Initially intended to last three weeks, but shortened to accommodate Karmapa’s visit at the end of the month, a grand accumulation of the mantra of compassion—also called the “vast accumulation of gratitude”—began July 11 and will conclude on July 22. Free and open to all, this activity takes place daily from ten am to noon and from two-thirty to four-thirty in the afternoon. Monks and nuns from Dhagpo Kundreul Ling made the trip especially to take turns guiding this practice.
Each morning and each afternoon, for more than an hour, murmurs of “om mani peme hung” and the quiet click of malas subtly fill the temple—an old stable, in ruins forty years ago, that has now become a magnificent place of practice thanks to the involvement of so many people throughout the years. It is in this perspective of Dhagpo’s 40th anniversary that Chenrezig practice takes on a special meaning… it is easy to be caught up in the whirlwind of daily life and to somehow forget all of the conditions that had to be reunited such that this center and all those connected with it could exist and such that the Buddha’s teachings could be preserved and transmitted up through the present day. For each individual, this practice becomes an occasion to remind oneself of what Dhagpo and the connection with the dharma has brought to their life. To remind oneself of all the people—the masters, the volunteers, the sponsors—who have allowed for all of this to exist and continue. And to remember, as well, that everything began with a connection—that between Bernard Benson and the 16th Karmapa—and an offering—the land upon which the center developed. Why yes! Dhagpo is, above all, a story of generosity.
In this context of memory and gratitude, the Lineage Prayer, as well as the long life prayers or prayers of swift return take on their full meaning; they allow us all to connect with the masters who have made possible the transmission of the teachings throughout the centuries. It is said that the recitation of the mantra of Chenrezig touches the qualities of love and compassion present in each being, and yet—would we be aware of this without the unceasing activity of the masters who, for the last forty years, have taught about the mind and its functioning?
From one session to another, the participants, and their motivations, change. For some, this practice is an opportunity to accomplish the individual accumulation of one million manis requested by Karmapa during his visit three years ago. One practitioner confides that she considers the daily sessions to be a welcome retreat. From time to time, it happens that some one rises from the cushion to continue the accumulation around the stupa for a few minutes. Some are faithful to the posted hours while others arrive and depart along the way, according to the time they have available. But this is not a problem as, here, it’s not a question of some kind of “spiritual marathon;” the idea is rather to offer the possibility for many people to connect with this practice, even just for a moment, even from afar.
And, as it happens, less than two weeks from Karmapa’s much-awaited visit, the effervescence of preparation keeps certain volunteers from joining the practice, although they would like to do so. Despite this, their motivation to welcome Karmapa and all those who will come to hear him in the best conditions possible provides another means of connecting to this practice of gratitude and, particularly, generosity.
At times, curious new visitors to the center silently poke their heads into the temple, perhaps intimidated by the meditative air that pervades the space. Surely they wonder about the meaning of the scene they are witnessing. You might ask yourself, “What is the link between this accumulation and the idea of gratitude…” but finally, what better way is there to thank the masters than to practice what they teach?