An Unforgettable Afternoon Tea

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Shakespeare’s Sonnet CXVI

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O, no! it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
   If this be error and upon me proved,
  I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

Yesterday I was blessed along with more than one hundred other kindred spirits, dharma brothers and sisters, to be invited to the Afternoon Tea of all Afternoon Tea’s, at Tara Institute, in East Brighton. There, we were blessed and lucky enough to listen to the remarkable words of the great master, Lama Zopa Rinpoche, whose profound insight and compassion transported each and every one of us into a sphere of peace and happiness that can only be described as truly inspiring.

Although ordinarily, when one thinks of afternoon tea, biscuits and cake come to mind, at this afternoon tea, such delicacies, although offered, one could almost say, were not required. When you attend an afternoon tea hosted by such remarkable beings as Geshe Doga and Lama Zopa Rinpoche, food and drink become virtually irrelevant, because due to the great skill of the Buddha, ordinary life just fades into insignificance as one is treated to a genuine Dharma teaching that enables one to contemplate the great truths, which although simple in both practice and theory, are taught in the most exciting and uplifting of ways by a great mind that is really like no other.

Lama Zopa reminded us all that all the teachings of the Buddha fall into two basic instructions:

Do Not Harm Other Beings, Benefit Other Beings.

Within those two pieces of advice lie a vast spectrum of understandings, interpretations, rules and possibilities, however for me, Lama Zopa’s key advice was crystallized when he said that the moment one gives up desire, is the moment one begins to experience real contentment.

He also joked about how it was really Mick Jagger who gave the best teaching in his song, (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction, through his ability to enumerate upon the downfalls of the desirous and attached state of mind.

It is funny how in life, teachers can appear to us in both virtuous and non-virtuous aspects. Lama Zopa is a true example of someone, who having overcome desire and all faults of the mind, shows others how achieving a state of liberation, peace and perfection is really possible. Not so long ago, I had an encounter of an entirely different kind, with a man full of desire, who in full flight, was able to make me realize just how damaging and disastrous the states of desire, dishonesty, manipulation and attachment can really be. Even those who appear to harm us, also have a teaching of their own to impart.

Although I appreciated the timeless and insightful truths written about love, by the western literary genius, Shakespeare, in his Sonnet CXVI, when they were read at my wedding, nearly twenty years ago, it was the great masters from Tibet who really were able to impart to me, the deeper meaning behind what it means to love another being and how important it is to ensure all our actions are imbued with a positive and virtuous state of mind.

To all my precious and dear teachers who have forever changed our world, our destiny, our karma and our minds, I offer to you my deepest gratitude and pray that one day I am able to repay your limitless kindness, which like time and space, has no beginning and no end.

Copyright © Vanessa Anne Walsh 2020

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