You will often see posts on this and other Dechen related blogs mentioning that students have travelled miles to hear the Lama teach. This spring in the UK, people have travelled to Bristol, Manchester, London and Harrogate (follow the blog post links to see accounts of the teaching events in those places). Why do students travel so far and so often to hear Lama Jampa teach for what can be quite short periods of time? They even sometimes go to hear teachings they have heard before!
The answer is that there is more to going to a Dharma teaching than simply sitting in a nice hall with our friends, letting inspiring words float into our ears – and, quite possibly, straight out again! Hearing the teachings is just the first step. It is not about feeling moved or uplifted for an hour or two, it is about receiving something that we can keep, some instruction or explanation that we can bring back home with us and work with. Dharma is like food, it is meant to be chewed over and digested, not like some cooking wizardry watched on TV but never tried out and tasted in our own kitchen.
This is the second step - what we do after we have got back home with what we have heard: thinking about and reflecting on the teachings; going over them in our mind, relating them to our life and meditation experience. That is how we digest the teachings, take them into ourselves and make them our own. Receiving the teachings is the start of something much more serious and lasting than simply going on a Dharma day-trip. It is the start of the threefold process of hearing, thinking and meditating.
That is why people take notes at Lama Jampa’s teachings, so that later they can study and reflect on them and put them into practice in their lives. Even if we hear the same teaching again or even several times, we always find something new in it, some fresh insight or stronger appreciation; not because the Lama has changed the teaching or added something new to it but because we didn’t fully grasp it the first or even the second time around. Returning to the teachings again and again, whether by hearing them in person from the Lama or by turning back to notes, taken perhaps months or years before, will always enhance and deepen our understanding.
Travelling to the teachings is, of course, nothing new. Tibetans like the founding masters of Kagyu and Sakya undertook perilous journeys to find Indian gurus, so they could bring the Buddha’s teachings back to their homeland. Our own willingness to travel to hear the Dharma, whether in this country or abroad, is in a very small way an emulation of the great example set by the forefathers of our Dharma tradition.
There are threads of teaching that Lama Jampa is giving at each of his Dechen centres in UK, France, Germany, USA and Mexico and which students are following. The current thread for those attending the shedra teachings in Manchester is a nineteenth century Tibetan text called “The Rays of the Immaculate Vajra Moon” and we are studying and reflecting on the teachings given so far with keen anticipation of what will come next in the teachings in July to further clarify, in this case, what is real and what is not. Many also travel south to Bristol and London to hear the Lama teach chapters from his text, “Rain of Clarity” and between teaching sessions form study groups to help establish a better understanding of what has been taught.
Even if we have missed earlier parts of any of the ‘threads’, we can still join up with them. Lama Jampa always begins each session by giving a summary of what has gone before and putting what is to come into context.
It is never too late to get on board and begin the life-changing process of hearing the Dharma so we can bring it back home to enrich our life and our Dharma practice.
Lama Jampa himself explains the threefold process of hearing, thinking and meditating in this YouTube video.