HELD AT KAMALASHILA TIBETAN BUDDHIST CENTRE 11-13 February 2022
Around 40 people gathered at Kamalashila on the second weekend of February to participate in a truly wonderful practical body and mind weekend workshop lead by Dr Tony Richardson and assisted so beautifully by William Penhale. Khenpo la attended at times throughout the program. Dr Tony and William were so generous in offering their time and expertise to everyone and supporting the centre. Thank you so much Dr Tony and William. A big thank you to Garth for his delicious food and to everyone who came making it a really special weekend.
Good news is Dr Tony and William are returning for a second workshop in August, dates to be confirmed so watch this space...
EXCERPTS FROM THE INTERNATIONAL PLUM VILLAGE COMMUNITY OF ENGAGED BUDDHISM 22 January 2022
“Meditation is not to escape from society, but to come back to ourselves, and see what is going on. Once there is seeing, there must be acting. With mindfulness we know what to do and what not to do to help.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh is a global spiritual leader, poet, and peace activist, renowned for his powerful teachings and bestselling writings on mindfulness and peace. A gentle, humble monk, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called him “an Apostle of peace and nonviolence” when nominating him for the Nobel Peace Prize. Exiled from his native Vietnam for almost four decades, Thich Nhat Hanh has been a pioneer bringing Buddhism and mindfulness to the West and establishing an engaged Buddhist community for the 21st Century.
Born in central Vietnam in 1926, Thich Nhat Hanh entered Tu Hieu Temple, in Hue city, as a novice monk at the age of sixteen. As a young bhikshu (monk) in the early 1950s he was actively engaged in the movement to renew Vietnamese Buddhism. He was one of the first bhikshus to study a secular subject at University in Saigon, and one of the first six monks to ride a bicycle.
Social activism during war in Vietnam
When war came to Vietnam, monks and nuns were confronted with the question of whether to adhere to the contemplative life and stay meditating in the monasteries, or to help those around them suffering under the bombings and turmoil of war. Thich Nhat Hanh was one of those who chose to do both, and in doing so founded the Engaged Buddhism movement, coining the term in his book ‘Vietnam: Lotus in a Sea of Fire’. His life has since been dedicated to the work of inner transformation for the benefit of individuals and society.
In 1961, Thich Nhat Hanh travelled to the United States on a scholarship to study Comparative Religion at Princeton Theological Seminary and the following year went on to teach and research Buddhism at Columbia University. In Vietnam in the early 1960s, Thich Nhat Hanh founded the School of Youth and Social Service, a grassroots relief organization of 10,000 volunteers based on the Buddhist principles of non-violence and compassionate action.
As a scholar, teacher, and engaged activist in the 1960s, Thich Nhat Hanh also founded the Van Hanh Buddhist University in Saigon, La Boi publishing House, and an influential peace activist magazine. In 1966 he established the Order of Interbeing, a new order based on the traditional Buddhist Bodhisattva precepts.
On May 1st, 1966, at Tu Hieu Temple, Thich Nhat Hanh received the ‘lamp transmission’ from Master Chan That.
Exile from Vietnam
A few months later he travelled once more to the U.S. and Europe to make the case for peace and to call for an end to hostilities in Vietnam. It was during this 1966 trip that he first met Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967. As a result of this mission both North and South Vietnam denied him the right to return to Vietnam, and he began a long exile of 39 years.
Thich Nhat Hanh continued to travel widely, spreading the message of peace and brotherhood, lobbying Western leaders to end the Vietnam War, and leading the Buddhist delegation to the Paris Peace Talks in 1969.
Founding Plum Village in France
He also continued to teach, lecture, and write on the art of mindfulness and ‘living peace,’ and in the early 1970s was a lecturer and researcher in Buddhism at the University of Sorbonne, Paris. In 1975 he established the Sweet Potato community near Paris, and in 1982, moved to a much larger site in the southwest of France, soon to be known as “Plum Village.”
Under Thich Nhat Hanh’s spiritual leadership Plum Village has grown from a small rural farmstead to what is now the West’s largest and most active Buddhist monastery, with over 200 resident monastics and over 10,000 visitors every year, who come from around the world to learn “the art of mindful living.”
Plum Village welcomes people of all ages, backgrounds, and faiths at retreats where they can learn practices such as walking meditation, sitting meditation, eating meditation, total relaxation, working meditation and stopping, smiling, and breathing mindfully. These are all ancient Buddhist practices, the essence of which Thich Nhat Hanh has distilled and developed to be easily and powerfully applied to the challenges and difficulties of our times.
More recently, Thich Nhat Hanh has founded Wake UpWake Up website, a worldwide movement of thousands of young people training in these practices of mindful living, and he has launched an international Wake Up SchoolsWake Up Schools website program training teachers to teach mindfulness in schools in Europe, America and Asia.
Thich Nhat Hanh is also an artist, and his unique and popular works of calligraphy – short phrases and words capturing the essence of his mindfulness teachings – have since 2010 been exhibited in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Canada, Germany, France, and New York.
In the last decade Thich Nhat Hanh has opened monasteries in California, New York, Vietnam, Paris, Hong Kong, Thailand, Mississippi and Australia, and Europe’s first “Institute of Applied Buddhism” in Germany.
Mindfulness Practice Centres in the Plum Village tradition offer special retreats for businesspeople, teachers, families, healthcare professionals, psychotherapists, politicians, and young people as well as war veterans and Israelis and Palestinians. It is estimated that over 75,000 people participate in activities led by Plum Village monks and nuns worldwide every year.
In recent years Thich Nhat Hanh led events for members of US Congress and for parliamentarians in the UK, Ireland, India, and Thailand. He has addressed the World Parliament of Religions in Melbourne and UNESCO in Paris, calling for specific steps to reverse the cycle of violence, war and global warming. On his visit to the US in 2013 he led high-profile mindfulness events at Google, The World Bank, and the Harvard School of Medicine.
On 11 November 2014, a month after his 88th birthday and following several months of rapidly declining health, Thich Nhat Hanh a severe stroke. Although he was unable to speak, and was mostly paralysed on the right side, he continued to offer the Dharma and inspiration through his peaceful, serene, and valiant presence.
In November 2018, Thich Nhat Hanh moved to Từ Hiếu Temple in Vietnam where he ordained with his teacher when he was sixteen years old. He expressed a wish to stay there for his remaining days. He came out regularly in his wheelchair to visit the temple altars and to lead the sangha on walking meditation around the ponds and ancestral stupas. Thay’s return to Từ Hiếu was a bell of mindfulness reminding us of how precious it is to belong to a spiritual lineage with deep roots. Whether we have attended a retreat, or simply read one of Thay’s books or watched a talk and have been touched by his teachings - we are all connected to this ancestral stream of wisdom and compassion. Edited from plumvillage.org website, please visit their website to learn more about Thich Nhat Hanh.
HELD AT KAMALASHILA TIBETAN BUDDHIST CENTRE 16 January 2022
At Kamalashila Tibetan Buddhist Centre, Khenpo Ngawang Dhamchoe lead sangha members in the first Sunday meditation for 2022. By coincidence and auspiciously, this was the anniversary of one of the great Sakya Founders Sakya Pandita. Khenpo la so kindly bestowed the Sakya Pandita Prayer (below), and then gave a spontaneous teaching about this Great Master and how this day in the Sakya monasteries and nunneries is one of the most revered days of the year, and on how the ordained students do debating on this day as part of their learning. Sakya Pandita is a true emanation of Manjushri. Whilst giving food and water to those in need is a virtuous action, it can only ever bring a temporary benefit. But the kindness and wisdom like Sakya Pandita’s brings not only temporary benefit but ultimate liberations being so profound. Thank you Khenpo la for sharing this on such an auspicious day.
Who has the eye of wisdom that sees all that is knowable, The compassion that brings about the welfare of all beings, The power that accomplishes inconceivable enlightened action, Lama, Manjushri you who are in person, at your feet I supplicate!
HELD AT KAMALASHILA TIBETAN BUDDHIST CENTRE 27 December 2021 – 1 January 2022
We all feel very fortunate to be able to take some time away from this busy time of year and be here at Kamalashila in the tranquil and beautiful environment listening to these profound teachings given so generously by Khenpo la. Khenpo la gave the Vajrasattava Transmission and followed with detailed and practical teachings on this purification practice. Khenpo la then gave the Medicine Buddha Transmission and teachings on the practice. We dedicate to the benefit and good health of all beings.
A great ending to 2021
Retreatants attending the annual purification and healing retreat at Kamalashila Tibetan Buddhist Centre were most fortunate to spend the last day of 2021 receiving precious teachings from Khenpo Ngawang Dhamchoe on the Medicine Buddha practice. The evening was spent in a celebratory dinner kindly prepared by Ani Nyidon la and dessert by Penny Moody! A full three course stunningly delicious meal kindly assisted by Nicole and Ann. Highlights were Ani la’s annual Fortune Cookie readings and associated performances along with a Medicine Buddha dance led by Felicity.
A great start to 2022
It was a cool clear start to the day for the final teachings on Medicine Buddha. The Venerables Jitindriya and Jayasara led the retreatants on the final walking meditation to sit watching out to Gulaga Mountain. We then returned for final Vajrasattva and Medicine Buddha practices before khatas were offered to Khenpo in appreciation of his profound and accessible teachings over the retreat. We had a farewell lunch and did some cleaning up. A big thanks to the Venerables along with Ani Nyidon, Ann Kelly and Robert Newberry and the many other people who contributed to the cooking serving and tidying up around the place. Jack H.
HELD AT KAMALASHILA TIBETAN BUDDHIST CENTRE 11 December 2021
Our nearly 21-year-old Gyri Dolma
Khenpo la welcomed everyone attending the 13th Annual General Meeting of Drogmi Buddhist Institute both in person and via Zoom.
Khenpo noted that despite COVID-19, the Centre had held a lot of online teachings which students said they found very helpful and that the guided online meditations had helped to maintain their connection to the Dharma during the lockdowns. Even though COVID had the power to stop most things, it did not have the power to stop the Dharma.
Khenpo thanked all the committee members who had worked tirelessly to keep the centre going and the local sangha in particular Ann Kelly who had worked so hard for the centre. Khenpo thanked Tjenka for her all her efforts in supporting the online program with the Sunday meditation, teachings and retreats. Khenpo noted that having some of the committee living close to the centre helped a lot to keep the centre running well.
Khenpo also thanked the many other members who had contributed to the running of the centre in so many different ways, including the sponsors and supporters who had contributed financially to the centre.
Khenpo shared that, for a long time, it had been his vision for DBI to be an education centre connected to a university. He commented that sometimes it is not easy to attain what one is dreaming for – yet he felt so lucky to have Carole Kayrooz and other professors and colleagues who have worked for many decades at the University of Canberra. He noted that people had said it could be very difficult to associate the centre with the university. For this to happen, we would need to do lots of work and preparation. In this context, Khenpo noted that in March 2022, the centre would start ‘The Autumn Buddhist Philosophy Course’ that would run for the next three years. Khenpo indicated that if we could evaluate the course over the three year period, and it proved successful, then this would give us a good basis and foundation in our effort to join up with the University’s education department. Khenpo also noted that the course formed a major part of our spiritual program for 2022 which also included our regular Sunday meditation and teachings including with Venerable Tsultim who had been staying at the centre and whom Khenpo had asked to come back in the new year.
Khenpo shared that, prior the AGM, centre members and been discussing plans for the future of the centre which included building new dormitories and also a Buddha statue.
Khenpo said he was not sure how COVID would play out in 2022 but expressed the hope that the situation would at least be clear in 2023 so that we could request His Holiness Sakya Trizin or His Eminence Luding Khen Rinpoche to give teachings at the centre.
Khenpo indicated that the centre would continue with its normal Dharma activities as COVID allowed. Khenpo noted that the building and opening of the new Bush Kitchen had been a great success and accomplishment. He commented that even more miraculous was that people said that there would be no way to grow grass around the Bush Kitchen among all the gum trees, but that he had said anything was possible, and so with his stubborn mind, had forced Peter Tooth, Robert Newberry, and Scott Read to plant grass. Now somehow the Bush Kitchen was surrounded by green, so anything was possible - never give up. Khenpo noted that over the past year there had been so much rain and that there was plenty of water now with all the new tanks full. From a nature point of view, he observed that it was is all flourishing at the moment, all the grass, trees and weeds are growing, all is very beautiful here.
Jack (President of Drogmi Buddhist Institute) reflected that when we started the first day of 2021 during the Healing and Purification Retreat there had been a double rainbow over Khenpo la’s house which was very special.
He recalled that early in the year Dr Tony Richardson had led the Body and Mind Workshop when we also launched the Bush Kitchen. He noted the wonderful event with the traditional raising of the prayer flags in February for the Tibetan New Year. Not long after that Khenpo la went over to New Zealand to give teachings. He was then back in March to lead the Ngondro retreat, and in April Khenpo led the Shamatha and Mindfulness Retreat. At that time, we also celebrated five years of having Gyri here at the centre. In May, Khenpo led quite a special pilgrimage to Uluru for the people that were most fortunate to go there and all had a wonderful time. Also in May, we had held The Sixteen Arhat Puja at KTBC for Saga Dawa. Throughout the year, Khenpo gave teachings on ‘The Way of the Bodhisattva’ by Shantideva, both Chapter 5 on Vigilance and Mindfulness as well as Chapter 6 on Patience. Khenpo la was currently teaching ‘The Eight Verses of Mind Training’ in the run up to Christmas. So, whatever way you looked at it, from a Dharma perspective, Khenpo had been tireless in terms with everything he had done to support the members of DBI here through his teachings and that said nothing of all the advice he had given for people individually. On behalf of everyone attending, Jack thanked Khenpo. He also noted that along with the formal teachings Khenpo was also teaching the Dharma in different ways - leading working bees and whether it was weeding or cleaning up the place generally, you knew Khenpo would always be there.
Jack thanked the many people who have helped in terms of the looking after the gardens, as well as cleaning, and looking after the animals. He echoed Khenpo’s words about Ann’s contribution, just generally hard working but as we know with Covid, it had raised so many concerns and anxieties with people, and being able to try and keep things in check and steer a way between what was safe and appropriate was a very difficult job that Ann had done in such an outstanding way.
Several other people were thanked including Robert for his work around the Bush Kitchen, Peter and Scott regularly working on the grounds, mowing, and fixing things. Jack noted that again, Khenpo la was involved in the way the roads were fixed up and the fact that we had just had horrendous rains for the past couple of weeks and the roads had stood up was testament to the great efforts of those involved.
Jack thanked Lael for all the work she had been doing with the newsletters and supporting Khenpo in so many ways along with the other committee members including Vanessa and Suzi. He noted Khenpo’s appreciation of Linda who had done such a phenomenal job as secretary – so precise, so prompt – and that it would be a loss in terms of not having her there on the committee, but that we were very pleased that Peter Green would be stepping into the breach.
Jack commented that whatever way you looked at it, the centre had done incredibly well in a year of COVID and that it had been with Khenpo la at the forefront in terms of his leadership and support from many members. On behalf of all centre members and friends, Jack thanked Khenpo la for his leadership, for his modelling of patience, for his wisdom and for his kindness. He said that we were all so very fortunate to be able to come in contact with Khenpo la and the Dharma in this lifetime and we were all so much better for it.
Jack thanked Scott for his work as Treasurer supported by Ash. He noted the very generous donations that had come in from overseas donors – it was quite wonderful when people who are not benefitting directly from the centre were so generous, and this was testament again to Khenpo’s standing.
Jack noted that Linda was stepping down from the Committee and that Peter Green was taking up her place as the new Secretary. Otherwise the committee members would continue in their existing roles.
Khenpo la welcomed Peter back to the committee and expressed his appreciation to Linda McKeone who had worked so strongly for DBI and expressed his hope that Linda would continue to help the centre in other ways. Khenpo also thanked Franky O’Connor who had provided great technical support along with all her long-standing work with the sadhana texts.
Khenpo issued a big thank you to Lael and noted that, thanks to Lael, we hadn’t broken the tradition of the newsletter which was a very big job. He said Lael was the sole person taking the responsibility for our newsletter which she kept producing every few months to let all the members know what is going on at the centre – a great effort!
Khenpo noted that Evelyn always put in so much effort coming all the way from Sydney down to the South Coast in our constant big battle with the lantana, but that we were now in a winning position thanks to her effort.
Khenpo la noted that the committee were always there mentally, emotionally, and physically to carry out whatever was needed. He expressed his appreciation to all the sponsors, from the small to bigger contributions that helped support and run the centre. Khenpo concluded that he was looking forward to everyone working together in 2022.