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Lions Roar : March 2016
when he tried to do it, his students begged him to return to his monastery and his teachers encouraged him to stay, so he didn’t end up not going. Because of this, he told me that if I really wanted to do this, I shouldn’t tell anyone about it. He said, “Don’t tell anybody what you’ve been doing until you come back.” The final inspiration to start my retreat came from another one of my root gurus, Jamgon Tai Situ Rinpoche. A few years before I began my retreat, I was fortunate to receive extensive teachings on Mahamudra, the nature of mind instructions of the Kagyu lineage, from him at Sherab Ling monastery, along with many other monks and nuns. He encouraged us to take the teachings and put them into practice in retreat. This really inspired me. I already had the plan to do this retreat, but I had been putting it off. Hearing one of my heart teachers talk about the importance of retreat made me remem- ber the promise I had made to myself. Soon after that, I made the decision to set a date to begin. Onto the Streets I didn’t tell anyone my real plan. I left my room at the monas- tery in Bodhgaya in the middle of the night and took the train to Varanasi. I wanted to live completely on the streets. In Varanasi, there were many people lying down on the train station floor, and I tried to stay there with them. I had a strong determination to be on the streets, but when it came to the reality, it was very difficult for me because I’d been living in comfort. In the mon- astery, I’d had many attendants, nice food, and everyone treated me like a prince. So I was naive to think I could live on the streets right away. It took me awhile. The first day I tried to stay on the street for a few hours, but I felt like everybody was watching me. It was very good to face my fear and feelings of embarrassment and shyness. But in the end, I couldn’t stay on the street for the whole night, so I stayed in a dormitory at the train station. The next day I stayed longer on the station floor, but again spent the night in the dormitory. After a few days, I bought a map of India in the station book- store, since I didn’t have any plan and I didn’t know where I should go. I saw that the map had train lines, bus routes, and all the important holy places in India, and I was very happy. I decided to go to Kushinagar, the holy place where the Bud- dha died, and took the train to Gorakhpur, the closest big city to Kushinagar. I still wasn’t ready yet to be on the streets, so I got a cheap room for 400 rupees (about $6) a night. I was still training, trying to adapt to this new environment. I was practicing around the Parinirvana Temple in Kushi- nagar and trying to stay as anonymous as possible. By this time I had run out of money—I hadn’t taken much with me when I left—so I had to leave my hotel. I changed from my Buddhist robes and started to dress like a sadhu, the ascetic Hindu yogis who beg and live on the streets. I had bought sadhu clothes in On the Nepal–India border: “I like mountains, I like caves, and I have been very inspired by the great meditators of the past who have done retreats like this.” PHOTOSBYLAMATASHI LION’S ROAR | MARCH 2016 56