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The following texts about the Hayagriva Retreat were excerpted from a letter written by retreatant Melissa Mouldin.
The Most Secret Hayagriva Retreat with the amazing Lama Zopa Rinpoche and 120+ FPMT sisters and brothers at Tushita Meditation Centre in Dharamsala, India, from March 3-31, 2010 was, unsurprisingly, wonderful!
For the first week of this 4-week retreat, we were blessed to have teachings usually 2-3 times per day from Rinpoche. Once the 3-day initiation was completed, e did the actual Hayagriva Retreat with Lama Choepa and precepts every morning (of course) and 3 sessions of Hayagriva sadhana practice each day. In each session, the Prostrations to the 35 Buddhas, Lam Rim Prayer and Retreat Motivation were led in English by our unofficial English Retreat Leader Ven. Sarah Thresher. Then the Hayagriva sadhana was led entirely in Tibetan by our Tibetan Retreat Leader, a Sera Geshe, in true Sera fashion… i.e. very high-speed Tibetan!
Rinpoche’s teachings emphasized emptiness and bodhicitta mindfulness. Other major topics included commentary on the Hayagriva sadhana and what to visualise during the mantra recitation, Lama Choepa commentary, the importance of Guru devotion, the benefits of prostrations, and even an extensive commentary one night on the location and condition of the Kopan and Buxa toilets!
This was my first long retreat with Rinpoche and I can’t believe how well I was able to joyfully function with so little sleep… blessings of the Guru! All in all, I am so happy to have spent a whole month with Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche trying to finally practice in the way He always advises us to! May all beings (especially you, dear reader) always get such opportunities to avidly pursue the Dharma under such perfect guidance!
You can see more photos from the Hayagriva Retreat here.
The night we were scheduled to begin the Hayagriva Initiation at 9pm, Rinpoche didn’t start His preparation until 9pm and He continued until 4am…for an initiation He wasn’t even actually required to do a preparation for… how kind He is!!! Then we all woke up at 4am to start the initiation, which stretched out over 6 sessions over 3 days and it took more than 20 hours total! Amazing!
For the next three weeks the daily schedule was incredibly consistent. During the three-week retreat I only remember one day when things went very unusually… Dagri Rinpoche and Khandro-la came for incense puja so we ended our morning session early to join that, and our afternoon session was shortened to make time for Dagri Rinpoche to teach. You can see photos of the Incense Puja here. On another occasion Khandro-la also taught, as did the abbot of Sera Monastery.
The retreat ended with a bang (many bangs actually)…
- A full-day, very elaborate Hayagriva tsog, which is how they always end Hayagriva Retreat at Sera Monastery, on 29 March.
- Two fire pujas (because not all of us could fit into Tushita’s fire puja house all at once) on the 30th…one led by Dagri Rinpoche and the other led by Keutsang Rinpoche.
- A rare Long Life Hayagriva/Amitayus Initiation on the 1st.
- And a whole day picnic and incense puja with Rinpoche and Keutsang Rinpoche on the 2nd!!!
- A brief long life puja for Rinpoche on the 31st… brief because we had to hurry to McLeod Ganj for…
- A private audience with His Holiness the Dalai Lama!!!
On the 31st of March 2010, the final day of the Most Secret Hayagriva Retreat, Tushita was ecstatically excited to be granted a private audience with His Holiness the Dalai Lama at His residence in McLeod Ganj! His Holiness very kindly gave Lama Zopa Rinpoche, Hayagriva Retreatants and Tushita staff & volunteers a wonderful talk during the lunch break of His private retreat.
His Holiness emphasised the importance of studying the works of the 17 Nalanda Scholars and the need for a Free Tibet if the Dharma is to continue to exist in this world, and He gave this advice for returning to our daily lives: “Remember mindfulness, holistic view, and compassion.”
More photos from this meeting with His Holiness can be seen here.
Organising the Haygriva retreat was a major operation. Tushita is a very busy centre and we’re used to running courses for large numbers of people, but Hayagriva was something else altogether! Preparations started many months before the first day, making inventories of meditation cushions, tables, bedding, kitchen equipment, plates, utensils – you name it! Then there was the fundraising for actually buying what we lacked (which was rather a lot) and then finding, buying and shipping everything – and all the while trying to ensure that we weren’t getting ripped off!
We had to make back-up plans for our erratic water and electricity supplies, build a whole new dining area and beautify the place with new furnishing, information boards, thangkas and pictures. On top of that we had to find places outside Tushita for everyone to stay – at full capacity we can fit around 90 people here, so we had to find another 40 or so bedspaces in the hotels and guest houses nearby. We’ll leave the logistics and level of negotiation required to your imagination!
Then, in February our fantastic Hayagriva volunteers started to arrive. We had people helping in every area of the centre, keeping it clean, supervising the kitchen, transcribing teachings, arranging flowers, washing dishes… There are so many people to thank for making the Hayagriva Retreat run so efficiently, but our Director, Linda, and SPC Ven. Kunphen were the hub of the Tushita wheel throughout.
Melissa Mouldin wrote of “the blessings of the very kind and well-organized staff, volunteers and “Hayagriva Helpers” of Tushita who did an incredible job! As well as the blessings of the good Tushita food, surprisingly consistent electricity and water supplies, and unseasonably warm, beautiful weather!” Well, as proud of ourselves as we are, we can’t take credit for the last part…
Only half way through 2010, it was looking like a record-breaking year at Tushita!
Course numbers have been consistently high and with two or more courses/retreats often being held at the same time, we’ve regularly had a full-house. Our largest course so far was in May with 85 students (taught by Glen Svensson), and since the Nyung Nay retreat was also running at that time, Tushita was a springtime Dharma powerhouse!
We’ve been very lucky this year in having 2 very capable and dedicated Meditation Leaders. Mark & Richard being here throughout the year has meant that we’ve finally been able to offer daily drop-in meditation sessions. This has both brought a lot of new people here, and given those who may not have felt ready to join a course a chance to try meditation out. So, in addition to the high numbers of people attending residential course, we frequently have 40-50 people joining our daily drop-in sessions and twice-weekly Movie screenings, even in the depth of Monsoon!
Another factor in our busy season is of course the attraction of our new Resident Teacher, Ven Robina Courtin. We’ve also been incredibly fortunate in having many other special teachers (also in addition to the Rinpoches, Lamas & Dakinis who spent time here during the Hayagriva retreat!). In preparation for the Nyung Nay retreat, we had a Chenrezig Initiation with Jhado Rinpoche on the 8th & 9th of May (pictures here), and Denma Lochoe Rinpoche conferred the Vajrasattva Initiation on the 4th of July, with Ven Kelsang Wangmo acting as translator (pictured right with more photos here). Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo gave an amazing teaching on the topic of “Getting to know your own Mind” to a packed Gompa on the 25th of August (photos here).
The increase in demand for Dharma Teachings here in McLeod Ganj is really inspiring, but it also presents a few challenges… The need for new accommodation becomes more urgent, and plans for new rooms continue. Our priority now is to replace our beloved (but frankly rather dilapidated) A-Frame retreat huts before they fall down in a strong breeze. We would of course be extremely grateful if you could help us to do this, by donating money or professional experience & time.
All the more so because Tushita has been experiencing a shortage of volunteers! Finding suitable longish-term volunteers has always been hard, but new Indian Visa regulations have make the situation much more problematic. We’re always looking for people who can stay for 3 months or more, and help Tushita to stay functioning at this extraordinary level of demand. You can see more information about our current needs here. We’d be very happy to hear from you!
>When Lama Zopa Rinpoche left Tushita after the Hayagriva Retreat at start of April, we thought that it might be years until we saw him again. Then in early July…
Rinpoche arrived to attend a retreat requested by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, held at the main temple in McLeod Ganj. Out of concern for Rinpoche’s health, Tushita had been asked to keep His visit low-key, but of course Rinpoche had other ideas, and was incredibly generous with His time.
In His 5 weeks here this Monsoon season, Rinpoche taught half a dozen times, as well as paying great attention to the arrangements for the Tara statues (see below), and being especially kind to the 16 retreatants on our 3-month Vajrasattva retreat.
All the more amazing considering that Rinpoche was keeping such a tight retreat schedule himself!
Ven Roger posted updates of the retreat on the FPMT website. He wrote: “Rinpoche’s retreat is going well. It is a group retreat with eight other Lamas, two Khadro-las, and 40 senior monks. The schedule is good. The first session starts at 6 a.m., going through to lunch. The second session begins at 1:30 p.m., going until about 6 p.m. That’s it! Rinpoche has a quick lunch with Dagri Rinpoche, nicely prepared by Sangpo and Tenzin. When the second session finishes Rinpoche goes to Khadro-la’s place. Khadro-la has Rinpoche do some exercises, similar to those found in the Six Yogas. They then they have dinner together and after dinner Khadro-la kindly brings out her prostration board for Rinpoche to do prostrations. This finishes around 10 p.m.”
You can read Ven. Roger’s posts about Rinpoche’s retreat and recent time at Tushita here, here, here and here. And you can see photos of Rinpoche’s teachings here and here, of the night that Rinpoche gathered the Introduction course students together to watch a movie here and of his departure from Tushita here.
The following text was excerpted from a letter written to the Sponsors of the Tara Statues by Tushita’s Director, Linda.
After a long period of fundraising, construction and delivery, towards the end of June the 21 Tara statues arrived from Nepal. The first mission was for them to be unpacked and checked. It was amazing to witness this event – as from the large crate boxes, bundles were removed and unpacked to reveal 21 precious statues of Tara. Our librarian, Tashi, worked closely with 2 of our resident monks, Old Lama Gyupa & Ven Jampa to carefully unpack and check each statue. Next, we gathered the mantras and blessed pills to fill each statue. The 20 x 18″ Taras were then taken to the local Gyudmed monastery to be filled while the main Tara remained at Tushita.
Meanwhile, Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche arrived at Tushita on July 8th to do a retreat. We were so fortunate that Rinpoche remained with us for 5 weeks. Rinpoche advised every step of the way during the Tara preparation, and all 21 Taras were filled with microfilm of the 4 Dharmakaya relic mantra.
The preparations culminated in a series of extraordinary events on August 12th, the last day that Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche was at Tushita. Dagri Rinpoche and Khandro la were invited to fill the main Tara (pictured above centre), then there was a Tara puja and consecration with Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche, Dagri Rinpoche and Keutsang Rinpoche.
Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche had kindly sponsored the divine dresses for all of the Taras. On entering the full Tushita gompa that afternoon, Rinpoche took out a bag of pearls which had been recently offered to him in Hong Kong. The crowd looked on in disbelief as Lama Zopa and Dagri Rinpoches climbed up into the cabinets to personally offer the pearls (pictured above right), then beautiful long white khatas to each Tara.
We were guided through the Lama Tsongkhapa Guru Yoga practice followed by consecration prayers. In Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s infinite kindness, we then returned to the gompa for the 4 Mandala Offering Tara Puja and extensive prayers which took us through to some time after 3am! You can see photos of Tara’s adventures at Tushita here, here here and here.
There were special dedications made for all the sponsors of the statues – each name was individually read out – and all those who had been involved in the project. So most heartfelt thanks to all the sponsors and helpers who have made this possible. We really appreciate your support.
In early November 2010, Tushita was the location of a blast-from-the-past! For the last few years, those who were among the first foreign backpackers to establish an expat community in Dharamsala in the 1970s and 80s had been trying to organise an audience with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. As well as simple nostalgia, this was intended to be a celebration of the international connection with Tibetan Buddha Dharma and the cause of Tibet-in-Exile. Since most of those partcipating are now aged 60 and above, there was a general feeling that such a gathering had best happen while people were still alive and able to travel!
And so to the enormous delight of many, His Holiness gave 2 days of teachings to the group who had named themselves “The Old Dharamsala Wallahs”. You can see footage of those meetings here.
On the 4th of November, before the group dispersed, everyone was invited to a picnic here at Tushita and the general feeling was that a lovely time was had by all! About 80 ODWs (and family members) attended, and as well as providing the group an opportunity to get together for one last time and eat lots of delicious cake, we used the time to give them a tour of our new Gompa and explain more about what Tushita offers these days. Considering that many of those attending hadn’t been to Tushita for 30 years, there were a lot of surprises!
It was also a fantastic opportunity for us to hear more about the Old Days, times when HH the Dalai Lama lived 5 minutes away and it was possible to drop by to ask Him a question, and when Lama Yeshe was still here to call you “Darling”…! Another highlight for us was to have Jon Landaw pay a visit to the room he sponsored around 20 years ago (pictured left). He’s now well-known as a Buddhist writer & teacher, but round here he’s more famous for “Jon Landaw’s Room”! You can see more photos from this event here.
- Guided Meditation on March 27, 2017 9:30 am
- Movie Day on March 27, 2017 2:00 pm
- Introduction to Buddhism on April 6, 2017
- Guru Puja on April 6, 2017 6:30 pm
- Eight Verses of Thought Transformation / Chenrezig Retreat on April 7, 2017
- Medicine Buddha Puja on April 11, 2017
- Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo – Wheel of Life on April 18, 2017
- Introduction to Buddhism on April 22, 2017
- Insight Into Emptiness on April 23, 2017
- Introduction to Buddhism on May 9, 2017
Tushita is a centre for the study and practice of Buddhism from the Tibetan Mahayana tradition. We're located in Northern India, in the forested hills above the town of McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala - the seat in exile of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.
Tushita aims to provide a friendly and conducive environment for people of all nationalities and backgrounds to learn about and put into practice the teachings of the Buddha. With this in mind we offer regular drop-in events and courses on introductory Buddhist philosophy and meditation, as well as intermediate level courses and group retreats for more experienced students.
February to November
Monday - Saturday
9:30 - 11:30am
a break for lunch and then...
12:30 - 4:00pm