Lerab Ling

Lerab Ling inhabits a unique place in my memories of this life. It is, for me, the home of excruciating extremes, and a place I haven’t, in the past, visited willingly. Having said that, I spent a great deal of time there between 1993 and 1999—all of every summer and many bits in between. I lived there for a while too, 1993-94, dividing my time (or should I say having it divided for me) between what was then little more than a mud farm and Paris. Eight or nine of us survived a winter there, sharing a bathroom and the big kitchen, the damp fog and a desperately uncomfortable van. Things have certainly changed since then.

This August visit was the first time I’ve made the trip to Lerab Ling, without having to be summoned, since I returned there in 1993, the year after the first three month retreat. During the noughties I was hardly there at all. In 2006 I went with Harry and Boris and their crew during the shooting of their documentary about Sogyal Rinpoche. John Cleese was there too and Graham took a photo of us in Rinpoche’s garden after the interview Mr Cleese very kindly gave Boris. And Sogyal Rinpoche was kind enough to invite us in 2008 when HH Dalai Lama opened the Temple and Sarkosy’s wife (Eric Clapton’s ex!) graced us with her presence—arriving in a helicopter without a bra, completely oblivious, it seemed, to the inappropriateness of her fashion choice.

For years I was convinced I would have to up sticks and relocate to Lerab Ling—the dream of so many Rigpa students. But for me, a confirmed misanthrope, who is very attached to the illusion of privacy, it was the worst possible nightmare. One that never came to be, actually, so I now wonder at all the hours of anxiety I put myself through and wish I hadn’t wasted so much time on such energy-sapping imaginings.

So how did I feel about the place this time round?

It’s changed. The land itself has changed, and so have the people—the three-year retreat may have had something to do with it. Thankfully, though, Sogyal Rinpoche is still his glorious self—just even more so.

How, then, has Lerab Ling changed? Well, for a start, there’s a lot more of it. The temple is always a surprise  (I keep forgetting it exists). The old tent that used to be the shrine room is now where people eat, which I find oddly disturbing. So many extraordinary teachings happened on that spot, I can’t ever bring myself to take a plate of food and eat it there. And this time I didn’t have to, because I stayed with Phil in his tiny chalet on the hill. Although spartan by German standards, it’s the lap of luxury when compared with the tent I was allocated for the 92 retreat—the one that was washed away in the big July storm, the one I never managed to sleep in, and the one in which I broke almost all my vows.

Many more people ‘live’ in Lerab Ling now. And the community includes wonderful gardeners, like my friend Susie, who have transformed the wild mushroom farm into a softer and far more lush kind of paradise. It’s as if the land itself has been tamed. And the people too, as it turns out. There are so many practitioners there now, and their more spiritual way of life shows in the very fabric of their personalities. More peaceful. Less discontented. And you can somehow feel all that practice and ease in the atmosphere.

It’s still super-intense, though. Particularly from the point of view of scheduling. The full-time team who make everything work don’t sleep much because there’s always something going on. But as I was visiting rather than participating, I could pick and choose what I did. It was great!

Sogyal Rinpoche showed me where Khandro had passed away, the extraordinary shrine he’s created in his old room in the farmhouse and the new shrine in his cute chalet. It was like walking into a magical realm, even a buddha realm (but I’m just guessing, as I’ve never actually been to one myself). The colours were brighter, my eyesight seemed better and sharper (hmmmn!), the air fresher. Rinpoche even took me to see his mother as she ate her supper, and delicately chose the dishes he knew she wouldn’t touch so he had something to offer to me. Humbling, to say the least.

OT Rinpoche is extremely at home in Lerab Ling. As you know, he guided Sogyal Rinpoche and his team through the process of designing and building the Temple, and was instrumental in commissioning and overseeing the creation of the immense Buddha statue in the main shrine room. Lerab Ling would not be what it is without OT Rinpoche.

And all in all, I was very happy there—which was the biggest turn-around of all. It just goes to show that the one thing we can truly count on in this life is change. And that miracles really do happen.

8 thoughts on “Lerab Ling

  1. Lovely piece Janine, and I like the photo of the gardens that I work so hard on. Thank you. Lovely photos too. So glad a few ghosts were laid. Much love to you. Susie

  2. Enjoyed your article very much – in fact, I enjoy all your articles – and yes, things have changed quite considerably. So glad you actually enjoyed your visit to LL! Love Tsondru

  3. What a wonderful surprise to come across this blog, Janine! Wow. Takes me back too. Its been at least eight years since I was there last. My heart breaks (in a good way) hearing about your return…it was such a ‘time’ back in ’93-’98. I’m sure the place is still special as ever. A friend of ours from Boulder is visiting us in NY today on her way to L.L. for the August retreat. Wish I could sneak in her suitcase. I will see Rinpoche in Oct in Spain. 😉 xx Mark

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