On the return flight from Tenerife to Rome my mood was significantly different from the way I felt on the outgoing flight – certainly more peaceful but not exactly lightweight. There was still all the joy experienced in the past days at Dzamling Gar, the relief of having passed a difficult test, the completeness that contact with the Master gives, the pleasure of having met old friends and seen the community mature, the nostalgia of leaving a beautiful place, and the sense of a new responsibility.
The days of the Teachers Training had been very intense – 14 candidates for the Santi Maha Sangha had to be examined, 30 for the various levels of Yantra Yoga, and 11 for the Vajra Dance, five for the first level and six for the second.
The tests began with the aspiring teachers for the SMS base. There were two questions: one on the text of ‘The Precious Vase’ and another on the meaning of the SMS for each of the candidates with 15 minutes for the answers. Almost all the candidates answered the first question “more or less correctly”. For the second, each person could express what the meaning of the Dzogchen Community is for him or her, and the reason why he or she had presented themselves for this training.
As we know, the words ‘Santi Maha Sangha’ indicate both the course of study and practice that bear this name, and the Dzogchen Community. The Community, the Sangha, is the third jewel, the one that is more difficult to understand and to live.
When one chooses a Path, it means that there is already recognition of the Teacher and the Teaching, of their value and their perfection, but the Sangha … how can we consider of this variety of humanity, this wild flock of beings prey to the eight worldly dharmas and even worse, a jewel! Yet without this third point even the first two would not make sense and there would not be the possibility for each of us to recognize him or herself in their own kind.
Entering the Teaching means first of all confronting our own limits. Before we can discover the original nature of our mind we have to discover how we really are in everyday life, how we express ourselves in relationships with others, beyond the complacent view that we have built of ourselves.
The study of ‘The Precious Vase’ (and few times has a title been more appropriate) guides us with a precise progression to knowledge of the profound meaning of the Teaching, of the Master, and ourselves. The real sense of belonging to the Community and the proper way to be part of it can only arise from this understanding.
Only two of the candidates who presented themselves did not pass the training. The first did not respond to a question on the pranayama of yantra yoga, and this made me think that many practitioners often underestimate the importance of Yantra Yoga.
After the Santi Maha Sangha tests there were those for instructors of Yantra Yoga first, second, and third level, and for Kumar Kumari, while in the afternoon there were tests for instructors of the Vajra Dance first and second level. Laura Evangelisti and Fabio Andrico created a beautiful choreography with numerous candidates, which allowed them to practice almost all of Yantra Yoga and Kumar Kumari in precisely two hours, as requested by the Master. The demonstration of the latter, which concluded in the morning, left everyone with an indescribable sense of joy and lightness.
In the afternoon the first level candidates performed the Dance of the Three Vajras while those for the second level demonstrated the Dance of the Vajra, all of them trained by dedicated instructors Prima Mai and Adriana Dal Borgo. It struck me that, while for Yantra Yoga the relationship between males and females was almost equal, for the Dance there was a high prevalence of Pamo.
Eventually, in the afternoon of the last day of exams, Rinpoche brought together old and new SMS teachers at his house to give them some final advice, giving us essential information needed to better understand the meaning of this new responsibility. Becoming SMS teachers also means entering more deeply into the immense river current that is the Master, and this gives a feeling of pleasure and fear at the same time, two emotions often joined as long as we remain in dualism.
In the morning of Wednesday, November 16, there was the presentation of diplomas. Even those who had previously received a certificate as a Shang Shung Institute instructor, received a new document, released by the IDC (International Dzogchen Community) this time, to emphasize the international value of this recognition.
Leaving Dzamling Gar was not easy. It has become beautiful and is continuously growing. The houses of various colors, comfortable, bright and well furnished, the gardens full of tropical flowers and plants created by the green hand of Alix de Fermor (green thumb seems like an understatement), the large pool, and the music of Khaita in the background in the afternoons have left a deep impression.
Everything else seemed far away, the media with its depressing and often tragic news, work commitments, the small annoyances of everyday samsara, everything had been suspended for a week in the perfect mandala that arises around the Master. But coming back was also important. Studies completed and those to do, knowledge of the practice and commitment – it is most of all here that they can be applied and have their sense.