“First you need to find a teacher..”

This weekend I took part in my first nyungne practice. Nyungne is a Tibetan fasting and purification ritual undertaken with the intent of generating compassion for all beings. The particulars are difficult to explain without context, but I’ll give it a go. Save for the recitation of some long Tibetan prayers, most of the two-and-a-half day retreat is conducted in silence, Additionally, retreatants forego food or liquid of any sort for a period of roughly forty-two hours. It is supposed to be a challenging practice. Through this hardship, we develop compassion for all of those enduring suffering throughout the entire universe.

During the weekend I had the opportunity for an interview with Lama Tsultrim Yeshe, who led the retreat. I spoke with him briefly about my buddhist path so far, which has been at times structured and has at times felt more like a pinball’s trajectory. There was no real criticism with my approach — sometimes life takes us where life takes us — but Lama Yeshe emphasized a sentiment that I have heard again and again. Until I find a true teacher, I will not make much further progress along the path. It is up to me to find that teacher, and to decide with whom I’m comfortable entering into that relationship. I can think of a few contenders, but it may turn out to be someone I have not yet met. Opportunities to encounter such a teacher are limited in our culture, and there is that whole pesky and recurring business of trying to make a living, which usually gets in the way of taking the time to check out various learned masters and what they have to say. It’s going to be a matter of juggling priorities, and as is often the case, everything is a priority. Did I mention already the merit accrued through challenging practice?

I started this blog with the thought that I might hash out some of my research into the various threads of environmentalism, sustainability, and permaculture that I am continually exploring, but it has turned into something else. Life takes us where it takes us, and for a while now I have been putting in more time reciting sanskrit words than I have been working on my field ID skills. Still, there is that quarter acre that I have to get planted, and a seed order that isn’t going to sow itself. Writing remains up there on my list of priorities, as does deepening my buddhist practice, and cutting down buckthorn. It’s quite a list, and it isn’t getting shorter. It feels like I may have said everything I have that’s worth saying for now regarding the Four Noble Truths, but it really remains to be seen what I’ll write upon next. Just as important is to do something worth writing about..