by Alan Muller

All our journeys along the spiritual path are different as we come with seeds of karma from the past. Some find the teachings and the gurus early and they easily fit into the Buddhist path. While others struggle to maintain any kind of a connection.

But one thing was for certain when Akong Rinpoche visited the centres, he was like a magnet and people came out in numbers to see him. I remember standing outside a shrine room looking into the window because the room was packed for a Refuge ceremony. These were wonderful and special occasions.

Alan with Akong Rinpoche, TRC, 2010

In Sudhana’s story from the Gandavyuha sutra, he had a strong aspiration to develop a kind and compassionate mind and great devotion to the good friends who taught him along the path. This was due to working on this aspiration for many lifetimes.

Sudhana receiving teachings from one of his 52 Good Friends

I’ll be going through some of Sudhana’s story in the July retreat at Tara Rokpa Centre from Wednesday 5 (or Friday 7) July to Sunday 9 July. The sutra showcases some of the extraordinary activity people can accomplish when their minds and hearts are full of compassion and wisdom.

You can read more about Sudhana’s story here, in the Stem Array, or Gandavyuha Sutra, translated by Peter Roberts under the auspices of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.

Here is a report from Pam Sheehan about the recent retreat Alan lead at Susurumbha in Zimbabwe:

Alan Muller retreat May 25 – June 3, 2023
Eight of us plus a lovely Labrador dog called Jet, recently had the good fortune to receive Alan Muller’s well-researched teachings based on the advice given by the Good Friends described in the Gandavyuha (Stem Array) sutra. This sutra tells the story of the young pilgrim Sudhana and his meetings with spiritual friends who teach him by describing their own practice of the bodhisattva path before sending him in search of the next Best Friend. As Sudhana travels from one Good Friend to the other he incorporates the lessons learned from each, slowly but surely developing the qualities he will need to become the ultimate bodhisattva to which he devotedly aspires.

Each day of Alan’s teachings started with another of Sudhana’s fabulous fantastical encounters with one of the Good Friends. In his quest, Sudhana learns that to apply the bodhisattva path, he has to let go of a narrow, limited view of conventional reality and be open-minded to the infinite or Mahayana view. The sutra is not just a Buddhist fairy tale but a deconstruction of our limited viewpoint of the world around us and what we think of as reality. The final guru is the bodhisattva Samantabhadra and the sutra ends with his Prayer of Aspiration also known as the King of Aspirations Prayers.

Alan cleverly drew together a beautiful patchwork of related teachings inspired by the Gandavyuha sutra and the King of Aspirations Prayers, including the 6 paramitas (perfections) and the elements comprising the taking of the aspiration bodhicitta vows and the full bodhisattva vows.

June 2023