The Schedule Then, the Schedule Now
This event is a sort of massive group retreat. It has turned out many of the westerners are attending the lungs as opposed to doing their own practice in the mornings. People start the day in the shrine room at six-thirty in the morning and listen to the reading transmissions until eight o’clock breakfast. Ideally one is silent during the lungs letting the words pour inside. For the most part, attending a reading transmission is sitting meditation with an emphasis on resting the mind on sound. Although it is hard for the younger monks to stay silent I have notice that a large proportion of the older Tibetans in the back are quiet during the day.
At eight o’clock there is breakfast and the lungs continue on for another three hours. In a group retreat like dathun or on solitary retreat this would be the second session. There is another hour’s break for lunch at noon. These breaks are tightly timed and it is inspiring and entertaining to see hundreds of us running around to stay in sync.
His Eminence enters the main shrine room at one o’clock. Traditionally the appearance of a major teacher is heralded by gyalings, shrill Tibetan horns. These have become a last moment’s warning for the rest of us to get to the main temple. Namkha Drimed Rinpoche then gives the abhishekas until six or six-thirty, five and a half hours with a ten to fifteen minute break somewhere after four. There’s a tea just before the break, but His Eminence is usually continuing the initiations in some way during this time.
So, that works out to about ten hours a day in the shrine room for the general populace. A group of older monks performs a practice called chod after dinner while the Rinpoches continue with meetings and audiences and the rest of us sometimes collapse in bed.
Namkha Drimed Rinpoche has a different schedule that the all the rest of us. He starts his preliminary rituals at four in the morning and is in the shrine room until dinner, stopping only a short while for meals. Occasionally I am reflecting on the question of what I will be able to accomplish at the age of seventy. His Eminence’s devotion to the Rinchen Terdzo is palpable, as is the strength of his focus on Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche throughout the day.
Looking at Trungpa Rinpoche’s account of the first time he gave the Rinchen Terdzo, around 1954 in Tibet, I see that he had a different style of giving the transmission. Much to my surprise everyone started listening to the lungs at 2:30 AM. This is four hours earlier than we are doing it today.
Instead of giving the empowerments all in one batch (which I suspect saves a bit of time) Trungpa Rinpoche gave them at four different times during the day, twice in the morning, once in the afternoon and once in the evening starting at six. In between those times I am guessing the Vidyadhara was doing the preliminary ritual practices necessary to offer the subsequent empowerments. He started his morning at 4:30, half an hour later than Namkha Drimed Rinpoche is. It is amazing to think that Trungpa Rinpoche was only 14 at this time in his life. In the West he’d have been a 9th or 10th grader.