HELD AT KAMALASHILA TIBETAN BUDDHIST CENTRE Semester 1, 2022
We are so fortunate to have Khenpo Ngawang Dhamchoe as our teacher and inspiration in the new Autumn Buddhist Philosophy Course. The Course began in the first week of March 2022 and, in June, will conclude its first semester.
Khenpo’s coverage of the Hinayana has been so clear and comprehensive. It gives students a firm basis for understanding the first of the three major traditions of Buddhism. We have covered The Four Common Foundations, The Four Noble Truths, and a Virtuous and Ethical Life. Khenpo la has shown great equanimity and kindness in conducting this Course. May all find benefit to increase their own happiness and the happiness of others!
The Course now has 67 students. The students’ progress is assisted in specific mentor sessions by our 16 mentors and the students’ study is supported by resources in a learning management system and a set of readings in The Hinayana Booklets prepared specifically for the Course. Whilst the Course has been fully online to date, we are all looking forward to the first of our residential retreats in June.
Registrations for the Course have closed now but we are keeping a waiting list for any vacancies for the remainder of the year. If you are interested, please contact the Course Convener, Dr Carole Kayrooz by email to place your name on the waiting list at email@example.com.
A MESSAGE FROM KHENPO NGAWANG DHAMCHOE 31 May to 28 June 2149* (2022)
The name Saga Dawa is of a particular star for which only appears within the fourth month of the lunar calendar. The Saga Dawa month is an incredibly special month, for the Buddha performed Six Noble Activities: first, the Buddha was conceived; second the Buddha was born, third the Buddha took ordination; fourth the Buddha completely defeated his own maras; fifth, he attained full enlightenment; and lastly, he passed into Mahaparinirvana. All these occurred during this this particular month, making it a very special month in the Buddhist calendar. Within this month whatever positive and negative thoughts and actions one carries out are multiplied 100,000 times.
The sutras state that the Buddha performed many of The Twelve Great Deeds within the month of Saga Dawa. The sutras say that to go to these holy sites, such as the places of the Buddha’s birth and other major events, are more effective, for these places are more powerful than ordinary places. As the Buddha blessed this month, in particular the first 15 days when he carried out the Six Noble Activities, all virtuous activities will be multiplied. Because this particular month has been blessed by Buddha Shakyamuni and many other enlightened beings, whatever we do virtuously – in our practices, mantras and any other practices – will then be multiplied 100,000 times. Such practices are much more effective than at any other time.
Whatever one can manage, it is important to make a pledge for one day, fifteen days, or for the entire month, to avoid any negative thoughts. It is also important not to carry out any negative deeds. If you do not feel strong enough to make such a pledge, just simply be as positive as possible, try not to be negative, this is good enough. Try to do this for at least the first 15 days; try to perform as many virtuous activities as possible at this very blessed time. I encourage you all to look at this month differently, to do something for oneself, to try our best in being virtuous – for this is the source of all happiness, to avoid all non-virtuous things – for this is the cause of all suffering. I also encourage and ask you all to follow a vegan or vegetarian diet during this most auspicious month, remembering all precious mother sentient beings are searching for everlasting happiness.
Khenpo Ngawang Dhamchoe
*2149 is the date for 2022 in the Tibetan calendar
It is with a heavy heart that we let you know that our dear Gyri Dolma passed away around 4.00am on 2 May 2022.
As some of you might know Gyri had been declining in her health over time, and more recently had reduced her food intake. Khenpo la had been giving her some broth and water up until her passing that morning.
Gyri was so peaceful, Khenpo la described coming out to check on her and all the environment was very calm and peaceful as she passed. Her little face looked so youthful and content.
Khenpo la conducted a ceremony that morning, where we lit 100 candles for Gyri, chanted prayers, and mantras, and then carried her outside the gompa for one final circumambulation of the gompa before putting her to rest. She has been buried in the ground in view of the gompa, with her head turned towards the gompa and her position in full sunlight during the day. We then had a lovely time together enjoying some lunch and talking about her, rejoicing in her very special life and circumstances for a favourable rebirth. Gyri taught us all so much, and as a sangha we are the stronger for having her as part of our community and our lives.
Gyri came to the centre in 2016 during the Easter long weekend working bee. She walked up the drive from next door, ate some lunch with everyone, and took up a position at the gompa door, greeted all that arrived each and every time, and never left. It is so unusual for this to happen, she never wanted to return to her other home. In time we approached her owners and they said we could keep Gyri at the centre.
Many people helped care for Gyri over the years, and many sponsored her food, veterinary bills, all sorts of things to help her, as the centre would like to thank each and every one of you on Gyri's behalf. For many years she was so independent and seemed to be getting younger not older. She would often be seen trotting off on her morning walk, keeping guard of the gompa and surroundings.
Then in September 2019 she suddenly lost the use of her back legs and became paralysed. After a period of getting used to this new way of being in the world, Gyri accepted all the care from everyone with such grace. She would have setbacks, but always bounced back stronger than ever. Her overall health was quite exceptional.
Gyri was 22 years old. She says she will see you in the next life. We ask for you to pray for Gyri, saying mantra and lighting candles for her fortunate rebirth.
HELD AT KAMALASHILA TIBETAN BUDDHIST CENTRE 14-17 April 2022
“I left the Easter Shamatha and Mindfulness Retreat with a sense of peace, calm and clear instructions for a regular practice.” Jane P.
“As an older student, it is extremely beneficial to receive Shamatha and Mindfulness teaching instructions yet again and again, to clarify how you are travelling on the path. Khenpo la offered very clear teachings on mindfulness and meditation about the interdependent nature of causes and conditions.
“The negative mind will no doubt bring negative outcomes, therefore mindfulness meditation is extremely rewarding, for through this discipline the wisdom mind can arise, then can dispel the three types of sufferings (suffering of suffering, suffering of change, suffering of conditional phenomena).
“A few aspects that truly resonated with me – through the practice of the four mindfulness meditations:
Mindfulness of body (the body is made up of a pile of flesh, bone, blood, look at it without attachment).
Mindfulness of feeling (if you can look at one’s feelings without judgement, otherwise sufferings arise).
Mindfulness of mind (there are numerous kinds of minds, and mind is very illusive, so don’t get attached to anything, nothing is truly existent).
Mindfulness of phenomena (here refer to uncompounded phenomena, realisation of this free us to attachment of any existence).
“We began the guided practice:
Prostration a method to purify our body then we sit on the cushion, with correct seven-point meditation posture.
Exhale to clear old air from our body and veins, helps to clear the mind.
Motivation doing meditation to overcome afflictive mind.
When mind is calm one can feel one’s presence.
During meditation if mind wander away, bring it back, by remembering mind is safer here than wandering off.
Mindfulness is part of Vipassana and is part of phenomena, it sees phenomena as own nature. Vipassana is mindfulness insight meditation to phenomena rising meditation.
“Thank you Khenpo la, may all your students on this retreat minds flourish unceasingly for the happiness of all beings.” Serene
“This retreat like the first retreat I attended has recharged my batteries. It feels like medicine for my soul. Your community’s effort to provide a safe sanctuary, filled with peace as a vessel for clear instruction from Khenpo is truly inspiring, plus the added bonus of delicious food makes it an experience I want to return to again.” Leanne
HELD AT KAMALASHILA TIBETAN BUDDHIST CENTRE 25-27 March 2022
Such a wonderful hard-working group of Sangha got together for the weekend on our 2nd Karma Yoga Group Retreat. So much is being accomplished after all the rains in the garden and mowing, painting the gompa wood, constructing a carport and much more. Thank you Khenpo la and all our wonderful centre family for such amazing contributions, looking forward to the next Karma Yoga Weekend Retreat in September.
MESSAGES FROM DROGMI BUDDHIST INSTITUTE 16-17 March 2022
Khenpo Ngawang Dhamchoe and all the members and friends of Drogmi Buddhist Institute rejoice in the most blessed and auspicious occasion of the Enthronement Ceremony of His Holiness Khöndung Gyana Rinpoche as the 43rd Sakya Trizin. While COVID-19 has prevented us from attending the ceremony in person, we will be participating with our fullest of hearts and minds through the livestream of the event. Your Holiness, we pray and wish for your Dharmic activities to flourish throughout the entire world for the benefit of all sentient beings. We pray for your good health and long life and humbly request that you to continue to Turn the Wheel of the Precious Buddhadharma.
As President of the Drogmi Buddhist Institute in Australia, and on behalf of all our members and our Founder and Spiritual Director Khenpo Ngawang Dhamchoe, it is a great honour to offer our heartfelt congratulations and best wishes to Your Holiness Khöndung Gyana Vajra Rinpoche on this very auspicious occasion of Your Enthronement as the 43rd Sakya Trizin.
Your Holiness is a true emanation of Manjushri. Through Your loving-kindness and the radiance of Your supreme knowledge, may You completely cleanse the darkness of deluded minds throughout the entire world. Through Your tireless efforts, may the temporal and spiritual ways of the glorious Sakyapa’s flourish. May Your enlightened activities pervade all space.
From the depths of our hearts, we pray for Your long life, and we also pray that You can visit Australia and turn the Wheel of Dharma for the benefit of all sentient beings. Thank you. Jack Heath
HELD AT KAMALASHILA TIBETAN BUDDHIST CENTRE 10-13 March 2022
Following on from the Losar celebrations the weekend prior, a group of sangha gathered for the Six Dome White Tara Retreat. Khenpo la so carefully arranged for this retreat to commence on the evening of the 8th day of the first Tibetan Lunar calendar month, during the first waxing moon phase, when all attainments are increasing. And then on day three of retreat was the 10th day of the Tibetan Lunar calendar which was auspiciously Guru Rinpoche and Vajrayogini Day and we held a brief Tsog at the end of a beautiful day of teachings on White Tara sadhana. Khenpo la talked during this retreat, about using our opportunities to their fullest, and He led us with this great example, so very kind for us all.
Thank you Khenpo la and all who attended to make this a very special time together in the Dharma. May all our precious Gurus and Dharma Teachers have healthy and long lives – and us all so that we can maximise to the fullest our opportunity to help mother sentient beings.
Some comments from attendees:
“The calmness and clarity of the authentic teachings that particularly resonated with me were the teachings and explanation of the Lineage Gurus, which brought to life the qualities of the Gurus past and present.” Katarina
“Khenpo la stressed the importance of holding genuine Bodhicitta and focusing on the quality of the practice rather than being caught up in the small details of the sadhana.” Jack
“Due to the love and compassion of White Tara and Khenpo la’s guided meditations, by the end of the retreat there was a palpable sense of healing and calmness, I felt restored”. Vanessa.
HELD AT KAMALASHILA TIBETAN BUDDHIST CENTRE 6 March 2022
Thank you to the very experienced and qualified Venerables Ayya Jitindriya and Jayasara who led the Day Retreat at Kamalashila at Khenpo la’s invitation. Thank you Khenpo la.
This day’s Mindfulness Retreat was both simple and revelatory. As Ven. Ayya Jitindriya pointed out, practicing awareness is like entering a learning space, like a research laboratory, within which we can develop Mindfulness to direct our attention. She underlined that mindfulness alone is merely the sharpening of our ability to focus and needs to be practiced within a context of ethical behaviour in order to realise its potential for awakening and wisdom.
After leading the group on a walking meditation, Ven. Jayasara offered the analogy of a river to help us understand the process of working with our chattering thoughts. Like a quiet witness, we watch the flow of thoughts rush by, without jumping in. Sometimes our attention may be like a stick caught on a rock, but as soon as our mindfulness realises our ‘stuckness’, we can let go and return to the bank to quietly watch the stream of thoughts. Our heartfelt thanks to Venerables Ayya Jitindriya and Jayasara for their warmth, wisdom, and humour, inspiring us to develop our mindfulness in our own everyday lives. Thank you to everyone who came and participated, and for asking those questions that help us all. The group were very enthusiastic to see the Venerables again very soon.
Happy Losar 2149 – the year of the Water Tiger March 2022
Happy Losar from Khenpo Ngawang Dhamchoe and all at Kamalashila Tibetan Buddhist Centre!
The day began with rose-golden clouds and soon saw new and old friends gathering on the mountain to raise prayer flags for the new year. Khenpo la explained that this is like raising our mind to the positive, straight, and tall.
As Khenpo la led us in a ‘Sang’ Smoke offering puja, fragrant smoke billowed around us, through the trees and into the sky, cleansing us of negativities.
To bless us with sweet and caring speech, Khenpo la and Ani la offered us traditional home-made Tibetan ‘Khabze’ biscuits.
Then, after some instructions from Khenpo la, we all raised our arms to the sky and called out, from the top of our lungs, the traditional, ‘So, so, so…’ to declare our positive minds victorious over the negative. Smiles and laughter all round. Together, we entered the gompa, took our places and began The Sixteen Arhat Puja to seal our wishes for a positive mind and New Year for all sentient beings. Thank you to all who came and to those of you who could not come, please know that you were in our hearts on this day. May all of us conquer our own anger, jealousy, and negative emotions this year and place in our mind the tall flags of kindness.
Chötrul Düchen ("Great Day of Miraculous Manifestations") སྲིད་པ་གསུམ་ན་དཔྗེ་མྗེད་ཡྟོན་ཏན་གྱི། ། Homage to you, who performed great miracles in Śravastī, མཉན་དུ་ཡྟོད་པར་ཆྟོ་འཕྲུལ་ཆྗེན་པྟོ་བསྟན། ། Unmatched in their splendour in all the three realms, ལྷ་མི་འགྟོ་བ་ཀུན་གིས་རབ་མཆྟོད་པས། ། And through the offerings made by gods, humans, and other beings, བསྟན་པ་རྒྱས་པར་མཛད་ལ་ཕྱག་འཚལ་ལྟོ། ། Caused the teachings to prosper and increase.
Chötrul Düchen is one of four events in the life of the Buddha, according to Tibetan traditions. Chötrul Düchen closely follows Losar, the Tibetan New Year. It takes place on the fifteenth day of the first month in the Tibetan calendar during the full moon. The first fifteen days of the year celebrate the fifteen days during which the Buddha displayed miracles for his disciples so as to increase their devotion. During Chötrul Düchen (“Great Day of Miraculous Manifestations”), it is believed that the effects of both positive and negative actions are multiplied ten million times.
HELD AT KAMALASHILA TIBETAN BUDDHIST CENTRE 24-27 February 2022
This was the first Vajrayogini Practitioners’ Retreat lead by senior students of Khenpo Ngawang Dhamchoe’s held at Kamalashila Tibetan Buddhist Centre.
Khenpo la was so very kind and generous to approve of the content offered under the transcript of His Holiness the 41st Sakya Trizin Kyabgon Gongma Trichen Rinpoche, when visiting the Whyalla Buddhist Centre in South Australia in 2003. These were edited with permission from the Whyalla Sangha for teaching and meditation sessions during this time. There were no online sessions or Q & A with Khenpo la, under strict guidelines to not share any tantric teachings online.
We hope that this will become an annual event so many more practitioners can join in, to carry on our practice together and to continue studying on from the most precious and auspicious Australian visit of His Eminence Kyabje Luding Khen Rinpoche back in January 2019.
Kamalashila Tibetan Buddhist Centre holds a Vajrayogini Tsog fortnightly via Zoom. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to join in (you will be asked details of your empowerment, Vajrayogini Blessing and 7 day teaching dates with a Sakya lineage holder).
HELD AT KAMALASHILA TIBETAN BUDDHIST CENTRE 11-13 February 2022
Around 40 people gathered at Kamalashila on the second weekend of February to participate in a truly wonderful practical body and mind weekend workshop lead by Dr Tony Richardson and assisted so beautifully by William Penhale. Khenpo la attended at times throughout the program. Dr Tony and William were so generous in offering their time and expertise to everyone and supporting the centre. Thank you so much Dr Tony and William. A big thank you to Garth for his delicious food and to everyone who came making it a really special weekend.
Good news is Dr Tony and William are returning for a second workshop in August, dates to be confirmed so watch this space...
EXCERPTS FROM THE INTERNATIONAL PLUM VILLAGE COMMUNITY OF ENGAGED BUDDHISM 22 January 2022
“Meditation is not to escape from society, but to come back to ourselves, and see what is going on. Once there is seeing, there must be acting. With mindfulness we know what to do and what not to do to help.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh is a global spiritual leader, poet, and peace activist, renowned for his powerful teachings and bestselling writings on mindfulness and peace. A gentle, humble monk, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called him “an Apostle of peace and nonviolence” when nominating him for the Nobel Peace Prize. Exiled from his native Vietnam for almost four decades, Thich Nhat Hanh has been a pioneer bringing Buddhism and mindfulness to the West and establishing an engaged Buddhist community for the 21st Century.
Born in central Vietnam in 1926, Thich Nhat Hanh entered Tu Hieu Temple, in Hue city, as a novice monk at the age of sixteen. As a young bhikshu (monk) in the early 1950s he was actively engaged in the movement to renew Vietnamese Buddhism. He was one of the first bhikshus to study a secular subject at University in Saigon, and one of the first six monks to ride a bicycle.
Social activism during war in Vietnam
When war came to Vietnam, monks and nuns were confronted with the question of whether to adhere to the contemplative life and stay meditating in the monasteries, or to help those around them suffering under the bombings and turmoil of war. Thich Nhat Hanh was one of those who chose to do both, and in doing so founded the Engaged Buddhism movement, coining the term in his book ‘Vietnam: Lotus in a Sea of Fire’. His life has since been dedicated to the work of inner transformation for the benefit of individuals and society.
In 1961, Thich Nhat Hanh travelled to the United States on a scholarship to study Comparative Religion at Princeton Theological Seminary and the following year went on to teach and research Buddhism at Columbia University. In Vietnam in the early 1960s, Thich Nhat Hanh founded the School of Youth and Social Service, a grassroots relief organization of 10,000 volunteers based on the Buddhist principles of non-violence and compassionate action.
As a scholar, teacher, and engaged activist in the 1960s, Thich Nhat Hanh also founded the Van Hanh Buddhist University in Saigon, La Boi publishing House, and an influential peace activist magazine. In 1966 he established the Order of Interbeing, a new order based on the traditional Buddhist Bodhisattva precepts.
On May 1st, 1966, at Tu Hieu Temple, Thich Nhat Hanh received the ‘lamp transmission’ from Master Chan That.
Exile from Vietnam
A few months later he travelled once more to the U.S. and Europe to make the case for peace and to call for an end to hostilities in Vietnam. It was during this 1966 trip that he first met Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967. As a result of this mission both North and South Vietnam denied him the right to return to Vietnam, and he began a long exile of 39 years.
Thich Nhat Hanh continued to travel widely, spreading the message of peace and brotherhood, lobbying Western leaders to end the Vietnam War, and leading the Buddhist delegation to the Paris Peace Talks in 1969.
Founding Plum Village in France
He also continued to teach, lecture, and write on the art of mindfulness and ‘living peace,’ and in the early 1970s was a lecturer and researcher in Buddhism at the University of Sorbonne, Paris. In 1975 he established the Sweet Potato community near Paris, and in 1982, moved to a much larger site in the southwest of France, soon to be known as “Plum Village.”
Under Thich Nhat Hanh’s spiritual leadership Plum Village has grown from a small rural farmstead to what is now the West’s largest and most active Buddhist monastery, with over 200 resident monastics and over 10,000 visitors every year, who come from around the world to learn “the art of mindful living.”
Plum Village welcomes people of all ages, backgrounds, and faiths at retreats where they can learn practices such as walking meditation, sitting meditation, eating meditation, total relaxation, working meditation and stopping, smiling, and breathing mindfully. These are all ancient Buddhist practices, the essence of which Thich Nhat Hanh has distilled and developed to be easily and powerfully applied to the challenges and difficulties of our times.
More recently, Thich Nhat Hanh has founded Wake UpWake Up website, a worldwide movement of thousands of young people training in these practices of mindful living, and he has launched an international Wake Up SchoolsWake Up Schools website program training teachers to teach mindfulness in schools in Europe, America and Asia.
Thich Nhat Hanh is also an artist, and his unique and popular works of calligraphy – short phrases and words capturing the essence of his mindfulness teachings – have since 2010 been exhibited in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Canada, Germany, France, and New York.
In the last decade Thich Nhat Hanh has opened monasteries in California, New York, Vietnam, Paris, Hong Kong, Thailand, Mississippi and Australia, and Europe’s first “Institute of Applied Buddhism” in Germany.
Mindfulness Practice Centres in the Plum Village tradition offer special retreats for businesspeople, teachers, families, healthcare professionals, psychotherapists, politicians, and young people as well as war veterans and Israelis and Palestinians. It is estimated that over 75,000 people participate in activities led by Plum Village monks and nuns worldwide every year.
In recent years Thich Nhat Hanh led events for members of US Congress and for parliamentarians in the UK, Ireland, India, and Thailand. He has addressed the World Parliament of Religions in Melbourne and UNESCO in Paris, calling for specific steps to reverse the cycle of violence, war and global warming. On his visit to the US in 2013 he led high-profile mindfulness events at Google, The World Bank, and the Harvard School of Medicine.
On 11 November 2014, a month after his 88th birthday and following several months of rapidly declining health, Thich Nhat Hanh a severe stroke. Although he was unable to speak, and was mostly paralysed on the right side, he continued to offer the Dharma and inspiration through his peaceful, serene, and valiant presence.
In November 2018, Thich Nhat Hanh moved to Từ Hiếu Temple in Vietnam where he ordained with his teacher when he was sixteen years old. He expressed a wish to stay there for his remaining days. He came out regularly in his wheelchair to visit the temple altars and to lead the sangha on walking meditation around the ponds and ancestral stupas. Thay’s return to Từ Hiếu was a bell of mindfulness reminding us of how precious it is to belong to a spiritual lineage with deep roots. Whether we have attended a retreat, or simply read one of Thay’s books or watched a talk and have been touched by his teachings - we are all connected to this ancestral stream of wisdom and compassion. Edited from plumvillage.org website, please visit their website to learn more about Thich Nhat Hanh.
HELD AT KAMALASHILA TIBETAN BUDDHIST CENTRE 16 January 2022
At Kamalashila Tibetan Buddhist Centre, Khenpo Ngawang Dhamchoe lead sangha members in the first Sunday meditation for 2022. By coincidence and auspiciously, this was the anniversary of one of the great Sakya Founders Sakya Pandita. Khenpo la so kindly bestowed the Sakya Pandita Prayer (below), and then gave a spontaneous teaching about this Great Master and how this day in the Sakya monasteries and nunneries is one of the most revered days of the year, and on how the ordained students do debating on this day as part of their learning. Sakya Pandita is a true emanation of Manjushri. Whilst giving food and water to those in need is a virtuous action, it can only ever bring a temporary benefit. But the kindness and wisdom like Sakya Pandita’s brings not only temporary benefit but ultimate liberations being so profound. Thank you Khenpo la for sharing this on such an auspicious day.
Who has the eye of wisdom that sees all that is knowable, The compassion that brings about the welfare of all beings, The power that accomplishes inconceivable enlightened action, Lama, Manjushri you who are in person, at your feet I supplicate!
HELD AT KAMALASHILA TIBETAN BUDDHIST CENTRE 27 December 2021 – 1 January 2022
We all feel very fortunate to be able to take some time away from this busy time of year and be here at Kamalashila in the tranquil and beautiful environment listening to these profound teachings given so generously by Khenpo la. Khenpo la gave the Vajrasattava Transmission and followed with detailed and practical teachings on this purification practice. Khenpo la then gave the Medicine Buddha Transmission and teachings on the practice. We dedicate to the benefit and good health of all beings.
A great ending to 2021
Retreatants attending the annual purification and healing retreat at Kamalashila Tibetan Buddhist Centre were most fortunate to spend the last day of 2021 receiving precious teachings from Khenpo Ngawang Dhamchoe on the Medicine Buddha practice. The evening was spent in a celebratory dinner kindly prepared by Ani Nyidon la and dessert by Penny Moody! A full three course stunningly delicious meal kindly assisted by Nicole and Ann. Highlights were Ani la’s annual Fortune Cookie readings and associated performances along with a Medicine Buddha dance led by Felicity.
A great start to 2022
It was a cool clear start to the day for the final teachings on Medicine Buddha. The Venerables Jitindriya and Jayasara led the retreatants on the final walking meditation to sit watching out to Gulaga Mountain. We then returned for final Vajrasattva and Medicine Buddha practices before khatas were offered to Khenpo in appreciation of his profound and accessible teachings over the retreat. We had a farewell lunch and did some cleaning up. A big thanks to the Venerables along with Ani Nyidon, Ann Kelly and Robert Newberry and the many other people who contributed to the cooking serving and tidying up around the place. Jack H.
HELD AT KAMALASHILA TIBETAN BUDDHIST CENTRE 11 December 2021
Our nearly 21-year-old Gyri Dolma
Khenpo la welcomed everyone attending the 13th Annual General Meeting of Drogmi Buddhist Institute both in person and via Zoom.
Khenpo noted that despite COVID-19, the Centre had held a lot of online teachings which students said they found very helpful and that the guided online meditations had helped to maintain their connection to the Dharma during the lockdowns. Even though COVID had the power to stop most things, it did not have the power to stop the Dharma.
Khenpo thanked all the committee members who had worked tirelessly to keep the centre going and the local sangha in particular Ann Kelly who had worked so hard for the centre. Khenpo thanked Tjenka for her all her efforts in supporting the online program with the Sunday meditation, teachings and retreats. Khenpo noted that having some of the committee living close to the centre helped a lot to keep the centre running well.
Khenpo also thanked the many other members who had contributed to the running of the centre in so many different ways, including the sponsors and supporters who had contributed financially to the centre.
Khenpo shared that, for a long time, it had been his vision for DBI to be an education centre connected to a university. He commented that sometimes it is not easy to attain what one is dreaming for – yet he felt so lucky to have Carole Kayrooz and other professors and colleagues who have worked for many decades at the University of Canberra. He noted that people had said it could be very difficult to associate the centre with the university. For this to happen, we would need to do lots of work and preparation. In this context, Khenpo noted that in March 2022, the centre would start ‘The Autumn Buddhist Philosophy Course’ that would run for the next three years. Khenpo indicated that if we could evaluate the course over the three year period, and it proved successful, then this would give us a good basis and foundation in our effort to join up with the University’s education department. Khenpo also noted that the course formed a major part of our spiritual program for 2022 which also included our regular Sunday meditation and teachings including with Venerable Tsultim who had been staying at the centre and whom Khenpo had asked to come back in the new year.
Khenpo shared that, prior the AGM, centre members and been discussing plans for the future of the centre which included building new dormitories and also a Buddha statue.
Khenpo said he was not sure how COVID would play out in 2022 but expressed the hope that the situation would at least be clear in 2023 so that we could request His Holiness Sakya Trizin or His Eminence Luding Khen Rinpoche to give teachings at the centre.
Khenpo indicated that the centre would continue with its normal Dharma activities as COVID allowed. Khenpo noted that the building and opening of the new Bush Kitchen had been a great success and accomplishment. He commented that even more miraculous was that people said that there would be no way to grow grass around the Bush Kitchen among all the gum trees, but that he had said anything was possible, and so with his stubborn mind, had forced Peter Tooth, Robert Newberry, and Scott Read to plant grass. Now somehow the Bush Kitchen was surrounded by green, so anything was possible - never give up. Khenpo noted that over the past year there had been so much rain and that there was plenty of water now with all the new tanks full. From a nature point of view, he observed that it was is all flourishing at the moment, all the grass, trees and weeds are growing, all is very beautiful here.
Jack (President of Drogmi Buddhist Institute) reflected that when we started the first day of 2021 during the Healing and Purification Retreat there had been a double rainbow over Khenpo la’s house which was very special.
He recalled that early in the year Dr Tony Richardson had led the Body and Mind Workshop when we also launched the Bush Kitchen. He noted the wonderful event with the traditional raising of the prayer flags in February for the Tibetan New Year. Not long after that Khenpo la went over to New Zealand to give teachings. He was then back in March to lead the Ngondro retreat, and in April Khenpo led the Shamatha and Mindfulness Retreat. At that time, we also celebrated five years of having Gyri here at the centre. In May, Khenpo led quite a special pilgrimage to Uluru for the people that were most fortunate to go there and all had a wonderful time. Also in May, we had held The Sixteen Arhat Puja at KTBC for Saga Dawa. Throughout the year, Khenpo gave teachings on ‘The Way of the Bodhisattva’ by Shantideva, both Chapter 5 on Vigilance and Mindfulness as well as Chapter 6 on Patience. Khenpo la was currently teaching ‘The Eight Verses of Mind Training’ in the run up to Christmas. So, whatever way you looked at it, from a Dharma perspective, Khenpo had been tireless in terms with everything he had done to support the members of DBI here through his teachings and that said nothing of all the advice he had given for people individually. On behalf of everyone attending, Jack thanked Khenpo. He also noted that along with the formal teachings Khenpo was also teaching the Dharma in different ways - leading working bees and whether it was weeding or cleaning up the place generally, you knew Khenpo would always be there.
Jack thanked the many people who have helped in terms of the looking after the gardens, as well as cleaning, and looking after the animals. He echoed Khenpo’s words about Ann’s contribution, just generally hard working but as we know with Covid, it had raised so many concerns and anxieties with people, and being able to try and keep things in check and steer a way between what was safe and appropriate was a very difficult job that Ann had done in such an outstanding way.
Several other people were thanked including Robert for his work around the Bush Kitchen, Peter and Scott regularly working on the grounds, mowing, and fixing things. Jack noted that again, Khenpo la was involved in the way the roads were fixed up and the fact that we had just had horrendous rains for the past couple of weeks and the roads had stood up was testament to the great efforts of those involved.
Jack thanked Lael for all the work she had been doing with the newsletters and supporting Khenpo in so many ways along with the other committee members including Vanessa and Suzi. He noted Khenpo’s appreciation of Linda who had done such a phenomenal job as secretary – so precise, so prompt – and that it would be a loss in terms of not having her there on the committee, but that we were very pleased that Peter Green would be stepping into the breach.
Jack commented that whatever way you looked at it, the centre had done incredibly well in a year of COVID and that it had been with Khenpo la at the forefront in terms of his leadership and support from many members. On behalf of all centre members and friends, Jack thanked Khenpo la for his leadership, for his modelling of patience, for his wisdom and for his kindness. He said that we were all so very fortunate to be able to come in contact with Khenpo la and the Dharma in this lifetime and we were all so much better for it.
Jack thanked Scott for his work as Treasurer supported by Ash. He noted the very generous donations that had come in from overseas donors – it was quite wonderful when people who are not benefitting directly from the centre were so generous, and this was testament again to Khenpo’s standing.
Jack noted that Linda was stepping down from the Committee and that Peter Green was taking up her place as the new Secretary. Otherwise the committee members would continue in their existing roles.
Khenpo la welcomed Peter back to the committee and expressed his appreciation to Linda McKeone who had worked so strongly for DBI and expressed his hope that Linda would continue to help the centre in other ways. Khenpo also thanked Franky O’Connor who had provided great technical support along with all her long-standing work with the sadhana texts.
Khenpo issued a big thank you to Lael and noted that, thanks to Lael, we hadn’t broken the tradition of the newsletter which was a very big job. He said Lael was the sole person taking the responsibility for our newsletter which she kept producing every few months to let all the members know what is going on at the centre – a great effort!
Khenpo noted that Evelyn always put in so much effort coming all the way from Sydney down to the South Coast in our constant big battle with the lantana, but that we were now in a winning position thanks to her effort.
Khenpo la noted that the committee were always there mentally, emotionally, and physically to carry out whatever was needed. He expressed his appreciation to all the sponsors, from the small to bigger contributions that helped support and run the centre. Khenpo concluded that he was looking forward to everyone working together in 2022.
HELD AT KAMALASHILA TIBETAN BUDDHIST CENTRE 29 October – 6 November 2021
Excerpts from the teachings
Khenpo la gave teachings on the precious text, the “Stages of Meditation”, by the great Master Kamalashila after whom our centre at Tilba Tilba is named.
As with all great Masters, Kamalashila demonstrated his genuine humility in paying homage to Manjushri at the beginning of his treatise. Kamalashila taught that nothing arises without its own causes and conditions. If one wishes to attain Buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings, one must completely cleanse one’s mind. We cleanse our mind through the combination of three causes: Great Compassion, Bodhicitta and Method with the latter being the practice of the Six Perfections.
Kamalashila teaches that we should start with equanimity towards all sentient beings as it is the foundation for practising compassion and loving-kindness. The reason we lack equanimity is because we are attached to the people we like and hold aversion to those we don’t like. We like some places and don’t like other places. Khenpo la led the retreatants in meditation on equanimity including during our walking meditation session and then sitting looking out over Mount Gulaga.
In the afternoon teaching, Khenpo la spoke of the next stage of meditation being the practice of Loving-Kindness leading to three levels of happiness: ordinary happiness when the mind remains in the dualistic state; uncontaminated happiness which arises from a non-dualistic mind and the practice of ethical life, meditation, and wisdom; and Supreme Happiness which occurs when one attains Buddhahood. Khenpo la led meditations on how to cultivate loving-kindness, starting with our mother who gave over her body that we might be born and grow, who was our first teacher, and who sacrificed so much for our welfare.
We held small group discussions on equanimity and loving-kindness and Khenpo la kindly and generously answered questions from both the gompa and our Zoom sangha who were located around Australia including Sydney, Broome, Melbourne and Hobart. In the evening, we thanked Ani la for her wonderful cooking over the first days of the retreat.
In the following days Khenpo la recapped that we should start our meditation with equanimity, then move to loving-kindness and then compassion as taught by Kamalashila.
There is no compassion unless you understand real suffering. From the Buddhist perspective, there are three types of suffering: the suffering of suffering, the suffering of change and the suffering of pervasive phenomena. We all know the suffering of suffering be it physical or mental, but this also extends to the realms of the hell beings, hungry ghosts and animal realms as well as humans. The suffering of change arises when we cling to things that we mistakenly think are permanent. The suffering of pervasive phenomena arises when we mistakenly think phenomena are existent.
The root cause of suffering is the self-grasping mind – the discriminatory mind that distinguishes between “I” and “you”. In the western world, and in much of science and psychology, we mistakenly ascribe as causes things that are in fact conditions only, and so we fail to understand the root cause of suffering.
The remedy for suffering is compassion. From the Mahayana point of view, we can see how it is possible to cleanse the self-grasping mind so that it becomes completely cleansed, which is the state of Buddhahood. The Buddha comes from the Bodhisattva. To be a Bodhisattva one must have the Great Compassion which is limitless and extends to all sentient beings without discrimination. With this, the Bodhisattva practises Bodhicitta, wishing to attain enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings and then realise the emptiness of all phenomena.
Chandrakirti taught that compassion is so important in the beginning as the seed, in the middle as the moisture that causes the seed to germinate and in the end when the fruit results.
Khenpo la then advised us to start small with our meditation and grow over time. We need to understand that suffering and compassion are both mind – two sides of the same coin, and so we must learn how to switch from one side to the other. Khenpo la encouraged us to appreciate that our mind is so powerful, and this should be a source of hope to every one of us – it is not possible to measure the size of our mind and there is no problem we cannot solve or issue that cannot be resolved. That said, we should start by meditating compassion on one person and extend that over time to all sentient beings. If we can live with the bad habit of mind in the past, why not live with the good habit of mind in the future? Once something becomes a habit it is so much easier to maintain.
Khenpo answered many questions from students throughout the day including from Zoom sangha. We also did a walking meditation and silent meditation looking up to Mount Gulaga. Zara provided a beautiful gourmet lunch and dinner. A good day, this first day of November.
Another wonderful day at Kamalashila and for those at home attending via online, with Khenpo la and sangha. Khenpo la completed teachings on the “Stages of Meditation” by Kamalashila and then continued teaching in depth on Shamatha meditation. Today’s main topic was the nine stages to progress our meditation. Khenpo la emphasised the need for us to understand the importance of meditation. He said, “Mind is like a precious antique, we need to recognise this. The most valuable thing we have is our mind, everything else is temporary, it will go. But our mind comes with us, life after life. The best way to protect our mind is through meditation to keep it in the right condition.”
The Annual Shamatha Retreat at Kamalashila Tibetan Buddhist Centre concluded on day eight, following morning meditation. Khenpo la summarised the eight days of teachings he had given on Kamalashila’s “Stages of Meditation”, and Shamatha meditation. Everyone present, both in person and on Zoom, felt most fortunate to have had the opportunity to hear these most precious and clear teachings. How rare it is to find such a teacher as Khenpo la. Thank you Khenpo la for every word of the Dharma you shared with us, and to all those who attended, contributing to making this such a really special retreat.
Reflections from the sangha
It was such a wonderful joy to spend this time together at this retreat. I feel so fortunate to be able to join online. The teachings were heartfelt, and I especially loved the teachings on equanimity. I felt very held and supported by the group, especially the online Zoom sangha. My dear online Zoom sangha, thank you for your group presence and beautifully smiling faces.
Khenpo la, I feel like you have given me a precious jewel or a special key which I can use to unlock other treasures. Thank you for holding the dharma and for being our teacher. Please always continue to teach and guide us. Lan
Shamatha retreat was a wonderful experience! Khenpo la’s teachings are invaluable, and his patience to clearly deliver the Dharma at all levels, are lifetime’s lessons. The teachings on Great Compassion, Loving-Kindness and the importance of Meditating on equality, through equanimity – were extraordinary. Thank you for who you are in the world Khenpo la, please live long. Tracey
Khenpo Ngawang Dhamchoe will do anything to help us. If that means using Zoom during these pandemic times, then so be it. Even for a retreat. That is how I came to attend this year’s Peaceful Abiding / Shamatha Meditation retreat all the way from Hobart: through Khenpo’s kindness. On Zoom for the second time.
Lucky! What an understatement. When I sat in front of my computer screen each day it felt as if Lord Buddha had arrived at my front doorstep and had come inside. I think all we ‘zoomies’ felt just like that: blessed to be able to take part. And Tjenka. Let’s not forget Tjenka who worked tirelessly to give the zoomies the best possible experience and make us feel as if we were practically there with everyone in the gompa. As well as Franky and Jack who also pitched in. Students really do become just like their teacher – just as it is said.
Being on Zoom during retreat is a teaching in itself: a teaching on the interdependence of everyone who made it possible; on the value of sangha who help and support each other; on the miraculous opportunity to receive the dharma – every word feels precious. We were sharply reminded of this when a momentary sound issue came up. Zoom is even a teaching on the fact that everything is mind. I mightn’t be able to travel though time and space to arrive at the feet of my teacher with the power of my mind, but we zoomies at least had the karma to make connections that transcend physical boundaries thanks to the internet.
It was such good timing for me to be personally bathed by Khenpo’s teachings. Two days before the retreat started, I received the news that my cancer has returned and spread. I was outraged that my new doctors had missed the signs. From day one of the retreat, under Khenpo’s guidance I could face those negative feelings. Dissolve them through Khenpo’s guidance over the coming days – Equanimity, Loving-Kindness, Compassion and Bodhicitta, even towards the people who most disturb our mind. Being ‘smart selfish’, I guess.
My take home from this year’s retreat is quite simple and helps me even now that the retreat has finished. The Buddha is the one true doctor, the Dharma is the one true medicine, and the sangha are our true friends who are there to genuinely help us in the only way that counts. Everything is impermanent, let’s not waste time. Emilia
Since writing the above, Emilia has now been tested cancer-free.
HELD AT KAMALASHILA TIBETAN BUDDHIST CENTRE 19 OCTOBER 2021
On the very auspicious day of the anniversary of five Great Sakya Masters, Khenpo la continued his teachings on Patience as detailed in Chapter 6 of “The Way of the Bodhisattva” by the great Indian saint Shantideva.
Khenpo opened the teaching by paying respect to our Most Precious Root Guru His Eminence Luding Khenchen Rinpoche on the occasion of His Eminence’s 91st birthday which also marked the anniversary of four other Great Sakya Masters: Khon Khonchok Gyalpo who established the first Sakya Monastery in Tibet; his son Sachen Kunga Nyingpo who is the emanation of the Buddha of Compassion; the Great Bari Lotsawa who bestowed the Precious Lam Dre that has been passed down to His Eminence; and the 17th century Master Gonpo Sonam Chokden.
Khenpo said that if today one was curious to see the Buddha, the closest person you would want to see is His Eminence who is the 75th throne holder of Ngorpa sub-sect of the Sakya lineage. His Eminence has hundreds of monasteries under his guidance, and he has ordained thousands of monks and nuns in Tibet and India and in Western countries. His Eminence is the greatest example of the kind of person who flawlessly holds the three vows of the Vinaya, Mahayana and Vajrayana.
Khenpo reminded us that the best gift we can give to the Guru is to be fully engaged in our practice of the Dharma and so focusing intently on the teachings is a wonderful gift to the teacher. Khenpo also noted that on this auspicious day we had also announced the launch of the Autumn Buddhist Philosophy Course. Students were encouraged to share details of this course with people they think might be interested in attending.
Khenpo then reiterated that there is no person out there who has the power to harm you. The conditions or circumstances may arise, but they are not the cause. Furthermore, because of the interdependence of all things there is no person that harms and there is no person that is harmed and there is no harm that exists. When we reflect and investigate the situation, we realise the emptiness of things.
So, whenever a difficulty arises, think no one has independently created this situation but it arises purely due to conditions. Awareness of this is patience as you realise there is nothing to be upset about. When discomfort arises, view this as the opportunity to see the truth of emptiness and implement your practice.
Don’t be upset by those who harm you. Instead view that person as the object of your compassion. A person with wrong view is not intentionally wishing to harm themselves but does so. Some say you should harm the body because it brings so much desire and that the more you hurt it the more you liberate the mind. As Khenpo Appey Rinpoche noted, this is wrong view and while you might harm the body and subdue the desire mind in the short term, ultimately it leads to anger and greater suffering. Similarly, we are so materialistic and expend so much effort to get things that we desire and when we fail to get them, we become very angry, and this leads to much greater suffering.
The great majority of ordinary sentient beings are controlled by the affliction mind. And once you know what it’s like to be in a miserable situation you understand why some people do negative things towards you. When you appreciate where they are coming from, then you are creating room to develop compassion towards them. But if you don’t see things this way, then you won’t open your heart of compassion towards them.
Patience is like a form of wisdom. The person trying to harm you is a person worthy of compassion. They are hurting themselves and you need to help them stop. Don’t increase their anger. And as you develop compassion towards them you come to appreciate how much benefit flows your way. Once compassion is born within you it frees us of so many sufferings. As a Mahayana practitioner, when someone seeks to harm us, we should view this an as opportunity to develop greater compassion and so there is no reason to be angry with the other person, to the contrary we should be grateful. In fact, we should be angry towards the anger mind that hurts you. We should never do anything to increase anger in others or ourselves and if we can’t free ourselves of the anger, we should at least try to minimise it.
The most powerful weapon to free the anger mind is the combination of loving kindness, compassion and Bodhicitta. When someone seeks to harm you, this is the perfect opportunity to practice loving kindness, compassion and Bodhicitta. See the opportunity presented to you. Contemplate what will come your way based on whether you respond with anger or compassion. Once you are aware and then you respond with loving kindness, this is actualising the Dharma. And the greater the harm directed your way, the more fertiliser it produces to develop your compassion.
Another way to deal with the situation is to reflect that when someone harms you whatever misery you encounter view this as the ripening of my past karma. This is not easy to do but it helps shift the focus to karma. As the Sutra stated, whenever you commit negative karma if you don’t do anything about it, it won’t burn out even a hundred aeons later. So, when it ripens on you through someone trying to harm you, see it as helping to cleanse past negative karma.
And when you find yourself in a miserable state reflect on how many more people out there feel they are victims and pray may all their sufferings ripen onto me. Shantideva taught us that the fastest way to achieve enlightenment is exchanging self and other and so the person who seeks to harm us is actually providing us with a wonderful opportunity.
When we lack the wisdom mind, then we grasp self and that in turn is the source of all the harm that comes our way – the bigger sense of self, the bigger the suffering. There is no one out there who really cause you suffering only the self-grasping mind does this. And the only time you won’t suffer is when you have freed the self-grasping mind, and this is the point of the Hinayana, Mahayana, and Vajrayana practices.
Note that while no single being desires suffering, we spend all our time rushing after the cause of suffering. From morning to night, we are caught up in useless busy activities, most of the time our actions are one of the ten non-virtuous deeds. We need to recognise that most suffering we experience derives from non-virtuous attachment to the body. Others we encounter are mere condition. Once you know this cause of suffering – and that it doesn’t derive from others, then we don’t have any room to be angry towards others.
Sometimes we feel like we are living in the hell realms. Yet in this same place the Bodhisattva’s reside. They don’t seek, like us, to run away rather they seed the difficult circumstances as an opportunity to increase their compassion and bring others into the path and for those already on the path to increase their progress.
Without sentient beings there will be no Dharma and so the problem is not sentient beings but rather my own negative mind. We need to see the truth of the situation and set about transforming this negative mind with a view to benefiting all sentient beings.
At the conclusion of the teaching, and on behalf of all the students, Khenpo la kindly offered a khata to the shrine displaying the image of our precious Root Guru His Eminence Luding Khenchen Rinpoche. Khenpo then led us all in reciting the long-life prayer for His Eminence before dedicating the merits of receiving these precious teachings on this auspicious day. His Eminence is an extraordinary inspiration and light of hope for us, being one of the great living Buddhist Masters in this world.
Any mistakes contained in the notes above are solely the fault of the author.
AT KAMALASHILA TIBETAN BUDDHIST CENTRE 17 OCTOBER 2021
Kamalashila officially reopened after lockdown as restrictions eased on 17 October 2021. Khenpo la lead meditation this Sunday for keen attendees in person and online. It was a beautiful spring day at the centre, with many birds chirping and flowers newly blossomed in the gardens after recent storms and rain. Khenpo la lead us in a very inspiring guided meditation. It was wonderful to see Khenpo la again and sit in the gompa with our fellow sangha members in person and virtually.
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