Monday, 29 November 2010

Four go further forth

Four of the nuns from Lerab Ling recently took siksamana ordination at Pu Yi Yuan Monastery in Taiwan. The ordination and training was arranged especially for 6 nuns from the Tibetan Buddhist tradition.

A Siksamana (Skt) (Sikkhamana (Pali), Gelobma (Tibetan)) is a female nun who holds the novice vows plus six additional regulations for two years, while also training in 292 precepts in preparation to become a bhikshuni (a fully ordained nun).

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Prayer to Guru Rinpoche

Guru Rinpoche statue on the lake at Lerab Ling

There are many short prayers to Guru Rinpoche in Jamyang Khyentsé Chokyi Lodrö’s Collected Works. Here is just one of them.... Time permitting, I hope to put some more on the blog over the course of the winter.

tsa sum kundü gyalwang pema jung

Embodiment of the three roots, ‘Lotus-born’ buddha, Padmakara,

rang shyin yermé ngang né solwa dep

Inseparable from the natural state, to you I pray,

né dön barché tamché shyiwa dang

Pacify all illness, döns and obstacles and

dön nyi sampa lhun gyi druppar shok

May all wishes for the benefit of ourselves and others be spontaneously fulfilled!

By the one called Dharma Mati

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Dakinis of today

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, the present incarnation of Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö, and Khandro Tsering Chodron

In following up my interest in the works of Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö I came across a couple of interesting things. There’s a prayer to Gyarong Khandro that Khandro Tsering Chödrön requested him to write, and immediately following that prayer - which is in the second volume of Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö’s works - is a short prayer to Khandro Tsering Chödrön by the master himself:

yeshe daki dechen tsogyal gyi

With the blessings of Tsogyal, wisdom dakini of great bliss,

chin lap shelkar za yi nampar trul

Emanation of the lady of Shelkar,

ayu dharma dipham la solwa dep

Ayu Dharma Dipham (Long Life, Lamp of the Dharma), to you I pray.

samdön chö shyin druppar chin gyi lop

Grant your blessing so that all our wishes in accordance with the dharma be fulfilled.

By Chökyi Lodro

The ‘lady of Shelkar’ mentioned in the prayer is one of Guru Rinpoche’s consorts, Shelkar Dorje Tso, of whom Khandro Tsering Chödrön is considered to be an emanation. Also, Khandro’s name, Ayu Dharma Dipham (Long Life, Lamp of the Dharma), is mentioned in her long life prayer and also in the guruyoga of Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö composed by Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, where she is said to be emanation of Sarasvati. This guruyoga was requested by ‘Tulku Sönam Gyaltsen, the incarnation of the great Tertön Sogyal and one who is the source of all knowledge, love, compassion and noble qualities’ - in other words Sogyal Rinpoche.

There’s lots of wonderful information about all these masters and dakinis on the Rigpa Wiki website - a true treasure trove of dharma. When giving information about Shelkar Dorje Tso it mentions that, according to Tulku Thondup, she crossed the Tsangpo river standing on a bamboo walking stick!

And in the entry about Khandro Tsering Chödrön it mentions that, according to Dzongsar Ngari Tulku (Tenzin Khedrup Gyatso), on one occasion [ c.1952], when Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö was opening the sacred place of Khyungchen Paldzong (khyung chen dpal rdzong), known locally as Gyalgen Khyungtak (rgya rgan khyung ltag), above Dzongsar Monastery, Jamyang Khyentse, Gyarong Khandro, Khandro Tsering Chödrön and Sogyal Rinpoche all left their handprints in the solid rock.

Oh, to have been there.....

By the way, I don’t know who took the above picture of Khandro with Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, the present incarnation of Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö – if whoever it is comes forward I will gladly credit them...

Friday, 9 July 2010

Save the date: Free Live Video Stream: Dilgo Khyentse Yangsi Rinpoche: Public Talk, 18 July 2010, 3pm (Paris Time)

On 18 July 2010, Dilgo Khyentse Yangsi Rinpoche will give a Public Talk, The Lineage of a Good Heart, during his visit to Lerab Ling, Sogyal Rinpoche's main retreat centre in France.

This teaching will be video streamed live and for free in English, French, German and Spanish.

Everyone is welcome to join.

Simply go to:


: 18 July 2010

: 3pm, Paris time (GMT+2)

Video streaming website

More information
: OR

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kyabjé Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, who was one the greatest spiritual teachers of our time. A number of special gatherings, teachings and events have been arranged this year to celebrate his life and remarkable accomplishments, and to introduce his incarnation, Dilgo Khyentse Yangsi Rinpoche, to the world.

For more information about the tour and the anniversary celebrations, go to:

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Receiving the Green Tara empowerment from Kyabjé Tenga Rinpoche in Lerab Ling

The 6th July 2010, on His Holiness the Dalai Lama's 75th birthday, Kyabjé Tenga Rinpoche gave a Green Tara empowerment to Sogyal Rinpoche's family. The Lerab Ling monastic community was invited as well as some of Rinpoche's close students. This event wonderfully took place in Sogyal Rinpoche's private shrine room.

After the self empowerment, there was a pause, but then, as we were getting ready for the next phase of the empowerment, Tenga Rinpoche said 'Kale, kale...', then in English 'slowly, slowly...' as this is one of the English words that he has learned.

Tenga Rinpoche asked how many nuns and monks were at Lerab Ling, and whether we attended the Shedra in Nepal. Having replied that only one of us went to Nepal, he then asked if the monks went to Namdroling.

We replied that there was Shedra West in Lerab Ling and Tenga Rinpoche asked if the nuns also participated in these teachings.

We told Rinpoche of the teachings Khenpo Pema Sherab had given—the teachings to the monastic community, the lung of Ngari Pema Wangchen's Dom Sum—and also that he had taught on Mipham Gyamtso Rinpoche's Beacon of Certainty. Tenga Rinpoche then said that is was a very important text because it covered all the different views.

He said that Khenpo Shenga taught on Nagarjuna's Root Verses on the Middle Way and that his monks (particularly the fully ordained ones) carried a copy of the text in the folds of their chögu on the left shoulder. Khenpo Shenga, he said, had declared that each letter of the Root Verses was a dakini.

He also told us that he himself had received teachings on Ngari Pema Wangchen's Dom Sum while in Tibet. When he went into exile in 1959, he went to Rumtek's Monastery. There, the VIth Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, the brother of the sixteenth Karmapa Rangjung Rigpé Dorje, wanted to have the text reprinted and Tenga Rinpoche offered him his copy to use.

Tenga Rinpoche told us that conduct—the outer conduct of the Pratimoksha, the inner conduct of the Bodhichitta and the secret conduct of Kyerim and Dzogrim—was important but that it was also very important to study well.

After the empowerment, Tenga Rinpoche said that its lineage was that of the first Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa , who had five sets of five deities—of Chakrasamvara, Vajrayogini, Hayagriva, Hevajra and Tara of the Khadira Forest, Sengdeng Nagchi Drölma,which is the particular Tara empowerment that we received from him.

The empowerment of Green Tara, Tara who overcomes all fears, enables us to do all the Tara practices. As Lama Sherab, who translated for Tenga Rinpoche, said: "It covers all". They themselves do daily the practice of Zabtig Drolchok.

In his book on the 21 aspects of Tara, Tara's Enlightened Activity, Khenpo Pema Sherab says of Tara of the Khadira Forest, in relation to verse 9 of the 21 Verses (1):

chag tsal könchok sum tsön chak gyé
Homage to her who displays the mudra of the Three Jewels,

sormö tukkar nampar gyenma
With fingers forming an ornament at the heart.

malü chok kyi khorlo gyenpé
You make each and every direction temble,

rang gi ö kyi tsok nam trukma
With the mass of light from the wheel in your hand.
Green Tara, who protects from the [twofold, outer and inner, eight great fears (2)] is named Tara Sengdeng Nagchi or sometimes Sengdeng Nagchi Drölma. The sengdeng is a very large tree, known as (3) in English. Some trees are considered peaceful and others wrathful; sengdeng is known as a wrathful tree. In Tibet, damaru and chöd drums are made from this strong, dense wood. So there are frequent references to sengdeng damaru. In Tibetan medicine, the bark and resin are used to make a tea considered very beneficial for the blood. As nag means "forest", she is the Green Tara of the sengdeng forest.

On the morning of the 7th July, before leaving, Tenga Rinpoche asked to see the monastic community. He gave us advice and a blessing, offering each of us a reproduction of an image of Milarepa painted by His Holiness the seventeenth Karmapa, Urgyen Trinlé Dorjé, a pouch of amrita and little garlands of flags inscribed with the mantra "OM MANI PADME HUM".

(1) Extracted from Gongter Drolmé Zabtik, Rigpa Translations.

(2) The two-fold eith great fears are of: elephant—ignorance; demonic forces—doubt; water—desire; fire—anger; robbers—wrong ideas and wrong beliefs; poisonous snakes—jealousy; lions—pride or arrogance; chains, imprisonment, authority—greed.

(3) It is sometimes said that sengdeng is a form of acacia.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Flower Children of the Sixties,
Peace, Love and Joy

Way back then in the sixties I used to think that freedom came from having no rules and no boundaries, and it was only after I encountered Buddhism many years later, in 1986, in fact, that I realized I was looking for freedom where it simply could not be found. It was only then that I came to realize how the material world, particularly our present day world of acquisition, speed and aggression, is full of limitations. In fact, only after encountering Buddhism did I realize that I was looking in completely the wrong direction anyway, outside rather than inside.

Further along, I also discovered that if I walked along a well-trodden path, but one not chosen by so many in the West, then by living a life which is disciplined, simple and harmless I could more quickly discover the freedom that lies within us.

I could never have imagined way back in the sixties that I would be sitting in my room overlooking a Tibetan Buddhist temple, in the south of France, wearing the robes of a nun.

You might think that for those who become nuns or monks, a life of celibacy and renunciation was a pretty drastic way to look for the ‘peace and love’ that a flower child of the sixties was looking for, but, as I’ve discovered, there’s a deep satisfaction that comes from not seeking for satisfaction in external things. You find the ‘peace and love’, and joy, that you were looking for all those years ago.

When we talk about vows and precepts we need to bear in mind that these are the supports for finding freedom, rather than restrictions which impose limitations. And are not prohibitions which enhance our sense of ‘original sin’ that many of us experience as a result of an overly strict Christian upbringing. When vows and precepts are enforced from outside, rather than being taken on and considered as a natural support for following the path, it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of losing one’s sense of self-worth, of thinking you don’t measure up to some self-imposed standard. But then the teachings time and time again bring us back to ‘buddhanature’ so when we get lost we just have to remember that our nature is the same as Buddha’s.

What the precepts do is to shut the door on all our habitual sources of satisfaction so that our entire attention is directed inward. This is where we discover a beauty, clarity and vastness of being that is unshakeable, and independent of circumstances and conditions. So when you see a beautiful blue sky, a tree, a flower, or hear a piece of music, that becomes a bonus, an enhancer of the joy and freedom you’re already experiencing, and a reminder of the true nature of all things.

Because of my Irish family and upbringing I’m reminded of what I heard many years ago:

When the Christian missionaries came to Ireland in the 5th century preaching Christ, the Irish replied that they already knew him:

‘Christ, we know him well. Is he not the singing of the bird in the tree, the light of the rising sun in a drop of dew, the glorious surgings of the ocean, the strength of the oak tree? How wonderful to know that he has come on Earth and walked among us. He is the one our ancestors have faithfully worshipped. Eternal Wisdom is his name, King of the Elements, Rí na nUile. Himself unchanging, he makes all things new. For Wisdom is quicker to move than any motion, she is so pure, she pervades and permeates all things.’"

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Great View/Great Khenpo

During Khenchen Pema Sherab's recent visit to Lerab Ling, a few of us enjoyed an evening walk to the Eastern cliffs of Lerab Ling (beyond the 'three trees').

From left to right: Lama Yönten, Khenchen Pema Sherab, Ane Pema Osel, Lama Sonam Tsewang and Ane Damchö

Monday, 10 May 2010

Christ's thumb, Buddha's pinkie

Detail of Hand, Phra Atchana, Wat Si Chum, Sukhothai Historical Park.
Posture of 'Subduing Mara' or 'Calling the Earth to witness'.

Our temple has solid doors (a sure indication that it will remain for generations to come!).

A couple of weeks ago, my little finger was slammed in the door. (ouch!) The finger nail has been black since then, and I'm still waiting for it to drop off...

Meanwhile, a Christian sister slammed her thumb in her convent window, and wrote this blog:
Much is written about the Body of Christ, but does anyone every pay attention to the lowly thumb? Today, we celebrate the thumb of Christ. Why the thumb? Well, because I just smashed mine when I too vigorously closed the convent window. I now have renewed appreciation for all the little parts that make up the Body of Christ.

Christ Pantocrator mosaic from Daphni, Greece, ca. 1080-1100. I especially like this image of Christ because he looks like he just slammed his thumb in a carpentry mishap.

Here’s the thing. The thumb is a very small part of the whole body. It’s not all that fancy, and it almost never gets the attention that parts such as the heart receive. But that little guy is part of the whole, and its presence or its absence affects everything else....Until part of the body ceases to function “normally” we tend to take it for granted....

So this of course gets me thinking about the imagery of the Body of Christ, an image Saint Paul uses to talk about how we are all interconnected with each other and Jesus the Christ.

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot would say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear would say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. (1 Corinthians 12:12-27)

Just as the thumb is a small part of the body, not very glamorous or coveted (no one asked the Wizard of Oz for a thumb, after all), so we too might feel like a small, barely significant part of the whole Body of Christ. Yet we are indispensable. Our gifts and talents and unique way of being in the world are needed to fully make Christ present in the world, present to one another and to the whole world. And even when we feel crushed, tired, weighed down, we can still live fully. Even a crushed thumb can still eke out a space bar or two!

So here’s to the Thumb of Christ, my friends!
Experiencing one sleepless night of pinkie pain, after I had slammed my finger in the door, and reading this blog from sister Julie, I am reminded of a teaching which Sogyal Rinpoche shares with us: When the left foot has a thorn in it, does the right hand say "that's none of my business - it's the foots' problem!"? No, without hesitating, our hand will remove the thorn, to alleviate the pain.

I also recall these verses from the Meditation chapter of Shantidevas' Bodhicaryavatara:

Verse 91:
The hand and the other limbs are many and distinct,
But all are one–one body to be kept and guarded,
Likewise, different beings in their joys and sorrows,
Are, like me, all one in wanting happiness.
Verse 114:
Hands and other limbs
Are thought of as members of a body.
Shall we not consider likewise–
Limbs and members of a living whole?

Friday, 23 April 2010

Our precious human rebirth in the context of dirt

Why are human lives so precious, not just being a winner in the human rebirth lottery makes a life precious. A situation with enough wealth, freedom and peace and access or interest in learning as well as authentic wisdom teachings is on this planet a difficult thing to be born into. Its not as simple as just having money, we need to often engage in some activities to create the renunciation it takes to break from the "consumer coma" that we are mindlessly sleep-walking in.

The fact that the title of the film "Dirt, the Movie" may not be of any interest to most of us shows how far removed we have become from something we should all rejoice in. This film does actually reflect on our mistaken grasping and confused world view and many of the people in it are very spiritual or philosophical. One woman says "the value of diamonds is just a concept the real wealth is the dirt or soil that provides us with what we need". This living dirt was once considered common and easily accessible to everyone is becoming less and less available. How can we practice mindfulness and care while we avoid chances to investigate where our food comes from and who benefits or suffers in the acts of delivering this much needed food to our table. In developed wealthy countries the resources we take for granted are too expensive to be kept for the third world countries where they are still being exploited. In these already poor countries even deeper drought and poverty is the result of the choices we make every day.

I believe that the buddha's intention was that we utilise a broad feild of knowledge which will help us to understand the dharma. Cultivation of food, care of the dirt and soil was once considered a central part of human life and common sense. Where fertility existed abundance followed allowing people torelax and have more time to enjoy life or turn to spiritual pursuits. As for me, I have strong concerns about the environment and sustainability but as I have explored this topic I have really come to a conclusion. How can I sit by when my food is produced in ways that result of deprivation of people on the other side of the world. How can I even know the effect of my actions and abandon harmful behaviour if I don't generate an awareness of the truth behind food. Finally how can I live long if I don't care for the lives of others - my actions are not separate and independent.

A simple decision to take an interest in gardening vegetables and doing something unexpected like establishing a garden I found had more in common with a whole generation of people who were raised to understand where food comes from and "grow their own". Suddenly some practical wisdom was opened up to me which was so interesting it pulled me away from endless hours of websites and fruitless discussions, and I decided to do the best I could. There is a story of a hummingbird who "did the best he could" in "Dirt, the Movie". I hope you will be entertained by this fabulous, inspiring film should you be lucky enough to find it.

I choose gardening, even as a monk - if you don't garden and or buy from organic local producers then you participate in a lot of destruction and killing. If you are a buddhist but not protecting the environment aren't you allowing the destruction of that which allows countless beings to find happiness. I am not expecting everyone to get out and start a farm, but start the journey with a few pots of herbs and it will get you thinking. One day you will shudder to think what you have supported once you hear how the soil was lost, due to the same old self cherishing that brings all the suffering in this world. When you become empty of energy, health you might question the food you eat and why it was devoid of nutrition and become shocked at how you ignored all the warnings as just the ramblings of a bunch of fringe greenies.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Offering a Lamp on a new years day

Chengdu ... for Chinese New Years day - the year of the Tiger. I had just arrived and visited with the people hosting me and we got to take a look at the first Buddhist temple I had seen since arriving in China on the 5th of February, now it was the 14th. Many very devoted people were flooding in and out of the Manjushri Temple. I wasn't in robes during my time in China or I would have got a free pass into the temple, instead I needed a ticket to get in - happy though to support a monastery.

With help from the local monk and my friends i managed to locate this statue of Ananda amongst the collection of the 16 Arhats they had. The text in his hand seems to indicate that it was "thus have I heard ... " himself. There was also a very renowned lion form of Manjushri painted on a wooden wall which had given various miraculous indications during the cultural revolution, enough to gain the respect of the locals and protect this temple from being the focus of too much detrimental attention. I couldn't take a photo but there was a palpable feeling of holiness. Its hard to find images of lion form Manjushri on the Internet, but apparently his is often in this form. Sometimes Manjushri is with a lion.

Once we went through a few more shrines within the temple a courtyard at the rear was arranged with tables where everyone could offer lamps and incense. I was really happy to participate and put the name of a very nice sponsor of my hosts who was ill. Here is a picture of the area where lamps were offered - very organised it was.

Near the end of the trip I was told the same lady I offered a lamp for released creatures into freedom to offer for my benefit when I had become quite ill. I don't know if she knew I made an offering for but anyway, its great to be part of these traditional practice on either the giving or the receiving side.

I wanted to get a souvenir from this monastery and of course I have to admit being quite fond of buying things from time to time. I ended up with a huge box of incense, these spiral forms which can apparently burn for 24 hours. I burned a couple over the next weeks and sent the rest home in the mail. It was not so different from a Tibetan style incense, no stick, just all incense. I look forward to making many day long offerings of sweet smoke at home. Perhaps the topic of a future blog entry.

I began my path taking refuge with a Chinese master and practicing in a Taiwanese temple in Australia. So for me it was as familiar as it was different to the Tibetan traditional representations and architecture I have spent the most time appreciating. Most of all being in this part of the world for real and not just forming opinions based on the fear mongering news media helped me feel closeness to the people of China who make up such a large part of our world. Having a great freind to translate and show me around was the most special part of my time.

Next time I will share from my visit to Leshan and Mt Emei - the mountain of Samanthabadra that a freind recommended I visit.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Nalanda monks visit Lerab Ling

Group photo in front of the stupa

On Sunday March the 14th, we had the great pleasure to welcome 18 monks and lay members from Nalanda Monastery, located near to Toulouse, France. It felt very much that, our time of ordination in India continued here in Lerab Ling, by a sudden explosion of red robes. And marked by monks from many different European countries.
In a short time we had the possibility to exchange a lot about our monastic experiences. Such as Sojong, meeting their brothers at the preordination course in India, gardening, study and practices, work shops, temple decoration and our different traditions.

Circumambulating Guru Rinpoche in the lake

We had a nice lunch together (with french fries...) and visited the different shrine rooms of the temple. Unfortunately, the time we spent together was too short, because they had to leave again to attend the Sojong ceremony with Geshe Jamphal (Abbot of Nalanda).

We hope to see them again either, here in Lerab Ling, or in Nalanda, as we thought that it was such an auspicious meeting.

Visit to Tenzin Palmo's Dongyu Gatsal Ling Nunnery

New gompa under construction

Right after being ordained by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, we had the good fortune to visit The Venerable Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo at her Nunnery, near Tashi Jong (a 2 hours car ride from Mc Leod Ganj). She welcomed us at her nunnery. We first got an impression of the daily routine of the Nunnery, being a very conducive environment for the ani-las to study, practice, and engage in the daily activities of a monastery (such as debate, english class, torma making, cooking). At the Nunnery, some nuns were partaking in a strict long term retreat in restricted bounderies.

Nun's residence
Tenzin Palmo's vision was to found a Nunnery to give young nuns of the Drukpa Kagyu lineage the opportunity to realise their intellectual and spiritual potential after so many centuries of neglect and to reinstate at the Nunnery the "Togdenma" (yogini) tradition.

The Nunnery which is specially shaped in a circular way gives the nuns a very intimate and cosy living environment. It contains the living quarters, kitchen, dining hall, gompa, and in the future a place of social exchanges. Some other buildings are also dedicated for classes, offices, temple, hostel for the nuns' families (most of them are coming from the Himalayan regions A two months retreat is undertaken each year by the nuns.

We were very much moved by Ven. Tenzin Palmo's view and determination to make a positive lasting change in the lives of many. The young nuns faces were radiating joy, happiness and contentment.
It is such a great inspiration to come into contact with such a role model just after entering the monastic life.
We had time to share some time with Jetsun Tenzin Palmo and the atmosphere she created will rest for a long time in our hearts. We look forward to meet her again one day in the nearby future.

Ven. Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo, Sister Jotika and some of the POC participants

For more information about Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo's Nunnery, you can visit :

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

The ordination ceremony with His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Tenpa, fourth on the left, who received gelong ordination

On 1st of march 2010, His Holiness the Dalai Lama gave to around 30 getsuls full ordination in his private residence in Dharamsala. Eight getsuls from the pre-ordination course were ordained as gelong on this most joyful and special day.

Francois who became Tenzin Jigme (on the 4th of the left)

His Holiness the Dalai Lama gave the getsul and getsulma ordination in the morning on the same day, at his private residence.

Marion who became Tenzin Dhasel (3rd on the left)

Words fall too short to express in any way what this ordination has meant to us. We show you these photos to convey some of that most special moment in our lives.

We want to remember all the kind teachers, especially Sogyal Rinpoche, whom without we would still be lost in samsara, all our dharma brothers and sisters who gave us the strength and inspiration to grow, our beloved parents who in all their kindness provided us with this precious human body, and all our benefactors who generously supported us with their belief in our intention.
Thank you all!!!

May this ordination truly bring about the enlightenment
of self and countless others and cause the long life of
all the masters and the flourishing of their teachings.
that the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha may last for eons in this world.

Pre-ordination course Tushita, India

After having left all the business of Dharamsala, we finally made our way up to Tushita, one of the main retreat center of Lama Zopa Rinpoche. We were hosted in dormitories with some other fellow participants of the course. That day we had our first session with our course leader Bhikshuni Sister Jotika, assisted by Ane Rita. As we were prepared beforehand, we received the information that no ordination would happen in February, with possibility of no ordination at all. So we had two choices: 1 to become really depressed, negative and blaming ourselves or 2 to focus positively on the content of the course which was mainly studying the vinaya and the practicing in the Vajrasattva temple vows of the individual liberation. The response of the group was amazing and thanks to Sister Jotika's love and care, we unanimely chose to go for the second option. What a nice journey was waiting ahead.
Sister Jotika and Sister Rita with all the POC participants

With 22 particants from 13 different nationalities (Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, America, France, Holland, Germany, Spain, Austria, Greece, Switzerland, Australia and Korea) we shared our experience, our hopes and fears, our motivation for taking ordination. It felt from the start like one mandala merging together, and we really felt secure enough to expose ourselves in a deep way. We felt moved when we heard that the Pre-ordination course was initiated by His Holiness the Dalai Lama to give the non-tibetans a better chance for receiving fully and upholding the ordination in the tibetan tradition (Mulasarvastivadin). This was the best way to prepare ourselves for that very special moment.
Sister Jotika, was the person appointed by His Holiness to hold the course and teach us the Vinaya, the Pratimoksha vows and many different aspects of monasticism. She has an incredible background of knowledge and experience as a buddhist nun in the three existing Vinaya traditions (the Theravada, Dharmagupta and Mulasarvastivadin). With her tremendous care and inimitable way to feel the atmosphere within the group, she was able to provide each of us with whatever that person most needed.

Our days started with personal practises, followed by a group practise until breakfast time. Afterwards we fulfilled a short work commitment and received teachings for most of the morning until lunch time. We had enough time during the lunchbreak to study and memorize the teachings. There was also time for a short walk within the retreat boundaries.
The afternoons were dedicated to more teachings, discussion groups and group practices. Then for those who needed, one could have a medicine meal composed of soup and bread, as allowed by His Holiness because of the cold weather. The day was concluded by an inspiring Ane Dhasel guided meditation and dedication.

During the course, great care was taken of everyone, not to get sick. Because if one would be sick, one was not allowed to be near His Holiness, and so one couldn't receive the ordination. But as you will see in the next blog, we were well protected....

Lots of love
the three musketeers

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Udumbara under nun's washing machine

A friend emailed me this link today: Rare Buddhist flower found under nun's washing machine

Which led me to 15 minutes of distraction, the fruits of which were finding this photo, and posting this blog.

In May 2005, ten Udumbara flowers were found on the face of a Bodhisattva statue in the Sumi Zen Temple in Korea (see this for more)

The Prajna Paramita (or The Great Perfection of Wisdom) Sutra says, "One cannot always keep the human body; wealth is but a dream; when nothing is lacking, it is difficult to persist in a righteous belief. When a Tathagata talks of the profound and wonderful Dharma, isn't it as precious and rare as the Udumbara?"

Monday, 1 March 2010

another miraculous birthday

Yesterday, we celebrated Chotrul Düchen, The Display of Miracles.

Chotrul Duchen, one of the four great deeds of the Buddha, is celebrated on the last of fifteen days at the start of the Tibetan New Year in observance of the Buddha’s performance of miracles to help increase the merit of countless sentient beings, liberating them from samsara, as well as helping them to engage in virtuous activities. It is believed that the merit accumulated during the first fifteen days of the New Year is multiplied immensely (cited from this link).
As Jikmé Lingpa said:

Through the magical power of your miracles in Shravasti,
You rendered speechless the tirthika teachers who,
With all their analysis and research, drunk on the wine of indulgence, had become oppressive in the extreme.
In the final contest they were humbled, their prestige all drained away,
As you triumphed through 'the four bases of miraculous powers'. (cited from this link)

At Lerab Ling, we were in the midst of a Tendrel Nyesel Drupchö, and so, our usual day of ten hours of practice, as part of this 7 day practice intensive, was bolstered with even more prayers of auspiciousness, especially related to the Buddha. These prayers and practices included reciting the Bodhisattva Vow, the Sutra of the Three Heaps and Zangchö Monlam, Samantabhadras' Aspiration to Good Actions.

At the conclusion of such a marvelous day of practice, it came as a wonderful surprise then, to hear the news that Tenpa, Marion and Francois would receive their ordination today, the 1st of March. And, as I write this, though we have not heard from them yet, it feels that certainly another kind of miracle has taken place. I'm sure they will grace us with their news as soon as they have a chance to sit down and share everything!

Monday, 22 February 2010

not ordinary

The teachings demonstrate to us, and explain in vivid ways how we all have the Buddha Nature as our inherent true self.

Yet, due to habit, time and time again, we fall back to relating to the mundane aspect of ourself, which, ignorantly, we very easily accept.

Sogyal Rinpoche once said to me:

You are not an ordinary person, so why do you see yourself as that?
See yourself as I see you!

When a great being looks at any of us, I'm sure they see who we really are, and they also see who we're really not! And this is what they are constantly showing to us!

I realized today, as I was talking to my Dharma sister, Tsondru, that when I really nurture and honour my path as a monastic, the mundane, habitual view of myself naturally dissolves. It cannot find any foothold or ornaments to attach itself to when the precepts and the Buddhas guidance are taken as the framework of one's life.

So, in fact, by being a simple nun, I feel 'not ordinary', and instead, much more easily recognize and return to finding confidence in my true nature.

This was an important and subtle understanding through which I see how great the support is that the monastic precepts offer.

Sri Lankan and Nepali Bhikshunis in a flower garden in Da Lat, Vietnam

Wednesday, 10 February 2010


Eight years ago today, Ngawang Thubten (of France), Ngawang Sangye Chozom (of the US), and I, Ngawang Damchö Drolma (of Australia) were ordained in Bouddhanath, Nepal, by the great Vinaya master of the Nyingma tradition, Kyabjé Trulshik Rinpoche.

The ordination took place in a small shrine room, with light green painted walls, in the modest abode of Trulshik Rinpoche in Kathmandu. There were five of us who received ordination: we three, plus one Nepalese lady (whose son, famed as being the first man to scale to the peak of mount Everest, eagerly waited outside saying this day was more important for him that the physical feats he had mastered years ago), and an elderly Tibetan lady.

I still remember so many details of the day, during which we felt like we had a new birth. For many years, one of my ordination sisters from that day even had a 'birth' mark which remained on her scalp where the ordination master had poured saffron water.

When we take ordination, we give up three signs of being a lay person: our hair, our clothes and our name, and we adopt the conduct of a shikshamana precept holder, the robes of our lineage and the name which our ordination master gives us. The protection of the precepts and the robes has been tangible since that time, and it feels as though the blessing of the Buddha continuously holds us on the path of right conduct.

Ven. Matthieu Ricard translated for our ordination and Sangye Chözom asked him to give us some advise.

"Do good, be good" he said!

Thursday, 4 February 2010

So, you want to be a Bhikshuni?

Bhikshuni Heng-Ching from Taiwan, the co-editor of "Sisters in Solitude" responded to the question "what should one reflect on when checking to see if one has the correct motivation to take Bhikshuni ordination?", and she gave a very succinct and inspiring response:

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

"No Girl Friend, No Tension!" says Tenpa

Recent photo of Tenpa taken in Dharamsala, India

Before entering Tushita

Hello from Dharamsala!
We have safely arrived in the holy land of Lord Buddha, India. In Delhi we had the good fortune to practise and pray in front of the relics of the Buddha in the National Museum. A wonderful start of our adventure which, we pray, will result in receiving ordination with His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala.

Relics of the Lord Buddha

After two nights in Rigpa House in Delhi we took a small plane to Kangra Airport, a 45 minutes drive from Dharamsala. It went very smooth and we enjoyed the beautiful scenery of the snow mountains. It supposed to be winter now here, but instead we experience a lovely mild spring, with many flowers already blossoming. It seems that the Namgyal Monastery practises to get snow, because otherwise there will be a water shortage in the summertime.

Spring flowers and 'mani stones' on the circumambulation trail around His Holiness the Dalai Lama's residence in Dharamsala
Upon arrival in Dharamsala we picked up our newly made monastic robes. That evening, under a full moon, we circumbulated the residence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. In the days that followed we undertook the last preparations before entering the pre-ordination course at Tushita. We had the good fortune to mee His Holiness the 17th Karmapa at his Monastery, as well the new monastery of Garje Khamtrul Rinpoche, where we were welcomed by a beautiful and kind western monk.

In those few days we have witnessed many acts of kindness from many different people. We were often touched by the generosity of many. One time we forgot our camera in a taxi, and before we even knew about it, the taxi driver had been looking for us in order to return our camera. Or the lunch we were offered at the monastery of His Holiness the 17th Karmapa, or even the tea and cake with Tashi-la, His Holiness Dalai Lama's chöpon.

Today, we will make our way to Tushita. We have been looking very much forward to this moment. It might even be a cold turkey for us...especially after all the shopping and business of the last few days...It is a joy to already see many western monastics here on the street. There is already a certain joy tangible for all that is to come. We feel very much the blessings of Sogyal Rinpoche, our master, and all the Buddhas, so clearly present and guiding us each and every moment.

(soon, we'll all be wearing skirts!)

We won't be able to have contact during our course with the world through phone or email. Something which is a relieve for the moment.
Please, enjoy and some photos of our journey till so far and also get a sense of our experience.

with much love
Marion, Francois and Tenpa

Monday, 1 February 2010

Monks are from Venus...

An unannounced guest arrived in Lerab Ling this afternoon from Venus!... (Texas). He was a Laotian monk, accompanied by another Theravada monk and three lay buddhist men who live in, or close to, a Pagoda in Montpellier.

This monk has been a Bhikshu for 36 years, and has lived in the US since 1982. He was very warm and open, and happy to meet with ordained sangha of the Vajrayana tradition. He sat contentedly in the Temple, meditating amidst the ceremonial clamor of our final practice session of the Rigdzin Düpa Drupchö. He drank some tea, took some pictures with his friends, and then eagerly told me he wishes to come back and visit again Lerab Ling in the future.

As I accompanied him to the car park, he spoke very genuinely about the benefits of being a good monastic - and I happened to film it.

My paraphrased subtitles go something like:
Practising is good. Being kind to beings and helping them is good. If we do this life time after life time, and share the Dharma with people, then that will eventually lead us to enlightenment!
A scenic stroll on a crisp, brilliant winter's day along the Lerab Ling driveway with a Laotian monk, who was offering encouragement to practitioners.

Friday, 29 January 2010

Reflections on Shantideva and solitude

I think one of the things I find so fascinating and appealing about the ‘Bodhicharyavatara’ is that the writer, Shantideva, reveals himself not only as an enthusiastic and passionate practitioner but also as someone who uses the most convincing and irresistible logic to put his points across - logic which remains convincing even in this day and age many centuries later. No wonder, then, that Patrul Rinpoche taught on this text hundreds of times.

Whenever I read Shantideva’s works - both the ‘Bodhicharyavatara’ and the ‘Shikshasamucchaya’1 - it sparks a longing in me for solitude, a time for meditation and contemplation. I find outer solitude is a great help, in fact, sometimes a necessity, in order to find inner solitude.2 A time to spend away from ‘the cares of the world’ - in this case a somewhat busy retreat centre! - in order to return to it all again with renewed energy and enthusiasm, and hopefully a little more wisdom and compassion as well. Also as I grow older my mind turns more and more to spending time in retreat as a preparation for the ultimate retreat! I aspire to be able to let go and move on with ease.

As the Dalai Lama says about growing old “... although the body may grow old, if we have developed the faculty of the mind, then its clarity and wisdom will continue, giving us the opportunity to practise in a vast and profound way.”

The temple at sunset

There’s a beautiful story in Chapter 21 ‘The Universal Process’ of Sogyal Rinpoche’s ‘Tibetan Book of Living & Dying’ which tells of the death of an old Tibetan khenpo who had spent many years of retreat in the mountains but was arrested by the Chinese. This is followed by verses from ‘The Immaculate Radiance’ by Longchenpa which are a great favourite of mine.

In fact, if I was marooned on a desert island - although I would prefer a mountain cave! - and could keep only two books with me they would probably be ‘The Tibetan Book of Living & Dying’ and the ‘Bodhicharyavatara’.

1 In this work Shantideva devotes a whole chapter to ‘Praise of Remaining in Solitude’.
2 I recommend Longchenpa’s ‘Guide to Locations for Cultivating Samadhi’ and ‘The Practitioner of Meditation’ over at Lotsawa House. There is also ‘In Praise of Longchen Rabjam’ by Khenpo Shenga. The first two translations also appear in the book of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s teachings at Lerab Gar in 2000 - ‘The Vision of Enlightenment’.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

For nuns' mum

My mum recently ventured away with me to Vietnam (see the many earlier blogs I posted about the Sakyadhita International Conference and subsequent tour). The last day of our tour, we were delighted when we hopped aboard a small boat and paddled into a lagoon surrounded by majestic limestone mountains, laden with lush flora, small temples and shrine and a number of goats.

I've tried to express to my mum how significant it was for me that she accompanied me to a gathering of Buddhist women and that we could share such moving adventures together. I think she gained a lot of insight into many elements of the Buddhist path that are meaningful for me, and whats more, when our Vietnamese hosts found out that she was the mother of a monastic, they showed great respect to her, as is their custom. So she was certainly met with warmth and appreciation in that culture - something not so common in Australia when she tells people that her daughter is a Buddhist nun living in France.

I've made this short video for my mum - as the visit to these caves in the Nimh Binh Province of Vietnam was a scenic highlight of our time together in Vietnam. These caves are the site where the second wave of Buddhism was established in Vietnam in 1BC!
Enjoy this mum! Thank you for your un-repayable kindness and ever present support. I love you so much.

A boat tour of caves near Dai Binh, Northern Vietnam