Thursday, 31 December 2009

Master Water Drop

The most thought provoking presentation of papers occurred this afternoon at the conference. The topic was "Living Simply, Protecting the Environment". I will bring some video posts to you with more on this soon.

Meanwhile, here is the story of Master Water Drop which I am copying from the paper given by Bhikshuni Chuchmen (of Singapore):

An ancient story illustrates that water is precious. There was a Chan Master by the name of Water Drop. One day, Chan Master Yishan wanted to wash himself, but the water was too hot, so he asked his disciple to bring a bucket of cold water. the disciple brought a bucket of cold to add to the hot water. After cooling the water, there was some water left in the bucket, so he poured it out.

Master Yishan was not pleased. He said, "Why are you so wasteful? Everything in this world has it's value. Things differ only in how they are used. For example, if you gave even one drop of the water you poured away to the flowers and plants, not only would the flowers and plants be happy, but the drop of water also would not lose it's value! As single drop of water is very valuable!"

The disciple was awakened by his master's teaching and changed his name to Master Water Drop. This disciple later became the famous Chan Master Water Drop. When Master Water Drop started to teach, people asked him, "What is the most virtuous thing in the world?"

"A drop of water," the master replied. "Empty space can contain all things. What can contain empty space? Drops of water."

Master Water Drop embraced his mind harmoniously with drops of water. The whole universe was his mind. One drop of water can encompass limitless time and space.
This story is made even more poignant when we hear such facts as these, from the paper presented by Savinder Kaur Gill (Tashi Choedron):

  • 2 million children die each year for want of a glass of clean water and adequate sanitation (every 20 seconds, a child dies as a result of poor sanitation.)
  • The demand for water has increased more than twice the rate of the population in the last century.
  • More than 40% of the world's population lives in river basins with some sort of wtare scarcity.
  • The UN suggests that each person needs 20 - 50 litres of safe freshwater s day to ensure their basic needs for drinking, cooking and cleaning. More than 1 in 6 people worldwide - 894 million - don't have access to this ammount of freshwater.
Clean water and sanitation are among the most powerful drivers for human development. They can extend opportunity, enhance dignity and help create a virtuous cycle of improving health and rising wealth (UN, 2006)

Wednesday, 30 December 2009



Nuns practicing sitting meditation during 11th Sakyadhita International Conference, Vietnam

The Buddha Hall


Scenes from the Buddha Hall, Day 1 of the Sakyadhita Conference

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Solemnly Elegant

In the Chinese Buddhist tradition, one would never refer to a nun as 'beautiful', rather, one would say she is 'solemnly elegant'! Aren't these three Vietnamese nuns a the Sakyadhita Conference Opening Ceremony just that!

Daughters of the Buddha

A rainbow of robes; nuns and buddhist women from all Buddhist traditions of our world are meeting this week in Vietnam at the 11th Sakyadhita International Conference.

Theravada nuns in Thai robes (orange) and Vietnamese robes (pink) with Vietnamese Mahayana nuns, wearing the grey robes
Sakyadhita, meaning "Daughters of the Buddha" is now in it's 21st year, and has done so much to advance the dialogue, education and opportunity of Buddhist women of all traditions. I was particularly inspired tonight to hear that there are now 800 Bikshuni in Sri Lanka. At the time of the inception of Sakyadhita, 20 years ago, there were none, and the government forbade any mention of the word "Bikshuni" at a conference for nuns in Sri Lanka!
Also, in Thailand, the Bikshuni sangha has grown in the last 9 years to eighteen, despite no support from the patriarchy of the Bhiskhu sangha.

Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo speaks with some nuns from Vietnam

The experience of spending the last 2 days with so many sisters is beyond words. Perhaps I'm a bit of a novelty as I'm one of a dozen or so western nuns attending this conference, so I am an easy target. There are 1500+ nuns and Buddhist women from Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions and many are constantly approaching me to show affection. There is such a strong sense of sisterhood, leagues beyond any boundaries of race, religion or culture. Instead, it expresses an openness, a tolerance, a joy of sharing a faith which, through each of us, is traced back to the time of the Buddha and Mahaprajapati, the Buddha's stepmother, who was the first women to go forth, along with the 500 women who journeyed with her to Vaisali.

With 2700 participants (240 of whom are International delegates from countries including UK, USA, France, Germany, Czech Republic, Holland, Mongolia, India, Tibet, Nepal, Burma, Taiwan, Thailand, Indonesia, Korea, Sri Lanka, China, Japan and Australia) and 5 more days to hear notable speakers talk on topics such as 'Socially Engaged Buddhist Women', 'Living Simply, Protecting the Environment', Buddhist Women and Leadership' and 'Buddhist Education Across Cultures', along with many engaging and interactive workshops, this conference will surely be an exceptional experience.

I am so grateful to have the opportunity to be here, and to have my eyes and heart continuously opened more and more!

Friday, 25 December 2009

Compassion fruit

While 17 relatives sat down for an Australian Christmas feast of seafood, turkey, and ham I was with them enjoying some salads with a fetta and spinach tart.

In Lerab Ling the meals for most of us are vegetarian - I had forgotten that meat consumption is so integral to the average persons diet, and during a holiday season, this is more so.
It's so saddening to see flesh eating (and to hear my cousins talking of fishing and hunting) - all done with such ignorance, and by millions of people the world over.

I was speaking to another nun a couple of days ago, and she recounted the story of one Christmas that she spent with her family during a time when she was refraining from eating meat. The fact that she was vegetarian at Christmas time was more stressful for her mother, than her daughter being a Tibetan Buddhist nun!

Here is a link to Nyala Pema Dudul's Song of Advice for Giving up Meat Eating.

As tradition goes, the meat-feast was followed by deserts drenched with alcohol. But a few treats were specially prepared for the nun in attendance:
- Chocolate rum balls without rum
- Ice-cream christmas pudding without whisky
- A pavlova, dressed with cream, passion fruit and banana (see photo)

One of my prayers today is that the passion fruit become Great Compassion fruit so all who ate the pavlova, all who feasted today, all who are hungry in this world and all whose lives are taken to feed others may be linked through the Great Compassion of all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of this world (including Jesus Christ), and may they all be alleviated of their suffering.
And may some of the true spirit of Christmas touch the lives of all who celebrate it today.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Offering Flowers to the Buddha

The main image of Buddha in the temple of Lerab Ling

Just recently I’ve taken the opportunity to do something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time now – which is to meditate on the Bodhicharyavatara using Patrul Rinpoche’s text ‘The Brightly Shining Sun’.

I bought my first translation of the Bodhicharyavatara about fifteen years ago – a paperback which was one of the cheapest dharma books I’ve ever bought and is now a rather tattered copy that still remains a favourite of mine. For ‘The Brightly Shining Sun’ I have the superb translation by Adam Pearcey, our very own Rigpa translator! I recommend that everyone checks out his translation of the first three chapters of the Bodhicharyavatara over on Lotsawa House where you’ll also find ‘The Brightly Shining Sun’. So armed with these I head enthusiastically for my cushion.

One of the things that I noticed as I initially glanced through the texts was the number of times that flowers, blossoms, garlands, etc. were mentioned as offerings. This led me to investigate a little bit further and again on Lotsawa House there’s a translation (courtesy of Tulku Thondup and Philip Richman) of a teaching by Jikmé Tenpe Nyima, the Third Dodrupchen Rinpoche, on the Offering of Flowers, in which it says:

In the summer, flowers of distinctive designs and colours, redolent with all kinds of pleasing fragrance beyond measure, grow in great abundance on trees, fields, and lakes, covering this great earth. Even the most humble among us can collect them without fear of depletion.

A statue of Buddha at our monastery in southern France

Moreover, flowers are substances that are extremely pure, as they can be obtained without engaging in any evil deed. They can be offered without any risk that we may feel miserly or regretful afterwards. So the offering will be made with a pure mind at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end.

I know sometimes I forget the benefits of something as simple as offering flowers to the buddhas and bodhisattvas.

So, to the buddhas and bodhisattvas, I pray to remember from now on.
Grant your blessings that this may come to pass!
by Ane Tsondru

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Rigpa Monastic Sangha

Meet us, the ordained sangha of Sogyal Rinpoche - usually in residence at Lerab Ling, France.

Left to right: Ngawang Tenpa (Dutch), Ngawang Thubten Chödar (French), Ngawang Sangye (Australian), Lama Yönten (Khampa, Tibetan), Ngawang Sangye Chözom (American), Thubten Dorje Drolma (American), Ngawang Damchö Drolma (Australian), Ngawang Tsondru (English), Ngawang Chökyi Drolma (Danish), Samten Palmo (French), Ngawang Chözom Lhamo (German)

The Rigpa monastic sangha, gathered before the Guru Rinpoche image which stands in the centre of the lake at Lerab Ling, September 2009

Saturday, 12 December 2009

His Holiness Dalai Lama calls for more monks & nuns!

His Holiness was given a formal Welcome to Country by a Wurunjeri Elder. (photos courtesy of Ray Messner)

Wow - what great fortune to have the opportunity to attend His Holiness the Dalai Lama's Melbourne Public Talk today.
His Holiness has been in Australia for 10 days, during which time he spoke to more than 20,000 people, including 1,000 Tibetans and Mongolians, 500 Chinese and 2,000 Vietnamese. Yesterday, he addressed a few thousand at the Parliament of World Religions, which included representatives of 228 religions (!). Today, was the last day of his tour, and is also the twenty year anniversary of His Holiness being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. (And, it's the first time that I have seen His Holiness in my once hometown of Melbourne, since I was ordained nearly 8 years ago!)

A famous Australian comedian, Rove Mc Manus MC'd today's Public Talk. My heart chuckled, was warmed, stirred and opened by the combination of the sarcastic Australian wit, the open armed gesture of welcome and His Holiness's teachings on World Peace.

As we've often heard His Holiness say, he emphasized that the 21st Century must be a Century of Dialogue. He singled out the younger generation in the audience, and really called on them to reflect deeply, and to seize the coming 91 years to affect change in the world. Although I've heard His Holiness' speak on his strategy for promoting world peace before (through inner disarmament; through showing kindness and care to those immediately around us; through opening up dialogue to resolve conflict in our families and in our local communities...), today his tremendous compassionate reasoning clicked for me. "This is a long term strategy" he pointed out. "If our future leaders can come from such community basis, then there is real hope".
So that was the juice for me! But there were a couple more minor highlights:

- A question was asked to His Holiness about how to resolve the dilemma of a cockroach problem in ones home - which I'm glad my Mum heard, as she has not resolved for herself how she should deal with the ants in her kitchen, (despite my petitions).
- And in response to the threatening issue of the world's population boom, His Holiness said we should have many more monks and nuns (which is the best non-violent method of exercising birth control!).

More monks and nuns, hey? That brings me to some great news to share:
Two of our monastic aspirants, who have recently completed the Three Year Retreat at Lerab Ling, have been accepted by His Holiness' Private Office for consideration for ordination with His Holiness the Dalai Lama next year in Dharamsala! And, one of our monks, Tenpa, has been accepted for consideration for gelong ordination from His Holiness. This news will be wonderful to follow in the coming months!

From the road, with much love,

Ané Damchö

Friday, 11 December 2009