Sunday, March 23, 2008

Fire Puja

Today, in the grounds of Gyuto Monastery, a Fire Puja was performed by a visiting Rinpoche. The temperature was soaring in the midday sun so the monks and lamas and myself were protected under a brilliant canopy [there was nobody else there].
However, despite clear skies all around, a mass of cloud obscured the high Himalaya in the distance. This made me think of the general atmosphere up in McLeod now HH Dalai Lama has departed for Delhi. The place feels quite different now he is gone. Almost like there is no point being there anymore - all this despite the fact i haven't even glimpsed him once on this trip due to his ill-health and not being able to teach or appear in public at all. I hear HHDL is, in fact, going from there to teach in the UK and won't return for some time to come.
The Fire Puja was quite a thing for me personally although the whole affair was very low-key. I never found out who the particular Rinpoche was. The chanting was wonderful as usual - Lama Thupten Jigme even made an appearance today despite having missed the last 2 days in order to save his voice from further damage. Many of the monks, especially the young ones, were characteristically naughty and chatty at first when no Discipline Master was roaming aroung to catch them. Some even slept all the way through events. But overall once the puja got underway a certain outdoorsey mountain-yogi-type atmosphere prevailed throughout.
As the burning of various blessed substances and heaps of grains and grasses were added to the fire, i settled into my own skin and just watched everything go up in flames. Wonderful repetitative chanting of slow mantra... more wood... more oil... I got to contemplating about what exactly might be going on here and asked myself some very basic questions to help me find inspiration.
Why fire? What does fire do?
OK... fire burns and destroys... a kind of purification... but destroys what? ...Well, what do Buddhist practitioners wish to destroy?... Ah yes! Now i'm getting somewhere... the one thing we want to completely get rid of is Ego !
Because of our self-cherishing ego, we have spent countless lifetimes in Ignorance and Delusion - we do not see things the way they truly are ! Neither do we see our own True Nature for what it is. Because of Delusion we have allowed our ego to ruin our lives - so much attachment and aversion - so much suffering... I want ...I don't want...
What fool was it said 'Ignorance is Bliss'?!
So the Ego and all its deluded habits are destroyed in the ritual fire... one's own and every other being's - we really consider that Ego is completely burnt away [even temporarily!].
We give ourselves a 'break' from unnatural ego and imagine the Natural Mind shining clear and bright! Looking around today, it all suddenly made a little bit of sense... no ego - no problem!
Some animals living in the monastery grounds opened my heart too
-a rescued donkey with badly damaged and twisted front hooves... he is always close by and can live out his days munching grass below HH Karmapa's balcony and listening to deep peaceful chant.
- a beautiful white terrier and her young pup joining in the chanting while she just looks around - 'an old hand', having seen it all before. Such love and patience and freedom to be a dog in that present moment! Temporarily without fear or grasping.

As this day ended, i snapped the last moments of the burning fiery sun from my own balcony back at the hotel and thought to myself... not a bad day... not bad at all...
But then my old friend Ego jumped in ... 'hey! don't forget, you even managed to chant properly for several milli-seconds today too! Well done! You must be so proud - you are finally getting the hang of it!'

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