April’s full moon saw the Buddhafield 2012 Yatra ending with a dawn celebration of Padmasambhava in the midst of the ancient stones of Stonehenge - after a week-long 70-mile walk along Britain’s Ridgeway track. Buddhafield have been running Yatras (a Sanskrit word simply meaning ‘walk’) for some years now and they have grown and grown - this one had some 35 people including the team of 6. They are a retreat, but a retreat with a difference, being held entirely out-of-doors and in the midst of the elements - and with a continuously changing backdrop. Everyone walking in silence and in single file, starting and ending in a circle with a bow plus morning and evening meditations and ceremonies.
They also have a strong mythic quality, and Lokabandhu, who led the 2012 Yatra, reports: “For me Yatras are very much part of bringing Buddhism to the West and to Britain in particular, though they do this on a very non-rational level. We were seeking to replicate in some sense what Padmasambhava did in Tibet, when he met the local gods and spirits and transformed them into Protectors of the Dharma. Twice - on Uffington’s Dragon Hill and at Stonehenge itself - with the aid of our 8-foot-long Tibetan horn we invoked the Celtic pantheon and introduced them to Padmasambhava; we were also seeking to capture for ourselves the reverence for the natural world found in the Pali Canon, and again and again as we went along we recited a specially-adapted version of the Ratana Sutta as a way of contacting the local spirits and expressing our wish to work in harmony with them.
“This was our best Yatra yet, and also our largest. It was a wonderful group, with a wide range of experience of both Buddhism and the outdoors - but marvellously harmonious and ‘up for it’, though I think it challenged everyone in one way or another! We had a succession of amazing campsites, but ancient barrows, hillforts, and stones, including Avebury and of course Stonehenge itself. Our last morning saw us rising at 4.30am to walk the final couple of miles where we’d arranged an hour’s access to the stone circle itself at sunrise. Of course we didn’t know until the last minute what the weather would be, but it was a perfect clear dawn, freezing cold of course - we felt blessed!