I had to leave early today to drive to the airport for a two and a half month journey to Europe. After stopping over for a few days on the mainland to see some friends, I will visit my family in Munich and then go see my teacher Sogyal Rinpoche for six weeks at Lerab Ling, his main center in the South of France. When I left home this morning it marked the end of an important phase in my life: settling back into a new life after the three year retreat. We found a wonderful inspiring and healing environment to live in, settled into a new home.
It has been busy the last couple of weeks getting everything in order to leave. I have kept up my practice and even managed to type up my reflections, but just didn’t find the extra time to post them on my blog. I now have plenty of stuff for a bunch of posts that just needs a bit of putting together and editing. In theory, it should be easy to catch up posting these reflections, when I find some spare time during my travels. I will give it a try. Practically speaking I am not sure it will work that way. I usually find that if I don’t finish up writing up my reflections when they are fresh in my mind they fade away. Let’s see!
I had mixed feelings about going away for such a long time. A part of me didn’t want to leave. I was just beginning to feel settled here and wanted to just stay, take it easy for a while and have some quiet time for study and practice. I felt I needed some more time to digest the rich and intense experience of the three year retreat, before being ready to return to Lerab Ling and visit my friends and family.
The farewell was not easy. I had to say good bye to my wife who decided to stay behind this summer because the traveling would be too hard on her health. I spent a few moments with our latest addition to the family: our two sweet little kitties Bodhi and Chitta (you can read all about them on mywife’s blog alwayswellwithin.com). Chitta hurt on of her paws a few days ago and is limping but fortunately the vet thought she would be ok. That was a great relief to find out.
The drive to the Kona airport on the other side of the Big Island is very scenic and inspiring. The road goes high up through the mountains and passes by the two volcanoes Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. As I was driving I felt deep gratitude for having met the Buddhist teachings. Why? Because they help me to understand what I am as a living being and they provide me guidance to live my life. They show a path that will ultimately lead to “nirvana,” a natural state of freedom beyond suffering, where my awareness will embody and manifests its true nature and being: pure, omniscient and capable of manifesting in myriads of ways to help other beings. Until I get there, the teachings will help me deal with both life and death and even what comes beyond that.
I am still at the very beginning of the path but the way I look at it, it doesn’t matter. The teachings say that just taking refuge in this truth and the path leading to it will ensure that liberation will eventually happen. In my tradition there are special teachings that are said to be able to bring enlightenment in this life. If you are practitioner of the highest capacity, that is. I don’t have my hopes up. With the pace that I am going at, there is no way that this going to happen in my case. The more I understand about what enlightenment means and the clearer I see my habits and obscurations, enlightenment seems far away, if not almost impossible.
I like the Zen approach to this: enlightenment may seem impossible but we try anyway. It may seem impossible to liberate all beings but we vow to do it anyway! Because it is the only thing worth doing! The most noble endeavor we can devote our life towards! It took Buddha three countless eons to travel the path to complete awakening. Maybe it will take me several dozen countless eons! I am okay with that, because I understand that fundamentally my being is indestructible and as long as I cultivate and strengthen a pure intention to work towards this noble goal of a nirvana not just for myself but all being, it will eventually come true.
I know these things intellectually but it is no so often that I feel them deeply. It took me over twenty years time to be able to sometimes feel this more deeply and feel deep confidence about the truth of it. This morning I also felt a deep gratitude for my teacher who showed me this path. Without his kindness my life would not be nourished and infused with meaning by the nectar of the Dharma.
This morning, on the way to the airport my hesitations about the trip dissolved. I feel ready to visit my friends and family and go back to Lerab Ling.