Last weekend was the Annual Sangha Celebration for the Awakened Heart Sangha, taking place at its base in North Wales, at The Hermitage, Lama Shenpen’s home and Buddhist retreat centre near Criccieth.
It takes the best part of four hours to get there from Worcester by car, so it feels like a pilgrimage in itself! Especially traveling to the Hermitage, as it is such a sacred place, due to all the Buddhist practice that takes place there. The winding roads, hills and waterfalls of North Wales looked beautiful and inviting from the car. We’d never visited the Hermitage in the Summer before, having only visited in Autumn and early Spring, quite a contrast to all the lush greens of the scenery we saw.
The Sangha Celebration is always held near or on Saga Dawa – the Tibetan Buddhist celebration of the birth, Enlightenment and death or Parinirvana of the Buddha. The month long festival culminates in the full moon, which is in itself a special time for practice in Buddhism. The weekend is also the time that students of Lama Shenpen take Refuge or Bodhisattva Vows, or make extra commitments to the Sangha.
It was my first Annual Sangha Celebration and I was also taking the refuge vow, amongst several other people, so the weekend had extra special significance. It felt very special to be taking refuge with my teacher, at the site of the Hermitage, our sacred space, witnessed by other sangha members, whose ranks I was now officially joining by taking refuge.
It was a full on weekend with meditation, teachings, a transmission of the Shakyamuni Sadhana, the vows ceremony, and a Feast followed by entertainment on the Sunday. We all had allocated teams/jobs too, so it was very busy, but also felt very special. It was lovely to meet new people and catch up with others I’d met before, a few I hadn’t seen since Nepal!
The weather was pretty treacherous on the Saturday, with very ‘auspicious’ wind and rain for most of the day. Luckily the marquee stayed put and kept us dry. With over 40 attendees, there were a lot of people to squeeze in. The different team leaders and teams did an amazing job of keeping the event running smoothly.
It was my first ever proper Buddhist Feast celebration at The Hermitage too, which was wonderful to take part in and recite the feast liturgy with everyone. The entertainment afterwards was marvellous too, such a talented bunch of people!