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.