Friday, September 12, 2008

A new perspective

As I am writing this, I am sitting at London Heathrow, on my way back
to Princeton. I have spent about three months in Europe, for the most
part in Lerab Ling. Taking the time out to go on retreat really gave
me a new perspective on my life and on the possibilities of the
mind. Because really, we tend to be so much stuck in the normal and
subnormal levels of mental functioning, and we have no idea what is
possible if we spend some time looking at our own minds and training

On retreat, I divided my time basically between various meditational
practices and studying Buddhist teachings. These teachings in large
part concerned the nature of our minds, which according to the
Buddhist philosophy is our Buddha nature, and how we can start to
recognize it. Recognizing the nature of mind is best done in retreat
with a qualified teacher who can show you, and who can clarify what
the nature of mind is and what are just experiences. To even get a
taste of the nature of mind can be really transformative, and I really
started to appreciate the depth of knowledge in the Tibetan
tradition. Now the big challenge is to try to integrate some of that
experience as I go back into my hectic life. I really feel that
especially this hectic world of today needs so badly the enormous
space that is really there in your mind, at any moment, if you could
only recognize it!

Another great contribution that my practice of Dharma has made to my
life is the teachings about egolessness. Egolessness might sound
strange and scary but for me it really has to do with losing fear and
gaining self-confidence. Because if there is no I in the way I
conventionally think about it, then who is there to get hurt? Or get
criticized? Egolessness however, is quite subtle, and to really
understand it, you need to contemplate it over and over again. To be
surrounded by an environment that very much supports these
contemplations is again, very helpful!

The culmination of the retreat was a visit by His Holiness the Dalai
Lama, during which he inaugurated the beautiful temple of Lerab
Ling. This temple is built on the model of Samye, probably the first
temple in Tibet. It is an amazing place, full of holy statues and
beautiful thangkas. Just to walk around there makes you feel like in a
different world. During the inauguration, Lerab Ling was a buzz of
activity, especially when the inauguration was attended by Mme Sarkozy
and many other VIPs! This was really not quite an ordinary retreat!