Over 50 participants gathered in Cochecton, NY, from May 20 - 25, 2009, for the second annual Discovering the Dharma retreat, led by H E Trungram Gyaltrul Rinpoche. Students traveled from near and far, including Boston, New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Indianapolis, Seattle, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, Miami and Taiwan.
With great anticipation, returning students looked forward to the next set of topics in this series, and new attendees began their deep encounter with Rinpoche’s teachings. All appreciated the presence of Khenchen Rinpoche at the retreat as well, and his participation. We were all reminded that this event was a retreat, a retreat from our regular daily lives, a time to not only hear teachings, but also to practice, deeply.
From Rinpoche’s overview on the first evening, the attendees got a sense that they would cover a lot of ground, and the topics would be very profound. The first day, Rinpoche dove into the topic of Interdependent Arising, by examining how all things are connected and conditional. Such teachings went into great detail on The Six Types of Causes, The Four Types of Conditions and The Twelve Elements of the Interdependent Origination. This foundation formed a base of understanding for the other topics of the retreat which included Karma: Review of the Law of Actions and Consequences, Death and Rebirth: Exploring the Real Nature of Cyclical Existence, and Meditation on Emptiness. Related to the teachings on emptiness, the profound Sutra of the Heart of Transcendent Knowledge was examined and discussed.
The daily schedule included multiple teaching sessions by Rinpoche interspersed with practice, where retreat goers were able to get time on the cushion and engage in walking meditation. Attendees also received instructions for Meditation on Emptiness and Vipashyana from Rinpoche. Students were encouraged to honor functional speech during the five day period. In the evenings, smaller discussion groups gathered to review the day’s teachings and events. During these group sessions, attendees also learned about each other. There was quite a diverse group of retreat participants gathered in Cochecton. During an evening group session, various members of one group alone mentioned where they were originally from: China, Russia, Colombia, Venezuela, France and the United States.
The third full day of the retreat became an auspicious occasion, and surprise to the group, as we all made a trip together to the nearby Mahamudra Hermitage land in Cragsmoor, NY. Rinpoche led a walk through the raw and undeveloped grounds, and we all sat down to receive a teaching from him. Khenchen Rinpoche was also there with us for the day. It was a very special time and location. The spot where we all sat on the land’s ground is to be the future site of the Milarepa Center at the Mahamudra Hermitage. The teaching given was on meditation on emptiness, a major subject of Buddha’s teachings and important in the Kagyu lineage. After receiving the profound teachings and instructions themselves, the students engaged in the practice of meditating on emptiness led by Rinpoche, followed by a deep discussion.
On the concluding day of the retreat, following the final day’s teachings and guided meditation by Rinpoche, gratitude and thanks were blossoming. Clear appreciation was felt for all the hard work and dedication by the volunteers responsible for putting together and executing the retreat. The retreat was concluded, as a Gratitude Mandala Offering was presented to Rinpoche. Khenchen Rinpoche led the Mandala offering along with individuals from each of the Dharmakaya Centers - Boston, Seattle, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Miami, with all participating. It was difficult to fully express our immense gratitude and appreciation to the teachers for what was clearly an unforgettable and enormously fruitful experience.