Tuesday, February 24, 2009

February 23, 2009 Tibetan New Year

Hi My friends. Tomorrow is Losar, the Tibetan New Year. We are in solidarity with those in China who in protest did not want to acknowledge the new year with the traditional celebrations, but are being forced by the Chinese to do so. We will gather, then, in prayer without the festivities and traditional dance. Even though, there is a feeling of newness; the nuns have been cleaning each room, the temples and the kitchen and the grounds are swept clean and fresh today.

Last week, there was a special puja (prayers) where the monks and nuns read all the teachings of the Buddha. I was in the Temple for all 3 days, practicing meditation and the experience was such a gift. The sound is like a slow, quiet murmur, that eventually builds with an intense rythym as each one is saying and reading their part of the text out loud. Then, the cymbals and the drums and horns add to this powerfully prayerful atmosphere. I was raised by Catholic nuns for 12 years and there is much here that reminds me of them and of the feeling I had and loved in my schools - St. Rose of Lima and Notre Dame Academy!

I have had some very sweet moments sitting with the nuns during these cleaning frenzies when we take tea breaks outside, leaning on each other and laughing and making this monastery shine! The nuns share treats that they make in their rooms as well, and last night, I sat on the floor with 4 anis (nuns) who were eating vegetables with the flat bread that Ani Konchok Sangmo made in her room! It was delicious, but the company does give it a flavor that is sweet and loving - a gentle contentment.

I am in the shop here outside of the monastery at Jangchubling which I can walk to through the fields while looking around me to the Himalayan foothills. The paths are rocky and dusty although the other night a wonderful, windy storm blew through quickly at 2 am. I hope one comes again! There are some clouds lingering behind the mountain ridge that could be filled with moisture......?? I only hope!

I will have a little coffee which is made with about a teaspoon of Nescafe instant with milk - made similar to chai. We have tea but I drink very little coffee, but have come to love this treat! By the way, Arun, who owns the shop and works it with his son, Vivek and Sunil his son-in-law ,says he will teach me Hindi now - for only $500 American!

Some monks sit quietly behind me having an alloo parantha and tea (flattened bread with potato).

I will make my way back to Samten Ling and wish each of you Joy. Nellie

Saturday, February 7, 2009

February 6, 2009-- Notes From India

Hello My Friends! Many Blessings to all of you.

I just wanted to pass on to you a few thoughts gathered when I walk up the hill from the nunnery here, to a site that I love on the hill that overlooks this valley. There's a mandir, a small Hindu temple, that isn't used, but that's been built beneath this great Banyan tree. You can see the tree for miles. She sits on the side of the hill in such a way that the leaves and branches have adopted the shape of this steep incline.

Around 4 pm, and after my classes, I love to grab my sneakers and head for the hills alone; well, not quite, for usually a 4 legged friend, one of the nunnery dogs, jumps for joy and heads out the gate ahead of me sniffing and checking out all the news. The trail takes me close to a neighbor's yard and I skirt the stable and the cows and goats and climb higher through the fields below the Shakya retreat grounds and then across to this little path in front of the great banyan. Coming there, I sigh deeply, happy to be able to sit on the cool concrete and hidden underneath the canopy of branches and thick leaves and below me, the valley murmurs and stutters in so many languages - the life of India! You can hear a revival from the Christian Theology College which is next to the Buddhist monastery at Jangchubling! There's a Hindu temple where bajans (chants) are broadcast through a speaker and the cry of the muezzin for Muslim prayers all compete with the drums and cymbals of the nunnery. There are children crying and talking and yelling and bells from cows and goats and the sounds of machete's as many cut limbs for timber for their evening fires. But the sounds seem to be muffled for the distance and the embrace of this tree. I can look to my right and see Mussorie and know that the Himalayas are seen from her pathways just knowing this, I laugh and smile deeply satisfied. And the light filters so gently through the greenery and I am embraced and moved to be here and deeply grateful.

All the sounds to me are prayers - and all the sounds are heard by the same One. They seem to say the same thing and they are all heard. From here, there is no differentiation or argument of who's right or wrong. From here there is just a knowing and a Peace.

There doesn't need to be an explanation for me. I just sit grateful. The Grace that brings me here is a gift that calls me to share by opening my heart to embrace all the sounds, all the beings and all humanity and in moments like this, I am lifted out of the confinement of my own limited body and awareness and like all the sounds, I am lifted to the space of sky itself.

I just rest in this awareness and breathe a prayer of thanks for myself and all others.

Then... Sindoo the dog gets restless, like my mind, and he begins to sniff and distract me and himself , jumping and nipping and together we make our way back down another road. And I pray that all I greet can see in my eyes the language that universally speaks to us all! Nellie