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Magical Mystery Tour

Ven Gyatso in Mongolia, July 2003

'The magical mystery visit began with Roger telephoning from Moscow the night before they were due to arrive and telling Ueli to inform everybody at the centre, including the Geshe and the Abbot of Ganden, that the visit had been cancelled. Amidst the atmosphere of dismay, Ueli took me aside and said that the secret message was that they were coming but nobody was to know apart from me and him.

Apparently there were serious obstacles for Rinpoche arriving at the airport. We were not to leave the centre until the plane had landed and we were to recite a special mantra while driving to the airport. It worked beautifully! The obstacles were negated, and Rinpoche arrived without a scratch, to the huge surprise of everybody at the centre.

Still wary of the threat, we had no established program but somehow managed to stage a Vajrayogini Initiation, a Great Initiation of Chenrezig, and a nyung ne with half a day's notice before each event. These were held at the temporary gompa of the Idgaa Chodzinling Monastery. This is the group of monks that the FPMT is supporting by providing teachers, a new temple, and food. Traditionally they have a strong connection with Sera Monastery. Until we complete the building, they are using a very large hall at Ganden Monastery and about 250 people - lay people, monks, and nuns - attended the above events.

On the final Sunday, the Prime Minister, whom Rinpoche had met privately earlier in the week, invited Rinpoche to address his entire cabinet. The politicians began their day at 8.00am and rode on horseback all day, circumambulating one of the four holy mountains around Ulaan Baatar. This is a very Mongolian thing to do. They finally arrived at the ruins of the Manjushri Monastery at 6.00pm where Rinpoche and a group of people from the centre were waiting. Because the politicians were so tired, their attendants requested a brief address, and Rinpoche obliged by talking for only an hour and a half as the sun set over the magnificent Mongolian countryside in its summer glory. It was a brilliant talk on how to govern with compassion and morality. If only every government in the world could receive such an address.

The day before departure, Rinpoche visited the town of Darkhan, about three hours drive north of Ulaan Baatar. He met the local politicians and gave a talk to them, as well as a talk at the only monastery in town. The monks and the politicians requested Rinpoche to establish a branch of the FPMT centre there because they have only one monastery and the missionaries have built ten churches. We had a police escort with blaring sirens - much to the astonishment of a group of Mormons on the wayside - and the talk at the monastery was very emotional. A sea of people mobbed Rinpoche after the talk, trying to touch him for a special blessing, and Roger and Gyatso were forced to use skills honed from Australian football to keep them at bay. Thus the only apparent personal threat to Rinpoche during the whole visit was a result of devotion, not hostility.

Rinpoche wanted to stay for the whole summer but had to return to the US.

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