Third Annual Buddhist Journey Into The Wild
-Written by -Sergio Moreno, Ngakpa Tenpa Dhargye
The third annual Buddhist Journey Into the Wild took place this past weekend. During this retreat, Rinpoche led a small, but vibrant, group of students in teachings and practice in the woods and beaches of Port Townsend and Olympic National Forest. It was a beautiful time for study, practice, and fellowship.
We arrived on the evening of Friday, August 25th to set up the tent and other sleeping accommodations. Our gracious host, Lee Eahrheart, welcomed us into his home tucked away into the woods of Port Townsend. After exploring the property with its many paths and lush plant life, we had a late dinner and settled into the evening.
Morning came quickly as we were awoken by Rinpoche’s blowing of the conch shell. We began our day with the practice of Tibetan Yantra Yoga. Through a series of postures and visualizations, Rinpoche explained the five elements of the body: earth (mam), water (lam), fire (ram), wind (yam), and space (ha). Our group was now well awake and energized for a day of teaching and practice. We worked together in the kitchen and prepared a delicious breakfast to share.
Rinpoche then taught from Geshe Langri Thangpa’s Eight Verses of Training the Mind—a teaching he himself has received many times, from H.H. the Dalai Lama and other masters. These verses are, as Rinpoche said, “a hammer for your ego!” This lojong (mind training) brings us to the realization that with great ego and self-cherishing it is impossible to benefit other beings. It is only by realizing the illusory nature of all phenomena, as the eighth verse states, that we can be liberated from the eight worldly concerns and truly cultivate bodhichitta.
After a brief walk through the woods followed by our midday meal, Rinpoche taught the Diamond Cutting Sutra, which the Buddha gave at Rajagriha, near Bodhgaya. The diamond is a powerful image for its incredible strength. We are taught that with wisdom we can cut through (chöd) ego and break free from the five poisons of attachment, anger, ignorance, jealousy and pride. This is accomplished through the five antidotes, which are the wisdoms of impermanence, compassion, wisdom, rejoicing and respect.
Some of the highlights of our retreat were the times spent in between sessions, whether preparing meals or simply visiting and becoming friends. We took a couple of hours that afternoon to visit the beach at Fort Worden Historical Park. It was a beautiful day to walk mindfully beside the water, looking for interesting stones and taking in the sun and fresh air. Some of us took an opportunity to sit and meditate by the water, basking in the warm glow of sangha.
Following our third and final meal of the day, we settled down to practice the Chöd of Machig Labdrön, for which Rinpoche gave transmission and instruction. This practice, profound in its wisdom and its ability to cut through ego, was a natural progression from our earlier session on the Diamond Cutting Sutra. And with that, we were ready to rest following a full day of teachings, practice, and time spent with precious Dharma family.
Again we were awakened by the sound of Rinpoche’s conch shell. It was our final day together, and he wanted to start early and take us into the wilderness. So, after breaking down the tents and packing up our bags, we gathered for breakfast and set off toward the trails of the Olympic National Forest in Quilcene. We hiked down through thick woods and tightly winding trails, oftentimes holding onto each other so as to not lose our footing. The long and arduous walk was well worth the effort once we arrived at the bottom of the trail and got to sit by the river. The water was cool and refreshing. Only Rinpoche braved the brisk waters and waded in, finding a seat on a rock in the middle of the natural pool.
It was in this beautiful setting, under magnificent trees by rushing waters, that Rinpoche gave us the Yuthog Nyintig transmission. It was a beautiful and meaningful practice for us all as we sat on the rocks around Rinpoche. He instructed us to visualize the water and the trees, everything around us, as precious medicinal substances for healing. And then we set off on our hike back, which took twice as long given our wish to explore a different trail.
Our bodies were tired but our hearts were full. New friendships were forged, social media contacts were exchanged, stories were shared, and —most importantly— our practice was deepened. As we said our goodbyes and went our own ways, I felt an overwhelming awareness of precious human life. How fortunate we are to have found this human form! How fortunate we are to be able to practice the Dharma! And how very fortunate we are to have found such an qualified, compassionate and loving guru in Tulku Yeshi Rinpoche! May his life be long and healthy, may he continue to spread the Dharma everywhere he travels, and may all beings benefit.
Namo Gurube! Namo Buddhaya! Namo Dharmaya! Namo Sanghaya!
-Sergio Moreno, Ngakpa Tenpa Dhargye