The third annual "Discovering the Dharma" retreat was held in Cochecton, NY, from May 26-31, 2010. Over 50 students gathered to receive precious teachings from Trungram Gyaltrul Rinpoche pertaining to the mind of ignorance and insight, the path of the practice, and the connection between teacher and student in spiritual practice. New and returning students traveled from all over the globe to attend the teachings, including from Spain, Canada, United Kingdom, Hong Kong and Taiwan, and from within the United States including California, Washington, Ohio, Illinois, Florida, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland. With this set of topics introduced, returning students deepened their understanding of Dharma and their connection to the teacher, while new attendees immersed themselves in Rinpoche's teachings, some for the first time. Khenchen Rinpoche's constant support of the teachings and retreat environment was greatly appreciated as well, as he participated in several activities during the 5 day retreat.
At the outset we reviewed a reading on "the retreat environment" setting the stage for the retreat as a place and time for inspiration and discipline for practice, as we honor the precious and rare opportunity to receive authentic Dharma teachings. In the opening evening Rinpoche gave teachings on meditation including basic meditation instruction. In doing so, he directed us to focus on the quality of the meditation and to try to find a balance. He reminded us of the unlimited potential of mind and its connection to the happiness of not only ourselves but of all others, through awareness and creativity. He encouraged us to gain such reliable happiness as the best care for oneself and others.
The daily retreat schedule included multiple teaching sessions by Rinpoche, each followed by meditation practice time, as well as other sessions throughout the day and into the evenings of guided and walking meditations. On the first full day Rinpoche led a guided meditation on impermanence. On other days students led guided meditations on equanimity, loving kindness and compassion, the present moment, as well as shamatha breathing meditation. In the evenings discussion groups were formed for smaller group discussion of the day's teachings and meditations. Through the group discussions it was revealed as students got to know one another that there was a tremendously diverse group present, with individuals originally from many countries around the world such as Australia, Russia, United Kingdom, France, Spain, Colombia, Venezuela, Nepal, China, Taiwan and the United States, to name some. Outside of the group discussions students were encouraged to honor functional speech during the five day period, to support the retreat environment and experience.
Rinpoche initiated teachings on the mind of ignorance and mind of insight by focusing first on the mind of insight. Here great attention was given to the detailed workings of the eight consciousnesses. The second major topic was then introduced, that of the path (of practice) based on Gampopa's Thargyan (Ornament of the Precious Liberation). Later, Rinpoche returned back to the topic of the mind of ignorance, and ultimately further developed profound teachings on the path of spiritual practice (or "way") in greater detail. Rinpoche concluded the retreat topics on the final day with teachings on the importance of the teacher and the connection between teacher and student on the spiritual path.
On the morning of the second to last day there was a special trip made by the group, led by Rinpoche and Khenchen Rinpoche, to the future site of the planned Mahamudra Hermitage, in Cragsmoor, NY. After walking through the land and trees there, Rinpoche delivered a teaching on emptiness and the prajnaparamita sutra. This included our reading of excerpts from The Mahamudra Aspiration of True Meaning and our reading of The Sutra of the Heart of Transcendent Knowledge, followed by a guided meditation on emptiness. Then, on this very special day and in this very special location, at the future site of the planned Milarepa Center at the Mahamudra Hermitage, Rinpoche gave Refuge vows to a number of students.
On the final day of the retreat, following the concluding teachings by Rinpoche, gratitude and thanks filled the hearts of everyone. Appreciation was given for all the hard work and dedication by the many volunteers who put together and executed aspects of the retreat. A special thank you was given for the generosity of the two cooks who not only participated in the retreat but prepared daily meals for the entire group. Rinpoche presented the blessed gifts to each of the cooks, which had been offered by everyone. Rinpoche also presented completion certificates to those students who had attended all three annual 5-day retreats, thus completing the "Sutric Studies of the Discovering the Dharma Retreat Series". The final formal activity of the retreat was a Gratitude Mandala Offering which was presented to both Rinpoche and Khenchen Rinpoche in appreciation for their precious teachings, followed by the stream of all participants individually thanking the wonderful teachers. Though we all tried to express our tremendous appreciation for the profound and fruitful experience we had received, words and gestures were not nearly enough to fully express our heartfelt gratitude.