The Buddha Grove sits up in a little roundish copse, a clearing within the meandering gardens of Orgyen, the lovely home of Tarchin and Mary. With its lush green vegetation, its huge variety of trees and plants and little benches for rest and contemplation with views across to the mountains and ocean inlet, the garden offers up an ever-changing view and vistas.
In the Buddha Grove stands a moss-covered Buddha Rupa resting majestically up high on an overgrown bank. Serene and tranquil, it looks down on those who visit from a natural shelf, inviting ease.
This is where we met most mornings for teachings. Within this quiet haven amongst the insects and bird song, mosquitos and foliage, we received teachings on Samantabhadra. Absorbing, discussing and contemplating, we pondered the meanings of this archetypal presence. A manifestation of primordial wisdom and compassion, an example of Bodhicitta, relative and absolute.
Holding a longer retreat at Orgyen was new, a kind of experiment. Most of us, eighteen retreatant’s, were staying within walking distance. A couple drove in from home or outside, and two of us were on Orgyen land. We resided in caravans, tents and huts. All quite basic but adequate for the duration and of course we all found lots of nifty ways of doing things within our restrictions. One young man came to the class full of excitement after a few days as he and his two room-mates had discovered how to cook ‘proper’ food on a BBQ. They had transcended the limitation of having a bowl of rice for every meal. Little triumphs and learnings were heartwarming as we settled into our rhythms, working with circumstance.
Tarchin for me is like a yogi of the natural world. Encompassing all people and phenomena equally without bias or judgment, he listened fully to our sharing’s with inclusion, loving kindness and clarity, managing to decipher our deeper meanings and broaden our scope of understanding and practice with his answers. Constantly inviting further questions, bringing us back to present and the inclusiveness of all life.
‘A Sadhana of Samantabhadra’ had come to fruition from his depth of knowing. A weaving of ancient and traditional Buddhist wisdom and knowledge, with the endless gifts that are offered up seamlessly by all of nature and daily life when we stop trying to demand that it does our bidding. When we relax and release into living each and every moment in the full totality of life on its own terms, this is the power and Grace of Samantabhadra.
We began the retreat by being invited to settle ourselves into a comfortable posture of nourishing ease. A notion often thought of in a linear way, it was suggested we might explore and expand our understanding of what is meant by a ‘comfortable’ posture, as an investigation beyond the physical. It was amazing to feel the breadth and scope within body, mind and breathing as my sense of ‘comfort’ and ‘nourishing ease’ broadened through practice, reflection and observation. So much more encompassing than the traditional idea many have, of putting one’s feet up after a hard day and sitting back with a glass of wine.
Samantabhadra is made up of everything, Suchness. A manifestation of the naturally ever-fresh awareness of primordial Buddha-Mind. Tarchin guided us to prepare for this understanding on a cellular and visceral level. To prepare for the richness and all-embracing meanings of this Sadhana through becoming present and still, open and reflective. Through this I found the preparation not to be some simple add on, it was a rich experience of deepening, and when respected as an important practice in its own right it revealed many insights and jewels.
From a comfortable posture, we began cultivating the deep and spontaneous all-encompassing love that comes from developing Bodhicitta. Broadening our reflections on taking refuge, the Bodhisattva vow and Meditation on the Four immeasurable’s. Gently and attentively accommodating newness within old practices for some, new ones for others. Expanding and enhancing our current knowing of what these meant. We explored.
From a position of profoundly nourishing ease, we investigated which practices resonate with us. Not from what we think we should do or what others tell us to do, but from within our own knowing. Whether it be Sila, Samadhi and Prajna, the Six Paramita, Samatha/Vipassana, illusory body practice, the Yoga of skilful Fabrication – Sadhana practice, or Guru Yoga, we were invited to consider the refuge we get from these practices, to feel into which would be of most benefit and support for us right now.
We then moved into the skilful fabrication, visualisation and mantra of the Samantabhadra Sadhana. At every step of this three-week retreat, we went gradually from the preparation to full Visualisation and Mantra, allowing time to embody any unfolding changes, for meditation, reflection, contemplation and questions.
As a long-term practitioner, much of this was familiar, yet everything was new. The freshness of these contemplations alongside Tarchins skilful way of delivering each part of the Sadhana to include all of life was an invitation to refresh and expanded our knowledge and knowings.
The camaraderie we developed through meeting on this level was warm and supportive. Many of us had not met before but I felt a deep connection with the others through the teachings, our practice and sharing’s, and the beautiful environment we met in.
I am always so grateful for our skilful teachers and felt Namgyal Rinpoche might have looked on approvingly with that wry smile he often presented at retreats. As if he was about to say something cheeky but not quite doing so until an opportunity arose.
To the main organisers Mary and Andy and all those who participated in making this retreat happen by offering land, smoothing the way, and working tirelessly to create a restful and easy transition for us all. A big thank you!
For the myriad gifts of the teachings bestowed on us all; A huge thank you to Samantabhadra, to Tarchin, and to the Sangha. Sally Muir
Sava Mangalam, Sava Mangalam, Sava Mangalam. 🙏🙏🙏