this related to previous advice relating to pride - that humility is the essence of good practice; a person who has realised the 'truth' will not look for recognition.
The 'Enlightenment of Rechungpa' was a long song, and we were happy to hear that in fact he did realise his full potential, despite the occasional diversion into worldly dharma and the tendency towards arrogance. When Rechungpa presented his intial awakening insights to Milarepa he discovered that there was yet another layer to work with, as the Eight Supreme Realms were described, and we heard again that the experience itself is not accessible through words, but if we have the resources of the Three Refuges we can find it, because nothing of itself is samsaric, samsara is when the mind is stuck and the stuckness is what we work with. He explained that when we take away ignorance there is no more samsara. Karma is dynamic and fluid. When we understand the nature of mind the chain of karma is broken, when we go beyond karma, life becomes spontaneous activity which is appearance and emptiness without bondage: the bondage is the difference between the two, and is dispelled by wisdom.

Rinpoche also explained the difference between the Eastern and Western ways of teaching: He said that the Eastern teacher presents him/herself as humble, but makes the teachings certain, and the Western style is to present oneself as strong and confident, but the teaching style will include 'maybes' and 'probables' in the text. He pointed out that there are many many commentaries on the texts, and commentaries on those, so there is no room actually for the maybes and the probables. If you don't know, you don't know.
Pride was a theme throughout the teachings, like a small oily stone, water falls off it, nothing can be absorbed, you cannot learn. It was a topic he returned to a number of times, quietly reminding us over and again of his own absolute groundedness coming from place of humility, as he spoke of things that can only be known by one who is fully realised.
Before giving the Bodhisattva vow he spoke of the need for harmony, one of the three branches of Bodhicharya, because harmony brings friendship and trust, when it's lost there's no peace, so we must be extremely careful in what we say: it is not about truth and being right. He recounted Dzogchen Ponlop's comment that we in the west 'have the disease of telling the truth'. Rinpoche described the metaphore of the moon's reflection in the water, many bowls can reflect the moon at the same time, without changing the quality of the moon or the power of it's light. The Bodhisattva vow is for all our lifetimes, once the commitment is made; and Bodhicitta is the most important practice.
To finish the week, poems were read by Ani Puntsok, ( I Won't Follow The Wind), and Jean Piara Pemberton who read a poem written on Holy Island, bringing together thoughts on meditation, Milarepa and the great Irish yogi St Molaise, who meditated in a cave on that island 400 years before Milarepa was born. She has just had her poems published by Strasbourg University, a beautiful volume to commemorate her 80th birthday this year, to honour the many years she has been professor of linguistics in that place. We hope to make the book available for those who'd like to read more of Jean's poems.
Finally a big thanks to all those who, each year, quietly and thoughtfully make Rinpoche's teachings accessible after the event, on CD and DVD - Ger, Christopher, Thierry, and to Lama Tsultrim and his team at Lusse who provide a comfortable environment and welcoming atmosphere so condusive to study and practice for the international Sangha.

This year is the 900th year of the Karmapas, and the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa will begin a year of celebrations at the beginning of December, before the 28th Monlam begins.
NB. The 'Pointing Out The Dharmakaya' teachings are restricted to those who attended the course, unless you have special permission from Ringu Tulku.

photos: Thierry Duparquet, Albert Harris, Annie Dibble

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