Sunday, 13 September 2015

Ringu Tulku Rinpoche in Dublin 2015

RINGU TULKU’S VISIT TO DUBLIN this year was originally planned for 27th – 30th July, organised and co-hosted by Bodhicharya Ireland and Dublin Samye Dzong, and each has an integral part to play. Rinpoche almost always stays at Dublin Kagyu Samye Dzong; in the early days it was in an old terraced house on the railway estate which hosted so many Buddhist luminaries from all traditions and when teachers visited we all squashed into the tiny panelled shrine room (formally a kitchen and parlour to the extended family of a train builder) to listen to the teachings from the previous Kalu Rinpoche,  Akong Rinpoche, Khenpo Tsutrim Gyatso, Pema Chodron, Lama Ganga Rinpoche and Gyaltsap Rinpoche, amongst many others.  In 1984 Rob Nairn was to begin his early teaching courses on mindfulness here, Akong Rinpoche and Edith Irwin introduced the very first Tara Rokpa Therapy courses, the Panchen Ötrul Rinpoche stayed and gave a White Tara Empowerment while he was preparing to establish Jampa Ling in Co Cavan.  Ringu Tulku, on his first visit to Europe in January 1990 gave teachings both there and at Kinlay House, Dublin, on the origins of Buddhism and Vajrayana.   Later again, a group of monks from Tashi Lumpo stayed while drawing up a Kalachakra Sand Mandala at the Douglas Hyde Art Gallery at Trinity College, causing great amusement as they queued for the no 78 bus to town each morning.

Ringu Tulku in the kitchen of the old
ON THAT FIRST VISIT Ringu Tulku Rinpoche spent three weeks with us, and brought with him some copy books to correct - belonging to his students at the institute of Tibetology in Gangtok. We were surprised that he left them behind - pages of beautifully scripted Tibetan writing that were both exotic and intoxicating to our imaginations and it seemed strange that once marked they were no longer of use to the students, or him, and he asked us to dispose of them.  That year also, KSD was asked to contribute to a new school text book on world religions, this coincided with his visit, and Rinpoche obliged by posing for photographs- saying prayers from a Buddhist text, and teaching ‘Buddhist disciples’, to illustrate a chapter for the Irish religious education school curriculum. 
RINGU TULKU continued to visit KSD and Dzogchen Beara in Co Cork, twice each year for several weeks at a time, until 1994 when KSD moved into Kilmainham Well House, the current premises, (so called because the water source of the ancient well of St John, divined by Akong Rinpoche, runs underground through the garden and now boasts a Holy Well of its own).   Kilmainham refers to the church of St Mhaighneann  who was a 7th century  Irish saint known to have built his abbey very close to the current Samye Dzong Buddhist Centre and live there, with 27 disciples.
IN 1994 Ringu Tulku was the first teacher to formally visit and give a teaching in the new Dublin Kagyu Samye Dzong; it was on the Four Noble Truths, an appropriate first teaching for a brand new start, and he was accompanied by Uncle, who by then was already 70 years old. 
Kilmainham Well House during the mid 1990's
Following on from that, Rinpoche visited every year, interest grew, and the new much bigger shrine room quite quickly became too small for his visits.  This prompted the start of a regular public talk organised between members of Rigpa Dublin and KSD at various venues in town, settling finally at the Writer’s Centre,  in Parnell Square, and coinciding with some students indicating that they’d like to form a group dedicated to Ringu Tulku’s teachings and personal projects. In spring of 2008, Bodhicharya Ireland  formally  came into being.  Rinpoche was clear, “no new premises please -  just dedication to practice, support for each other, help with publications, Rigul Trust, Rinpoche’s visits, and anything else that needs doing  in a practical sense. Above all, no quarrelling, learn to bring everything onto the Path as your practise.”

ONE WEEKEND of Rinpoche’s next visit to Dublin was dedicated to Bodhicharya, and held in the Hilton Hotel Kilmainham,  close to public transport and KSD: weekday teachings remained with KSD, who also host Rinpoche and his travelling attendant. In fact all of the preparations and organisation is shared, it is not a matter of separation, but of co-operation, meaning that individual energies can be directed where they are best placed and roles are clear.
The current pressure on Rinpoche’s time is growing, as more and more requests come in for his teaching, the more so since His Holiness 17th Karmapa has emerged as an extraordinarily powerful spiritual leader, and it obvious that Rinpoche’s own absolute dedication to the Gyalwang Karmapa for all these years has been instrumental in opening the way for the Karmapa's recent visits to Europe and America.  Last year Rinpoche's Dublin visit was cancelled so that he could attend to those preparations.

THIS YEAR, 2015,  Rinpoche was originally destined for only four days in Dublin because of demand on his time elsewhere, so the Bodhicharya Ireland event had to be re-invented. The theme for his visit this time was on the Bardo, and for the four nights at Kagyu Samye Dzong  he taught on each of the four Bardos.   Bodhicharya Ireland organised two outside teaching events and several media interviews. We wanted take the opportunity to make the Buddha’s teaching on, 'life as preparation for death' accessible to a wider audience, to bring the no nonsense, down to earth practical advice  into a public arena where people could listen comfortably and ask questions.  We approached Our Lady’s Hospice in Dublin Harold’s Cross and asked if they’d like to participate,  and they invited Rinpoche to meet staff and give a talk.
Ringu Tulku was also invited  to give a talk on the internet Bardo of  Googlat their Irish
headquarters.   There were also two media interviews planned, including a podcast interview with Irish Times journalist Roisin Ingle.  During preparations for an already busy visit, about three weeks prior to his expected date of arrival, Rinpoche wrote to say he would stay in Dublin for the  weekend as well, so please could we organise some Bodhicharya talks for those days.
Happily the Hilton had conference rooms free, the Bardo teachings were extended to Friday at KSD, and a programme was set up for Saturday all day and Sunday morning; a community meal for Saturday night and a picnic to Kilruddery House and Gardens on Sunday afternoon.

The internet Bardo of Google
RINPOCHE ARRIVED on Monday 27th July attended by his brother Kalsang, in time for the first teaching that evening, and unusually, so many people came along a second room with an audiovisual link had to be set up  to facilitate everyone. He chose to speak on the Four Bardos: 1. The bardo of this life;  2. The bardo of dying;  3.  The bardo of dharmata and  4. The bardo of becoming.

AT THE HOSPICE  on Tuesday afternoon, there was first of all a private internal event,  when Rinpoche met and spoke with staff and patients, answering questions on the Buddhist approach to life and death, and he gave a talk on the work of the spiritual care and hospice work that is at the heart of his centre in Berlin. The attending hospice residents and staff were deeply moved by the encounter, and the question of fear quickly came centre stage in the ensuing dialogue. One person was also very curious to know about Rinpoche’s background, where he lives, and who with, and he happily let it be known that he lives still with his mother brothers and sisters in Gangtok: thus Ursula Bates, in her  concluding thanks, was able to quickly point out that this made him a real Irish Mammy’s Boy,  causing delight for everyone.   Rinpoche was also welcomed with a tour of the Hospice wards and Ani Choedrun, director and resident nun from Palpung Ireland Buddhist Centre in Co Cork accompanied him, making valuable connections for her role in Buddhist chaplaincy. We hope that the connection will hold strong.

THE PUBLIC TALK that evening was held in the Hospice conference room at the Education, Research and Training Centre, staying with the theme of living and dying: almost 140 people came. Anne Marie Ellison from the North West Hospice, Sligo, and a personal student of Rinpoche’s, welcomed him and gave a short introduction, before inviting him to speak. The audience had many questions, and it was abundantly clear that the Buddhist ethos, that of holding the view of living as a preparation for death, is very close to the heart of Christianity, which is of course the essential spiritual ethos of the Irish Hospice Care system.  Rinpoche created an open atmosphere in which the parallels could be explored through questioning and skilfully guided discussion.

THE GOOGLE event took place on Thursday morning, when Rinpoche dialogued with Ciaran Cooke: some simple questions put by Googler Egle Kaceviciute were tossed around and expanded.  The limit for the host room was 50 people, but somehow 100 were squeezed in, a further unfortunate 50 people were disappointed.  The whole talk can be followed here, thanks to Egle. Again, it was a lively session with an engaged audience who asked pertinent questions around mindfulness, meditative ambition, and job satisfaction.

GOOD IN THE BEGINNING, GOOD IN THE MIDDLE, GOOD IN THE END,  at the Kilmainham Hilton, was a topic open enough to expand on, according to the audience. These are known as the Three Noble Principles, and are the essence of dharma practise: the title refers to a classic text by Patrul Rinpoche, but is also widely used in other contexts to refer to the focus we must keep when engaged in any task and in this case includes how we begin and live our life, and face our death.  Again, the room filled to capacity for these teachings and the talks brought plenty of questions and discussion. The event raised substantial funds for the Rigul / Nepal Earthquake appeal.
On this day also, the news came  that His Holiness the 17th  Gyalwang Karmapa was to visit Germany once again, in only three weeks time, which meant the Kagyu Monlam planned for Paris on the weekend of 4th – 6th September would have to go ahead without
Ringu Tulku.

RINGU TULKU HAD SUGGESTED that on Sunday afternoon we take a picnic in the country as he doesn’t usually have time to see much beyond Dublin when he comes.
Rinpoche and Kalsang and a party of Bodhicharya sangha visited Kilruddery House and Gardens, home to the Brabazon family and the  illustrious Earls of Meath and Ardee. So we drove a few miles south of Dublin for a walk, a tour of the house, and afternoon tea in the Orangery. Unfortunately the walk was curtailed because of rain, but not before we checked out the Sylvan Theatre set into one of the lawns in front of the house, and the formal gardens that were designed in the 17 century by a gardener poached from Versaille.  The house tour was informed and fun, led by Paul’s mum-in-law Lady Lavinia, who had grown up there and knows its secrets.  Rinpoche and Kalsang managed to get some sound out of a pair of ancient and dusty Tibetan horns, and see at first hand how the Anglo Irish Earls of Meath have lived for 400 years before it became necessary to open doors to the public.
Lady Lavinia the tour guide
Finally to the Orangery where there was tea in silver teapots, with homemade lemon drizzle cake, strawberries and cream, and a photo opportunity with Bec’s mum and dad, Lavinia and John Jobson, and their nephew, the present Earl and his wife, Lady Meath and their young family.  The Orangery, still full of Italian marbles and plaster work  but minus orange trees, was built on funds raised by the sale of  a previous Lady of Meath’s tiara.  To make up for the loss of her noble headgear the parapet decoration was designed as a replica of the spent headdress.
Bodhicharya Ireland,  Finland,  Bristol, Kathmandu.
A busy, short but richly beneficial week was over, and on the following day Rinpoche and Kalsang flew off to Portugal and the Bodhicharya Summercamp. 

Annie Dibble 
September 13th 2015

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