Earlier this week, Lama Tsering visited Minnesota.
She was last here two years ago and her students here deeply missed her and her dharma teachings. Because of travel constraints, she only had one day to teach with an evening and morning available for interviews. Even though it was a Tuesday, a workday in the middle of the week, the sangha space was full for the morning and afternoon teachings and the evening empowerment.
The Minneapolis Nyingma Group does weekly Tara practice in a converted artists’ studio with large windows and a high ceiling. One wall is painted a sky blue that reminds you of the metaphor of the truth of the sky behind the ever changing clouds. Sangha members had built a lovely throne for the lama and had made translucent white curtains as a backdrop, hiding the fact that part of the space is still a working studio. The floor was covered with many carpets and cushions, all of which held students eager to hear what
the lama had to say.
The teachings were introductory as many students had not yet received empowerment but, as with most teachings I have heard, the core of the teaching, while familiar, always feels new, with a sense of urgency for my own practice, directly touching the parts that need to be supported and further encouraging the parts that are going well. In Brazil, teachings are interwoven with translation time. In the US, the teachings come at us all at once, perhaps like a firehose, leaving us time to reflect only at the end of the teaching. I don’t think Americans absorb any faster than Brazilians so perhaps we stand up a little more slowly at the end of a teaching.
I spent a year in Brazil, listening to teachings at the temple on a regular basis, but I returned to the US in June. Attending a day of teachings in the US felt like a gentle stream of cool water on parched ground. I know the dharma is always there and I can find it on the internet, through recordings, in books and in my practice. But it is different when your teacher is with you, in the room. I can imagine that one day I will have such a strong practice that I will completely know my teacher to be in the room with me when I practice. But for now, I am so grateful for the lamas who travel, connecting with their students wherever we are. For the lamas who show up for early morning puja, practicing with us when they can. For the lamas who record their teachings, either in books or audio files, so that we can revisit the dharma whenever it helps us.
For just a day, the temple came to me. I felt like I was once again amidst sangha, with my lama, and full of the dharma. I imagined sitting at my puja space with the small red cubby for my things and my bell and dorje framing my puja texts on top. I imagined my Brazilian sangha sitting around me, meditating near me and joining me in mantra. I am trying to carry that visualization of sangha, the reminder of the temple, with me now that I am once again a long way from my lama. I am glad that Odsal Ling is in this world, a wish-fulfilling jewel for Brazil, yes, but radiating blessings wherever there are connections.