So the eldest son Dmitry is getting interrogated regarding the recent murder of Papa Karamazov, and deep into it we read the following that, you might be surprised to learn, made me laugh right out loud:
“He sat down in the same chair that he had occupied before. He now had a strong feeling that everything was absurd and nightmarish and that he had gone insane.”
I thought, “Huh. That’s exactly how I feel sometimes when I try to write something for the blog!”
Thank goodness for pictures.
Actually, this has been a marvelously satisfying week. First off, generous Mongolian sponsorship allowed us to print 1000 more Guru Rinpoche cards – larger, sturdier and better translated. Today I gave a short stack as a thank you to Khatanbaatar, the one who did the translation, and he looked at one and remarked, “Wow. This one is much more beautiful than before.” To which I rejoined, “Aw, shucks.”
I gave away the first batch of them to a reasonably well-populated class Wednesday night in which I attempted to convey something of the lineage history of Dzogchen, the most profound teachings of Tibetan Buddhism’s Nyingma tradition. Only one person left. A triumph.
This deviation from our series of talks on the Four Thoughts was to prepare the group for the next evening’s special ceremony. Having finished some Basic Training, we were ready to conduct the full Shower of Blessings practice, complete with what’s called a ganachakra (Tib. tsog) , or tantric feast offering. The Pema Odsel Ling ladies were exceptionally well-organized and my fretting proved utterly unfounded. Here’s the offering they prepared (more was added by late-comers):
Now, an important element is the inclusion of a torma, a symbolic offering cake. Here, my friend and translator Sansarbat seems just a little bit too keen on shaping it like the texts say – to resemble a dakini’s breast. I mean, he molded, and he molded, and he molded until I finally had to say, “Sansarbat. C’mon, buddy. It’s perfect. That’s enough already.”
Our young superstar Minjiimaa wrestled it away from him to apply the red coloring. These were introduced to mimic flesh and blood offerings for Buddhists who could not abide the animal sacrifice of indigenous spiritual traditions.
As we organized the ritual items, more and more people streamed in until it was literally wall-to-wall, with maybe 75 in attendance. At least half of them were there for the first time. My camera is a little crummy for crowd shots in darkish rooms, but you’ll get the idea. I took these during the one time I get a break as chant leader, when we accumulate the Seven Line Prayer:
The whole ritual took a good two hours since I interjected explanations, as well as gentle instructions to Minjiimaa, who was acting as the chöpon (an exalted altar girl) for the first time. She did great and everyone hung in there, really alert and focused. It’s starting to cohere so nicely – the rhythm, melodies, etc., almost sounding like home.
After the practice, we honored some who had made an amazing accomplishment – reciting 10,000 Seven Line Prayers as Jetsunma suggests as a preliminary practice for those requesting to be her student – some in just 10 days. I had promised prizes to the first five who finished, but seven had let me know of their achievement by Wednesday. Thus I ran all over town scaring up exactly seven copies of the Mongolian translation of Guru Rinpoche’s biography and presented them with the traditional blue scarves called khatags. Here are six of them (l to r – Nyambuu (a fella!), Nyamdelger, Baljinnyam, Tsolmongerel, Darisuren, and Chulundolam):
The whole auspicious hootenanny was filmed by channel 25, who interviewed this silly monk afterward. They said the piece will air this Tuesday at 11pm, so if you’re in UB, keep the kiddies up and tune on in!