Thursday, August 6, 2009

July at Gampo Abbey

Prayer flags at sunset
Hi y'all,

Another full and action packed month as summer rolls into Cape Bretton island. We have just recently said goodbye to the last batch of In House Retreatants who have been staying with us over a period of 5 weeks. This has been an opportunity for people to stay for one or two weeks and get a taste of Abbey life. They all seemed to enjoy themselves and it adds a different flavour to the Abbey having new faces appearing every seven days or so.

The tourist season is now in full swing. At times we must have 20 or more tourists a day visiting the Abbey. I have enjoyed giving afternoon tours to groups around the Abbey, explaining about Tibetan Buddhism, the historical Buddha, protector deities, the history of the Abbey, why I am the only one dressed in blue and so on.

The latest batch of recruits took temporary monastic ordination this month. This begins with a hair cutting ceremony the night before. Two of us were doing the barbering. Dennis was my first vistim. Before:

and after:

Trime Lhagtong, Serri, Choshin, Zopa, Rinchen and Chotso with Ani Migme

The following day Ani Migme lead a simple ceremony and delicately cut of the remaining lock of hair from the crown of their heads. A very festive occasion with some very nervous peeps getting used to wearing robes for the first time.

Canada Day rolled in and we joined the Pleasant Bay community for their parade and our Annual Softball Game against the local Fire Department.

Triple trouble at the Parade

Choshin tries to negotiate a cheaper fare, but the punk has beaten him to it

As is traditional - we lost the softball (29 to 10 I think). Given the fact that we had a half decent team this year, we lost worse than ever. Hey ho, we drowned our sorrows with fries and ice cream at the local diner: The Rusty Anchor. Guess what it has in the car park?

Going all to Sea

July also saw the annual Lobster Release. The Abbey bought up Captain Mark's last catch of the season and released them back to the sea (cue theme to "Born Free"). This follows the Eastern tradition of Buddhists buying and releasing caged birds, but with a distinctly Nova Scotian twist.

Paula gets to grips with a dissatisfied customer

I had my first swim of the year at Red River beach. A beautifully sunny day and the beach was quite busy with local kids buidling a dam in Red River. A few of us from the Abbey swam and sunbathed. We swam in the River rather than the sea and that was still cold enough. A nosey seal was checking us out.

Later, Choshin, Tsultrim and myself walked into town for a well deserved maple and walnut ice cream. It was much further than I remembered (maybe 2 to 2 and a half hours in total from the Abbey), but on the way we saw a very cheeky red fox, a bald eagle and later on, at the restaurant two beautiful hummingbirds.

In between all this galavanting around I am getting on with plenty of meditation and study. My current themes are Gelug Madhyamika and a class on the Mahayana Uttaratantra Shastra (or Buddha Nature for short).

I hope you are all having a great summer.

Love to All,


Torma Night

Just one of the many and varied community activities we take part in at Gampo Abbey. Torma Night is a winner with all the monastics - well, it is compulsory, but I like to think we'd all go anyway.

Torma is an offering gift in Tibetan Buddhism. The Tormas we make on Torma night are used in our main shrine room and presented to the local protector deities by being flung into the garden at appropriate moments during our chants.

These are made from barley flour dough and butter. The central pinacle represents Mount Meru - the centre of the Buddhist cosmos and the four points on the base represent the four continents - one of which is our home - Jambudvipa. Hence we offer up the whole universe for the benefit of practicing Dharma.

When sticking the continents onto Mount Meru it is important to get them on the right way up - with a flat side on the top - otherwise all the people are liable to fall off. It also makes the job of building Ikea even more difficult for the people of Jambudvipa.

Here are some images of a recent Torma night

Choshin looks very pleased with himself. Did you make all those? No - thought not. Nice pinny though!

Continents are carefully molded

Tsultrim puts the finishing touches to Jambudvipa

Hmm.. this one might need some structural underpinning

Here's one I made earlier - I'm sooo proud

Serri, Kalsang, Tenzin and Jinpa make butter wheels in iced water to stop them melting

Dechen adds a butter glaze before the butter wheels are added

Rows of finished Torma ready for the freezer until their eventual use - the squirrels love 'em!

Reporting in from the Hermitage

Here is a copy of a reporting in that I prepared for our AHS Quarterly Journal (called Tendrel). As the journal is only available to member...