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Shambhala Congress

June 20-24: Retreats & Villages

The following message was transmitted by Derek Kolleeny of Shambhala's International Affairs Office from Surmang Dutsi-til at approximately 9 a.m. eastern standard time on June 23, about 8 p.m. in Tibet.

June 19

It rained heavily on this day. Huge crowds of local people came to see Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche in the morning. He sat and greeted everyone who wished, handing out photographs and pendants and giving blessings. In the afternoon, there was lama dancing under a tent set up in the courtyard in front of the shrine room. The dancers, 36 in all, performed a special cakrasamvara dance that is unique to Surmang. The dancers included Thubten Dawa, who will be coming to Naropa Univeristy along with two other dancers and one incense bearer.

As noted in the earlier dispatch, the Vidyadhara's half-brother Damchu Thenpel Rinpoche arrived, looking very much like the Vidyadhara or like Marpa. He is in poor health but very cheerful and jovial. The plan now is to bring him to Boulder for medical treatment as soon as this can be arranged.

June 20

The focus of this day was an all-day visit of the entire delegation to the Dorje Khyung Dzong retreat center, perched on a plateau more than 1000 feet above Surmang and then sitting up on cliff about 100 feet further up. It is built around a cakrasamvara cave. The center was destroyed in 1958 and partially rebuilt in 1981. There are eight retreatants, all wild yogis with long hair.

There hasn't been a major teacher visiting this retreat center since 1958, so this too was a very special occasion, including the fact that this was the first time that women had set foot in the retreat center. The visiting party included Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, the 12th Trungpa Tülku and other rinpoches, arriving on horseback, riding through alpine meadows doused with misting rain. As soon as the Sakyong was within eyesight, the formal greeting began including the blowing of gyelgongs (Tibetan horns).

Following the formal welcoming ceremony in the shrine room, Karma Senge Rinpoche, the Vidyadhara's nephew (Mipham Rinpoche's cousin) described how he had collected various teachings and writings of the Vidyadhara that had been composed before he departed Tibet. Karma Senge Rinpoche spent 15 years travelling throughout Tibet to accomplish this, collecting them into one volume of about 300 small folio pages. He gave a reading transmission of the Vidyadhara's early autobiography. The Nalanda Translation Committee has already been working with this text for sometime and will publish a translation in time for the consecration of the Great Stupa of Dharmakaya in August. This is the first reading transmission of this text and Karma Senge burst into tears a number of times while he was reading. The assembled party listened in silence as he was overtaken by strong emotion at reading the Vidyadhara's recollection of his time in Tibet.

The Sakyong and his kusung and Khenpo Tsering stayed overnight in the retreat center, and the Sakyong practiced for some hours in the adjacent cave.

June 21

In the morning, the Sakyong once again visited with Damchu Rinpoche. The afternoon consisted of a Sadhana of Mahamudra abhisheka for those who were unable to attend the one given the other day. Once again, it rained heavily.

Whereas at the previous abhisheka, the recipients came up to receive, this time the rinpoches went throughout the entire crowd to grant the empowerment. There was a very festive atmosphere following the abhisheka, with the Damchu Rinpoche, the Sakyong and various other rinpoches enjoying each others company. The Sakyong was in particularly good spirits and came over to dine with the Shambhala delegation, who had been staying at Aten Rinpoche's home.

June 22

This day was the first full sunny day at Surmang. It was gorgeous. We got a real good look for the first time at the environs, incredibly lush green valleys with myriad wildflowers, roaring streams, wild horses grazing, yaks grazing, including really cute baby yaks galloping about very quickly.

The main activity on this day was a tour of local villages, where the Sakyong was greeted at numerous locations with lhasangs and food offerings. In each case, the Sakyong greeted and blessed each one who asked. In the evening, we received from Karma Senge special oral teachings of the Surmang Kagyü concerning the unity of the view of Dzogchen and Mahamudra. The Shambhala delegation made offerings and invited Karma Senge to visit our centers in the United States and elsewhere to offer these teachings.

June 23

The day began with more excursions to local communities and was followed by a visit to another local retreat center, Dechen Chöling, where the famous terton Rolpa Dorje practiced. Dechen Chöling was often visited by Jamgon Kongtrul the Great, and His Holiness Khyentse Rinpoche stayed there for six months. The Vidyadhara did a ngöndro retreat there under the previous Rolpa Dorje Rinpoche.

No one has visited this retreat center since 1958, so once again this was a very energetic occasion. The retreatants here were also yogis with very long hair. They were a bit timid and overwhelmed but overjoyed at the prospect of receiving important visitors.

June 24

This is the day we depart for a five-hour drive to Surmang Namgyal Tse, the seat of the Venerable Garwang Rinpoche, who will be attending the consecration. After several days there, we will travel on to Jyekundo (aka Yushu) for several days of rest, before traveling to the other monasteries on the itinerary.

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