Tsoknyi Rinpoche led over 170 retreatants from around the world at Tergar International’s recent practice-intensive nature of mind retreat. The retreat was held at St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota, from May 30 to June 6, 2013. The first two days of the retreat included teachings by one of Tergar's main teachers, Khenpo Kunga, along with instruction and group practices led by Tergar instructors.
This year’s teaching centered on the text The Lamp that Dispels Darkness: An Instruction that Points Directly to the Nature of Mind in the Tradition of the Old Realized Ones composed in 1906 by Jamgön Mipham Rinpoche. The short practice manual was written especially for the benefit of "town yogis," who have little time to devote to study and contemplation but still wish to train in mind-essence.
The nature of mind teachings are drawn from the paths of Mahamudra and Dzogchen, the highest and most profound meditative teachings of the Kagyü and Nyingma Schools of Tibetan Buddhism. While this practice retreat provided a rare opportunity to receive in-depth teachings on these trainings, Tsoknyi Rinpoche, Khenpo Kunga and the Tergar instructions also ensured that both those who had been receiving teachings for years and those newly exposed realized the accessibility and profoundness of the teachings.
What made the retreat special for Dimas Gomez from Mexico City, Mexico, was the “unique” teaching style of Rinpoche and the “ambiente” or environment that was created during the retreat. He said he felt like everyone was part of a community. “I was surprised to feel such warmth from everybody – very welcoming – even during silence.”
Connie Koo came to hear Tsoknyi Rinpoche’s teachings all the way from Hong Kong. She met Mingyur Rinpoche in 2008 and came to Minnesota because of his suggestion to practice in retreat as often as possible. She found the community welcoming as well. “I just came here and just met new friends,” she said. She felt a comfort and familiarity from the outset of the retreat and found she had the feeling “that we are dharma brothers and sisters here in a family – so loving, so caring.”
For Connie, it was also Tsoknyi Rinpoche’s teachings, lighthearted, yet illuminating, which were inspiring. “Rinpoche’s teachings touched my heart,” she said.
“To be with a very good teacher – the area near is like something shiny,” said Albina Tuktamysheva, from Moscow, Russia. “Something very important happens in yourself. It’s so nice to be here. But it is more than these words and you can understand it later and it will grow up in you.”
This understanding was supported by Rinpoche’s clear teachings on The Lamp that Dispels Darkness text and his “play-by-play” explanation of the Vajrasattva empowerment that took place on the final day.
Many of the retreatants had been to the nature of mind teachings at St. John’s University in previous years with Mingyur Rinpoche and Tsoknyi Rinpoche. But for many, it was their first time. For all, Tsoknyi Rinpoche’s teaching style functioned as a bridge between ancient wisdom and the modern mind.
The beauty and simplicity of his teaching style was present to the very end. Kevin Gregerson, of Edina, Minnesota, was at St. John’s for the first time. Kevin said he was deeply inspired by Rinpoche during his last teaching of the retreat. It brought tears to Kevin’s eyes when Rinpoche spoke about a true compassion based on helping others. While listening to Rinpoche, Kevin realized this “natural ability to get out of the way and love yourself is possible through Buddhism and that can translate into actually changing the world.”
It was a powerful realization available to town yogis everywhere.
-- John Tribbett, Tergar Minneapolis