Recent drubcho a powerful experience
Published on 11 December 2014
In early November sixteen fortunate people gathered for a five-day drubchö (practice intensive), immersing ourselves in the atiyoga long-life practices of the Vimai Ladrub and Chime Phagma Nyingthik, guided by Steve Cline. It was a great chance to become more familiar with the practices before Khenpo Sonam Phuntsho comes to Australia in January to give in-depth teachings on them.
The immersion began from the moment we arrived, starting with setting up the unconventional double shrine and making tormas late into the night. Doing two tsoks a day (Vimai Ladrup in the morning and Chime Phagma in the afternoon), we learned mudras, how to use a vajra and bell, and play the damaru. We were coached in pronunciation of mantras and the keys to being a good umdze (chant leader), and took turns in the role of chopön (shrine master).
Doing the full bells-and-drums ritual thing you get a real taste of the Vajrayana skill of engaging all five senses and synchronising body, speech and mind. From squishing dough to make the gek (obstacle makers) torma, to waving incense to invoke the deities, it became clearer how each element, and each aspect of each element, builds up to reinforce and enrich our understanding.
In the first few days it was easy to feel overwhelmed by all the different facets, but as the retreat went on little things started to fall into place. I was delighted when I started to get the hang of some seemingly impossible mudras. It was like the thrill of the moment when a foreign language changes from nonsense syllables to meaningful speech: there was a point when the mudras stopped being a distraction driving me crazy and became a meaningful support amplifying a beautiful section of liturgy.
If we weren’t having profound insights the whole time (and Steve shared many), we were still becoming a bit more familiar with the practices. Somehow just by physically doing it little spaces open in your mind and the things swimming around there start to gel. Or at least raise questions: running around as chöpon trying to work out which torma you are meant to be offering to which protector when makes you wonder who (or what) these beings are, and what offering them lumps of dough and tea actually does. Something to ask Khenpo more about when he comes!
The fruits were definitely there at the end, along with the mountains of biscuits and nuts and other offered goodies, when exhaustion gave way to a growing sense of vitality and accomplishment. As we packed up to go one retreatant was heard to say “I always thought that the high you get was from Rinpoche being here. Now I realise it is the power of the practice!”
Addendum: According to Steve, the plan for training in these sadhanas through the practice of drubchö was an outgrowth of Vimai Ladrub and Chime Phagma Nyingthik empowerments Rinpoche gave last year to large international audiences in Vancouver, British Columbia and Pasadena, California. Around that same time Rinpoche requested his students to adopt the Vimai Ladrub as their primary ongoing feast practice. Since then the five-day drubchö program has been offered at Deer Park Institute in Bir (HP India), Hartford (Connecticut USA), Ojai (California USA), Sea to Sky Retreat Centre at Whistler (BC Canada), Taipei (Taiwan) and this time as a residential program at Minto outside of Sydney.