Inexpressible Gratitude: Reflections on the Akshobhya Retreat
December 29, 2013
The first part of the Akshobhya retreat—recitation of the sadhana and collection of 100,000 or more of the dharani mantra — concluded on 28th December, 2013. Now the retreatants are offering three and a half days of fire pujas during which they will chant a further 10,000 purification mantras. The fire pujas begin at 5.00am, with pairs of retreatants working in together in a specially constructed gazebo on the roof of Tergar Shrine hall. There are 16 fires in all. These fire rituals invoke the power of the peaceful not wrathful White Akshobhya and are offered for the purification of all sentient beings. On the first day, His Holiness acted as the vajra master, using a microphone and speaker to lead everyone through the ritual.
Speaking of their experiences during the six-week long retreat, the retreatants described it as an extraordinary, powerful and life-changing experience.
They spoke of the great compassion the Gyalwang Karmapa had shown for their ‘outer circumstances’ during this time: nutritious food, prioritizing their needs over his own, serving them personally, and only eating his own lunch later, after all the retreatants had been fed. One nun told how she had got too close to the butter lamps and her sen accidentally caught fire. Once the flames were out, His Holiness had taken off his own sen and given it to her.
They spoke of the extraordinary guidance and teachings he gave them through the retreat, his patience and never-ending kindness. As one retreatant said, “No words can express my feelings. I have been ordained for 33 years and received many teachings, but this has been the ultimate Dharma experience. Nothing compares.” Another spoke of “his presence, his kindness, his openness… inspired everyone. Our hearts are full of gratitude and joy which could last as long as we live.”
“He has made certain that this practice will enable us to bring other people on to the path of liberation.”
Finally, several expressed surprise and wonder at the amazing sense of humour that His Holiness displayed, and thought that they were very privileged to glimpse this less serious, informal aspect.