June 25, 2007

6/30/07 Lavaur France

Nalanda Monastery

Well, yesterday, Cynthia and Jean-Yves dropped me off at the monastery. The director Tendar showed me around and made sure that I felt welcome. Because they won't be ready for me to work until Monday, I have had a free weekend to get comfortable. I've already met more people than I can remember names. Besides the monks, there seem to be quite a few volunteers here too. It truly is an international group with folks coming from all over the western world to be here. There are even a few who speak Spanish if I want to keep practicing.

Nalanda Monastery is located near the town of Lavaur France, 40km west of Toulouse. The River Agout runs below the gardens. The original monastery is a nineteenth century French manor-house. The monastery was founded in 1981 by Lama Thubten Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche to provide a place for mainly westerners, both monks and lay people, to study and meditate. Following the early death of his teacher Lama Thubten Yeshe, Lama Zopa Rinpoche took over as Spiritual Director as well as heading up the world organization Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT), which is based in Portland, Oregon in the USA.


The main building

The River Agout

Nalanda is nearing the completion of a new main building after ten years hard work by monks and volunteers. A Swiss monk, Jean-Fran├žois Bergevin, who had previously studied architecture and design, is the project leader. In 1996 Lama Zopa asked Jean-Fran├žois to make plans for a new building respecting certain guidelines laid out in the oriental art of Feng Shui. Construction began in 1999 with the building integrating natural and ecological ideas throughout. The design has an extensive use of wood and compressed mud brick hand-made with earth from the monastery grounds.

Nalanda Monastery's new building project video

Today was market day, so one of the women volunteers, Tess, took me to town in Lavaur. It was a huge market selling all sorts of wonderful things. I especially liked all the smells coming out of the food stalls. Tess is one of the people I will be working with while I am here.

Back at the monastery, I sat down with everyone for lunch. Most of the meals are held in silence. I was surprised how much easier it is to enjoy a meal, eating slowing, when you are not in constant conversation. Later I spent some of my free time brushing one of the monastery cats and then trying to study a bit of my French lessons.

I might even get started on my work on Sunday if they are ready for me. I told Tess I've been relaxing for quite a bit at my cousins, so I could start any time.