Thanks to Amy Hursthouse, spiritual program coordinator at FPMT center Chandrakirti Tibetan Buddhist Meditation Centre in New Zealand, and long-time student Lozang Hursthouse for interviewing retreat participants during the recent Bodhicaryavatara and Rinjung Gyatsa Retreat with Lama Zopa Rinpoche at The Great Stupa of Universal Compassion in Bendigo, Australia.
Students were asked two questions: What is the most personally meaningful thing you have learned at the retreat, that you will take home with you? What is your favorite memory from the retreat?
“The most meaningful thing I learned about was patience,” said one retreat participant. “My favorite memory was going for an impromptu walk in the Peace Park with Rinpoche and looking at all the statues. Lama Zopa Rinpoche told stories as we went around and gave teachings about the use of prayer wheels. He also gave directions for the future animals to go in the park. That was really interesting.”
Another student said, “I learned everything has to be done with bodhichitta, all of your daily activities, and all those mundane things we do in the world. We just have to change our mind and do it with bodhichitta. Then it becomes a profound practice, and it transforms your whole life.
“My favorite memory is from one of the teachings. Rinpoche was sitting on his throne wildly waving his arms in the air as he super emphatically said, ‘It’s all a dream, it’s just a dream, you’re just dreaming. This is just a dream.’ It was really like palpable that we were actually dreaming. It made me realize it.”
Susan from Australia said, “The most meaningful part of the retreat for me was deepening the connection with Rinpoche as Buddha.”
“The most special part was being with Rinpoche. Listening to his teachings is so powerful,” Yen from Sydney said. “I also enjoyed translating and caring for students from overseas. I thought I’d come for retreat and be shut off from everyone, but actually I spent the whole time helping and serving others. I realized this is Rinpoche’s teaching. How to apply the teachings in daily life. I learned a lot from here. Serving sentient beings is so important.”
Several other students echoed the meaningfulness of doing a retreat with Rinpoche:
“Seeing Rinpoche and receiving such clear teachings, I understood better how to practice guru devotion. My favorite memory from the retreat is seeing Rinpoche. He is so amazing.”
“The most meaningful thing personally is that everything is in the mind. All of my experiences and what I believe to exist out there is all just like a movie, including the guru who is a manifestation of the dharmakaya. The guru who guides us appears through our karmic appearance, what we have the karma to see, just as Arya Asanga initially saw Maitreya as a wounded dog. We need to keep doing pure practice from the heart every day to prevent degeneration. My favorite memory is on the first night Rinpoche directly answered a question I had about how things exist. This bolstered my faith and I felt a lot of gratitude.”
“The most important thing I learned is the guru is the Buddha, and that by totally entrusting myself to him he will quickly lead me to enlightenment. The most meaningful part of the retreat was when Rinpoche give the initiation I had requested.”
“The most personally meaningful thing I have learned is that Rinpoche is my guru. My favorite memory is singing ‘Calling the Guru from Afar’ with Ven. Thubten Dechen.”
“My favorite aspect of the retreat was the group practice sessions when Rinpoche was present, like Lama Chöpa,” Anne Marie from New Zealand said. “Ven. Thubten Dechen’s voice was a highlight. It made the prayers soar. The devotion rose through the sense of sound. It was such a blessing for me to be in the presence of Rinpoche and have the inspiration of the prayers. One thing I will remember for a long time was when Ven. Joan helped us to help clean the Stupa View relics room. It felt like such a privilege. We worked really hard, and it was one of those great moments.”
“Something I will remember for a long time was when we were chanting ‘Praises to the Twenty-One Taras’ while waiting for Rinpoche,” Vurgel from Germany said. “Suddenly, I heard Ven. Thubten Dechen start to sing so beautifully. We were lifted to Tara’s pure land. Rinpoche didn’t come so we kept singing and singing. It was like a pure realm.”
Aki from Singapore said, “This is my second time attending the retreat. The most meaningful part for me was spending so much time with Rinpoche. And everyone’s energy to make this retreat happen, all the good energy and harmony.”
Amy from Australia and New Zealand shared, “The most memorable moment of the retreat for me was the first time we saw Rinpoche with our son Mila. It deepened my faith greatly to see Rinpoche giving blessings to students, children, and animals, and then hearing the teachings on guru devotion, the importance of the guru.
“The long life puja was one of the most meaningful days. From Rinpoche’s profound teaching, to the number of people who came, and seeing how we were all so moved in our different ways throughout the prayers. Looking around it was powerful to see people from all around the world who have had their hearts and lives transformed through meeting the Dharma, studying, offering service, taking ordination, and dedicating their lives in so many different ways to others. The puja made manifest the incredible organization of FPMT, and all that it does and stands for. And the heart of it was Rinpoche guiding us all.”
Watch all of Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s teachings from the recent Bodhicaryavatara and Rinjung Gyatsa Retreat in Australia and find transcripts and translations of the teachings here:
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