More than 200 students, a record number, attended Pundarika UK’s 2015 Easter Retreat at Bruton, Somerset, to hear Tsoknyi Rinpoche teaching on Dzogchen and Khamtrul Rinpoche presenting Tilopa’s Ganges Mahamudra instructions.
Khamtrul Rinpoche, who was making his first visit to the West, has been recognised as the reincarnation or tulku of one of Tsoknyi Rinpoche’s main teachers, the 8th Dokhampa Khamtrul Rinpoche.
Khamtrul Rinpoche’s lineage is renowned for its tradition of togdens, or yogi-monks, and one of them accompanied him to Bruton. Togden Thutop Nyima led a meditation session and answered questions. He explained how he began as an assistant to older togdens then had to practice mahamudra and the six yogas of Naropa for 12 years before he was entitled to wear the robes of a togden.
A second togden who had been scheduled to attend was unable to do so due to UK visa difficulties.
Tsoknyi Rinpoche’s own teachings on the theme of emptiness with a core of compassion included pointing-out instructions and advice on remembering Rigpa amidst the distractions of technology.
Chöje Lama Rabsang from Palpung Wales, a student of Mingyur Rinpoche, also visited Bruton to meet the masters and hear some of the teachings.
To accommodate the increased number of students, the shrine room layout was altered with the teachers seated on the stage. Some attendees were placed in rooms at the nearby Sexey’s School, and Bruton’s refectory staff made an extra effort, opening two serving hatches to cope with demand.
Impressions of the Pundarika UK Easter 2015 Retreat
By Elena Sautkina
Words are only a mediocre proxy when it comes to describing feelings. So, how can I express what I feel when I meet wisdom and compassion embodied in my heart teachers? The Bruton 2015 retreat was one of the best retreats I have been to. Why was it so significant?
During the first part of the retreat, Tsoknyi Rinpoche in a simple, crystal-clear, yet warm and humorous style gave us the most profound instructions on liberating our being. He introduced us to our mind nature through simply being kind to our ‘beautiful monsters’, these 24-hour companions, big and small. In this way, not only did he show how to alleviate suffering, but also how to make the most precious discovery of the profound truth contained within. I have always wondered how a human being as he is, could incarnate compassion to such an extent. Well, this time, I felt that his compassion shed light unimpededly, and everything was naturally becoming part of a welcoming openness.
The second part of the retreat was special to all of us, as Pundarika UK was hosting Khamtrul Rinpoche for his first visit in the West. There was a strong sense of teacher-student interdependence, as Khamtrul Rinpoche’s instructions were a true continuation of the teachings with Tsoknyi Rinpoche, while Tsoknyi Rinpoche further expounded the former to us.
I was enchanted by Khamtrul Rinpoche’s delicate, simple, beautiful presence, his gentle smile and a light humour. There were many of us in the room, but I felt that he spoke to each person directly, heart to heart, and it is simply staying in his presence that I appreciated the most. I hope that we will be able to see Khamtrul Rinpoche again and again.
We were studying Gangama, and Togden Nyima almost palpably carried Tilopa’s blessings. The fearlessness of renunciation in his eyes, his sharp insight, combined with a great humbleness made me think of the ancient Indian mahasiddhas, beings that I particularly feel connected to – how odd for a modern person! Maybe this is a proof that wisdom is beyond time and place?
Gerardo Abboud’s cordiality, understanding and experience made the teachings particularly accessible to us, the Westerners. As always, he performed the role of a translator in a much larger sense than a simply linguistic one: that of a connection between, on the one hand, us – our culture and constitution -, and the teachers and Tibetan Buddhism, on the other.
Finally, it is togetherness in the sangha that I felt during this retreat. Despite the busyness, everything ran very close to perfect at Bruton this year. It seems to me, this was due not only to skills and effort, but especially to trust and appreciation. When we have the latter, things become almost self-accomplishing. I think that is what happened at Bruton this spring. It was a joy having been part of it.
Photos courtesy of Ani Konchog Lhamo
This year Rinpoche taught from the stage, assisted by Gerardo.