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