by Scott Diamond
Following a very successful and busy visit to Beijing, Chögyal Namkhai Norbu flew to Japan and was received with great joy by the Japanese Dzogchen Community. Rinpoche had not been in Japan for a couple of years, and this was his first retreat in the ancient capital of Kyoto. The local Gakyil of Munselling put a lot of energy into letting students all over the world know about the event, and despite the location being moved from recent previous Japanese Retreats in the main population center of Tokyo, this was to be the biggest retreat in the history of Rinpoche’s Teachings in the country.
The relaxed location of Kyoto was spectacular, with over 10,000 shrines and temples around the city from Shinto, Mahayana, and Japanese Vajrayana traditions, and the timing was perfect, with beautiful autumn weather and the leaves beginning to change into gorgeous yellow, orange, and red colors. Of course the most wonderful thing about the place was the people who gathered: the warmth, hospitality, and kindness of Rinpoche’s Japanese students allowed for an extremely smooth and harmonious collaboration as the event came together flawlessly at The Kyoto International House.
Rinpoche gave the Bardo Teaching Sealed with Hum during seven sessions over four days. It was an extremely full schedule! On the first night it was wonderful to see the Dzogchen Teachings integrate into the Japanese Culture, with everyone bowing respectfully to each other, beautiful white orchids at the front of the room, and some locals wearing traditional kimonos and robes. Many people also came from abroad, including Hong Kong, United States, Russia, and various European countries. On the second day there were two Teaching Sessions, a Ganapuja and Short Thun explanation by Keigo Yoneda from Kobe, and an evening of Khaita Dances. The Japanese loved dancing and they were very fast learners! Some had prepared for this in Tokyo during the previous week, but everyone moved so well that Rinpoche was immediately impressed. On the third day, there were again two Teaching sessions, a Vajra Dance demonstration with explanation by Kyu Kyuno and Catherine Diamond, a Ganapuja, and again an ecstatic session of Khaita Dances! Although auctions do not exist in Japanese Culture, people were also eager to participate in an auction of Rinpoche’s jewelry collection, Evolution Creations, to raise funds for the new Gonpa of Dzamling Gar.
On the final day, Rinpoche gave the practical advice for daily life to do Guru Yoga, be present, and work with circumstances, then offered many lung transmissions. Following the conclusion of the Teaching, bento boxes were served in the Teaching hall and everyone enjoyed lunch together with Rinpoche. All of the people who organized the retreat worked very hard, but were clearly enjoying themselves and relaxed at the same time. It seemed that the strong fabric of mutual respect and composure found in Japanese culture allowed for the seamless and gentle flow that was so evident to everyone in attendance.
Following the retreat, there was a big celebration. As Rinpoche departed for the airport, people gathered to bid him farewell, looking forward to the invigorated momentum of the Dzogchen Community in the Kansai area of Western Japan, and awaiting the Maestro’s return.
From Japan, Rinpoche traveled to Taipei, on the island of Taiwan, for his first visit in three years. A very large crowd gathered at the Taipei airport, greeting Rinpoche with many gifts and kataks. When Rinpoche arrived at his hotel, he began making more jewelry for Evolution Creations, and expressed his interest in going shopping for more beads and supplies the following morning. A few knowledgeable locals from the Taiwanese Community accompanied him the next day to the many DIY jewelry shops around Taipei as Rinpoche searched through many bins of semi-precious beads and stones for the right pieces to assemble new jewelry, which he works on continuously to benefit the construction Dzamling Gar’s new Gonpa.
The following day, Guru Rinpoche Day, Rinpoche visited Gephelling’s large new practice space for a Ganapuja with his local students. It was a short, essential, and extremely powerful way to consecrate the place. During the evenings, Adriana Dal’Borgo lead a three session advanced course of Vajra Dance with the assistance of local Taipei Vajra Dance Instuctor, Sylwia Gruszka, and Catherine Diamond, covering the Dance of Three Vajras, the Dance that Benefits Beings, and the Dance of 12 A’s.
As Vajra Dance is one of the most popular collective practices in Taiwan, this opportunity was greatly appreciated by the enthusiastic and dedicated group of local dancers. The course was followed by Rinpoche’s five days of Teaching on The Trechö Terma of his Root Master, Rigdzin Chang Chub Dorje. The venue for the Teaching was a huge Temple of a local Dharma Center connected with both Chinese Mahayana and the Karma Kagyu Lineage. The place was full of massive statues, incense, and butter lamps, and many monks, nuns, and lamas were in attendance. The religious culture of Taiwan is extremely traditional, so among the 300 people in attendance, it was common to see many doing prostrations, making supplications and offering candles and flowers.
In this environment, Rinpoche gave a detailed, totally open and limitless Teaching of Dzogchen from the beginning. In the afternoons, there were presentations of ASIA, the Dzamling Gar Gonpa, Yantra Yoga, and Vajra Dance, and every evening, Rinpoche would return to the Temple for Khaita Joyful Dances. Because of the long layout of the hall and the large number of people dancing, it was necessary to work with circumstances and change many of the basic dances from a circle configuration to simple horizontal rows of people across the room. It was fantastic to see everyone dancing together with the full engagement of body, speech, and mind, and with such big smiles beaming across their faces. Rinpoche sang along and often erupted in laughter with everyone throughout the proceedings.
On two of the days, there was another large auction of Evolutions Creations to benefit the Gonpa of Dzamling Gar, and although the local culture was unfamiliar with this kind of of activity, it was a tremendous success due to the Taiwanese people’s generosity. On the final day after the conclusion of the Teachings, many local practitioners presented the traditional Tibetan style of chanting and offering of the Mandala. Rinpoche presented a representative of the Dharma Center with a beautiful gift, and among the hundreds of local Sangha attendance there was a strong expression of devotion to the Teacher and the Teachings. On the days after the Retreat, the space was used for a Yantra Yoga Course with Fabio Andrico, attended by almost a third of the people who came to the Retreat. As Rinpoche made his way from the hotel to the airport to his next plane to Australia, again a group of locals came to be with him, many with tears of gratitude in their eyes, touched by their experience with an authentic Dzogchen Master.