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 email@example.com.
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!!!
HELD AT KAMALASHILA TIBETAN BUDDHIST CENTRE 2-10 October 2020
Excerpts from each day – published by Zara
In these difficult times, Khenpo la’s teachings on the Four Foundational Thoughts that Turn the Mind Towards Dharma encouraged us to appreciate how fortunate we are in many regards:
We live in a time and place where the Buddha’s teachings exist, and we have a mind that can understand and implement them.
Realising our profound good fortune, we should make the most of this opportunity to practise Dharma.
Realising the impermanence of all phenomena, we should not delay our practice until a later time.
The law of causality teaches us that the only reliable cause to gain the result of the peace we long for is the practice of Dharma.
Investigating the suffering of samsara motivates us to practise the Mahayana’s Great Compassion so that each being may be freed from misery.
“Just like the sun is not separate from sunlight, a kind mind radiates peace to all beings who encounter it.” Khenpo la
Khenpo la explained the benefits of a kind mind as he taught on Taking Refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. He guided us through of how we can cultivate that kind mind, starting from where we are now.
The method being The Four Immeasurables:
We wish from the depths of our heart:
“May all beings have happiness and the cause of happiness. May all beings be apart from suffering and the cause of suffering. May all beings rejoice in the virtue of others; and May all beings avoid being ensnared by attachment and aversion by practising equanimity.”
Kamalashila’s natural beauty shone on Day 6 as the sun came out after a few days of rain. Shamatha Retreat 2020 concluded after eight wonderful days of rich Dharma teachings from Khenpo Ngawang Dhamchoe. The retreat concluded with a moving ceremony, in which Khenpo la expressed how harmonious and warm the group had been, and how fortunate in these times that we can gather in a safe way to share and learn the precious Dharma together in person and via Zoom. It was an historic event for the centre, being the first time, we have run a whole retreat including online attendees. Sophia and Bianca then presented Khenpo la with a song offering that they had composed during the retreat. Their sweet voices filled the air and warmed our hearts even further.
Thank you to Khenpo la for all your incredible teachings and all you do for us and thank you to some participants for your beautiful images…
Appreciating the perspectives of our dedicated participants
Halfway through Day 3, my experience is that this keeps getting better and better. I am feeling the rhythm and flow of the days now. Khenpo la is constantly amazing, but my perception of him and admiration of him grows and grows. I have never encountered such universal loving kindness and his knowledge and wisdom is more and more evident. This space is incredibly beautiful and calming and the people are so warm and welcoming. Every new meeting, every meditation, every walk, silence, or meal is a new gift. Mark W
I cannot thank everyone enough for the opportunity to zoom in to Khenpo la’s retreat from Hobart. Many small details: showing us the gompa and how you have placed Khenpo’s TV screen; the use of a roving mike during question time; the attention to sound monitoring; etc are making my zoom retreat experience wonderful. Thanks again, Emilia
Teaching on how to prepare for meditation: a quiet place, ethics, appreciation, less desire, less attachment. Then the purpose of meditation is to remove the six root afflictions: desire, anger, ignorance, arrogance, doubt, and self-grasping. Simple, clear, and so profound... Thanks, Khenpo. Dino
I have been slacked with meditation lately so am incredibly lucky to be able to be immersed in Shamatha for eight days. I have found “concepts” like Equanimity, Loving-Kindness and Compassion have been really opening in a magical way. I feel I am starting to slow down and relax more wishing to abandon practices which no longer support me. I can feel my heart. Karen
I love the mind-cleansing that has occurred in the past few days, befriending and lovingly working with this wild monkey mind. With the torch of Loving-Kindness and the meaning of Dharma being so simply and profoundly laid out by Khenpo la, I now feel a deeper connection and understanding of what it means to say – ‘I take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, Sangha’, which will help grow my intention for a good, wholesome life. To serve, to love, to give, to freely live a purposeful, fulfilling life, to envisage difficulties as an opportunity to create a joyful relationship with my mind. Pippa
I started to study and practise meditation some 20 years ago, but due to not having clear explanations of the objectives and correct methods, my advancement has been limited and my motivation diminished. Now studying Shamatha with Khenpo la, I am much more confident of success. I feel I have the correct information to establish a stable foundation to build on. Wyn
I would like to share a moment from today’s teachings that opened my heart and mind. Khenpo la said “Buddhahood is the most benefit to sentient beings. The practice that helps to develop this is love and compassion.” The atmosphere became more spacious and lighter. What a beautiful, profound teaching… Anthony G.
The Buddha turning all the spears and arrows the Mara’s threw at Him, into the flowers of enlightenment. Today Khenpo la taught-on Exchanging Self and Others Meditation, how to use afflictions and difficulties to generate Loving-Kindness and Bodhicitta, a very inspiring day. Tjenka
Gentle rain falling, warm sun shining, clouds dispel, the seed is sprouting. Zara
What has been the best thing from being at this retreat? Seeing Khenpo la, reconnecting with my beautiful friends, listening to Khenpo la’s teachings, meditation (being more patient!), becoming more spiritual, closer to having less defilements, eating healthily, being amongst nature and feeling peaceful. Thank you. Maryanne
How wonderful to have such a compassionate teacher and such a conducive environment in the company of like-minded people. My favourite quote from Khenpo la “don’t give wine to your monkey mind”. Anthony
HIS HOLINESS THE 41ST KYABGON SAKYA GONGMA TRICHEN A FEW SHORT EXCERPTS FROM HIS HOLINESS’ TEACHINGS
Dharma in everyday life
“The Sanskrit word dharma has many different meanings, but the word generally means to change: to change our impure or wild mind that is so involved with defilements toward the right path. Although of course even just doing practice has some benefit, the point of practice is to change one’s mind. If one’s mind does not change, then it is not very effective. We must look to see whether the practices we are doing are making a real difference in our mind or not. If the practice changes our mind, then, if we use it in the right way, we could be the busiest person in the busiest city but still be a very good Dharma practitioner because everything we see and do, everyone we associate with, gives us a chance to practice Dharma.
“For example, when traveling in cities and noticing many changes, we witness the truth of impermanence. When we see so much suffering, we are experiencing the Buddha’s teaching that everything is suffering. The fact that we actually see it with our own naked eyes means we can immediately learn it. When we associate with the vast numbers of people in cities, we have a chance to help them, to practice compassion. When people disturb us or are angry with us, it gives us a chance to practice patience. In this way, if we can apply the teachings to our everyday life, then wherever we are, at work or at home, we can use our experiences and surroundings to practice the Dharma. “These different experiences can help us to understand more deeply how important it is to practice the Dharma. Higher meditations like concentration and insight are very important, but in order to reach that level, it is necessary to cultivate the basic foundations – such as contemplating the difficulty of obtaining precious human birth, impermanence and death, the cause of karma, and the suffering of saṃsāra, together known as the Four Common Foundations. These you can learn from a teacher or study in books.”
“Today we find that many people are interested in the Dharma path, and many people follow a set of associated traditions. We go to temples, do prostrations, recite prayers and mantras, make offerings, perform circumambulations, and do meditations. All of this is of course very meritorious, but these practices alone are not truly effective unless we are making inner mental changes.
“First, we must think, ‘What is the most important thing in life?’ Many people want nothing more than higher positions, wealth, fame, friends, and supporters, but all this worldly prosperity has no ultimate purpose. In the human realm, very few people attain an age of even one hundred years. Our lifetime is just a matter of, at most, one hundred years. And after that, our worldly attainments will not matter. On the day that you leave this world, no matter how clever you are, how powerful you are, how rich you are, how many supporters you have, or how many friends you have, none of these will help. We must die by ourselves, alone. Nobody can share that suffering or prevent it for us. “The only thing that will help at that moment is our Dharma practice. The virtuous deeds that we do can help us at that moment, and for this reason it is especially important to perform positive actions right now, while we can. You never know whether you will have an opportunity to practise in the future. Many people think, ‘At the moment, I am young, so for the time being, I will enjoy life, and then when I get older, I will enter the spiritual path’. But there are many young people who die before old people. Many healthy people die before people who are extremely sick. Truly, no one can ever tell when they will die. Therefore, it is important to begin the spiritual path right away and then to practise it very diligently.”
“Nobody else can remove your suffering. Each person must work their own way out of suffering. The Buddha said, ‘You yourself are you own saviour’. Nobody else can save you; only you can save yourself. For example, when a person is sick, although it is very important to have a good doctor, good medicine, and good helpers, the main factor is that the patient themself has to take the medicine and abstain from the cause of the disease. Otherwise, no matter how good the doctor or how good the medicine, the patient will never get well. Similarly, the Buddha is like a doctor and the Dharma is like medicine – together, they help us to be free from suffering.
“Even though we receive help in the form of the Buddha’s blessing, compassion, and grace, due to our own faults and defilements, we have not yet been able to relieve ourselves from the suffering of saṃsāra.
“Among the sentient beings of the six realms, we human beings are endowed with superior knowledge and intelligence so we can work effectively to free ourselves from suffering. Even animals can do this to a degree, but we are different from animals; we have intelligence, we have a mind to think, and we have the capability to overcome all our problems. Therefore, we must not lose precious time.
“What we are seeking is the state beyond suffering. Therefore, the Buddha spoke of ‘the truth of cessation, which one must obtain’. That is the goal we are seeking: the state that is permanently free, the state where we have permanently parted from all types of suffering and there can be no more relapse. In such a state, we are not only free from suffering, but suffering never reoccurs.”
“What is the cause of suffering? The cause of suffering are actions and defilements. Where do defilements come from? They come from ignorance, from self-clinging. Our mind’s true nature is pure, but we do not recognise this; instead, we cling to a ‘self’ without authentic reasons and logic. We cling to our overall existence; we mistakenly believe that our being exists as a self.
“When you have a self, then automatically you have an ‘other’. Self and other depend on each other. When you have self and other, then there is attachment to one’s own friends and relatives and so forth. And there is also the other side – the people you do not like, beings that you do not appreciate, beings that you do not agree with, etc, and so anger arises. From ignorance comes both desire and hatred.
“To be able to meditate on insight wisdom you need to go step by step. The first step is to understand that outer objects, outer visions, are mental visions. All the phenomena we see, the life we go through, all things, do not appear without a cause. All phenomena are not the creation of a force coming from outside, they arise from our own mind and propensities. When a seed planted in our mind ripens, we move from life to life, so there is no outer creator, no outer projector other than our own mind.
“The second step is to recognise that all mental visions are magical illusions: all things we see now or the life we go through are like a magical show or like a dream. For example, in our dreams we can visit many different countries, we can meet many different beings, we may have very sad or happy dreams, nightmares and all kind of experiences. When you wake up, not even one tiny trace remains of all the things you saw in your dreams. Similarly, our life itself is like a dream or like a reflection in a mirror: nothing is real, all is a magical illusion.
“The third step is to realise that all magical illusions are devoid of self-nature. From the relative point of view, in the various lives we go through, visions never cease, and even though they are the result of cause and effect we never perceive the interdependent origination of visions. However, by means of very careful investigation one cannot find anything real, not even one tiny bit. All is emptiness, and although vision and emptiness seem to be in contradiction, there is no discrepancy between the two because emptiness and the interdependent origination of all visions are inseparable.”
“In this way, the defilements are formed, which are known as the three main poisons: ignorance, desire, and hatred. These three give rise to the other defilements. For instance, when you have attachment to your wealth and possessions, then you generate stinginess and pride. And when other people have wealth and prosperity, you then have jealousy and competitiveness and so forth. All these impure mental states arise. Based on these impure mental states, you then take actions – physical actions, mental actions, and verbal actions. These actions are like planting a seed of suffering. Actions that arise from the defilements are all forms of suffering. If the root of a tree is poisonous, then anything that grows on the tree, such as fruits, flowers, and leaves, are all poisonous. Similarly, the actions arising from defilements – ignorance, hatred, and desire – are all non-virtuous deeds and are the cause of suffering. Performing an action is like planting a seed. When you plant a seed, its fruit depends on causes and conditions. When the right causes and conditions are brought together, then you are bound to produce a result. Through our own actions, we have created all of our own situations. Through all of our own actions, we have created our own suffering. It is through all our own actions that we have created all of our happiness. Everything comes from our own actions.”
The 41st Sakya Trizin, His Holiness Kyabgon Gongma Trichen Rinpoche
CHOEKAR DUCHEN – THE BUDDHA’S FIRST TURNING OF THE WHEEL OF DHARMA 24 July 2020
Choekhor Duchen falls on the 4th day of the 6th month in the Tibetan calendar, this year on 24 July 2020. It is important to be aware on this day all positive and negative actions are multiplied ten millionfold, an extremely meritorious day to carry out as much practice as possible for the benefit of all sentient beings.
Please enjoy reading this beautiful passage from Jamgon Kontrul’s Treasury of Knowledge, Volume two, describing Choekhor Duchen, the first teachings the Buddha gave at Saranath, Varanasi, India, on The Four Noble Truths and The Eightfold Path.
The Eleventh Deed
At the request of Brahma and others, He taught in known places Expedient and Definitive meanings in three successive turnings of the Wheel of Dharma.
During the time the perfect Buddha sat beneath the tree of liberation, he thought that no worldly being could realise the profound understanding he had attained.
Thus, he said:
“Deep, tranquil, unformulated, non-composite clear light. This ambrosia-like reality I have gained is unfathomable by anyone I might teach. Thus, I will dwell at the forest’s edge in silence. He sat alone with little activity in his mind.”
Through the Buddha’s power, Brahma with a tufted crown arrived with his retinue of sixty-eight hundred thousand, and beseeched Him to teach the Dharma, but the Buddha did not do so. Brahma then called on Shakra for assistance. After the third request, the Buddha, clearly seeing His disciples’ different capabilities, promised to open the door of ambrosia-like teachings, beginning with the teachings to any kind of sentient being. The tidings, “The Transcendent Buddha will Turn the Wheel of Dharma”! resounded as far as Brahma’s realm.
The Buddha then went to seek alms in Varanasi. When He arrived at Deer Park, Descent of the Sages, the five excellent ones came to greet Him. The Buddha called forth, and they thereby became true fully ordained monks.
At that place, one thousand magnificent lion-supported thrones appeared. The Buddha circumambulated the first three; when He sat in cross-legged posture on the fourth, a great light spread throughout worlds in the ten direction, and a sound arose beings to listen to His teachings. A god called ‘Bodhisattva Who Turned the Wheel of the Teachings to Attain Awakening’ presented Him with a one thousand-spoked wheel made of gold from the Jambu River. He and countless other bodhisattvas and gods assembled.
On the fourth day of the sixth lunar month, the Buddha taught the Four Noble Truths in three enunciations: (He first explained) their essence, then their function, and finally their result. In this way, He presented that cycle of teaching in twelve aspects. As a result, the five excellent ones attained (the state of) Arhat (foe-subduer), and for the first time the Three Jewels (Buddha, Teaching and the Spiritual Community) appeared in this world.
Beginning with instruction in the Expedient and Definitive meanings (of Dharma), the Buddha turned the Great Wheel of Dharma ~ virtuous in the beginning, middle, and end in three stages. He taught in known locations such as Gaya Peak, Gandhamadana Mountain, Rajgir, Vulture’s Peak, Shravasti, Jetavana, Kosala, Kapilavastu, and the city of Vaishali, as well as in many places unknown (to humans), such as realms of gods and nagas, and the precious Vajra Place.
The Buddha lead innumerable disciples of the four kinds, including the sublime pair, to the attainment of four results. He foretold the awakening of countless humans and gods who had affinity with the Great Way. In Shravasti, He displayed supreme miracles, both mundane and supramundane. For His mother Mayadevi’s sake, He spent one summer retreat period in Heaven of the thirty-three, then descended from the god’s realm (back to earth) at Sankashya. At glorious Treasure Mound Stupa and other places, the Buddha taught the secret mantra way to exceptional disciples. In these ways, His displays of the Four Taming Miracles were inconceivable and indescribable.
In summary, the Buddha stayed in His father’s royal residence until the age of twenty-nine. He practiced the austerities over six years, and at the age of thirty-five attained enlightenment. From then until His eightieth year, he conducted forty-five summer retreats and set in motion the highest Wheel of the teachings.
From the Sakya School of Tibetan Buddhism 31 July 2014
His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama A few short excerpts from His Holiness’ teachings
“This is a bit like a river that is flowing quite strongly, in which you cannot see the riverbed very clearly. If, however, there was some way you could stop the flow in both directions, from where the water is coming and to where the water is flowing, then you could keep the water still. That would allow you to see the base of the river quite clearly. Similarly, when you are able to stop your mind from chasing sensory objects and thinking about the past and future and so on, and when you can free your mind from being totally ‘blanked out’ as well, then you will begin to see underneath this turbulence of the thought processes. There is an underlying stillness, an underlying clarity of the mind. You should try to observe or experience this…”
“Similarly, when mental wandering arises, we can think of an unpleasant subject, such as the suffering nature of samsara. When our mind is low, changing to a happy subject can bring it back up; when it is wandering, changing to an unpleasant subject can bring it down out of the sky and back to earth.”
“The antidote to depression is tightening the concentration; the antidote to wandering is loosening it.
“When counteracting mental sinking with tightness, we must be careful to avoid the excessive tightness that a lack of natural desire to meditate can create; we need to balance tightness with relaxation.
“When our mind gets too tight like this we should just relax within our meditation. If that doesn’t work, we can forget the object for a while and concentrate on happy thoughts, such as the beneficial effects of bodhicitta, until our mind regains its composure, and then return to our object of meditation. This is akin to washing our face in cold water. If contemplating a happy subject does not pick us up, we can visualise that our mind takes the form of a tiny seed at our heart and then shoot this seed out of the crown of our head into the clouds above, leave it there for a few moments and then bring it back. If this does not help, we can just take a short break from our meditation.
“If somebody insults, abuses, or criticises us, saying that we are incompetent and do not know how to do anything and so forth, we are likely to get truly angry and contradict what the person has said. We should not react in this way; instead, with humility and tolerance, we should accept what has been said.
“Where it says that we should accept defeat and offer the victory to others, we must differentiate the two kinds of the situation. If, on the one hand, we are obsessed with our own welfare and very selfishly motivated, we should accept defeat and offer victory to the other, even if our life is at stake. But if, on the other hand, the situation is such that the welfare of others is at stake, we must work extremely hard to fight for the rights of others and not accept the loss at all.
“One of the forty-six secondary vows of a bodhisattva refers to a situation in which somebody is doing something very harmful and you have to use forceful methods or whatever else is necessary to stop that person’s actions immediately - if you don’t, you have transgressed that commitment.36 It might appear that this bodhisattva vow and the fifth stanza, which says that one must accept defeat and give the victory to the other, are contradictory but they are not. The bodhisattva precept deals with a situation in which one’s prime concern is the welfare of others: if somebody is doing something extremely harmful and dangerous it is wrong not to take strong measures to stop it if necessary. Nowadays, in incredibly competitive societies, strong defensive or similar actions are often required. The motivation for these should not be selfish concern but extensive feelings of kindness and compassion toward others. If we act out of such feelings to save others from creating negative karma this is entirely correct.”
In Loving Memory of Wendy Brennen and Jan Proos 27 June and 11 May
Wendy’s enthusiasm and energy for life was wonderful to be around. She brought this into her love of the Buddhadharma twofold.
From 2005, Wendy maintained a close connection with Khenpo la and the centre. She was the co-ordinator of Khenpo la’s community teaching events in and around the Richmond area in NSW for many years. Wendy was always there to run these events, including the regular weekly evening teachings. She often described how she felt so fortunate to have met Khenpo la and the precious dharma in her life. Her warm and friendly nature endeared her to all she met. Wendy always went out of her way to make people feel welcome at events, including baking delicious cakes for the traditional cup of tea after the programme. Wendy volunteered her time and skills with such grace and humour.
Wendy passed away on 27 June from a long and brave battle with illness. We will miss her a lot, and we all pray for Wendy to have a precious human rebirth swiftly.
Jan was one of life’s real gentlemen. When you were with Jan you knew he had a genuine interest and care in you and your life. Though having found the dharma later in his life, Jan embraced it with such openness that was extraordinary to see.
Jan did a lot of work for the Centre, in the garden, and on the road. Even when he was quite ill, Jan continued to turned up to contribute. During the drought late last year, Jan would be seen bringing up containers of water from his home to water the garden, so as not to deplete the centres water supply. He was a regular attendee at Tuesday and Sunday practice, and often shared delicious treats at morning tea afterwards with everyone.
Jan passed away on 11 May, after a long and courageous battle with illness. We all shall miss his beautiful light presence and wish for him too to have a precious human rebirth swiftly.
HELD AT KAMALASHILA TIBETAN BUDDHIST CENTRE 20 June 2020
The first Working Bee for 2020 at Kamalashila Tibetan Buddhist Centre, everyone worked extremely hard including Khenpo la, leading from the front! Thank you to everyone who came and contributed. We achieved so much which is to reduce the fuel load for the upcoming summer season and for this we cleared fallen trees and countless branches. The centre will be holding Working Bees every second Saturday until summer.
HELD AT KAMALASHILA TIBETAN BUDDHIST CENTRE May – June 2020
Throughout the month of Saga Dawa over 1,000 candles were lit at KTBC for the benefit of all sentient beings, for COVID-19 to cease, for all those who have passed away to attain precious human rebirth and celebrate the Buddhadharma in our lives. On day 17 of this month, light offerings from many sponsors – may all beings be happy!
On Saga Dawa Duchen Khenpo la lead The Sixteen Arhat Puja with sangha in person seated at social distancing and via Zoom. There were over 100 butter lamps and many more candles lit on this most auspicious day and the shrine was truly extraordinary with so many exquisite offerings.
AT KAMALASHILA TIBETAN BUDDHIST CENTRE 23 MAY – 21 JUNE 2020
Saga Dawa/Saga Dawa Duchen begins on the 1st day of the 4th lunar month calendar – 2147
This being the most important month in the Tibetan lunar calendar, called Saga Dawa. The 15th day of this 4th lunar month, the full moon day is called Saga Dawa Düchen ས་ག་ཟླ་བ་དུས་ཆེན་ which falls this year on Monday 5 June 2020 (Sangye & Nyangde Düchen). Düchen means “Great Occasion” and this day is the single most holy day of the year for Tibetan Buddhists. Saga Dawa Düchen commemorates the Birth, Enlightenment, and Parinirvana of Buddha Shakyamuni marked all on this same day. Although, there is a specific separate day in which Buddha Shakyamuni’s birth is celebrated, referred to as Tampei Düchen, this year falling on Sunday 29 May 2020.
In other Buddhist traditions this occasion is known as Wesak 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 to be 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 at the centre, on the 10th and 15th days, 100 candles will be offered.
We are all in this state of the COVID-19 pandemic, causing uncertainty in all our lives and causing disturbances mentally, emotionally, as well as economically. In this way, we are facing big challenges right now, so I advise everyone not to panic. At this time, it is very important to reflect upon all the dharma teachings we have received in the past and put them into action, for the good aspect of COVID-19 is if we can remain in a state of mindfulness, and follow all of the health profession’s advice, then there is no chance to get this disease. Emotionally and mentally, we need to remember that there is no one more professional than Lord Buddha. His main teachings show us how to keep a healthy mind which is the sole topic from the Buddha, and this positive mind is for all beings. This mind is the remedy for this pandemic and for any other circumstance.
If we all can keep our mind completely positive, meaning to wish that all others are to be happy, that no one faces challenges, free from all the difficulties, if we can develop love and compassion, and to remain in this state, this will be the best medicine to keep the mind and emotions healthy.
Conventionally, the Buddha’s teachings are about impermanence, which is good and bad. This pandemic will not last, it will end sooner or later. Until then, please take responsibility to protect oneself and to help others to not spread this disease. The pandemic is an excellent opportunity for more time to practise by oneself and/or with loved ones, such a rare opportunity to find this kind of time. I strongly recommend that you chant Medicine Buddha, Parṇaśavarī, Tara and Compassion mantras, which can help ease our fear of this disease. The fear is also a sentient being, so we can send loving-kindness and compassion to this being, so it can be free from its negative karma. I also recommend that you practise Lojong meditation (the exchanging meditation).
We can view these current circumstances in a negative or selfish way, or we can think from a dharmic point of view, being a perfect opportunity to practise the dharma. We must not think that we are in isolation and restricted. This time with oneself and others is also a time for our precious Mother Planet to rest, so let us take advantage of this time. At the end of the day, this is not a bad time, although we sincerely offer our prayers for all who are sick and for all those who have passed away from this disease. As well, our prayers are for all the committed health workers and all other beings who keep the world less stressed and provide help in so many ways in order to bring comfort to all.
We thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
We can pray that all beings be free from this disease all over the world.