A Winter Retreat with Khenpo Kunga

Meditators and sacred objects at the winter retreat
All photos courtesy: Jonathan Gross
 

In early January 2015, about 80 Tergar students gathered near frigid Madison, WI to meditate together and receive meditation instructions from Khenpo Kunga, a much-loved senior Lama from the Tergar Meditation Community.

Each day brought students a mixture of silent meditation, vegetarian meals and instruction from Khenpo on the Seven Point Mind Training, one of the most-treasured teachings of the Mind Training lineage. These ancient Tibetan Buddhist teachings continue to be widely practiced today and are known for their profound simplicity and power to open the heart and transform the mind.
 

Meditation
 

meals at the winter retreat
 

Basing his teachings on a commentary by the great 19th Century master, Jamgon Kongtrul, Khenpo Kunga also offered instructions on the nature of mind, drawing on a unique set of "pointing out instructions" from the lineage of Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche.

Khenph Kunga
 

At the end of the retreat, Khenpo wrote the following letter, which was read by the retreat translator Daniella Labra. It appears below in the original Tibetan and then in English.
 

Khenpo next to his letter in Tibetan
 

Dear all,

We have come together here at Tergar by the force of our previous karma and aspirations. Through our faith and samayas we share the same intention.

Since I’ve been lazy and indolent, I have spent my life in distraction and have no virtuous qualities at all, yet you have shown great enthusiasm, not only listening well throughout all the sessions but also diligently practicing mind training every day, so I really want to thank you sincerely for that.

I want to show a deep bow of gratitude to the retreat managers, the respected and well-known learned individuals who have come here, the people who kindly and lovingly took care of me and helped me every day, teachers and friends, the Tergar instructors, and everybody gathered here. I sincerely apologize to you all because I am sure I have not met your hopes and aspirations for this winter retreat, so I have wasted your time.

Normally one week is a not a long time for retreat, but what we have been practicing during this time is no small endeavor. Each breath we have exhaled has been a breath of love, wishing happiness to all beings, and each inhalation has been one of compassion, wishing to relieve all beings of suffering. Each time we trained our mind through giving and taking, free of attachment and aversion to those near and far, we were imbued with the life force of a mind intent on benefiting others. Each time we practiced shamatha without blocking any of the senses, the wealth of our happiness and well-being was sown. Moreover, each time the torch of mind nature shone, the arising of the empty luminosity of pure awareness, we planted the seed for meeting the joyous face of great-bliss-dharmakaya, removed from all ignorance and wrong perceptions. This is the brilliance of the sacred Dharma, and certainly the blessings and kindness of Mingyur Rinpoche.

I don’t have even a trace of any virtuous qualities, but what I have taught is the profound Dharma of the old Kadampas and Mingyur Rinpoche’s own pith instructions. There is nothing here of my own making. Yet, these are not only empty words that I’ve read. What I have shared with you has arisen through my own experience in practice.

This advice [on mind training] from Chekawa is very important. I have faith that it can exert a positive change in your lives. I have offered you the flower of a kind mind and I have thus followed Mingyur Rinpoche’s mandate. Before he left for retreat he asked me to teach Tergar students. Doing so has filled my heart with joy.

Dharma friends, for three years we have been looking forward to the rising of the brilliant sun, and when that sun arrives it will surely illuminate our lives with joy and happiness. It is time for us to go forth, kata in hand, to welcome Mingyur Rinpoche, the sun that dispels darkness. Under his guidance and love, may Tergar become a community dedicated to bringing peace and happiness to the world. We can pray together that this warmhearted aspiration finds no obstacles and that it may be spontaneously achieved!

Yours,
Khenpo Kunga
 
retreat group photo
 
 

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