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Posts Tagged "lama yeshe wisdom archive"
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Led by former monk Greg Sneddon, a two-year project will preserve the complete collection of recorded teachings of Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche – some 7000 audiotapes and 10,000 hours of material. Converted to a digital medium from their original recordings on the magnetic tape of cassettes and reels (an easily degradable medium which is not useful for long-term archiving), the teachings will be available on CD-ROM, and possibly on the Internet in the future.
According to Nick Ribush, director of the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive, impetus for the project began when Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s teaching on the Heart Sutra in March 2000 at Tara Institute in Melbourne, was digitally videoed.
“Greg started working on making that teaching available on a set of CDs, work which is still in progress,” Nick said. “He has more than twenty years’ experience in filmmaking, audio and video, and when I was in Melbourne in January 2001, I asked his advice on preserving the Archive. We decided that we had to get the teachings off magnetic tape and onto a digital format. A loan of $US60,000 from FPMT Inc has enabled the work to start. Of course, donors are still needed, but by using volunteers costs could be kept down.”
Greg Sneddon says that it’s a matter of principle with him not to charge for Dharma work.
“Many times I’ve had to explain to students why it is necessary to pay to hear Lama Zopa and others when they are in town, because it costs money to run a center and bring teachers here. Having done that again and again, I decided I won’t work on any Dharma project where pay is involved,” he said. …
FPMT News Around the World
When the Iron Bird Flies, a new feature-length documentary about Tibetan Buddhism and the West, is having its premiere screening at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York City October 19-24. Dr. Nick Ribush, director of the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive, will be speaking at the Saturday, October 20 evening screening. The Archive contributed materials on FPMT founders Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche to the film.
Victress Hitchcock, a long-time student of Tibetan Buddhism and an experienced filmmaker, directed When the Iron Bird Flies. Her earlier film Blessings: The Tsoknyi Nangchen Nuns of Tibet documents the lives of 3,000 nuns living across the remote mountains of Eastern Tibet. Hitchcock collaborated on the film with Tsoknyi Rinpoche. “In the spring of 2009,” Hitchcock recalls, “just after Blessings was released, Tsoknyi Rinpoche called me from India and said, ‘Let’s make another movie!’ This time, the idea was to look at how these same spiritual practices are penetrating Western culture as Tibetan Buddhism becomes more and more accessible in the West.”
When the Iron Bird Flies features interviews with Tibetan lamas and practitioners as well as Western students, teachers and scholars, including His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche, Jetsün Khandro Rinpoche, Geshe Kelsang Wangmo, B. Alan Wallace, E. Gene Smith, Richard Davidson and many others. You can watch a trailer for the movie online.
With 158 centers, projects and services around the globe, there is always news on FPMT activities, teachers and events. Mandala hopes to share as many of these timely stories as possible. If you have news you would like to share, please let us know.
If you like what you read on Mandala, consider becoming a Friend of FPMT, which supports our work.
FPMT News Around the World
The latest Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archives newsletter reports “editing work continues in earnest” on Lama Yeshe’s biography Big Love. For the past several years, Mandala has published excerpts of Big Love on our website. Now, the Archive has set up a Big Love blog, where they are posting more excerpts from the comprehensive account of Lama Yeshe’s life, compiled and written by Adele Hulse.
In other Lama Yeshe news, the Archive has also just posted Lama’s address to FPMT Center Directors in 1983, where he describes his thoughts about the organizational structure of FPMT centers and the Central Office (now known as International Office).
In the talk, Lama Yeshe sketches out some communications goals for FPMT, which Mandala has taken as inspiration over the last three decades. Both in print and online, we strive to support Lama Yeshe’s vision by sharing stories from different FPMT centers, projects and services.
Here’s what Lama Yeshe had to say:
[The Central Office] facilitates communication both between the centers and me and among the centers themselves. You see, we do have the human tendency to shut off from each other: “I don’t want you looking at me; I can see my own point of view, I don’t want to share it with you.” Each center has its own egocentric orientation: “We’re good enough; we don’t need to take the best of other cultures.” This is wrong. We have reached our present state of existence through a process of evolution. Some older centers have had good experiences and have learned how to do things well. Doing things well is not simply an intellectual exercise but something that comes from acting every day and learning how to do things until you can do them automatically. Thus it is good that the Central Office has a pool of collective experience so that all our centers can share in it and help reinforce each other.
Mandala hopes to continue to support FPMT centers, projects and services through publishing accounts of successes and hard-earned knowledge, offering inspiration as well as concrete information, so that process of evolution can continue.
With 158 centers, projects and services around the globe, there is always news on FPMT activities, teachers and events. Mandala hopes to share as many of these timely stories as possible. If you have news you would like to share, please let us know.
If you like what you read on Mandala, please consider becoming a Friend of FPMT, which supports our work.
DHARMA AND THE MODERN WORLD
In 1972, Dr. Nicholas Ribush arrived at Kopan Monastery in Nepal. After attending the Third Kopan Course, he offered to help Lama Zopa Rinpoche revise Rinpoche’s The Wish-Fulfilling Golden Sun of the Mahayana Thought Training, which served as the teaching text for the course. Rinpoche accepted the offer, and for several years Nick lived at Kopan, attending the month-long courses, working on revisions to The Wish-Fulfilling Golden Sun, and editing notes and transcriptions from Rinpoche’s teachings into course commentaries.
After many years of offering service to a variety of FPMT activities, including Wisdom Publications, Nick founded the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive, which is responsible for the collection and dissemination of Lama Yeshe’s and Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s teachings and advice. How to Practice Dharma: Teachings on the Eight Worldly Dharmas is the Archive’s most recent publication and the second in their FPMT Lineage Series. In July 2012, Mandala spoke with Nick, who currently serves as the Archive’s director, about the evolution of the FPMT Lineage Series and how its roots stretch all the way back to The Wish-Fulfilling Golden Sun.
Mandala: In the publisher’s preface to the new book How to Practice Dharma, you write about how during your first Kopan course in 1972 you encountered Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s textbook The Wish-Fulfilling Golden Sun of the Mahayana Thought Training. Can you describe how that first textbook looked and what has happened subsequently to it?
Nick: It was legal size or, in British English, foolscap. The book was tall and skinny with two holes punched and bound with a kind of a shoelace. Then it had a loose cover on it.
It was put together by Massimo Corona and some of the other students from the second course, which happened in March 1972. It was pretty rough and the English was pretty sketchy, but Rinpoche went through it line by line, paragraph by paragraph, section by section; we didn’t get through the whole book during the month of the third course, which was the first one that I attended, but he would read part of it and then give an explanation. I guess you saw the story of how I got to Kopan in Mandala [July-September 2011]. I certainly wasn’t expecting a life-changing experience, but that is what it turned out to be, and somehow at the heart of it was this book. This is what we studied and read every day.
At the end after the course, I remember we had a group photo on top of the hill at Kopan, and after the group photo, I went up to Rinpoche and said, “Rinpoche, thank you for changing my life.” He kind of laughed and held my hand, and we sort of started to walk down the hill holding hands, but I was too shy and I pulled away. It was pathetic.
Subsequently, I went to him and said, “Look, I think this is really a great book, but I think it could be improved.” He said, “Well, yeah. It was put together basically by the students, and I have some ideas. I would like to revise the whole thing. So, if you would like to help me, you can.” Between the third course and the fourth course, my girlfriend at the time, Yeshe Khadro, and I spent several hours for at least six weeks with Rinpoche re-writing the whole thing, basically from cover to cover, and creating a new edition for the fourth course in spring 1973.
After the fourth course, some of us went up to Lawudo for the first time. I had my notes from the third course and the notes from the fourth course of Brian Beresford and myself. During that time at Lawudo, I started putting together these notes as a commentary to the Wish-Fulfilling Golden Sun. In the course of doing that, I realized how much of Rinpoche’s teachings we missed by just taking notes, so I determined for the next course, the fifth, to write down (we didn’t have electricity at Kopan at the time or tape recorders) as much of it as I could.
At the fifth course, I sat down right in front of the throne with a big, fat Indian notebook and started writing. For the whole month, I wrote down pretty much everything he said, making up abbreviations as I went along, writing in my best medical student scrawl. The amazing thing afterwards was that Yeshe Khadro could read what I had written, including the abbreviations, so she typed it all up. Then I edited that transcript.
Up to that time we had been printing on a Gestetner duplicating machine, a machine that printed from wax stencils. You take the ribbon out of a typewriter, and you reel a wax stencil into the typewriter, and you type on it. The keys cut the wax. It is quite tedious, and if you make a mistake, you have to paint over it with nail polish and then wait for that to dry and try to line that letter up again, and you hit it again and it cuts through. Where there is a mistake, it comes out blotchy because it doesn’t cut cleanly. These stencils have a kind of strip on top with holes punched in it. The holes clip onto something that holds them at the top of the roller. You ink up the roller, and then you roll this stencil through. The ink goes through where you have cut it with the typewriter keys, and it prints onto the paper. It can be done by hand, or later on, they had electric ones.
After we printed some of these in downtown Kathmandu, I said to Lama Yeshe, “I think that it makes sense that we get our own Gestetner machine.” We could do our own printing instead of paying these Nepalese businesses. He was always into saving money; but he was also not into spending money. Much to my amazement, he agreed. It was quite a lot of money – 15,000 rupees or something – to buy one of these things, but he agreed we could buy it, which really kind of shocked me. At first we kept it down at Sister Max [Mathews]’ house in Kathmandu because she had electricity. Then later on when we got electricity at Kopan, I think in 1974, we brought it up and had our own little printing press at Kopan.
The monks used to write their own stencils. If you didn’t use a typewriter, you could use special sharp stencil cutters like a stylus with a rounded, but fairly pointed tip. So they used to write their own Tibetan texts.
In between courses, I would work with Rinpoche to keep refining the book. For the first few courses, the book kept having material added or changed or modified. We printed a new version before the fourth course, the fifth course, the sixth course, the seventh course, and then in 1975 (the Lamas [Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche] had started traveling in 1974), when I traveled with the Lamas on that world tour. I do remember doing some work with Rinpoche at Chenrezig Institute [in Australia] on some changes he wanted to make to the book, but that was the last time we did any editorial work on it. A new edition was printed for the eighth course at the end of 1975. At that time in 1975, the courses started becoming annual rather than twice a year because the Lamas were traveling. Rinpoche used the book for the next two or three years, and I think in 1978 or 1979, he stopped using it altogether. I was never quite sure why, but he didn’t teach from it anymore. That was the end of the development of the book, actually.
For the Lamas’ teachings in Australia in 1976, it was printed with spiral binding and much better printing. I think this was produced by Ven. Robina Courtin. Robina’s family had a printing company in Melbourne, Commando Printing Services, and they printed this version. Brian Beresford’s and my notes that I edited in Lawudo in 1973 became Meditation Course Notes, Volume I. This was our notes from the third and fourth courses. Then the notes that I took in the fifth course became a 400-page commentary on the Wish-Fulfilling Golden Sun.
These are all online now at lamayeshe.com. Our goal is to put up the transcripts of all Rinpoche’s Kopan Course teachings. I think we have over half of them online at the moment. Hopefully, by the end of this year or next year, we will have all 40 course transcripts in their entirety online.
Mandala: What drew you to this work? You didn’t have an editing or publishing background, yet here you are all these years later having done so much of it, first at Kopan, then at Wisdom and now with the Archive.
Nick: Most of the people left after the Kopan Course, but Yeshe Khadro and I both felt that we wanted to stay and help the Lamas. They completely changed our lives, and we wanted to help them. We did some different things after the course; we helped organize the Kopan library which was pretty rudimentary. She was a nurse; I was a doctor, so we set up the first clinic at Kopan to treat the young monks, the Westerners, and the local Nepali villagers. But, I don’t know, I think I knew what good writing was, and there was no one else around. I just threw out the idea to Rinpoche, and he immediately jumped on it. So I kind of got into it like that. Rinpoche had a lot to say. So I think it just became natural that we wanted to preserve those teachings and make them available, too.
This is not how I thought my life would turn out. I didn’t leave Australia in the early ’70s on a spiritual quest. I left looking for a good time. I certainly found that along the way, but then I finished up on a path that leads to the best possible time. One way is to say this all happened by accident. But I could also look back at all my years before I left Australia and how my medical career didn’t quite develop as I thought it was going to and I could see Lama Yeshe kind of reeling me in. Not that I really think that he was aware of my existence or that I could at all be useful, but there is a way of looking at it where you could see somehow karmically that was happening. There was some connection from the past, and it was gradually bringing me step by step closer to the Lamas with whom I think there must be past connections. That is how it works. It was actually for me very strong. Lama Yeshe finished up marrying my mother. [Laughs.]
Mandala: Tell us about the relationship between the new book How to Practice Dharma and Publishing the FPMT Lineage. And how are the early Kopan courses connected to the Archive and the FPMT Lineage Series?
Nick: Both of the Lamas’ teachings are important, but Rinpoche gave by far the most teachings. Lama Yeshe would drop in now and then at the end of the course. He would come and give a talk on refuge and precepts and give refuge and precepts and sometimes bodhisattva vows, but the vast majority of the teachings were by Rinpoche. To a certain extent, it was useful to bring out these huge commentaries for the students who were there. We would print out a couple of hundred copies, but they weren’t that reader friendly.
I did six or seven Kopan courses in a row until Lama Yeshe sent me to Delhi to start Tushita Mahayana Meditation Centre, and then I stopped living in Kopan and started living in Delhi. I was at the third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth courses, I think.
During my time at Kopan, I saw what would be useful would be to produce a series of topic-based commentaries on the nature of the mind, on the perfect human rebirth, on impermanence and death, on the three lower realms, refuge and karma – the main lam-rim topics that were really the heart of Rinpoche’s teachings. So, this was an idea that has been in my mind for 35-40 years.
Creating books from teachings is so much editorial work. For a person to be able to edit the Lamas’ teachings, you needed to meet basically five criteria: a good understanding of Dharma; a familiarity with the Lamas’ language; the ability to create a coherent manuscript with a beginning, middle and end; the time to do it; and essentially, the ability to do it for nothing or for little money. Who can do all that? Also, what tends to happen in FPMT is that the people who do want to put their life into it full-time already have so much else to do. Editing books takes time; you really need to work full-time at it. Even when we established Wisdom Publications, obviously, a large part of our mission would have been to publish the teachings of Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche. But somehow, the way the company developed, there was never enough money to pay people to edit the Lamas’ teachings.
The first Wisdom Publications book [Wisdom Energy, published in 1976] was edited by Jon Landaw and Alex Berzin from the Lamas’ 1974 lectures in the United States. That sort of came together as a labor of love. Later, Brian Beresford showed up with Advice from a Spiritual Friend, teachings by Geshe Rabten and Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey, which were a couple of thought-training commentaries. We did the first print of that in Delhi. Then Lama said we should set up Wisdom in Delhi, and in 1978 Robina came down to work with me on that. I was there trying to start the center. Then Lama Yeshe changed his mind and said, “No, we should do it at Manjushri Institute.” He called together Jon Landaw, Chris Kolb, Robina and some other people who were there studying in the geshe program, including, Thubten Wangmo, Thubten Yeshe, Sangye Khadro, and Connie Miller. So they got involved in editing some teachings, and then they put out Silent Mind, Holy Mind some of Lama’s Christmas lectures, and then they did a couple of books of Kelsang Gyatso, the resident geshe at Manjushri Institute.
Wisdom gradually gravitated more towards London, then the guy who was running it quit, and Lama Yeshe asked me to take over in 1983. We started getting manuscripts like Jeffery Hopkins’ Meditation on Emptiness. And other authors were sending us fairly complete manuscripts, which were much easier to edit and publish. So the Lamas’ teachings were always put on the back burner because these things that were easier and less cost intensive to publish came along. Gradually, Wisdom developed, publishing other people’s teachings and not Lama Yeshe’s and Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s. It very rarely happened that the Lamas’ books got done.
In 1995 and ’96, when circumstances came about that I should leave Wisdom and when I wasn’t sure what I would do, Rinpoche said, “Well, take the Archive out of Wisdom, and set it up as a separate FPMT entity and focus on that.” He never said “focus on my teachings.” He always couched it in terms of focusing on Lama Yeshe’s teachings, but obviously it included Rinpoche’s teachings. So we set up the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive as a separate FPMT entity.
In the past, whenever I started something like Tushita Mahayana Meditation Centre or when I was looking for funding for Wisdom, or doing different projects like starting Kurukulla Center (after we eventually moved to Boston with Wisdom,) I tended to put out a brochure that explains the project. Starting with IMI [International Mahayana Institute] back in 1974 and trying to get funding for Mount Everest Centre, we’d put out a brochure that explains the project, and people sent us money. So this time, I thought I would do it differently. I put out a little book containing Lama Yeshe’s teachings and sent that around so people could actually get a taste of what the Archive contains. We put out the first edition of Becoming Your Own Therapist. That was so unbelievably, wildly successful, and we got so much feedback saying, “Wow! These are amazing teachings and it is amazing that it is a free book.” That set us on the course of doing free books.
These were just scratching the surface of what the Archive contained. We had this idea that the Archive would create books for Wisdom Publications to publish, but somehow Wisdom was never able to put in enough money, because the amount of money it took to do things would never be recouped by selling the books. It wasn’t really a workable business model from Wisdom’s point of view.
Mandala: How was the Archive finally able to begin publishing a series based on Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s lam-rim teachings?
Nick: In 2007, after about five years of trying to raise enough money to hire editors and publish more of the Lamas’ teachings, I got a letter from Rinpoche saying we weren’t doing things well enough or fast enough – you know, our operations were rusty. So, I came up with this new plan called Publishing the FPMT Lineage, which was a million-dollar-plus plan. What it involved was paying someone to travel with Lama Zopa Rinpoche to record everything he taught because we weren’t getting recordings in a timely fashion from the centers and what we got was often of poor quality – basically untranscribable – and sometimes we didn’t get anything at all. It also included paying transcribers and people to edit. Jen Barlow, our finance manager, and I flew to Portland and presented the plan to FPMT International Office, but they were unable to offer financial support to it.
A month later, I got an email from one of Rinpoche’s Asian students, who I didn’t know even existed, saying that she was looking on the website and saw an older fundraising plan and was wondering how it was coming together – maybe she could help us with that. I said, “Well, that plan didn’t work, but have I got a plan for you!” I sent her the US$1,045,000 plan. She said, “Ok, look, I’ll send you $45,000 right away, and I’ll give you half a million as a matching grant. You raise money to match it, and there is your million dollars. But I won’t wait for you to get the funds. I will give you the half million right away so that you can start immediately, but over five years you have to raise $100,000 a year.” I said, “Ok. I’ll take the money,” which I did, and we’ve been able to raise the money each year to match it.
That immediately allowed us to hire Ven. [Thubten] Kunsang to start traveling with Rinpoche and record him. As for transcribers, we ended up hiring one person, Ven. [Thubten] Munsel, as our chief transcriber. She doesn’t work full-time because to do 40 hours a week is just too hard, but she does a lot. We could probably do with another person, because there is still a huge backlog from the ’80s and ’90s that has not been transcribed. But transcribers are hard to find. We have had so many come and go. They try it; they can’t do it. Either they can’t hear Rinpoche or they get too much lung doing it. There are a lot of obstacles to that job for some reason. But, anyway, a lot is getting transcribed.
In terms of hiring editors, we tried a few people. Then Gordon McDougall, who is a long-time student of the Lamas and had been involved with the Hong Kong center, got involved. When he was in London, he worked with Geshe Tashi Tsering to develop and edit the six books in Geshe Tashi’s Foundation of Buddhist Thought series published by Wisdom.
We also were able to hire Ven. (as she was then) Namdrol [Miranda Adams] part-time. She edited Yangsi Rinpoche’s Lamrim Chenmo commentary called Practicing the Path for Wisdom, and we hired her to start going through all Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s lam-rim teachings and “basketing” them. As you read through a Kopan course transcript, you cut and paste the teaching into a topic basket: perfect human rebirth, refuge, karma, yada, yada, yada. There are so many things that Rinpoche covered from one course to another.
The idea was we would collect everything Rinpoche has ever said on perfect human rebirth into the perfect human rebirth basket and so forth. When everything is chopped up like that and basketed, then you go back, sort out all the teachings and you make a coherent whole on the topic out of it. We decided some years ago that we would use the outline from Pabongka Rinpoche’s Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand to organize these teachings as that was probably the main lam-rim text that Rinpoche used to refer to when he was giving his “lam-rim commentaries.” It was that and The Essential Nectar, but mainly that. So we decided to use the outline of Liberation since we had it and since it was quite detailed and quite extensive.
Then Maitripa College started, and Namdrol had to work for that, so she couldn’t do the basketing anymore. Ven. Trisha Donnelly took over; I think she was between her stints as Root Institute director. So between Namdrol and Trisha, we had a lot of the teachings basketed. By the time Gordon came on board, he had a lot of material to work with, and the system was kind of established, so he went through and did the rest. Still we had this idea we needed five editors. But then as Gordon started working on it, it became fairly apparent that, actually, one full-time editor was probably enough.
We were also putting more and more teachings online, so then we started organizing the online teachings a little better. We started Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s Online Advice Book. Originally Michelle Bernard was working on that. Then we hired Sandy Smith in Australia, an old student of Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa from Chenrezig Institute in the ’70s, to be our web editor. Rather than hiring five book editors like we’d planned, we hired a couple of people to be web editors. Gordon, we found, was able to actually manage most of the lam-rim editing. Ven. Ailsa Cameron was still doing editing, too. She did the book Heart of the Path, on the guru devotion teachings, which is, in retrospect, the first book in the FPMT Lineage Series. We also have Ross Moore from Melbourne. He is editing Rinpoche’s emptiness teachings.
Gordon started producing manuscripts, and we didn’t really find anybody else that we needed, but at that point, Wendy Cook stepped down after six years as director of Kurukulla Center, and somehow none of the replacements that Rinpoche checked either could do it or came out. So Rinpoche basically threw my name in the hat and pulled me out, and I had to do that for two years, which was good. I was able to complete the stupa project that Wendy had begun. During those two years, Geshe Tsulga had been diagnosed with cancer. He passed away at the end of 2010.
Because I was so busy running the center, my archive work got quite a bit behind. Gordon kept churning out the manuscripts, so now we have, I think, seven or eight for me to get to because I really need to go through them. Also during this time, Adele Hulse finished writing Lama Yeshe’s biography [Big Love]. We hired Ven. Connie Miller for that. She’s been working on Lama Yeshe’s biography for the last three-and-a-half years. Jon Landaw is helping as a consultant editor on that as well. But Big Love is not coming out of the Publishing the FPMT Lineage project. It’s a separate fund. Additionally, Ven. Sarah Thresher is developing our new Heart Advice Series, based on Rinpoche’s more recent teachings.
We also decided to build up the FPMT photo archive, so we hired David Zinn to do that. David has been working for us for three or four years as a photo editor, or, digital imaging specialist, as we call him. It is important to document FPMT history in photos, but also there will be material for Lama Yeshe’s biography and we are able to use a lot of the photos in the FPMT Lineage Series books.
The first book I thought we should do is Rinpoche’s teachings on the eight worldly dharmas, which is something that I have wanted to do since 1974, when during the Sixth Kopan Course Rinpoche gave his most extensive teaching on the eight worldly dharmas. That is partly the backbone of the new book How to Practice Dharma. Following this, teachings on the perfect human rebirth and impermanence and death have been sponsored. The matching grant for Publishing the FPMT Lineage project pays for the editing, but it doesn’t pay for the printing. We find sponsors to cover the printing costs. How to Practice Dharma was covered by sponsors in Singapore.
Mandala: Oh really, how much does it cost to sponsor the printing of a book?
Nick: About $15,000 U.S. dollars.
Mandala: How many books do you have printed when you do a print run and where are they printed.
Nick: Usually we print 5,000 copies with a printer in Michigan. And you know, all of our books are available as e-books now.
Mandala: These days, at least in the Western world, I think we have almost come to take for granted access to authentic Dharma teachings, because we can access them day or night online, especially if we are English speakers. It is something to rejoice in. Clearly the Archive, Wisdom and other publishers and technology developments have all made this possible, but sometimes I feel like the stack of unread Dharma books at my home is more than I can read in one lifetime and they just accumulate like anything else. What are your thoughts on the availability and publishing of Dharma materials in 2012? With your 40 years’ experience in this area, can you give us some perspective on how things have changed.
Nick: If you stack up all the authentic (and I say authentic because there is a lot of inauthentic stuff out there) English language Dharma books, and you compare them to a stack of Tibetan texts, it would be tiny. We think there is a huge amount of Dharma books, but look at the amount of writing in Tibet. There is the Kangyur and the Tengyur, they themselves contain far more than the English language Dharma books. Then there are thousands and thousands, probably hundreds of thousands of Tibetan texts (texts that were written in Tibet) over a thousand years – Tsongkhapa’s collected works, this lama’s collected works, that lama’s collected works. There will never be in the English language anywhere near what is available in Tibetan. Right there is part of your answer. And, I think you can never have too much Dharma.
There is no one person who has read every Tibetan book, so there will never be an English speaker who has read every English book. I find it useful to have all these books because when I am working on something, I can refer to all these books. We like to footnote our books. We can read more about this topic or that topic, or you can look books up to confirm something that you are not clear about when you are editing.
I think that is very useful, but I certainly know what you mean. I’ve got a huge collection of books. I’ve got every Wisdom book. I’ve got most of the Snow Lion books. I’ve got many Shambhala books, and those are just the Dharma publishers. I’ve got many books by His Holiness, and you know, most of them are unread.
When I first got into it, we were hard-pressed 40 years ago to find an authentic English language Dharma book to be honest. I think these days people are incredibly fortunate to be able to find books that they can relate to and connect with and read.
You can visit the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive online, where you can find teachings and advise from Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche, historic photos, information on how you can support the Archive’s work and more.
- Tagged: interview, kopan course, lama yeshe, lama yeshe wisdom archive, lama zopa rinpoche, mandala, nicholas ribush
Hayagriva Retreat at Tushita Meditation Centre
By Melissa Mouldin
The one-month Most Secret Hayagriva Retreat with the amazing Lama Zopa Rinpoche and 120+ FPMT sisters and brother at Tushita Meditation Centre in Dharamsala, India, during March 2010 was, unsurprisingly, wonderful!
During the first week, we were blessed to have teachings usually two or three times per day from Rinpoche. The night we were scheduled to begin the Hayagriva Initiation at 9 p.m., Rinpoche didn’t start his preparation until 9 p.m. and continued until 4 a.m. Then we all woke up at 4 a.m. to start the initiation, which stretched out over six sessions over three days – it took more than 20 hours total.
Once the initiation was completed, the next three weeks were spent in the actual Hayagriva Retreat which included Lama Chöpa and precepts every morning, and three sessions of Hayagriva sadhana practice each day. Each session, prostrations to the 35 Buddhas, lam-rim prayer and the retreat motivation were led in English by Ven. Sarah Thresher. The Hayagriva sadhana was led entirely in Tibetan by a Sera geshe in true Sera fashion (i.e., very high-speed Tibetan!) This worked well because retreatants only had the long sadhana in English, so time was short for the mantra recitation!
Lama Zopa Rinpoche came consistently for the last evening session. It seemed important to Rinpoche that we all complete at least 100,000 recitations in time for the fire puja. Some people even completed 400,000 recitations. Altogether the group recited 13 million mantras.
The daily schedule was incredibly consistent except for the times when Dagri Rinpoche and Khadro-la lead a incense puja or taught. On another occasion, the abbot of Sera Monastery also taught.
Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s teachings emphasized emptiness and bodhicitta mindfulness (e.g. while leaving the room, one thinks “I am leading all sentient beings out of the prison of samsara”). He asked retreatants many nights if they were actually practicing and eagerly listened to students’ examples of how they were being mindful. Other major topics included commentary on the Hayagriva sadhana and what to visualize during the mantra recitation, Lama Chöpa commentary, the importance of guru devotion, the benefits of prostrations, and even an extensive commentary one night on the location and condition of the Kopan and Buxa toilets!
On March 30, the retreat ended with a full-day, very elaborate Hayagriva tsog; two fire pujas (because not all the retreatants could fit into Tushita’s fire puja house all at once), one led by Dagri Rinpoche and the other led by Keutsang Rinpoche. The next day, retreatants offered a brief long-life puja for Lama Zopa Rinpoche and then rushed off to have a private audience with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who very kindly gave retreatants a wonderful talk during the lunch break of his private retreat.
During His Holiness’s talk, he emphasized the importance of studying the works of the 17 Nalanda Scholars and the need for a free Tibet if the Dharma is to continue to exist in this world. He also gave retreatans this advice for returning to their daily lives: “Remember mindfulness, holistic view, and compassion.”
On April 1, retreatants received a rare long life Hayagriva/Amitayus initiation and spent the next day with Lama Zopa Rinpoche and Keutsang Rinpoche performing an incense puja and having a picnic.
Rinpoche in Indonesia
From January 25 to February 7, Lama Zopa Rinpoche gave Guhyasamaja initiation and a commentary on Lama Chöpa to the members of Potowa Center in Tangerang, Indonesia. More than 100 people attended the teachings. Nearly half of the attendees were foreigners, comprising 23 lay and ordained people from Malaysia, Singapore, Chile, Spain, the US, Belgium, Mexico and Switzerland.
During the teachings, Rinpoche made a collection of relics available to the public for circumambulation and viewing.
At a public dinner, Rinpoche spoke at length on the important of Lama Atisha in the spread of Buddhism to Tibet, stressing the role Lama Serlingpa played while Lama Atisha was studying in Indonesia.
Rinpoche also took time to visit Jambi to give teachings and perform puja at the site where Lama Serlingpa taught Lama Atisha for 12 years. Rinpoche taught on emptiness and the 12 links of dependent origination, and spent time explaining the meaning of the refuge prayer (Sang gyä chhö dang tshog kyi chhog nam la …), which Lama Atisha composed. The teachings concluded with an oral transmission of Calling the Guru From Afar by Pabongka Rinpoche.
Mongolian Nunnery Destroyed by Fire
By Ven.Thubten Gyalmo
In October 2001, a small, dedicated group of Mongolian women requested ordination and this was granted by the abbot of Sera Je Monastery, thus marking the beginnings of the first community of ordained women in Mongolia. Traditionally, in Mongolia’s Buddhist history, educating women was never given priority.
Initially, the newly ordained nuns were provided accommodation and support from FPMT Mongolia’s first center, Shedrup Ling, in Ulaanbaatar and were taught by Ven. Gyatso (Dr. Adrian Feldmann), who was the resident teacher from 1999 to 2003.
The historic and beautiful grounds, together with the remaining buildings of the former Dara Ehk Monastery, located some 5 miles (8 kilometers) from the center of Ulaanbaatar, were offered to Lama Zopa Rinpoche in April 2001. The 15 original temple buildings, constructed mostly from wood and bricks 230 years ago, were a gift to the Mongolians from the Manchu Emperor. Sadly, these were destroyed in the 1930s during the Communist occupation.
In May 2003, after repair of the buildings was complete, the nuns took up residence and have been fortunate to have two senior nuns from the Kopan Nunnery in residence for varying lengths of time, providing instruction in Tibetan language, teaching rituals, pujas and some Buddhist philosophy. There are presently eight Dolma Ling nuns, ranging from 20 to 97 years of age. Their routine includes morning and evening pujas, daily classes, Lama Chöpa, Tara and Medicine Buddha pujas each month, nyung näs and relevant practices on the special Buddhist days of the year.
Unfortunately, on December 4, 2009, a fire destroyed the kitchen, two adjoining accommodation rooms, the shower and inside toilet. One room was occupied by our oldest nun who had to be rescued via a narrow window. Dolma Ling had no alternative but to temporarily close with some nuns being accommodated with their families and some at Shedrup Ling.
Lama Zopa Rinpoche has expressed a wish to build a new nunnery as a matter of priority and drawings are under way. In the forefront of our minds is fundraising and planning to carefully maximize the short window of construction time, due to Mongolia’s freezing winters. Meanwhile, in order for the nuns to return, Dolma Ling will create a temporary kitchen, some bathing facilities and use outside toilets – not a problem in the summer but during the winter is problematic.
The establishment and development of the Dolma Ling Nunnery is one of FPMT Mongolia’s vital projects and part of the great visionary efforts of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Lama Zopa Rinpoche to revive Buddhism in Mongolia. During his last visit to Mongolia, His Holiness said to the Mongolian people, “you have the greater responsibility to carry the preservation of the Nalanda tradition because the Tibetan nation is in great danger.”
For more information please contact Ven. Thubten Gyalmo (Glenda Lee), Director of Dolma Ling Nunnery at firstname.lastname@example.org or +976 11 321580
A Weekend with 16 Guidelines
The students of Gendun Drupa Centre and Longku Centre in Switzerland met together with Valentina Dolara, a 16 Guidelines facilitator, to explore Essential Education’s 16 Guidelines for Life.
One attendee, Séverine Gondouin, reports that “[t]hrough many different deep and lively exercises (talking, sharing, Zen inquiries, writing, small movies, etc.), we went through the 16 Guidelines, seeing how they make sense into our daily life, how they can so strongly help and change our perceptions, our views, our attitude and so our life. That was really a powerful experience which still fills me.”
Jean-Paul Gloor, who had been exposed to other ideas about universal education shared that seeing the 16 Guidelines in Switzerland was “one big dream, which after about 12 years, was coming true.”
Elise Vouillamoz, who is currently studying social work, described how she wants to work with Essential Education and the 16 Guidlines in the future, “I have the intention to take Essential Education as a subject for my dissertation, because after having used it during difficulties, it proved to be very beneficial ….”
“Above all,” Anna Figliola an attendee concludes, “[it] fills me with joy to know that everywhere in this world, there are people with a good will, who ask themselves questions, who try to change to bring a better world. And this is an enormous hope!”
Skillful Means in the New Millennium: A Historic Skype Call
By Namdrol Miranda Adams
The 21st century has brought the advent of a brand new method for the buddhas and bodhisattvas to subdue sentient beings – in the form of the internet software connectivity tool Skype.
In March of 2010, Yangsi Rinpoche, President of Maitripa College, traveled to Madison, Wisconsin to see his heart-teacher Geshe Sopa Rinpoche, one of the most important and respected teachers of the Gelug lineage. Once there, moved by great compassion for the program students left behind in class in Portland, Rinpoche requested Geshe Sopa Rinpoche to join the class in progress via internet – by “skyping” in.
In response to this request, on Saturday, March 27, Geshe Sopa Rinpoche skyped for the first time. Upon connecting with the students in Portland online, Geshe-la looked at the screen with a wide and joyful smile, pointed, and laughed out loud. “Can you see me?” Geshe-la asked the screen incredulously.
In response, the program students, waiting with bated breath on the other side of virtual reality, laughed back. “Yes!” they cried out, “We can see you, Geshe-la.”
Hilarity ensued on both sides.
Once things settled down, the Maitripa students offered a long mandala and requested Geshe Sopa Rinpoche to have a long and stable life. Geshe Sopa Rinpoche replied “Okay, okay,” and then offered the students the oral transmission of Lama Tsongkhapa’s Migtsema, and the Manjushri prayer Gangloma. Then Geshe Sopa Rinpoche offered a few short words of advice for their studies at Maitripa College.
Despite the physical distance, the students were visibly moved by the experience of skyping with Geshe Sopa Rinpoche. “It was awesome, so beautiful,” says Ven. Thubten Munsel, one of the Maitripa College program students. “It was like Geshe Sopa Rinpoche was actually there with us.”
Geshe Sopa Rinpoche, from his side, seemed pleased as well. When asked by Yangsi Rinpoche how Geshe-la felt about the experience, Geshe-la smiled, beamed, and shook his head. “Very good,” said Geshe-la, “Very good.”
Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive Launches the LYWA Image Gallery
In April 2010, Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive launched their new online image gallery. The gallery features some of the archive’s extensive collection, with the earliest group of images stretching as far back as 1967. Each image has been digitally optimized, titled and associated with a collection of searchable keywords by David Zinn. The website also allows slideshow viewing, affording a simple and elegant way to experience what the image gallery has to offer.
Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive will announce new photos available monthly through their e-newsletter. Although the enormous task of restoring, retouching, cataloguing and removing duplicates is still underway, the estimated number of images is around 25,000. The archive encourages everyone to visit the gallery, and is always seeking help from people who have information about the photographs in order to better catalogue them.
Lama Beach Party
By Li Lightfoot
Bright and early on Saturday morning we all piled in a rented car and headed south to Daly City to pick up our Geshe Dakpa and head down to Santa Cruz’s Sea Cliff State Beach for the Lama Beach Party!
Tse Chen Ling stalwart, Venerable Losang Chokyi, Director Michelle Stewart, SPC Charles Smith, TCL board member Viela Du Pont Al-Kayyali and yours truly were all packed in and excited to spend a day at the beach with Choden Rinpoche, Lama Zopa Rinpoche, Geshe Dakpa and assorted FPMT Sangha and community members from the San Francisco Bay and Santa Cruz areas. Another car with other TCL members left a little later. We all met up at the beach.
It was a beautiful and warm, sunny April day. We arrived just as folks were setting up – easily finding our group by the prayer flags strung round the gazebo. Food and drink were laid out fit for a prince and in vast quantities. Soon, Choden Rinpoche and Lama Zopa Rinpoche arrived. There was a great flurry of activity as these venerables were met by Geshe Dakpa and escorted to shade tents set up on the beach.
Lunch was served and the lamas were left to themselves to talk about whatever it is lamas talk about when no one else is about! I sure would have loved to have been a little bird (who speaks Tibetan) sitting on the roof of that tent listening to that conversation!
An hour or so later, Choden Rinpoche and Geshe Dakpa left. Lama Zopa Rinpoche then started mingling with the guests, being introduced to new and old friends and supporters and thanking everyone for their work for the Dharma and encouraging us to continue to work for the benefit of sentient beings and to please our holy gurus, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Lama Yeshe.
I personally received a sound throttling from Lama Zopa Rinpoche! After greeting him, he began speaking of the benefits of working with the FPMT, all the while patting me firmly on my bowed bald head – I think he was trying to knock some sense into me!
After a bit, Lama Zopa Rinpoche decided he wanted to walk out on the pier where the not so famous half-sunk concrete ship is. The plan was to bless the water and all the beings therein. On the way out to the pier, Lama Zopa Rinpoche encountered a puppy tied to a pole that he proceeded to bless with mantras. The puppy was blissed out and the people around weren’t quite sure what was going on. It was a very heart-warming moment.
Out on the pier, mantra boards were prepared and folks were dunking them in the water. Lama Zopa Rinpoche gave a short teaching on the benefit of the practice, explaining that by “impressing” the mantras upon the water all beings who lived in the water or who came in contact with it were blessed.
Several folks actually brought the large mantra boards into the water and made great effort to spread the energy of the mantras. Several folks got seriously drenched while fully clothed for the benefit of living beings.
One of the fishermen on the pier, after approaching Venerable Namsel about what was going on, agreed to stop fishing while the blessing was in progress. Kyle the red-headed fisherman – I will never forget his smile when Lama Zopa Rinpoche approached him and thanked him for stopping. He actually waited until Lama Zopa left (about two hours later) and stayed the whole time. Another young man from another group of fishermen actually joined in the prayers and dedication that Lama Zopa Rinpoche performed after the water blessing.
Needless to say this synopsis doesn’t cover all the wonderful and fascinating happenings at the Lama Beach Party. A wonderful time it was, and as for me, it sure beat barbequing sentient beings and swilling beer!
Thubten Norbu Ling Turns 10!
On May 6, 2010, Thubten Norbu Ling celebrated its ten-year anniversary, marking a significant milestone for the center as an important member of Santa Fe, New Mexico’s spiritual community.
The first teaching given to Thubten Norbu Ling was given by Ven. Connie Miller in a yurt behind the home of Ajna Seret and his family. Today, the center’s resident teacher is Don Handrick, a graduate from FPMT Master’s Program, who teaches a robust program. The center also regularly hosts retreats and receives visits from other teachers such Geshe Thubten Sherab, Ven. Robina Courtin, Ven. Connie Miller, Anila Ann McNeil and Joan Stigliani, among others.
Another Jade Buddha for Universal Peace Day
On May 22, 2010, Joseph C. O’Brien, the mayor of Worcester, Massachusetts officially declared that day as Jade Buddha for Universal Peace Day.
The proclamation noted that “The City of Worcester is committed to recognizing and honoring those events that are dedicated to the best ideals of public service and the tour of the Jade Buddha for Universal Peace is one such worthy occasion.”
Similar proclamations have been made in Charlotte, North Carolina and the County of San Diego, California.
His Holiness Visits Boca Raton, Florida
On February 24, 2010, His Holiness the Dalai Lama taught for the first time in Boca Raton, Florida to an audience of nearly 3,000.
Jacie Keeley, who organized for FPMT His Holiness’ first European during in 1982, remarks on how His Holiness’ teaching tours have changed: “The FPMT Vajra Guard of students was replaced by an impenetrable flanking of stone faced and menacing CIA agents. Seventy thousand dollar Beemers and other luxury vehicles lined the parking lot. Well-appointed ladies in spiked heels sit up front in the VIP section. This is obviously the place to be seen. His Holiness is a ‘rock star.’”
His Holiness taught on the benefits of compassion and on everyone’s capability for inner peace.
“The message was universal and a perfect fit,” Keeley comments. “As perfect as the words were, it was the complete Dalai Lama “package” that touched the audience. From taking off his shoes as soon as he sat down, to expressing appreciation that the lights were on in the auditorium allowing His Holiness to see his audience, to looking in a direction and giving everyone the feeling that His Holiness was looking just at them – His Holiness moved into the hearts of his audience.”
Josie Burns, a woman in her 60s, reflected, “For me, he is a teacher likened to Jesus in Christianity. Jesus taught some of the same simple lessons …When it was time for him to leave, you could see over the large crowd how mesmerized they were. They didn’t want him to go. No one did. If I could have, I would have sat by his side as if he were Jesus of Galliee.”
Lama Zopa Rinpoche Teaches in California and Oregon
Lama Zopa Rinpoche visited Vajrapani Institute May 6 – May 10, leading and attending a whirlwind of events. Over the course of the week, Rinpoche gave a Great Chenrezig initation to about 135 students and later gave a commentary on the practice of nyung nä to 30 eager people in time for a series of nyung näs lead by Ven. Sarah Thresher. Before the commentary, Rinpoche took time to bless the recently completed Lama Yeshe cremation stupa as part of the Big Love Day celebration organized by the center.
From Vajrapani, Rinpoche flew to Portland, Oregon, to attend FPMT’s board meeting at International Office and offer the community at Maitripa College a Red Tara empowerment. The empowerment coincided with Rinpoche first meeting with the very regal and lustrous Red Tara statue that sits in the lobby. Upon seeing the statue Rinpoche made prostrations and commented, “You never see such a beautiful face,” reflecting on the statue’s superb craftsmanship.
Maitripa College Matures to Second Commencement
By Sara Blumenthal
Maitripa College in Portland, Oregon held its second commencement exercises on May 15, 2010. Maitripa is an educational affiliate of FPMT and serves as the first Buddhist College in the U.S. Pacific Northwest. The Maitripa College Class of 2010 comprised ten graduates of the Tantric Studies Certificate Program as well as two graduates of the Master of Arts in Buddhist Studies program. Presiding over the graduation ceremony was a noteworthy assemblage of Buddhist masters and scholars: Ganden Jangste Choje Rinpoche, Lama Zopa Rinpoche, Yangsi Rinpoche, Professor Jose Cabezon, and Professor James Blumenthal. Among the family and friends of the graduates, as well as special guests such as the FPMT Board of Directors, many noted that they were moved by the ceremony: a sincere, profound, and sweet graduation unlike any they’d been to before and one that illustrated the spirit of Maitripa and its students.
Jangtse Choje offered these words on study and practice during his stay at Maitripa1:
Benefiting others comes from your practice. How are you going to do the practice in detail? You need to know and study the Buddhadharma. And then practice. This is very important. I will make a strong prayer and dedication that whatever we study will not be a dry intellectual study, but whatever we study we will implement into our practice, and our practice will transform into the path of enlightenment. Lama Tsongkhapa stated that the purpose of study is to practice. It is not for dry philosophizing, but for practice. Sometimes you get very excited and you study and meditate and do so extensively. But then the continuity stops. That way you don’t make any progress. The continuity of practice, of meditation and study, is very important. Buddha Shakyamuni himself achieved enlightenment through the continuity of practice and meditation and his understanding. It didn’t miraculously happen. Therefore, don’t be short-minded, wanting to get the result quickly. Once that doesn’t happen, you get discouraged and want to drop everything. This would not be a good imprint for your mind. Keep the continuity of Dharma practice and study, and keep your vision long-term, not short-minded, but a really big vision, then expectations won’t interfere.
The Master of Arts in Buddhist Studies is the first degree program created by Maitripa in 2006. It utilizes a rare combination of the traditional training and expertise of faculty such as founder and President Yangsi Rinpoche, with respected Western scholars such as Dr. Jim Blumenthal. In 2009, Maitripa inaugurated a certificate program in Tantric Studies for advanced students and graduates of the Buddhist Studies program. In the Fall of 2010, Maitripa will offer a new degree program, the Master in Divinity, alongside its core Buddhist Studies program, as well as new courses in the field of East/West psychology. Maitripa is currently accepting applications for Fall term 2010.
1 Jangste Choje’s words were translated orally from Tibetan into English by Yangsi Rinpoche, transcribed by Maitripa College Technical Coordinator and M.A. Buddhist Studies alum, Megan Evart, and lightly edited for publication by Maitripa College Director of Student Services & Public Information, Sara Blumenthal.
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