On a beautiful, sunnymorning in Asheville, North Carolina, many members and others, old and young, monastic and lay, lined the sidewalk outside Urban Dharma (UD) to welcome His Holiness in a joyous fusion of traditional Tibetan and local Appalachian customs. His Holiness and Trichen Rinpoche were greeted by UD founder and spiritual director, Dorjé Lopön Dr. Hun Lye and led into the center amidst shower petals showering from the sky, bubbles billowing from the ground, and live Appalachian Bluegrass music pervading all directions.
After completing the opening prayers, the president of the center delivered her welcoming speech to His Holiness and entourage followed by the traditional offering of tea and rice to His Holiness and all lamas and monastics. Formal mandala-offerings were performed at the beginning and end of each day – serving as request and thanksgiving offerings each day.
Over the weekend, His Holiness transmitted the Bodhicitta Vow according to the unique tradition of Drikung Kagyu known as the “Drikung Great Generation of the Noble Mind” (Drikung Thuk-kyed Chenmo). It was a profound and moving experience for everyone to receive both the conventional and ultimate Bodhicitta transmission from His Holiness, the embodiment of the Buddha of Compassion.afternoon, His Holiness conferred a special Vajravārāhī Empowerment, which served as an initiation into Vajrayāna practice. His Holiness’ teachings on both days were streamed live online worldwide for free, so that others might participate in and benefit from His Holiness’ teachings and blessings at UD.
Despite a fairly full schedule at UD, His Holiness also took time to visit some local young farmers in the Asheville area. When he learned that the area has been seeing a trend among young people, often university graduates, buying or leasing land to practice sustainable agriculture and organic farming, His Holiness expressed a wish to visit these young farmers so that he could go back to the communities in the Himalayas to report to young people there first-hand this new trend of “returning to the land” among young, educated and often university graduates in the United States. His Holiness explained that many traditional communities throughout the Himalayan region have been negatively impacted especially by the migration of young people from small, rural farming communities to large, urban, impersonal cities.
To add to the joy and auspiciousness of hosting His Holiness, UD also celebrated Trichen Rinpoche’s birthday on the weekend with song and cake. Finally, at the closing of the weekend program, His Holiness expressed his own surprise and satisfaction in finding a thriving and strong community at UD and to the delight of the audience said that he plans to return to the United States in 2018 and at that time would like to preside over a 5-day “great accomplishment retreat” (Tib. drupchen) of the female buddha, Nairātmyā at UD. Furthermore, impressed by the discipline of UD sangha-members in the formal aspects of Buddhist ritual-practice and decorum, His Holiness suggested that it might be good for them to come to one of the Great Shravasti celebrations in India to let others witness an example of a how the Dharma has been successfully transplanted to the West.