AT KAMALASHILA TIBETAN BUDDHIST CENTRE 12 MAY – 10 June 2021
Saga Dawa (Vesak) marks the month of Buddha Shakyamuni’s birth, enlightenment and His Mahaparinirvana, the 1st day of the 4th lunar calendar month commences Saga Dawa, this year falling on Wednesday 12 May 2021 (2148 in the Tibetan Calendar). The actual birthdate of the Buddha Tempei Düchen falls this year on 19 May. Saga Dawa Düchen ས་ག་ཟླ་བ་དུས་ཆེན་ then marks both the enlightenment (Sangye) and the Buddha’s Mahaparinirvana (Nyangde Düchen) which is always on the full moon day, being the 15th day of the lunar month, 26 May 2021. This being the most important and most auspicious month in the Tibetan lunar calendar. Düchen means “Great Occasion” and this day is the single most holy day of the year for Tibetan Buddhists.
In other Buddhist traditions this occasion is known as Vesak or is sometimes called Buddha Day and may fall within a different month, yet around the same time of the year. Saga Dawa is known as the month of merits. Tibetan Buddhists make extra efforts to practice more generosity (Dana), virtue, and compassion to accumulate greater merit. Tibetans believe that on the 10th and 15th day of this month the merits of one’s actions are hugely increased, 100,000x positive actions or negative. Accumulating this merit is understood in many ways, it could be the fruits of good karma, especially when it brings us closer to enlightenment. The three grounds of meritorious actions are generosity and mental culture or meditation.
Traditionally, the holy day of Saga Dawa Düchen is observed through practice, generosity, and the performance of meritorious deeds, such as the practice of Life Release. This is commonly performed by purchasing animals that are destined to be killed (like lambs, fish, worms and/or crickets), and releasing them into their natural habitats with prayers and positive aspirations. One must be mindful though that this release does not cause them more suffering being in the wrong environment. As Khenpo la always suggests and reminds us during this most auspicious and sacred month is to practice being vegetarian, to release any animals that may have otherwise been killed for food or other reasons. The act of giving life in this way is believed to extend the practitioner or benefactor’s lifespan and create positive circumstances. You can also take an extended vow or vegetarianism, creating vast merit through your noble aspiration to reduce suffering.
“Behold, O monks, this is my last advice to you. All component things in the world are changeable. They are not lasting. Work hard to gain your own salvation.” The Buddha
At Kamalashila Tibetan Buddhist Centre there is an opportunity to sponsor (Dana) towards the daily lighting of candles. The first 9 days of Saga Dawa there will be 50 candles lit on each day, on the 10th and 15th days, 100 candles will be offered on the sponsors behalf and for all mother sentient beings to be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.
In early April, following our regular Sunday Shamatha meditation practices at KTBC, our enthusiastic sangha members concentrated on preparing the retreat huts for upcoming hires. A lot of grass cutting happened after the recent downpours and cleaned/prepared the huts for the next retreatants. It truly was a lovely afternoon, enjoying each other’s company and sharing lunch together. We thank everyone who came as your help is so appreciated.
Following a more recent Sunday meditation practice lead by Khenpo la, we moved into our new office, adjoining the new bush kitchen (now ready for hire) along with a shed/flower station for retreats. Thank you to everyone who helped on this day.
We also recently had an inaugural lunch in the bush kitchen, with a special visit by Dr Tony, our dear friend and major sponsor for the bush kitchen upgrade. As well as a wonderful way to acknowledge all the effort by those who have been doing some repair work on the road, led by Khenpo la and Peter, Scott, Robert and Ian who have all been working extremely hard over those last few days. Thank you to Penny for the delicious lunch provided. The bush kitchen is such a beautiful space to be in, with lovely views out to the bush and Mount Gulaga. Again, so much appreciation to all those who made the bush kitchen/office building possible, from the designers, builders, sponsors, and helpers. The new office is in a beautiful position, with ocean views from the windows.
At Kamalashila Tibetan Buddhist Centre, we have installed these fireplaces in the two newer retreat huts, making the huts very pleasant now in the winter months for retreat. To book a hut email firstname.lastname@example.org.
A truly special thank you to Robert, for his dedication to Khenpo la and to this major project, taking over the last 15 months of creativity and hardworking energy from his deep heart build! Photo credit of Robert’s photo, Dean Dampney
HELD AT KAMALASHILA TIBETAN BUDDHIST CENTRE APRIL 2021
Khenpo la has been leading a group of sangha members in training to be mentors for “The Autumn Buddhist Philosophy Course”, which will commence in May 2022.
He has been assisted wonderfully by Carole, as students are learning the fundamentals of mentoring, and how to do this based on the Buddhist principles and philosophy. It is so interesting, as the course format is a mix of Buddhist philosophical teachings on the Hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana given so generously by Khenpo la. Then breakaway group work is utilised to develop the techniques and methods of mentoring students. Some course attendees were attending online from Australia and New Zealand. Khenpo la’s teachings included clear advice on how to actively engage with the Dharma.
“In our ordinary activities during the day, we need to be mindful, constantly checking our mind, all day. We need to do this to constantly rescue ourselves. As long as we are aware of the times we are in the wrong place in our mind and bring it closer to the right place, we are living close to the Dharma.”
On completion of the Mentor Course, Khenpo la presented a certificate of completion to all the students. Khenpo la warmly thanked Emeritus Professor Carole for providing such a clear and relatable framework in which to progress this course for all participants. Professor Carole then in turn thanked Khenpo la for his incredible generosity and wisdom in creating this course. All participants feel so fortunate to have this opportunity. Thank you Khenpo la for offering everyone this special opportunity and for your inspiring teachings. To Carole and Robert for working so hard in putting together this amazing course structure and online learning. Thank you to the very warm sangha group who are undertaking this extremely rewarding program together.
Our official group photo from the weekend Mentor Course with Khenpo la includes those on the screen who attended online from New Zealand and country NSW, and a special one of Khenpo la and the group in the gompa.
HELD AT KAMALASHILA TIBETAN BUDDHIST CENTRE easter weekend, april 2021
Reflections over the few days…
Khenpo la began by leading the retreatants with teachings on the Shamatha/Peaceful-Abiding practice. He taught on the four foundational points for establishing a good Shamatha practice, of the need: to reduce desire; to be grateful; to lessen activities; and to live an ethical life. Khenpo la also stressed how important it was to find a suitable location for one’s practice and that being away from the busyness of everyday life and close to nature was the ideal setting. In the morning session, Khenpo la led a walking meditation session and we spent time in contemplation looking out on the saddle to the magnificent Gulaga Mountain. In the afternoon session Khenpo la gave more teachings and we practiced the Shamatha meditation focussing on the blue flower. There was an extensive Q&A session including our Zoom retreatants from around Australia. In the evening, we practiced Shamatha before retiring for the evening in noble silence.
Continuing with a glorious April day, Khenpo la gave further teachings on how our secondary mind has such a big effect in our lives and thus is so important to train and move from a negative state of mind to a positive state of mind which creates the sense of peace and calm. Due to our deep habituation, it is not easy to transform this secondary mind, but it is possible. In addition to our own effort, we need the right teacher who is deserving of respect and trust. This respect renders our mind more fertile to grow and develop wisdom. We also need to bring a deep commitment so that we enjoy the practice with compassion and loving kindness assisting our progress. Finally, because our minds are fragile and we are inexperienced, it is important that we have spiritual friends to help and support us and keep the flame alive. Khenpo la then expounded on how to use force, relax and rest in the nature state of mind, and went on to cover the five experiences of meditation. He spoke on how important the motivation we bring to our Shamatha practice is ranging from the mundane, to the renunciation, then to the bodhicitta motivation. We then undertook our daily walking meditation and sat to meditate once again facing Gulaga Mountain. In the afternoon, Khenpo la taught-on mindfulness and the roles of remembering what it is good and bad, conscientiousness, and vigilance. He spoke on the two ways to develop the rejoicing mind and how we can subdue our desire, anger, and ignorance mind through training in discipline, meditation, and wisdom. He emphasised how the bodhisattva who seeks to help everyone but in this huge task does not feel a heaviness of mind due to their great joy. Khenpo la also urged us to “remember the teacher” not for their being friendly, smiling, or humorous but for the actual teaching they have given us.
On the final day of retreat, it truly was a special time with Khenpo la and his precious teachings passed down the centuries through many great Masters. We also experienced a warm and growing sangha who were held together with a special bond with many people being on their first retreat at the Centre.
The teachings today focused on the practice of mindfulness with Khenpo la speaking to the definition of mindfulness, the disadvantages of not practising mindfulness, the methods and causes to develop mindfulness and the benefits of mindfulness. With the analogy of our mind being like a wild elephant that needs to be tethered to a pole, mindfulness was defined as tying your mind to the virtuous. It is through wisdom that we can tame this wild elephant mind and transform it into something that is gentle, powerful and of enormous benefit. Khenpo la spoke on how our world is driven by a toxic mind that fails to realise our habit of unhealthy thoughts that run from day to day. We need to be honest with ourselves about our lack of mindfulness while maintaining a hope - when we are despairing ourselves it is a good time to start because there are so many other people around the world in the same state. We need to develop compassion for others who are suffering like us. We understand their pain and wish them to be free of this state. We draw comfort from knowing that everything is changeable and that there are methods to transform this mind. Khenpo la then spoke on the six different breathing techniques that help us develop mindfulness. He gave the example of how we need to protect our mind with mindfulness in the way that someone with a boil on their arm exercises particular care in crowded places. It is the same with COVID and wearing a mask and sanitising our hands – we need to apply the same to our mind. Khenpo la urged us, however, not to isolate once we have developed our mindfulness but to go out into the world and practise mindfulness.
In terms of the cause of cultivating mindfulness, Khenpo la stressed that the critical importance of a wise and kind teacher who can give us the courage to develop our mindfulness as well as the methods to do so. He also emphasised the value to have mindful people around you in the beginning, before venturing out to places and situations lacking in mindfulness. He encouraged people to join together as a sangha on a regular basis, wherever possible in person.
He then finished up on the very practical benefits of mindfulness and how it can protect us from getting hurt or disturbed. We then took our final walking meditation to Mount Gulaga and people offered their very honest and inspiring journeys over the course of the retreat along with their deep heartfelt appreciation for Khenpo la and his teachings. Retreat concluded with khata offerings and thanks to the many people who contributed to creating such a warm, supportive, and comfortable retreat environment. A tremendous thank you for we all enjoyed continuous delicious food prepared by Ani la, Penny and others, thank you for their wonderful meals supported by a very hard-working kitchen sangha along with everyone else, providing kind support for this retreat. Jack H.
May all being have happiness and the cause of happiness. May all beings be free from suffering and the causes of suffering. May all beings never be separated from the joy which is sorrowless. And may all beings live in equanimity free from attachment and aversion to those near and far.
It is tricky to try and put the Kamalashila dharma journey into a paragraph, but here it goes. This being my first time at Kamalashila Tibetan Buddhist Centre at the foothills of Mount Gulaga Tilba, I was a bit nervous yet also excited as to what the new experience ahead might be, embarking on the Shamatha & Mindfulness Easter Long Weekend retreat. My mind was soon put at ease by the tranquil atmosphere, super friendly caretakers and by Khenpo la, the Tibetan master. As the course went on and I slowly picked up on the swing of things, it became noticeably clear to me that this Centre had a very pleasant sangha and a family atmosphere. The program felt very natural and relaxed, with lots of laughing. All the while the chief physician, Dr Khenpo la, was administering his medicine, a direct lineage of the Buddha’s teachings which were absorbed straight into my heart! The teachings were truly clear and simple but comprehensive at the same time. For me, this experience showed me how kind, loving and compassionate the Buddha’s teachings are, which can only be passed on by a teacher not by a book. My wish is that all beings can have this experience. A big thanks to all the members and staff/helpers of the Centre and to the master Khenpo la. May all beings be happy. Jason H.
I attended the eight-day Shamatha retreat with Khenpo la last October via Zoom. I learned a lot about meditation, particularly compassion and exchanging meditation, but was not successful with the single-pointed meditation, which was my main focus. Later, I listened to some of Khenpo la’s recorded teachings from the retreat and thought to myself ‘Did I hear this? I don't remember!’ So, I followed his instructions and thought I had made one step forward in just focusing on the object – perhaps for one minute, but it did not last. That was why I decided to attend this Easter Shamatha & Mindfulness retreat to push myself a little bit more. In this retreat, I realised that my approach to meditation was wrong: instead of looking into my mind, I was trying to align my mind with some fragmented ideas about meditation – ideas I had gathered from books or teachings. I have heard Khenpo la say “It’s all about your mind” countless times, but at last the penny suddenly dropped for me. That has made this retreat memorable for me. Chiaki A.
CELEBRATING FIVE YEARS OF GYRI AT OUR CENTRE KAMALASHILA TIBETAN BUDDHIST CENTRE
Today we marked the five incredibly special years that Gyri has spent at our Kamalashila Tibetan Buddhist Centre, since she first made her way up the road from the neighbour’s property. We tried to return her many times, but she just kept coming back and it would seem she had found the place where she was meant to be. In this time, she has brought much warmth and affection to visitors and provided the opportunity for so many people to give her such kind care and support, especially since her spine become paralysed last year. Alongside a special birthday cake for Gyri made by Ani la, there was a special cake enjoyed by the sangha. We hope that Gyri continues to bring great joy to centre visitors and that her remaining days are pain free and comfortable.
HELD AT KAMALASHILA TIBETAN BUDDHIST CENTRE 17 MARCH 2021
Kamalashila Tibetan Buddhist Centre recently hosted a visit by the local U3A Bermagui. This group of senior locals attended the centre for a tour of the centre, Q&A time, and a guided meditation session with Khenpo Ngawang Dhamchoe. Many interesting questions were asked with equally interesting answers from Khenpo la. We all then shared a cuppa and established closer local connections. The feedback was that everyone really enjoyed their morning at the centre.
HELD AT KAMALASHILA TIBETAN BUDDHIST CENTRE MARCH 2021
Over the three full days of this retreat Khenpo la gave the attendees clear insights into the practices of refuge, bodhicitta, Vajrasattva and the Mandala Offering through his truly inspirational teachings. Khenpo la taught much about how we can use these methods of the Ngöndro practice in our own search for the Ultimate Truth. Khenpo la incorporated many prostrations throughout the day’s practices whilst reciting the refuge prayer, along with the physical aspect of the Mandala offerings with the mandala plate, precious gems and/or rice. This truly was an extraordinary and precious block of time in the most important practices of all in Tibetan Buddhism, The Preliminary Practices, the foundation of all other practices guided so beautifully and comprehensively by Khenpo la… “The Dharma Practitioner is one who searches for the truth daily.” Thank you so much Khenpo la.
Having returned home from the recent Ngöndro Retreat and teachings with Khenpo la, I find myself reflecting once again how lucky I am, and more broadly, we are as students, to have access to such an amazing teacher as in Khenpo la here on the South Coast of NSW. I personally, am always very self-conscious of how little I know when it comes to the Vajrayana teachings. The teachings on all the different deities, their consorts, and the rituals in the sadhanas of Vajrayana, I do find it all quite daunting after practising in the Mahayana stream for a decade or so, in which exposure to the Tantra does not become evident, well not to the lay practitioner any way.
I, and others, who were completing year three of The Complete Path were given a couple of days of introduction to the Ngöndro teachings, using the Mandala plate under Khenpo’s guidance some 18 months back. I truthfully found it all a bit confusing, very in-depth at that time and did not feel confident with what I had learnt. As such I did not proceed with the practice on returning home with the fear I may not be doing it correctly. After attending this refresher Ngöndro retreat under Khenpo’s guidance once more with more in-depth and most comprehensive explanations, I believe I now have a much deeper understanding of taking refuge, developing bodhicitta, and the Mandala Offering practices. I now feel I have the confidence to correctly do the practice at home. I now need to only apply myself… ‘fearlessly’!
TASHI DELEK FROM KAMALASHILA TIBETAN BUDDHIST CENTRE
There was a wonderful celebration at Kamalashila Tibetan Buddhist Centre. Firstly, Khenpo la gave a prayer flag blessing as many attending hung numerous chains of flags, lung ta, through the trees. We raised the tall Darchog, flagstaffs, with some joyous chanting to raise the spirit as the new flags stood tall in the wind. Khenpo la explained that the history of raising flags in Tibet is very ancient, originating from a Bon tradition, in the 8th Century Buddhist prayers were added and printed on the flags giving us the special tradition of hanging Buddhist prayer flags that we have today. Then there was a juniper smoke offering and prayer blessing; we all offered barley flour to the wind and had some special Losar Khapse, sweet pastries, to make our speech sweet for the New Year. Then all made their way to the Gompa where Khenpo la lead The Sixteen Arhat Puja. It was very inspiring to have the cymbals, drums, and many voices joining in with the chant. This was followed by a beautifully presented lunch with sweet rice and tea, a great start to the year.
Wishing you all much happiness and many blessings for the New Year.