Today the prayers continued (more on those another day), and the Monlam was featured on page 1 of the Poughkeepsie Journal. There has been a lot of local press interest–this is a big event for Wappingers Falls, and visitors are invariably stunned to come upon the majestic splendor of an authentic Tibetan shrine hall in the midst of their familiar home town.
The highlight of today’s program was the first teaching by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, the presiding Lama for the 2016 NAKM. His topic over the next few days is “How to Integrate Aspiration and Prayer with Meditation.” As always, his sense of humor focuses our attention instantly into an alert, relaxed, and highly receptive mode for receiving the gift of buddhadharma.
He began with an explanation of the meaning and purpose of monlam (excerpts are based on detailed notes and slightly paraphrased, so mostly not in quotation marks): The meaning of monlam is aspiration prayer. We are here to pray for world peace and that wisdom and compassion develop within us and all living beings. Nowadays there are so many problems in the world. There are three types of obstacles: outer, inner, and innermost. Outer obstacles are related to the environment–earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, etc. Inner obstacles are related to the physical body, such as sickness. Innermost obstacles are related to monkey mind–a lot of thoughts, negative emotions, crazy ideas, hate. A crazy mind leads to crazy actions, like the recent shootings in Florida. We pray to remove all these problems–outer, inner, and innermost.
Rinpoche followed this with remarks about the history of the Kagyu Monlam and its current setting: The Kagyu Monlam started in Tibet many years ago, with the Fifth Karmapa, Deshin Shekpa, and thousands of people praying together. Kalu Rinpoche reinstituted the Monlam in India [in 1983]. The Seventeenth Karmapa, Orgyen Trinley Dorje, transformed the Monlam, adding prayers, making a nice book with translations, and opening it to international students. The main Monlam is in Bodhgaya and now there are branch Monlams all over the world, including this seventh North American Kagyu Monlam in New York. “This building was built from Lama Norlha Rinpoche’s great effort and strong motivation. Seven years ago I came here and there were only big birds [probably a reference to our resident turkeys] and an old temple in a small building. Now it is completely transformed. It’s wonderful. Thank you, Rinpoche-la, tuk je che. Also, thank you to the monastery administration, volunteers, and donors whose support helped make it happen. Thank you very much from my heart.”
There isn’t space to summarize the whole teaching, essentially an overview of the seven-branch prayer, which he described as the heart of the Monlam practices. You can access the livestream recording on this website to hear it again or for the first time. Meanwhile, this is one part that stood out for a number of participants:
Mingyur Rinpoche explained, per the title of the teaching, that we can meditate even while we are reciting meditation prayers. The type of meditation that works best for us depends on our meditation personality. There is a body personality, a speech personality and a mind personality. Body personality is related to shape, color, form, etc., the appearance of images. Speech personality is related to voice, and mind personality is related to feeling, emotion, and intuition. Thus, body meditation corresponds to the development stage of meditation, or visualization. Speech meditation corresponds to contemplation, speech, breath, energy, and the channels. Mind meditation is mainly Mahamudra, including its prerequisites, shamata and nature of mind practice.
While praying we can rest in the nature of mind, with no need to visualize, just rest the mind in love, compassion and awareness. Mind can rest in awarenss no matter what kind of meditation we are doing.
If we are more a speech personality person, we can think of the meaning or listen to the voice. This is especially useful if we don’t read the Tibetan or phoneticization easily. We can close our eyes and just listen; the melody is nice, right? But don’t sway to the music! [visual demonstration]
If we are more like the body family, happy to visualize, then we can visualize all the Buddhas and bodhisattvas, the pure land, the offerings in detail, maybe a Tesla…so many Tesla. (Tesla was not a thing when Rinpoche embarked upon his four-year retreat; now everyone talks about it.) Offer the things you like the most, imagine them.
Rinpoche ended with a guided meditation based on listening to sounds as they arise. Another good reason to watch the livestream recording!
Friday, day 3: Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche will teach at 10:15am. We can see the livestream (live) via screens in the main shrine hall and the Mahayana shrine room, and it is beautiful (thank you, Silvio!). So if you aren’t here in person, we hope you can join us.
posted by Lama Chodron