The first annual International Gyalwai Nyugu Association (IGNA) retreat was held in Marbella, Spain from the 10th March until the 16th March 2014. The participants were truly fortunate to receive teachings and a Chenrezig empowerment from Gyalwai Nyugu Rinpoche during the 7 day retreat. Participants came from Canada, China, France, Germany, Morocco, Russia, Singapore, South Africa and Sweden. The retreat catered for the practice needs of people from all walks of life, Buddhists and non Buddhists.
Before sunrise (sunrise was around 07:40)
The retreat got of to a bright and early 5.00 am start on the first day. Or should i say, not bright yet, but early start anyway. At 5.00am Gyalwai Nyugu Rinpoche transmitted the 8 precepts. He then proceeded to teach until around 08.00am. Some participants took the 8 precepts for one day, others took the precepts for two days.The 8 Precepts were transmitted every morning at 5.00am for 6 of the 7 retreat days and teachings given thereafter by Gyalwai Nyugu Rinpoche. Followed by a session of Guru Yoga. Thereafter all the participants continued with their own practices, which consisted of prostrations, reciting mantras or doing their own individual Guru Yoga sessions.
Breakfast for those taking the 8 Precepts consisted of a cup of Tsampa soup. Apart from the tsampa soup in the morning, lunch was the main meal. More than 90% of the retreatants did not eat evening meals. The lunches were prepared in pairs by different participants. The result was that lunch presented cuisine made from participants all over the world. Good enough even to tempt some to ’break their silence’.
Mid morning and afternoon sessions
Mid morning teachings were given by Gyalwai Nyugu Rinpoche. These teachings were on the priceless 37 Practices of a Bodhisattva composed by Ngulchu Gyalsas Thogmed Zangpo
The afternoon sessions were mixed. Some days there were teachings, some days participants carried on with their own specific practices, and on two afternoons participants went down to the beach. A stroll along the beach, the sound of the breaking waves is conducive to walking meditation practices.
The teachings of the 37 Practices of a Bodhisattva followed a general frame work. Within the framework were teachings on the theory of the 37 Practices of a Bodhisattva, and how to put the teachings into practice. Putting the theory of the teachings into practice is vitally important. As Rinpoche explained by means of one example ”It is like learning to play golf. At first the golf trainer instructs you on your posture, the correct swing and how to hit the ball. After receiving these instructions you still need to be able put the instrctions into practice. Just because you have received the instructions it does not mean that you will automatically become a good golfer. You have to first practice the instructions. And while practicing you have to ensure you don’t develop incorrect habits that will also affect your skill and ability to play. So you understand that it is important that you continue to receive instructions from the trainer until you have perfected your game of golf. Similarly, when learning the Dharma after receiving the teachings, you need to put the teachings into practice and incorporate the teachings into your daily life. Likewise you should regularly consult your Lama to ensure that your practice is improving and that you have not developed any negative habits. ”
We were even fortunate enough to experience practicing theory first hand. Just as the text appeared for verse twelve which states ”if someone, under the power of strong desire, robs or forces others to steal all ones belongings, …..” One session, when everyone was away from the retreat center, a few things were misappropriated. When this was reported to Rinpoche, he smiled and said ”We should rejoice. Not only did we not have to cling to these items any more, we have also repaid some karma. We should make mental offerings to the person who took the items, that they may truly enjoy and benefit from all the items that they misappropriated” If someone asks what is enlightened attitude? I would answer that this is the attitude of enlightenment.
Teachings continued to verse 13 of the 37 Practices of a Bodhisattva.
According to the sutras, if you were to kill someone, you would have to repay 500 lives. If you found yourself in a situation in which you were to contemplate killing someone for any host of premeditated reasons. Bearing this in mind, the choice of suffering this life, or suffering 500 future lives, what choice would you make?
We have another 24 verses to look forward to at the 2nd IGNA Annual Retreat.
Phowa was taught in the evening. Phowa is a special practice that is of great assistance to practitioners especially at the time of their death.
On one of the evenings, Gyalwai Nyugu Rinpoche introduced a discussion regarding what was understood by ’perception’. Just this one word brought about a rivoting two hour debate between all the retreatants. I guess it just goes to show that how we perceive the world definitely depends on ’our perception’.
When asked how our inherent nature was compassion. Rinpoche responded that by knowing our inherent nature, we would not act in ways that hurt, or upset others. This is in itself a great act of compassion.
The last evening Gyalwai Nyugu Rinpoche, on the auspicious ’day of miracles’ , gave the four arm Chenrezig which ended at around 03.00am on the morning of the 17th.
We are all truly grateful to Gyalwai Nyugu Rinpoche for his selfless efforts and teachings. Wisdom gained from attending and receiving live teachings is so different to gaining wisdom from reading books. In a sense it could be compared to learning a language from a professional personal tutor as opposed to trying to learning from a language book.
It was especially rewarding to witness the transformation, from the first day to the last day, evident amongst all the retreat participants. Not only had everyone shed ’a few kilo’s’, more remarkable was the positive transformation visible in everyone.