Summer 2020 at the RIPA International Center in Switzerland

Rinpoche on the big screen

This year we discovered ourelves in the strange situation of finding ourselves participating in small groups yet simultaneously connected with the whole planet. It is an experience that is at once intimate, convivial, virtual and beyond all limits. Then, a lovely surprise awaits us: Jigme Rinpoche joins us for the practice of Yeshe Tsogyal. On leaving, he gives us a superb: “see you very soon.” The expectation sets in our hearts.

Connected from India, Nepal, Bhutan, Vietnam, the Americas, the Russian Federation, Europe, and with sometimes impressive time differences (some have to get up in the middle of the night!), this retreat is a first in all its aspects. The strength of the presence of our teachers – yet far from our continents – connects us all together and erases the distances. To our “usual” retreat is added an encounter with the multitude of friendly faces on the screens. This time, our experience is no longer just to open our hearts to the students present, but to everyone beyond all limits.

Dream Yoga

We are two hundred and sixty-five participants in total. There are those who have magical dreams, those whose dreams that are directly related to the retreat, those who cannot remember their dreams and simply collapse or crash out in sleep. Finally, the last ones are in such a state that they can not fall asleep at all! However, Jigme Rinpoche confirms that: “To dream, you must first sleep! ” But no summary can replace this wonderful teaching.

Rinpoche on the big screen protected from the sun by a “house” system… the zooming friends also appear on the big screen with sometimes hilarious fantasies… All of the screens with multiple faces… Back to our seats after the break… Monique, student for a very long time, always so faithful and smiling…Family meal… End of dream yoga: Rinpoche introduces us to his cousin Jigme Dewa, the pillar of technology in Orissa.

The Drupchö of Yeshe Tsogyal

Just over a hundred of us – present or connected – then meet for this Drupchö that we have now practiced uninterruptedly every year since 2012, when the center was inaugurated. We are about twenty present, divided between the RIPA center in Moscow, that of Switzerland or in Valencia in Spain. In Switzerland, it is in our dear little temple / refuge that we meet. We are at home there, we feel protected and pushed by a force that prompts us and leads us to practice. In these conditions, the Drupchö is a real gift. Finally, for those who participate from home, the opinions will also be very positive: “It is a magnificent experience which pushes us to detach ourselves from our habits and to reach a higher level of practice” … “Sublime, it is sublime to enter the depth of the energy of this practice”… “To enter the deep experience of Yeshe Tsogyel’s Drupchö from home, alone in front of a screen, it is an experience impossible to imagine before having lived it .”

Lhuntrul Rinpoche and the monks in the superb little temple of Gesar on the top floor of the monastery in Orissa… When you are part of the technical team, you have a very busy screen to attend to, in addition to following the practice text ! … Moscow: Lopen Ugyen Tenzin of Orissa prepares the tormas with Valdimir… The participants… Valencia: there are five of them but their energy counts for at least ten! … Niederwangen in our beloved Gompa / refuge… End of the retreat, part of the group surrounds the photo of H.E. Namkha Drimed Rabjam  Rinpoche.

Calling the Lama from afar … and it works!

At the end of the dream yoga retreat we, the participants from Switzerland, hoped that Jigme Rinpoche would come to us with all of our sangha very soon. We expressed it through a common message via zoom. So illegible due to the technical complications of transmissions that some even thought it was written in Tibetan! … It doesn’t matter. Rinpoche heard. He announces his coming, he will be among us for the practice of Yeshe Tsogyel. Suddenly, those who had to leave quickly decided to stay, while the nearby residents of Germany, France and Switzerland are preparing to join us. As a result, the day of the practice, the center is as full as possible given the health requirements and with us, is a small crowd of people connected remotely. A certain restlessness seized us during the preceding days because everything had to be prepared. At the end of his short stay, Rinpoche invites the last present to drink a chai. We are a small group of about fifteen, happy to spend a moment with him.

Whether the text is in order… or out of order… Rinpoche receives our call… During the practice of Yeshe Tsogyal… The room is as full as possible… Distribution of the tsok… And happy after-tsok… The flowers of the practice are offered to the participants who take the blessings home with them… Chai in the dining room…

Behind the scenes

Technically organizing such connections and communications across continents is not that simple. It takes time to test the sound, its quality and intensity, as well as the images, their accuracy and clarity. There are technical positions for those translating the teaching and others for the question and answer translators. Needless to say, all of this takes time and energy and the end result depends on various parameters that cannot always be controlled in advance. This is one of the reasons for the bizarre sound of the instruments during Yeshe Tsogyal’s Drupchö. These all-out technical preparations are supplemented on site by preparations that are not at all virtual: cleaning up, setting up the room in accordance with sanitary instructions, Rinpoche’s cooking, the flowers … Everyone pitches in.

Preparations for zoom… One of the technical posts:  Antje’s office, first adjustments with the Orissa team… Other adjustments in the teaching room… From the monastery, Jigme Dewa fine-tunes his adjustments… The apartments of Begonia and Helen are transformed into question / answer translation booths… A big clean-up inside, outside… Cynthia and Christophe in the kitchen… And always these flowers that Nadya transforms into magnificent bouquets.

Two big novelties

A space reserved for practice texts

As of your next visit, you will find a new space at your disposal. Reserved for practice texts, you can sit there to read them quietly, this is also where you can now buy the practices that you are missing or renew them. Well located just above the big Gompa in the old Gymnasium, its access is easy and very close to the teachings. A long work carried out by Carlo and Ursula during the lockdown and which Rinpoche visited with satisfaction.

The reading tables ready to welcome students… Rinpoche looks carefully at the photos… Photo of H.E. Namkha Drimed Rabjam Rinpoche with the group of translators… Then in Asia with Lama Tenzin and Tashi Tobjay… Photos of the pilgrimage to Pemaköe in Arunachal Pradech, Jigme Rinpoche looks and remembers… And finally with Carlo and Ursula.

Permaculture or the “Living Garden” adventure

Since last March, two Swiss friends have launched a permaculture  project on one of the fields in the center and we can already see the first good results. Eventually – but we will have to wait a few years – the living garden will extend over one hectare of one of our fields. So far, the experiment takes up about 15%. It must be said that there are two and the work is immense. Full of ideas and projects, Marcel (who has a long experience in permaculture, including teaching it), and Michael (passionate connoisseur), embarked on the adventure with the means at hand, that is to say : nothing. The old handball goal nets have been transformed into vegetable greenhouses, the handles of their tools are simple pieces of tree branches, every element of the new installation has been recovered: zero loss, zero waste, everything is recycled … one has only to meet our two “permaculturalists” and to follow their work to see that they are engaged in a labor of love. Result: the first vegetables are already found in the menus of the center. Rinpoche visited, looked, tasted, exchanged experiences and asked lots of questions. He concludes: “When we take care of others, whether they are humans, animals or nature, we are in spirituality.” Then he ends with a remark which concerns him personally: “if I had not carried out the activity that I have, I would have become a farmer.”

One of the first salads from the garden … Visit of Rinpoche and discussions on the “Living Garden” … Cabbages, tomatoes, vegetables are all more than successful … They are pampered like babies … Greenhouses “handmade »With the means at hand… Rinpoache takes a radish… Asks a question about it… Tastes and enjoys it… Continuation of the vegetable tour… Marcel and Michael before going to the garden… Souvenir photo of the meeting with Rinpoche!