arizona kadampa centre

My First Experience of a New Kadampa Dharma Festival

When people ask me about my favourite holiday, I don’t have to think about it. When my mind can take me to standing on The Great Wall or in the butterfly-filled rainforest of Vietnam, my sure and steadfast answer is still The New Kadampa International Fall Festival 2019, Arizona, USA. The next question I am asked is, what did I do there? To which I respond, I sat inside a marquee for 5 days…

My desire to share my experience has left me at a loss for words to describe the feelings and insights that triggered a mental shift in October 2019. Nonetheless, I hope that by putting pen to paper, I can bring you close to where I stood and observed the true meaning of Geshla’s famous quote:

“We are all interconnected in a web of kindness from which it is impossible to separate ourselves” – Geshe Kelsang Gyatso

As a new practitioner, I can be excused for not grasping the full breadth of Buddha’s teachings that more advanced practitioners benefitted from. Nonetheless, the jewels I preciously stow away in my mind were the examples of those I met and the effortless, pervasive kindness that emanated from everyone in attendance. This, to me, demonstrated the power of dharma (Buddha’s teachings) when we apply the teachings and take them to heart.

Witness the Magic of Giving.

My advice is to volunteer at these events if you want to see the symphony of dharma in action. Every day, I spent an hour serving lunch to the masses. At first glance, this appeared to be a daunting organisational challenge. At a second glance, you’ll notice the beaming smiles of all those who are proud and happy to stand with you and give their time to serve. You will see laughter; you will see joy. In the midst of the hustle and bustle, you’ll notice how each conscientious action oils the machine of collective effort and immediately dissolves any inevitable stumble along the way. Never, have I seen such a prime example of teamwork. This taught me that the most important ingredient for maximum efficiency and productivity in any endeavour is kindness, empathy, and compassion. To any aspiring leader, this is undoubtedly a priceless realisation.

Meaningful Conversations

One beautiful lady I met in Arizona described dharma festivals as being abundant in blessings you can feel in the air just walking around the grounds. For one, these manifested for me as conversations that, like mantra medicine, still ring clear in my mind in times of need. Discussions that turned joyful moments into shared contemplations of the ultimate truth that surrounds us.

The Grand Canyon

A sunrise visit to The Grand Canyon offered the ideal setting for marinating in the week’s lessons while gazing out at the world’s most beautiful natural wonder.

Water carved its way through the Grand Canyon over tens of millions of years to create the beauty that stood before us. Newfound friends standing with me in the soothing, golden first light compared this to the wonderful things to come in the dharma journey I found myself in. It was then that I decided to train the instrument of my mind to more beautifully play my part in the symphony of humankind for the benefit of all living beings. “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” – Marcel Proust

Insights from Kelly, Bournemouth

Foundation Program Student (FP) & NKT practitioner of 2 years.


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