Postcard 4 from Robina: Bendigo, Tuesday April 26, 2011

2011-04-26 11:00:00

I’ve been back in Australia for ten days now. I arrived in Melbourne and picked up a car and drove the two hours north to Atisha Centre, near Bendigo.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche has been teaching here since April 1; the last two weeks were for various initiations and teachings. On Good Friday, however, Rinpoche had a minor stroke. During the afternoon teaching Rinpoche asked us if we noticed anything different about his speech: we could: it was slightly slurred. We weren’t sure what to think. . . Anyway, Rinpoche didn’t come back for the evening teachings and Rinpoche’s attendant, the Australian monk Roger Kunsang, told us next day that Rinpoche had suffered a mild stroke. We were shocked!

It seems that it has affected his speech and right arm. For the first three night Rinpoche was in a 4-man ward at Bendigo Hospital, receiving the various tests. Monday night April 25 Rinpoche was moved to a private hospital nearby, where he has a single room.

Rinpoche has said he wants to return to the monastery here, next to Atisha Centre, where he’s been staying till now. Wherever he’ll be, for the next few months Rinpoche will need to be in rehabilitation, receiving therapy from physiotherapists, speech therapists and occupational therapists.

It was a shock to all of us, of course. We’ve been continuing our sessions in the gompa. People are making masses of light offerings and on Monday night we recited sutras all-night in the gompa, with people taking turns.

Roger told us that Rinpoche is using his iPad to communicate. He’s set up an altar in the hospital. His Holiness the Dalai Lama has been consulted and advises that Rinpoche continue to follow the Western medical advice.  Rinpoche’s also taking advice from Khadro-la in Dharamsala, who’s a student of Rinpoche’s and herself a highly realized lama. She wants to come to Australia as soon as possible to help Rinpoche.

Before Rinpoche had the stroke, we had the usual rigorous timetable: up at 5 in the morning, prostrations, the Eight Mahayana Precepts, Guru Puja. A couple more sessions before lunch at 11. Another session at 4 and Rinpoche teaching in the evening till midnight. Rinpoche started the first initiation, which usually can take a couple of days, at least a week ago and we hadn’t got very far at all because most of the time Rinpoche would be giving teachings instead.

So, as a student of Rinpoche’s, how to see all this? As Lama Zopa Rinpoche says, “Everything we experience is our own karmic appearance,” so no choice but to see this obstacle to our receiving the teachings from our lama as our own obstacle, created by us. If we created the cause for it then we can purify it. How to do that? Continue to practice purely, keeping our vows and commitments to our lamas purely, and living harmoniously. That’s it.

And because things change when we least expect it – the source of our Dharma teachings is now silent – then we must never waste a moment; make the most of every opportunity.

As Rinpoche also advises, “Best to think, ‘I will die today.'”

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