Thursday, December 23, 2010
what Christmas means to me as a Buddhist. Having been brought up in a
Christian country with respect for religion, Christmas has always been
important to me, and it has usually meant something like "peace on
earth." And of course, world peace is the final goal, isn't it?
As Christmas comes at the end of a year, I always feel the need to
reflect on what happened in the year, what it brought to me, what I
learned, and how I want to continue and grow in the next year.
Christmas is also a time to simply be with family and to appreciate
how lucky I am to have so many loving people around me, and a roof
over my head and delicious food in my belly. As I wrote about before,
gratitude is one of those things that makes people happiest.
Finally, Christmas is a time to really consider those who are not as
lucky as me. I often like to do a practice like Tonglen or Loving
Kindness to really think of those people and to wish them
well. Sending positive intentions into the world at this quiet time
(at least it's quiet in the West, especially when we have such a large
amount of snow!) is very powerful, I'm sure.
So although I do not celebrate Christmas quite in the traditional
ways, it is still one of my favourite holidays to be with my family.
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
actually I think respect and gratitude are things that can make us
really happy beings. I started thinking a lot about these topics after
some e-mail conversations with my ballet teacher. Namely, in ballet,
which has its roots in the 17th century courts, respect is very
important. For example, at the end of a ballet class, the students
typically thank the teacher and the pianist with a reverence
(bow). Interestingly, this culture of respect is very much present in
Tibetan temples and monasteries, too. It is rooted in the view that
every being has a buddha nature, and is a potential buddha. In fact,
you never know whether the being in front of you right now is in fact
a highly realized being.
I recently read the book The Power of An Open Question by Elizabeth Mattis-Namgyel which is a
beautiful example of this open attitude towards the world. I think
real respect is not necessarily unquestioning; it rather is a sense of
openness to whatever presents itself to you, and then to investigate
it. If you are not respectful to that view, that you will only overlay
it with your own preconceptions, your own wants and needs. How often
do we not want the world to be different, our teacher to be different
(and sessions not so long), because in fact we are not ready to really
receive. In the world of ballet, the function of adhering to these
age-old traditions is to make you more open to what the teacher has to
teach you, so that s/he can take you into the uncomfortable zone where
you need to go if you want to progress. The same applies, I think, to
a Buddhist context, where our attitude of respect and gratitude for
the teachings and the teacher and each other can take us to the
uncomfortable zone where our ego is slowly being crushed.
Although ego-crushing sounds terrible too, I believe that cultivating
this open, respectful and grateful attitude is also what makes us
happy. We become happier when we see all the wonderful gifts we are
receiving at every moment, and focusing on that reduces our focus on
our discomforts. When we focus on our discomforts, we only become more
self-absorbed, and therefore we are not ready to receive. Instead of
being in a constant battle with life, we can be in a constant open
state, ready to receive whatever teachings may come our way.
Friday, November 19, 2010
It was forecast to rain but the sun shone brightly as almost 1,000 healthcare professionals and members of the general public descended on Lerab Ling recently for the Third International Forum on Buddhism and Medicine. In previous years the forum had been held in Montpellier and so this was the first time it was to be in such an environment, and indeed the first time many of these people had ever seen a temple like this.
As Sogyal Rinpoche said in his opening speech, this was a sacred place, and the atmosphere created by just being in the space of the temple was palpable. Some connected immediately, for others it was more challenging, but all were here to find out more about what such an ancient tradition had to offer them and the healthcare community at large.
Buddhism and medicine were deeply intertwined in the lives of traditional practitioners in the East, indeed Buddhism played an important role in the development of traditional Indian medicine as well as interacting with many indigenous medical traditions across Asia. In the West a much stronger separation between secular medicine and religion exists, but the two share a common goal, to free beings from suffering.
Buddhism's holistic approach of not recognising a dualistic separation between mind and body, as Jon Kabat-Zinn mentioned in his presentation, is now being confirmed by neuroscience itself. This shifting perception of the interaction between mind and body opens the way even more for a dialogue between the eastern science of the mind, Buddhism, and western science.
Many of the participants were completely new to meditation. The Buddha always said not to take his word for it, but to investigate for ourselves whether his methods worked. And here we were with world-renowned scientists such as Clifford Saron and Erika Rosenberg from the Shamatha Project, neuroscientist Sara W. Lazar, and of course Jon Kabat-Zinn, a pioneer of the secular use of meditation techniques, all of whom had put in the groundwork to show on our Western scientific terms that meditation had real effects and benefits.
Participants were also able to try out the techniques themselves in guided meditation practices. Speakers such as Lucio Bizzini and Ursula Bates outlined ways in which meditation and mindfulness were already being put into practice in health care settings, providing real inspiration and guidance for those wanting to integrate some of what they had heard into their professional lives.
Events like these are particularly helpful for young people who have grown up in our cynical, science based society. Seeing the research can give confidence in our own first hand experiences, and make it easier to explain our beliefs to family and friends who are not so receptive. From my personal point of view what was truly inspiring about the forum was the idea that Buddhism could reach beyond the walls of a 'religion' and be of huge benefit to those suffering around the world who are not open to it in its traditional form.
Jon Kabat-Zinn recalled what the Dalai Lama had said to him the first time he presented his work on Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) to His Holiness. “There are four billion people in the world. One billion of them are Buddhists, but all four billion of them are suffering.” The world's population may have grown a little since then, but the sentiment remains the same. If we are truly striving for all beings to be happy and free of suffering, we have to recognise that it is not realistic or even skilful to expect everyone to be able to follow the same path. This does not diminish the importance of what Buddhism has to offer the world at large, and events such as the International Forum on Buddhism and Medicine are key in furthering the dialogue between the two worlds.
As the forum came to a close, one couldn't help but wonder where the research will go next and the different areas in which meditation and mindfulness can be applied. Even more exciting though was thinking about the people who attended and what they would now do with what they had heard. It is not hard to imagine some of them up on stage in the future, presenting their own ground-breaking research or application. The possibilities are as vast as suffering itself, and the potential for benefit immense.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
blog beforehand. At the end of August, I was involved in an accident:
I broke five ribs and had stuff in my lungs (pulmonary contusions)
because I was hit by a car while I was biking. It was a great
lesson in the power of practice. Even though I am by no means a great
practitioner, I started to get a sense of what the masters mean when
they say that they welcome obstacles and suffering, as fuel for their
practice. It is during suffering that you can see how powerful the
practice is, even if you feel you are mostly distracted when sitting
on your cushion.
When the accident happened, somehow there was no fear, because there
is always the refuge in the lama, and in Guru Rinpoche. Guru Rinpoche
is such a powerful Buddha that you are protected, no matter what. When
an accident like this happens, I pray with all my might and feel his
blessing, as in the Heart Practice described in the Tibetan Book of
Living and Dying. After they had made all the diagnosis, I was taken
to the Intensive Care unit. My job was simply to breathe, because
breathing deeply would prevent the contusions from turning into
pneumonia. It was thus literally "breathing as if your life depended
on it," as Jon Kabat-Zinn likes to say. Since I had nothing with me,
not even a cell phone, I just spent the first 24 hours mostly
breathing, and meditating. It was like an involuntary retreat. What
was amazing was that the nursing staff seemed to really appreciate the
atmosphere it created in the room. I also spent some time doing the
practice of Tonglen, for all those people suffering much more than I
did, and especially for the driver of the car who had hit me. Focusing
on others' suffering really makes your own suffering decrease.
I also appreciated the teachings on emptiness when I had a lot of
pain. When you contemplate the impermanence and interdependence of
things, somehow the reality, including the pain, becomes less
solid. And it turned out the pain was really not so bad. In fact, my
suffering was so much eased by this tremendous gratitude that I had
the teachings, and that I had so many wonderful people around me who
came to visit, who called, who prayer for me, and who helped me in
many ways. I was really protected by the Buddha, the Dharma and the
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
I recently extended my stay in Lerab Ling, the upside of which was that I was able to be here for the visit of Jetsün Khandro Rinpoche. I remember when I first heard Sogyal Rinpoche teach, at the Myall Lakes retreat in Australia many years ago. I had seen some of his teachings before at a Rigpa centre and read a bit of the book (The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying), but I didn't really know what to expect from a live teaching. I was of course completely blown away by his presence and his message. That's how I ended up, much to my surprise, on the other side of the world living in a tent with a view of a Tibetan Buddhist temple.
Since then I have had the immense blessing of receiving teachings from many great masters who had been invited here to Lerab Ling, and each has been an inspiration and illuminated the teachings of the Buddha in a different way. Having said that, not since my first meeting with Sogyal Rinpoche have I been so astounded and invigorated by a teacher as I was after the public talk by Khandro Rinpoche. I had never heard of Khandro Rinpoche before (I'm not very good at knowing names of masters and lineages, I look to my shedra friends for help with that!), and so once again had not known what to expect and was thoroughly wonder-struck. Luckily for me Rigpa Youth would also have the opportunity to interview her.
Jetsün Khandro Rinpoche
The eldest daughter of Kyabje Mindrolling Trichen and the incarnation of the great Khandro Ugyen Tsomo, she grew up receiving teachings and transmissions from some of the most revered Tibetan masters of our age including Kyabje Mindrolling Trichen, Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Kyabje Trulshik Rinpoche and Kyabje Tulku Ugyen Rinpoche. She has been teaching in the West for over seventeen years, has established and heads the Samten Tse Retreat Center in India, and the Lotus Garden Retreat Centre in America. She also heads a variety of charity projects and released a book in 2003 entitled “This Precious Life: Tibetan Buddhist Teachings on the Path to Enlightenment”.
My personal impression was that she was clearly a formidable master with a sharp mind, impressively articulate in English, uncompromising in her approach, and with an excellent sense of humour. She was not interested in pretences or outward displays, but in piece by piece dismantling us and uncovering the heart of our being. It was simultaneously thrilling and terrifying.
Both the public talk and our interview were incredibly vast in content, yet inspiringly simple. What I found to be her main message was that the Dharma is at its essence about working with yourself. Not intellectually as we Westerners are prone to do, but courageously and honestly, through self examination and wholeheartedly putting the teachings into practice internally. It sounds obvious when you put it in a sentence like that, but as she described various pitfalls along the path I was surprised at what a little self examination uncovered.
Loyalist Buddhists vs Practising Buddhists
I'm somewhat sheepsih to admit that recently I have been, to use Khandro Rinpoches terms, more of a loyalist Buddhist than a practising Buddhist. That is I have been approaching the Dharma from a fairly intellectual standpoint, unable to deny the truth that resonated with me but unwilling to make any serious changes internally. It turns out this is a common occurrence. As Rinpoche pointed out, we are at an important juncture for Buddhism in the West where it is no longer something new but has been around for generations, and it is no longer sufficient to associate with Buddhism theoretically but, in the words of Khandro Rinpoche “it becomes very important now to actually engage with and experience the teachings as a practitioner”.
As the next generation of Western Buddhists, we have a certain obligation to help maintain the authenticity of Buddhism. But authenticity is not about being or appearing Buddhist, spinning your prayer wheel, doing prostrations, hanging thangkas on your wall or being able to recite scriptures by heart. As Khandro Rinpoche asked us, who would you rather sit next to on a long flight, a very knowledgeable obnoxious Buddhist or a very nice person? It may be rhetorical, but the real question is are we unknowingly on our way to becoming that knowledgeable but obnoxious Buddhist? Are we keeping the Dharma on an appearance level, or are we genuinely and authentically practising it? Not just thinking about it, but practising it. Rinpoche strongly stressed the importance of not becoming 'religious' about the Dharma, not taking it as something that you can just believe in but not integrate.
In our interview with her she made the point that the intelligent mind of the modern young Westerner is not content with following dogmas, we want the freedom to explore, the freedom to find our own way. The structure and the system are there to provide clues on how to progress along the path, but we want it to be our own “individual journey which is not dominated by people who say how things should be done, nor rules that should be followed if your heart doesn’t connect to it”. We don't want Buddhism the religion, something to just believe. We want to examine for ourselves, experience for ourselves. The problem however lies in our tendency to do that which we are trying to avoid, to intellectualise our understanding and approach to the Dhrama, preventing genuine change within ourselves.
Khandro Rinpoche urged us to “break free from such a pretentious connection to the Buddha Dharma” and reminded us that the path we are walking on is the path of really working with oneself. She inspired me to re evaluate how I was using the precious teachings that I had received from Sogyal Rinpoche over the years, and to be more honest, courageous and compassionate with myself along the path. In such a short space I am obviously not able to go into great detail about what she taught, such as the importance of a foundation built on contemplation of the four thoughts and the seven points of mind training.
We are already working on a video edit of our Rigpa Youth interview, but in the mean time you can listen to the audio here:
Khandro Rinpoche with Rigpa Youth (mp3)
Those that missed the live streaming can watch the complete public talk:
Compassion Versus Competition: An Essential Teaching on the Buddhist Practice of Lojong
Khandro Rinpoche - Lerab Ling, 1 October 2010
Monday, October 18, 2010
With Rigpa Youth I've interviewed several lama's over the past two years and those have all been very cool and contained helpful advice for young practitioners. I thought this interview with Elizabeth would be just the same..
I had our list of questions and was curious for the fresh advice Elizabeth was going to offer us. But she did something even better: rather than just answering our questions, she engaged us in inquiry into our own questions. With shock I realised I hadn't really thought about these questions deeply myself, I was just waiting for teachers to answer them for me!
Elizabeth was saying that answers are static things but questions are always open and relating to things dynamically. When you think you have the answer, your mind shuts down and you're not receptive anymore. Asking an open question, enquiring in this way, is not searching for a static, fixed answer but keeping your mind open and engaged with whatever information comes from your life.
One of the things that struck me is that she encouraged us, when we sit on our cushion, really to ask ourselves: "what am I doing? and why?" From what I understood, this doesn't mean the usual "why do i have to sit everday? it's challenging, boring, etc.." or to try to come up with the traditional explanation from the Buddhist teachings.
Rather, it's trying to find a way to explain to yourself, in your own language, what the Dharma is about. Making it really personal, rather than struggling to impose on yourself something external, with a lot of "shoulds and should nots".
What I took home with me
Shoulds and high ideals are some of my main obstacles. Lately, i'm stuggling with doing a daily practice. I intuit that this kind of enquiry is just the thing I need, because part of my resistance comes from feeling that Dharma practice is imposed on me, like a pressure or burden. I feel like I need to improve myself because i'm not good enough and also that I have a responsibility towards humanity and my teachers to practice and live up to the extraordinary teachings I've received. This sounds quite big and I think that's exactly the reason I feel intimidated by my cushion.
I'm hoping that through engaging in this kind of enquiry, i can make my understanding of the Dharma and my motivation for practice more personal and let go of some of these external pressures i'm putting on myself.
All in all, Elizabeth didn't give me any clear-cut answers, but she showed me how to engage with my questions myself, to relate the traditional teachings to my own life and make the Dharma more personally meaningful and enrich my spiritual path.
Thank you so much! :-)
We're working on a video edit but you can listen to the interview here (70 minutes, mp3)
Friday, October 1, 2010
Mingyur Rinpoche began his first three year retreat at the age of thirteen, and at seventeen became one of the youngest lamas to ever hold the position of retreat master at Palpung Sherab Ling Monastery in Northern India. As well as becoming a highly accomplished practitioner, teacher, and author, he has worked enthusiastically with the scientific community researching the effects of mediation on the brain and is an adviser to the Mind and Life Institute.
To be in such a small and intimate setting with such a master could very well have been intimidating, but Mingyur Rinpoche had us all at ease instantaneously with his warmth, openness and playful sense of humour. It was hard to believe this was the same person who had suffered from panic attacks as a child. To know that he had overcome them using the teachings and practices he was sharing with us gave his answers even greater authority. Like a caring friend who had been through it all before, here was a being speaking from experience and offering his compassionate advice. Here was an example of what was possible if we truly applied what we were being taught.
One of the particularly inspiring things about the interview, and indeed Mingyur Rinpoche's teachings in general, is the straightforward and clear way he describes various methods and concepts. When asked about dealing with negative thoughts and emotions without suppressing them he outlined four different methods, awareness, compassion, emptiness and nature of mind. For each his description was so clear and pithy that they suddenly seemed so simple and the result so attainable.
Mingyur Rinpoche not only embodies the energy and playfulness of youth, but also the wisdom of the Buddha, and it was an invigorating, inspiring experience to interview him. Luckily for all those who were not able to be there in person he has given us permission to share the interview online, the mp3 is here and we're in the process of editing the video. But the public talk Mingyur Rinpoche gave in the temple, which was also extremely good, is already available below.
I would also like to note that Mingyur Rinpoche strongly encouraged us to support each other and share our experiences and ideas. If anyone feels inspired to contribute to this blog or wants to get more involved in our projects in any way, please get in touch via the contact us section to the right.
The Joy of Living - Calming the Mind
Mingyur Rinpoche - 11 September 2010, Lerab Ling
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
My name is Corinne and I would like to share the experience I had in Lerab Ling this summer, with whoever is interested in reading this little story. I´ll start a bit before the 14th of July.....
The 18th of April this year I moved from Italy to Berlin. I´m 27 but I had the feeling that everything I build up in my life until that point was "good" but that something very important was missing. I was constantly searching for happiness outside of myself. Everytime I succeeded in fulfilling my desires, but then after a while they structurally revealed themselves as temporary solutions. So I had the feeling to be like the dog biting his tail...without the instruments to find he root of my suffering! My situation was not totally desperate but I got fed up and dizzy to be in this constant roller coaster Up and Down, and Down and Up.
I decided to start questioning myself seriously and at the right moment my friend Katrin gave me Sogyal Rinpoche's book -The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying- which really came into my life as a precious gift.I read with deep engagement and was simply amazed to have finally found someone who was speaking with such a wisdom about all the crucial points of human life! I thought: "Exactly this should be thought at school from early childhood on! This is something everybody should have access to!" So after that I went on Youtube to see Rinpoche and I knew with clarity that he is a true Master embodying what he is teaching.
One month later I had the chance to be in Lerab Ling..........Although I knew that I would be present for the visit of Yangsi Rinpoche, I had only heard briefly about Dilgo Kyhentse Rinpoche, and was not aware of the immensity of his enlightened activity at all! The only thing I knew was this deep desire to be in his presence. As Yangsi Rinpoche came ,although I was also sceptical about reincarnation,especially about the fact of how on earth could it have been possible to be sure that he was the true reincarnation, I instantly felt warmth! This was something I couldn´t explain with my ordinary mind but I felt an irradiating loving kindness which was really reaching me deeply. A sensation of melting, such a warmth which was released in my body and the wish to be helpful in this life. In that moment I had no doubt that what they told about Yangsi was true. The encounter with the relics was also an enormous gift. The possibility to come in contact with these blessed relics of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche'ss life was another unexplainable experience for me. Again I felt a confidence, that what was happening did not need an analytical explanation.What was happening was important and the connection I felt with Dilgo Kyentse Rinpoche, whose name I heard for the first time 3 weeks before, simply filled me with joy and gratitude.
After Yangsi departed I stayed in Lerab Ling until he 30th of July and had time to learn more about meditation practices. Also i was able to constantly receive teachings, which reinforced more and more the seed which was freshly planted in me. Through "work and study", which revealed itself to be an important activity for integration I had the opportunity to observe my "patterns", my thoughts and emotions, while working in teams with others. I felt supported by the simple fact that I knew that all the people there in Lerab Ling were working and improving in the same direction, making an effort to overcome their habits practising the Dharma.The value and benefit I had from this time in Lerab Ling is still accompanying me and offered me a good basis for my daily practice. So what I would finally suggest to everybody from the bottom of my hearth is: Go to Lerab Ling! And as Rinpoche always reminds us: Listen to the enlightened teachings of the Buddha!
I will return for sure!
"Gesar Mukpo is a filmmaker who lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He is the son of the great Tibetan Buddhist teacher, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche and his British wife. As he gathers impressions from others, Gesar reveals his own poignant story of living in the West with this unique label and legacy — endlessly scrutinized as someone supposed to be special and monumental. What does it mean to carry on a role designed for an old world when you’re living in a completely new one? How will Gesar and other Western tulkus fulfill their destiny?"
Check it out here: http://www.buddhistmedia.com/uitzending.aspx?lIntEntityId=1181&lIntType=0&lIntYear=2010
The site where the documentary is hosted in Dutch, but don't worry, the documentary is in English. Tip: go to 'instellingen' to choose the videoplayer and the quality of the streaming: 'breedband' is better quality but you need a better connection for that.
Thursday, September 2, 2010
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
During Yangsi Rinpoche's recent inaugural visit to Lerab Ling, Rigpa Youth had the incredible honour to take part in a special interview with him. Organised in collaboration with Rigpa Yeshe, the interview was a chance for Yangsi Rinpoche to meet the teenagers at the All Mandala Retreat and answer their questions, as well as questions from Rigpa Youth members from around the world.
Before the interview the film 'Brilliant Moon: Glimpses of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche' was shown, creating a beautiful atmosphere and reminding us all how privileged we were to have the opportunity to meet Yangsi Rinpoche in person. He generously spent an hour with us answering our varied questions, such as what kind of practice he most recommends for young Western students and about how to deal with the transition into adulthood. We hope to share the interview more widely in the near future (watch out for it at a Rigpa Youth meeting at your next local retreat!), and also asked that Yangsi Rinpoche return again and again to teach and answer more of our questions.
Here's an excerpt from the interview:
Question: Most of us cannot or do not want to become a monastic or yogi in a cave. So, how can we take work and family life onto the path and make a positive contribution to society?
Dilgo Khyentse Yangsi Rinpoche: "In this case, you don't have to become a yogi or join the monastery to become a Buddhist. That is one of the things that needs to be clarified. You know, you can have your own family and your work. But you should always have the effort of practice, the path of dharma and being positive, we can always do that. So how do we do that?
In daily life, even though we have little time, we can always remind ourselves that we should use this time as something special, like a gift. So we should use each and every moment that we have. Not waste it. So, we always try to remind ourselves to have positive thoughts. Because, through having positive thoughts and by helping others it will change our way of life. So I think that is really possible."
The public teaching that Khyentse Yangsi gave in Lerab Ling, on "The lineage of Good Heart" is now available for viewing online!
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
an amazing event. While driving up with my friend Neal, we listened to
Michaela's beautiful cd "Actual Mind." It is such a great inspiration!
We were contemplating about how we could bring a more contemplative
style to our lives. The first two days of the retreat were the
inaugurational celebration of TGI. There was Tibetan music, speeches
by Patrick Gaffney, Sogyal Rinpoche, Lodi Gyari Rinpoche, Tsoknyi
Rinpoche and Daniel Goleman. It was a very exciting event, with not
just rigpa students present, but also a large group of Tibetans and
local residents. What was very exciting is that most of the Tibetans
were actually quite young. Maybe we should try to forge more bonds
with the young Tibetans and share the culture and the teachings. This
is definitely something I want to work on in New York City (especially
now we have the New York City Center, which Rinpoche inaugurated last
Monday, the day after the retreat). While Sogyal Rinpoche taught
mainly on shamatha, Tsoknyi Rinpoche gave some guidance on vipashyana
and the four types of ego. Daniel Goleman shared some psychological
and neuroscientific findings.
After all this excitement, we settled in the more normal retreat mode,
with Rinpoche and Patrick giving some amazing teachings. How lucky am
I to be able to receive all these teachings! And how lucky that I am
still configuring my life, getting ready for a move back to the
Netherlands. Whenever you are in an unsettled state like that, it is
so much easier to give the teachings a place before samsara creeps
in. Just to have the taste of the amazing space, peace and compassion
that is already and always present in our mind was extremely
inspiring. And if only I can make that part of my being, if I can
nurture it, then whatever work I do will be able to benefit
beings. Really, what else would be need? These teachings so much
changed my priorities--I started to notice (again) how much of my time
I spend "I want this...", "If only I could have this...", or "I think
he thinks I am doing really well," or "I really want to impress these
people." And the joke is that it's all irrelevant! As Rinpoche says in
some of his teachings: it's like an echo. The most important is really
to turn our mind inwards...
Unfortunately we did not have any Rigpa Youth meetings, because all
the young people were too busy holding the retreat... Nevertheless, we
did of course connect a little bit informally during the meal
breaks. Given that young people form a good part of the retreat team
in the US, we get to hang out with each other that way. Hopefully
we'll be able to support each other bringing the retreat in our lives
through Facebook and the like.
Report by Marieke van Vugt
20 minutes by car from the nearest supermarket –the hallmark of civilization-, it does not escape the football madness that currently captures a large part of the world. In between the work, teachings and practices, a considerable section of the Lerab Ling residents manages to find the time to watch the world championship football. Countries where football traditionally forms a large part of the culture like
in the finals.
As the tournament progresses the noise level somehow also seems to rise. Therefore, as recently a meditation retreat started at Lerab Ling, we had to move our football theatre to a slightly more remote place. But no worries, because we have some skilled and fanatic –especially some Germans- football fans who didn’t mind setting up some benches, a television and an old satellite to make that happen. As the stress level rises with the preparations for the upcoming summer retreats, the matches seem to be a good time when everyone can let go. With this soccer fever, Lerab Ling starts to look more and more like a Tibetan Monastery: for anyone who doesn’t know what I’m talking about, most likely you haven’t seen The Cup.
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Today is the anniversary of Ju Mipham Rinpoche, one of the greatest scholars of the Nyingma tradition. It's hard find a Nyingma text which doesnt have a commentary by Mipham Rinpoche, and equally hard to find a difficult point which has not been made easy by Mipham Rinpoche's explanations. Check out his bio by Nyoshul Khen here
An excerpt of 'Satirical advice for the four schools'
"The Nyingmapas claim they have a path for accomplishing the level of Vajradhara through the practice of clear light Dzogpachenpo, without the need to rely upon an external consort and so on, and yet the lamas say they must take a wife in order to increase their longevity, improve the clarity of their vision, maintain good health, assist in the revelation of termas and accomplish the welfare of beings. They don’t say that in order to benefit the teachings they should teach and practise! That taking a wife could be a way to benefit the teachings and beings, and a substitute for teaching and practice, and at the same time improve clarity of vision and so on, is, I think, incredible!
The Gendenpas claim the antidote to all the pains of existence is the wisdom which realizes selflessness, and yet when they approach the realization of no-self they are so afraid to let go of this sense of identity that they can not sit still upon their cushions. In the past it was said that the attainment of the path of seeing and the clear experience of selflessness that precedes it are marked by special feelings of joy, so I think this must be a symptom of the current degenerate age!
The Sakyapas make the supreme assertion that one should not place too much emphasis on conduct because inner wisdom is the most important thing, and yet when they recite the Lamdü Hevajra sadhana, they maintain the discipline of never leaving their seats, because to do so would transgress their vow. If they ever did need to get up and do something, they would have to drag their seats behind them, such are their rites of purification and liberation based on time and the physical body. I wonder what would happen to them if they did leave their seats!
The Kagyüpas assert that the Great Mudra is the wisdom which pervades all samsara and nirvana, and yet they think of the word ‘mudra’ as referring to one’s hands. I wonder what such an enormous hand would look like!
Ha ha ha! That was all said in jest.
The teachings of the great masters are rich in meaning,And each school has its own unique vision and key instructions."
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
It might be a bit much to listen to complete shedra texts like the Bodhicaryavatara which are available, but I can definitely recommend listening to some of the shorter teachings like Ringu Tulku Rinpoche's Q&A sessions from '06/'07, '07/'08 and 2010. Also check out Khenpo Namdrol Rinpoche's 'after diner talks', as we might call them. Namdrol Rinpoche has a tradition of inviting the Rigpa shedra students once or twice every shedra for momo's, after which he gives a few comments on the text being studied at the time, summarizing the whole text in one hour, while effortlessly linking everything with the dzogchen view!
Rigpa Wiki mp3 library
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
“Our hope for a better future places a heavy responsibility on the younger generation. How to meet this challenge? Try to educate yourself in areas that will benefit society. Take up spiritual disciplines that open your heart and mind.
Cooperate with others and establish harmonious relations with people regardless of ethnicity, gender, or age.
Do everything you can to stop the misuse of our natural resources and the senseless destruction of our environment. With ethical discernment, you -the youth of today- can create prosperity for the world and humankind. Otherwise our future is bleak “
“One of the most important and revered figures in Tibetan Buddhism, the Karmapa shows how the wisdom of an ancient tradition resonates with our fast-paced,globally connected lives. His advice, insights and reflections on topics ranging from the environment and social responsibility to relationships and freedom are Juxtaposed with bold and often unexpected contemporary images, which illuminate the timeless teachings of Tibetan Buddhism. Open to any page and find guidance on how to live more consciously and caringly , and learn how to create a better world for yourself and future generations”
See also an Inteview with Ringu Tulku Rinpoche speaking about this amazing book!
And enjoy it!
Saturday, May 15, 2010
understanding and change our attitude, that alone can transform our life.
We can become a more responsible, joyful and understanding person."
1) Life is precious
How happy and satisfied we are, depends on how much we appreciate what we
There is nothing that doesn't change. That's the nature of life. The more
we see this clearly, the more we can let things be. There's no use holding
on too much to either negative things or positive things that happen to us
All of us have selfishness, greed, agression and ignorance. Nobody is
perfect. Therefore we can be forgiving and have compassion for those who
do negative things.
There's lots of pain and suffering in the world around us. The more we
understand that, the more we don't expect things to be perfect.
Everything has causes and conditions. I am responsible for myself. What I
am now, is because of what I have done. What I will be is because of what
I do now. So therefore, my future is, in a way, in my hands. So I have to think and
act in a positive way.
Friday, May 14, 2010
Because Phakchok Rinpoche is only 28 years old, he is the perfect lama to ask those questions that young people have!
Question: Many of us experience pressure from society, friends or family, to have a 'normal life'. Like going to parties, to get a good education, have a good job, and so on. But our wish is to practice Dharma more intensively, so how can we deal with that pressure?
Don't be too defensive
Phakchok Rinpoche: That's very easy. But this question looks like it has quite a few questions inside. I think it's like this: Buddha's teaching is very liberal, very tolerant.
For example, if somebody comes to tell me, 'You know, I think Buddhism is quite stupid'. I'm not going to defend at all. I ask, 'OK, why do you think so?'
I'm just going to explain. If they don't want to listen, that's fine. I'm never going to defend the teachings. I'm not going to defend what is right or wrong because that shows the colour of your mind is not tolerant. You are more attached to your things, your view, and you're exactly the same. Everybody's like that.
Dharma teaches us not to be attached to anything. What I'm saying is, don't try to create problems through your belief system and attachments.
So when your family tells you to study... Family is important, don't try to go against them right away. Do with skillful means, you know.
For example, Iwent to Israel one time, I have a few people there telling me, 'my family's telling us they're not happy because we don't wear a kippah' [Jewish religious cap]. 'I don't want to wear a kippah, because I like to practice Buddhism'.
Wearing a kippah, makes you not Buddhist? My question is very simple. Then I told them, 'I give you very good method. You take your kippah and you put 'om mani padme hung' on the inside, then wear it'. Then because of kippah God can see you, and 'om mani padme hung' blessed your thing as well! Not bad... It's just a little joke, but it's just a way to make their thinking a little bit softer, they're too much defending.
And sometimes I tell people who have very orthodox families, you know, “They want to see you in church? Go! Make them happy!” What's wrong with that? I tell people like this, “Be tolerant!” Don't be too strict in yourself. I think, it's not healthy.
You earn your money, everything is good, your family's happy. Then you say 'OK, now I want to go to on one year retreat, this is my deep wish.' They're going to respect you too. If you fight saying, 'I want this, it's my right', they might say 'OK' but in their heart they're saying, 'Oh, I have my son, now not listening to me, because of this stupid Buddhism.' 'Now, my daughter I love so much, because of this stupid Tibetan monk came, I don't know what he taught, now she says she's going to change her life completely'.
That is not good. You should slowly move in... They are human beings, they can understand. But sometimes if they really don't understand, it doesn't matter, make them happy. What they want to see you do, try to do that. At the same time, you make your own time to practice. Show how tolerant your mind is, this is the thing I want to say, bottom line: show how tolerant you are.
You want to be a serious practitioner? Do your work or study, and also practice every day, as much as you can. And you plan a time for retreat... one month, two months, after five years work, you go like six months or whole year on retreat. You know, slowly, slowly.. Do that. I think it's very good.
Don't try to convert people
You should be very liberal so when family or friends tell you to go to party, you should go. Go, it doesn't matter, there's nothing wrong with going to a party! But going to a party, being wild like them, then there's something wrong. Go to party, act a little wild but don't really be wild. In the party you have a drink and talk, it's very nice, yeah, you know, 'life is impermanent'. So you already give some Dharma there. 'Don't be too selfish, it's not good, it's going to be painful for you'.
Honestly, when you do like that, then slowly they'll understand. Then slowly, they will say 'You know, I have some problem with my life... A while ago, I think you said something about being selfish. Who taught you that?' Ah, so then you can share some Dharma! But don't go trying to convert them... don't be like that.
Dharma is very liberal
Because honestly, what is Buddhadharma? Buddhadharma says very clearly, 'Don't do evil deeds, actions that make other people suffer and yourself suffer. Do good things, actions that make other people happy and yourself happy. But most important is to tame your mind, that is the Buddhadharma'.
Where did Buddha say, 'Believe me, that's the Buddhadharma'? Where did Buddha say, 'Kill people, this is the Buddhadharma'? Where did Buddha say, 'Torture yourself, that's Buddhadharma'? Where did Buddha say, 'Keep your anger all the time, that's the Dharma'? Buddha never said that.
Buddha said, 'Tame your mind', that is the Buddhadharma, so that is your job.
Buddha also says, whatever I've taught you, don't put the teachings right away in your head. Examine, examine if my teachings make sense or not, like a goldsmith checks the gold. Is it really gold or not? And if you see it's the real gold, then you keep it.
In some verses he says, 'I've shown you the path, whether you want to follow or not, it's your choice!' From the beginning Buddha is very liberal. So if we try to be too strict, I think it's not good, we should be a little bit liberal.
Monday, May 3, 2010
Erik spoke about his own youth and what renunciation means. He gave a lot of advice for young people, how to handle parents and how to benefit others. He talked about translating and being a translator, and much more. Please take a comfortable seat before you start reading, because it's ten pages.
Much gratitude to Erik for his time and his help with editing!
For the complete interview click here
[Student] How was it for you to come to the dharma so young and also in a time when not many other people where in the dharma?
The first thing that comes to mind is two things. This is not a formal lecture, just some brief ideas to introduce. As I understand, dharma is two different things that are connected: dharma as reality, and dharma as the Buddhist toolbox, which connects with the reality we’re supposed to realize.
The Buddhist teachings are a very pragmatic way of approaching reality but the most important thing is of course, what’s real. As a young person , one is very curious, not necessarily towards Buddhism, because it’s an area which often is weird, like Buddhists are often weird, right? They do strange things, sometimes they dress funny, and they get weirder than before as they become Buddhist, for a while. That was how it was before. Before you could hang out with your friends and enjoy, and go to a party, and then you became Buddhist…you don’t call your friends, they feel that you hate them, because they’re just normal people, and you have become holy, because you’re focusing too much on the dharma as a religion, as a system , rather than on the dharma as reality, which was supposed to be the main point, according to the Buddha.
The Buddha didn’t emphasize the teachings is the main point, but the realization of what is. But it’s very hard to start with reality, because there is no handle on it, so the dharma is designed so that it fits your concepts, so that you can catch hold of it, with something to read, something to see, something to talk about, something to actually do, whereas reality is very flimsy. It slips away.
But what you always were interested in, and all your friends were interested in, is the dharma as reality. So don’t lose that just because you become Buddhist. Keep as your basis, “I want to understand what it’s all about, not the Buddhist side, but all of that which we are, what my friends are, what my family is, what the world is. That’s what I want to figure out.” Then you always have a shared basis with everybody, family, friends, everybody, and you can always communicate. If they ask you, and they for sure do, if they haven’t gotten to it yet, is “what are you actually doing there? What is this Buddhism thing? ” And then you should be able to give a one sentence reply that doesn’t make them look the other way and not answer your phone call next time – a reply that makes real sense to them, not just to you. “Well I like Sogyal Rinpoche and the other lamas.” That’s not a reply they will necessarily relate to.
Perhaps one or two of them will like to come along, and when they come in to Harry Potter’s castle, they ask: “Is it real?” and you say “Yes it is.” Then they expect people to take out magic-wands. But what Buddhism is about is the opposite of that, being true and real, sane and natural. That’s what youthfulness is about: no expiry date. Manjushri is called the ever-youthful. In a large portion of the Buddhist canon that’s the first sentence at the beginning of a sutra' homage to the ever youthful Manjushri,. Youth means having a live, intelligent quality, alive, vibrant, an always up-to-date insight. And everybody can relate to that vibrant quality.
That was an introduction to the meeting point between your world and people and Dharma, and about staying young. Tsoknyi Rinpoche also talked about that today, about not losing the spark. I found that I became a little weird after becoming a Buddhist. It was so much easier for me to be in the natural state before becoming a Buddhist. Which is sad, in a way. It took me five or six years before I found out that what the lamas where talking about was what I used to be, before I began formal practices. Perhaps I had connected with some wrong, well not wrong but very gradual-approach type teachers, who said “you cannot realize it, not in this lifetime, it takes many lives.” Even the idea of the awakened state being accessible was completely out of their world, which is actually quite sad.
For young people I think it’s often somewhat easy to access the natural state, as they are spontaneous, natural, free in their attitude, because it’s something that is very close--it’s what we actually are. Isn’t it? A happy, free approach, which is very close to Dzogchen and Mahamudra.
Most of what we have learned, what we are supposed to when we walk into a situation, is to be unnatural, and contained. Even as a Buddhist practitioner we could be taught to become something like a fossil, fossilized human being--not in actual teachings but it’s kind of in the air in many groups--that “now you don’t party anymore, you don’t go out.” Stuff like that. Then one thinks that one has to keep to a very rigid range, not just on voice and body language, but on the mind as well. This is true to some extent, but not deeply within. An area of oneself has to remain free and young, while another area has to be rained in a bit. Not to bang into each other. But the youthfulness disappears when these two areas get confused, worried wrinkles begin to appear. I got wrinkles already when I was 20, trying to look devoted (Erik makes a face). I was in a group where people made such faces when they showed sincerity and I just imitate that way. I see you don’t have that problem, luckily.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Thanks to Sogyal Rinpoche's kindness, we had the good fortune to have Yangsi Kalu Rinpoche (19 years old) visit us at Lerab Ling....Many of us were been deeply touched by his simplicity and his way of being close to us! He really created an intimacy with the audience by sharing his experience with a warm and direct style !
Although the Rigpa Youth interview with Kalu Rinpoche didn't happen, his teachings themselves gave some amazing tools to understand the authentic Dharma in a modern perspective. He taught on the Four Foundations of Shangpa (the Shangpa Preliminaries) which is similar to our Ngondro... (Jamyang Kyentse Rinpoche was one of the holders this lineage). He took some fresh and vivid examples to make us understand the main points of Renunciation, Refuge, Mandala Offering and so on....
During this retreat we organized some Rigpa Youth sessions (with 10 to 15 people) and we quite spontaneously studied, sang and recorded the Aspiration song for the word for Karmapa Youth Project in the grass in front of the
In the end, Kalu Rinpoche specially blessed the RY group.
It was a privilege to meet Yangsi Kalu Rinpoche... a unique and precious experience !
Report by Nicolas Moysan
Monday, April 5, 2010
"We’re joined this week by Sumi Loundon Kim, author of Blue Jean Buddha and The Buddha’s Apprentices, to explore what young people want from spiritual communities. We explore young people’s need for belongingness, their natural spiritual inclination, and the big questions that they are asking.
Sumi, who is in her mid-30’s now, gives several suggestions for how Buddhist communities can engage more effectively with a younger population. She points out that though Buddhist communities tend to be somewhat asocial when compared to other communities, there are many things we can be doing to better reach a new generation of seekers. Many of these suggestions are surprisingly obvious, but few are implemented on a large scale in Buddhist communities."
By Vince Horn from Buddhist Geeks.
To listen the interview : BG 166: What Young People Want
Since a long time, or perhaps only recently, several Rigpa students have held the wish to learn Tibetan, or even become translators. Therefore, eyes and ears were held wide open when we heard about Rangjung Yeshe’s intensive translator training, which would make translators out of complete newbie’s within one year. I felt it was time to check it out myself.
The expedition started on Sunday evening, with a nice dinner in a Tibetan restaurant. One of the program’s students, who also attended the Rigpa Shedra last year, was tested on his Tibetan skills. Random quotes from Gampopa’s Jewel Ornament of Liberation had to be translated on the spot. Although we were impressed with his skills, it seemed that translating a thousand year old text without any oral explanations isn’t easy…
The next day we started at eight, or rather a few minutes later for some, with perhaps their most innovative class. There’s one Lopön (someone who usually completed most of his training but is not yet a Khenpo), four students, and a senior student. And today, it also included me. The Lopön then taught in Tibetan, without relying on a text, and the students each take a fifteen minute turn in translating. If they make mistakes or leave something out, the senior student or their fellow students help out and correct them. What I found inspiring is that the Lopön keeps it all very simple, with short sentences and not to much out of the ordinary vocabulary. That is a completely different story then the usual Tibetan Dharma teachings, which are more like trying to follow a lecture on Heidegger in German when you barely know how order a tea. That can be quite demoralizing if you try to learn Tibetan. After only ten months, the students where able to translate most of what the Lopön was saying.
The day continued with classical Tibetan, which differed not so much from the Tibetan classes Rigpa Shedra students are familiar with. We read a part of ‘The Final Words of Tele Natsok Rangdrol’. Then, just before the most important events of the day –lunch-, we moved outside to the terrace for a Colloquial lesson. The students where led by a Tibetan in reading the autobiography of ‘Gyalwa Rinpoche’, better known in the West as the Dalai Lama. For me the day ended after lunch, since there where library’s, bookstores and others things waiting. But for the students the day was far from finished. After lunch the day continued with another translator class. This time the Lopön was teaching on the thirty seven practices of a Bodhisattva, of which it is perhaps interesting to notice that the text had to be memorized, in Tibetan of course. Then followed another Tibetan class, and the day ended with private tutoring with a Tibetan. Life of a translator isn’t easy…
You can read more here about the Translator program. The students of the institute also have a blog which can be read here . Fortunately for Rigpa students, Rangjung Yeshe is not the only player in town: Rigpa’s own translator training is starting this year at Namdroling Monastery in
Monday, March 29, 2010
In a recent interview, Dilgo Khyentse Yangsi said the following: "In the Western part of the world, for the younger generation, like my age, that I could make them interested in Buddhism in a way, that I bring some new ideas, or anything that I could interest them. Because we are of the same age, so that I can slowly slowly interest them. That is something that I would like to achieve".
That is wonderful to hear, especially since Rinpoche is visiting Lerab Ling for five days this summer! You can watch the interview here.
Ringu Tulku Rinpoche was asked about HH Karmapa's interest in young people, saying that "I think, maybe because of his own age, maybe he thinks that he can communicate with the youth better, but it is just not him, other people also feel that maybe he can communicate with the youth and bring a certain amount of spiritual guidance and [be an] example for the young people". You can watch it here
Thanks to Robert and Nicolas for the links
Sunday, March 21, 2010
For the coming summer retreats, this would mean you pay 180 instead of 225 euros for the meditation retreat in July and 448 instead of 560 euros for the All-Mandala retreat. That saves 45 and 112 euros respectively. Not much, but perhaps a good start.
Read more about it here: Retreat Fee
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
During Sogyal Rinpoche's visit to Nepal, Rinpoche advised the Rigpa Shedra to practice more. That meant doing more Sadhana's and Tsoks in general, but especially doing the Vajrakilaya practice of Yang Nying Pudri. And so it happened that the Rigpa Shedra prepared a Yang Nying Pudri tsok at the Asura cave in the Rigpa Shedra's hometown, Pharping. Performing Tertön Sogyal's Vajrakilaya practice at Asura cave can be considered as very auspicious, because it is the cave where Guru Rinpoche accomplished Vajrakilaya. It was also very fortunate that the Shedra’s Khenpo, Sonam Tobden, joined the practice. Because of the location, there was no big sound system and thus a tiny phone speaker was used to play the practice. Therefore the Shedra students had to chant a little bit louder themselves, but this was actually even more inspiring.
One student commented: "It was all very auspicious. When we walked to the cave we saw Chatral Rinpoche in his car, and when we got to the cave Neten Chokling was there, reciting prayers to Guru Rinpoche [in fact, from Rigpa's ‘The Prayer in seven chapters to Padmakara] "
Through this practice, may all obstacles for Rinpoche, the Rigpa shedra and Rigpa as a whole be pacified!
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Awakening the Rimé Spirit!
I just came back from the Buddhist Youth Festival, and like all participants, my heart is filled with love and inspiration. Probably a little more than half the participants were new to the Dharma. From what I've seen, every single one of them has made a good connection with the Dharma and many want to start meditating at home and learn more.
Wonderful as that is, I took home even more! I'm deeply touched by the Rimé spirit; the ecumenical or eclectic movement of respecting and studying all different schools and lineages of the Dharma. Sharing our devotion for our teachers and the Three Jewels I have been deeply moved by practitioners of different lineages, that I know little about. It has filled me with enthusiasm to study different traditions and receive teachings from many more teachers.
My master, Sogyal Rinpoche, encourages students not to shop around too much but first to establish a solid basis in one tradition. At the same time, he invites many of the greatest teachers to teach and give empowerments in Rigpa's main retreat centre, Lerab Ling.
So it has been through his kindness that I've received teachings from some of the greatest masters of our time, from all schools of Tibetan Buddhism, such as H.H. The Dalai Lama, H.H. Sakya Trizin and Kyabjé Trulshik Rinpoche and will receive teachings from the 17th Karmapa next summer.
In my experience, even having received teachings from many other masters, it's easy to think that your teacher and your Sangha are the coolest. Simply because it takes a long time really to be able to see the amazing qualities of a teacher and the practices you do. Superficial knowledge of other traditions can never bring such appreciation.
But what I have found during this festival, meeting other devoted and dedicated practitioners, opening your heart to them and celebrating the profound beauty of the Dharma, can bring about this appreciation!
There is a special joy in sharing your love for the Dharma with other young people. Those of us who are part of a Sangha mostly find ourselves amongst a majority of 40-60 year olds in our own groups. There is a kind of almost instant connection and depth of intimacy when you meet one of those rare young people devoted the to Dharma and dedicated to benefit all sentient beings.
I hope to make many more of such friends in the future and will make every effort to do so!
Find out about the Buddhist Youth Festival
or the Rimé Movement.
This is not meant as a report of the Buddhist Youth Festival 2009, describing the different workshops and the kick-ass new years eve party. I'm just sharing here what the experience has brought me.
Read a more general report on the festival in the Shambhala Times!
Monday, January 18, 2010
When we returned to our little village called Pharping, it was time for Khenchen Namdrol's opening adress. After a good meal with momo's and lemon tea, he gave an astonishing speech, as always. If you want to see for yourself you can find a link at the Rigpa news blog
But our week was not over yet, as Tsoknyi rinpoche was to visit and teach us. We had to purify a little bit of karma by waiting for quite a while in formal welcome line-up, but naturally it was well worth the wait. Tsoknyi Rinpoche was very happy to see many young western students showing special interest in Buddha-Dharma, and put special effort to come to this part of the world. It'a a bit messy, but somehow you can get a lot of good teachings here!
"First when I came to the west, I didn’t understand why Westerners were interested in Buddhism, such a highly developed and sophisticated country. Why would they want teachings from a Lama like me, coming from a village? But now after 15 years, I think you really need it!
After his teaching there was still time for some questions. In response to one of the questions, Rinpoche mentioned that it was fine to practice Hindu inspired yoga practices like hatha yoga, but just close your ears when they start talking about the theory!
Thinley Norbu was also in town, and rumors where going around that he was going to teach. Just as with our very own Sogyal Rinpoche, the only thing was that we had no clue when he was going to teach. But then finally it happened, and it was quite extraordinary! First he gave a lung on the Guyhagarba tantra, and then he directed his attention to the bunch of Westerners in the temple and taught until 12 o'clock in the evening.
And we're only here for two weeks! But drinking tea with Lama's can become a distraction, so now we're all back to our study books.
For those of you who think Nepal is a messy, stinking place full of bacteria’s, and prefer to stay in the god realms of the West, Rigpa Shedra West is resurrected after the three year retreat and has a very nice 'lineup' for next summer with Ringu Tulku Rinpoche, Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche, Khenpo Pema Sherab and more! See RigpaShedra.org for more inormation.
Tsoknyi Rinpoche's teaching to the Rigpa Shedra students