Khandro Déchen’s graduation portrait

Khandro Déchen

Graduation portrait

This photograph was taken at the end of Khandro Déchen’s four years study for her Bachelor of Nursing Degree.

Khandro Déchen comments:
This apparently translates into Latin as ‘baccalaureate nosocomia’ which makes it feel as obscure as that period of my life feels now. I do not quite know what to make of this photograph – or even what to say about it. It seems a long time ago in another life. I cannot quite relate with the person in the picture. She looks as if she may have been me. Perhaps if I donned the clothes—should I still possess them—I might feel like the young woman in the photograph.

One type of retreat in which we engage in the Aro gTér Tradition is connected with the teaching of the Nine Bardos – particularly the gYo-wa Bardo. The practice involves entering retreat with photographs taken at various stages of our lives and spending time trying to relate with the images as ‘me’. What usually happens is that we fail to relate. This is useful as an experience inasmuch as we realise that we are not solid, permanent, separate, continuous, and defined beings throughout our lives. We realise that we have died many times within our lives. Naturally we experience every day of our lives, but to practice this in retreat is a powerful means of destroying the illusion of continuity which supports what Ngak’chang Rinpoche calls ‘the on-going me project’.

What is most important about this photograph is that it was around this time that I met Ngak’chang Rinpoche and became his disciple – along with Ngala Nor’dzin and Ngala ’-Dzin. I vividly remember the experience of taking refuge in Ngak’chang Rinpoche’s magnificent, colourful shrine room which was the main room of his ground floor flat. At that time he gave refuge as a separate private event for each of us. It felt like I was entering a fresh dimension where there were so many questions to ask, and yet I could not frame them with words.