Monday, November 2, 2009

September and October at Gampo Abbey

Hi you All,

As summer becomes a fast fading memory, things have taken on a quieter aspect at the Abbey. Our program has settled back into it's usual gentle routine with less of the activities seen over the summertime.

The trees and bushes have their Autumnal colours and we saw our first light snow fall on the 15th October – it didn't settle at the Abbey, but the trees on the hills behind us looked like a Christmas postcard. The little mountain road between us and our main shopping town of Cheticamp had 10cm of snow.

The View from my desk of Gampo Lhatse (the hill of the Abbey Protector Deity) & Ani Palmo's Cottage

In September we had our annual visit from Shibata Sensei. The Sensei is a Kyudo (Japanese archery) master in the Zenko lineage and a 20th generation master bowmaker. He is also a third generation “Bowmaker to the Emperor of Japan” (although now retired).

Shibata Sensei was a close personal friend of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche and maintains close links with the Shambhala community and retreat centres where Kyudo is taught and practised.

On this visit we were treated to a demonstration of Kyudo by two of Sensei's students and several days of instruction were also given to a class of Abbey participants. The numbers for the class were limited and I did not put myself forward for the program as it seemed only fair to give Shambhala practitioners the opportunity train.

Shibata Sensei is regarded in Japan as a “Living Treasure”. Nice for a country to count individuals along side buildings and works of art. This was the second opportunity I have had to see Shibata Sensei as I had previously been his Abbey attendant in 2007. He certainly demonstrates a strong presence and personal dignity.

More recently we enjoyed an Open Day. This was an opportunity for anyone who is interested in the Abbey to pop in and have look around. We laid on tea and cake and there were a couple of talks. The day was a great success and we had about 135 people drop in to say hello. I might a nice lady and her family from Guelph and it looks like she might come to the retreat that Harshaprabha and I are doing there in November.

Last week we had some tragic news of a young Toronto woman killed on the local Skyline Trail by Coyote. The 19 year old was hiking alone when attacked by two coyote. Some hikers came upon the attack and called the emergency services. One of the coyote was shot at the scene but seems to have wandered off wounded. The young woman died later in hospital.

This has been a real shock to the Abbey and to the local community. It is very rare for coyote to attack humans and this trail is well known to all of us an outstanding place of natural beauty. We are bringing the young woman and her family into our practice and will do a Sukhavati ceremony for her later in the month.

This week we had an ordination of the latest batch of temporary monastics. Ani Migme did the honours with her usual panache, welcoming (from the left) Ananda, Ziji and Chongchup. We celbrate in the traditional manner - chocolate cake!

My time at Gampo Abbey is now coming to a close. I have decided to leave earlier than initially planned. My reason for coming to the Abbey was to experiment with a monastic lifestyle for a second time and I feel I have accomplished what I set out to do. Practicing in a Shambhala environment has been a interesting and broadening experience, but I now feel the need to be back with my own practice community, the FWBO.

I have a 5 day solitary starting today and then one week back in the Abbey community. After that I fly to Newfoundland to meet up with Les and Lewis Cranford (old Abbey pals), to do some sight seeing and a short solitary retreat. From Newfoundland I fly to Toronto to put on a weekend retreat for beginners in Guelph with my pal Harshaprabha. After a couple of days of sight seeing in Toronto I will fly back to the UK at the beginning of December.

Above a rare photograph of Monk Wrestling. Although technically prohibited by the Vinaya (monastic code) it does provide a good form of indoor exercise in the chilly Nova Scotian winter. Monks have to keep fit somehow - meditation just doesn't burn the calories. The Texan Mawler, aka Karma Chogyal (in red and yellow) is a compact but powerful opponent and difficult to lift above knee height - thus making deck slams somewhat difficult.



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...