Every year the New Kadampa Tradition ~ International Kadampa Buddhist Union (NKT~IKBU) organizes worldwide Kadampa gatherings on Buddhism and meditation that explain how to apply Buddha’s teachings (Dharma) to modern life. These include International Festivals, National Festivals, and regional Dharma Celebrations.
The events vary in length from two days to two weeks, but however long or short, they all offer a break with a difference – a chance to break free from the hectic routines of daily life and focus on the things that really matter.
When hundreds or thousands of people gather together for a spiritual purpose like this, the experience is powerful and transformative. Listening, meditating, discussing and praying become deeper experiences that touch the heart.
People come together from all across the globe, looking beyond culture, language, politics, and all the other things that appear to divide us, and into the truth of human experience following Buddha’s wisdom. These Festivals and Celebrations are examples of spiritual practice and the inner and outer peace that arise from it. The positive energy is palpable at these Festivals, and people leave feeling inspired that world peace is possible.
Geshe Kelsang calls Festivals “meaningful vacations." We are on a relaxing and enjoyable vacation in wonderful company, but we are also creating something of lasting value to bring home with us.
Making the choice to dedicate some time to our spiritual life in this way feels meaningful. It gives us the opportunity to receive many teachings and engage in many meditations – a lot more than in any normal week, month, or even year of our life. As a result, the experience is very rich.
The New Kadampa Tradition is an international union of over 1,300 Buddhist temples, meditation centers and associated groups, and these Festivals provide an opportunity for this union to flourish and bring benefit to all living beings. As Geshe Kelsang Gyatso says in the book Modern Buddhism:
"Through International Kadampa Festivals and this special international union, we can really make a difference in improving our world."
The International Spring Festival takes place at the end of May each year at the NKT mother center, Manjushri Kadampa Meditation Centre, in Ulverston, England.
Also held at the Kadampa mother Center, Manjushri Kadampa Meditation Centre (end July - beginning August), the two-week Summer Festival is the longest-running and most well-known Festival on the annual Kadampa calendar, drawing participants from all over the world.
The Southwest Dharma Celebration is our nearest geographical event and draws a few hundred Kadampas from all over the Southwestern United States -- CO, TX, AZ, NM and elsewhere. It is held at the International Kadampa Retreat Center Grand Canyon in Williams, Arizona.