Heading out to San Luis Obispo early last Saturday morning with 4 of us in the car, Cesar driving, we were a happy group bound for a Chenrezig Empowerment with Shamar Rinpoche. The evening before, Rinpoche had asked the Pasadena Bodhi Path members to come and meet with him and in the course of the conversation Rinpoche gave us some startling new advice! He said it is time think bigger and be more visible in the community. For the 10 years we have been holding weekly classes on Wednesday evenings in Pasadena having anywhere between 8-15 attendees each week in a rented class room. Occasionally we had have some weekend retreats and visiting teachers for weekend programs but have never advertised on a big scale as our group has always been quite small. He said that we should now put more effort into growing by holding our weekend teachings in a big hall. We should put up fliers and generally let it be more broadly known what we are doing. Let our light shine! On hearing Rinpoche’s advice, I for one was left feeling a bit unsettled as we have been doing things a certain way for so long that it has become quite a comfortable routine. The idea of changing this was at first unnerving! This was the hot topic of conversation during the morning part of the journey.
As we drove north, Lawrence suggested that we make a brief stop in Solvang at the Hans Christian Anderson Museum where they have a replica of a Guttenberg Press on display. The museum houses editions of Anderson’s writings and has many examples of his paper cut-out figures that I found particularly charming. Apparently he delighted the children of his friends by telling them stories illustrated with paper figures that he cut from paper as he wove his tales. After having yummy sandwiches in Los Olivos, we arrived comfortably at the Marriot Hotel in SLO half an hour early, in time to meet and greet all the dear friends from the other Bodhi Path Centers who were there in record numbers.
The SLO center had done exactly what Rinpoche was telling us to do the evening before! Here was as a living example, a 3D model of what he was trying his best to get across to us! They had rented a big hall, advertised broadly and even had an article written about the event and Rinpoche in the local newspaper, had books for sale, decorated stunningly with bountiful flowers and a large and radiant projected image of Chenrezig, and had built Rinpoche a beautiful high seat. Now it became obvious why he gave us those instructions! Lunar calendar astrological predictions for 2014, the year of the Male Wood Horse, are very apt. “Group actions of all types should have a special energy this year, and it is a good time to follow-through on ideas that arose during the more introspective Year of the Snake in 2013. It is also an auspicious time for breaking through obstacles on all levels… the ultimate outcome of most endeavors will be positive. It is also a good year for spiritual community, so starting or recommitting to a meditation practice and/or a sangha are both good uses of the energy available this year.” (Source: http://www.bellaonline.com)
They had a great turn out! The concerted group effort combined with their dedication was magnetizing. People came from far and wide and they just kept pouring in until the room was quite full. Rinpoche began with a Refuge Vow Ceremony that he had to restart twice so those just entering could be included. Then we all took the Bodhisattva Vow. Then he began the Chenrezig Empowerment. This he did step by step, explaining clearly what he was doing, what we should be imagining, and the benefits and results of each phase. After a short break, Rinpoche signed books and gave blessings both to us and our statues and other practice materials. We stayed until Rinpoche left the hall, then we headed home stopping for great dinner on the pier in Ventura where we had full view of the sunset glowing reddish pink over the distant Channel Islands.