17th Gyalwa Karmapa"Buddhism is a way of life through which we develop the qualities of our mind.
This way of life is very unusual, as it is a means to attain happiness without harming others.


Travel Log - In Nepal and India with Lama Puntso

See the original in French

Monday, December 4, 2017

First Day of Retreat


It’s eight-thirty. People arrive. Not only the one hundred and twenty from Nyima’s group but people who have come in small groups from different European countries. In all, there are nearly 200 of us (to be confirmed).
The day before, we established the schedule: four sessions; two in the morning and two in the afternoon; the day begins at nine am and ends at five pm. It’s reasonable and leaves times for the rest (to each his own rest at various moments: some shop; some visit tourist sites; some practice…).

Last Preparations: Even Those Who Arrive at the Last Minute Can Get a Meal (Nyima, center; Bimal to the left).

I’ve been chosen to make the daily announcements (didn’t I say it would be like a Dhagpo course away from Dhagpo?). Everything is ready. The air is buzzing slightly. It’s a new situation, and it feels like we are taking part in something a little special. At the same time, it’s rather ordinary, as ordinary as a Dharma situation can be. After all, we are in the room that contains relics from Shamarpa’s cremation in a magnificent gold stupa.

Jigme Rinpoche lights the lamp on the altar. (Those who know him will recognize Loïc in robes on the right).

Rinpoche arrives—simple as ever in every situation, and lights the butter lamp on the stupa’s altar to consecrate the offerings. He settles into his chair, Audrey at his right ready to translate. A few Tibetans have come to listen, but I fear that between the English and the French, they won’t make out much. They are here all the same. Rinpoche begins the opening prayers. Then, he speaks.

He explains that he is speaking to all of us: to those who don’t manage to attain precise knowledge of the Dharma, to those who are familiar with the tantras, to those who wish to practice more intensively, to those who wish to go into three-year retreat. For all those who are here, the message is the same, “We can use practice to go in the wrong direction because we are human. We may miss the key instructions. To remedy this, there are several simple instructions to understand to have a solid foundation. If we understand them, we can apply them to more elaborate practices.”

He warned us he would go with essentials. The message is simple: whatever our practice, the key instructions are necessary and must not be forgotten so that we do not take the wrong path.
He emphasize the positive qualities of Sharminub Monastery, referencing a vision that the bodhisattvas and arhats had in the past of a stupa of light with a hillside overlooking the buildings. He recounted the strengths of Shamar Rinpoche, who relics are held within the stupa around which we are gathered. He explained that the monastery splits its activity between philosophical study for the monks and laypeople in the left wing, profound Mahamudra retreats toward the far end, and monastic life in the right wing. It is an excellent place for practice.

Next, he explained the guru yoga practice. On emptiness, “We have so many concepts; when we free ourselves from these concepts, we come back to the original to remain with it. The realization of enlightenment is the opposite of samsara. To understand the freshness of what is original, we must be free from all the concepts of samsaric habits.” On visualization, “Visualize does not mean to construct an artificial form. Visualize means that we perceive our nature in its pure form.” For the moment, we are in an impure dimension; “Impure does not mean bad or dirty. Impure refers to perceptions generated by the afflictions.” As is his habit, he clarifies the meaning of words, once again warning us of the veil of knowledge; “Mind is obscured by what it knows.” And on practice itself, “Guru yoga practice progressively fills our mind. Nothing can happen immediately; we cannot copy something in meditation. It takes time for knowledge to integrate into the mind based on inartificial blessing.”

At several points during the teachings, Rinpoche began speaking in Tibetan to summarize what he had explained in English. There was something for everyone.


Homage to Lama Nyima and Bimal, his Nepalese collaborator. Not only are they managing 120 people on a pilgrimage, but, as I mentioned previously, they took care of the infrastructure of the retreat: the audio and the meals. They hired a caterer to do the meals and service. At lunch today, I had the feeling I was at a wedding; the staff in uniform, the décor of the tables and chairs, the all-you-can-eat buffet. On top of the midday meal, there is a snack during the morning break and one during the afternoon break. It’s a three-star retreat.


Rinpoche asked pilgrims to bring new and used clothes in sizes four- to sixteen-year to dress the children this winter (there’s a good hundred of them). His call was heard, and kilos of clothes came in bags and suitcases. Khenpo Gyaltsen organized the relocation of the bags into a room of the monastery with the children. It was joyful.


This retreat is also the occasion to experience people we hang out with regularly or have known for a long time in a new way; small groups form here and there during the breaks. People chat like at lunchtime, at tables; exchanges happen.



I had to give the explanation of the ritual in the early afternoon so that everyone know what to recite, when, and how. Then, during the second session, we did the practice for the first time with Lama Jungne leading the melody. Starting in the morning, Rinpoche put us in a process of discovery, “We have to learn the procedure of practice. Based on this, every day, I will give essential instructions, we will practice together, and we will see what happens connected to these instructions. We cannot understand everything.”

Lama Puntso

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