Q: What sort of location do you have in mind?
KD: It depends on how much money we raise. It depends on many factors. It would be wonderful . . . perhaps . . . to have a cliff-top hotel . . . Housell Bay Hotel on the Lizard Peninsula . . . It has a private beech – that would be grand. That’s a place we used to frequent some years ago.
Q: So do you have a particular part of the country in mind? Should it be a coastal location?
NCR: Anywhere in striking distance of motorways form London so that people from other countries could find their ways there without undue difficulty. We would probably think of South Wales.
Q: You touch on an interesting point here, Rinpoche – we have an international sangha, but whenever you’ve spoken of it Drala Jong has been planned to be based in Britain. How will Drala Jong make a difference for people who live outside of Britain?
NCR: It will make more difference as I get older and cannot travel as much. I’d say that’s perhaps 10 years away. Travel takes its toll I’m afraid . . . I will be 60 next year . . . and there is a limit to how long I can throw 80lb suitcases into the roof box of our car. Unless we had millions and could have a centre in every country, we would be looking to have a centre somewhere. We would necessarily have to choose one where we live. Even if we didn’t have a centre, my travel arrangements will become increasingly restricted. In fact people within the sanghas do travel great distances to attend events with other apprentices. Having our own place means we can engineer things to make it easier for foreign apprentices to come here, by giving them concessions on distance travelled.
KD: But I guess it won’t mean as much to the Americans as to the European sanghas, simply because of distance – although it really depends a lot on the individual and what they perceive as important. We don’t live in America—and cannot do so—so the retreat centre cannot be there in the final analysis.
NCR: Even if it was in America it would have to be on the east coast or west coast – and that would create the same problem. Montana wouldn’t work as a central place because of the cost of travel to get there. . .
KD: We have a fragmented sangha in terms of geography, because Rinpoche always goes wherever he’s asked. It will have to work differently for different people. When we know the specifics of the venue we can acquire, we’ll be able to work out how best to make that accessible for people.
Q: I’d like to ask about how Drala Jong ‘fits’ with Aro Ling? We do have a city centre non-residential venue in Bristol – Aro Ling. Why is residential retreat so important; what difference does it make having a residential venue?
KD: It makes a huge deal of difference in terms of the 5 certainties being present. There’s just something about having to leave home and go to a different place. You pack your case – and then only have what you have. You go to a place and there is a certain sense in which you’re committed. You could leave or walk out on a residential event – but it’s only happened once in 30 years. So when you’re there, you’re there – because you’ve made the commitment to be there.
NCR: Unless you’re an imbecile you’re going to make the most of it. If you take the time and trouble to go to the cinema you normally stay to see the thing out. If you hire a DVD you might quit after 5 minutes because you’re at home. So because you’ve taken the trouble to get there you’re going to participate. And you’re also going to eat, sleep and defecate there.
KD: You get up in the morning, you practise, there’s breakfast, when you’re able to talk to people in a way you wouldn’t in a non-residential setting – because you’re there. In a non-residential setting people go off for lunch in small groups to cafés and so on. People don’t mix the same way. They don’t talk the same way. It’s more disparate. If you are dropping in and out of the venue through the weekend – you go home for the evening. You can watch television—you can check your email—you’ve left the retreat. A non-residential retreat is a constrained space. It’s different – but only as different as what’s immediately outside the door. On a residential retreat there are many different places to meet and chat with others. You can go for a walk – down a country road, or in the woods. At a non-residential city centre venue once you’re in the street – you’ve left the retreat. On a residential retreat people don’t leave or change environment – and in that way they get the most out of the experience of being there.
NCR: Also . . . a residential retreat allows more time. The teaching can be given in a more leisurely manner – with time for practice. On a non-residential retreat, incorporating too much meditation seems vaguely felonious . . . The attendees’ time is constrained, so we tend to talk at them most of the time. As a result, they can receive a barrage of teaching that may be hard to digest. On a residential retreat we can intersperse periods of silent sitting – and that radically changes the manner in which people understand.
KD: Then, people talk over meals. They interact – and that gives a chance for the teachings to percolate.