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!