December 11, 2016
by Naomi Zeitz for The Mirror
Arriving to the Tuscan winter from Spain on December 8 was somewhat of a shock of the cold, but the feeling of returning to Merigar West after a five year hiatus was far from cold, it was the warm feeling of coming home. It was a homecoming to the sensations, the smells, the tastes, the endless and bittersweet greetings, the reassuring cradle of the Temple of Great Liberation, the so familiar “yellow house”, dinner at the Lorena and of course, a soothing farewell cappuccino in Arcidosso.
Merigar West was essentially my first Gar, the “mothership” you could say, the place where the initiation into the profound nature of the Dzogchen Teachings and the heart of Chögyal Namkhai Norbu happens for many; and also happened for me. The relationships formed with the Vajra Family of Merigar serve as a base and continue to represent the deep and abiding connection and love we all carry in the Mandala of the Master.
There was a noticeable absence of one very pivotal member of Merigar and one of Rinpoche’s original group of Italian students, Enrico Dell’Angelo, who served for so many of us as a kind of beacon, a shoulder, a friend and a precious Vajra brother, over the many years and cycles at Merigar. In the past few years, Enrico took on great responsibilities, at the behest of Rinpoche, for the International Gakyil and Community, as well as the newly formed Shang Shung Foundation. We now know he was suffering a serious illness and succumbed to it not long after the celebrations. This is a tremendous loss for Merigar and the international Community.
The 35th Anniversary was part of a whirlwind of activities from December 8th to the 12th, starting with Rinpoche’s birthday greeting at the Serkhang (yellow house) on the evening of his birthday and arrival. Many people braved the cold and traffic up and down the mountain to greet and celebrate this joyful occasion with Rinpoche and Rosa. The next day saw a 24-hour naggon culminating with a Ganapuja in the Temple of Great Liberation. The following day was the opening of the Museum in the town of Arcidosso and the day after that was the very enjoyable celebration of the 35 years of Merigar West. On the Monday morning rounding up the festivities was the presentation of the Festschrift, a collection of scholarly papers offered by his students to Chögyal Namkhai Norbu in honor of his great scholarship and mastery of the teachings.
The anniversary celebrations held in the Temple of Great Liberation began with the gracious master of ceremonies, Fabio Andrico, welcoming everyone, as well as the honored guests, the Mayor of Adeje, Tenerife, Spain, Don José Miguel Rodriguez Fraga, Mayor of Tanti, Cordoba, Argentina, Dr. Luìs Horacio Azàr, Mayor of Arcidosso Jacopo Marini, Mayor of Castel del Piano, Claudio Franci and the Mayor of Santa Fiora, Federico Balocchi, together with Parroco (Parish Priest) Don Luigi Colleoni and the official sent by Namgyalgar, Mr. Alan Cedric Parsons. Other important guests were Lama Gyurmed Tsewang, Venerable Yeshes Wangpo, Professors Zhang Dase, Dong Celi, Zhao Ding, all from China and Professors Urgyen Dorje and Sonam Chökyi, from Bhutan.
Fabio also gave a highly deserved special acknowledgement to Rosa Namkhai for her supreme dedication and effort to help realize the Museum in Arcidosso. There were power point presentations by representatives of each of the Gars, which demonstrated the impressive scope of Rinpoche’s teaching activities around the globe.* There was a delicious gourmet feast prepared by Lucia Splendoria and her team and served by a very elegant group of waiters and waitresses. We were offered exquisite entertainment by Fabio Tomassoni (flute) and Piotr Fedkov (oboe), as well as a spontaneous acapella serenade by three of the members of The Choir of Miners from Santa Fiora, an ensemble based there, that had most of us swooning, including Rinpoche.
As the evening descended and the crowds thinned, the joyful Khaita dancing began in the Temple of Great Liberation with Rinpoche present and lasted for some hours. This seemed a most apropos way to culminate the day’s activities reflecting the welcome presence of Tibetan culture in this small and very traditional Tuscan mountain region. Happy Anniversary Merigar West!
* Merigar West (Tiziana Gottardi), Merigar East (Erika Motylova), Kunsangar North and South (Vita Adamenko), Tsegyalgar West (Monica Patiño), Tsegyalgar East (Ed Hayes), Tashigar North (Paola Civile), Tashigar South (Adriana Battisti), Namgyalgar (Sally Anne Prince – Kathy Aldwich), Samtengar (Wesley Guo ) and Dzamling Gar (Alessandra Policreti)