As you may or may not know, our Namgyalgar South property on the southern slopes of Mt Gulaga near Central Tilba, has been sold. Contracts were signed on Nov 3. Another Dharma group of the Sakya lineage will become custodians of its forests, paddocks, creeks and slopes, its wombats, wallabies and waterfalls, for another blink of an eyelid in this ancient Gulaga landscape.
Mt Gulaga is considered to be the place of ancestoral origin for the Yuin people who have lived in this area for thousands of years. Gulaga itself symbolises the mother and provides a basis for Aboriginal spiritual identity, the mountain as well as the surrounding area holds particular significance for Aboriginal women.
A small group of us gathered at NS on the October long weekend to help pack up and say our goodbyes. Here are some pics and text from that alternately sad and joyous time.
The gar was looking glorious. Everything that could possibly be in bloom was blossoming. The juniper trees planted along the drive way were just reaching a good height, the road is in perfect condition, there's a new disabled parking spot next to the gonpa with many other details having been attended to. The land management committee and local members had been hard at work for months preparing the property for sale. The saddle is green after all the good winter rains, the flame tree is flaming and wombat families seem to love hanging out at Jean's memorial seat, which looks across the saddle and up to Rinpoche's freshly painted house, built so many years ago by local and overseas members.
Before the packing up began it was time to revisit the mountain top where over 25 years ago the plan to make the gar for the Asia Pacific region was hatched. The owner at the that time, Mal Dibden, took Jean Macintoch and others up the mountain on his tractor. Georgia, our geko, had recently slashed the path so we headed up on foot.
At the top boundary of the land are great boulders wrapped in the roots of ancient figtrees just like at Angkor Wat. We sang the Song of the Vajra at the spot in the rocks where Rinpoche buried sacred objects back in the 90s and sang again on the steps of the rushen hut built by Rabgyi, Arnaud and others in recent years. Then Georgia led us to the eagles nest, a viewing point high up on a fig boulder with a sheer drop to the valley below. It felt like we were perched in a tree half the size the mountain. We knew we had limited time there and it was hard not to have Joni Mitchell's line, 'you don't know what you've got til its gone," ringing in our heads as we descended the mountain for lunch. Actually none of us wanted to leave. The mountainside was filled with a heady perfume as every flowering tree, bush and tiny wild orchid sighed their dakini's breath into the clear Gulaga air.
After lunch we joined the hard core karma yoga workers, Lydia and Jilli who were sorting and packing our reference and borrowing library for transportation to Namgylagar North. And the tireless Jenny O'Donnell (who has been a mainstay in handling all the fine detail of the handover), gave us wrapping and packing tasks.
Peter Phipps was on ladder duties.
And it was hard not to be distracted by old photos we came across.
Rinpoche's room had to be packed up
And a great album of photos of Namgyalgar history brought back memories of all the retreats over the years: all the hard work, hard fun and bad fashion! Meanwhile on the verandah, Asher and Miro doing research into Places of Mystery, decided Namg South could definitely be one of them.
At 4pm we met in the gonpa for a talking circle which we hoped would help give expression to the feelings we had about saying goodbye to this extraordinary place which has been a centre of Dzogchen teachings and community since 1994 (when we had our first off-land retreat with Rinpoche in the area).
Passing the vajra around from person to person, we spoke whatever came to mind: a feeling, a story, a memory, anecdote, a wail, a rant, a rave, a reflection...
It was a helpful process. We kept going until we couldn't go around any more. At the end, before our last gana puja that evening, we were invited to jot any thoughts or feelings on pieces of paper which we collected for next day's sang.
At 8 am we gathered on the saddle for our sangqod. Peter Phipps led us in the sang offering. Catherine Simmonds added our papers to the branches of juniper and lavender along with some mantras from old practice books, as the wind took their smoke away across the valley.
Collecting the garden buddhas
Soon it was time for another delish collective gar meal in the campers kitchen, perhaps not the last supper but definitely the last lunch!
Apres lunch, some more sorting, shifting, packing..
There was even time for a beach outing before meeting up for fish 'n chips in Berme
While the walls of the gonpa were now bare, the the shrine was the last thing to be packed up and shipped to Namg North.
I spent my last night in the dark/light retreat cabin, going to sleep with the stars and and waking up to a spectacular sunrise. After doing some practice in the dark retreat cave, I made my dedication to the next custodians wishing them all the best for their time on this glorious practice mountainside.
As I left, I arranged the cushions thus, reminding myself, as Rinpoche always does, that wherever in the world I manage to sit in contemplation, is the most perfect and precious place to be. For the past twenty or so years Namgyalgar South has been one of those places.
Huge thanks must go to all those who over so many years have contributed their generous time, energy, practice, donations, offerings, spirit, tears, sweat and goodwill to the life of Namgyalgar in the Tilba region of NSW.A small local team was left to finish off the packing in readiness for the removalists.
See pics of the moving day here.
Pics of caravan moving day here.
As we turn our energies northward to our gar in Queensland we trust that the Dzogchen teachings will continue to thrive not only in the Glasshouse Mts, but in all the regions of the Australia Pacific and the global community.
Chogyal Namkhai Norbu has been in residence at Namgylagar North for all of November and gave a retreat Nov 3- 8. Next stop Argentina and in 2016 he will not be travelling but will be in residence at our global gar, Dzamling Gar. See his schedule here.
Story and pics by Jan Cornall with some pics by Eleanor Loudon
(There at the beginning and there at the end).