Thursday, March 13, 2014

E-course on full ordination for women in Buddhist monastic orders

For anyone interested in the efforts now underway to give women the opportunity to receive full ordination in Buddhist monastic orders, this e-course on bhikshuni ordination from University of Hamburg is open to all and should provide a really thorough education on this issue. The course provides a wonderful opportunity to explore this complex issue from various angles, internationally as well as in the Tibetan tradition.  The course starts in April 2014 and registration is now open. One of our nuns (Damcho) is giving the lecture on the formation of bhikshunis as presented in the narratives of the vinaya followed in the Tibetan tradition: the Mūlasarvāstivāda.

Please do share this link with anyone you feel might be interested - it is rare for universities to offer such opportunities to the general public, and practitioners within any given Buddhist tradition are too seldom exposed to the history or educated fully in the concerns of other Buddhist traditions. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Fruits on the vine and more still to come

Dharmadatta Nuns Community has travelled to spend the period of this year´s rains retreat in Oaxaca, Mexico. A group of about 40 Mexicans, Colombians, Argentinians and Puerto Ricans will join us for a joyful (if intense) three-month group Vajrasattva retreat. Spanish speakers can read more on our Spanish-language website.

We apologize for the silence. Damcho (who as the community´s sole native English speaker bears the responsibility for this blog) has spent much of the time since the last post so very long ago engaged in a project to translate and edit a book of teachings by His Holiness the Karmapa. The manuscript is now complete, and the book will be released by Shambhala in February, 2013, but is available now for pre-ordering from Amazon.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Taking is bondage; discarding is freedom

From a collection of stories about nuns:

Four pratyekabuddhas were staying together in the house of a potter. Thus begins not a bad buddhist joke, but a spectacularly tight narrative in a collection of stories about nuns. It is drawn from the vinaya but retold here by the great Tibetan polymath Bu ston. The potter sees the four pratyekabuddhas meditating at night, and is inspired to ask them how they came to ordain. Here is their exchange:

"Where and why did you ordain?"

“Have you heard of King rNa lag can of the Kalinga country?”

“Yes, I have heard of him.”

“That was me. After seeing the shortcomings of kingship, I ordained.”

"What did you see?”

“A bird was carrying meat. as it was flying in the sky, many other birds attacked it. It flung the meat away, and another bird took it. Then they surrounded the one who had taken it, and stole it from him. Seeing that, I had the thought, ‘Taking is bondage; discarding is freedom,’ and I ordained."

Monday, September 27, 2010

TED Talk

Already a year ago now we wrote of His Holiness the Karmapa's talk at TEDIndia. Now at last we can offer you the video, in which His Holiness begins by discussing his experience of first being recognized as the Karmapa, and goes on to advocate for spiritual practitioners to pay greater attention to the particular sufferings of women.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Five Days of Teachings by HH Karmapa, Live Webcast

From September 15 through the 19th, His Holiness the Karmapa will be teaching here at Gyuto on How to Cultivate Relative Bodhicitta from 4pm to 6pm, our time. These teachings - which can with confidence call 'exquisite' even without having heard them yet, because we know where they come from! - will be broadcast live over the Internet at the following link.

To calculate what time that is in your neck of the woods, try World Clock.

But it is pretty early on the east coast of the US, and pretty even earlier on the west, though right smack in the middle of the waking world's day in Europe.

Hope to join you "there."

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Suffering is not a Story

As we wrote earlier, two friends with whom our community shared the experience of the three-month study program in Nepal earlier this year are now in Ladakh, helping with the relief effort. Those affected in these photos are part of the Tibetan refugee community that had relocated to the harsh and unforgiving climate of Ladakh, and are once again rendered homeless by the terrible mudslides earlier this monsoon season. Here is some of what they have managed to do:

- Provide food for the whole tent camp for homeless people in Choglamsar (250-300 people) for one month and guarantee to provide a second month!
Cost: 140,000 Rupees (2380 Euros)

- Help 11 families who lost everything: providing warm blankets, a stove, kitchen basics and RS 2000 for clothes per family
Cost: 66,000 Rupees (1120 Euro)

Their efforts to raise and distribute funds have borne real fruits already, but there is a great deal more to be done before the mountain passes that encircle Ladakh are closed by the snows that begin there in early autumn. those below would welcome your prayers and well wishes. If you would also like to contribute materially, you can do so here.

Nike-Ann writes: Winter is coming soon and will bring very cold weather up here in the mountains. Currently there are appr. 75 families in the tent camp here. Out of these, the houses of 50 families were badly damaged and the houses of 10 families got completely destroyed including the loss of all belongings. One family lived in a rented room and lost all belongings.

All of the people on the photos attached and many more say THANK YOU SO MUCH to you!

Please continue to help me to help this people!
Thank you very much,
Nike-Ann Schroeder

Many families have lost their homes, they need help urgently since winter is coming soon. Here I give some examples of many, all these people live in ‘our’ tent camp:

Tsering Choedroen

Tsering Choedroen is 46 years old and her family has a hard struggle since many years. She has three children, the oldest is 10 years old. Since she gave birth to her first child, she is sick and needs permanent medical treatment. 4 years she was so sick that she had to stay in bed. Her husband works as a labor in road constructioning and other jobs, but often can’t work because he has to help at home. The family has struggled for many years, but now the flood made it worse to a point they can’t manage alone.

Gawa Thubten

Gawa Thupden is 73 years old, his family has 7 members. His house and all his belongings were destroyed by the flood.


Shesrab and Family

The photos are of Shesrab's wife and house.

Shesrab is 64 years old, his wife (unfortunately I forgot her name) was injured in the flood. They have six family members. In the night when the water came, he screamed loud and could wake up and save all family members in the last minute. The house got destroyed by the flood (see photos) and he could only find few of his belongings in the mud which fills the ruin of his house.


Dechen Choedroen

Dechen Choedroen’s family has 4 members including one baby. Her house was completely destroyed and all her belongings are lost.

Karma Thargyal

The following photos are of Karma Thargyal and his house.

Karma Thargyal’s family has 4 members. His house was filled with mud after the flood. Many people helped him cleaning. On one day the group was cleaning his house from 9 a.m. to 3.30 p.m. and took a rest after the working day. At 4 p.m. there was a strange sound and the house collapsed.


Shankar Wangchuk

Shankar Wangchuk’s family has 3 members. During the night of the water they woke up and found themselves and the bed swimming on water and could see the ceiling very near. All family members got out of the house, but the house was completely filled with water and mud which destroyed all belongings. They clean the house, but cracks are everywhere. They try to prevent he house from collapsing but think it will collapse. Buildings near the house were destroyed completely.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

December Dharma Events

For those considering joining the annual winter flourishing of Dharma in Bodhgaya, India, here are some dates:

December 8 and 9th - Opening Ceremony to mark the 900 years of the Karmapa incarnation, which began with the birth of the first Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa, in the year 1110.

December 10 through 12 - Teachings by HH Gyawlang Karmapa on Atisha's Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment. These teachings will be held daily from 9:00 - 10:30am and from 3:00 to 4:30 pm daily, Indian time, and will likely be webcast live, with translation available in numerous languages. We will post more information here on the webcast plans as the time draws near.

December 13 - Padmasambhava Initiation given by HH Gyalwang Karmapa

December 15 through 22 - Kagyu Monlam. More details of the daily schedule of the monlam. each day from Dec 15 through the 19th, HH Karmapa will teach from 9:00 am to 11:00 am on the King of Prayers, also known as the Aspiration Prayer of Samantabhadra. These teachings will also be webcast live, in all likelihood, and we will post more details as they become available.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

His Holiness the Dalai Lama´s Upcoming Teachings in Dharamsala

Today we begin two days of teachings with His Holiness the Dalai Lama on the Diamond Cutter Sutra.

Since a few people have asked about visiting Dharamsala, for your convenience here is a list of dates of the upcoming teachings by hh the Dalai Lama here at his own temple in Dharamsala. Of course, our community will be attending to receive these teachings.

Teaching in Dharamsala, HP, India from August 28 & 29: His Holiness will give two-day teachings on The Diamond Sutra at the request of a group of Koreans.

Teaching in Dharamsala, HP, India from September 8 to 10: His Holiness will give three-day teachings on The Heart Sutra (sherab nyingpo) & Gyalsey Thokme Sangpo's 37 Practices of A Bodhisattva (gyalsey laklen sodunma) at the request of a group of Southeast Asians.Contact Website:

Teaching in Dharamsala, HP, India from October 4 to 7: His Holiness will give four-day teachings on Nagarjuna's The Fundamental Wisdom Treatise on the Middle Way), Atisha's Lama for the Path to Enlightenment, Tsongkhapa's In Praise of Dependent Origination & Tsongkhapa's Concise Stages for the Path to Enlightenment at the request of a group of Taiwanese.

Teaching in Dharamsala, HP, India from November 30 to December 2: His Holiness will give three-day teachings on Gyalsey Thokme Sangpo's 37 Practices of A Boddhisattva at the request of a group of Russian Buddhists. Contact Website: &

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Many Moods of Monsoon

Along with the many mysterious new forms of mold that grow here in the monsoon, the season also has its own particular moods.

These moods seem at times to be better expressed in images than in words, although one of the finest pieces of Sanskrit poetry has a cloud as one of its main protagonists, and the monsoon is a favored setting for some of the most moving literature in the language.

All these photos are taken from the roof or balconies of our home.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Mudslides in Ladakh

When mudslides in remote corners of the Himalayas make international news, you know it must be very serious. The following two letters offer eyewitness account of the recent disaster in Ladakh -- the worst anyone now alive there can recall -- as well as a way to help. The letters were written by a German friend of our community who happened to be there at that time, ostensibly to do research. The disasters affect areas that Drolma and Damcho visited when His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa was there teaching in 2008. We had tea with the family of a Tibetan friend in Camp 12, where so many families lost their homes. As yet, we have no word as to whether he and his family survived or not.

Letter No 1

Dear friends,

The family I stay with and I am fine, but here many people died, the number of bodies found is about 140 by now, but still more than 500 people are missing and more than 1000 houses were destroyed during one night Thursday to Friday. The areas which got hit at worst were in Leh the governmental hospital, radio station and busstand, and the villages of Phyang and Saboo, but also Choglamsar, where I live right now. We were lucky since the huge landslide and mud disaster didn"t hit our part of the refugee camp, but we had to flee in the middle of the night since a big river appeared right next our house. We had some minutes to collect 7 children, grandma and grandpa and us 5 people of the generation inbetween, free the 4 dogs and collect some things, and leave the house, all and everything in one jeep. Hundreds of people were not so lucky and got buried under tons of mud. The rain finally stopped and our house and the area around didn"t get destroyed, but since nobody knew and knows how things will develop, we moved to another place which hopefully is more safe. Situation is very bad, many dead people, people missing and many injured; bridges, roads, mobile and telephone, hospitals, radio station and much more got destroyed or severely damaged.

On Sunday morning I managed to get out of Choglamsar and go to Leh. Yesterday I helped to carry the mud out of the hospital and everybody including me goes here and there and tries to find out whether the dear ones are well and alive. Researchwork is not possible since the situation is far beyond asking someone for an interview or taking individual photos.

It would be helpful to collect some money, I think. WIll send photos of destruction when possible, now internet is too slow.

Letter No.2

Dear all

actual situation in Ladakh

The recent natural disaster in Ladakh hit not only Leh, nearby settlements and the Tibetan refugeecamp Choglamsar, but all villages along the Indus, villages in Nubra valley as well as in the Markha valley and in the Changthang area. This list is not complete---

The actual numbers as given by the Ladakh Buddhist Association - which is one of the major groups organizing volunteers and collecting / giving donations to support Ladakhi flood victims are as follows: 200 people died, 800 are still missing, 500 people are severely injured. The houses of more than 1000 families are destroyed / severely damaged; 15 schools, governmental hospital in Leh, the radio station and telephone exchange as well as 5 major bridges and 20 village bridges have been destroyed / completely damaged. Also people lost cattle and crops, and all kinds of properties.

This situation is the result of the worst natural disaster Ladakhi people can remember. Still there are lots of rain clouds, many looks go up to the sky to check the weather condition. The number of people camping high up in the mountains surrounding Leh to be safe in case of further floods is still immense.

Cleaning and repairing goes on everywhere. Through the efforts of lots of people working together the hospital could be cleaned compeletely within a few days. The army and different road building organisations work hard on clearing the roads of mud and stones, and repair roads as well as bridges. The linking highway to Kargil was re-opened today, the highway to Manali was re-opened between Manali and Sarchu, while there are still 20 km of road to be reconstructed between Leh and Sarchu.

A lot of help is needed for both, providing the nasic needs for flood victims immediately as well as reconstruct houses, and the whole infrastructure which got destroyed.

In Choglamsar, which belongs to the areas which got hit worst, Camp No. 12 has the most losses and damages. Of 63 families, the houses of 34 families got destroyed. Since the whole area is contaminated by the destruction through the flashflood and huge mud landslide, all families had to leave the area.

Now, all these families live in tents in camp No. 2 in Choglamsar. Some basic infrastructure is provided by the Indian army and government such as the tents and some basic medical aid. Apart from that, these people who lost everything got no institutional help so far.

Please help me to collect some money now to be able to provide some basic help where needed most urgently!

Starting from today, there was no money for providing food for the people who lost their homes in Choglamsar. In the name of Tara Trust and Bodhicitta e.V. Germany, I gave money for providing 3 meals for all the 180 people for one week to the groupleader of the camp. Apart from that, at the moment I try to help old people who have no children and support, by buying food and bring it to their homes. During the next days, I will check further possibilities for a useful support of the flood victims.

If you can help, every Euro is useful!

We can provide
food for 1 day (3 meals pf rice and dal) for 180 people for 42 Euro and 50 cent.
a bag of 10 Kg rice for less than 5 Euro,
a bag of 10 Kg of flour for 3 Euro and 40 cent.

If you can give a donation, please do this via the following organizations which send your money directly to me here in Ladakh:

Tara Trust: "Ladakh"


Bodhicitta e.V.
Klaudia Bluecher
Kto. 1225124716
Blz 20050550
Sparkasse HAmburg


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Mahāprajāpatī Gautamī and Wheel-Turning Day

Today, July 15, is the day celebrated by Tibetan Buddhists as the anniversary of the very first teaching by Buddha. The act of teaching the Dharma is known as "turning the wheel," evoking the image of an action that involves some initial effort, but then continues on through a momentum of its own to have real effects long afterwards.

Tenzin Dapel, Tenzin Nangpel and Karma Lodro Drolma spent the day together in Dharamsala as usual, but revised their usual daily schedule to include special prayers in the morning, a double study session, and an additional session to rejoice and dedicate in the evening.

Meanwhile, the day finds me, Damcho, still in Hamburg, wondering how Bhikṣuṇī Jampa Tsedroen (Dr. Carola Roloff) managed to get me to commit to writing a collection of brief summaries of the life stories of some of the more important bhikṣuṇīs over the centuries. The collection will be short, no more than 50 pages, and will be translated into Tibetan and published as a bilingual edition, aimed mainly for circulation among Tibetan communities in India and Nepal. I made an auspicious start on the project today, and given how many other commitments await me once I leave Germany on July 23, I hope to finish before I fly out. As a small sign that indeed the wheel set in motion by the Buddha 2,500 years ago continues to turn productively on its axis, moving my heart and mind here many miles and centuries from the place it all began, I offer my own tiny contribution to the ongoing movement of that wheel... in the form of the first set of lifestories I have summarized, that of the very first Buddhist nun, Mahāprajāpatī Gautamī.

It is taken from accounts in the Mūlasarvāstivādavinaya, the vinaya followed by Tibetan Buddhists today, and therefore by our monastic community, and is based on the text I am currently translated for an upcoming collection of those stories, to be published by Wisdom Publications. Ironically, the classical Tibetan from which I am translating the canonical tales is too difficult and distanced from most Tibetan speakers, so extracting the stories directly is not a viable option, since the aim is to help increase general social awareness of the presence and place of bhikṣuṇīs throughout Buddhist history.

The Life of Mahāprajāpatī Gautamī

Mahāprajāpatī Gautamī occupies a special place in Buddhist history, as both the first bhikṣuṇī and the aunt who raised Lord Buddha from birth. The many stories about Mahāprajāpatī Gautamī in the Buddhist canon also reveal that she held leadership roles throughout her life, and was particularly committed to making the Dharma fully available to women.

The very first time that women in Buddha’s hometown of Kapilavastu were able to attend Buddha’s teaching was made possible through Mahāprajāpatī Gautamī’s efforts. As described in the Vinayavastu (Derge volume Ga), a leading male citizen of the town of Kapilavastu came home enthusiastically proclaiming to his wife how fruitful the Buddha’s teachings are. The wife tells him, “It is true that the arising of a Buddha is fruitful for you, but only for men, not for women.”

She has drawn this conclusion because only men have been attending the Buddha’s teachings in the morning and afternoon both, and according to the social mores of that time, it is highly inappropriate for women to attend the same public assemblies as men. She suggests that if men would go in the morning and let women go in the afternoon, then perhaps Buddha’s presence in the world could truly be fruitful for all. He promises to arrange something but is uncomfortable asking the king for a favor for his wife. Since he knows that the king of Kapilavastu, Buddha’s father Śuddhodana, always listens to the queen’s advice, he decides to hand the matter over to the queen, namely Mahāprajāpatī Gautamī.

Mahāprajāpatī Gautamī explains to the king that women are occupied all morning with household duties, but instructs the king how to proceed, and, the vinaya tells us that “as was the practice of King Śuddhodana, when Mahāprajāpatī Gautamī was giving orders he remained standing, with his body stiff as a rod, and the king did not sit down until Mahāprajāpatī Gautamī had finished giving her orders.” The next day ... click here to continue reading.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Hierarchy and Gender Talk Online

Hamburg University has made the talk Damcho gave on Hierarchy and Gender in Buddhist Monasticism available online. The talk was attended by members of the university's Buddhist studies department, as well as some members of the largest local Dharma community, Tibetische Zentrum, and was followed by a lively discussion period in which the possibility of changing the hierarchical structures for today's world was raised. If you have the interest, you can listen to the talk here or go straight to the mp3 file here.

And thanks very much to Tyler Dewar for asking for an mp3 of the talk. Without his comment, we might not have learned that the talks are all uploaded afterwards.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Hierarchy and Gender in Buddhist Monasticism

In the unlikely event that any of you are in Hamburg on July 13, you are welcome to attend a talk that one of our nuns (Lhundup Damcho) will be giving at Hamburg University, entitled "Hierarchy and Gender in Buddhist Monasticism."

Here is the abstract for the talk:

The nature of Buddhist social organizations has been a topic of great debate and often of grave misunderstanding. Focusing on Buddhist responses to caste, many observers have found cause to celebrate Buddhism as promoting an egalitarian social order. However, even a cursory examination of Buddhist monasticism makes it clear that hierarchy itself is not discarded outright as an ordering principle. This talk draws on narratives from the Mūlasarvāstivādavinaya (MSV) that depict the life of the early Buddhist order, to explore the ways hierarchy is deployed within Buddhist monasticism, as a means of organizing social institutions but also as an integral part of personal training. Since gender is the single most important determinant of location within Buddhist monastic hierarchies—literally dividing Buddhist monastics into two distinct orders—this paper most directly addresses the hierarchical relation between men and women, or monks and nuns.

To that end, this talk will first describe the particular constructions of gender displayed in the MSV’s narratives. What we note is that Buddhist monasticism’s interventions in prevailing constructions of female gender benefited women greatly, yet mainstream constructions repeatedly re-inscribed themselves on Buddhist nuns’ lives and institutions. This talk will then explore moments of parity between the male and female monastic orders, along with the hierarchy that generally prevails between them. Finally, it will argue that the hierarchical relationship between the monks and nuns’ orders depicted in these stories is characterized not by unidirectional dominance of one over the other, but by asymmetrical reciprocity, with each encouraged to offer different forms of care to the other. The talk will conclude with some observations as to the implications of these care-taking responsibilities for the current debates on bhikṣuṇī ordination within the Mūlasarvāstivāda monastic code that is followed by Tibetan Buddhists.

For more details, see this pdf or the department's website.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

2010 Summer Teaching Videos are Now Online

The video recordings of the His Holiness the Karmapa's 2010 teachings on Gampopa's Precious Garland are now available for online viewing.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Live webcast on Gampopa's Precious Garland

Summer Teaching of H.H. The 17th Gyalwang Karmapa

On the following pages you can be with us in these precious teachings. or
Dhagpo Rinpoche’s (Gampopa) Lam-chog Rinchen Trengwa or Precious Garland of the Supreme Path.

Gyuto University Monastery, Dharamsala, India

June 18th, 2010 – June 20th, 2010

Morning Session:
India Time (IST): 6/18-6/20, 10:00 am – 11:30 am
Taipei / Beijing: 6/18-6/20, 12:30 pm – 2:00 pm
Pacific Time (PDT): 6/17-6/19, 9:30 pm – 11:00 pm
Eastern Time (EST): 6/18-6/20, 12:30 am – 2:00 am
Central European Summer Time: 6/18-6/20, 6:30 am - 8.00 am
GMT: 6/18-6/20, 4:30 am – 6:00 am

Afternoon Session:

India time (IST): 6/18-6/20, 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm
Taipei / Beijing: 6/18-6/20, 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm
Pacific Time (PDT): 6/18-6/20, 3:30 am – 5:00 am
Eastern Time: 6/18-6/20, 6:30 am – 8:00 am
Central European Summer Time: 6/18-6/20, 12:30 - 2.00 pm
GMT: 6/18-6/20, 10:30am – 12:00 pm

Live translation in English and Chinese only.

We sincerely hope you'll be able to virtually attend this precious teaching from His Holiness.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

More teachings from the source

Last weekend His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa taught during his usual public audience in Gyuto. His teaching itself was very far from usual, and since it struck each one of us powerfully. we'd like to share a brief summary here. The talk was delivered mainly in Tibetan, with English translation provided by Chag Ngodrup Tsering, while His Holiness partially addressed the gathering directly in English at times as well.

Speaking to a large group of Tibetan and international students, His Holiness began by noting that whether in our Dharma practice or while working at our ordinary activities, there are certain stages through which we progress and levels at which we need to operate. Similarly the Dharma offers various vehicles that accord with practitioner’s predispositions and capacities. At times we do not keep a clear understanding of the meaning of the notion of vehicle (Tibetan: theg pa; Sanskrit: yana) in Buddhism. Actually, the Tibetan term theg pa is derived from the verb teg pa, meaning to lift up. In this sense, Buddhist vehicles correspond to how much weight a person is able to lift, or how great a burden of responsibility they are able to shoulder at any given moment.

Often we hear that the various vehicles were taught to correspond to the levels of disciples’ capacities, and people may feel that it is demeaning to think that they are of lower ability and thus are practicing a lower vehicle. Yet just as it is inappropriate to expect to enter graduate school before we have completed kindergarten, there are stages through which we must pass in our spiritual development as well. It is important, His Holiness said, to be able to acknowledge one’s current stage and to train at that level. In order to be able to carry the responsibility for the happiness and wellbeing of limitless others, we need to be grounded ourselves. Thus planting our own feet firmly on the ground and anchoring ourselves is a crucial step in becoming able to benefit others.

A major issue in this process is our self-grasping, and the attachment and anger that are rooted in it. We often look at our food, clothes and even our own body and think that they are entirely and naturally ours, and do not depend on the presence of anyone else. This is completely mistaken, as there is nothing we have, including our own body, that can exist even for one instant without relying on others.
His Holiness clarified the distinction between working to cut our attachment versus becoming detached. Detachment implies cutting ourselves off from others, keeping them at a distance, and can even refer to a mental illness in which people are pathologically unable to empathize with the suffering of others. As such, detachment reflect a lack of awareness of the interdependence that connects us intimately to all others.

Failing to recognize our interdependence and based on our mistaken self-grasping, we often behave as if we were living in a prison, a prison created by this very self-grasping. Just as only close family members and a very few friends have the right to visit prisoners in jail, so we often give access only to a small circle, and effectively lock the door and shut the rest of the world out. If we are able to let in only a small number of our dear ones, it will be extremely difficult to sincerely generate the vast mind of great compassion and lovingkindness, that is able to encompass all sentient beings equaling space.

Hoping we may be able to provide you details of how to hear teachings 'live' over the net in the new few days...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

More Dharma Nectar Poured through the Web?

This is to let you all know that His Holiness the Karmapa is expected to teach for three days on a beautiful Kadampa-style text by Gampopa, called Precious Garland for the Supreme Path, here in Dharamsala, on June 18, 19 and 20, from 10-11:30am and 4-5:30 pm, Indian tims. There is a sincere wish to webcast it live, and technology permitting, we'll post the link here shortly before the teachings begin. Check back then if you are able to join those teachings remotely!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Spirit's Physical Base

Why do monks and nuns need to have big monasteries and libraries and assembly halls? This is a question raised by some Westerners first encountering Tibetan Buddhism and it is a valid one. Why do people wanting to devote their lives to the life of the spirit waste their time on material concerns? As is made clear in the following letter, written by Thrangu Rinpoche after his home monastery in Tibet was reduced to rubble, the large Buddhist monasteries of Tibet do much more than simply host the bodies of people wishing to dedicate their lives to spiritual practice. They ensure that the insight and wisdom cultivated by exceptional practitioners can be passed from generation to generation. The care for the physical environment of the monastic institution thus forms a part of our caring for others - for the generations to come after us, and is far from distinct from the main aim of Tibetan Buddhist spiritual practice: to develop our own capacities for the purpose of being able to fully and perfectly support others as they develop their own.

Letter fronm Thrangu Rinpoche

Jyekundo in Tibet is a small and sparsely populated area, but it is a place where there are many Tibetan people, and there are also many monasteries. At Thrangu Monastery in Jyekundo, many of the lamas and monks—both those abroad and those on site—have put in tremendous efforts for many years. These efforts have not just been in terms of external things; they have also put effort into spiritual practice. In terms of study and contemplation, a monastic college for the study of texts and philosophy was founded. It gradually grew and there formed a body of students and scholars, who are the foundation of the teachings. A primary school to provide basic education for young students had also been built.

In terms of meditation, a retreat center for the practice of the Six Yogas of Naropa was built where monks engaged in practice. Another retreat center for the practice of the deities who purify the lower realms, Sarvavid Vairochana and Protector Akshobhya, had been restored and retreatants were doing the practices of those deities. A Mahakala retreat center was built during the time of Karmapa Thekchok Dorje (1798-1868) and contained a statue of Mahakala. Here, daily practices had been held for many generations. In addition, there was a large new temple where daily services were held.

Now there has been the terrible earthquake in Jyekundo, Qinghai, and these structures have all been ruined. Additionally, many monks have passed away in the earthquake. This is a great tragedy and a great obstacle. Please think of this and make good prayers on the behalf of all those who passed away. If you gather merit by helping with the relief and restoration, it will be helpful for the world in general and in particular prevent the Dharma from disappearing. It is important that the lineage of teaching and practice not wane: Without a lineage of teaching and practice, the Dharma would perish.

Sometimes people might think that temples and monasteries are not all that important. However, there are both transient sentient beings and the lasting external environment. With sentient beings, there might be many for a while, including great scholars and meditators. Great lamas might appear. There may be many members of the Sangha, but just as water flows downstream, fifty, sixty, seventy, or eighty years later they will all pass away and a new generation will come. When this happens, even if there were a strong lineage of Dharma in the previous generation, we do not really know whether that lineage would continue in the next.

The way that the lineage can continue from generation to generation is to have a good, stable outer environment. When there is the external environment of a monastery with a shrine, retreat center, and monastic college, then due to that place, the Sangha, great lamas, and great meditators might pass away but the continuity of their activity will remain present there.

This is why restoring monasteries is crucial. If the monasteries fall into ruins, the environment declines as well and the inhabitants gradually disappear. Buddhism would not be able to remain long in this world. But if a monastery continues to exist, the great lamas and masters can perform vast activity for the Dharma during their entire lives. A group of students will gather; the lamas will teach the students; and they will practice. Thus gradually the students will spend the first part of their lives studying and practicing the Dharma and the latter part upholding, protecting, and spreading Buddhism. When that generation comes to its end, a new generation can continue that work, upholding, protecting, and spreading the teachings, which can thus remain. This is why temples and the Sangha are so very important.

If sponsors can make contributions and help in either large or small ways, that would be wonderful. We spend this life gathering wealth and possessions, and sometimes this can be meaningful, but sometimes there is the danger that this might become the grounds for conflict and dispute. For that reason, I ask all the faithful benefactors to help in any way you can.

—Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Reaching out with Voice and Mind

We alerted you to the planned live broadcast of teachings by His Holiness the Karmapa, and now would like to share some of the details of what finally did transpire. On May 28, despite some initial snags, thousands of disciples worldwide were able to receive Dharma teachings from His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa live via Internet. The teachings were transmitted directly from His Holiness’ quarters at his temporary residence in Gyuto Monastery, in Dharamsala. According to the Tsurphu astrological system, the teachings took place on Sagadawa Duchen, or Vesak, the most important Buddhist holiday of the year, marking Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and mahaparnivana. In other words, in what one can only hope is a parallel to His Holiness’ trip to Europe, though the webcast did not take place as originally planned, it did happen soon after, allowing the Gyalwang Karmapa to connect with the thousands of students who were so eagerly awaiting his arrival in their midst.

Here's how it happened: By the evening of May 27, the technical team supporting the broadcast had all the network facilities up and running. A full team of translators was on hand to ensure that His Holiness’ teachings would be fully accessible to speakers of English, German, French, Spanish, Polish, Russian and Chinese. The tech team was anticipating only a few thousand separate viewers to be watching at any moment, given the fact that many students in Europe were gathering in their local Dharma centers to view together. However, well before the time the teachings were scheduled to go live, massive numbers of viewers were already attempting to connect with the site, and the overwhelming demand brought the server down. As the scheduled broadcast time drew closer, greater and greater numbers of viewers seeking to connect placed an increasing burden on the servers.

In the end, despite the technical team’s exhaustive efforts, it proved impossible to host all those who wished to view on May 27. As it became clear that the transmission would need to be rescheduled, His Holiness made the decision to postpone until the following day. As he did so, Gyalwang Karmapa pointed out with a smile that, in fact, according to the Tsurphu system of astrological calculation, the Sagadawa holiday fell on May 28 and not May 27. After a quick check on the NASA website, His Holiness confirmed for all present that the exact moment of the full moon would indeed occur on May 28. He thus urged all to look forward to the transmission on the new date with joyful anticipation.

By the following day, May 28, provisions were in place for the greater numbers of viewers. However, heavy rains throughout the evening combined with violent wind, thunder and lightning in Dharamsala cast doubt on the viability of the local network in India. For some time, the local network went down completely. At a certain point, His Holiness left the room and one of the translators commented that perhaps he was going to do puja. The comment rapidly ceased to be a joke when the winds suddenly calmed, the rain ceased entirely and the thunder and lightning also came to an end. As the air outside became still once more, the network came back up, and His Holiness quietly returned to the room.

With some further delays due to other technical issues, all the immense challenges of transmitting teachings live from a monastery in a north Indian village were overcome, and His Holiness began offering the Dharma directly to his students around the world.
Ringu Tulku Rinpoche provided translation into English on the main page, and separate pages were set aside for each of the other 6 languages. In the end, many thousands of people tuned in to receive the Dharma live from His Holiness.

After warmly greeting his listeners, His Holiness noted that he was firmly convinced that all major world religions are making contributions to the wellbeing of the world. A central focus of Buddhism was its teaching on interdependence, which along with compassion are its key points.

His Holiness gave advice for using an understanding of interdependence to find joy in every breath we take. He touched on the moral systems that human beings deploy to accomplish their aims, and noted that when these systems are limited by our self-cherishing, our actions can have harmful effects on others and on the environment. Gyalwang Karmapa spoke of the implications of our intimate connectedness to others, stressing the responsibility this gives us to work to bring about others' happiness and remove their suffering.

Speaking of ways to work with our own suffering, His Holiness urged us to think of experiences of suffering not as something final that we are stuck with, but rather as posing a sort of question to which we have the option of responding in various ways.

His Holiness ended his talk by thanking everyone for exercising such patience in awaiting the transmission. He noted that according to his earlier plan to visit Europe, he would already have been there on that day. Although this did not happen, and his body had not been able to arrive in Europe, Gyalwang Karmapa said he was nevertheless extremely happy that his voice and mind had been able to arrive to join them there.

"Just as the light of this full moon in the sky above is available for all the world to use and enjoy," he said, pointing out to the moon visible in the night sky over Gyuto Monastery, "I trust that the love and affection that we have in our hearts can be used and enjoyed mutually by all of us."