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Retreat 2021 with Yangsi Rinpoche

A portrait of Yangsi Rinpoche

August 6th to 16th 2021 – Vajrasattva retreat at Vajra Yogini Institute – with Yangsi Rinpoché

Last year, in 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the safety measures decided by the government, we could not invite Yangsi Rinpoche to come to the yearly Vajrasattva retreat at Vajra Yogini Institute as he used to. Still the conditions were not so bad since we managed to organize this retreat online with Rinpoche giving talks every day.

In 2021, our repeated prayers and aspirations bore fruit, the health conditions had improved and Rinpoche had agreed to come in person. After a few months of suspense, not really knowing if he would be able to come to France or not, we felt an immense joy when we saw Rinpoche get out of the car that had just stopped in front of the Institute, then walk slowly greeting all the people who had come to welcome him with colorful scarves, broad smiles and sincere thanks at the end of their lips. It was August, the sun was shining brightly and our eyes were shining over our masks!

As soon as Rinpoché entered the castle, he went straight to the gompa to do full length prostrations in front of Gueshe Tengye’s reliquary stupa With tears pearling on our eyes we felt so fortunate and grateful that Rinpoche had come from such a far distance and was with us in his “real” physical form to help us purify our negativities.

As usual, Rinpoche started the retreat the next day by giving Vajrasattva initiation and practice instructions. The sessions were structured as he advised, starting with prostrations to the 35 buddhas and supplemented with Lama Tsonkhapa’s guru yoga. As additional methods for transforming the mind during this Vajrasattva retreat, Rinpoche had us recite the Song of the four mindfulnesses, Calling the guru from afar and stanzas from the Wheel of sharp weapons related to emptiness.

All those who were not able to do the whole retreat or had not been tested, could follow some sessions outside on the lawn. They could also join the evening events organized every other day, and attended other practices such as reciting the praises to the 21 Taras, doing fumigation practices and receiving the lung of the Diamond Cutter Sutra from Rinpoche.

The very first day of the retreat, Rinpoché had suggested that we took notes of whatever insights on emptiness and other experiences we had and read it out loud during the expected performance at the close of the retreat. Many people wanted to participate, and it was a real challenge to integrate everybody’s ideas and present them in a coherent and playful form. After a few rehearsals, it turned out that “covid and emptiness (“vide” in French) would make a tempting play on words and help us turn difficulties into humor.

Several participants performed little sketches, accompanied by music, songs, duets, dances, scarfs, bubbles… and much laughter.
In the same way as Rinpoché had led us to the open stage in the shade of the oak trees, he dragged us all into bright light around the white stupa where it turned out that all the participants could fit in a complete circle. Finally, right in front of the main door, Rinpoche sang with us a homemade song created for the occasion and called “Tong pa nyi Blues”, which indeed chased our blues away.

Yangsi Rinpoche with students at the Vajra Yogini Institute

Thank you Rinpoche for always being there, at the door of our hearts, and for entering whenever we invite you.

Christian Charrier