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Chandrakirti Tibetan Buddhist Meditation Centre is situated in the rolling hills of Nelson, New Zealand, on the northern end of the country’s South Island. With the support of Lama Zopa Rinpoche, the center was founded in 1999 by Phillipa Rutherford and Bruce Farley, who serve as the center’s co-directors. In this video by Peter Kemp, you’ll have an opportunity to see the center’s beautiful grounds as well as meet some of the center’s residents, including Geshe Jampa Tharchin, who is the center’s resident geshe, and also Ven. Youdon, a resident nun.
DHARMA IN THE MODERN WORLD
By Phillipa Rutherford
On June 8, His Holiness the Dalai Lama returned in Christchurch, New Zealand, the earthquake-struck city he visited just after the February 2011 quake. At that time, His Holiness brought hope, courage and loving kindness, as well as words of wisdom about how to build in the future to a very emotional audience.
This year, His Holiness gave two two-hour teachings in Christchurch, with public talks also in both Dunedin and Auckland. In Dunedin, His Holiness visited the Dhargyey Buddhist Centre founded by the late Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey in 1985 and shared a very intimate time with sincere Dharma practitioners.
The main theme of His Holiness’ teachings was secular ethics and the need for inner values such as love, compassion, patience, tolerance and forgiveness. His Holiness spoke of these inner qualities everywhere he went. He was a special guest invited by the students at both the University of Canterbury and Otago University, where he answered the prepared questions from students in a relaxed conversational manner. His Holiness reminded the young people they were the future generation, encouraging them to develop compassionate responsibility for the well-being of the whole world, including the environment.
Due to the small number of people and it being a safe place, we are so fortunate in New Zealand that His Holiness’ visits are always very intimate with everyone receiving a personal blessing and greeting. The highlight was visiting the Dhargyey Centre in Dunedin, where His Holiness gave pith instructions on preserving the Tibetan culture, especially Tibetan medicine, which he sees as one of the most valuable forms of medicine available. His Holiness also gave specific advice to the geshes on what to teach at their Dharma centers.
His Holiness is like a ray of light wherever he goes, and it is amazing to watch the people and their reactions to this living bodhisattva.
Phillipa Rutherford serves as co-director of Chandrakirti Meditation Centre in Richmond, New Zealand.
During His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s tour of New Zealand, June 9-12, the resident geshes of the FPMT centers in New Zealand had their picture taken during a moment with His Holiness. Geshe Wangdu from Dorje Chang Institute and Geshe Jampa Tharchin from Chandrakirti Centre as well as Phillipa Rutherford, co-director of Chandrakirti Centre, posed for the photo.
About the visit, Phillipa Rutherford shared with Mandala:
His Holiness visited Christchurch, Dunedin and Auckland in New Zealand. The main theme of His Holiness teachings was secular ethics – bringing good conduct back into mainstream society – and how we can do this. His Holiness also visited two universities and spoke to hundreds of students.
This photo was taken at 5 a.m. at the hotel in Auckland. As His Holiness was leaving, he gave a short talk to the Tibetans, concluding with telling them to enjoy themselves while in the West.
From New Zealand, His Holiness toured Australia, June 14-23, visiting Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Darwin. While in Sydney, His Holiness participated in the Young Minds conference, organized by Vajrayana Institute, the FPMT center in Sydney. In Melbourne, His Holiness spoke at Happiness & Its Causes, another project of Vajrayana Institute.
For reports on His Holiness’ activities in New Zealand and Australia, visit dalailama.com.
- Tagged: chandrakirti centre, dorje chang institute, geshe jampa tharchin, geshe kelsang wangdu, his holiness the dalai lama, mandala, new zealand, phillipa rutherford
By Murray Wright
It felt like an odyssey imbued with divine inspiration, magnitude and benefit. During the worst New Zealand drought in 65 years, Ven. Tenzin Chogkyi, Brian Rae and I offered holy crystals to bless the waters of New Zealand’s North Island this year. From the guidance received, we felt like instruments of the guru-buddhas’ compassionate activity.
To benefit people in Bodhgaya, Lama Zopa Rinpoche commissioned glass crystals engraved with a special mantra of Guru Padmasambhava. Due to Padmasambhava’s stainless prayers impregnated with bodhichitta and wisdom, the minds of those drinking water touched by the mantra are blessed. Veteran stupa builder Tom Waggoner brought the crystals when he visited in 2011. We offered them into several large reservoirs around Auckland. An enthusiast of holy objects he said, “Wow, it’s so easy to create merit with these crystals. All you have to do is place them in the water!” He urged me to “get some inventory” from the FPMT Foundation Store to offer more.
In February, Brian and I had a powerful experience on an extremely hot day doing just that. As we approached our third site, Brian felt a migraine coming. These headaches, which had dogged him since youth, begin with blurred vision. At the dam-site, when launched towards the water, the crystal struck a barrier and shattered on rocks below. Dejected, we offered the shards in the water. Returning with another, we chanted the crystal’s mantra while marching 400 meters [1,312 feet] from the car up to the dam. At the top, Brian’s vision became extremely clear – crystal clear – and the headache never materialized. Unusually-shaped clouds were seen.
After recounting the story to Ven. Tenzin Chogkyi at Mahamudra Centre and sharing our plans to offer crystals in Lake Taupo and the Waikato River, she burst out, “Take me with you!” Thus the idea for our holy road trip in March was born. The Waikato is not just any river. It’s the longest in New Zealand and has spiritual significance for indigenous Māori tribes. On its 425-kilometer [264-mile] passage to the Tasman Sea, it powers turbines at eight dams producing 13 percent of the country’s electricity, provides water for cities including Auckland, nourishes farms, and is used for white-water kayaking, water skiing and world-class rowing.
While driving south from Auckland we discussed whether Māori would approve our plans. We stopped to ask the late Māori Queen, Te Atairangikaahu, buried high on Taupiri Mountain beside the Waikato. Even though there was a real sense of approval, it suddenly became clear we should seek permission from the local guardians as is done in the Tibetan tradition before building a house or starting a retreat. Serpentine water beings called nagas are said to be the guardians of waterways. Interestingly enough, Māori believe in taniwha, protective guardians of people and places. Sounded a lot like nagas to us! Our focus then turned to Uenuku, rainbow god and bringer of plentiful resources. This powerful landlord spirit led the original Māori canoes from Hawaiiki to New Zealand 800 years ago. His abode is a striking wooden carving in Te Awamutu museum 80 kilometers [50 miles] south of Taupiri. After offering a fresh willow branch and request to him, we truly felt local approval.
North Island is shaped like a stingray. In Māori legend it is known as the Fish of Maui, a demi-god who pulled it from the sea-bed. Lake Taupo, New Zealand’s biggest lake, was formed during the world’s largest known eruption in 70,000 years. This legendary “heart of the fish” was our next stop.
On the lake shore the idea of using a catapult to propel our sacred missiles arose. A sporting shop supplied the weapon, now transformed into “the holy slingshot.” It worked a treat, launching the crystal, spiraling and sparkling in the sunlight, far out into the lake. While chanting, Ven. Tenzin spotted an error in the mantra transliteration so we invoked the assistance of modern technology and FPMT International Office’s Tom Truty [director of Education Services]. The pilgrimage had gone international!
His reply didn’t reach us in time for the second crystal (we covered ourselves by reciting both versions), and it was a few hours and a 200-kilometer [124-mile] circumambulation of the now holy lake before we got to the third location. Again we were guided by unseen hands. After taking a road not intended, a flock of black swans was seen gliding high above Lake Karapiro, a large dam and recreational lake on the Waikato River. Marveling at the beauty of these birds, Ven. Tenzin said that she had never seen swans so high in the sky before. Suddenly we saw a sign pointing to a recreational reserve. Unbelievably there was mobile phone signal in this remote and stunning location, and sure enough Tom had replied. Having checked the original mantra written by Lama Zopa Rinpoche he confirmed the transliteration error. Inspired, we now chanted the correct holy mantra: OM SHA SAHABHI YATA SHA AMOGHA SAMBAHALITU.
Our last destination was where Captain Cook (New Zealands’s equivalent of Christopher Columbus) sought fresh water on the Waihou River 250 years earlier near where it empties out into the vast Pacific Ocean. As we completed our final dedications the tide was flowing in and nearly full, which seemed like a good omen. We had been guided and blessed on our journey of love. May the blessing ripples from the crystals and the echoes of the mantra continuously reverberate around the planet bringing all beings both temporal and ultimate happiness!
Murray Wright has been a student for 35 years and has served FPMT in various capacities, including as spiritual program coordinator at Vajrayana Institute, Chenrezig Institute and FPMT International Office; and as director of Land of Medicine Buddha in Soquel, California.
By Roy Fraser
I last saw Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey at this year’s Tibetan New Year, in March, at his center in Dunedin in the south island of New Zealand. Though frail of body Gen Rinpoche was still very alert mentally, and for the benefit of his students he attended Guru Puja on the full moon day.
Monday July 31, celebration of the day, six weeks after his enlightenment, that Shakyamuni Buddha first tuned the Wheel of Dharma, teaching the four noble truths. At our center, Mahamudra, at the far end of the north island, we’d just completed eight nyung-näs. It was also the 15th anniversary of my taking refuge with Gen Rinpoche in Dharamsala, and as was my custom I wrote to him, sending offerings and expressing appreciation; and I wrote again a few days later requesting relics for a small stupa we are erecting.
Friday August 11: A little R&R – a low-key dance at the local hall. Just before I left, a friend rang with the shocking news of Ashley Walker’s accidental death in Hawaii. Ashley, a resident of Vajrapani Institute in California, had been at my first course years ago at Lawudo, where Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s cave is in the Solu Khumbu region of the Nepalese Himalayas. Afterwards, we had gone on a trek together, during which he first met Shasta, his wife.
After arranging to do puja for Ashley the next day, I headed out to the dance. At about midnight I was leaning against the back wall watching the show when Layla walked up to me. “This might be a bit hard,” she said. “Gen Rinpoche passed away this afternoon.” Suddenly the show stopped. In a daze I walked the short distance home, then collapsed in a sobbing heap. At last I had a realization – I realized what it meant to cry my heart out. All the warmth had left my body and I was stuck in fetal position trying to hold on to something that had gone.
The next two days were a haze. At the Guru Puja, which was now for Gen Rinpoche as well as Ashley, I was strong in feeling but unable to mouth words; totally drained and empty, my heart ripped out.
I first got involved with the Dharma in 1980. As a complete novice Buddhist wishing to study Zen, I somehow ended up at Lawudo doing a Chenrezig initiation and a nyung-nä fasting retreat with Lama Zopa Rinpoche. After a couple of days of teachings, everyone was talking about the initiation. I had no idea what this meant or implied but somehow I’d developed faith in Lama Zopa and wanted in. But one of the prerequisites was that one should have taken refuge in the Triple Gem. What’s that? Out of his great kindness and with skillful means, Rinpoche allowed me to participate on condition that I take formal refuge at the first possible opportunity.
I went to the initiation and did the retreat, but I had absolutely no idea what was going on: when everyone else stood up I did, when they prostrated I did, when they sat I did, when they did manis I did. I was like a well-trained performing animal, with my mind mostly in Kathmandu. When I left, though, I had the determination to fulfill my commitment to take formal refuge.
Several months later, after wandering around India and Ladakh, I ended up in Dharamsala where I heard about the teachings of Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey at the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives. I nervously went along and there first set eyes on Gen Rinpoche. I also met up with John Wright, whom I had first met at Kopan Monastery, near Kathmandu, on my way to Lawudo. We shared a room, and John gave me my first introduction to Tibetan Buddhism, answering my questions: “What’s a puja?” and offering advice: “You should get a mala.” “A what?”
I explained my need to take refuge and he advised me to request Gen Rinpoche, advice for which I will be eternally grateful. Gen Rinpoche accepted my request and said to come to his room two days later, the celebration of Buddha’s first turning of the wheel.
Many people took precepts with Gen Rinpoche in the early morning of that day. Just after lunch I was escorted to his rooms. His attendant Khedrup was in the kitchen cleaning up and Gen Rinpoche had guests, but he called us in to his room anyway. After making prostrations and an offering (thanks again to John’s advice), I explained my story to Gen Rinpoche. There followed a serious exchange with the other two Tibetans in the room, which was not translated but which I imagined was about these hopeless Westerners doing things around the wrong way.
Gen Rinpoche agreed to my request. During the ceremony he asked me to repeat what he was saying. I had several tries before he was at all satisfied with my words, by which time I was very embarrassed and flustered. After giving me a refuge name and a small commitment, Gen Rinpoche asked me my Western name. “Roy Fraser,” he repeated – but it sounded nothing like Roy Fraser, which caused general mirth, and so I left on a lighter note.
In 1983 during Gen Rinpoche’s world tour, some of us in New Zealand hosted a three-day course at what was then the seed of the present Mahamudra Centre. My wife Sally and I were living in an old boat shed, and we rented a big country house for the course.
Later, by some stroke of unbelievable good fortune, Gen Rinpoche came to live in New Zealand. We bought the current Mahamudra Centre mid-1985 and immediately launched into a one-year Vajrasattva retreat after the passing away of Lama Yeshe. At the end of that it was Gen Rinpoche who guided us through he fire puja; he also gave teachings. He told us that Lama Zopa Rinpoche had asked him to help by teaching and guiding Rinpoche’s New Zealand Centers, because now that Lama was no longer there Rinpoche was so busy. Gen Rinpoche said he was very happy to do so, and since then has returned most years, giving teachings and offering advice like a benevolent father.
One year Gen Rinpoche gave extensive teachings on the Yamantaka long sadhana, and at another time he gave a commentary on the Yamantaka self-initiation. There was no doubt that one was hearing teachings from a master who had fully realized all aspects of these practices.
Gen Rinpoche last visited Mahamudra Centre in 1992 after the visit of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to New Zealand. Since then he had been taking on the aspect of aging, and we no longer had the merit to receive his holy speech.
Sunday August 13: Two days after hearing of Gen Rinpoche’s passing away, Cathi Graham from the Dunedin center rang to tell us that he was still meditating in the clear light. Knowing that I must be there, I immediately booked a seat on the first flight next morning.
Upon arrival at the center on Monday, even before the obligatory tea, Sonam Tenzin invited us to be with Gen Rinpoche. Into the familiar rooms we went and there he was on his bed in meditation posture, propped up with pillows: the holy body appearing dead but somehow still there. As a farmer I’m very familiar with death – I don’t need to feel for a heartbeat to know if something’s dead; it has a certain look. Gen Rinpoche’s holy body had a look of death but strangely not dead, like life in a dead body. I managed to conjure up a few heartfelt prayers and make prostrations.
Over tea with my vajra brothers and sisters I heard the frightening news that I was in charge of building Gen Rinpoche’s cremation stupa, to be ready Thursday morning – it was now Monday afternoon.
I had seen pictures of Lama Yeshe’s cremation, but apart from that had absolutely no idea what was involved nor, it seemed, did anyone else. I went with Lhargo Rinpoche, a close student of Gen Rinpoche, and a few others to the proposed site. We had two days to turn this into a cremation site – no materials, no tools, I didn’t even have work clothes. I work best under pressure, but this?
So with some Tibetan measurements – elbow to fingertip; four finger widths; an arm’s span – a fax from Thubten Donyo, the Gyuto monk in charge of rituals at Melbourne’s Tara Institute, and a picture of Lama’s cremation at Vajrapani, I came up with a drawing before going to bed that night of what was to be built and how. And I managed to round up some tools and a change of clothes.
Tuesday August 15: A group of us met that morning at Paul and Kari’s restaurant Ruby in the Dust to agree on tasks. We each went off in different directions to round up materials and people, arranging to be at the site at one o’clock, the plan being to get all materials onsite and the foundation slab poured by dark. And it happened!
I arrived at 12:30 – a barren hilltop, no water, couldn’t even drive to it. But by dark the slab was poured and everything was in place: bricks, water, sand, builders’ mix – literally tons of material had all been lugged up the hill. A superhuman effort carried out in good humor and harmony: I think that Gen Rinpoche would have been very pleased with the way his students worked to make the final offering.
Some time that afternoon, according to Geshe Doga (a student of Gen Rinpoche and the resident lama at Tara Institute in Melbourne) signs indicated that Gen Rinpoche had finished his clear light meditation and the consciousness had left the holy body.
Wednesday August 16: Now it was confirmed: tomorrow was the day for the cremation, so we had one day to build the structure. We worked all day. The weather forecast was not good: high winds and rain – we even constructed a large windbreak fence – but somehow the bad weather never got to us, always just on the horizon. By dark I was satisfied the stupa would be ready for the holy body by nine in the morning.
Thursday August 17: I arrived before the first peep of light, and indeed by the time the sun had risen it was ready. Just enough time for a clean-up before a yellow van appeared, and coming up the hill the knot of sangha carrying the holy body sitting upright in a hard-backed chair. Once placed inside the base of the stupa, we continued to build the upper part to enclose it – with some urgency as once again rain seemed imminent. But as soon as the fire was lit, the clouds directly above opened – not haphazardly but in a square like a door or window.
Sixty people were in attendance. Lhagon Rinpoche presided over the Yamantaka fire puja, assisted by Kechog Rinpoche from Sydney. With Geshe Doga were Geshe Pal Tsering from Dorje Chang Institute in Auckland, 13 monks and nuns from Dunedin and lay people from throughout New Zealand and some from Australia.
As the offerings began, three white birds came in from the east, circumambulated the stupa and flew off to the west. Geshe Doga later said that they were manifestations of dakinis. When the puja was finished and the fire had died down we were able to view Gen Rinpoche’s last teaching on impermanence. The holy body had been placed facing east but we could see that the backbone was now pointing directly west; and the holy skull had ended up right beside the west door of the stupa base. All pretty moving stuff.
I have no experience of knowledge about divination of signs, but I would like to think the flight of the dakinis, the holy backbone and the holy skull all indicate the possibility of Gen Rinpoche once again returning to the southern continent to help Westerners. Or perhaps they indicate that Gen Rinpoche had ascended to the pure realm, hand in hand with the Queen of Kacho. Or maybe both.
Now that the physical manifestation of the guru has gone, there’s still a big void, a hollow feeling, and many regrets about the times I let my guru down in my laziness to practice. But it’s not too late – as long as I have this human body.
After 15 years as a close disciple of a fully realized master, what have I learnt? At one point during my time as chairperson of the Trust for the Visit of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to New Zealand in 1992 things were pretty tough, lots of disharmony. I thought “I don’t need all this.” And wrote to Gen Rinpoche saying I wanted to resign. Gen Rinpoche wrote a very stern reply asking if I thought that following the guru’s wishes was supposed to be easy. In this way Gen Rinpoche taught me enthusiastic perseverance.
On another occasion I asked if Gen Rinpoche had any special advice for me in this role that I felt so hopelessly unqualified to do. The reply was to keep harmony – everything else would happen of its own accord. In this way Gen Rinpoche taught me the importance of harmony among vajra brothers and sisters. Enthusiastic perseverance and harmony: a great lesson for us in the FPMT.
There is very little in my Dharma practice that I feel good about. But I have great pride in being able to say I took sincere refuge with and was a close disciple of one of the great holy beings of our time, Gen Rinpoche, Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey.
This section of Mandala, Animal Liberation, features stories of your work to eliminate suffering for all sentient beings.
Please send your stories to firstname.lastname@example.org
By Ven. Tenzin Chogkyi
The students and staff of Mahamudra Centre in New Zealand had an incredible experience just a few days after Christmas. We got a call that there was a pod of pilot whales stranded on a beach nearby, and Ven. Nangsel, the director, the rest of the staff and students, and I spent hours pouring water over them to keep them cool and wet until the tide came in close enough so that we could swim them out for release. It was an amazing experience, although I discovered that monastic robes are not the most convenient outfit in which to guide/wrestle a 20-foot whale out to sea!
It was an extraordinary experience. Of course, I hope it never happens again, but I feel fortunate to have been able to help, to be so close to these incredible animals. I kept meditating on compassion the whole time, although at times it was so sad and overwhelming! Some died before we arrived, but we were able to keep the others alive until we could release them. Over 100 people rallied to help save these animals, which are sacred to the indigenous Maori people. It was human nature at its best, with everyone from toddlers to grandmothers working harmoniously together to save their lives.
Lama Zopa Rinpoche has taught extensively on methods for benefiting sick and dying animals. Liberating Animals (book) and Recitations for Animals (CD) are both available through the FPMT Foundation Store.
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