A recent visit to the Amanjiwo in Central Java located at the foothills of the Menoreh Mountain, facing the 9th Century temple of Borobodur allowed Gaia Discovery contributor Kayti Denham to meet with Khandro Thrinlay Chodon, a female Tibetan Buddhist Lay master.
Central Java, 16 June 2010. The Amanjiwo, designed to blend with the great Borobudur Temple, held a beautiful three- or six-day retreat that allowed guests to make a complete immersion into the realm of mediation and serenity during their "Inward Journey of Borobudur".
Echoing off the walls of the ancient temple of Borobodur comes a peal of laughter followed by a gentle reminder: "
Ah, the Western mind, always so busy".
It's four thirty am and a group of people await the dawn, hoping for a sunrise which looks unlikely from beneath the cover of a soft falling mist. And yet we still search for meaning: A grey dawn, it makes the internal more focused, it shows us our expectations, it reminds of our powerlessness, yes, our endlessly grasping minds!
The universe paints us a dove coloured dawn, soft, silvery and beautiful. The plains of Borobudur stretch out around us, palms bend into the shadowy distance etched like ancient drawings into the sky.
It would not be surprising to see the ancient carvers of Borobodur emerge from the shadowy huts and set out for their workday beneath us. Days spent carefully carving out the immense and intricate story of the life of the Buddha into the thick slabs of stone. These very stones that have passed through centuries in neglect and only recently emerged into a place of wonder and awe are now being brought to life by the words of Khandro Thrinlay Chodon as she tells the tales of the many lives of the Buddha.
Guided by her stories our group circles the vast temple and arrives to the top as the sun makes its entry on the surface of the earth. Khandro Thrinlay Chodon (also known endearingly as Khandro-la) leads the group in a short meditation amongst the covered domes of the Buddha statues.
Khandro-la brings an ancient wisdom into the modern world, understanding the need for a deeper spiritual meaning that can be partnered with the perceptions of the 'western mind'. Having studied psychology in India and then pursued Masters in East-West Psychology in San Francisco, she well understands the need to find the bridges to connection between the cultural orientations of the East and West.
As a lay Master with a strong tradition of family devotion, Khandro-la is able to bring people together in a harmonious ambience that allows for a gentle shift of perspective. As the mind of the individualistic culture encounters the perceptions of a collective Buddhist wisdom that has been described by the anthropologist Wade Davies as, " Two thousand five hundred years of empirical observations as to the nature of the mind."
Khandro-la's teachings open up the mind for clearer thought and perception; they are presented with great love and joy. The laughter that echoed around the temple of Borobudur that early morning continued in joyful peals throughout a week spent under her guidance at the lovely resort of Amanjiwo, Borobudur. She jokes and gently teases, she loves and nurtures and she shows a strong and feisty spirit.
Hosted by the Amanjiwo, Khandro Rinpoche brought the practice of prayer, the art of meditation and the joy of recognition to her audience. Through her guidance and teachings of simple exercises strangers became friends, and everyone was able to experience the serenity of being at peace with a simple thought. The teachings of Khandro-la illustrate the words of the Dalai Lama :
"As human beings, we are all the same, there is no need to build some kind of artificial barrier between us. With this attitude, there is nothing to hide, and no need to say things in a way that is not straightforward."
Her message is clear, her intention simple: We are here, not to complicate but to simplify life, to unravel confusion and replace it with calm, to overcome loss and fill the voids in our lives with love, and to do this through our gestures, our thoughts, our words and our actions, at all times with awareness and an understanding that the way to help the self is to help others, for we are all one.
An inspirational visionary Khandro-la has initiated many projects in her homelands of the Eastern Himalayas that engage in support and sustainable assistance for education, health and spiritual hermitages for women so that the people of her homelands have access to some of the many things taken for granted in the West.
Khandro-la's greatest strength lies in her ability to empower people's understanding of the fabric of giving, of the web of interdependency we are woven into even as we are caught up with material wealth.
A world out of balance must begin to share without cost in order to regain what has been lost, on both sides.
To find out more about the work of Khandro-la and her wonderful journey of bringing light, wisdom and laughter to people of the world, please visit her website:
Photography by Kayti Denham.