HIS HOLINESS THE 41ST SAKYA TRIZIN A FEW SHORT EXCERPTS FROM HIS HOLINESS’ TEACHINGS
Our life is mind
“How do we come to understand that our life is mind? There are many examples of how to realise this. One important example is that of the dream. In our dreams, we have many experiences and, while we’re dreaming, it feels as real as this life. We can see colours, shapes, everything, and it can influence our mind. If it is a happy dream, we enjoy it, and our mind is happy. There’s no difference between our dreams and the life that we are living. It is we who experience the dreams, and it is we who experience this life. There is no difference between the dream and the present life. The only difference is that our normal life is influenced by very strong propensities while our dreams are not so strongly affected by them, but it’s actually all the same.”
Benefiting other sentient beings
“From beginningless time up until this moment, we have cared solely for ourselves and worked solely for our own benefit. Every exertion we performed was for our own benefit alone. But by acting in this way, all we have actually accomplished is more and more suffering. So, this time, instead of caring for ourselves, we must care for others.
“As Shantideva said, ‘All the sufferings that beings experience in this universe arise from caring for oneself, and all the happiness that beings experience in this world arise from caring for others.’ If we had already practised caring for others in our previous lives, we would not still be in samsara — we would have already attained liberation and enlightenment. The cause of our not having cared for others is the natural tendency to care for ourselves. This is a very gross mistake. The way to correct it is to ignore oneself and to totally devote one’s energy and efforts to benefiting other sentient beings.”
“Not performing any virtuous practice, or performing the virtuous practice incorrectly, is considered the wrong way.”
The cultivation of compassion
“On whichever path you follow — the Mahayana path, and especially the Vajrayana path, which includes visualisations, recitations, and foundation practices — all practices are of course very, very important. But the most important practice of all is the cultivation of compassion. Without compassion, no matter what you do, it will not be the direct cause of enlightenment. For a practice to be a direct cause of enlightenment, you must have enlightenment mind. And to have proper enlightenment mind, you need compassion. Without compassion you can’t have the other qualities.”
What are the causes of suffering and happiness?
“The Ratnavali of Nagarjuna says, ‘Every action arising from desire, aversion and ignorance produces suffering; every action arising from the absence of desire, aversion and ignorance produces happiness.’
“Now, there are three kinds of people: lower persons, middling persons, and higher persons. Like all other beings, the lowest person wants happiness and wants neither suffering nor rebirth in the lower realms of existence, so he practises Buddhism to create the causes of rebirth in the human realm or in the heavenly realms of the gods. He does not have the power or the courage to leave worldly existence completely. He only wants the best parts of worldly existence, and he wants to avoid the worst ones, and that is why he practises the Buddhist religion: in order to get a higher rebirth.
“The middling sort of person understands that the whole of worldly existence, no matter where one is born, is suffering by nature, just as fire is hot by nature. He wants to get out of it altogether and attain Nirvana, the state that is entirely away from suffering.
“The highest person realises that, just as he himself or her herself does not want to suffer, and wants happiness, so also do all living beings have the same fears and wishes. He knows that, since we have been born again and again from beginning less time into worldly existence, there is not a single sentient being who has not been our mother and father at one time or another. Since we are that close to all sentient beings, the best person is the one who practises Buddhism to remove all these countless beings from suffering.”
The most essential thing to do to attain Buddhahood
“It is said that Avalokiteshavara was once asked by a disciple, ‘What practice is the most essential to accomplish Buddhahood?’ Avalokiteshavara answered that the most important thing, the most essential thing to do to attain Buddhahood, is to practiSe compassion. This is because when you practiSe compassion, all other qualities, such as loving-kindness and the enlightenment mind, are naturally accomplished and naturally gather.”
His Holiness the 41st Sakya Trizin
All images and quotes of His Holiness’ teachings are not from our own source, they have been shared through His Holiness’ website as well as reliable Instagram pages.
HELD AT KAMALASHILA TIBETAN BUDDHIST CENTRE 6-8 August 2021
“This Karma Yoga Group Retreat is being held for the sake of creating a beautiful home for the Dharma.” ~ Khenpo Ngawang Dhamchoe
Khenpo la encouraged others who were not able to attend this retreat physically to have the opportunity to provide a valuable contribution by becoming a sponsor of meals for the workers and materials for the jobs to be undertaken, so we can all feel the joy in contributing by helping the centre to flourish for all beings now and into the future… The term karma yoga originated in Sanskrit yet used in many different spiritual paths today. This is one of the three classical spiritual paths in yoga, Karma yoga being based on the yoga of action, the others being Jnana yoga (path of knowledge) and Bhakti yoga (path of loving devotion to what one believes in). To a karma yogi, right action is a form of prayer.
Of the classical paths to spiritual liberation, karma yoga is the path of unselfish action. It teaches that a spiritual seeker should act according to dharma, without being attached to the fruits or personal consequences. Karma yoga is to purify one’s mind, leading one to consider dharma of work, a selfless action performed for the benefit of others. It is rightful action without being attached to fruits or being manipulated by what the results might be, a dedication to one’s duty, and trying one’s best whilst being unattached to the rewards or outcomes such as success or failure.
DAY 1: Everyone worked extremely hard today, and we had a lovely time together. The day began with a meditation lead by Khenpo la, finished with a laugh and a yarn around the warm bon fire, with lots of work for the centre in between. Khenpo la lead by great example, working on the road and then painting one of the buildings, leading the meditation sessions and the retreat.
DAY 2: During the afternoon meditation, Khenpo la encouraged us to rest in the beautiful and positive feeling we had generated throughout this day. It was a feeling of being physically tired but mentally elated at having done something so worthwhile; a feeling of connection with others, some of whom we were meeting for the first time; a feeling of being present in this right time in this right place. Khenpo la suggested that we rest in this loving-kindness, this positive mind, and then allow it to grow, including all beings in its radiance. As Khenpo la pointed out, when our mind is settled in such a positive state, we can perceive everything as workable. When our mind is scattered or negative, it doesn’t matter how ideal our outer circumstances are, we will still be anxious.
DAY 3: What a transformation! Three days, 30 people, an abundance of kind energy, and Kamalashila shines even brighter! With each brushstroke, planting or pothole filled, everyone participating over this weekend has woven a part of themselves into this place. Just as if this place was busy making a lasting impression on us. Khenpo la pointed out as well, what we give is wonderful, but what we receive from this connection with the Dharma is immeasurable.
Lastly, amongst many invaluable outcomes over this time, it evolved to start a plant sponsorship opportunity – one of our sangha members can obtain wholesale native plant stock, tube stock and some hearty flowers that can withstand this bush environment. This can be a continual opportunity and invite anyone who would like to contribute in this way to either contact us by email or simply write on your very generous donation PLANT SPONSORSHIP via our website.
Thank you, Khenpo la and to everyone for contributing in making the centre even more beautiful! A special thank you to all those who couldn’t make it, to those who sponsored our food and materials for this weekend. Your contribution was very much appreciated!
HELD AT KAMALASHILA TIBETAN BUDDHIST CENTRE 13 July 2021
Tonight, on the eve of the anniversary of the Lord Buddha’s turning of the first Wheel of Dharma, Khenpo la completed his teaching on the fourth chapter of The Way of the Bodhisattva. Having taught last week on conscientiousness towards both precious human rebirth and the defilements, this week Khenpo’s teaching focused on the conscientiousness of abandoning the defilements.
Khenpo reminded us that our longest running enemy is our defilement – no one can run after us as much as our own defilement mind. We are not talking about one or two lifetimes here but countless lifetimes.
We need, therefore, to ask what is it that enables it to survive for so long or what is it that makes it stronger each time. Without listening to the Dharma, we won’t do the research. So, we need to hear the Dharma then analyse for ourselves. Shantideva said things that cause problems in this life and over a long time have only one sole cause which is the affliction mind. The affliction mind continually resides in our mental continuum.
If someone is causing you major difficulties, you won’t find it easy to be comfortable. For this reason, we spend so much time and effort to make ourselves comfortable even though it only lasts for a short period of time, at best. This proves that we haven’t found the solution and so we need to get rid of the affliction which causes the discomfort. This is unique to the Buddhist approach. As long as you have affliction in your mental continuum you will never feel comfortable whatever or how much you might have. So, we must work to free the affliction mind.
When you discover a particular food or drink is threatening your life then you avoid it immediately. Similarly, we need to realise just how toxic is the affliction mind. Awareness of its toxicity inspires us to stop the affliction mind – this is the main task.
Nagarjuna said conscientiousness is the nectar which leads us to a deathless state. It provides us with the path to gain enlightenment.
When someone threatens your life, you won’t feel comfortable towards that person, and you may do all you can to harm that person to protect your precious life, but the reality is that loss of your life is far less severe than the enormous negative karma incurred by that other person. The enemy who takes or tries to take your life should be the object of your compassion.
So don’t be angry towards an enemy who tries to disturb or take your life. You may think he or she is your enemy, but the moment the affliction mind is there it instantly harms you. So why aren’t we so concerned to consider it as a serious enemy, but we worry about others who may not even end up harming us. We waste so much in this life and yet we are so fortunate to meet the Dharma which gives us new eyes to see which things help and harm us. If a blind person makes a mistake, we accept it because they can’t see but we are the people who have met the Dharma, yet most of us are still doing the wrong things. We must wake up as a Dharma practitioner so that the moment the affliction mind arises, we can then simultaneously understand how it harms us.
At the same time, we need to appreciate that a defilement is not too difficult to defeat. And here there are three things we should do:
First, we should never back down from the defilement.
Second, we need to be obsessive in our efforts to defeat the defilement.
Third, we need to harbour a desire to defeat the defilement.
This can seem like a contradiction when you are Dharma practitioner to have a fighting mood but none of this is driven by the affliction mind but rather it comes from compassion, diligence, and wisdom and so they are the path. When you battle with the defilement, you should always be resolute and think even if they cut my head, I will never surrender to the defilement – we need to have a long-term vision that is not just oriented to this one lifetime.
When we practise Shamatha, we are not providing the condition for increasing the defilement. In this way, Shamatha can create a sense of peace because the defilement is not arising, but you are not free of the defilement itself rather just free of the condition for it to arise and so when the condition arises it returns. Therefore, Vipassana is so important. What is unique here, and essential to understand, is that once you uproot the defilement, or once you burn the seed, it will not return – uprooted defilement has no friend.
We need to appreciate that while the defilement can look very big it is also fragile and so we should not be discouraged from trying to eradicate something which has no strong root or foundation. Once you remove one stone from the foundation it is easy for the whole structure to collapse, so it is not as difficult to defeat the defilement as we might first think.
So how then to uproot the defilement? Once you know the selflessness of both self and phenomena, there is no room for any defilement to arise. When we fail to recognise this reality, the defilement arises which controls everyone.
Once you remove the affliction of self from your mental continuum, there is no place for the defilement to go or stay. This is a good thing because it means it can’t go to another place and then come back to you. Once it is removed it is completely gone so we need to know it is removable.
Only two things that stop us from defeating the defilement: when we are weak-minded and when we lack diligence. We are weak-minded when we overestimate the power of the defilement and think we can’t defeat it. Instead of thinking that way, we need to recall that it was not only one Buddha who attained Buddhahood but rather infinite Buddhas and if they, who started with minds like mine, can defeat the defilement then why can’t I too be successful. So, we always need to keep hold of this optimism and think of the countless Buddhas as when we recite Samantabhadra’s prayer. We also need to understand that once we combine a strong mind with diligence, we will most surely defeat the defilement. And finally, how can the wisdom mind free us from the defilement? For the real remedy for defilement is the wisdom mind. How to analyse? If the defilement is truly existent, where is it located? It’s not located in different organs which come and go and nor is it located in form so when you investigate you cannot find the defilement. It has a lack of existence, yet it can appear as a mirage or a magical show. When you analyse, you will not find that which you have described and once you know the absolute truth then there no substance and so the affliction mind does not arise. So, its eradication is attainable. You shouldn’t be discouraged at all and so you need to strengthen your wisdom.
In conclusion, whenever affliction thought arises, we should be conscientious and then it will have less influence in our body, speech, and mind and in turn our body, speech and mind will become virtuous and comfortable.
We should always be conscious of our role, duty and responsibility which is engaging Bodhicitta as this will eventually lead us to defeat the defilement. But how can we overcome our sickness if we don’t follow the guidance of the doctor? So, if we read and listen to the Dharma but don’t follow the teachings then suffering simply won’t go away. If we do follow the teachings, however, then we will reside in the virtuous and experience great comfort and joy as we make right effort in our quest to attain enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings.
HELD AT KAMALASHILA TIBETAN BUDDHIST CENTRE 11 July 2021
After Sunday meditation our regular working bee collected more fireweed from the saddle, with Khenpo la leading by example alongside Ven. Tsultim and many sangha members. Zara cooked a delicious lunch! Thank you to everyone for all your hard work, once again.
HIS HOLINESS THE FOURTEENTH DALAI LAMA A FEW SHORT EXCERPTS FROM HIS HOLINESS’ TEACHINGS
Eight Verses for Training the Mind, Ex. 3.
Whenever I associate with others I will learn to think of myself as the lowest among all, And respectfully hold others to be supreme From the very depths of my heart.
“If you cultivate love, compassion, and so forth for your own welfare, seeking happiness only for yourself, you are bound within a selfish viewpoint, which will not lead to good results. Rather, you should have an attitude of altruism, seeking the welfare of others from the very depths of your heart.
Pride in which, cherishing yourself, you view yourself as superior and others as inferior is a major obstacle to the development of an altruistic attitude respecting and cherishing others. Therefore, it is important to rely on the antidote to pride and, no matter whom you are with, to consider yourself lower than others.
If you assume a humble attitude, your own good qualities will increase, whereas when you are full of pride, there is no way to be happy. You will become jealous of others, angry with them, and look down on them, due to which an unpleasant atmosphere will be created and unhappiness in society will increase.”
Eight Verses for Training the Mind, Ex. 8. I will learn to cherish beings of bad nature, And those pressed by strong sins and sufferings, As if I had found a precious Treasure which is very difficult to find.
“When you meet with persons of bad character or those who have some particularly strong sickness or other problems, you should neither neglect them nor create a distance between yourself and them, feeling them to be alien, but rather generate an especially strong attitude of cherishing them and holding them dear. In the past in Tibet, those who were engaged in this type of training of the mind took on themselves the burden of serving persons who had leprosy much as the Christian monks and so forth do nowadays. Since it is in relation to such persons that you can cultivate the altruistic intention to become enlightened as well as patience and the voluntary assumption of suffering, coming in contact with them is to be viewed as like finding a precious treasure.”
“Patience guards us against losing our presence of mind so we can remain undisturbed, even when the situation is really difficult.”
“The roots of all goodness lie in the soil of appreciation."
Source of happiness is in our mental attitude:
“So, as far as our contact with fellow human beings is concerned, our mental attitude is very crucial. Even for a non-believer, just a simple honest being, the ultimate source of happiness is in our mental attitude.”
“Even if you have good health, material facilities used in the proper way and good relations with other human beings, the main cause of a happy life is within.”
“On the whole, we naturally tend to trust our everyday perceptions; we assume their validity without it even occurring to us to question them. We naïvely believe that the way we perceive things is identical with the way things are. And so, because events and things, including the self, appear to have objective reality, we conclude, tacitly and often without any reflection at all, that they do in fact have an objective reality. Only through the process of careful analysis can we see that this is not so, that our perceptions do not accurately reflect objective reality.”
“This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples, no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.” “We can live without religion and meditation, but we cannot survive without human affection.”
“To conquer oneself is a greater victory than to conquer thousands in a battle.” “Anger and hatred cannot bring harmony. The noble task of arms control and disarmament cannot be accomplished by confrontation and condemnation. Hostile attitudes only serve to heat up the situation, whereas a true sense of respect gradually cools down what otherwise could become explosive. We must recognise the frequent contradictions between short-term benefit and long-term harm.”
“If your engagement with others is tainted by strong attachment, craving, aversion, anger, and so forth, then that form of grasping is undesirable. But on the other hand, when you are interacting with other living beings and become aware of their needs or suffering or pain, then you need to fully engage with that and be compassionate. So, there can be positive attachment in this sense of active engagement. Buddhist masters have long used the term attachment to describe the quality of compassion for others. For example, a verse from Haribhadra’s Clear Meaning Commentary refers to compassion that is attached to other living beings. And as we have seen, Nagarjuna teaches that attachment for other living beings will arise spontaneously in the person who realises emptiness.”
“I believe that the purpose of life is to be happy. From the moment of birth, every human being wants happiness and does not want suffering. Neither social conditioning nor education nor ideology affect this. From the very core of our being, we simply desire contentment. I don’t know whether the universe, with its countless galaxies, stars and planets, has a deeper meaning or not, but at the very least, it is clear that we humans who live on this Earth face the task of making a happy life for ourselves. Therefore, it is important to discover what will bring about the greatest degree of happiness.”
“From my own limited experience, I have found that the greatest degree of inner tranquillity comes from the development of love and compassion. The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater our own sense of well-being becomes. Cultivating a close, warm-hearted feeling for others automatically puts the mind at ease.”
“As long as we live in this world, we are bound to encounter problems. If at such times, we lose hope and become discouraged, we diminish our ability to face difficulties. If, on the other hand, we remember that it is not just ourselves but everyone who has to undergo suffering, this more realistic perspective will increase our determination and capacity to overcome troubles. Indeed, with this attitude, each new obstacle can be seen yet another valuable opportunity to improve our mind! Thus, we can strive gradually to become more compassionate; that is, we can develop both genuine sympathy for others’ suffering and the will to help remove their pain. As a result, our own serenity and inner strength will increase.” His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso
HELD AT KAMALASHILA TIBETAN BUDDHIST CENTRE 11-13 June 2021
The Inaugural Shri Vajrapani Bhutadamara Retreat, which was held at Kamalashila Tibetan Buddhist Centre, Tilba was led by Khenpo Ngawang Dhamchoe. It had been a day leading into the retreat with very auspicious signs of many rainbows in the skies around the centre and students reporting rainbows travelling down the coast from far and wide to attend retreat. All arriving were incredibly happy to be here for this wonderful first occasion. We thank all the helpers who so genuinely helped prepare for a most special space for this time.
Although it was a two and a half day retreat it seemed as if it were a week and we could have continued for endless more weeks. It was intensely valuable, profoundly serious, and inspiringly uplifting as Khenpo la went into a depth of teaching that we are continually in awe of, having to rewrite our feeble notes over and over again, contemplate those notes and then try most honestly to meditate on. Khenpo la revealed at the end of this time that he would very much like this retreat to be annual, so for some students that could not manage attending this time, this will be offered each year at this point.
Thank you, Khenpo la, for such profound teachings over this precious weekend. The retreat was such a success, and we are looking forward already to an annual opportunity to revisit this precious practice.
HELD AT KAMALASHILA AND SYDNEY GOMPAS, AND AT ULURU 12 May – 10 June 2021
Commemorating the most auspicious month of Saga Dawa with Khenpo Ngawang Dhamchoe who led programs in Sydney and Tilba.
Khenpo la lead practice, prayers and light offerings to mark Saga Dawa Duchen in Sydney with Praise of ‘The Twelve Great Deeds of the Buddha’. Sangha came in person and via Zoom. It was wonderful for sangha to come together on this incredibly special day. Then on the 30th of May, Khenpo la lead the Sixteen Arhat Puja with sangha at Kamalashila Tibetan Buddhist Centre as well as via Zoom that morning, those attending offered 100 candles. After the puja the sangha enjoyed a delicious lunch shared together. During this most special month of Saga Dawa, the centre has offered a number of practices, in person and via Zoom, live from Uluru, Sydney and Tilba. Many people have sponsored the lighting of hundreds of candles. We rejoice in these great meritorious activities for the happiness of all beings.
A big shout out and thank you to our wonderful centre sangha who on behalf of many light offering sponsors, took the day to physically offer the light offerings for our sponsors and all beings benefit, they were Khenpo la, Robert N, Lael, Jennifer, Carole, Penny, Oshan, Robert G, Susanne and Karen. Over the past weeks during Saga Dawa, many hundreds of light offerings have been made at Kamalashila and in Sydney, thank you to all our sponsors. May all beings be free and happy.
Uluru, pilgrims meditating on the morning of the Buddha’s birth day
At Uluru, on this anniversary of His birth, “it was like waiting patiently, in the darkness, for an audience with a Buddha.
“Led by Khenpo la, we chanted OM AH HUM BENZAR GURU PEMA SIDDHI HUNG into the chill morning air on the dawn of the Buddha’s birth. Towering above us, the great heart of Uluru began to glow as if illuminated from within. And, as taught by Khenpo la yesterday, gratitude supported us to remain in the present moment.
“We circumambulated the rock and were struck by the many different faces of Uluru: its majestic folds, its sheer cathedral-like cliffs, its secret waterholes, its textures, its colours.
“Khenpo la’s teaching today reminded us of the qualities of the Buddha. Though they are measureless, these qualities can be summarised into two: infinite skilfulness and infinite compassion. The Buddha never taught what he knew. He taught according to what sentient beings needed. Such was His skilfulness. Why infinite? Because the number of sentient beings is infinite and so then must the range of skilful methods be infinite to meet their unique needs.
“The Buddha also expressed infinite compassion for all sentient beings: his mind being free from self-grasping, there is no longer any discrimination and so the Buddha cares for each being with equal tenderness. Khenpo la reminded us that we all have the seed of a Buddha within us; that we can look beyond the dark clouds of our everyday thoughts to glimpse the vast blue sky of our Buddha mind.” Zara
I liked playing with the paddymelons with Sophia and Ginny, having yummy breakfasts, the red sand, climbing up the sand dune, and seeing Uluru and Kata Tjuta, going to the sunset at Uluru. It looked really nice and colourful, playing in the apartments with Ginny trying to find me around the corner, riding Genghis Khan (the camel) and walking back from the meditation at Uluru with Khenpo la. Hector (7 years old)
Hello. My name is Sophia, I went with my Mum and Dad to Khenpo’s Uluru Retreat. I must admit it was an amazing experience. Early in the morning we would go to Uluru or Kata Tjuta and do a meditation with Khenpo. I went to a couple of the teachings during the day and went to some of the sunset meditations. My favourite part was kicking my soccer ball all the way through the track in Kata Tjuta and after that, playing a big game of soccer with Khenpo and a few other nice people – it was great! Along the way I met some really lovely people who also did the retreat, it was such a nice experience and I am so lucky to have been able to get to do this amazing retreat. Sophia (11 years old)
It is with enormous gratitude that I write a few words to acknowledge the potency, purity, and treasure of our recent Pilgrimage to Uluru. This journey had so many components: firstly, the focus on pilgrimage with a great Tibetan teacher as in Khenpo la, whose knowledge of the Buddha’s teachings is matched to his excellent warm, friendly, and joyful nature and his reverence of place, culture, and people of wherever he visits. Khenpo is a gift who skilfully weaves nature’s gifts with a unique style of teaching and guided meditations to enable deep absorption of each moment spent in these places, with such reverence for country and respect for the indigenous people and ease with every move. There were two beautiful children aged 7 and 11, who enriched the group with their amazing gentle wisdom and delight in every minute. They were so inspirational and gave us all such hope and wonder for the future of the world, as in if such children contribute with generous, sensitivity, worldliness and vital spirit.
The sangha who supported this retreat were also just perfect, ranging from Ann’s gift in organisation, grace and behind the scenes soothing; Tsultim in his jovial warm and clever kindness in driving, picking us all up and softly/quietly attending to anything needed with a gentle grace; Tjenka and Zara’s bright creative grace in every action and interaction whether driving buses, listening, and helping the team or the retreatants with love and service; as well as the delectable creative nourishing food presented with ease and love from Tony’s wondrous ways. The food was amazing, every single person present was fresh, interesting and an individual treasure!
Khenpo never ceases to enrich all with his gentle wise ways along with bringing us the precious jewels of Buddha with practical messages that filter in through us. Each day we witnessed these sacred sites for hours from dawn through sunrise and sunset to dusk it truly was so powerful. I only hope I get to go on many more pilgrimages with Khenpo. The beauty of the teachings and the mind training to remind us of all we can mindfully manage a supreme and loving life by being infinitely joyful, skilful, and compassionate. These teachings were creatively etched in our hearts via the glow of the effervescent colours of those rocks.
Our week pilgrimage honoured these sacred stories of country intertwined with sacred lessons from Buddha to bring us into a presence and honour of each day observing the dawn, huddling out at dark, and softly witnessing the light on those sacred spaces come alive in silent meditation in awe of this. The teachings, the food, the fun, the warm interactions, the divine sunsets, and the presence of each of us present. It is now 2 years since closure of the activity of tourists climbing this magnificent Uluru, to me it felt as if she was saying thank you and shinning an extra vibrancy in all the various lights we were gifted with.
Some information from sacredland.com that I feel is important to share: Rising 1,100 feet above the Australian desert, the red sandstone monolith known as Uluru is not just an international tourist destination but a symbol of the Aboriginal struggle for land rights and a model for collaborative indigenous-governmental land management. Uluru and its neighbour Kata Tjuta, a series of 36 rock domes, comprise an area of spiritual significance to Anangu, the local Aboriginal people whose belief system is intertwined with the landscape.
The traditional owners of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park speak Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara and call themselves Anangu – “we, Aboriginal people.” Anangu lived in the deserts of Central Australia for tens of thousands of years before the arrival of white settlers, leading a nomadic hunting and gathering way of life rooted in a spiritual relationship with the land.
Anangu believe that the world as it is today, was created by heroic ancestral beings that roamed the land before humans existed. As these beings moved from place to place – meeting friends, fighting, having adventures, performing ceremonies – they shaped the landscape and left some of their spirit behind. Thus, the exploits of Anangu’s spiritual ancestors are mapped throughout the land in topographic features like waterholes, rock formations, caves, hills and gorges, and these features are regarded as sacred places.
Anangu culture has always been a vital part of Central Australian life. Anangu Tjukurpa teach that the landscape was formed as their ancestral beings moved across the barren land. For the Anangu people, live revolves around Tjukurpa, the cultural underpinnings of their society. Life and rebirth are vital in their beliefs, with Tjukurpa stories passed down from generation to generation. These stories, dances and songs underpin all Anangu belief systems and society behaviours. Elders pass the stories to younger generations as deemed appropriate. Anangu must share their oral history to keep ensuring the continuation of their culture for generations to come.
Watching the day awaken over Uluru and Kata Tjuta. Cold fingers and big smiles. Peace and friendliness. Khenpo la’s teachings gave guidance on recognising, stabilising, and extending our experience of peace.
He gave 4 preconditions for experiencing peace:
Reduce desire, anger, and ignorance whose influence on our mind steals our peace.
Be grateful. This brings you into the present moment and cultivates positive mind.
Reduce unnecessary activities, which may tire and distract you. Make sure you have energy for meditation.
Live ethically, aiming to cause no harm and help when you can.
The 5th point is the cause of calm, which is a virtuous mind, an honest mind. Freer of desire, anger and ignorance, our mind is less disturbed, less intoxicated, and so can see things more clearly.
Thank you to everyone who joined us for sunset meditation tonight!
It was like waiting patiently, in the darkness, for an audience with a Buddha. This is how Buddha’s birthday began for us on the 3rd day of pilgrimage.
Led by Khenpo la, we chanted OM AH HUM BENZAR GURU PEMA SIDDHI HUNG into the chill morning air. Towering above us, the great heart of Uluru began to glow as if illuminated from within. And, as taught by Khenpo la yesterday, gratitude supported us to remain in the present moment. The cold air on our skin. The rustle of a puffer jacket. Budgies calling to each other. The warmth of tears rolling down cheeks.
We circumambulated the rock and were struck by the many different faces of Uluru: its majestic folds, its sheer cathedral-like cliffs, its secret waterholes, its textures, its colours. It struck some of us that you could never truly describe Uluru. Like the story of the blind men and the elephant (the one holding the tail said an elephant was like a rope; the one at the leg said it was like the trunk of a tree, etc), each different person would describe the rock differently – and each would be partially correct. But, as with any phenomenon, the true nature of Uluru is beyond expression.
On this anniversary of His birth, Khenpo la’s teaching today reminded us of the qualities of the Buddha. Though they are measureless, these qualities can be summarised into two: infinite skilfulness and infinite compassion. The Buddha never taught what he knew. He taught according to what sentient beings needed. Such was His skilfulness. Why infinite? Because the number of sentient beings is infinite and so then must the range of skilful methods be infinite to meet their unique needs.
The Buddha also expressed infinite compassion for all sentient beings: his mind being free from self-grasping, there is no longer any discrimination and so the Buddha cares for each being with equal tenderness.
Khenpo la reminded us that we all have the seed of a Buddha within us; that we can look beyond the dark clouds of our everyday thoughts to glimpse the vast blue sky of our Buddha mind.
“I should be asleep. It’s 12.30 am and I’m in my tent having just finished writing in my diary of one of the best days of my life. I’ve been up since 4.45am and will be up at 5am again tomorrow.
“I’ve been out to the rock (Uluru) a few times now, although this morning we sat at the base of it in the still dark and watched the light slowly come up as we meditated together. It was incredible! I almost had an out of body experience. I saw stories all over it like I was listening to the Dream time. I was one with all those that have sat here for tens of thousands of years in awe of this place. The rock does change colour, like they say, but what I wasn’t expecting is that it seems to be enjoying the light, not just reflecting it.
“That was the highlight of the day, but it was a remarkably close thing because after that we spent 5 hours walking around the base of the rock – it’s 10 km and it’s amazing. I loved every step of it.
“Today enters my top 10 all-time list. These photos and these words do not come close to doing the day justice.”
This day was both Guru Rinpoche Day and an opportunity to walk into the warm embrace of Kata Tjuta. Towering high above us, the massive forms gave us both a sense of vast time and space, but also intimacy and warmth.
I’m not sure if we were simply delirious from lack of sleep or giddy from the uplifting power of this place, but we were all in high spirits as we picnicked before Kata Tjuta at sunset: playing desert soccer – taking creative photos – laughing so much!
Khenpo la’s teaching today was based on the ‘The 37 Practices of the Bodhisattva’: mind which guides us to reframe situations so that we respond in a useful way rather than in a way which causes harm to ourselves and others.
When we suffer (through circumstances or at the hands of others) this is the exhaustion of one negative cause we created in our past. Khenpo la taught today that one cause has one result. Once it is exhausted, we are free of that karma.
At that point it is up to us: if someone takes advantage of us or gossips about us, how do we respond? Without mind training, we almost always respond negatively – getting angry, ‘getting back at’ that person... and in this way, we begin a new cause for our own future suffering. If we implement the mind training, however, we may be able to, at the very least, cause no further negative karma for ourselves or our assailant.
At best, Khenpo la explained, we can realise that they have given us a precious opportunity to deepen our practice of loving kindness, compassion, and wisdom. No-one is completely devoid of positive qualities. Also, all beings in previous lives have been our mother or child. So, we generate love for our assailant. No one seeks to harm others who is not already suffering themselves. So, we have compassion for them.
We are honest with ourselves about our own faults and our capacity to help (Is it better to act or to sit back from the situation and simply offer the person love and care quietly in our hearts?) In this way, we practise wisdom.
We are finding that we have become attached to this wonderful, sacred land. As we pack up our things and close our cases, I think we are not brushing off ALL the red sand. We have made a heart connection to this place and deepened our connection to Khenpo la and the Dharma. And as an aside: it turns out that by camel is a great way to see a Central Australian sunset!
What an amazing experience...
May all who attended be blessed to return with Khenpo la to this sacred place and may all those who have not been, have the opportunity to do so. Most importantly, may all of us keep in our hearts the teachings we have received here and practise them in our everyday life to benefit beings.
AT KAMALASHILA TIBETAN BUDDHIST CENTRE 12 MAY – 10 June 2021
Saga Dawa (Vesak) marks the month of Buddha Shakyamuni’s birth, enlightenment and His Mahaparinirvana, the 1st day of the 4th lunar calendar month commences Saga Dawa, this year falling on Wednesday 12 May 2021 (2148 in the Tibetan Calendar). The actual birthdate of the Buddha Tempei Düchen falls this year on 19 May. Saga Dawa Düchen ས་ག་ཟླ་བ་དུས་ཆེན་ then marks both the enlightenment (Sangye) and the Buddha’s Mahaparinirvana (Nyangde Düchen) which is always on the full moon day, being the 15th day of the lunar month, 26 May 2021. This being the most important and most auspicious month in the Tibetan lunar calendar. Düchen means “Great Occasion” and this day is the single most holy day of the year for Tibetan Buddhists.
In other Buddhist traditions this occasion is known as Vesak or is sometimes called Buddha Day and may fall within a different month, yet around the same time of the year. Saga Dawa is known as the month of merits. Tibetan Buddhists make extra efforts to practice more generosity (Dana), virtue, and compassion to accumulate greater merit. Tibetans believe that on the 10th and 15th day of this month the merits of one’s actions are hugely increased, 100,000x positive actions or negative. Accumulating this merit is understood in many ways, it could be the fruits of good karma, especially when it brings us closer to enlightenment. The three grounds of meritorious actions are generosity and mental culture or meditation.
Traditionally, the holy day of Saga Dawa Düchen is observed through practice, generosity, and the performance of meritorious deeds, such as the practice of Life Release. This is commonly performed by purchasing animals that are destined to be killed (like lambs, fish, worms and/or crickets), and releasing them into their natural habitats with prayers and positive aspirations. One must be mindful though that this release does not cause them more suffering being in the wrong environment. As Khenpo la always suggests and reminds us during this most auspicious and sacred month is to practice being vegetarian, to release any animals that may have otherwise been killed for food or other reasons. The act of giving life in this way is believed to extend the practitioner or benefactor’s lifespan and create positive circumstances. You can also take an extended vow or vegetarianism, creating vast merit through your noble aspiration to reduce suffering.
“Behold, O monks, this is my last advice to you. All component things in the world are changeable. They are not lasting. Work hard to gain your own salvation.” The Buddha
At Kamalashila Tibetan Buddhist Centre there is an opportunity to sponsor (Dana) towards the daily lighting of candles. The first 9 days of Saga Dawa there will be 50 candles lit on each day, on the 10th and 15th days, 100 candles will be offered on the sponsors behalf and for all mother sentient beings to be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.
In early April, following our regular Sunday Shamatha meditation practices at KTBC, our enthusiastic sangha members concentrated on preparing the retreat huts for upcoming hires. A lot of grass cutting happened after the recent downpours and cleaned/prepared the huts for the next retreatants. It truly was a lovely afternoon, enjoying each other’s company and sharing lunch together. We thank everyone who came as your help is so appreciated.
Following a more recent Sunday meditation practice lead by Khenpo la, we moved into our new office, adjoining the new bush kitchen (now ready for hire) along with a shed/flower station for retreats. Thank you to everyone who helped on this day.
We also recently had an inaugural lunch in the bush kitchen, with a special visit by Dr Tony, our dear friend and major sponsor for the bush kitchen upgrade. As well as a wonderful way to acknowledge all the effort by those who have been doing some repair work on the road, led by Khenpo la and Peter, Scott, Robert and Ian who have all been working extremely hard over those last few days. Thank you to Penny for the delicious lunch provided. The bush kitchen is such a beautiful space to be in, with lovely views out to the bush and Mount Gulaga. Again, so much appreciation to all those who made the bush kitchen/office building possible, from the designers, builders, sponsors, and helpers. The new office is in a beautiful position, with ocean views from the windows.
At Kamalashila Tibetan Buddhist Centre, we have installed these fireplaces in the two newer retreat huts, making the huts very pleasant now in the winter months for retreat. To book a hut email firstname.lastname@example.org.
A truly special thank you to Robert, for his dedication to Khenpo la and to this major project, taking over the last 15 months of creativity and hardworking energy from his deep heart build! Photo credit of Robert’s photo, Dean Dampney
HELD AT KAMALASHILA TIBETAN BUDDHIST CENTRE APRIL 2021
Khenpo la has been leading a group of sangha members in training to be mentors for “The Autumn Buddhist Philosophy Course”, which will commence in May 2022.
He has been assisted wonderfully by Carole, as students are learning the fundamentals of mentoring, and how to do this based on the Buddhist principles and philosophy. It is so interesting, as the course format is a mix of Buddhist philosophical teachings on the Hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana given so generously by Khenpo la. Then breakaway group work is utilised to develop the techniques and methods of mentoring students. Some course attendees were attending online from Australia and New Zealand. Khenpo la’s teachings included clear advice on how to actively engage with the Dharma.
“In our ordinary activities during the day, we need to be mindful, constantly checking our mind, all day. We need to do this to constantly rescue ourselves. As long as we are aware of the times we are in the wrong place in our mind and bring it closer to the right place, we are living close to the Dharma.”
On completion of the Mentor Course, Khenpo la presented a certificate of completion to all the students. Khenpo la warmly thanked Emeritus Professor Carole for providing such a clear and relatable framework in which to progress this course for all participants. Professor Carole then in turn thanked Khenpo la for his incredible generosity and wisdom in creating this course. All participants feel so fortunate to have this opportunity. Thank you Khenpo la for offering everyone this special opportunity and for your inspiring teachings. To Carole and Robert for working so hard in putting together this amazing course structure and online learning. Thank you to the very warm sangha group who are undertaking this extremely rewarding program together.
Our official group photo from the weekend Mentor Course with Khenpo la includes those on the screen who attended online from New Zealand and country NSW, and a special one of Khenpo la and the group in the gompa.
HELD AT KAMALASHILA TIBETAN BUDDHIST CENTRE easter weekend, april 2021
Reflections over the few days…
Khenpo la began by leading the retreatants with teachings on the Shamatha/Peaceful-Abiding practice. He taught on the four foundational points for establishing a good Shamatha practice, of the need: to reduce desire; to be grateful; to lessen activities; and to live an ethical life. Khenpo la also stressed how important it was to find a suitable location for one’s practice and that being away from the busyness of everyday life and close to nature was the ideal setting. In the morning session, Khenpo la led a walking meditation session and we spent time in contemplation looking out on the saddle to the magnificent Gulaga Mountain. In the afternoon session Khenpo la gave more teachings and we practiced the Shamatha meditation focussing on the blue flower. There was an extensive Q&A session including our Zoom retreatants from around Australia. In the evening, we practiced Shamatha before retiring for the evening in noble silence.
Continuing with a glorious April day, Khenpo la gave further teachings on how our secondary mind has such a big effect in our lives and thus is so important to train and move from a negative state of mind to a positive state of mind which creates the sense of peace and calm. Due to our deep habituation, it is not easy to transform this secondary mind, but it is possible. In addition to our own effort, we need the right teacher who is deserving of respect and trust. This respect renders our mind more fertile to grow and develop wisdom. We also need to bring a deep commitment so that we enjoy the practice with compassion and loving kindness assisting our progress. Finally, because our minds are fragile and we are inexperienced, it is important that we have spiritual friends to help and support us and keep the flame alive. Khenpo la then expounded on how to use force, relax and rest in the nature state of mind, and went on to cover the five experiences of meditation. He spoke on how important the motivation we bring to our Shamatha practice is ranging from the mundane, to the renunciation, then to the bodhicitta motivation. We then undertook our daily walking meditation and sat to meditate once again facing Gulaga Mountain. In the afternoon, Khenpo la taught-on mindfulness and the roles of remembering what it is good and bad, conscientiousness, and vigilance. He spoke on the two ways to develop the rejoicing mind and how we can subdue our desire, anger, and ignorance mind through training in discipline, meditation, and wisdom. He emphasised how the bodhisattva who seeks to help everyone but in this huge task does not feel a heaviness of mind due to their great joy. Khenpo la also urged us to “remember the teacher” not for their being friendly, smiling, or humorous but for the actual teaching they have given us.
On the final day of retreat, it truly was a special time with Khenpo la and his precious teachings passed down the centuries through many great Masters. We also experienced a warm and growing sangha who were held together with a special bond with many people being on their first retreat at the Centre.
The teachings today focused on the practice of mindfulness with Khenpo la speaking to the definition of mindfulness, the disadvantages of not practising mindfulness, the methods and causes to develop mindfulness and the benefits of mindfulness. With the analogy of our mind being like a wild elephant that needs to be tethered to a pole, mindfulness was defined as tying your mind to the virtuous. It is through wisdom that we can tame this wild elephant mind and transform it into something that is gentle, powerful and of enormous benefit. Khenpo la spoke on how our world is driven by a toxic mind that fails to realise our habit of unhealthy thoughts that run from day to day. We need to be honest with ourselves about our lack of mindfulness while maintaining a hope - when we are despairing ourselves it is a good time to start because there are so many other people around the world in the same state. We need to develop compassion for others who are suffering like us. We understand their pain and wish them to be free of this state. We draw comfort from knowing that everything is changeable and that there are methods to transform this mind. Khenpo la then spoke on the six different breathing techniques that help us develop mindfulness. He gave the example of how we need to protect our mind with mindfulness in the way that someone with a boil on their arm exercises particular care in crowded places. It is the same with COVID and wearing a mask and sanitising our hands – we need to apply the same to our mind. Khenpo la urged us, however, not to isolate once we have developed our mindfulness but to go out into the world and practise mindfulness.
In terms of the cause of cultivating mindfulness, Khenpo la stressed that the critical importance of a wise and kind teacher who can give us the courage to develop our mindfulness as well as the methods to do so. He also emphasised the value to have mindful people around you in the beginning, before venturing out to places and situations lacking in mindfulness. He encouraged people to join together as a sangha on a regular basis, wherever possible in person.
He then finished up on the very practical benefits of mindfulness and how it can protect us from getting hurt or disturbed. We then took our final walking meditation to Mount Gulaga and people offered their very honest and inspiring journeys over the course of the retreat along with their deep heartfelt appreciation for Khenpo la and his teachings. Retreat concluded with khata offerings and thanks to the many people who contributed to creating such a warm, supportive, and comfortable retreat environment. A tremendous thank you for we all enjoyed continuous delicious food prepared by Ani la, Penny and others, thank you for their wonderful meals supported by a very hard-working kitchen sangha along with everyone else, providing kind support for this retreat. Jack H.
May all being have happiness and the cause of happiness. May all beings be free from suffering and the causes of suffering. May all beings never be separated from the joy which is sorrowless. And may all beings live in equanimity free from attachment and aversion to those near and far.
It is tricky to try and put the Kamalashila dharma journey into a paragraph, but here it goes. This being my first time at Kamalashila Tibetan Buddhist Centre at the foothills of Mount Gulaga Tilba, I was a bit nervous yet also excited as to what the new experience ahead might be, embarking on the Shamatha & Mindfulness Easter Long Weekend retreat. My mind was soon put at ease by the tranquil atmosphere, super friendly caretakers and by Khenpo la, the Tibetan master. As the course went on and I slowly picked up on the swing of things, it became noticeably clear to me that this Centre had a very pleasant sangha and a family atmosphere. The program felt very natural and relaxed, with lots of laughing. All the while the chief physician, Dr Khenpo la, was administering his medicine, a direct lineage of the Buddha’s teachings which were absorbed straight into my heart! The teachings were truly clear and simple but comprehensive at the same time. For me, this experience showed me how kind, loving and compassionate the Buddha’s teachings are, which can only be passed on by a teacher not by a book. My wish is that all beings can have this experience. A big thanks to all the members and staff/helpers of the Centre and to the master Khenpo la. May all beings be happy. Jason H.
I attended the eight-day Shamatha retreat with Khenpo la last October via Zoom. I learned a lot about meditation, particularly compassion and exchanging meditation, but was not successful with the single-pointed meditation, which was my main focus. Later, I listened to some of Khenpo la’s recorded teachings from the retreat and thought to myself ‘Did I hear this? I don't remember!’ So, I followed his instructions and thought I had made one step forward in just focusing on the object – perhaps for one minute, but it did not last. That was why I decided to attend this Easter Shamatha & Mindfulness retreat to push myself a little bit more. In this retreat, I realised that my approach to meditation was wrong: instead of looking into my mind, I was trying to align my mind with some fragmented ideas about meditation – ideas I had gathered from books or teachings. I have heard Khenpo la say “It’s all about your mind” countless times, but at last the penny suddenly dropped for me. That has made this retreat memorable for me. Chiaki A.
CELEBRATING FIVE YEARS OF GYRI AT OUR CENTRE KAMALASHILA TIBETAN BUDDHIST CENTRE
Today we marked the five incredibly special years that Gyri has spent at our Kamalashila Tibetan Buddhist Centre, since she first made her way up the road from the neighbour’s property. We tried to return her many times, but she just kept coming back and it would seem she had found the place where she was meant to be. In this time, she has brought much warmth and affection to visitors and provided the opportunity for so many people to give her such kind care and support, especially since her spine become paralysed last year. Alongside a special birthday cake for Gyri made by Ani la, there was a special cake enjoyed by the sangha. We hope that Gyri continues to bring great joy to centre visitors and that her remaining days are pain free and comfortable.
HELD AT KAMALASHILA TIBETAN BUDDHIST CENTRE 17 MARCH 2021
Kamalashila Tibetan Buddhist Centre recently hosted a visit by the local U3A Bermagui. This group of senior locals attended the centre for a tour of the centre, Q&A time, and a guided meditation session with Khenpo Ngawang Dhamchoe. Many interesting questions were asked with equally interesting answers from Khenpo la. We all then shared a cuppa and established closer local connections. The feedback was that everyone really enjoyed their morning at the centre.
HELD AT KAMALASHILA TIBETAN BUDDHIST CENTRE MARCH 2021
Over the three full days of this retreat Khenpo la gave the attendees clear insights into the practices of refuge, bodhicitta, Vajrasattva and the Mandala Offering through his truly inspirational teachings. Khenpo la taught much about how we can use these methods of the Ngöndro practice in our own search for the Ultimate Truth. Khenpo la incorporated many prostrations throughout the day’s practices whilst reciting the refuge prayer, along with the physical aspect of the Mandala offerings with the mandala plate, precious gems and/or rice. This truly was an extraordinary and precious block of time in the most important practices of all in Tibetan Buddhism, The Preliminary Practices, the foundation of all other practices guided so beautifully and comprehensively by Khenpo la… “The Dharma Practitioner is one who searches for the truth daily.” Thank you so much Khenpo la.
Having returned home from the recent Ngöndro Retreat and teachings with Khenpo la, I find myself reflecting once again how lucky I am, and more broadly, we are as students, to have access to such an amazing teacher as in Khenpo la here on the South Coast of NSW. I personally, am always very self-conscious of how little I know when it comes to the Vajrayana teachings. The teachings on all the different deities, their consorts, and the rituals in the sadhanas of Vajrayana, I do find it all quite daunting after practising in the Mahayana stream for a decade or so, in which exposure to the Tantra does not become evident, well not to the lay practitioner any way.
I, and others, who were completing year three of The Complete Path were given a couple of days of introduction to the Ngöndro teachings, using the Mandala plate under Khenpo’s guidance some 18 months back. I truthfully found it all a bit confusing, very in-depth at that time and did not feel confident with what I had learnt. As such I did not proceed with the practice on returning home with the fear I may not be doing it correctly. After attending this refresher Ngöndro retreat under Khenpo’s guidance once more with more in-depth and most comprehensive explanations, I believe I now have a much deeper understanding of taking refuge, developing bodhicitta, and the Mandala Offering practices. I now feel I have the confidence to correctly do the practice at home. I now need to only apply myself… ‘fearlessly’!
TASHI DELEK FROM KAMALASHILA TIBETAN BUDDHIST CENTRE
There was a wonderful celebration at Kamalashila Tibetan Buddhist Centre. Firstly, Khenpo la gave a prayer flag blessing as many attending hung numerous chains of flags, lung ta, through the trees. We raised the tall Darchog, flagstaffs, with some joyous chanting to raise the spirit as the new flags stood tall in the wind. Khenpo la explained that the history of raising flags in Tibet is very ancient, originating from a Bon tradition, in the 8th Century Buddhist prayers were added and printed on the flags giving us the special tradition of hanging Buddhist prayer flags that we have today. Then there was a juniper smoke offering and prayer blessing; we all offered barley flour to the wind and had some special Losar Khapse, sweet pastries, to make our speech sweet for the New Year. Then all made their way to the Gompa where Khenpo la lead The Sixteen Arhat Puja. It was very inspiring to have the cymbals, drums, and many voices joining in with the chant. This was followed by a beautifully presented lunch with sweet rice and tea, a great start to the year.
Wishing you all much happiness and many blessings for the New Year.
Happy Losar – 2148 the Year of the Metal Ox february 2021
In Tibet, various customs are associated with the New Year holiday as in a New Year’s festival, celebrated on the first day of the lunisolar Tibetan calendar, which corresponds to a date ranging from late January up to late March in the Gregorian calendar. This year it falls on 12 February 2021. The qualities of the Metal Ox Year are perseverance, balance, patience, laboriousness, liability, seriousness, sincerity, modesty, carefulness, parsimony, loyalty and love for traditions.
Losar preparation and celebration
Losar is celebrated for 15 days, with the main celebrations on the first three days.
A month before the New Year a special kind of barley is planted in little flowerpots so that by the time New Year rolls around three-inch-high seedlings can be offered to Buddha. Families then prepare for Losar some days in advance by thoroughly cleaning their homes; decorating with fragrant flowers; painting their walls in flour with auspicious signs such as the sun, moon, or a reversed swastika; and preparing cedar, rhododendron and juniper branches as incense for burning. Debts are settled, quarrels are resolved and new clothes are acquired.
Guthor – the last two days of the year
In English guthor means “banishing the evil spirits festival”.
The day before New Year’s Eve, the kitchen is thoroughly cleaned because it is where the family prepares food and is considered the most important part of a house. Here, special foods are made such as kapse (fried twists) and guthuk (a form of the traditional Tibetan soup, thukpa).
On this night, families and friends gather to eat guthuk and perform the rituals for driving out all negative forces of the old year. Guthuk is made from meat, rice, sweet potatoes, wheat, yak cheese, peas, green peppers, vermicelli, and radishes, and is served with small dumplings akin to fortune cookies that contain hidden ingredients, some in the form of words on paper, all of which symbolise human qualities or the diner’s New Year fortune.
The dumplings are not eaten but discarded after their contents are revealed. When eating guthuk, Tibetan families discuss their luck for the New Year. The atmosphere is bright and very lively.
After eating guthuk (ensuring some is left over), leftover dough is formed into an effigy representing an evil entity called lue. One member of the family carrying a lighted torch goes from room to room demanding that the spirits of the old year dwelling in nooks and corners to leave. Another person follows with a broom and sweeps the rooms, emptying the dust into a container with the leftover guthuk and the lue. In this way, our body, spirit and living spaces are cleansed of the negativities of the old year and the lue is taken outside. As the lue leaves the house, firecrackers are set off after it and the lue is commanded to take away all the obstacles and negativities of the year.
In the Potala palace of Lhasa and other places, a grand sorcerer’s dance is held to keep away evil spirits. Monks and people in all places put on masks and clothes, imitating demons and spirits, singing, dancing, lighting firecrackers and shouting to bid farewell to the outgoing year and welcome the coming New Year.
On the second day of guthor, New Year’s Eve, religious ceremonies are performed, people visit the monastery to worship and donate money and gifts to the monks.
Losar – first day of the new year
The new year begins on the day of a new moon that marks the first day of the first month on the Tibetan calendar. It is called Gyalpo Losar in Tibetan means “King’s New Year”. People dress up in their best clothes, greet each other and go to the monasteries to receive blessings, as the festivities last from the 1st day of the New Year until the 15th day.
Working Bees in January HELD AT KAMALASHILA TIBETAN BUDDHIST CENTRE
At one of the working bees in mid-January, we accomplished a lot of grass cutting around Khenpo la’s house and the retreat huts. The recent rains have been most wonderful to fill all the tanks and to water the grass.
Khenpo la lead from the front, many worked hard on an extremely hot day. During the lunch break we all reflected on how much we can achieve when we work together.
Thank you so much to everyone who came and contributed their time and equipment, not just for this working bee but for all of them!!!
Healing & Purification Retreat 2020 HELD AT KAMALASHILA TIBETAN BUDDHIST CENTRE
On the anniversary of Sakya Pandita’s passing into Parinirvana 769 years ago, the annual Healing & Purification Retreat at our Kamalashila Retreat Centre, Tilba commenced. We began with everyone making a light offering before Khenpo la bestowed the Vajrasattva transmission and commenced teaching on the Vajrasattva practice. We undertook a walking meditation and reflection looking out over the saddle area to Gulaga Mountain. It was a remarkably cool afternoon at only 14 degrees as we lit the wood heater in the morning to keep warm. Everywhere is very green after heavy rainfalls the past few days with more on the way. To think that this time last year it was so hot, windy, and dry, the fires were continuing to break out across Australia. Little did we know what was ahead of us the next few days right down the NSW South Coast and into Victoria. Twelve months on, we are all now dealing with the challenges of COVID-19 as we strictly follow all the COVID guidelines. Thankfully, we have the Triple Gem to take refuge in. Thankfully, we have access to Great Teachers who remind us of the impermanence of this short and most precious life and of our immense good fortune to have encountered the Dharma along with the freedom to practice it. We are reminded of the urgent need to take advantage of this special opportunity to deepen our practice. We are blessed to do so in such a wonderful environment surrounded by nature and many native animals and birds. What better way to finish up a year like no other than with the purification of the Vajrasattva practice!
The beginning of Day 3: Khenpo la completed the teaching on Vajrasattva practice and then gave transmission and commenced teaching on the Medicine Buddha practice. During the day we recited the Vajrasattva and Medicine Buddha mantras with visualisations along with our morning walking meditation – “a good day” commented Khenpo as he headed home after our final session in the Gompa that evening. This day one year ago we had finished up our retreat early due to the approaching bushfires. Last year, the evening sun was pink, the countryside parched, and the distant skies filled with hazy smoke. This year, no sun to be seen with the sky overcast, a light shower, and the countryside flush with green growth. Impermanence.
On the last day of 2020, Khenpo la gave teachings on the aspirations of the first seven of the eight forms of Medicine Buddha. We undertook our regular walking meditation, practised the visualisations and mantra recitations and Khenpo answered our questions. We enjoyed wonderful meals prepared by Alan and Annie at lunchtime, with Penny and friends in the evening. We then finished 2020 with Vajrasattva and Medicine Buddha practices. We reflected that this day last year we evacuated the centre in the early hours of the morning as the fires closed in.
Day 5: the start of the New Year began in very auspicious circumstances with a double rainbow appearing over both Khenpo la's house and the gompa as the morning sun came up along with a light shower of rain. Khenpo la concluded his teachings on Medicine Buddha and we finished the retreat with Vajrasattva and Medicine Buddha practices before our thanks with khatas were offered to Khenpo from a COVID-safe distance. We joined in for a final lunch prepared by Ani la before we set about cleaning up the centre as we headed back to our normal lives blessed with having had such a wonderful finish to 2019 and start to 2020. We rejoice in our immense good fortune to have encountered the precious Buddhadharma, to have had the opportunity to receive teachings in the incredibly special environment of our Kamalashila centre, to have such a wise, compassionate, and skilled teacher as Khenpo la give us those teachings and to enjoy the company of a warm, kind, and generous sangha. We pray for the long life of Khenpo la and all the great Sakya Masters. We pray that they all enjoy excellent health and that they continue to turn the Wheel of Dharma for the benefit of all sentient beings. Thu je che and Happy New Year!
Thanks also to local sangha for all the wonderful meals and special COVID VIP service in the dining room! Reflections by Jack
Khenpo la is one of those teachers one would climb over mountains to hear the dharma teachings from. This year it was not mountains that were the obstacle, it was COVID-19 and closed borders. Realising early on the great need for the dharma especially during these difficult times, Khenpo la embarked on his own journey of discovery, that being the online world of Zoom and live Facebook.
Khenpo la’s quest to reach out to others gave great comfort and joy to many around Australia and overseas. His relentless pursuit of turning the great teachings of Lord Buddha, has helped so many of us during this incredibly challenging year. Khenpo la planned the perfect program of teachings, and then delivered them with such care and concern for us all.
Many of us were struggling from the aftermath of the bushfires, then the floods, then COVID itself, then its aftermath of isolation and financial strain.
Khenpo la’s teachings were the steadying force, never missing a beat of turning up to give those words of great method and wisdom. These teachings showed us how to recover, how to prevent and how to prevail. Most importantly, as Mahayana Buddhist practitioners, whilst facing our own difficulties, how to truly help others. Thank you to Khenpo la for his great determination and kindness in helping so many so often.
The latest teachings just concluded were on Sunday Facebook practice were teachings on ‘Nagarjuna’s personal Dharma advice to his friend King Gautamiputra’, and on Tuesday evenings via Zoom, ‘Shantideva’s Bodhicaryāvatāra’.
I wish you and all who keep DBI up and going, the best of health and hope all the efforts of your virtuous deeds come to fruition in this life, it has been a special year for me to see Khenpo on Facebook or Zoom, his generosity, kindness, and patience, and way of presenting the teachings are true reflections of the Buddhadharma. I cannot find the words to express my gratitude. Lots of love to you all. Lynda W.
I hope things are well with all at DBI, very odd times yet I must say, Khenpo’s teachings have been amazing – we are so fortunate to have access to these treasures. Jane B.
HELD AT KAMALASHILA TIBETAN BUDDHIST CENTRE 5 December 2020
Khenpo la’s Opening Motivation
The AGM today is for the dharma centre, the purpose of the dharma centre is to free our own negative mind and to help others who are trapped in their negative mind, this being the main task of the centre. We are all willing to support and help, through this effort may it be the cause of all of us to attain Buddhahood to benefit countless sentient beings. For this purpose, we are attending this Annual General Meeting.
Khenpo la’s Address
I would like to welcome you all here to the AGM, I thank so many of you for travelling such long distances, showing the importance of this meeting, I sincerely thank you.
Going back to the beginning of this year, with the bushfires, where even here at the centre we all had to evacuate a few times, it was not easy to do this for there are so many valuable items here. At that time, I was in India on Pilgrimage with a group where we felt a type of helplessness being so far away, yet we made many offerings through our thoughts and prayers which we diligently prayed at every holy site to protect this place. At that time my brother Karma, Robert, Jack, Andrew, Ann worked tirelessly to protect this place so I would like to say thank you for your hard work during the bushfires.
Then of course the whole committee at other distances were concerned for this place and were present emotionally and so supportive – I also would like to say thank you to the ones who were physically here and to those emotionally here, acting as a team. Then of course there are many members who love this place, they too were concerned, to all the people who sent love, prayers, and a wish to save this place thank you, this being from a centre point of view.
After the bushfires ended the COVID 19 Pandemic began, needing to cancel a large portion of the centre’s program, not being a big issue but we needed to close due to the health risks. When we could start teachings again, we had to put into place social distancing, due to Ann’s strictness the centre has been kept extremely safe – there is no COVID-19 at Kamalashila! Even though the virus is still under restrictions, we have been able to run some events very successfully, without this hard work and planning it has made it possible for things to run successfully up until now.
An even larger disaster than that is the COVID-19 as we know it, where the whole world is affected by this virus, to think how many millions of people are suffering from this COVID-19 directly. Indirectly how many people are losing their houses, jobs, family, money, there is so much suffering out there, then the hundreds of thousands who have lost their precious lives, these people all cherished their lives as we do, as it is not part of some story that they are dying, losing their precious lives under such circumstances. In this way, all of us need to remember to wish the victims of COVID-19 to end this issue soon, to those who have died may they be reborn again as a human and meet the dharma so to help other beings. This is a beginning to address the concerns and worries about the recent bushfires and COVID-19.
Secondly, this being a dharma centre, its main task is dharma activities, the main person to run this centre is the dharma teacher due to the need of running the centre is only according to the dharma. I have nothing to gain personally, yet I wish to see this centre to be successful, my care is 24x7, my thoughts are for nothing but the centre, I have no other job, I am not just doing this part-time. I always say that we do not want to be caught up with too much construction for then we miss the essence of the dharma, yet practically at the same time as we all know it has considerably basic facilities. There does need to be a lot of improvements for the future sangha to come and feel comfortable, therefore, I have no interest to build a majestic looking temple – for a real temple is to have enough room to place the Buddha’s large picture for which we have, large enough to meditate on. When we run a long retreat, as we all know, it is basic accommodation, with this my next wish is to build a dormitory, this being my prime desire.
It is also important to not always to depend on sponsors, that the centre can support the centre, as in if there is extra financial help, we can apply this to others. I have the vision to help offer food to the local homeless people, we did try a few times which was not successful. I was not here at that time, but Ann with the help of others cooked for Bermagui – yet no one turned up. In that experience it is unsuccessful but looking at the successfulness part no one seems to be hungry here which is a good sign. At any rate we are not going to give up for we wish to organise simple things as in offering food to the homeless. Every big thing starts with the small, for example – Kentucky Fried Chicken in America began by selling the chicken drumstick in the streets, then it became a worldwide business. Similarly, we want to start small then if it can work it can go state-wide in helping the homeless from a charitable organisation view, and if more successful it can reach to an international level. There is no use going around saying we are going to be the most successful; my philosophy is to start small, then when it grows, we can reach to many more.
Due to the bushfires and COVID-19 I feel the centre has been extraordinarily successful within this past year, we have built a good quality road over the worst area, where so many had worry and concerns coming up a particular section of the road and for some it even stopped them coming back to the centre due to that short uncomfortable part of road. This being extremely successful, I sincerely would like to thank you all who had the great enthusiasm in a short period of time raising $30,000. When we raised this $30,000 for concreting part of the road, the donations continued even when we emailed everyone that we reached our top goal, this leftover money is then added to the centre’s finances, we have put that towards a wonderful tractor, secondhand but a very good tractor, under the great effort of Peter searching and finding a perfect quality tractor. The tractor is a huge asset to the centre in upgrading the road, lawn mowing and many more jobs. I thank each and every person who sponsored towards this, thank you so much.
Last year we thought about the future of the old Bush Kitchen, to turn it into a proper area for people who camp or stay for a week or so, for in the past it has been extremely hard to have people stay due to not being allowed to use the main kitchen. We are in the process of upgrading the Bush Kitchen, we are so incredibly grateful for all involved in this project in particular Robert N. and to the major sponsors. Also, I wish to thank a generous sponsor who donated the water tanks that will be installed shortly. This helps ease all our minds that we now will have plenty of water on this property, a tremendous offering.
We were meant to start an especially important mentoring course this year yet due to COVID-19 it had to be delayed, but we were able to offer a short weekend to start this. In this way, without Carole’s professionalism this would be impossible to carry out this new aspect of the centre. In the future this will be a three-year course which both Carole and Robert G. are involved in with a huge amount of organising.
To thank the whole committee, for without the committee there is no organisation and cannot accomplish anything, each committee member has put in physically extremely hard work, mentally putting forward so much effort and ideas, all a tremendous help, I say thank you to the whole committee. Thank you to our new accountant treasurer, Scott – he comes from a good heart, a willingness to help and improve the finances of the centre, I thank you and the support of his wife Brenda. Even though they have just begun in this way there is so much eagerness to contribute to the centre where there is a long-term benefit. Not only that, but many times also both Peter and Scott with small windows of time have rushed down here from Sydney, no time for rest, putting on their working clothing and jump into the job needed to be done, this is such a big place without that kind of help it is not an easy place to run, so I thank both of for your dedication of your time to do this for us.
We have also run so many working bees this past year, to prevent any future bushfire damage to the centre we had to burn piles of debris many times, without all the help that we receive it could not be possible otherwise, primarily Karma putting in so much effort and with such dedication, he was the driving force each morning to pile everything up and burn carefully, now it is so much more tidy and safer. The list can go on and on, I would like to thank all people who have put so much effort into the centre this year. To the garden people and specifically to Tjenka being so involved throughout the COVID-19 helping to bring the online teachings every Sunday to so many, through this tremendous effort it has brought the teachings to many all over the world.
One of the hardest workers being Ann, I think to myself where does her energy come from – dealing with tremendous stress along with a full-time job, rushing here and there, every weekend she is at the centre seemingly without rest, I thank you so much. I always say we are working for the dharma, in this I am not here to thank all individually, so to replace all your hard work what you are actually doing is to benefit our own Bodhicitta Mind, then to understand that there is no need to say thank you. Yet we are in the mundane world – the conventional world, there being a system, if someone works hard there is a need to be an acknowledged, if not people will eventually lose interest, they may say I do so much and I never get any appreciation, unfortunately this is the world view. So again, thank you to everyone who have attended this AGM and online, even our antique Peter is here online – every year he increases in price!
I am really so fortunate with Peter, Jack, Ann, Suzi, Linda and Vanessa, lots of other centres may change their committee twice a year and so unstable, yet we as a committee have been together for decades, they listen to my advice and beyond willing to help, we always say not to discriminate for the centre is for the public and I feel people whoever comes to the centre can feel that we are always trying our best even though we cannot please everyone, they may not get what they expect, yet beside this we do our absolute best. I’m now in my mid 50s, I can possibly still have 20 more years to run this centre and we can all do this together, then one day we will die yet will have no regrets for we have worked so hard for the centre to be healthy and thriving, then the next 20 to 50 years there will be a huge benefit here at the centre for others. We were planning for His Eminence Luding Khen Rinpoche to come here but due to COVID-19 no one can travel, so we must wait until it is all sorted then both His Eminence and His Holiness the 42nd Sakya Trizin can come for they have both accepted our invitation to return to Kamalashila, but now we cannot plan anything just yet.
I would like to invite all of you in solidarity for the world – to wish all affected by the bushfires, human or animals, to wish them to recover in any way they need for their health or for mental healing. For those who lost their lives – may they have a peace of mind to be reborn in a higher rebirth and to meet the dharma in the future, as a Buddhist to include every single sentient being, to reflect all this deep in our hearts.
I sincerely wish you all a great celebration at Christmas being with family for it is so important to be with loved ones currently. Have a wonderful time, as I will be praying for you all to take care whilst travelling and ask you to be specifically mindful especially regarding COVID. May you have good health, long life and turn your mind to the dharma. Thank you to everyone. Khenpo Ngawang Dhamchoe
President Jack Heath’s Edited Address
On behalf of everyone we would like to thank you Khenpo la for your leadership this past year. It is because of the quality of your Dharma leadership that people tend to stick with you for long periods of time. Your teachings are always authentic, consistent, full of humour and so precious for the many people who receive them, including those who have been joining us over zoom this past year. At the same time, you manage to achieve so much at a material level for the Centre, and despite the committee!
I am sure that everyone here will rejoice in hearing you say there is another 20 years of you here at the centre so we might circulate that quite widely in case anyone wants to take you away and do some great work somewhere else!
During this past year, and despite COVID, there has been a real sense of momentum for the centre and I think that speaks to what you have always said Khenpo: to start small and strong and then allow it to grow from there. I believe that is what has been happening here which is quite wonderful, so on behalf of everyone we would like to offer our heartfelt thank you in providing such wonderful leadership.
As Khenpo la expressed, we would like to thank Karma la for his extraordinary contribution. He worked relentlessly every single day to support Khenpo la and the centre. Hopefully, Karma will be able to come back again in the not-too-distant future. I remember when a couple of us were here in the Gompa on New Year’s Eve morning with the fires coming through and Karma la was saying take that statue and that one, that thangka and leave the rest and let’s go get out of here. It was so reassuring to have him around. Then I think with Robert there were three or more evacuations of the centre with Karma which was a remarkable time. At the same time, it was so good to know that there was that support from Khenpo la and others around the world, even monasteries in Tibet and other places were praying for us then – it was such an extraordinary time and we are so lucky the centre survived intact. I would also like to acknowledge Ani la with all the help she has provided to the centre in cooking and on many other fronts as well.
And thank you to all the Committee members and the many people who have contributed to the Centre over the past year. Thank you. Jack Heath
AT KAMALASHILA TIBETAN BUDDHIST CENTRE 7 November 2020
We rejoiced to report that we achieved our goal to raise $30,000 to build a new roadway at our Kamalashila Centre at Tilba, within just a few weeks of launching the appeal. Those who journeyed to our Kamalashila centre previously would have experienced the challenging terrain of the road that lead up to the gompa and centre facilities. Due to the gradient of the road, it formed corrugations and potholes making it difficult and dangerous to make the drive up the hill. The weather pattern over the past few years had not helped.
On behalf of Khenpo la, and all who will benefit from this project for many years to come, thank you so much to everyone who so kindly contributed to our appeal. We rejoice in your merit!
On Saturday 7 November – an incredibly special time in the Buddhist calendar, being the anniversary of Lha Bab Duchen, the 22nd day of the 9th Lunar Month, the Buddha Shakyamuni’s mother Mayadevi was reborn in Indra’s heaven. To repay her kindness and to liberate her, also to benefit the gods, Buddha Shakyamuni spent three months in the realm of the gods. This was followed by His performance of extensive miracles at Shravasti in His 41st year. After these three months, at the request of His disciples, the Buddha agreed to return to continue His teachings on earth. As a Buddha Holy Day, it is an auspicious day for practice, when the karmic effects of actions are said to be multiplied 100 million times!
To mark this special day the new road at Kamalashila Tibetan Buddhist Centre, leading up to the gompa, was officially open to the sangha and the general public. Earlier in the week Khenpo la conducted a road blessing, blessings for all those who travel on the road in the future. We hope that our many kind donors – along with many others – will be able to traverse the road in person and follow in Khenpo la’s footsteps. Thank you for smoothing the path to the Dharma!
HELD AT KAMALASHILA TIBETAN BUDDHIST CENTRE 18 October 2020
Khenpo la and Carole so skilfully guided participants through Dharma study and mentoring opportunities this first weekend of the start of a three-year program. Each session challenged everyone with this new learning, but both the content and structure of the course were so inspiring that the time flew!
All involved are looking forward already to the second part of the course in April 2021. We thank most wholeheartedly to Ann for her tireless care and skill with organisation and maintaining the COVID protocols. A thank you to Robert G. for his technical expertise. Thank you to Ani la for her incredible food and to her wonderful team of kitchen volunteers. And very importantly, thank you to all those transcribers who put in hours of their time at home to faithfully record Khenpo la’s teachings in written form.
May we all actively listen to the precious words of the Dharma. May we all implement what we learn in our everyday lives. May we all thereby gain the qualities and skills required to ease the suffering of others by supporting them to understand the Dharma. May countless beings benefit from our activities this weekend!
“The precious Dharma is virtuous at the beginning, the precious Dharma is virtuous in the middle, the precious Dharma is virtuous at the end.” Asanga
HELD AT KAMALASHILA TIBETAN BUDDHIST CENTRE 11 October 2020
Today was Karma la’s farewell luncheon at Kamalashila. Karma will be returning to New York for around 6 months. It was a beautiful send off for Karma, with a delicious lunch prepared so lovingly by Zara. A group of friends joined Karma on a beautiful sunny day, to share this time with him. Karma has contributed so much to the centre over the past year alone. DBI President Jack spoke of Karma’s great work for the centre in so many ways, but particularly in supporting Khenpo la and the great service around initiating the hot meals for bushfire affected residents of Quaama. We all wish Karma to have a safe journey and much happiness. Thank you, Karma, for all you have done for our community. Be safe and please return soon!!!