June 2019, Buryatia, Season Two
One could say that this second trip to Buryatia took place under the auspices of Hayagriva. Nature displayed her wrathful aspects, we went through some”hayagrivesque” episodes, and we received rains of blessings … A beautiful and long RIPA adventure has been experienced there, that is for sure.
At the Moscow RIPA Center
Located in a lively and active university district, the RIPA center is a reflection of its environment: young, alive, brimming with energy, dynamism and life. RIPA students are at home, as are visitors who are warmly welcomed. Spread over four levels, the center has converted its basement into accommodations: a dormitory, kitchen, dining room, showers and toilets, everything is simple, well done, practical and pleasant. At this moment, about twenty monks from Nepal and Orissa live there for a while. They will leave soon with us for Buryatia. The slightly elevated ground floor leads to the small self-service and the large teaching and practice room. The first floor includes rooms rented to external speakers for consultations related to wellness and personal development, Tibetan medicine, etc. On the top floor, there is a large and beautiful Gompa … But one must comment on the remarkable entry: on each side of the small staircase, the visitor is greeted by a double row of photos of our teachers and events of the RIPA lineage throughout the world: inaugurations, international meetings, the RIPA family, snapshots of life in the monasteries of Orissa and Nepal, little monks…. This entry imbues us instantly with the atmosphere of our community around the world and the presence of our teachers there is palpable.
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The RIPA logo in Russian on this large luminous mirror, the clear water that flows there sings like a spring … The monks look at the photos of the entrance … Information on Ripa Awerness Meditation and the activities of the center, the superb fresco of Gesar done by a renowned Bhutanese artist … The little self-service and one of its tasting tables … The monks’ corner … Who discover the markets of Moscow … And of course have participated in football matches with young Russians.
Fish blessed by Lhuntrul Rinpoche find life again
1,500 kgs of fish caught for sale and consumption were bought by RIPA students to save them from a certain death. Transported in containers on the banks of a large nautical center in Moscow, we participate in a ceremony for them under the inspiration of Lhuntrul Rinpoche, before releasing them. Some are unfortunately already dead because it must be said that they have just spent more than 24 hours in containers whose water capacity is insufficient to keep them all alive. However a large majority of them will be saved. And it is so moving to see these fish, some of which had become totally inert for some time, to resuscitate slowly. First a movement of the fins is barely perceptible, then, timidly their mouths “suck” the water, their source of life, and their body comes alive, finally, as they sink back into their natural element. During this return to life, we imagine them as having been already gone and dead, and with their revival they certainly appear a little lost, so that spontaneously tenderness emerges from the depths of our hearts, as we cannot but be touched by the suffering they have experienced. Supported and accompanied by the rituals of a Master, this practice – which goes back to the origins of Buddhism – opens the door for better reincarnations. By helping them to break free from their karma, fish will have every opportunity to reincarnate as humans in a future life.
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Everyone surrounds Lhuntrul Rinpoche at the nautical center … One of the three containers of 500 kg each … Rinpoche blesses the fish … Everyone participates in launching the fish back into the water … Many of us do not hesitate to jump into the water … Others do it involuntarily! … Some handsome swimmers from the nautical center offered to participate … The monks are of course in the first line.
To Buryatia via Irkoustk
Irkutsk is the capital of the Eastern District of Siberia on the west coast of Lake Baikal. The duration of the flight from Moscow to Irkutsk will give you a little idea of the distance and extent of the territory of the Russian Federation, the trip lasts between five and a half or six and a half hours, depending on the flights. After a short walk in the city, we leave by bus to Buryatia and we stop at Arshan, in the west of this part of the country, after a seven hour drive. Arshan means “healing water” in Buryat, because of its famous hot springs; it is also known for its Datsan (gompa in Buryat), the former residence of a great lama who was one of the teachers of a previous Dalai Lama … It is here that Jigme Rinpoche and Lhuntrul Rinpoche will guide a practice of Medicine Buddha. The small temple is packed, and finding a place, even an uncomfortable one, is not easy. We depart early the next morning for a long day on the bus. Destination: Orlik, where the Hayagriva Drupchö will take place. On the way, Our Rinpoches are invited to lead a smoke offering practice. Many villagers arrive, and whole families come to be blessed. Then a final departure for Orlik, where we will arrive at about eight o’clock at night.
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At the southern part of eastern Siberia, Buryatia is located on the east coast of Lake Baikal. Its borders are common with the district of Irkutsk and the small Buddhist republic of Tuva in the west, Mongolia in the south and the Chita region in the east … Embarking in Moscow for a night flight … Arshan, practice of Sangye Menla in the small Datsan … Blessings by our teachers … Photos at the end of the ceremony with some of the participants and the monks … The local people … Offering of smoke on the path of Orlik … And the queue to receive the blessings of Jigme Rinpoche.
Drupchö in Orlik
Imagine yourself in the middle of nature, in the middle of immense spaces, surrounded by hills and mountains. One can truly breathe, we feel our hearts open and our bodies expand; the Buryats explain to us that we are on pure land. The small gompa in the shape of a yurt, which was inaugurated three years ago, is too small to accommodate all the participants of the Drupchö; so, the friends of the Buryat community decided to install an adjoining large marquee, on the meadow. Built entirely by their own hands, they traveled miles to cut and bring back a few dozen tree trunks with which the frame was built and then covered with blue-green plastic. This is where we will spend our days, from 6:30 in the morning until the evening. We can say that this drupchö seemed to have a green theme: green meadows, green surrounding hills, our green restaurant in the middle of nowhere, (certainly a big army tent from the last war!), and the green reflections on our bodies when we are under the tent.
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The beautiful gompa in the shape of a yurt … The Drupchö marquee… During the breaks, we recover from the time difference … We get the vertebrae back in place … Even the sacred daily dances are tinged with green … Our “green” restaurant … At table for the good dishes prepared by Victoria and Baatak … Jigme Rinpoche and Lhuntrul Rinpoche share our dinner one evening … 7:30, first break, we warm up with the fire that heats the water for the tea … Grand luxury: toasted bread over a wood fire, moreover, all the cooking is guaranteed to be by a wood fire, and we can tell! … Outdoor washbasins in the greenery … On the last day, the drupchö starts at 4am (we wake up at 3am!)… Those who read Russian or Tibetan follow the text by the light of their smartphone … Blessings at the end of Drupchö … The marquee is full. Outside, a small crowd waits in the rain before entering. According to the “experts,“ we are between 300 and 400 … Last night in the small Orlik restaurant.
We inaugurate the statue of Gesar of Ling
In 2016, during his first visit, Jigme Rinpoche announced his wish to place a statue of Gesar of Ling in a very special and particular place, in the middle of nature. Thanks to our offerings, one of the best artists in the country has created a beautiful 120 cm tall statue. After a few hours of an incredible journey filled with adventures, where our cars confronted the unleashed elements, we participate in a powerful inauguration, despite the rain and an icy glacial wind that makes life difficult for the indispensable fire for the smoke offering. But rain or not, Jigme Rinpoche and Lhuntrul Rinpoche bless the statue, and Ki-Ki-So-So’s fly to the sky, having first crossed a forest of umbrellas….
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The statue of Gesar … Hard, hard to light the fire … The monks keep smiling … Offering smoke, rain, cold and wind, a mixture rather chilling, but our hearts are hot … Jigme Rinpoche opens the offering of smoke … Photo of the monastic family RIPA … Shamanic site on the way back.
The uninterrupted manifestation of natural elements is inherent in continental climates such as Buryatia. This time we were served! Cold, wind, rain, biblical storms … Almost all of our stay took place under the auspices of the unleashed elements. We settle down at 6:30 in the morning on the damp carpets of a tent naturally cooled by the night, cross the meadow turned into a marsh to get to meals, toilets, and we push our shoes through beautiful thick mud to enter our little Hotel; there were very interesting and almost daily experiences … Not to mention the rivers overflowing their banks that cut us off several times, and confronted us at times with little complications that added to our travel. The following photos will give you an overview of our daily life.
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A new storm is preparing to break… On the way to the inauguration of the statue one of our cars sinks into the water that has submerged the road. The second is surrounded by water, impossible to leave … The good will recover tree trunks and all that will allow the bus to get out of its rut … The roads are submerged by the rising water … So much so that you have to climb a path to find the road where it is again drivable, that is far away … The monks have repatriated urgently in our small hotel because of the floods, they sleep and have lunch “at home.” We spend an unforeseen morning, amused, happy and animated to prepare their meal … Even though it is summer time there remains here and there large patches of ice. Some places never thaw.
Last stage of our adventure: Ulan-Udé, capital of Buryatia. The bus trip lasts … A dozen hours! The day after our arrival, Jigme Rinpoche is invited with Lhuntrul Rinpoche to inaugurate a small temple in the middle of nature half an hour from the city. We go there. The invitation comes from Danzan, a young Buriat Lama whose wish is to establish a temple for lay practitioners in the tradition of Nyingma yogis and especially the RIPA lineage. He had invited Jigme Rinpoche to come and bless the site three years ago. The beginning of the ceremony is marked by the arrival of two horsemen sporting the banner of Gesar of Ling. The sacred Tibetan dances are remarkably performed by the monks on a sloping ground, undulating, improbable and copiously sprinkled by fresh and massive showers. Then the day ends with a small concert of traditional Buryat music. Two young musicians of high level play on a distant cousin of the superb cello. As usual, the participants are numerous and the new wooden temple will not be able to contain all of them. Many will attend the ceremony from the outdoor terrace while looking through the windows.
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Our Rinpoches welcomed by Lama Danzan … At the entrance to the small temple … The two riders bearing the banner of Gesar of Ling … The art of blessing his representation of Padmasambhava at a distance … We receive the blessings and we photograph … Offering of smoke … The festivities … Superb sacred dances … Buryat art ends the day …
Stunning wooden houses of Irkutsk … Traditional Siberian house … XXL conch for the Drupchö … Outdoor cooking for the drupchö … Wooden kitchen next to the small temple inaugurated … And its annex where we boil the water … Sites of shamanic offerings reputedly loaded with a particular energy … The toilets on the road of the journey … How to protect oneself from the sun … And finally: the same big signs all over the planet.