Akshobya Buddha retreat with HH Karmapa, 2013/2014

On the 19th of November 2013 the group of thirty two invited people started their two months retreat under the guidance of His Holiness Karmapa in Bodh Ghaya. Poland was represented by Lama Rinchen, whose impressions are written down below.
Dear Friends,

My visit lasting over two months in this most special place for Buddhist practitioners, where a thousand Buddhas of our kalpa achieve enlightenment, is coming to an end. I remember when our beloved Kyabye Tenga Rinpoche, after taking part for the first time in the Kagyu Monlam led by His Holiness Karmapa, said that He had never before done anything more profound. Rinpoche encouraged everyone to participate in the Monlam with Buddha Karmapa. Today, looking back over the last two months, I can only say a similar thing: these have been the most important and the most meaningful months of my life.

There were two reasons why I didn't share my experiences with you at the time. First, the schedule was quite intensive – usually I was out of my room from early in the morning till the evening – and the Internet on my phone was almost not working. But, the main reason was different. In the art of baking, there are some kinds of cakes that if, through curiosity, we look into the oven before the baking is finished, we can be sure that the cake will not be a success. Our cake will sink and be spoilt. I remember that once I made such an experiment in spite of my mother's warnings – all my hopes for a delicious cake were dashed!
It is very similar with the Yidam practice. It requires total discretion until it is finished. I have seen many practitioners who lose the opportunity to experience the blessing or make real spiritual progress during their meditation retreats. It was like that because they couldn't stop themselves from describing in letters or telling others about their temporary states of mind– either uplifted or doubts or difficulties.
My capacity to practice is very limited so I didn't want to make it even worse and to waste such an extraordinary opportunity for practising under the direct guidance of the Karmapa who is Akshobya Buddha in a human body. Receiving abhisheka and teachings from Buddha himself; having the possibility to ask Him about everything; being offered wonderful food and a sleeping place – all of these in such a special place! I don't know how many lives one must wait to get such a chance!
I cannot find words to describe how all-pervasive and amazing is the presence of Karmapa. But on the other hand I cannot talk about these two months emotionlessly. Although such an ordinary person as myself are not able to understand fully and appreciate all the qualities of Karmapa, I understand now much better why Kyabye Tenga Rinpoche had such limitless devotion to His Holiness. On the other hand, among all the Teachers of His Holiness, Tenga Rinpoche has a very special place – but that is another story...
During these days my thoughts were often with Tenga Rinpoche. With great gratitude I thought that all the great opportunity that I had this time was merely thanks to His teachings, help and recommendations. With great gratitude I was also thinking about all of you. I was invited as a ''Lama of a Centre'' which is a tribute to the activity and development of our centre that is created by all of us. By myself I could build a hut made of paper and sticks at most and sit there thinking about Buddhism. But such a centre is a result of the shared effort of so many people. This is really not my false modesty but genuine thankfulness.
Thirty two people from different countries and of different nationalities took part in the retreat. Half of them were Tibetans, including two tulkus. But this year, especially lamas from Europe were invited. On the occasion of previous Kagyu Monlams the practice of Akshobhya was also organised but it lasted usually one or two weeks. At the end of this 2 month retreat, His Holiness said that He saw now what a good idea it had been.
Our retreat started with  the Akshobhya abhisheka and the instructions for the practise bestowed by His Holiness Karmapa. The regular practice started the next day. We took sojong vows every day and meditated and recited mantras in six sessions. Practice and teachings took place in the private Karmapa chapel dedicated to Akshobhya Buddha. This Yidam is especially important for our Lineage because Marpa, Milarepa and all Karmapas belonged to this Buddha Family. His Holiness says that in this life He has a special connection with Akshobhya Buddha.
Additionally, almost every day we met with the Karmapa for an hour and a half. During these meetings we received detailed instructions for the practice as well as other teachings. His Holiness took care that each smallest detail of the shrine, ritual and the whole practice was in accordance to the rules described in ancient tantras. Although the Karmapa ate in His room, He usually was with us during our meals. This was a great opportunity to get to know Him more directly and ask Him about many topics. The closer the time for the Kagyu Monlam was, the more His Holiness was engaged in other things. In spite of this, He always found time to visit our retreat place and ensure that everything was going well. The Karmapa took also care about the retreatants' health. When somebody was ill, His Holiness brought the medicines by himself.

First, for over a month, we accumulated the required amount of recited mantras, practising dag-kye – identifying oneself with Buddha. During that time certain rules had to be obeyed, e.g. no one from the retreatants – even both Rinpoches taking part in the retreat – could bless anyone or anything. His Holiness was jokingly comparing this stage of practise to charging the batteries. A Fire Puja lasting three and half days ended this part. Later, during the Kagyu Monlam, the retreatants were evoking Akshobhya Buddha from the Pure Land imagining its form (dun-kye) and asking for its activity in fulfilling the needs of all beings, especially of those for whom the prayers were requested. It lasted one week. At the end of each session the participants blessed various objects and substances needed in the ceremony for the deceased. During the last day we accompanied His Holiness in the special ritual that liberates beings from the after-death state of bardo. Earlier, there was a possibility to request for the prayers of intention for the deceased. During the ceremony, the given names were burnt in the wisdom fire.
From the beginning, His Holiness Karmapa was repeating that this retreat was organised and dedicated so that the finishing practises for the living and the deceased ones were performed as best as possible. But anyway, for us, it was a great opportunity to stay in the presence of His Holiness and receive His blessing that pervades each atom of the body and each corner of the mind. The Karmapa could also get to know lamas running the Karma Kamtsang Centres better and they could get to know one another better.
During the last days I said to the Karmapa that now I saw that everything that Kyabye Tenga Rinpoche had taught me had been a preparation for meeting His Holiness. I don't have any doubts that this was the intention of Rinpoche who always pointed out His Holiness Karmapa and His Eminence Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche as lamas to whom we should ask for guidance and blessing. I dedicated the whole merit accumulated during this retreat to the general happiness of all beings but especially that we may satisfy all our Lamas with our practice and work. May we continue to cooperate in harmony with the Lamas from Benchen Monastery, may we create a place which His Holiness Karmapa can visit soon, where His Eminence Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche and other masters will be glad to come and where Kyabye Tenga Rinpoche will joyfully come back in His new body. May all of you meet Buddha Karmapa face to face very soon!
Lama Rinchen
Bodh Gaya, 18.01.2014


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