Summer 2015. A spiritual adventure with travel mates Erin Phillips and Susan Dickens to Manjushri , for the Kadampa International Summer Festival in Ulverston, England, near the beautiful Lake District. 3,500 people attended, and as Gen-La Dekyong said, with love, there was room for everybody.
If this were an ordinary vacation, it would have been wonderful, by anyone’s standards. It fulfilled all requirements for a great time: good company, beautiful scenery, delicious food and drink, time for relaxing walks, shopping, and sitting on a beach.
But this was no ordinary vacation. Because the good company enjoyed were Kadampas, from around the world and from my own center, all practicing love and patience and giving.
And the beautiful scenery included precious holy objects, a golden temple, giant Buddhas, dancing Dakinis on the wall, colorful, abundant offering tables, and the big smiles on the faces of pure spiritual practitioners.
And the delicious food and drink wasn’t just a meal; it became a precious opportunity to talk about Dharma with everyone you met: “the good coffee” and pastry with Boston and New Bedford Sangha at the World Peace Café, a private lunch with former teachers and Gen Samten, tea, with just you and your Guru in your tent, or dinner with hundreds of others-“Where are you from?” “ Dublin, London, Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Sheffield, Asheville, California, Florida, “ “What did you think of the teaching?”
Relaxing walks through the English countryside? Looking at sheep and horses and cows in green, luscious pastures became Dharma reviews with questions, clarification, and encouragement. Where else can you be walking through an English village and overhear a 6 foot Texan in a booming Czech accent talking to his friend Geronimo from New Mexico about emptiness, and be able to join right in the conversation as if you had known them for years?
Shopping, anyone? Not your ordinary souvenirs. A new mala in Vajrayogini red, perhaps? Geshe-la’s books? Posters and cards and calendars? Oh, my, how much can I fit in my suitcase? Treats and gifts to bring a little of Manjushri home and rev up your practice.
Morecombe Bay. A beach with its own special teachings.
But of course, what makes a festival different from any other vacation, are the teachings. Precious instructions and advice from skillful, kind, wise teachers. My heart and mind are full. May everyone who attended be able to put them into practice to benefit themselves and others.
***This rave review was inspired by actual events, and many more, too numerous to mention. Go to any Festival or gathering of Kadampas to experience this yourself so you can tell us about it. Hopefully, I’ll be on the plane in the seat next to you.
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