Immediately after the Buddhafield Festival in Devon, UK, I hurried home, put my clothes in the washing machine, hung my tent out to dry, and then set off on the Monday morning for Le Moulin de Chaves (known as Tapovan in its last life). More than 200 of us in total, adults and kids, joined one week or two weeks of the annual French Dharma Yatra, one of the great annual events of the Sangha. Martin loves to remind people that I have walked every morning and afternoon of the seven yatras, and my only complaint is about the porridge. “Why import Scottish food on a French Yatra” has been my appeal.
Then I listened to a BBC radio programme (so it must be true) that croissants were an import into France from Austria during the time of Napolean. No more complaints. One 23 year old woman, Rose from Holland, told me that she joined her first Yatra a couple of years at the encouragement of a friend. She didn’t like it for a day or two – “we are walking like sheep in a long single file in imposed silence,” she told her friend. Then the power of the nature, the raw simplicity of the elements and sangha friendship touched a deep place within her – despite an ankle sprain, getting sick and tiredness. Run from start to finish on dana (donations), the Yatra sustains itself on the appeal for funds at the end of the yatra to cover costs (7000 meals plus are prepared etc), dana for teachers and Le Moulin’s three Yatra organisers. The greatly appreciative Dutch woman gave every single Euro she had in her possession into the dana bowls, not even leaving herself money for a train ticket back to Holland from the southern end of
France. On the final morning, Rose got a ride to Perigaux railway station. Everybody went off in their different directions. “What am I going to do?” she thought to herself. “All I can do is cry” she told herself. So she sat down and started to cry. A passerby, an African or Caribbean man, spotted her with her head in hands and crying. He walked over to her and in Afro-English tinged with a heavy French accent, asked kindly what was wrong. “Hey, lady, what can ah do? What da wrong? You in some kinda trouble? What da ya cry for?” he asked with concern. She explained that she had no money, no ticket and more than a 1000 kilometres from home. He smiled, opened up his large shoulder bag, and revealed to her a bag full of loose Euro notes, small denominations and big denominations. He took her to the station ticket counter and bought her a rail ticket home. Cool!