His Holiness the Dalai Lama inaugurates the Lerab Ling Temple

His Holiness Dalai Lama's Visit

Shortly before 10am on Thursday 21 August, an aeroplane touched down at the Aérodrome de Millau-Larzac, on the remote Larzac plateau in southern France. Among the small group of passengers who had made the short flight from the city of Nantes was His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Tibet’s temporal and spiritual leader was beginning the last leg of a twelve-day tour of France that had started in Paris, included visits to Buddhist centres in Normandy and Brittany, and seen him give a five-day teaching and a public talk in Nantes. Now, before returning to his home in Dharamsala, India, he was to conduct the inauguration of one of Europe’s largest Tibetan Buddhist temples. As the Dalai Lama stepped out of the plane, standing there to greet him was Sogyal Rinpoche.

Almost thirty-five years before, in 1973, Sogyal Rinpoche had helped to organize the Dalai Lama’s first visit to the West. When the Dalai Lama landed in Rome, Rinpoche and Kungo Phala, one of His Holiness’s most senior advisers, were the only figures standing on the tarmac to receive him. In the years that followed, as the Dalai Lama became one of the world’s most recognized and respected spiritual figures, Rinpoche invited him to teach in the West as often as possible. Each one of those occasions had been extremely special, but the coming of His Holiness to inaugurate the temple at Rigpa’s main retreat centre was perhaps the most significant of all.

At Lerab Ling, the anticipation was building. More than two thousand people had lined up along the winding road down from the main gate to the temple. Many had been there for the Dalai Lama’s first visit to Lerab Ling, eight years earlier, when he gave a major Buddhist teaching and blessed the site where the temple now stands. As word filtered through that his motorcade was approaching, a group of monks from Lerab Ling and from Gyurmé Ling Monastery in Bir, India, moved into position close to the temple, ready to accompany His Holiness in a ceremonial procession; but as the newly hung prayer flags beside the road fluttered in the breeze and the sun shone brightly down on the temple’s copper roofs, the car was nowhere to be seen.

The full text of this article can be found in the December 2008 edition of View, The Rigpa Journal