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What Rinpoche Does in his ‘Spare Time’

Ven. Holly Ansett, August 2006

Rinpoche was offered a house for retreat in rural USA. He has transformed his log cabin retreat house into a pure land. There are Buddha photos all the way from the walls to the ceilings (which are 17 feet high). There is one wall of Medicine Buddha photos, thousands of them, and one wall of the life deeds of Lama Tsong Khapa, repeated many times.

Half the ceiling in his room is Lama Chopa merit fields and the other half 1000 arm Chenrezigs, then there is another room where one wall and ceiling is 35 Buddhas, one wall of 21 Taras and one wall of 16 Arhants.

The ceiling has 41 deeds of Guru Shakyamuni Buddha's life, as well as many many pictures of Guru Shakyamuni Buddha. All the windows are lined with photos of the Shakyamuni Statue in Bodh Gaya, that face inside and outside (so the birds can see the Buddha as well) then there is a beam with many photos of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and soon one whole section will be photos of Rinpoche's Gurus (all of this has been done very tastefully under Rinpoche's direction). The ceiling has 1,000 colored icicle lights the entire length, and then on the 2 long beams that run the length of the room there are garlands of lights, two 7ft high light Christmas trees sparkling and numerous other light offerings, in all there are about 3000 light offerings, and the walls are lined with altars with now over 350 large water bowls. Above the staircase there is a giant relic table, full of the Buddha's relics, stupa tsa tsas, pictures of Buddhas and deities, and the entire Kangyur and Tengyur (in CD form) as well as many CD's of lungs, teachings, the Prajnaparamita (8000 verses) lined in pure gold, so the entire table is full of holy objects.

In between Rinpoche's retreat he is painting a Tara photo, tsa tsas, offering jewels in the form of sparkly glue on stupas and making small animals (yak, goat and sheep) out of molding clay that are needed for incense pujas.

We had a brief visit from one Lhasa Apso who lived with Rinpoche for one week (until his owner made contact). We found him lost in the local Wal-Mart car park, he was quite scared of us but as soon as he saw Rinpoche he went straight over and sat at the head of the table with Rinpoche. Rinpoche offered Jangsem (his temporary name) his own fleece blanket. Each day he was here Rinpoche ran with Jangsem - picture Rinpoche hiking up his shemtab and dog running full speed with ears flapping...Rinpoche laughing so hard.

Rinpoche seems extremely relaxed going from one holy activity to another. The house has many, many insects such as hornets and beetles that we all collect in jars and Rinpoche jogs (for exercise) around the relic table 8-10 times before releasing them outside (except now it is snowing outside so Rinpoche has made a house in a box for the insects as he is worried they will die if they go out in the cold). Rinpoche has now picked the site where he would like to build a 30-35 ft high Namgyalma stupa for his Gurus' long lives. Rinpoche wants it on the mountain so that it can be clearly seen by people driving by at the foot of the mountain. It will also have a small gompa underneath.

One day before the retreat Rinpoche said he would like to go shopping, so we all piled into the car and drove the 30 minute drive to the local Wal-Mart...half way down Roger asked Rinpoche what we were shopping for ...Rinpoche then explained that he was shopping for a particular kind of jar in order to catch the bugs in, so that it was not too tall, not too small, not too thin, so that it wouldn't harm the bugs when they were put inside. As we drove down we had the Sanghatasutra lung playing full blast, Rinpoche sitting bolt upright, hands in the mudra of prostration for the whole time, window open (so the insects outside would be able to hear the lung) even though it was actually snowing outside, 2 deer ran across the road and Rinpoche was extremely pleased as they may have heard 4 words of the Sanghatasutra (it says to hear the Sanghatasutra is more powerful than offering 13 times to the amount of Buddhas as there are grains in the Pacific Ocean).

There are texts open everywhere, on all spaces and art projects happening, Roger has the tormas going, John (Ven John Jackson) is painting tsa tsas, Rinpoche is painting tsa tsas, Chosang (Ven Lhundrup Chosang) is framing Buddhas and cooking and there is silence and unbelievable sunsets.............

Yesterday was the first snow and while doing the Dzambala offering outside (at midnight before lunch!!) in gale winds and snow, one single Tibetan page (laminated) got swept away in the wind and flew off. The next morning we spent about an hour searching for this single piece of paper, Rinpoche insisting he was warm though only wearing a thin zen, while we were wrapped up to our eyes in jackets and hats.

One day Rinpoche came down to the kitchen and made everyone a snack of fried portabella mushrooms in massive amounts of butter and salt and Rinpoche named the snack Buddha Amitabha's snack and then proceeded to name the house Buddha Amitabha Pure Land. Rinpoche's vision for this retreat house and land is for some students when they get old to build retreat houses on the land and to live and do practice until they die. So, this is just a small picture from Buddha Amitabha Pure Land.

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