Monday, September 27, 2010

TED Talk

Already a year ago now we wrote of His Holiness the Karmapa's talk at TEDIndia. Now at last we can offer you the video, in which His Holiness begins by discussing his experience of first being recognized as the Karmapa, and goes on to advocate for spiritual practitioners to pay greater attention to the particular sufferings of women.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Five Days of Teachings by HH Karmapa, Live Webcast

From September 15 through the 19th, His Holiness the Karmapa will be teaching here at Gyuto on How to Cultivate Relative Bodhicitta from 4pm to 6pm, our time. These teachings - which can with confidence call 'exquisite' even without having heard them yet, because we know where they come from! - will be broadcast live over the Internet at the following link.

To calculate what time that is in your neck of the woods, try World Clock.

But it is pretty early on the east coast of the US, and pretty even earlier on the west, though right smack in the middle of the waking world's day in Europe.

Hope to join you "there."

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Suffering is not a Story

As we wrote earlier, two friends with whom our community shared the experience of the three-month study program in Nepal earlier this year are now in Ladakh, helping with the relief effort. Those affected in these photos are part of the Tibetan refugee community that had relocated to the harsh and unforgiving climate of Ladakh, and are once again rendered homeless by the terrible mudslides earlier this monsoon season. Here is some of what they have managed to do:

- Provide food for the whole tent camp for homeless people in Choglamsar (250-300 people) for one month and guarantee to provide a second month!
Cost: 140,000 Rupees (2380 Euros)

- Help 11 families who lost everything: providing warm blankets, a stove, kitchen basics and RS 2000 for clothes per family
Cost: 66,000 Rupees (1120 Euro)

Their efforts to raise and distribute funds have borne real fruits already, but there is a great deal more to be done before the mountain passes that encircle Ladakh are closed by the snows that begin there in early autumn. those below would welcome your prayers and well wishes. If you would also like to contribute materially, you can do so here.

Nike-Ann writes: Winter is coming soon and will bring very cold weather up here in the mountains. Currently there are appr. 75 families in the tent camp here. Out of these, the houses of 50 families were badly damaged and the houses of 10 families got completely destroyed including the loss of all belongings. One family lived in a rented room and lost all belongings.

All of the people on the photos attached and many more say THANK YOU SO MUCH to you!

Please continue to help me to help this people!
Thank you very much,
Nike-Ann Schroeder

Many families have lost their homes, they need help urgently since winter is coming soon. Here I give some examples of many, all these people live in ‘our’ tent camp:

Tsering Choedroen

Tsering Choedroen is 46 years old and her family has a hard struggle since many years. She has three children, the oldest is 10 years old. Since she gave birth to her first child, she is sick and needs permanent medical treatment. 4 years she was so sick that she had to stay in bed. Her husband works as a labor in road constructioning and other jobs, but often can’t work because he has to help at home. The family has struggled for many years, but now the flood made it worse to a point they can’t manage alone.

Gawa Thubten

Gawa Thupden is 73 years old, his family has 7 members. His house and all his belongings were destroyed by the flood.


Shesrab and Family

The photos are of Shesrab's wife and house.

Shesrab is 64 years old, his wife (unfortunately I forgot her name) was injured in the flood. They have six family members. In the night when the water came, he screamed loud and could wake up and save all family members in the last minute. The house got destroyed by the flood (see photos) and he could only find few of his belongings in the mud which fills the ruin of his house.


Dechen Choedroen

Dechen Choedroen’s family has 4 members including one baby. Her house was completely destroyed and all her belongings are lost.

Karma Thargyal

The following photos are of Karma Thargyal and his house.

Karma Thargyal’s family has 4 members. His house was filled with mud after the flood. Many people helped him cleaning. On one day the group was cleaning his house from 9 a.m. to 3.30 p.m. and took a rest after the working day. At 4 p.m. there was a strange sound and the house collapsed.


Shankar Wangchuk

Shankar Wangchuk’s family has 3 members. During the night of the water they woke up and found themselves and the bed swimming on water and could see the ceiling very near. All family members got out of the house, but the house was completely filled with water and mud which destroyed all belongings. They clean the house, but cracks are everywhere. They try to prevent he house from collapsing but think it will collapse. Buildings near the house were destroyed completely.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

December Dharma Events

For those considering joining the annual winter flourishing of Dharma in Bodhgaya, India, here are some dates:

December 8 and 9th - Opening Ceremony to mark the 900 years of the Karmapa incarnation, which began with the birth of the first Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa, in the year 1110.

December 10 through 12 - Teachings by HH Gyawlang Karmapa on Atisha's Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment. These teachings will be held daily from 9:00 - 10:30am and from 3:00 to 4:30 pm daily, Indian time, and will likely be webcast live, with translation available in numerous languages. We will post more information here on the webcast plans as the time draws near.

December 13 - Padmasambhava Initiation given by HH Gyalwang Karmapa

December 15 through 22 - Kagyu Monlam. More details of the daily schedule of the monlam. each day from Dec 15 through the 19th, HH Karmapa will teach from 9:00 am to 11:00 am on the King of Prayers, also known as the Aspiration Prayer of Samantabhadra. These teachings will also be webcast live, in all likelihood, and we will post more details as they become available.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

His Holiness the Dalai Lama´s Upcoming Teachings in Dharamsala

Today we begin two days of teachings with His Holiness the Dalai Lama on the Diamond Cutter Sutra.

Since a few people have asked about visiting Dharamsala, for your convenience here is a list of dates of the upcoming teachings by hh the Dalai Lama here at his own temple in Dharamsala. Of course, our community will be attending to receive these teachings.

Teaching in Dharamsala, HP, India from August 28 & 29: His Holiness will give two-day teachings on The Diamond Sutra at the request of a group of Koreans.

Teaching in Dharamsala, HP, India from September 8 to 10: His Holiness will give three-day teachings on The Heart Sutra (sherab nyingpo) & Gyalsey Thokme Sangpo's 37 Practices of A Bodhisattva (gyalsey laklen sodunma) at the request of a group of Southeast Asians.Contact Website:

Teaching in Dharamsala, HP, India from October 4 to 7: His Holiness will give four-day teachings on Nagarjuna's The Fundamental Wisdom Treatise on the Middle Way), Atisha's Lama for the Path to Enlightenment, Tsongkhapa's In Praise of Dependent Origination & Tsongkhapa's Concise Stages for the Path to Enlightenment at the request of a group of Taiwanese.

Teaching in Dharamsala, HP, India from November 30 to December 2: His Holiness will give three-day teachings on Gyalsey Thokme Sangpo's 37 Practices of A Boddhisattva at the request of a group of Russian Buddhists. Contact Website: &

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Many Moods of Monsoon

Along with the many mysterious new forms of mold that grow here in the monsoon, the season also has its own particular moods.

These moods seem at times to be better expressed in images than in words, although one of the finest pieces of Sanskrit poetry has a cloud as one of its main protagonists, and the monsoon is a favored setting for some of the most moving literature in the language.

All these photos are taken from the roof or balconies of our home.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Mudslides in Ladakh

When mudslides in remote corners of the Himalayas make international news, you know it must be very serious. The following two letters offer eyewitness account of the recent disaster in Ladakh -- the worst anyone now alive there can recall -- as well as a way to help. The letters were written by a German friend of our community who happened to be there at that time, ostensibly to do research. The disasters affect areas that Drolma and Damcho visited when His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa was there teaching in 2008. We had tea with the family of a Tibetan friend in Camp 12, where so many families lost their homes. As yet, we have no word as to whether he and his family survived or not.

Letter No 1

Dear friends,

The family I stay with and I am fine, but here many people died, the number of bodies found is about 140 by now, but still more than 500 people are missing and more than 1000 houses were destroyed during one night Thursday to Friday. The areas which got hit at worst were in Leh the governmental hospital, radio station and busstand, and the villages of Phyang and Saboo, but also Choglamsar, where I live right now. We were lucky since the huge landslide and mud disaster didn"t hit our part of the refugee camp, but we had to flee in the middle of the night since a big river appeared right next our house. We had some minutes to collect 7 children, grandma and grandpa and us 5 people of the generation inbetween, free the 4 dogs and collect some things, and leave the house, all and everything in one jeep. Hundreds of people were not so lucky and got buried under tons of mud. The rain finally stopped and our house and the area around didn"t get destroyed, but since nobody knew and knows how things will develop, we moved to another place which hopefully is more safe. Situation is very bad, many dead people, people missing and many injured; bridges, roads, mobile and telephone, hospitals, radio station and much more got destroyed or severely damaged.

On Sunday morning I managed to get out of Choglamsar and go to Leh. Yesterday I helped to carry the mud out of the hospital and everybody including me goes here and there and tries to find out whether the dear ones are well and alive. Researchwork is not possible since the situation is far beyond asking someone for an interview or taking individual photos.

It would be helpful to collect some money, I think. WIll send photos of destruction when possible, now internet is too slow.

Letter No.2

Dear all

actual situation in Ladakh

The recent natural disaster in Ladakh hit not only Leh, nearby settlements and the Tibetan refugeecamp Choglamsar, but all villages along the Indus, villages in Nubra valley as well as in the Markha valley and in the Changthang area. This list is not complete---

The actual numbers as given by the Ladakh Buddhist Association - which is one of the major groups organizing volunteers and collecting / giving donations to support Ladakhi flood victims are as follows: 200 people died, 800 are still missing, 500 people are severely injured. The houses of more than 1000 families are destroyed / severely damaged; 15 schools, governmental hospital in Leh, the radio station and telephone exchange as well as 5 major bridges and 20 village bridges have been destroyed / completely damaged. Also people lost cattle and crops, and all kinds of properties.

This situation is the result of the worst natural disaster Ladakhi people can remember. Still there are lots of rain clouds, many looks go up to the sky to check the weather condition. The number of people camping high up in the mountains surrounding Leh to be safe in case of further floods is still immense.

Cleaning and repairing goes on everywhere. Through the efforts of lots of people working together the hospital could be cleaned compeletely within a few days. The army and different road building organisations work hard on clearing the roads of mud and stones, and repair roads as well as bridges. The linking highway to Kargil was re-opened today, the highway to Manali was re-opened between Manali and Sarchu, while there are still 20 km of road to be reconstructed between Leh and Sarchu.

A lot of help is needed for both, providing the nasic needs for flood victims immediately as well as reconstruct houses, and the whole infrastructure which got destroyed.

In Choglamsar, which belongs to the areas which got hit worst, Camp No. 12 has the most losses and damages. Of 63 families, the houses of 34 families got destroyed. Since the whole area is contaminated by the destruction through the flashflood and huge mud landslide, all families had to leave the area.

Now, all these families live in tents in camp No. 2 in Choglamsar. Some basic infrastructure is provided by the Indian army and government such as the tents and some basic medical aid. Apart from that, these people who lost everything got no institutional help so far.

Please help me to collect some money now to be able to provide some basic help where needed most urgently!

Starting from today, there was no money for providing food for the people who lost their homes in Choglamsar. In the name of Tara Trust and Bodhicitta e.V. Germany, I gave money for providing 3 meals for all the 180 people for one week to the groupleader of the camp. Apart from that, at the moment I try to help old people who have no children and support, by buying food and bring it to their homes. During the next days, I will check further possibilities for a useful support of the flood victims.

If you can help, every Euro is useful!

We can provide
food for 1 day (3 meals pf rice and dal) for 180 people for 42 Euro and 50 cent.
a bag of 10 Kg rice for less than 5 Euro,
a bag of 10 Kg of flour for 3 Euro and 40 cent.

If you can give a donation, please do this via the following organizations which send your money directly to me here in Ladakh:

Tara Trust: "Ladakh"


Bodhicitta e.V.
Klaudia Bluecher
Kto. 1225124716
Blz 20050550
Sparkasse HAmburg


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Mahāprajāpatī Gautamī and Wheel-Turning Day

Today, July 15, is the day celebrated by Tibetan Buddhists as the anniversary of the very first teaching by Buddha. The act of teaching the Dharma is known as "turning the wheel," evoking the image of an action that involves some initial effort, but then continues on through a momentum of its own to have real effects long afterwards.

Tenzin Dapel, Tenzin Nangpel and Karma Lodro Drolma spent the day together in Dharamsala as usual, but revised their usual daily schedule to include special prayers in the morning, a double study session, and an additional session to rejoice and dedicate in the evening.

Meanwhile, the day finds me, Damcho, still in Hamburg, wondering how Bhikṣuṇī Jampa Tsedroen (Dr. Carola Roloff) managed to get me to commit to writing a collection of brief summaries of the life stories of some of the more important bhikṣuṇīs over the centuries. The collection will be short, no more than 50 pages, and will be translated into Tibetan and published as a bilingual edition, aimed mainly for circulation among Tibetan communities in India and Nepal. I made an auspicious start on the project today, and given how many other commitments await me once I leave Germany on July 23, I hope to finish before I fly out. As a small sign that indeed the wheel set in motion by the Buddha 2,500 years ago continues to turn productively on its axis, moving my heart and mind here many miles and centuries from the place it all began, I offer my own tiny contribution to the ongoing movement of that wheel... in the form of the first set of lifestories I have summarized, that of the very first Buddhist nun, Mahāprajāpatī Gautamī.

It is taken from accounts in the Mūlasarvāstivādavinaya, the vinaya followed by Tibetan Buddhists today, and therefore by our monastic community, and is based on the text I am currently translated for an upcoming collection of those stories, to be published by Wisdom Publications. Ironically, the classical Tibetan from which I am translating the canonical tales is too difficult and distanced from most Tibetan speakers, so extracting the stories directly is not a viable option, since the aim is to help increase general social awareness of the presence and place of bhikṣuṇīs throughout Buddhist history.

The Life of Mahāprajāpatī Gautamī

Mahāprajāpatī Gautamī occupies a special place in Buddhist history, as both the first bhikṣuṇī and the aunt who raised Lord Buddha from birth. The many stories about Mahāprajāpatī Gautamī in the Buddhist canon also reveal that she held leadership roles throughout her life, and was particularly committed to making the Dharma fully available to women.

The very first time that women in Buddha’s hometown of Kapilavastu were able to attend Buddha’s teaching was made possible through Mahāprajāpatī Gautamī’s efforts. As described in the Vinayavastu (Derge volume Ga), a leading male citizen of the town of Kapilavastu came home enthusiastically proclaiming to his wife how fruitful the Buddha’s teachings are. The wife tells him, “It is true that the arising of a Buddha is fruitful for you, but only for men, not for women.”

She has drawn this conclusion because only men have been attending the Buddha’s teachings in the morning and afternoon both, and according to the social mores of that time, it is highly inappropriate for women to attend the same public assemblies as men. She suggests that if men would go in the morning and let women go in the afternoon, then perhaps Buddha’s presence in the world could truly be fruitful for all. He promises to arrange something but is uncomfortable asking the king for a favor for his wife. Since he knows that the king of Kapilavastu, Buddha’s father Śuddhodana, always listens to the queen’s advice, he decides to hand the matter over to the queen, namely Mahāprajāpatī Gautamī.

Mahāprajāpatī Gautamī explains to the king that women are occupied all morning with household duties, but instructs the king how to proceed, and, the vinaya tells us that “as was the practice of King Śuddhodana, when Mahāprajāpatī Gautamī was giving orders he remained standing, with his body stiff as a rod, and the king did not sit down until Mahāprajāpatī Gautamī had finished giving her orders.” The next day ... click here to continue reading.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Hierarchy and Gender Talk Online

Hamburg University has made the talk Damcho gave on Hierarchy and Gender in Buddhist Monasticism available online. The talk was attended by members of the university's Buddhist studies department, as well as some members of the largest local Dharma community, Tibetische Zentrum, and was followed by a lively discussion period in which the possibility of changing the hierarchical structures for today's world was raised. If you have the interest, you can listen to the talk here or go straight to the mp3 file here.

And thanks very much to Tyler Dewar for asking for an mp3 of the talk. Without his comment, we might not have learned that the talks are all uploaded afterwards.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Hierarchy and Gender in Buddhist Monasticism

In the unlikely event that any of you are in Hamburg on July 13, you are welcome to attend a talk that one of our nuns (Lhundup Damcho) will be giving at Hamburg University, entitled "Hierarchy and Gender in Buddhist Monasticism."

Here is the abstract for the talk:

The nature of Buddhist social organizations has been a topic of great debate and often of grave misunderstanding. Focusing on Buddhist responses to caste, many observers have found cause to celebrate Buddhism as promoting an egalitarian social order. However, even a cursory examination of Buddhist monasticism makes it clear that hierarchy itself is not discarded outright as an ordering principle. This talk draws on narratives from the Mūlasarvāstivādavinaya (MSV) that depict the life of the early Buddhist order, to explore the ways hierarchy is deployed within Buddhist monasticism, as a means of organizing social institutions but also as an integral part of personal training. Since gender is the single most important determinant of location within Buddhist monastic hierarchies—literally dividing Buddhist monastics into two distinct orders—this paper most directly addresses the hierarchical relation between men and women, or monks and nuns.

To that end, this talk will first describe the particular constructions of gender displayed in the MSV’s narratives. What we note is that Buddhist monasticism’s interventions in prevailing constructions of female gender benefited women greatly, yet mainstream constructions repeatedly re-inscribed themselves on Buddhist nuns’ lives and institutions. This talk will then explore moments of parity between the male and female monastic orders, along with the hierarchy that generally prevails between them. Finally, it will argue that the hierarchical relationship between the monks and nuns’ orders depicted in these stories is characterized not by unidirectional dominance of one over the other, but by asymmetrical reciprocity, with each encouraged to offer different forms of care to the other. The talk will conclude with some observations as to the implications of these care-taking responsibilities for the current debates on bhikṣuṇī ordination within the Mūlasarvāstivāda monastic code that is followed by Tibetan Buddhists.

For more details, see this pdf or the department's website.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

2010 Summer Teaching Videos are Now Online

The video recordings of the His Holiness the Karmapa's 2010 teachings on Gampopa's Precious Garland are now available for online viewing.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Live webcast on Gampopa's Precious Garland

Summer Teaching of H.H. The 17th Gyalwang Karmapa

On the following pages you can be with us in these precious teachings. or
Dhagpo Rinpoche’s (Gampopa) Lam-chog Rinchen Trengwa or Precious Garland of the Supreme Path.

Gyuto University Monastery, Dharamsala, India

June 18th, 2010 – June 20th, 2010

Morning Session:
India Time (IST): 6/18-6/20, 10:00 am – 11:30 am
Taipei / Beijing: 6/18-6/20, 12:30 pm – 2:00 pm
Pacific Time (PDT): 6/17-6/19, 9:30 pm – 11:00 pm
Eastern Time (EST): 6/18-6/20, 12:30 am – 2:00 am
Central European Summer Time: 6/18-6/20, 6:30 am - 8.00 am
GMT: 6/18-6/20, 4:30 am – 6:00 am

Afternoon Session:

India time (IST): 6/18-6/20, 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm
Taipei / Beijing: 6/18-6/20, 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm
Pacific Time (PDT): 6/18-6/20, 3:30 am – 5:00 am
Eastern Time: 6/18-6/20, 6:30 am – 8:00 am
Central European Summer Time: 6/18-6/20, 12:30 - 2.00 pm
GMT: 6/18-6/20, 10:30am – 12:00 pm

Live translation in English and Chinese only.

We sincerely hope you'll be able to virtually attend this precious teaching from His Holiness.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

More teachings from the source

Last weekend His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa taught during his usual public audience in Gyuto. His teaching itself was very far from usual, and since it struck each one of us powerfully. we'd like to share a brief summary here. The talk was delivered mainly in Tibetan, with English translation provided by Chag Ngodrup Tsering, while His Holiness partially addressed the gathering directly in English at times as well.

Speaking to a large group of Tibetan and international students, His Holiness began by noting that whether in our Dharma practice or while working at our ordinary activities, there are certain stages through which we progress and levels at which we need to operate. Similarly the Dharma offers various vehicles that accord with practitioner’s predispositions and capacities. At times we do not keep a clear understanding of the meaning of the notion of vehicle (Tibetan: theg pa; Sanskrit: yana) in Buddhism. Actually, the Tibetan term theg pa is derived from the verb teg pa, meaning to lift up. In this sense, Buddhist vehicles correspond to how much weight a person is able to lift, or how great a burden of responsibility they are able to shoulder at any given moment.

Often we hear that the various vehicles were taught to correspond to the levels of disciples’ capacities, and people may feel that it is demeaning to think that they are of lower ability and thus are practicing a lower vehicle. Yet just as it is inappropriate to expect to enter graduate school before we have completed kindergarten, there are stages through which we must pass in our spiritual development as well. It is important, His Holiness said, to be able to acknowledge one’s current stage and to train at that level. In order to be able to carry the responsibility for the happiness and wellbeing of limitless others, we need to be grounded ourselves. Thus planting our own feet firmly on the ground and anchoring ourselves is a crucial step in becoming able to benefit others.

A major issue in this process is our self-grasping, and the attachment and anger that are rooted in it. We often look at our food, clothes and even our own body and think that they are entirely and naturally ours, and do not depend on the presence of anyone else. This is completely mistaken, as there is nothing we have, including our own body, that can exist even for one instant without relying on others.
His Holiness clarified the distinction between working to cut our attachment versus becoming detached. Detachment implies cutting ourselves off from others, keeping them at a distance, and can even refer to a mental illness in which people are pathologically unable to empathize with the suffering of others. As such, detachment reflect a lack of awareness of the interdependence that connects us intimately to all others.

Failing to recognize our interdependence and based on our mistaken self-grasping, we often behave as if we were living in a prison, a prison created by this very self-grasping. Just as only close family members and a very few friends have the right to visit prisoners in jail, so we often give access only to a small circle, and effectively lock the door and shut the rest of the world out. If we are able to let in only a small number of our dear ones, it will be extremely difficult to sincerely generate the vast mind of great compassion and lovingkindness, that is able to encompass all sentient beings equaling space.

Hoping we may be able to provide you details of how to hear teachings 'live' over the net in the new few days...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

More Dharma Nectar Poured through the Web?

This is to let you all know that His Holiness the Karmapa is expected to teach for three days on a beautiful Kadampa-style text by Gampopa, called Precious Garland for the Supreme Path, here in Dharamsala, on June 18, 19 and 20, from 10-11:30am and 4-5:30 pm, Indian tims. There is a sincere wish to webcast it live, and technology permitting, we'll post the link here shortly before the teachings begin. Check back then if you are able to join those teachings remotely!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Spirit's Physical Base

Why do monks and nuns need to have big monasteries and libraries and assembly halls? This is a question raised by some Westerners first encountering Tibetan Buddhism and it is a valid one. Why do people wanting to devote their lives to the life of the spirit waste their time on material concerns? As is made clear in the following letter, written by Thrangu Rinpoche after his home monastery in Tibet was reduced to rubble, the large Buddhist monasteries of Tibet do much more than simply host the bodies of people wishing to dedicate their lives to spiritual practice. They ensure that the insight and wisdom cultivated by exceptional practitioners can be passed from generation to generation. The care for the physical environment of the monastic institution thus forms a part of our caring for others - for the generations to come after us, and is far from distinct from the main aim of Tibetan Buddhist spiritual practice: to develop our own capacities for the purpose of being able to fully and perfectly support others as they develop their own.

Letter fronm Thrangu Rinpoche

Jyekundo in Tibet is a small and sparsely populated area, but it is a place where there are many Tibetan people, and there are also many monasteries. At Thrangu Monastery in Jyekundo, many of the lamas and monks—both those abroad and those on site—have put in tremendous efforts for many years. These efforts have not just been in terms of external things; they have also put effort into spiritual practice. In terms of study and contemplation, a monastic college for the study of texts and philosophy was founded. It gradually grew and there formed a body of students and scholars, who are the foundation of the teachings. A primary school to provide basic education for young students had also been built.

In terms of meditation, a retreat center for the practice of the Six Yogas of Naropa was built where monks engaged in practice. Another retreat center for the practice of the deities who purify the lower realms, Sarvavid Vairochana and Protector Akshobhya, had been restored and retreatants were doing the practices of those deities. A Mahakala retreat center was built during the time of Karmapa Thekchok Dorje (1798-1868) and contained a statue of Mahakala. Here, daily practices had been held for many generations. In addition, there was a large new temple where daily services were held.

Now there has been the terrible earthquake in Jyekundo, Qinghai, and these structures have all been ruined. Additionally, many monks have passed away in the earthquake. This is a great tragedy and a great obstacle. Please think of this and make good prayers on the behalf of all those who passed away. If you gather merit by helping with the relief and restoration, it will be helpful for the world in general and in particular prevent the Dharma from disappearing. It is important that the lineage of teaching and practice not wane: Without a lineage of teaching and practice, the Dharma would perish.

Sometimes people might think that temples and monasteries are not all that important. However, there are both transient sentient beings and the lasting external environment. With sentient beings, there might be many for a while, including great scholars and meditators. Great lamas might appear. There may be many members of the Sangha, but just as water flows downstream, fifty, sixty, seventy, or eighty years later they will all pass away and a new generation will come. When this happens, even if there were a strong lineage of Dharma in the previous generation, we do not really know whether that lineage would continue in the next.

The way that the lineage can continue from generation to generation is to have a good, stable outer environment. When there is the external environment of a monastery with a shrine, retreat center, and monastic college, then due to that place, the Sangha, great lamas, and great meditators might pass away but the continuity of their activity will remain present there.

This is why restoring monasteries is crucial. If the monasteries fall into ruins, the environment declines as well and the inhabitants gradually disappear. Buddhism would not be able to remain long in this world. But if a monastery continues to exist, the great lamas and masters can perform vast activity for the Dharma during their entire lives. A group of students will gather; the lamas will teach the students; and they will practice. Thus gradually the students will spend the first part of their lives studying and practicing the Dharma and the latter part upholding, protecting, and spreading Buddhism. When that generation comes to its end, a new generation can continue that work, upholding, protecting, and spreading the teachings, which can thus remain. This is why temples and the Sangha are so very important.

If sponsors can make contributions and help in either large or small ways, that would be wonderful. We spend this life gathering wealth and possessions, and sometimes this can be meaningful, but sometimes there is the danger that this might become the grounds for conflict and dispute. For that reason, I ask all the faithful benefactors to help in any way you can.

—Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Reaching out with Voice and Mind

We alerted you to the planned live broadcast of teachings by His Holiness the Karmapa, and now would like to share some of the details of what finally did transpire. On May 28, despite some initial snags, thousands of disciples worldwide were able to receive Dharma teachings from His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa live via Internet. The teachings were transmitted directly from His Holiness’ quarters at his temporary residence in Gyuto Monastery, in Dharamsala. According to the Tsurphu astrological system, the teachings took place on Sagadawa Duchen, or Vesak, the most important Buddhist holiday of the year, marking Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and mahaparnivana. In other words, in what one can only hope is a parallel to His Holiness’ trip to Europe, though the webcast did not take place as originally planned, it did happen soon after, allowing the Gyalwang Karmapa to connect with the thousands of students who were so eagerly awaiting his arrival in their midst.

Here's how it happened: By the evening of May 27, the technical team supporting the broadcast had all the network facilities up and running. A full team of translators was on hand to ensure that His Holiness’ teachings would be fully accessible to speakers of English, German, French, Spanish, Polish, Russian and Chinese. The tech team was anticipating only a few thousand separate viewers to be watching at any moment, given the fact that many students in Europe were gathering in their local Dharma centers to view together. However, well before the time the teachings were scheduled to go live, massive numbers of viewers were already attempting to connect with the site, and the overwhelming demand brought the server down. As the scheduled broadcast time drew closer, greater and greater numbers of viewers seeking to connect placed an increasing burden on the servers.

In the end, despite the technical team’s exhaustive efforts, it proved impossible to host all those who wished to view on May 27. As it became clear that the transmission would need to be rescheduled, His Holiness made the decision to postpone until the following day. As he did so, Gyalwang Karmapa pointed out with a smile that, in fact, according to the Tsurphu system of astrological calculation, the Sagadawa holiday fell on May 28 and not May 27. After a quick check on the NASA website, His Holiness confirmed for all present that the exact moment of the full moon would indeed occur on May 28. He thus urged all to look forward to the transmission on the new date with joyful anticipation.

By the following day, May 28, provisions were in place for the greater numbers of viewers. However, heavy rains throughout the evening combined with violent wind, thunder and lightning in Dharamsala cast doubt on the viability of the local network in India. For some time, the local network went down completely. At a certain point, His Holiness left the room and one of the translators commented that perhaps he was going to do puja. The comment rapidly ceased to be a joke when the winds suddenly calmed, the rain ceased entirely and the thunder and lightning also came to an end. As the air outside became still once more, the network came back up, and His Holiness quietly returned to the room.

With some further delays due to other technical issues, all the immense challenges of transmitting teachings live from a monastery in a north Indian village were overcome, and His Holiness began offering the Dharma directly to his students around the world.
Ringu Tulku Rinpoche provided translation into English on the main page, and separate pages were set aside for each of the other 6 languages. In the end, many thousands of people tuned in to receive the Dharma live from His Holiness.

After warmly greeting his listeners, His Holiness noted that he was firmly convinced that all major world religions are making contributions to the wellbeing of the world. A central focus of Buddhism was its teaching on interdependence, which along with compassion are its key points.

His Holiness gave advice for using an understanding of interdependence to find joy in every breath we take. He touched on the moral systems that human beings deploy to accomplish their aims, and noted that when these systems are limited by our self-cherishing, our actions can have harmful effects on others and on the environment. Gyalwang Karmapa spoke of the implications of our intimate connectedness to others, stressing the responsibility this gives us to work to bring about others' happiness and remove their suffering.

Speaking of ways to work with our own suffering, His Holiness urged us to think of experiences of suffering not as something final that we are stuck with, but rather as posing a sort of question to which we have the option of responding in various ways.

His Holiness ended his talk by thanking everyone for exercising such patience in awaiting the transmission. He noted that according to his earlier plan to visit Europe, he would already have been there on that day. Although this did not happen, and his body had not been able to arrive in Europe, Gyalwang Karmapa said he was nevertheless extremely happy that his voice and mind had been able to arrive to join them there.

"Just as the light of this full moon in the sky above is available for all the world to use and enjoy," he said, pointing out to the moon visible in the night sky over Gyuto Monastery, "I trust that the love and affection that we have in our hearts can be used and enjoyed mutually by all of us."

Friday, June 4, 2010

in the face of total disaster - equanimity and wisdom

We share with you the following letter sent to the monks who survived the earthquake that virtually leveled the monastery in Tibet that they had spent so many years rebuilding after its destruction during the Chinese cultural revolution. In this message, its author Thrangu Rinpoche, the abbot of that monastery, which indeed bears his name - Thrangu Monastery - and senior tutor to His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa, offers us a model of wisdom and equanimity in the face of devastating loss.

We have been struck by an earthquake in our homeland and in particular at our Thrangu Monastery. The monastic college, retreat center, temple, and dormitories have all been destroyed. Many monks were killed. Many others have been injured and faced with great hardship. Despite this, when we comfort ourselves, we must remember that no one did anything to harm us, nor did we do anything wrong. Instead this is just the way the world is—it is a natural disaster. You are all sad and upset, but instead of wallowing in grief, pray to the Three Jewels. Make good aspiration prayers. Dedicate your virtue to those who have passed to nirvana or died. Doing this will be very good.

When I first heard the news yesterday, I immediately informed the Gyalwang Karmapa and Tai Situ Rinpoche. Both of them developed bodhichitta, recited prayers, and performed purification rituals. His Eminence Situ Rinpoche also performed the Thousand Offerings and many other virtuous rituals. They recited many prayers of aspiration and offering refuge, and so we have received their words of blessing.

A terrible thing has of course happened to those who passed away, but if they had died in another place, it would have been difficult to get such great masters like the Gyalwang Karmapa and Situ Rinpoche to recite prayers on their behalf. In this great disaster, not only did these masters recite prayers, they also regard them with their eyes of wisdom. This is a great fortune, and so all of you please think of this from a broader perspective.

This is of course a terrible event for us, but as the Bhagavan Buddha taught in the True Dharma, the characteristic of this samsaric world is that the end of birth is death, the end of meeting is parting, the end of gathering is using up, and the end of building is falling down. There is nothing that will not meet one of these four ends, he said. This is just the way this world of ours naturally is. This is nothing that anyone else has done to cause us problems, nor is there anything that someone has done wrong to cause this. It just happened naturally. Thus the most important thing is to go for refuge and make aspiration and dedication prayers; it is important to think about this from a wider perspective and do positive acts.

Although I would like to come there, it is a long way and I am old, so I am not able to come immediately. However, I will do as many prayers and aspirations as I can. The monastery has been destroyed, but in general, sometimes things wax, and sometimes they wane. Since this is just the characteristic of samsara, if we do not let ourselves get discouraged, it is not necessarily bad. We and others just need to do the best we can.

I have told the lamas at my overseas centers that they absolutely must go to see the situation, help recite prayers and aspirations for the deceased, and help care for the sick and injured. I have also asked them to examine the damaged monastery buildings and to do their best to work together with you until the monastery has been rebuilt. This is important, so I would like to ask all of you to cooperate with them in looking at the buildings, meeting with them, and accompanying them. Please make a connection with them. My own thought is that we will do whatever is best for the future. I cannot blame you for being sad and grieving now, but I do ask you to please look from a wider perspective and give yourselves courage.

----- Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche

If you would like to help rebuild, here's how.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Ready and Waiting

We are here and ready to broadcast. Some people are getting error messages and since they want everyone to be able to view, we are delaying until it¨s all resolved. Shouldnt be long.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Same Dharma Time, Same Dharma Channel

About an hour into broadcast time, we were still waiting for the server issues to be resolved. His Holiness had ice-cold Starbucks Frapuccino served to the translator team, told stories and generally maintained a joyful and light atmosphere as the tech team frantically pounded away on their keys. When His Holiness concluded that it was not going to be possible tonight, he gleefully noted that in fact according to the Tsurphu calendrical system, Vesak was tomorrow! Thus the decision was made that the webcast will take place tomorrow May 28, on Tsurphu Vesak, at the same time as had been planned for May 27.

Hope to see you all then!

Stay Tuned!

Quick update from the reception room where His Holiness will be teaching soon. Due to unanticipated volume of people logging in, we are having server issues. The moment they are resolved we will come online, so please stay tuned. It could be as much as half an hour delay.

Friday, May 21, 2010

living the dharma: live - CORRECTION


We've posted a number of blog entries with short summaries of teachings from our lama, His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa. Now you have the opportunity to receive teachings from His Holiness yourself, live via webcast. On May 27--the most important holiday in the Tibetan Buddhist calendar, marking Buddha's birth, enlightenment and passing into parinirvana--His Holiness will be giving a teaching especially for his European students, and these will be webcast live, on this site:

The teachings will be take place at 11:30 pm Indian time, 8pm continental European time, 7pm London time, 2pm New York time, 11 am California time and 4am on May 28 Sydney time. There will also be live translation into several other languages, including German, French, Spanish (translated by Damcho), Polish, Chinese and Russian. Links to the live translation will be placed on the webpage above. English translation will be broadcast on the main page.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

thinking about gender in buddhist monasticism

Sometimes the obvious questions get asked last. Two years into our lives together, here, one such question has come up in our community life, and we are now organizing a workshop to allow us to draw on others experiences as we wonder: If women tend to communicate with each other differently than men do, if women tend to respond differently to hierarchical authority, and if women tend to form different sorts of friendships than men do, then wouldn't communities comprised entirely of women flourish under different organizational structures and different communication practices than have historically been found productive for Buddhist male communities?

The vast preponderance of Buddhist monastic communities to date have been male communities, and therefore obviously employed practices and social structures that were designed by men for men. Yet this simple fact has often been overlooked when it comes to our thinking about and development of nuns’ communities. The planned workshop will ask the simple but overlooked question: Are there ways that Buddhist nuns' communities can draw on the particular strengths and needs we have as women? This workshop will be held at next year's Sakyadhita conference in Singapore. That conference is open to all, and we particularly welcome here your comments and thoughts.

Tibetan Buddhism teaches that women and men have the same essential nature. Both ultimately share the same basic potential for spiritual growth and enlightenment. Yet it also clearly acknowledges that social conditioning has a major impact on the tendencies, needs and strengths that any given person can bring to bear at any given moment. Whenever people live together, the habits, expectation and internalized roles that they have imbibed with their earlier socialization take on great relevance. This is certainly so in the case of gender socialization.

A great deal of sociological research has been done into the ways that men and women in the same society display differences in their friendships, their ways of caring for others and their styles of communication. If we are able to tailor the social practices within our monastic community to reflect the strengths we have as women, this could be of great benefit to the health and stability of our community. For example, as women we might tend to be more comfortable sharing our internal processes in ways that allow us to address more effectively the interpersonal and personal issues that will inevitably arise in any social group. Thinking about such differences gives us an opportunity to support each other in ways that might not readily occur to men to do, and that therefore might not be part of the traditional monastic practices developed in male communities. In order for us to better support each other in our spiritual growth and in our daily lives, we begin by asking what relative strengths we might have and how we might integrate them into our community life.

To read more, continue here for the full discussion of the issues this workshop will explore.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

a pillar is missing from our house

An upcoming issue of Buddhadharma Magazine tackles the issue of women's place in Buddhism, and the following article on our spiritual guide's position on these issues will be featured in an article in that issue. The following is the full version of that article, an abbreviated version of which will be published in Buddhadharma

Last winter, His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa stunned an international audience in Bodhgaya by making an unprecedented declaration of commitment to ordaining women as bhikshunis in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. Responding to a question as to when there would ever be bhikshuni ordination in the Tibetan tradition, His Holiness leaned forward and spoke directly in English. “I will do it,” he said. As enthusiastic applause broke out across the large assembly hall, Gyalwang Karmapa cautioned against expecting quick results. “Be patient,” he said. “Be patient.”

“As to when it will begin, and when there will be bhikshuni ordination,” His Holiness stated, during his annual winter teachings at Tergar Monastery in Bodhgaya last December. “I cannot say when exactly the right time will be. But I am making every effort, with a sincere motivation, and I believe there is great hope. So please rest easy. The bhikshuni vows that lead to liberation and enlightenment are extremely important, and are in a sense the root of the Buddha’s Dharma. Therefore I do not believe it is wise to act hastily. So please relax, and please be patient.”

Despite the warning that full ordination was not imminent, Gyalwang Karmapa’s statement in Bodhgaya was nevertheless ground-breaking, for it constitutes the first time that any spiritual leader in Tibetan Buddhism has publicly committed to making bhikshuni ordination available. His Holiness’ declaration marks the culmination of intensive research into the feasibility of establishing full ordination for women according to the monastic code that regulates Tibetan Buddhism. More broadly, it reflects Gyalwang Karmapa’s intense commitment to women’s issue and to nuns in particular.

Article by Dharmadattā Nuns' Community member Lhundup Damcho, originally written for publication in German in Dharma-Nektar Magazine.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

the earth quakes

The government that rules over us and the earth that lies beneath our feet are two forces we ordinarily count on to lend our lives stability and security. After the political turmoil of recent years, to have the earth churn in Tibet as well is asking more than most hearts can bear. Yet this is precisely what happened on April 14th, in eastern Tibet, at 5:30 am, an hour when the monks gather in the assembly hall pictured here to pray for peace and to set their minds on a firm course of virtue for the day ahead.

The home monastery of Thrangu Rinpoche--the abbot who granted our newest nun, Karma Lodro Drolma, her vows, was utterly demolished in this 6.9 earthquake that devastated eastern Tibet two weeks ago, while we ourselves were in retreat conditions here in India. Thrangu Monastery had been rebuilt with great effort and care after it had been leveled during the Cultural Revolution, and is once again reduced to piles of stone and timber. This time, not just the monastery's most precious statues and scriptures, but also the lives of 23 of the monastery's monks were laid to waste--lives that themselves had been dedicated to the service and well-being of the world.

The monks who had been staying apart in strict isolation for the three-year meditation retreat that is traditional in this lineage broke the bounds of their retreat to offer their own service to the survivors as well as the deceased. The following video news report, while not the most sophisticated in its presentation, is precious for its images of the monks of Thrangu Monastery, comforting one another, and engaging in sleepless prayers for those of their brethren no longer there to be comforted. One monk is first pictured, his nose staunched for nosebleeds as he helps another injured monk hobble along, and later engaging in intensive prayer for the deceased. Skip ahead if you like and just watch the last 80 seconds, from about minute 1:20.

Updates on the state of affairs in Thrangu Monastery can be found here.

His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa sent messages to his sangha and to this disciples, guiding us in our response, and we share them with you here:

As you know, a devastating earthquake recently struck the area of Yushu in Tso-ngön [Qinghai Province]. The earthquake took the lives of tens of thousands of humans and animals and left many survivors with serious injuries and intense physical and mental trauma. On top of all of this, Thrangu Monastery saw the destruction of its temple and its precious contents, as well as the deaths of several members of the monastic community. In short, the region and its inhabitants have undergone unbearable loss. Please think of both the survivors and the deceased with love and fondness. I humbly request you to thoroughly pray for them and dedicate your virtues to them with a heart of great compassion.

and from an earlier letter:

When I heard this tragic news, I was very saddened at the loss, and began immediately to offer prayers for those who have been affected by this incident, both those who have lost their lives and the survivors. May those who have died be freed from the bardo state of terror and suffering of such an unexpected death, and be reborn in the pure lands or a higher realm. May the survivors who have undergone the suffering of loss of relatives and friends and the trauma of losing their homes be comforted and find relief. May they receive the emergency help they need as soon as possible, and be able to rebuild their lives. I will pray ceaselessly for this.

In addition, I would ask everyone to contribute, directly or indirectly, to the relief work. I have instructed the Karmapa Foundation in America to donate $200,000 for immediate aid for the victims of this disaster and to help with the task of rebuilding. I have called on all Buddhists and compassionate people to pray sincerely for the victims of this earthquake, and to do their best, according to each one’s capacity, to become involved or sponsor different kinds of relief activity so that it will be effective.

Death and impermanence is an integral part of life. When this kind of disaster strikes, may the power of the natural goodness within all of us provide physical and mental comfort and the courage to start anew.

When you are happy, dedicate that happiness to all beings,
so that happiness may pervade the sky.
When you suffer, you are bearing the suffering of all beings.
May the ocean of suffering become dry completely.

We join our voices in asking you to think with love of those who were killed and those who bear the particular burden of surviving such trauma. For those who are moved to contribute towards creating a monastery home for the surviving monks for the second time in the past few decades:

From the website cited above:

The people and the monastery are in great need of help. Many are seriously injured, and all are homeless in the high altitude’s cold weather. Donating now will give them hope and make a big difference in their lives. The quickest way to help Thrangu Monastery is to donate directly to Lodro Nyima Rinpoche’s (Abbot of Thrangu Monastery) foundation account in Hong Kong. He can then withdraw funds directly from inside the disaster area. In particular, they desperately need rice and flour to feed the survivors. Here’s the wire transfer info:

Bank Name: The Bank of East Asia, Limited
Branch: Queen’s Road Central Branch
Account Name: Lodroe Nyima Charity Foundation Limited
Account No.: 015-187-25-00453-6
SWIFT Code: BEASHKHHBranch telephone No.: +852 2805-2206
Branch Address: Shop A-C, G/F. Wah Ying Cheong Central Building, 158-164 Queen’s Road Central, Hong Kong.

You can also make direct, tax-deductible donations to the efforts at Thrangu Monastery by going to the following websites:

The Thrangu Earthquake Fund

Organized by Thrangu House, Oxford, U.K.
Accepts payment by cheque, bank draft, PayPal, and major credit cards.

Himalayan Children’s Fund

A US-based charity that supports Thrangu Monastery in Tibet as well as Thrangu Monastery in Nepal and related projects. Accepts online donations.

The Vajra Vidya Foundation

A registered Canadian Charity for the Very Venerable Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche’s projects. Accepts online donations.

Thrangu Dharma Society Petaling Jaya (Malaysia)

Accepts donation by check or bank draft. See their website for details.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Thousands of Prior Steps

His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa gave a beautiful but very brief talk in Tibetan in Gyuto recently to an audience that included many Tibetan-speaking pilgrims from the Himalayan regions as well as Tibetans newly arrived from Tibet, their cheeks burnt from the weeks under the sun's violent glare as they crossed the Himalayan peaks on foot to reach India. There was no English translation, sadly, and His Holiness explained to us English speakers that these are things he always says, so there would be no particular need to translate them for us. But though most of us in this community have heard most of the public talks His Holiness has given in the last few years, and there were new and fresh things for us there. The summary below is limited to the first half of what was perhaps a 10-minute talk! It is offered here with the wish that it may serve as a cause of greater satisfaction and joy in your life...

His Holiness began by observing that it is clear that we all have a longing for happiness, and want peace and wellbeing in our lives. We all want this, and yet we are not always so clear how to get it, how to live our lives in such a way that happiness will come about, or even quite where it comes from. We may at times look to external objects or goods to bring us happiness, and while the Dharma tells us that happiness comes from within and not from without, we can also see for ourselves that people with great wealth are not necessarily people with great happiness. In fact, their lives are often full of anxieties and unhappiness. So obviously happiness does not lie outside. On the contrary, it comes form within the mind of each of us, and each of us must in fact bring that happiness about for ourselves. In this context, the practice of contentment that is discussed in Buddhist texts has a great role to play. Cultivating a sense of satisfaction with what we have is possible, and can bring about a general inner climate of great peace and happiness within us.

As an example, if we consider just the fact that we are breathing, we can see that in fact, not only one factor is required just for us to be able to sit here and breathe, but many things had to happen upstream, as it were, before all that is necessary for us to take a breathe. Many trees had to grow, the atmosphere had to fill with oxygen and many other factors had to come together precisely as needed. For the conditions to come to together so that we can breathe, many prior steps had to happen - thousands of prior steps, in fact, if we analyze carefully. This is actually amazing, if we think about it. And this is not only the case with one single breath. We are breathing 24 hours a day, and so this situation truly can cause us great amazement and delight.

If we consider anything else we have in life in this way, reflecting how amazing it is that the conditions came together for us to have it, and also training ourselves to recognize the great value of whatever we do have, this can enhance our sense of satisfaction and joy in our lives. We can make ourselves happy, and more and more happy, through this recognition.

When problems or difficult situations arise in our lives, as they often do, we can put our energy into thinking how terrible they are and in that way allow our suffering to increase, as our mind focuses on what is negative. Or rather than focus on the inadequacies or unsatisfactoriness of a situation, we can move our minds in a positive direction, by contemplating how tremendously valuable and amazing it is for us to have whatever positive things we do have.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

HH Karmapa's Statement on Postponed Trip to Europe

Yesterday (April 7) His Holiness issued the following statement regarding his postponed trip to Europe:

I know that the Co-ordinator of Karmapa in Europe 2010, has already notified everyone that my proposed visit has had to be cancelled for reasons beyond my control. I was very much looking forward to meeting with my European students, visiting your dharma centres, giving teachings, and having the opportunity to gain first-hand experience and insight into the great variety of European life and culture.

I was wholeheartedly preparing for this visit so you will understand that I too was sad and disappointed when I learned that I would not be able to come this time. However, I hope that this is merely a temporary setback and that I will definitely be able to visit Europe in the near future.

It remains for me to express my gratitude to Ringu Tulku and all of you in the different countries and dharma centres who have worked so hard to prepare for the visit. Please be assured that your work has not been in vain or wasted. By these efforts, you have planted a powerful seed and when it reaches fruition my intention to come to Europe will be fulfilled.

Meanwhile, my aspiration and vision remain firm. I am determined to follow in the footsteps of the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa, renewing connections with long-standing students and forging a closer relationship with all my European friends, past, present and future.

17th Gyalwang Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje,
Gyuto Tantric University,
Himachal Pradesh,

Sunday, April 4, 2010

HH Karmapa's Europe trip canceled

Emails have begun flooding in to us, asking with incredulity whether the news people are hearing can possibly be true that the Indian government did not approve His Holiness the 17th Karmapa's application for permission to travel to Europe for his much-awaited visit to his Dharma centers there.

Unfortunately, it is really true. His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje will not be going to Europe this June (and so of course neither will we). Here is the letter from Ringu Tulku announcing this sad turn of events.

Despite all the hopes that had been raised, and the joyful anticipation that is now suddenly dashed, His Holiness is here, receiving people with his usual tranquil presence and and that undercurrent of intensely powerful joy that is one of his trademark qualities. Watching His Holiness direct the fullness of his attention to each person coming before him, you would never think that he had actually heard this devastating news.

In terms of the possibility of truly remaining joyful under adverse conditions, in terms of the possibility to train our minds to maintain equanimity and stay focused on what we can do for others, and in terms of not grasping onto anything as real and inherently existent, watching His Holiness' response to this setback is a very powerful and very inspiring teaching.

Although the trip is not happening now, still much virtue has been created merely in the process of planning and organizing. During our own small efforts to prepare to participate in the tour, we made many wholesome connections with people in Europe, and created new Dharma friendships along the way. That is surely true for many others hoping to hear His Holiness' teachings--and certainly much more the case for all those who have been working with such sincere motivations to lay the groundwork for His Holiness' visit in June. We will not meet our new friends in Europe this time around... but we know that the connections made in the course of attempting to create goodness in the world are never lost, and are never finally anything but a cause of joy. From this, we take heart, as we prepare to wait for the moment when the conditions come together so that the seeds of this goodness now planted can yield what will surely be a bountiful harvest in future.

In the meantime, efforts are underway to ascertain the reasons for the denial of travel permission, and as that becomes clear, we may gain a fuller understanding of what went wrong and how it might be corrected next time. His Holiness needs this permission to travel from his temporary residence here in northern India, due to his particular status as a refugee and as a prominent leader of the Tibetan people, and it is granted only at the discretion of the Indian governmental agency in charge of such matters. We will share what we can as it becomes clearer.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Our Community Gets a Name: Dharmadattā Nuns’ Community

Last year, we requested His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa to name our community. The giving of names is considered in Buddhist (and many other) contexts to be a potent act in which important aspects of a person (or institution’s) identity is articulated. When we become monastics we receive new names, given to us by the abbot who confers the vows that make us monastics. Most Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and Dharma centers receive their names from their spiritual guides, an acknowledgment of the formative role of that guide in shaping the direction and identity of that institution.

When we asked His Holiness the Karmapa to name our community, he thought briefly, and then told us to pick the name of one of the bhikshunis who were direct disciples of Buddha, and give her Sanskrit name to our community. His Holiness knew well that Damchö had been working on the Sanskrit and Tibetan life stories of these nuns for her dissertation, and could easily surmise that anecdotes from their life stories form part of the informal fabric of our lives together. His Holiness also knew that although none of us have yet received bhikshuni ordination, we all harbor strong aspirations to do so in the future, aspirations that have been nurtured by reading the lives of the very first bhikshunis.

However, wanting the auspicious connection of having a name chosen by His Holiness, we suggested that we might come up with a short list of possible names and His Holiness could then select from among them, to which he agreed.

As it turns out, by the time we had a list ready, all four of us had a clear favorite—a nun who overcame great obstacles to receive her bhikshuni ordination and who went on to become a great teacher of the Dharma and leader within the nuns’ order. This courageous young woman not only managed to give a Dharma teaching that completely pacified her would-be in-laws, who had surrounded the house she was staying in to prevent her from going forth into the nuns’ order. When she later taught the Dharma to a troop of soldiers, they became pacifists, and followed her guidance as their lama or virtuous friend (kalyāṇamitrā). This nun’s name was Bhikshuni Dharmadattā and she inspired us deeply with her commitment to the monastic path, and her commitment to the Dharma and to caring for others by means of Dharma.

At this point, although we all knew which name we’d like, our agreement still stood: We had asked His Holiness to chose one from a list, so Damchö duly took a list to His Holiness, who glanced quickly at the options and simply pointed to the name: Dharmadattā.

Thus our community’s name was born, in much the same way our community itself has evolved—with us nuns first bringing our aspirations to His Holiness, seeking from him the guidance that lamas usually give their disciples, and with His Holiness then urging us to take responsibility for pursuing those aspiration ourselves, even as he agrees to share in that task with us. And in the end, we have found, our vision and aspirations for ourselves and Gyalwang Karmapa’s vision for us continue in perfect harmony.

(A full translation of the story of Dharmadattā’s life will be published, along with the stories of other nuns by Wisdom Publications, and an advance draft will appear on our website in the next few weeks.)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

View Teachings in Sarnath

While Dapel, Nangpel and Drolma were studying joyfully and with great determination in Nepal, Damcho remained in India engaged in various Dharma activities. Among these was requesting and organizing four days of teachings in Sarnath by His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa. For four consecutive evenings, from February 6th through 9th, to a widely diverse group of about 100 students from 30 different countries, HH offered teachings on the Third Karmapa Rangjung Dorje's Mahamudra Aspiration that were both lucid and deep. His Holiness taught in Tibetan, followed by a translation into English, and then His Holiness translated himself into Chinese!

We produced a book with the Tibetan, English and Chinese of the text His Holiness taught on, which might be useful to follow as you listen to the teachings. You can download by right-clicking here, and many thanks to friend and dear Dharma sister Pema (Claire Peng) for her companionship and all her help getting the Chinese text right!

View online from here, and you can also download each of the four day's teachings by right-clicking on the links below, should you prefer. The video files are huge so they are best downloaded on a very high bandwidth connection. Audio might be more manageable for those downloading, for example, from India!

Day One
Right click here to download gigantic (as in more than 1 GIGantic) video file
Right click to download audio file

Day Two
Right click here to download enormous video file
Right click to download audio file

Day Three
Right click here to download massive video file
Right click to download audio file

Day Four
Right click to download huge video file here
Right click to download audio file

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Coming to Europe

Our lama is planning an extended visit to Europe in June... and so are we! Although his centers in Europe have been inviting him for years, due to the complexities of his refugee status in India, the international repercussions of his 2000 escape from Chinese-controlled Tibet and the considerable obstacles from a rival claimant to the name Karmapa, until now he has never received the needed travel permissions to accept those invitations. Thus, if permission is granted this time as hoped, this will be His Holiness the Karmapa's first ever visit to his centers across Europe, and he has suggested it would be good for us also to try to join him there, as a community.

Along with sharing the greatly joyful experience of reuniting with so many of his disciples at once, receiving teaching after teaching from this great lama, we see this as an important opportunity for us to connect with the broader European community of Buddhists, curious non-Buddhists, and the disciples of His Holiness' own mandala. If you live in Europe and are interested in meeting the nuns of our community, we'd welcome the chance to do so while there. Please leave a comment below, or email us at tenzin.dapel followed by the @ sign and then

His Holiness is visiting 9 countries in about five weeks, and we won't be able to keep up that pace, for logistical -- and mainly funding -- reasons. Thus we will be unable to attend the events in all places, but thanks to the generosity of friends and Dharma centers in Germany, Poland, Zurich and the UK, we do expect to be able to share in the activities planned for those places. If you live in London or Paris, where His Holiness will be giving several days of teachings each, we are still looking for someone to host us in those cities and would welcome to hear from you. If you happen to be in or near any of the venues for the abundance of teachings, empowerments and other joyful activities that are scheduled throughout the month of June, we hope to see you there.

For more details about this tour, this site provides the schedule and other details.

After the virtual festival of Dharma with His Holiness the Karmapa, we will settle down in one spot for two weeks of commentary on our monastic vows. Damcho will be translating this second series of teachings by Geshe Tenphel in Italy, and the rest of us will take this very rare opportunity to hear sustained explanations of the vows of fully ordained monks in our lineage. These vinaya teachings are open only to monastics, and primarily to those who attended the first series in 2007. Monastics who missed the first series may still join, if they first listen to the recordings or read the transcripts of the first set of teachings. Those interested may contact Istituto Lama Tzong Khapa in Pomaia, Italy.