Reflections on Menla Retreat by Isa Gucciardi, Ph.D.
In this excerpt from the Foundation for the Sacred Stream, Isa Gucciardi, Ph.D. recounts her 2014 visit to Menla.
The Magic of Menla Retreat, Tibet in the Catskills
Menla means Medicine Buddha in Tibetan, but I think the esoteric translation must be “magic.” Located in the Catskill Mountains in New York, Menla is a place unto itself.
In the center of the bowl created by this cosmic event is Menla, a well-maintained collection of beautiful buildings including a conference center, spa, barn, and lodges. From the bottom of the meteor crater, you look up to see the hills, forested with mature oaks and maples, and in the rain, the hillsides cascade with streams running down from the crater’s rim. The melody of the water complements a cacophony of hundreds of birds. I was happily kept up at night by a pair of owls calling across the valley.
The teachings were those of Geshe Chophel, the spiritual master of the Gaden Shartse Dokhang Compassion Tour that Menla is hosting, and those of Robert A.F Thurman, one of the most articulate and passionate interpreters of Tibetan Buddhism alive today. In articulating the nature of the Medicine Buddha, Bob managed to tap dance into his favorite rap on nothingness, and the monks created a beautiful sand mandala of the palace, or home, of the Medicine Buddha.
The Medicine Buddha, Master Healer
The Medicine Buddha is like the patron saint of healers, and is, himself, a master healer. The Medicine Buddha depicted in thangkas is deep cobalt in color and holds the myrobalan flower that cures all ills and a bowl of nectar which is an elixir for all disease.
In the center is an ornate gilt box that contains all the existing texts related to healing in Tibetan medicine. Around the center square of this box are the Eight Medicine Buddha Brothers, each in the form of a petal surrounding the center square, representing the sixteen Bodhisattvas who return to the realm of suffering, after attaining enlightenment, to relieve the ills of those who are still caught in the cycle of suffering.
The magic of our time at Menla is counted in so many ways: the place which is like no other; the monks, themselves, coming from across the world, to create the mandala for the Buddha who is the center of Menla Retreat.
To read the original article, please visit: www.sacredstream.org.