The Celebration Diaries share some insight for each day of the Celebration and people’s experience of the teachings.
One of the most important aspects of the Dharma Celebration meeting like-minded people from the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic areas. Though this year’s Celebration is both in-person at the Temple, many more people are watching online due to the conditions around COVID-19. The diaries help us, wherever we are, connect with the in-person gathering and the blessed US World Peace Temple.
Each day there will be photos and videos of the Celebration experience. If you would like to contribute your own videos, photos, and thoughts to the Celebration Diaries page. Simply e-mail your submissions to [email protected]on.org
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 10
The 2021 Northeast Dharma Celebration started off with an inspiring and uplifting introduction by Kadam Kyle Davis, Resident Teacher of Vajradhara Center in Brooklyn and second teacher here at KMC NY.
What makes this a Meaningful Weekend?
Why are we here and who are we here for? Kadam Kyle guided us in meditation to make clear the purpose for us taking part in this special weekend where we will receive the empowerment of Buddha Amitayus and teachings on gathering conditions for gaining realizations from Kadam Morten, the U.S. Eastern Spiritual Director and Resident Teacher at KMC NYC.
The deep meaning for being here, that arises when we get in touch with our true nature, compassion, is that we need to train our mind so we can protect others.
If we rely on and make a connection with Buddha Amitayus, we will deepen our wisdom and increase our merit and lifespan. But why do we need these things? Why is this so important for ourselves and others? Temporarily, yes, we will improve our life, become happier and more relaxed. But the long term benefit, having a long life so that we can increase our merit and wisdom for all our future lives, is far more important.
Kadam Kyle reminded us that if we really value dharma and understand how our future lives are many, we will naturally enjoy the practice of watching or guarding our mind in all our daily activities. Through this practice, we will effortlessly increase our merit and wisdom, and have something meaningful to take with us into our future lives.
Prioritizing the Practice of Guarding the Mind
“What would it be like to live where guarding our mind was, by far, ahead on our to-do list, ahead of everything else? What would our life be like if guarding our mind was our main priority, our main interest?”
“When we think that my future lives are more important than this life, that we are travelers, everything changes for the better. We start to become more interested in what is in our mind, creating merit, growing our wisdom. We relax. We just want to enjoy this process of practicing dharma, to benefit ourself and others now and in countless future lives.
To further inspire us, Kadam Kyle shared several profound quotes from Chapter 5 of Shantideva’s Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, including this one, stressing the supreme importance of guarding the mind.
I can accept losing my wealth and reputation,
Or even my livelihood or my body,
And I can even accept my other virtues degenerating;
But I can never allow my practice of guarding the mind to decline.
During this celebration weekend, Kadam Kyle also reminded us to avoid falling into the trap of “spiritual ambition”, looking for quick results in our spiritual life and becoming discouraged if they don’t appear.
“If we learn to simply value dharma more than anything else, learn how to watch our mind, we can relax, just be happy that we are receiving this empowerment, these teachings, knowing that we are planting incredible seeds in our mind. The results will definitely ripen later on.”
The Weekend Challenge
Kadam Kyle challenged us all to engage in a scientific experiment by trying to enjoy this practice of guarding the mind throughout the entire weekend celebration. If negative states of mind appear, he encouraged us to “doubt them, maybe just laugh about them, remembering that they’re irrational. Don’t get in a fight with delusions. Give yourself some space.”
To help keep this collective practice of guarding the mind going throughout the weekend, he suggested staying in communication with sangha friends, whether in person or online, and encouraging each other in this simple, profound practice.
His final advice – Enjoy the celebration!
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 11: THE BLESSING EMPOWERMENT OF BUDDHA AMITAYUS
Today, thanks to the kindness of Venerable Geshe-la and Kadam Morten, we had the amazing good fortune to receive the empowering blessings of Buddha Amitayus in order to increase our lifespan, our merit and wisdom.
Why do we need a long life, wisdom and merit? There is nothing more precious to us than our life. It is our most important possession. If we lose this life, we lose the chance to enjoy a human life, to practice dharma and to attain liberation and enlightenment. Death destroys our opportunity to take the essence of our precious human life and ignorance destroys our opportunity to develop a pure experience of dharma. To overcome these obstacles, we need to increase our lifespan, wisdom and merit. The principal method for doing this is the Yoga of Buddha Amitayus. We now all have the chance to engage in these powerful practices. How lucky we are!
To explain how incredibly special this empowerment is, Kadam Morten shared the following. “Enlightened wisdom is the inner light of exalted wisdom. That is what we’re receiving with this empowerment. The benefits will not only be temporary benefits of increasing our merit, lifespan and wisdom, but sowing the seeds to attain a deathless body, the indestructible body and mind, to become just like Buddha Amitayus.”
He shared that the name Amitayus means “immeasurable life” and also means “exalted awareness”. “What does immeasurable mean? Limitless life, limitless wisdom. This is worth contemplating – look at the sky – you might draw a limit in your mind, but you can go beyond that. Through this practice we can attain a “deathless” body. Within each of us, there is a deathless being or I who possesses a deathless body. If you identify with that, you will be deathless.” Kadam Morten also shared that this sadhana, or prayer booklet, that contains the practice of The Yoga of Buddha Amitayus, was composed by Venerable Geshe-la who brought it to his Spiritual Guide to get permission to practice it. His Spiritual Guide, Trijang Rinpoche, not only agreed to him practicing it, but encouraged him to transmit it to others. As Kadam Morten said “Are we not fortunate? How unbelievable that there is this life enhancing energy that we’re going to tap into!”
Having received this empowerment, we will now be able to engage in this profound practice, which includes the practice of generation and completion stages where we can learn to stop identifying with this gross body, mind and self and learn to manifest and identify with our actual body, our very subtle wind and our actual mind, our very subtle mind and become a “deathless” person and have the ability to protect others.
To illustrate this priceless opportunity we have with these precious instructions that we’ll be receiving commentary on, Kadam Morten quoted from Modern Buddhism:
A Yogi once said: “First, due to the fear of death, I ran towards Dharma. Then I trained in the state of deathlessness. Finally I realized there is no death and I relaxed!” How wonderful! May everyone everywhere have the good fortune we all have to be able to engage in these practices.
COMMENTARY – SATURDAY 4PM
In the first teaching, Kadam Morten shared commentary on the practice that we can engage in to fulfil our wishes to protect ourself and others. In this teaching, he focused on the practices of refuge, generating bodhichitta, including a special bodhichitta and self generation practices found in The Yoga of Buddha Amitayus.
Following commentary from Venerable Geshe-la’s teaching shared at a previous US festival, Kadam Morten challenged us to reflect on our own practice of refuge, the very first step in this and all our practices. When we go for refuge to Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, do we have a “special feeling” coming from deep faith and conviction or are we simply reciting words? He encouraged us to develop genuine refuge by connecting each time with our own potential for peace, joy, love, no matter how slight this may be. With this experience, we can know that we are already tuned in with a Buddha’s permanently peaceful mind, and therefore the dharma he teaches and the sangha who practice it and support us in our path. We are already aligned with this pure compassion and limitless potential. From that space of peace and connection, we begin the practice. Recognizing that we and others are unprotected from suffering now and in the future, we develop bodhichitta in general, and a special bodhichitta that is determined to become a protector to attain Buddhahood in this very life. We put this decision into practice by engaging in this special yoga of Buddha Amitayus.
Next, we generate as Buddha Amitayus. In order to do this, Kadam Morten reminded us of a simple way, a short cut, to dissolve away all the things we normally see that do not exist. We mentally try to find our body by pointing to it, but only find parts, and aren’t able to find the body we normally see. With the understanding of this unfindabilty of our body, we imagine it dissolves into emptiness. Since the body we normally see doesn’t exist, then the self that possesses that body can’t exist. If that self doesn’t exist, then all of its past, narratives, relationships, possessions and world can’t exist. We meditate on this vast space of emptiness of all phenomena, just relaxing in this peace of wisdom. If stories of this self come up, we remind ourselves that they’re simply appearances and don’t exist at all. We let them go and rest in the peace of the dharmakaya of Buddha Amitayus.
From within emptiness, following the instructions in the sadhana, we engage in the self generation practice which will eventually cause us to overcome the root cause of our suffering, our self grasping ignorance. Venerable Geshla says that this practice is “the most profound, meaningful practice. It directly gives great results and experience.” While engaging in this self generation meditation, Kadam Morten gave us clear and helpful advice: “You never leave the dharmakaya, the truth body is just manifesting as the enjoyment body, the emanation body, all is just the nature of emptiness. If some echo of an issue of the old self will pop up in the mind – just let it go, it’s mere appearance, you’re training in purifying your mind. Never separate from the dharmakaya.”
MEDITATION: GEN CHOGYOP – SUNDAY MORNING
This morning, we engaged together in the practice of The Yoga of Buddha Amitayus, focusing mainly on the self generation practice. Gen Chogyop kindly guided us to disappear the body, the self and all the things we normally see into the vast space of emptiness, the dharmakaya of Buddha Amitayus, so that we could then arise, appear simultaneously our self as Buddha Amitayus and Buddha Amitayus in front. We then appeared our Guru in the aspect of Protector Amitayus standing in our crown chakra. We then allowed ourself time to simply abide in this space of peace and wisdom, enjoying moment by moment, letting go of any sense of ordinary thoughts, ideas or sense of ordinary self and world as they arose. What a profound and peaceful way to start the day!
TEACHING 2: SUNDAY 11AM
In this teaching, we first learned about the importance of the next two parts of the sadhana – Inviting and dissolving the wisdom beings and Granting empowerment and adorning the crown. Both practices are methods for receiving powerful blessings. As Geshla has said: “Without receiving blessings of the enlightened beings, we can do nothing, our mind is powerless. Our mind is like a dry seed from which nothing can grow.”
In this first practice, we invite and receive the blessings of Buddha Amitayus’s body, speech and mind and are pervaded by blessings, like a “self-empowerment” – we experience a joyful mind. In the second practice, we invite the five Buddha families to grant us empowerment, imagine we are completely purified and experience bliss. And…we now have yet another Buddha, Guru Amitabha, at our crown!
Now, we make prostrations and offerings to ourself as Buddha Amitayus and all the other self-generations. Kadam Morten explained that this offering practice is so profound and through it we accumulate vast merit. In reality, it is a qualified Tantric practitioner who is making these offerings. Why? Because these offerings are appearing to them as bliss and emptiness, not separate from their mind of bliss and emptiness.
Kadam Morten encouraged us “that when we make these offerings, we want to relate to them with wisdom. We want to understand that these offerings do not exist independently of the mind.”
He quoted Milarepa and strongly suggested that we use this wisdom also in our daily life to become familiar with the meditations on the nature of mind and on emptiness.
“All appearances are the nature of the mind. You should know that the mind is the nature of emptiness.”
Kadam Morten’s enthusiasm and encouragement to practice like this was so joyful and inspiring, as he gave examples of how to practice like this.
“I’d like to encourage you, practice this, this is unbelievably fun. If you’re walking through one of the paths in the woods, you see the light through the woods, you can make a light offering. This light is not outside your mind. Because your mind is mixed with Buddha Amitayus’s mind of bliss, it is also bliss, union of bliss and emptiness. Just enjoy!”
But why are we doing this? Not for selfish reasons. So we can gain the attainments of life and exalted wisdom of bliss and emptiness, to step into the existence of a pure land. When we do these offerings, you are basically training in abiding in a pure land. We are training to do this. Please do this, try it.
So important we fall in love with these practices. Do it in the context of sadhana, but also walking around. Everything is the nature of bliss and emptiness. That is the reality of someone who has a pure mind. That is what we are tasting.”
In the final part of the teaching, Kadam Morten shared how to engage in the practice of divine pride and clear appearance of the self generation, right before the mantra recitation. He also shared Geshla’s commentary on a simple way to use the mantra recitation and visualization in pacifying, increasing, controlling and wrathful actions to improve our mind and our benefit to others.
More to come in the next teaching on mantra recitation!
TEACHING 3: SUNDAY 2:30PM
This afternoon, we had another delightful experience of engaging together in The Yoga of Buddha Amitayus, putting into practice the beautiful commentary received on the various parts of the practice. Kadam Morten guided us in dissolving Guru Protector Amitayus into our heart, where we strongly believed that our Spiritual Guide’s mind of great bliss had merged inseparably with our mind at our heart.
He guided as follows:
“We imagine we have attained the truth body, dharmakaya, of Amitayus. From this state of bliss and emptiness, we then appear as Buddha Amitayus. Our ordinary identity has ceased and instead we have attained the pure identity of Buddha Amitayus. We identify with a pure body, pure mind, the nature of enlightened love, compassion and wisdom, existing for the benefit of all living beings. Allow yourself to hold this divine pride, moment by moment.”
After this beautiful guided meditation, we engaged in visualization of the mantra recitation according to the instructions in the sadhana, strongly believing that we pacified all obstacles to life for ourself and others, and that we have attained a deathless state. How wonderful!
At this point, Kadam Morten pointed out the power of this creative mantra visualization to purify the five elements: earth, water, fire, wind and space. Ordinarily we experience the effects of these elements in our world, in ourself, in an impure way. We may even feel depleted by them. How can we change this?
He said: “It’s all about transformation. Looking at something so destructive, purifying it, and transforming it so we see it in a completely different way. And so that by drawing in the power of the elements, we harmonize the elements within us. If you do this regularly you will have the power to pacify these elements because everything is the nature of mind.
Such a creative, rich practice – we can train to experience these elements as Buddha Amitayus does. We will then have the ability to transform everything – then everything is taking us to the Pure Land because we are constantly transforming everything.”
How lucky we are!
With that final piece of inspiration from Kadam Morten, we concluded the sadhana with the special prayers for the long life of our kind, precious Spiritual Guide, Venerable Geshe Kelsang Rinpoche.
Many thanks to all who made this profound, delightful celebration possible!