The 6 day retreat (which turned into 8 - hence the mysterious disappearance on New Year's Eve) was much more than we bargained for. A typical day started with a wake-up gong at 6:00am, morning meditation at 6:45am, breakfast at 7:30am (they made their own peanut butter, which I now have a nice little bodily store of in case I don't eat for 12 days), morning teachings from 9-11:00am, yoga at 11:15am, lunch at 12:00pm, discussion group at 2:00pm (the wonderous hour of the day when retreaters were allowed to talk!), tea break at 3:00pm, afternoon meditation at 3:30pm, stories from Buddha's time at 4:15pm, afternoon teachings at 5:15pm, dinner at 6:15pm, evening meditation at 7:15pm, and then the glorious hours of sleep anytime after 8:00pm!!! 6 days which started to feel like ground hog day at the end, but ended up giving real meaning and purpose to our lives!Now don't get us wrong, we're not going to go all Buddhist on all of you and never have a bad thought again (in fact, I'm having a few right now), but we will never forget the experience neither. What we learned in 6 days we've been trying to figure out our whole lives; the secret to happiness. Honestly, we know it now, and will be happy to share it with you for a small donation to our travel fund of a mere $5,000,000 Rupees (don't worry; that's like 80 cents or something); but we will definitely try to live by the principles of the Buddhist philosophy. Here's the deal:
- Everyone in the world wants to be happy.
- You can't control external circumstances, so you should work to try to control yourself.
- One's own happiness can be achieved my working to make others happy.
- Attachment and aversion to others and objects do not provide lasting happiness.
- Creating good Karma has positive effects, creating bad Karma has negative effects.
One day before New Year's Eve, the course instructor, Venerable Damshar (a realistic and witty former New York Times economic journalist who ordained in the Tibetan Buddhist Sect. 9 years ago and today lives in Dharmasala, India - currently where His Holiness is also in exile) told us that for those of us that were interested, there was an opportunity to extend our stay with a 2-day meditation retreat at the end. After a long glance at each other and a convincing nod from both of us (using our non-verbal powers), we agreed and took our teacher up on the offer along with 6 others. The next 2 days held more silence and 7 meditations daily let by an Israeli monk (!), Venerable Tamir ... this included 2 walking meditations as well (I only ran into 2 trees which I was pretty pumped about). It was intense, but amazing, and our best meditations of the lot came in the last 3 sessions when we were "in the zone", as our guru liked to say. ;-)
On the last night, Lama Zopa Rinponche (the 3rd highest Lama in Tibetan Buddhism) came to Bodhgaya and stayed at the root institute where our course was being held. He arrived at 1:30am, at which time everyone lit butter lamps and lined the walkways with Katas (prayer shawls). Kristin thought it was absolutely amazing. Me and one of my roomies, Moshe (from Israel), also thought it was pretty cool... but were waiting around a while when people started to hit the sack and butter lamps started going out with no sign of Lama Zopa. We started to feel kinda' bad for the guy as his reception slowly dwindled, until a friend kindly informed us that he had already arrived! Good times. Lama Zopa's still in town, so we'll let you know about future encounters.All in all, it might end up being the most rewarding 8 days of our trip! Mike, from Edmonton, who was also in the course, shared our sentiments and thought about a great way to let his mom back home know. He was heading into town last we say him to buy monk's clothing for 1200 Rupees (about $30); then, we he arrived back in Edmonton, he was gonna' shave his head, dawn the apparel, and give his mom a big ol' welcome home!
We missed you all New Year's eve and hope it was an auspicious one, no matter where you were!With loving kindness and compassion,
K and C
P.S. For those of you following at home: --> still in Bodhgaya!!! ;-)