July 16, 2007

7/15/07 Lavaur France

Nalanda Monastery

Well, after two weeks, I've began to get settled into my life here at Nalanda.

On the weekends I look forward to both going to the open-air market in Lavour and to biking over to Institut Vajra Yogini (IVY) to visit Jean-Yves, who is cooking there for the summer. Tess and I headed to the market again last Saturday. I just love all the sights and sounds. And later that afternoon I rode out to IVY to see Jean-Yves but had to cut my visit short when I had a terrible attack of hay fever due to the combines harvesting wheat in the fields next to Vajra Yogini.

But last Sunday, Tess asked if I would ride with her back to IVY to retrieve her glasses. We decided to take a different route across the Agout River, heading away from Lavour this time. We ended up taking a side trip to Viterbe, a small town of 250 people on the river. It was a wonderful day to be out riding as the sky was overcast making for a much cooler day. What I loved the most was all the fields of sunflowers, sunflowers everywhere. It was a long way back to Vajra Yogini in some pretty hilly countryside but we made it in less than three hours. I was happy to take the shorter 45-minute route back to Nalanda though. [smile]

Everywhere sunflowers in bloom

But wildflowers are nice too

Rolling hills

One advantage to being at Nalanda is that I can go to any teachings at IVY on the weekends. And this weekend, the Ven. Robina Courtin was giving a talk. She has been a nun for more than 25 years and a close disciple of Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche. She is a feisty, no-nonsense kind of teacher who was the editor of Mandala Magazine and started the Liberation Prison Project, an organization bringing Buddhist teachings that now supports over 500 inmates in 150 different prisons around the world. I was only able to attend the final two days of her six day course but it was a wonderful experience, with lots of down-to-earth, real every-day applications of Buddhism. Maybe I can get her to come to Kansas City to teach some day.

The Institut Vajra Yogini is another beautiful, peaceful place. It's history is that it was one of the summer homes of the Toulouse-Lautrec family. Besides the grand house, the most striking feature is the huge Kadampa Stupa, in memory of Lama Thubten Yeshe, in front of the main entrance. There are quite a few buildings for housing students and those on retreat, along with extensive gardens.

Istitut Vajra Yogini

Two male peacocks roam the grounds

The Kadampa Stupa