Every time I visit our home monastery in India, I am stunned by the level of generosity that is infused in the very way of life. During the recent celebration of 800 years it felt like we were literally immersed in generosity. During this time together, our hearts were completely open and we were sharing the joy of life and the blessings of the Dharma with each offering.
We arrived, exhausted after two days of travel, at hot and dusty Kulhan. We were met joyfully, and offered sweet tea by
Ani Yeshe and Ani Tsekyi. Each guest received a lovely bag with the Drikung logo and a box of incense. In addition, I received a full set of robes including the yellow outer robe and the striking red meditation hat, as did all the monks and nuns. Lined up next to the classroom were about 100 monks and nuns with katas. They began carrying to the main monastery, the bronze statues of Lord Jigten Sumgon that would become part of the stunning background for the ceremonies. The statues had been filled by the nuns with relics and medicines over the last few weeks.
When we were shown our rooms, usually a very basic affair, we were struck by the level of thoughtfulness for our every comfort. Each bed (a mattress on plywood) had new sheets, a bedspread and blanket. A bowl of fruit and sweets awaited us as well as a hot water electric kettle to make our own tea along with a box of tea, mugs, sponges, soaps and tea towels. Every space in the nunnery, all their classrooms, had been turned into dorms for foreign guests and relatives.
The next day we registered and received prayer books and photos of HH Drikung Chetsang. The registration table was surrounded by booths with crowds of people at each one. You could contribute to the event, to the extensive mandala offering, to various charities run by various Drikung organizations. Huge tents were set up for hundreds of Ladaki disciples to camp. Over twelve thousand people descended on this tiny monastery complex and all were fed three delicious meals a day. There were large signs instructing everyone to consider maintaining a vegetarian diet so that the gathering caused no harm to any being. Even the immediately surrounding restaurants served only vegetarian fare and no alcohol.
And then we began the weeklong extravaganza. From the start generosity abounded. Every major Lama or scholar who had authored books, gave either all the monastics or the entire assembly one of their most significant books. The Drikung Lineage gave six volumes of our founder”s and a major collection of Marpa’s writings to each and every center worldwide. Centers and Lamas wanted to make so many mandala offerings (12 daily) that we ran out of time for all to be included. Within the mandala offerings which are made to HH Drikung Chetsang, many donated in addition, to the Lamas and assembled monastics as well with funds, images, posters and medallions. And that money is also given away…
We found this circle of generosity was made visible when the financial statement was read. Our top Lamas, were in fact our major donors. Younger lamas are starting medical clinics and schools in remote areas. On one day, after everyone was gone, anther young Rinpoche gave a new warm blanket to every monk in the monastery (over 200).
HH Drikung Chetsang’s activities seem limitless and I am sure the donations from this gathering help fund the Saravasti stupa and monastery which open next year, or his Go Green projects, or the new ones he is dreaming into being.
Midway through the week, one day was devoted to service. HH Drikung Chetsang announced his newest Go Green project. Rinpoche has joined with the Indian Government and H.H. Swami Chidananda Saraswati to plant a million trees and support Swami’s endeavors to clean up the Ganges River. Over five thousand attendees spent that afternoon cleaning up the environment and giving out food and medicines.
Finally there was the ultimate offering ceremony: the last day was devoted to making offerings, a prayer ceremony of gratitude to the lineage ancestors and a line of gifts a mile long to HH Drikung Chetsang Rinpoche who in one lifetime has saved and rejuvenated the Drikung lineage. Certificates of accomplishment were given to those training in carrying the lineage teachings; the new khenpos and drupons from the monastery and the new acharya nuns.
Those who excelled in their studies were honored and even the artists were included for the first time. Finally, all the centers worldwide were honored for their service with one of the bronze statues, a beautiful commemorative medallion and sets of texts. This all culminated with a rain of flowers; baskets of marigolds were disseminated to be thrown in the air with the concluding prayers for nearly an hour.
Photos by Joanne Swierz and Ani Tsekyi