An Eventful Day, Relatively Speaking

December 31st, 2008

Today was the final day of the Dzogchen retreat, and it was the end of the western calendar year. While working on the blog near the end of the morning there was a knock on our door. Pema, the solidly built secretary of Jigme Rinpoche, was visiting all the westerners, urging them to hurry up to the monastery steps for the group photo. We had a long session of picture taking in the sun with His Eminence, the Sakyong, Jigme Rinpoche, Lhuntrul Rinpoche and Kunkyab Rinpoche. First, all the monks surrounded the teachers on the steps, then the westerns scrunched in, then all the monks withdrew off camera, and finally some Ripa family photos were taken in the shade of the veranda.

The abhishekas in the afternoon were a bit shorter than usual, and tea was longer as there were offerings made on behalf of the western sanghas at the retreat. Everyone was well dressed, though our faces were smeared by some of the blessing substances. After a formal ceremony for the long life of His Eminence, the westerners had a chance to present a khata individually to Namkha Drimed Rinpoche on his throne. The day concluded with a few more abhishekas, the moving blessing line of His Eminence and the other teachers winding through row after row of us with various tormas and icons, and our usual closing chants.

The plan had been for westerners then to have a dinner at the Ripa Family compound followed by a party, but this changed to dinner at our respective dining areas, and everyone met at the compound later for the party. The Ripa Lhadrang is about a one minute walk from the monastery gate, best done at night with a flash light in case of cow dung. The compound itself is framed by a wall so one enters by a metal door next to a car gate. Inside are about four two-story houses built surrounding a central garden area with enough trees and shrubs to remind one of a tropical jungle in the dark.

Upon entering the party one was struck by two things—very appealing dance music pounding out of the middle of the garden and a very cheerful Tibetan woman offering cups of chang, home-made Tibetan beer. I must say that I like chang a lot after last night. It’s a bit sour, sort of like apple cider in some way. It feels like on could easily drink an enormous quantity of it and be very content. I’ve had a head cold, but it altogether vanished between the time I started drinking chang and when we left the party a few hours later.

One thing was for sure, it is pretty surreal to be dancing to house music in a jungle drinking beer with people from all over the world after 24 days of abhishekas in a monastic environment. Everyone seemed to have an incredibly good time and the party went well past midnight, five and a half hours altogether, though some of us bowed out after a couple hours of steady dancing. I hear that the four Ripa sisters—Khandro Tseyang, Semo Sonam, Semo Pede and Semo Palmo—danced a great deal as the evening wore on. I think the Rinpoches kept a low profile preferring to relax a bit as past few week’s intensity eased up for a bit.

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