These short videos are from Mapleknoll Marsh, a tiny pond in Bowdoin Park a mere five-minute walk from the end of the PTC driveway along Sheafe Road. The videos were made in late spring during Saka Dawa, the most sacred month of our Buddhist calendar, during which Shakyamuni Buddha is said to have been born, attained enlightenment, and passed into nirvana, many centuries ago. As I write this, we have just passed the full moon of Saka Dawa, the culmination of the month’s magnfication of merit, and we still have two weeks to go before the new moon, when it gives way to the next Tibetan month.
In the videos, redwing blackbirds, a variety of frogs, Sheafe Road traffic, and even, faintly, the bells of Mount Alvernia (our Franciscan Monastery neighbor), along with various unidentified participants, join in the chorus of mani’s celebrating this sacred time.
PTC Monastery was graced with a visit last Saturday, September 15, from Master Hai Tao, a master of Mahayana Buddhism from Taiwan. He came to meet Lama Norlha Rinpoche and to see the Maitreya Center, our new monastery building currently under construction.
The Maitreya Center is unique in that it incorporates both a traditional Vajrayana and a traditional Mahayana shrine room. The construction of the building’s exterior is nearly complete, while the inside is framed out just enough that the dimensions of the respective shrine rooms are visible. A shrine had been set up in each of these spaces, overflowing with offerings and adorned with pictures of Buddhas. Master Hai Tao and his entourage toured the Maitreya Center with Rinpoche and paid homage at each of the shrines. It was a very touching moment of pure devotion shared across cultures and traditions.
This morning Pema Chödrön’s Facebook page shared a quote from her book, No Time to Lose: “The next time you go out in the world, you might try this practice: directing your attention to people—in their cars, on the sidewalk, talking on their cell phones—just wish for them all to be happy and well.“
This is the final month of our first year of three-year retreat. On January 5, 2009, year two begins.
Lama Norlha Rinpoche used to say that during the first year of retreat, everyone always thinks they made a big mistake, but for the last two years, they never want to leave. He also says the first year can seem a little slow, but the second year is really fast, and the third year speeds by before you know it. I imagine that third year will be a bit like an Amtrak through train whizzing by the Metro-North platform in New Hamburg. I’ve seen six previous retreats begin and end, and I know that no matter what you’re doing, three years are gone in a flash, like a dream. One is gone already!
One of the great things about being a Buddhist is that no matter where you are or what you’re doing, and no matter how bleak—or how perfect— things may look at any given moment, there’s always something you can do to improve the situation. (This is no doubt true of other spiritual paths as well—I just happen to be familiar with Buddhist methods.) Below is a concise guide to a few of the techniques we can pull out in any setting to calm our own mind or send some positive energy to someone in need. Each of them is best cultivated in regular sessions on a cushion or chair; that makes them easier and more effective on the spur of the moment. But if you aren’t able to organize yourself to practice formally, any engagement with them is helpful.