H.H. the Dalai Lama Birthday Celebration Speech
As millions of fellow human beings celebrate His Holiness 14th Dalai Lama’s magnificent activities and qualities as a world spiritual leader, wishing him good health and a long, happy life on the occasion of his 80th birthday, I would like to listen to His Holiness speak for himself as a Buddhist teacher. These short quotes from his book The Heart of Compassion written in 1997 capture the essence of the Bodhisattva view, which he embodies with the strength of a million suns.
His Holiness Dalai Lama writes, “All wandering beings desire happiness and do not want suffering. Therefore both I and others must engage in those means which give rise to happiness and do not bring suffering. Whatever we may do, there is no more perfect and complete means of establishing the causes of happiness and the elimination of suffering and harm than practicing the dharma.” On His Holiness’s 80th birthday, we must remember his pure and perfect commitment and motivation to practice the dharma until the enlightenment of all sentient beings is attained.
His Holiness Dalai Lama writes, “To be good followers of the Buddha, it is essential that we practice compassion and honesty.” He writes, “Showing kindness to others, we can learn to be less selfish; sharing the sufferings of others, we develop more concern for the welfare of all living beings. This is the basic teaching. To implement this teaching, we practice deep meditation and cultivate wisdom.”
Bodhisattva’s like His Holiness Dalai Lama understand that in suffering there is no distinction between the perpetrator of a harmful, violent act and his victim. Although our emotions by default immediately identify with the suffering of the victim, forgetting the suffering of the perpetrator, the bodhisattva knows to hold all suffering as originating in ignorance.
His Holiness Dalai Lama through great mindfulness and wisdom understands in every fiber of his being the transformative power of this wish: May the suffering of all sentient beings ripen in my mind stream. For in the enlightened mind all defilements and obscurations without exception are utterly pacified and purified.
His Holiness Dalai Lama is our faithful and untiring spiritual guide, lighting the way out of ignorance into the brilliant light of Buddhahood. His value to our spiritual development is immeasurable. Thank you your holiness for naturally and joyfully embodying the essential compassion and wisdom of Lord Buddha.
H.E. Khöndung Asanga Vajra Rinpoche’s Hong Kong Teachings 2015
By Laura Ellis
His Eminence Khöndung Asanga Vajra Rinpoche was invited by students of the Mahasiddhi Yoga Centre and the Sakya Tsechen Phuntsog Choling centre to give teachings during the holy month of Saka-Dawa. He was accompanied by his grandmother, H.E. Dagmo Kusho la and four monks. Throughout the ten day trip, H.E. Asanga Rinpoche and entourage kept a full teaching schedule and visited several of Hong Kong’s Buddhist temples, centres and holy places of worship. H.E. Dagmo Kusho la reported that this was the first time Asanga Rinpoche had traveled to Hong Kong on his own and that the teachings went very well. She was happy to assist Asanga Rinpoche and introduce her grandson to many of her own students as well as other practitioners of the Buddha Dharma. She was a great help with the aid of her students in facilitating the teaching schedule. Dagmo Kusho la commented how grateful they were to the students in Hong Kong for their wonderful hospitality, and especially to the administrators of the two centers for making the trip so easy and enjoyable.
People came from all over Asia to receive teachings from Khöndung Asanga Rinpoche. They traveled from mainland China, Vietnam, Taiwan, Thailand, and even Tibet! H.E. Asanga Rinpoche bestowed the following teachings and blessings on this teaching trip: VajraKilaya, Medicine Buddha, Refuge Vows, Tsok Offering, Hevajra blessing, and long life blessings. On SakaDawa Day, Asanga Rinpoche, Dagmo Kusho la, monks and followers performed a live animal release puja and ceremony. Around 40,000 fish were purchased from the marketplace and given a second chance at life by being released back into the sea with Asanga Rinpoche’s blessing!
The group also visited two famous Hong Kong Buddhist temples: Tsz Shan Monastery and Big Buddha Temple. H.E. Khöndung Asanga Rinpoche was invited by the Tsz Shan Monastery to consecrate a newly constructed Kuan Yin statue that is 5 stories high! The statue contains the holy relics of Shakyamuni Buddha that were donated to the temple by the King of Thailand.
All in all, the teaching tour was very successful on many levels. Even though Asanga Rinpoche just turned 16 years old on May 1st, many of those who met him commented on how impressed they were with Asanga Rinpoche’s teachings and presence for someone so young yet so mature and accomplished.
Long live Khöndung Asanga Rinpoche! May the precious Sakya teachings spread and increase for benefit and happiness of all sentient beings!
Interview with H.E. Sakya Dhungsey Avikrita Vajra Rinpoche
During His Eminence Avikrita Rinpoche’s trip to Seattle in the winter of 2015 I had the honor of visiting with him in his parent’s home for a brief and informal interview. His Eminence was very patient and generous with his time and we enjoyed the translation help of his English tutor Ngawang Khyentse.
Q: The members of the Sakya Monastery here in Seattle have incredible access to sacred transmissions, teachings and initiations given both by our generous Sangha and visiting lamas. No one wants to miss these opportunities to take part in these blessings but we also want to keep the samaya or commitments to do the practice that accompany these opportunities. However, being lay practitioners it can begin to feel a bit daunting to keep up with all of these practices, do you have any advice regarding this dilemma?
A: People have different ways that they want to relate to the dharma, that is why the Buddha gave a huge range of teachings so that we can each relate to the dharma in a way that actually suits us or resonates with us. Even if you receive a lot of initiations or loongs, some of them you might feel you want to relate to and practice it, some you might not. It depends on the person himself or herself whatever practice he or she wants to.
Focusing on that, they can come to the Monastery (because just reading is not enough) and have dharma discussions with learned, accomplished lamas, nuns, monks or any of the teachers that will help us improve our practices. It depends on each person and each practice – that is why we have different deities to relate to.
Q: So I have heard some lamas say that you shouldn’t take an initiation if you are not going to do the practice.?
A: It is also important to consider the person from whom you are receiving the teaching or loong—if you want them to be your guru or not, even if you receive initiations from a guru you can relate to—no matter how many initiations you receive you can choose which practice you want to practice more—you are receiving a blessing to be able to do the practice.
For me, I receive countless initiations, and I can’t practice all of them—there are thousands and thousands of them however. Major empowerments are different—there are certain empowerments that you need to commit to before receiving an initiation—you are told beforehand, “If you want to receive the empowerment you have to do the practice.” For those initiations it is important to continue the everyday practice. But you need to know about the practice commitments before receiving an empowerment like this. However, for subsequent authorizations like the one I gave last Sunday (the Lord of the Lotus Dance) they are not major empowerments so each person has the choice of whether they want to practice this or not.
You see, the samaya, the commitment, like I explained last Sunday, was about Bodhichitta. That was the samaya—to cultivate it as much as possible. That is the only commitment you need, the only practice you need. Subsequent authorizations are a blessing because you receive the authorization in the future to practice the sadhana.
Q: How do we help our children cultivate non attachment in a culture that really celebrates and pairs happiness with material possession?
A: Actually I am going to talk about that on Sunday (referring to an upcoming Dharma talk with teens). Well basically, from my experience, enforcing is not the tool for young people. In Tibetan families we are born with it and grow up with it (the Buddha Dharma) because of the influence of our parents and the monks—instead of searching for the methods (laughing appreciatively) they came to us. For other people from other countries and so on, (direction) comes from the influences, the people around you—but forcing and telling them “should” and “shouldn’t” those are words they do not want to hear.
Influences can come from hearing the teachings, hearing the stories of the Buddha just so they get used to the ideas and how to implement those ideas, and slowly on their own they might get into it—but it is their choice if they want to practice it or not. Start by teaching them to deal with their problems and issues through meditation—not sophisticated meditations but just cultivating awareness generally. The most important two things I find are mindfulness and vigilance. Becoming aware of your own feelings inside, a lot of people are so stuck up in their heads and disassociated with what they are feeling.
For young people, I usually recommend to follow the breath—that is really, really helpful. Also, meditating on something they feel happy about like the Buddha or feeling good about themselves as well as developing awareness (he clarifies that he means this as advice for teenagers—this has been his experience of what works best). In addition it is important to cultivate loving compassion for ourselves before spreading that to other sentient beings.
Q: Most parents I know feel an incredible bond with their children, it is indescribable in some ways, we can’t imagine harm coming to them or even life without them, at the same time in Buddhism we are taught not to be attached to people and things in this impermanent existence so how do we distinguish between love and attachment when it comes to our children and other people that we care for.
A: (Ngawang Khyentse translates in Tibetan to help clarify) Well you see, the thing for Mahayana practitioners is that attachment is when you have a part on one side and a part on the other side. Loving your own loved ones but for enemies and so on you have no love for them at all. That is why we practiced equanimity for all sentient beings so we develop a love that is beyond worldly love.
Mahayana practitioners consider that all sentient beings have been our mothers and loved ones throughout beginning less time, so with that in mind, we can develop the same love we have for our children and loved ones in this life and then naturally move beyond attachment. So if you think of it that way and we have that kind of love then it’s not considered an afflicted emotion like attachment.
There are actually a lot of questions about that—the differentiation of those two things. Of course it is hard, but that is why we meditate and are practicing daily trying to generate that kind of love as much as possible. If you have a side (us/them) then you have attachment and that is the wrong love.
Q: If you could share with other people one fundamental aspect, or element of your incredible monastic education what would it be? Assisting me in clarifying my question Ngawang Khyentse shares that some aspects of His Eminence’s education would be hard to translate to a larger audience but suggests that I might be asking about a key value within his education that would be important to the world? I agree and H.E. Avikrita Rinpoche is able to then answer.
A: One of my first central experiences as a child that stood out among so many important teachings and that I remember very clearly was when my maternal grandfather told me that Nargarjuna said, “We don’t have to train in a huge number of things, we can accomplish our goals by just focusing on one thing…compassion or loving kindness.” That was really encouraging for me, it really helped me and gave me a huge step forward. Because by focusing on loving kindness and compassion, that energy spreads to other practices. That was really so very helpful for me. I think that is helpful for anyone because a lot of people struggle to practice a lot or things but this one thing is crucial. It is the foundation really for all of your practices.
Sakya Dhungseys Visit Seattle
His Eminence Khondung Avikrita Vajra Rinpoche arrived in Seattle on January 30th 2015 followed five days later by his brother; His Eminence Khondung Abhaya Vajra Rinpoche. The Dhungseys are the grandsons of H.H. Jigdal Dachen Sakya and H.E. Dagmo Kusho and the sons of H.E. Zaya Vajra Sakya Rinpoche and Dagmo Lhanze Youden.
The Dhungseys’ arrival in Seattle in the middle of winter is becoming a joyous tradition for the members of the Sakya Monastery of Tibetan Buddhism. During these visits we are treated not only to the presence of the next generation of the unbroken Khon lineage but also to their wisdom and blessings in the form of teachings and transmissions.
H.E. Abhaya Rinpoche came to Seattle after a month-long retreat which followed his regular intensive studies at the Dzongsar Institute in Bir, India. While in Seattle, he shared his presence and prayers at every opportunity at the Sakya Monastery and continued his studies even though on break. His Eminence continues to develop his interest in writing and we look forward to reading his insights into the Buddha Dharma as he begins to publish his work in future years.
On February 1st, H.E. Avikrita Rinpoche bestowed the “loong” (a reading transmission for prayers to Virupa and the Five Founding Lamas of the Sakya Tradition. H.E. Avikrita reminded the recipients though, that to truly activate such a blessing requires engaging in one’s practice. After the loong, each of those present received a gift from His Eminence of a book of prayers he compiled titled Prayers to Swiftly Behold the Faces of the Gurus.
On February 8th H.E. Avikrita Rinpoche bestowed the uncommon Red Chenrezi Initiation, Lord of the Lotus Dance. With the blessing of His Holiness Sakya Trizin Rinpoche, this initiation was given in English so as to help western students develop a clearer understanding of the initiation. His Eminence explained that Chenrezi is like the patron saint to all Tibetans and embodies the perfection of universal compassion that is not limited by discrimination or boundaries. He clarified that the Lord of the Lotus Dance is a real Buddha, not an idea but a direct realization. Because of this, by doing this practice, we cultivate benefits not only for ourselves but for all beings—something desperately needed in this world.
During the teachings which preceded the initiation, H.E. Avikrita Rinpoche emphasized the importance of non-attachment which is commonly translated to mean renunciation in the west—a word he feels falls short of its intended idea. His Eminence explains that the meaning of non-attachment in Tibetan indicates something you can trust and rise into—leaving one with a more positive sense of the concept. He spent time expanding on this idea and its ability to remedy the growing problems brought about by the unchecked idolization of instant gratification.
The antidote, His Eminence explained, is non attachment that is cultivated by the contemplation of the Buddha’s teachings: teachings which inspire us to take responsibility for our lives and actions, teachings that help us see beyond what we experience through our 6 senses, teachings that allow us to encourage the letting go not only within the mind, but within the world. For although we have this precious human life, he explains that, “Life without the Dharma is like winning the lottery but leaving the ticket in ones pocket to be destroyed in the laundry.”
On February 15th, after the Bon Voyage Mandala Offering given in honor of H.E. Avikrita Rinpoche, His Eminence, gave a refuge ceremony to all those interested. While preparing the participants for the refuge ceremony His Eminence gave brief instructions on how to foster growth on the Buddha Dharma Path. He stressed the importance of listening properly, of practicing the Dharma and “conducting oneself towards the Dharma” at every opportunity. He advised those present to use everything within their means toward developing themselves as practitioners. For example, when we wash something, we imagine scrubbing away our obscurations, when we are driving we imagine we are traveling towards the Buddha. In closing, he reminded those in attendance of the importance of keeping the vows taken that day.
On February 19th, H.H. Jigdal Dagchen Sakya Rinpoche was joined by H.E. Avikrita Rinpoche and H.E. Abhaya Rinpoche and their family, all ordained Sangha, the Tibetan Community and Members of the Sakya Monastery for the Celebration of Losar, the Tibetan Year of the Wood Ewe. After many prayers were recited H.E. Avikrita Rinpoche gave an inspirational speech about using the start of a new year as a time to review one’s life and to renew one’s motivation and efforts towards realizing the Buddha Dharma Path. He highlighted the fact that no spiritual life can be separate from daily human life—rather it has to be woven into the fabric of everyday existence.
His Eminence also explained why cultivating the right mindset, motivation and execution of one’s intentions is so important to the world. He said that human rights and equality for all are inherently related to the attainment of enlightenment. He stressed that the Dharma is so much more than an adjunct stress reducer; it has so much potential—potential to awaken something within one’s self that can be of real value to the world. He also gave heartfelt thanks to all of the great masters and practitioners who, with great diligence, sacrifice, and herculean efforts kept the teachings alive in the face of great adversities that began in the last century. Because of them, he explained, the teachings, the Precious Jewel will, “not just be another exotic cultural side note archived in the annuals of history but rather a thriving force to bring about benefit to all sentient beings”. The day after the Losar celebrations, H.E. Avikrita Rinpoche left Seattle to return to his studies at the Dzongsar Institute in Bir, India.
On Sunday February 22nd, members of the Sakya Family and Sakya Monastery offered H.E. Abhaya Rinpoche a Bon Voyage Mandala Offering. After enjoying a few final days with his loved ones, he, like his brother, returned to his studies in Bir, India. We wish the Dhungseys all the best in their educational endeavors and we look forward to next winter when they will once again brighten our short winter days with their luminous presence.
We are forever grateful to H.H. Jigdal Dachen Sakya for his tireless efforts to help the Buddhist doctrine prosper in this land so far from where he was born. We are grateful for his perfected example of altruism, dedication, and wisdom which he has shared with so many and which now lives on in his grandchildren who we hope will also motivate and inspire generations to come. For all of those who made the Dhungseys’ visit possible, and for H.E. Avikrita Rinpoche’s and H.E. Abhaya Rinpoche’s own generosity of spirit and depth of wisdom and compassion we are grateful. May our gratitude blossom into clear intention and perseverance so that we might come to embody all of the blessings we receive because of the blessed Khon Lineage.
Tulku Ogyan Kyab Begins his Studies in India
By Laura Ellis
In November 2014 four year old Tulku Ogyan Kyab began his studies at the Sakya Phuntsok Phodrang in New Delhi. Born in the Year of the Iron Tiger (2010) in Seattle, Tulkula was recognized by His Holiness Jigdal Dagchen Sakya Rinpoche as the reincarnation of Khyentse Norbu Rinpoche. Tulkula is the fourth reincarnation of Khyentse Norbu Rinpoche of Yaten Gompa, an 800 year old Sakya monastery located in Minyak, Kham, East Tibet. There are over 200 monks in residence at Yaten Monastery.
Tulku Ogyan’s parents are both Buddhists and are devoted students of H.H. Dagchen Rinpoche. Tulkula’s father, Tsering Lama, is Tibetan. His family, most of whom reside in Minyak, have been devotees of the Sakya sect of Tibetan Buddhism for hundreds of years. In that time there have been several great masters that were born into the family. Tulkula’s mother, Laura Ellis, received the Lamdre initiation from Dagchen Rinpoche in Nepal in 2007. Her family have been in America for many generations. Some of her ancestors were British pilgrims that arrived on the Mayflower ship in 1620.
According to Tibetan tradition tulkus begin their monastic studies at the age of 4 or 5 years old. Tulkula is presently studying Tibetan language and Buddhism in India. He will need a foundation in Tibetan in order to begin his formal Buddhist studies in Tibet next year. The Phuntsok Phodrang, Sakya Heritage Foundation in New Delhi is home to over 100 young monks, teachers, and staff. It is the perfect environment for a lama of Tulkula’s age to learn Tibetan language. When he is not engaged in formal classes with his teacher, he is playing games with the other young monks. By the time Tulkula is ready to move to Yaten Monastery in Tibet in summer 2016, he will be fully conversant in Tibetan.
When Tulkula arrived in New Delhi on November 7, 2014, accompanied by his mother, he was greeted by his paternal uncle, Venerable Jamyang Gyaltsen, who is the administrator of the Sakya Phuntsok Phodrang. Lama Jamyang made all of the arrangements for Tulkula’s education in India: appointing his personal teacher, Venerable Ngawang Lodro, his attendants, and arranging for audiences with important lamas. It is fortunate that Tulkula can be under the supervision and guidance of his caring uncle, Lama Jamyang Gyalstsen.
The timing of Tulkula’s arrival in India was auspicious in that so many great Sakya lamas were gathered for the Golden Jubilee Celebration of Sakya Center. Shortly after arriving in New Delhi, Tulkula traveled to Dehra Dun for the Golden Jubilee Celebration where he met His Holiness Sakya Trizin Rinpoche and received special blessings. He received blessings from the Sakya Dhungseys of the Drolma Phodrang and the Phuntsok Phodrang : H.E. Ratna Vajra Rinpoche, H.E. Avikrita Rinpoche, H.E. Abhaya Rinpoche, and H.E. Asanga Rinpoche. Also, from H.E. Ngor Luding Khen Chen Rinpoche Tulkula received a hair cutting blessing. He had the good fortune to meet with Dezhung Yangsi Tulku Rinpoche at his residence in Sakya College.
Tulkula will be traveling to Tibet in the summer of 2016 for the formal enthronement ceremony at Yaten Monastery. The upcoming trip to Minyak will be Tulkula’s second visit to Tibet. The first trip was in September, 2013, when Tulkula was 3 years old. The purpose of that visit was mainly to visit Tulkula’s paternal relatives. He spent one month at the family residence in Minyak along with his mother and sister. He traveled to several of the major monasteries in the area. Auspicious signs manifested at many key moments during his visit to Minyak.
The people of Minyak, and especially the monks of his own monastery are eagerly awaiting Tulkula’s return. He will be cared for by devoted monk attendants and taught by the most accomplished teachers. It is important for tulkus to receive the teachings and then to contemplate, study, meditate and practice the teachings. A tulku’s duty is vast. All of the monks at his monastery expect Tulkula to be their lama (teacher). Eventually Tulkula will be able to teach the Buddha Dharma, which will be of immeasurable benefit to all beings.
H. H. Dagchen Rinpoche, out of his supreme kindness and compassion for all beings, recognized Tulku Ogyan, so that Tulkula can fulfill his chosen destiny: to liberate beings wandering in the ocean of samsara. May Tulkula follow in our Precious Teacher’s footsteps, victorious over every obstacle, in order to bring happiness to all sentient beings.
May all beings benefit and may the precious Sakya teachings long endure!
Princess Ashi Kesang of Bhutan Visits Sakya Monastery
By Heydi Carter
In January 2015, Princess Ashi Kesang Choden T Wangchuck, granddaughter of Her Royal Majesty 3rd Queen of Bhutan, and her daughter came to spend a couple months in the US. They spent much of their time in the Seattle-Bellevue area where Ashi Kesang was training and working on fundraising efforts for monastic conservation projects in Bhutan.
On the evening of Guru Rinpoche Tsok they had their first visit to Sakya Monastery of Seattle, where Ashi Kesang payed her respects to H.H. Dagchen Rinpoche, H.E. Dagmo Kusho and the Sakya family. We are grateful to Tulku Yeshi Rinpoche for introducing Ashi Kesang to the Sakya family and Sangha in Seattle. Princess Ashi Kesang’s family was especially happy to hear of her meetings with H.H. Dagchen Rinpoche and the Sakya Family. H.E. Dagmo Kusho is her grandmother, the Queen’s, long-time friend. After the Tsok ceremony, Ashi Kesang expressed how happy she was to finally see a stupa – it was the first stupa she had seen since she left Bhutan! Her 10 year old daughter, Tashi, was especially impressed to see an American woman at the Tsok who had all of her prayers memorized in Tibetan language!
Sakya Monastery’s VEI program kindly welcomed Princess Ashi Kesang to be a part of their Guest Lecture Series in February. Ashi Kesang presented historical accounts and heart-warming narratives of Bhutan’s ancient sacred sites and artworks, as well as their current-day preservation efforts. The accompanying slideshow contained breath-taking imagery, including photos of statues and sacred sites of Guru Rinpoche which are not usually available for public viewing (in fact the only other place they could be seen is in her editorial publication, Zangdok Palri: Lotus Light Palace of Guru Rinpoche).
The Sakya Monastery is very grateful to Princess Ashi Kesang for gracing us with her presence and providing us with a unique opportunity to see a glimpse of the rare and sacred images in Bhutan. We are very grateful to Dagmo Kusho and Tulku Yeshi Rinpoche for gracing this presentation with their attendance, to the Sakya Monastery and VEI program for providing this unique platform, and to all the Sangha members who energized the evening with their wonderful enthusiasm!
Photos courtesy Lincoln Potter