Archive | June 2012

Nuns of Gebchak Nunnery

Ani Lama Sherab Zangmo

The Great Yogini, Ani Lama Sherab Zangmo. © Karen Harris, 2007.

Ani Lama Sherab Zangmo was a resident nun and meditation teacher at Gebchak Gonpa. Often referred to as “The Great Yogini of Gebchak Gonpa”, Sherab Zangmo was famed among the lamas in Eastern Tibet for her high realization. She passed away in the autumn of 2008 with many signs of an accomplished practitioner. She spent 70 years in unbroken meditation practice since first coming to Gebchak Gonpa when she was 16 years old. She was the last remaining from the earliest generation of nuns at Gebchak Gonpa, and was integral in rebuilding the Nunnery in the late 1980′s and in the revival of its unique system of Buddhist practice for women. Sherab Zangmo was extraordinary in many ways: for the spontaneous enlightenment she gained through devotion to her guru, Tsang-yang Gyamtso[1]; the profound simplicity of her teachings; and her flexibility in the face of challenging conditions.

Sherab Zangmo guided the younger nuns of Gebchak Gonpa in their practice right up until the moment of her passing. As she neared the moment of her death she laughed as she encouraged the nuns, and narrated the clear visions of buddhas that were appearing before her. Read more about her passing below.

Lama Sherab Zangmo’s repeated teaching was this: “Knowing one thing, everything is liberated” – by knowing the mind through practice, everything is liberated.

An interview with Ani Lama Sherab Zangmo & Wangdrak Rinpoche

[Wangdrak Rinpoche requests Sherab Zangmo for mind-teaching and meditation instructions. She was 85 years old at the time of the interview.]

Wangdrak Rinpoche with Ani Lama Sherab Zangmo, 2007.

Sherab Zangmo: What can I say? I don’t know, Rinpoche!

Wangdrak Rinpoche: Please, it will benefit practitioners.

Sherab Zangmo: [She recites a verse.]

From the very beginning the mind’s nature is empty,
Practice naturally, free from fabrications.

Pray strongly to one’s lama, keeping one’s mind at all times in an undistracted state of devotion, faith, and pure perception.

Wangdrak Rinpoche – Question: What is the antidote when a lot of conceptual thoughts arise? How should we meditate?

Sherab Zangmo: Do not try to stop conceptual thoughts, but let them arise. Know their nature by praying to the lama, understanding that the lama’s mind and one’s own mind are inseparable. Rest in the nature of the thoughts and in this way they are transformed.

It’s impossible to stop conceptual thoughts that arise, and if you try to stop them they will only increase. See the very nature of the thoughts as they arise, pray to the lama, and rest in meditation.

[Throughout the whole interview Sherab Zangmo is continuously chanting a prayer to Tsang-Yang Gyamtso while spinning her prayer wheel.]

Sherab Zangmo: I was 16 or 17 when I first came to Gechak. At that time the Nunnery and all of the nuns were under the care of the first Wangdrak Dorje. The first Tsang-Yang Gyamtso and Tsogyal Rinpoche had both passed away by then and I never got to see them.

In the beginning of the Cultural Revolution the remaining nuns and local nomads in the area were forced to live together in tight communes. During those days I would sit in meditation up on the mountain in the daytime and return to the camp to sleep at night. After our local commune broke up I lived in my brother’s home and pretended as though I had no legs and couldn’t walk. In this way nobody forced me to work and I was able to continue my practice quietly within my mind. In 1988 when some religious freedom was regained I got up out of bed and surprised everyone by doing circumambulations around Dzong-go Ling! From then on I continued my meditation practice in a cave near the Nunnery.

Wangdrak Rinpoche: Really she is someone who has spent her entire life in meditation practice. Even though she is in her 80′s now, her intelligence and clarity of mind have not degenerated. She experiences no suffering or discomfort in her mind whatsoever, even though her body has some sickness. She is extraordinary!

She doesn’t give lengthy teachings; just a few essential words are enough. If the meaning was elaborated vast amounts could be explained. As it is taught, “Knowing one thing, everything is liberated”. By knowing the mind through practice, everything is liberated.

Sherab Zangmo:

[Sherab Zangmo recites a verse of supplication to Wangdrak Rinpoche.]

Outwardly a master of all tantras, statements and instructions,
Inwardly accomplished in the channels, winds and essences,
He who has attained the realization of Samantabhadra,
At the feet of Wangdrak Dorje, I pray.

Wangdrak Rinpoche – Q: In the old days did the nuns at Gebchak have shaven heads? I heard that it was a pure vision of Tsang-Yang Gyamtso that the nuns wear their hair slightly grown out, because they were practitioners of Secret Mantrayana.

Sherab Zangmo: Yes, the nuns all wore their hair slightly grown out. But I don’t think this tradition is written down anywhere.

Wangdrak Rinpoche: Gebchak Nunnery has an exceptional system of practice, unlike other nunneries, and the practice of the Gebchak nuns themselves is exceptional. Adeu Rinpoche has praised Gebchak Nunnery and said that it is difficult to find other nunneries with the same caliber of practice.

Sherab Zangmo is now the last nun remaining from the early generation of nuns at Gebchak. We are very fortunate to have this chance to visit with her and receive her teaching.

Sherab Zangmo: Before when I meditated I thought that I was practicing samantha[2]. When I discussed my meditation experience with my lamas they told me that it wasn’t samantha, but spontaneous recognition of the nature of mind.

[She recites another verse.]

Maintain the original natural state,
Practice free from conceptualizations.

Wangdrak Rinpoche: All Dharma is included within these two lines.

Sherab Zangmo declines to teach any Dharma. She says she has nothing to explain about what is or isn’t the true nature of mind. When we understand the true nature without stopping what arises in the mind, praying wholeheartedly to the lama whose mind is inseparable from our own, while constantly developing love and compassion for all beings… this is the Dharma.

These instructions are the same as what she taught last year.

Sherab Zangmo:

Keep one’s independence through one’s own practice of maintaining the natural state of the mind,
Protect the wishes of others through the practice of love and compassion.

Wangdrak Rinpoche: When it comes to practice, besides these two lines nothing else needs to be said. There are many stories of beings who realized spontaneously, for example that of King Indrabhuti who was liberated simply through receiving an empowerment, or Aryadeva’s realization when Nagarjuna hit him on the head with a shoe. For them, besides these simple introductions nothing else needed to be explained. When put into words there are many texts of the Buddha’s teachings, but all of these are not needed in order to realize. “Knowing one thing, everything is liberated”.

[1] Tsang-Yang Gyamtso: the founder of Gebchak Nunnery. The first Tsang-Yang Gyamtso was a heart disciple of the first Drubwang Tsoknyi Rinpoche.
[2] samantha: calm-abiding meditation.

Note: This interview was conducted in July, 2006, at Gebchak Gonpa. Translation by Tenzin Chozom.

[Extracted from: http://gebchakgonpa.org/gebchak-nuns/interviews-with-nuns/sherab-zangmo/%5D

Ani Lama Sherab Zangmo Passes Away

By admin | Published: February 25, 2009

Ani Lama Sherab Zangmo, the Great Yogini of Gebchak, in 2007.

The great yogini of Gebchak Gonpa, Sherab Zangmo, passed away in the autumn of last year at the enlightened old age of 86 or so. She had been unwell for some time, but then seemed to recover and was strong and in high spirits for some days. During these days she gave meditation teachings to the nuns and often sang the prayer “Calling the Lama From Afar.”  Near the time of her death her complexion lightened, and her face and body became youthful and small like a child’s. She told those who were with her that she could see Jetsun Tara clearly before her, and that she was now going to Dewachen, the Pure Land of Amitabha. She counseled the nuns to serve their lamas well and to live in harmony with each other, and told them not to worry, and that all would go well for them in the future. The sky remained like a morning sky, bright and clear for the whole day of Sherab Zangmo’s death, and she remained in tukdam meditation for six days afterwards.

Forty-nine days after her passing, Sherab Zangmo was cremated at Gebchak Gonpa, with the great yogi Pema Drimey, Gebchak Wangdrak Rinpoche, and all the Gebchak nuns performing the ceremony. The sky was clear blue and the temperature unusually warm on this day, in a season of constant inclement weather. After the ceremony, many white crystalline relics of different shapes were found in her ashes.

Very sadly, four other nuns passed away as well at Gebchak Gonpa over the last year. Oser Chomtso, who was in her 50s, Choying Paldron, an elderly nun, Kunzang Jinpa, in her 20s, and Pema Palmo, also in her 20s, passed away from various sicknesses. Their deaths are a great loss, and more so of a tragedy because each of them likely could have survived had they had proper medical treatment.

The death of the young Pema Palmo, however, is another story with cause for inspiration. She passed away in the first year of a three-year retreat, in the small retreat house where 25 nuns live side by side in their meditation boxes. After her death, Pema Palmo remained for seven days in tukdam meditation and had other amazing occurrences accompanying her death, which the other nuns in the retreat all saw and experienced.

Being so remote and removed from easy access to proper medical care, the nuns at Gebchak Gonpa have always been resolved to bear with and sometimes die from illnesses that could be easily treatable in the modern world. This has been the way of life and death for most Tibetan people in the past.

With the help of the Gebchak lamas, the nuns, the local medical community, and sponsors like you, the aim now is to set in place a system of regular check-ups, providing health care training for a few of the nuns, recognizing the symptoms of disease, and monitoring that the nuns follow through with necessary treatment.

Please keep the Gebchak nuns in your mind and prayers, and remember their dedicated practice towards enlightenment for the sake of all beings. There are still places in this world where human beings reach their full spiritual potential, and the benefits very positively reach each one of us. However, these nuns need our continued support to be able to continue their practice.

Wangdrak Rinpoche and all the nuns at Gebchak Gonpa wish you a very blessed and joyful Tibetan New Year!

Very best wishes,
Tenzin Chozom

[Extracted from: http://gebchakgonpa.org/sherab-zangmo-passes/%5D


Takme Wangmo

[Takme Wangmo was 70 years old in 2006.]

I first entered Gebchak Nunnery when I was 12, during the time of Chodrak Gyamtso (the second Tsang-Yang Gyamtso[1] Rinpoche). Now I stay in the Jig-se[2] retreat division.

When I was about 18 years old I began my three-year retreat, during which we practiced a sadhana[3] of Guru Rinpoche along with tsa-lung and trul-kor[4]. A profound experience from the practice occurred for me and I had a clear vision of the eight manifestations of Guru Rinpoche. As a result of this vision my mind was deeply transformed.

Immediately following my three-year retreat the Cultural Revolution occurred and Gebchak Nunnery was completely destroyed. Most of the 700 nuns there at that time were killed or eventually starved to death. I managed to escape and fled to Lhasa, where I stayed with my family. Of course we weren’t allowed to do any visible Dharma practice during this time … But I relied on the Three Jewels in my mind and continued my practice internally, and in this way there were no obstacles for me.

When some religious freedom was regained in the late 1980′s, my family and I returned to Gebchak. About 30 older Gebchak nuns like me returned to help rebuild the Nunnery. We taught the new nuns the former traditions of practice – how to practice the Trolo sadhana (wrathful Guru Rinpoche), the manner of practicing in retreat, the chanting tradition and so forth. Nowadays there are only about seven of these white-haired, older nuns left at Gebchak. The rest have passed away.

Question: You and your family suffered greatly during the Cultural Revolution, and many of your loved ones were killed. How have you dealt with sorrow and anger?

Tamke Wangmo: Yes, there was a lot of suffering. Some of my relatives were killed, some died from starvation, but I understand that the nature of life is impermanent. I rely on my meditation practice and I don’t feel anger.

Q: Now, what is the essence of your practice?

Tamke Wangmo: My yidam is Jig-se**[5]. Basically my practice is to pray to my lama, knowing that my lama’s mind and my own mind are inseparable, and to meditate on the awareness nature of mind.

When I was a young nun in Gebchak, the senior nuns who had accomplished their deities would go straight to the buddha-field when they died and remain in samadhi[6] for several days afterwards. That’s not all. In those days the nuns would practice tsa-lung and trul-kor sitting on the tops of high cliffs above a nearby river, and some of the nuns could fly across the river due to the power of their yogic accomplishments.

Q: How do you think Gebchak Nunnery can preserve this pure and profound lineage of accomplished nun-practitioners?

Tamke Wangmo: The nuns here are practicing the lineage of Ratna Lingpa, and both in and out of retreat the practice is maintained very well. But in order to maintain this practice lineage the food, clothing and shelter at this Nunnery are presently insufficient. We are all nuns, females, and the lamas of Gebchak are all still young, and therefore it is difficult for us to generate financial income. The nuns need improved conditions, particularly more food, so that they can remain in practice and in retreat year after year, day after day, dedicating their lives solely to accomplishing the Dharma. This is my hope. But I don’t know what the future will bring. How wonderful if it is possible, as it will allow this Dharma practice to continue.

As Milarepa said:

The meditator in retreat on the mountain
And the benefactor who provides his or her sustenance
Share the mutual karma to reach buddhahood at the same time
Due to the blessing of the heart of dependent-arising.

How wonderful it would be!

[1] Tsang-Yang Gyamtso: the founder of Gebchak Nunnery. The first Tsang-Yang Gyamtso was a heart disciple of the first Drubwang Tsoknyi Rinpoche.
[2] Jig-se**: an aspect of Yamantaka which is the wrathful aspect of Manjushri, the Buddha of Wisdom.
[3] sadhana: Skt -’Means of accomplishment’, Tib – སྒྲུབ་ཐབ།. Tantric liturgy and procedure for practice. The typical sadhana structure involves a preliminary part including the taking of refuge and arousing bodhichitta, a main part involving visualization of a buddha and recitation of the mantra, and a concluding part with dedication of merit to all sentient beings.
[4] tsa-lung and trul-kor: yogic methods which lead to the control of the internal channels and the vital energy
[5] yidam: personal meditational deity.
[6] samadhi: meditative absorption.

Note: Interview conducted in July, 2006, at Gebchak Gonpa. Translation by Tenzin Chozom.

[Extracted from: http://gebchakgonpa.org/gebchak-nuns/interviews-with-nuns/takme-wangmo/]


Urgyen Chodron & Chemchok Palmo

Both Urgyen Chodron and Chemchok Palmo are Gebchak nuns and were in their late 30′s at the time of the interview in 2006. Urgyen Chodron is the ritual master that travels to other branch nunneries to teach nuns. Chemchok Palmo is also a ritual master and leads most of the twenty great prayer ceremonies (drubchens[1]) that take place at Gebchak throughout the year. Both nuns are considered by Wangdrak Rinpoche to be very strong practitioners who will become known in the future as “Ani Lamas”.

An interview with Urgyen Chodron, Chemchok Palmo & Wangdrak Rinpoche

Urgyen Chodron

Urgyen Chodron: I came to Gebchak Nunnery when I was 13. I had two older relatives already at the Nunnery – one died at age 95 and the other is Sherab Zangmo[2], who is now about 85. When I was a young girl my parents wanted me to join Gebchak Nunnery, and I wanted to become a nun myself. I knew that I would enjoy being a nun. I have made the promise to stay at Gebchak Nunnery until I die.

When I first came there were about 40 or 50 old nuns with white hair. The previous Ngaksam Rinpoche was here at that time, and well as the old Lama Tenchok. Lama Lodro Wangchuk was here but he passed away in the autumn of my first year at Gebchak. The senior nun Ani Palmo taught all of the nuns the yogic practices of tsa-lung[3], and Sherab Zangmo gave the nuns mind and meditation teachings.

The first practices I did were the 500,000 preliminaries (prostrations, refuge prayer, Vajrasattva, mandalas, and guru yoga). At that time there was no big building for the 16 retreat divisions, each group did their practice in separate little houses. There were about 30 other new nuns doing the preliminary practices with me at the time. For one month we all slept in the two main temples and did our practices there together. After finishing them I became the junior chant master for three years, and then the senior chant master for four years – altogether for seven years. After being the chant master I stayed in Vajrakilaya retreat for seven months, and after that my three-year retreat began. I really enjoyed this time in retreat, I felt very happy. To tell you the truth, I enjoyed being in retreat more than coming out!

There were twenty nuns in the three-year retreat house together. The first year of the retreat was a little difficult because we had to learn all of the chanting and meditation practices. The second year was more enjoyable because I’d become familiar with the meditation practices and my own mind. By the third year I enjoyed the retreat so much. We practiced six sessions every day and night, with almost no breaks except fifteen minutes or so to eat our meals. Throughout the three-year retreat we also did over a million prostrations in between our meditation sessions. We had no boards for these prostrations, we just covered our knees and hands and prostrated on the dirt ground in the basement of the retreat house. Each day we at least did 1000 to 1500 prostrations.

At that time there were two retreat houses: one for the Vajrakilaya retreat and the other for the three-year retreat. When the new retreat division building went up the old Vajrakilaya retreat house was torn down and since then a new one hasn’t been rebuilt. Akong Tulku sponsored the new building for the retreat divisions.

My mind transformed while I was in retreat. I didn’t want to come out when the retreat was finished. Although the practices were hard physically, in my mind I was very joyful. Before I did my three-year retreat I had a lot of wild emotions and distractions. But during the retreat these emotions were pacified and transformed into the five wisdoms.

Now my retreat division is Guru Drakpo [Wrathful Guru Padmasambhava]. Every morning from 6 until 8 o’clock each retreat division holds a practice session of meditation and prayers. There is a big room downstairs in the retreat division building where all the nuns do their daily practices of trul-kor[4] and tsa-lung. We have to do these yogic practices everyday throughout our whole lives.

Gebchak Nunnery’s practice of specialty is tsa-lung, and it is practiced here according to the unique teachings of the first Tsang-yang Gyamtso[5]. Tsang-yang Gyamtso wasn’t a scholar, but wrote these practice commentaries from his pure vision and meditative realization.

Wangdrak Rinpoche & Chemchok Palmo at Gebchak Nunnery.

Wangdrak Rinpoche: Now the Nunnery’s practice lineage is completely in tact. All the practices of tsa-lung, trul-kor, the 20 drubchens, and all the original traditions of the Nunnery have been passed down by the senior nuns to the young nuns. At present they are all being upheld.

Before they enter the three-year retreat the nuns have faith and belief. But during the three-year retreat they practice the Three Roots[6] and the Six Yogas[7], and from their meditative experience they develop a very strong, unshakable faith in the practice.

During the three-year retreat the five negative emotions become transformed, not by rejecting them but by realizing their wisdom nature.

Urgyen Chodron: When we are in retreat there are no particular times for meditation; we constantly maintain our practice. We chant along with visualization and contemplation of the meaning, and we meditate on the inseparable prana[8] and mind. During the stage of mantra recitation the lama is visualized above the head, during the stage of accomplishment the lama is at the throat, and during the stage of activities the lama’s mind and one’s own mind merge as one.

Chemchock Palmo

Question: What are the differences between the practices in the 16 retreat divisions and those in the three-year retreat?

Chemchok Palmo: The yidams [deities] are different, but the practices of trul-kor and tsa-lung and the fundamentals are the same.

If one hasn’t received the transmissions of trul-kor and tsa-lung, you are not allowed to view these yogic practices. If you happen to see them without having received the transmissions, there is a danger that the Dharma protectors will cause harm to your eyes and limbs.

After you’ve received the transmission, teachings, and permission you may practice these yogas. Trul-kor and tsa-lung are hidden, secret teachings.

Q: What would be your heart advice to other Buddhists in foreign countries?

Urgyen Chodron: Have faith in the lama, have belief and certainty in the lama’s instructions, have the compassionate mind to benefit all other beings, and have renunciation of samsara.

Chemchok Palmo: Abandon harming others.

Q: Do you pray to be reborn in a male body in your next life?

Chemchok Palmo: There is no male or female in enlightenment. Once you’re a Dharma practitioner it is joyful and there is no difference for monks or nuns. I don’t think that a fully ordained monk is superior and I’m worse off. I just think that accomplishing the Dharma is joyful.

In the past there have been nuns at Gebchak Nunnery who have attained the rainbow body. Gebchak is a particular place for women to accomplish the Dharma. Here is a well known story: Many years ago at the place called Kilakar some lamas were giving a Dharma teaching to the nuns. Two older nuns named Tendron and Yendron were in retreat some distance away at Gyarong. From their hermitage they took on forms as small birds and flew to Kilakar to receive the teachings. They flew around the lamas and with their beaks they tugged at the lamas’ ears. The lamas knew who they were. These two nuns later attained rainbow bodies.

Q: At that time how many Gebchak nuns were there?

Urgyen Chodron: There were many. And many nuns could miraculously cross the Kyichu River without need of a bridge. These miracles came through the yogic accomplishments of the Sang Tri Rig Nga[9] – such as emanating from the state of dream yoga.

Wangdrak Rinpoche: Gebchak Nunnery must seem like another planet to these visitors! You can see the meditation practices and bodhicitta here are very good. Please introduce Gebchak Nunnery to others and tell them what you’ve seen and heard here.

Urgyen Chodron: During the winter there is not even one day break, we are continuously staying in drubchens. Besides these 20 drubchens we also have various other ritual ceremonies for removing obstacles.

Q: What are the benefits of these drubchens?

Wangdrak Rinpoche: We begin each drubchen by going for Refuge to the Three Jewels and contemplating the Four Immeasurables. Then is the main practice of generating the deity, followed by mantra recitation along with the inner, outer and secret visualizations. We make many offerings to the Three Jewels, and at the end of the drubchen we make a proper dedication of the merits for the temporary and ultimate happiness of all sentient beings. In this way we are accumulating merit and wisdom and accomplishing the three bodies of a buddha. All the chanting of the drubchens is performed together with contemplation of the meaning.

Chemchok Palmo: It is said that Gechak Nunnery is a second Zangdog Palri[10]. Whoever sees the Nunnery and witnesses the practice here feels joy. Even hearing about it brings joy. Coming here is like taking the first step towards buddhahood.

[1] drubchen: Great accomplishment practice; a sadhana practice undertaken by a group of people which goes on uninterruptedly for seven or more days.
[2] Sherab Zangmo was a highly accomplished nun who was known as the Nunnery’s “Ani Lama”.
[3] tsa-lung: the yoga of channels and energies.
[4] trul-kor: yogic methods which prepare for the practice of the internal channels and the vital energies.
[5] Tsang-Yang Gyamtso: the founder of Gebchak Nunnery. The first Tsang-Yang Gyamtso was a heart disciple of the first Drubwang Tsoknyi Rinpoche.
[6] Three Roots: guru, yidam (personal meditational deity), and dakini.
[7] Six Yogas: Six Yogas of Naropa: tummo, illusory body, dream yoga, clear light, bardo, and phowa
[8] prana: the wind element; vital energy.
[9] Sang Tri Rig Nga: the Six Yogas of Naropa as practiced according to the revealed treasure of Ratna Lingpa.
[10] Zangdog Palri: the Glorious Copper-colored Mountain; the pure land of Guru Rinpoche.

Note: Interview conducted in July, 2006, at Gebchak Gonpa. Translation by Tenzin Chozom.

[Extracted from: http://gebchakgonpa.org/gebchak-nuns/interviews-with-nuns/urgyen-and-chemchok/]


Karchug, the visionary nun

Karchug with Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo in 2007.

I have lived at Gebchak Nunnery for 25 years. I was 14 years old when I first came here, and besides me there were only about 12 other new nuns here at that time. The previous Ngagsam Tulku was here then. Now his reincarnation is at Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok’s monastery, and he must be 16 or 17 years old. Lama Lodro Wangchuk, Lama Tencho, and Achen were also here at Gebchak when I first came.

Last year, for five days before Wangdrak Rinpoche came to the Nunnery I could see the protectors and local deities were all preparing for his arrival, and I knew that he would be coming soon. Also last year, while Wangdrak Rinpoche was giving a teaching to the nuns on Tsang-Yang Gyamtso’s commentary of the Bodhisattvacharyavatara there was an enormous parasol floating over Rinpoche’s throne, and all of the nuns listening to the teachings were adorned with white silk katas. It was marvelous, but the other nuns couldn’t see this. Outside the main entrance of the temple the two smoke-offering vessels were overflowing with white yogurt.

Usually there is a Mani drubchen[1] every year. Last year’s was exceptional. The giant torma[2] offering melted like butter in to the skull cup below it, and I could hear the Hayagriva torma[3] was neighing.

This year for ten days before Wangdrak Rinpoche came the protectors and local deities were preparing for his arrival with even more elaborate displays. There were three rows of deities forming a circular parade in the sky and the whole Nunnery was resting on a giant lotus throne. All around it were victory banners and the Eight Auspicious Symbols, and it appeared more resplendent and luminous than usual – like Zangdog Palri[4] itself.

At another time when the nuns were all gathered in the temple Tsoknyi Rinpoche, Tsang-Yang Gyamtso Rinpoche and Wangdrak Rinpoche all appeared on elevated thrones, although they were actually in Nepal and other places. They explained that they were not able to come in body because they had to be elsewhere. And they declared Gebchak Nunnery to be an extraordinary, wondrous place of great blessings. I saw all of the nuns chanting the feast offering songs and offering music to the lamas, and the temple appeared more majestic and vivid than usual.

Before any prayer ceremonies that we have in the temple, the protectors and other deities have performed them a day or so in advance of us. This happened before the Yeshe Tsogyal prayer ceremony that we recently did. During all the drubchens and ritual ceremonies that we have the deities, dakas and dakinis, and protectors are all present in the temple, and the main yidam[5] of our practice in front of the mandala.

This year, more than ever before, I have seen many amazing signs and occurrences. Tsering Che-nga [the Five Sisters of Long Life; female protectors] appeared, and during our Om Mani Padme Hum accumulation retreat the great compassionate bodhisattva was clearly present in the temple, along with so many buddhas and bodhisattvas – I couldn’t count them. The same thing happened during our Vajrakilaya drubchen. No thangka painter on earth, no matter how talented, could paint how magnificent all these deities appeared.

There is no Zangdog Palriother than this very Nunnery. As far as I see it, aside from Gecbhak Nunnery and the way of life here, there is no other way to some separately existing Zangdog Palri. Tsang-Yang Gyamtso said that Gebchak Nunnery is the second Zangdog Palri – the heavenly one is in the Akanishta pure realm, and the earthly one is here.

In my visions I’m able to see what fortune or misfortune lies ahead for the Nunnery. If I see obstacles approaching for people, I let them know what rituals and practices to do in order to avoid them.

I don’t want to be anywhere else but here, spending my time practicing these unique teachings. I made a promise to the previous Ngagsam Rinpoche, before he passed away, that I will spend my entire life practicing here at Gebchak Nunnery. To me this is a pure land.

[1] drubchen: a “great accomplishment practice” where a particular sadhana practice is undertaken by a group of people. It goes on uninterruptedly for seven or more days. “Mani drubchen” would be a great prayer ceremony of accomplishing the practice of Chenrezig.
[2] torma: sacrificial sculptured cakes made according to the type of deity to which they are addressed.
[3] Hayagriva: the Horse-headed One; the wrathful aspect of Amitabha.
[4] Zangdog Palri: the Glorious Copper-colored Mountain which is the pure land of Guru Rinpoche.
[5] yidam: personal meditation deity.

Note: Interview conducted in July, 2006, at Gebchak Gonpa. Translation by Tenzin Chozom.

[Extracted from: http://gebchakgonpa.org/gebchak-nuns/interviews-with-nuns/karchug/]


Yeshe Zangmo

[Yeshe Zangmo was 34 years old in 2006.]

Yeshe Zangmo: I entered Gebchak Nunnery when I was nineteen. My first retreat was to complete the 400,000 preliminary practices. After that I did the mantra accumulation retreat of Vajrakilaya[1], and then 100 sets of Nyung Naes[2]. And then I began my three-year retreat. It’s been five or six years now since I completed it.

My practice group is that of Dorje Trolo [Wrathful Padmasambhava], and I am presently the drubpon [retreat leader] of this retreat division. This means that I have to recite the daily protector prayers, which takes about three hours. So far I’ve been the drubpon for two years, and I have one year left. All of the nuns in my retreat division take turns holding this responsibility for three years.

All of the nuns in my retreat group live together happily, as we’ve spent so much time together.

Question: Why did you first become a nun at Gebchak Nunnery?

Yeshe Zangmo: I knew that samsara is meaningless and I was happy to become a nun. My parents supported me in coming here. Gebchak is the most famous for its practice among all the monasteries and nunneries in Nangchen.

Q: During all the years of intensive retreat practice that you’ve done, has your mind transformed?

Yeshe Zangmo: Yes, it has transformed!

Q: How so?

Yeshe Zangmo: In a good way. My mind has turned from samsara and I know now that samsara is no good. I only ever think to stay here at Gebchak Nunnery, and my mind is happy.

Wangdrak Rinpoche is very kind. Because of his kindness in providing us food, Gebchak Nunnery is a very joyful place. I only want to stay here at Gebchak Nunnery.

Q: What is your main practice?

Yeshe Zangmo: Meditation. My personal deity is Dorje Drolo.

Q: Why is samsara meaningless?

Yeshe Zangmo: Samsara has no happiness, only suffering, and so there is no joy. There are the sufferings of heat and cold in the hell realms, hunger and thirst in the hungry ghost realm, stupidity and exploitation in the animal realm … in every place in samsara it is all suffering. It’s the same for the gods and demi-gods. All of the six realms are suffering. Aren’t they??

Q: And yet you say your mind is so happy. You have poor facilities here – the food is not so good, nor are the buildings, the weather is freezing cold in the winter, and every night you stay in a meditation box. If most people saw your meditation box and the conditions that you live in, they would be aghast and see it as suffering! So why are you so happy?

Yeshe Zangmo: Because my mind is happy.

Q: When you were a child did you hear many teachings about the sufferings of samsara?

Yeshe Zangmo: I heard these teachings from my root lama, Pema Drimey, after I came to Gebchak Nunnery.

Yeshe Zangmo: Do you still have your parents? [The interviewer nods yes]. If you have no parents it is sad. I have an older brother and sister, two younger brothers and a younger sister. I’m in the middle. None of them are monks or nuns. They come once a year to bring me tsampa, wheat and rice.

Q: Do you have any money?

Yeshe Zangmo: No. I plan to stay at Gebchak until I die. I don’t think about going anywhere else.

Q: How is your health?

Yeshe Zangmo: It’s good, except for my eye. Since I’ve been at Gebchak Nunnery I have read the Kangyur twenty times, together with the rest of the nuns. Now my eyes give me problems. The electricity is not good.

Q: Are you afraid of death?

Yeshe Zangmo: Yes, I’m afraid. I could die today, or tomorrow – nobody knows. So I’m afraid.

[1] Vajrakilaya: Tib – རྡོ་རྗེ་ཕུར་པ།, a wrathful deity embodying enlightened activity. This deity is noted for being the most powerful for removing obstacles and destroying non-compassionate forces.
[2] Nyung Nae: a two-day purification of Chenrezig. On the second day the practitioner may not speak, eat, nor drink anything, and on both days many hundreds of prostrations are performed.

Note: Interview conducted in July, 2006, at Gebchak Gonpa. Translation by Tenzin Chozom.

[Extracted from: http://gebchakgonpa.org/gebchak-nuns/interviews-with-nuns/yeshe-zangmo/]


Kunzang Pantso

I first came to Gebchak Gonpa when I was 15 and now I am 23. In my very first year here I had the job of looking after the yaks. After that I completed two sets of preliminary practices, and then I spent a year doing 100 sets of Nyung Naes[1]. Then I did the accumulation retreat of Vajrakilaya[2], and once I finished that I began my three-year retreat. It has now been a little over three years since I finished my three-year retreat.

My yidam[3] is Vajrasattva[4], and I currently have the responsibility of being the leader in my retreat division.

Question: How did your mind change in your three-year retreat?

Kunzang Pantso: I developed complete renunciation of samsara. Thinking about the sufferings to come in the future, I now feel an unshakable resolve to get out of samsara. My mind can no longer be discouraged toward this goal.

Q: When you were a young girl, what were your thoughts before becoming a nun?

Kunzang Pantso: I liked the life of a nun, and I didn’t like samsara. Due to Tsang-Yang Gyamtso’s[5] compassionate blessings, I was inspired and entered Gebchak Nunnery with the wish to stay in retreat.

Q: Did your parents support you in this decision?

Kunzang Pantso: Yes, as well as my siblings. I have three younger brothers – one is a monk at Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok’s monastery, another is at Achen Rinpoche’s monastery, and the youngest is at home with my parents. My family is very religious.

Q: Has it been difficult doing all the intensive retreats and practices you have done so far – for example, never being able to leave the three-year retreat house, or sharing such a small space with the 18 other nuns in retreat with you, or not sleeping more than three hours a night?

Kunzang Pantso: No, it was never really difficult. As long as I remembered the Dharma and my future lives, I remained happy.

Q: Why do you have such s strong renunciation of samsara? What are its faults?

Kunzang Pantso: All the higher and lower six realms of samsara are by their nature suffering, and there is no real freedom until we reach the spiritual level of no return. Only then will there be no more suffering rebirths in samsara. I strongly pray to my root lama, Tsang-Yang Gyamtso Rinpoche, with the great aspiration to reach this level.

Q: The physical conditions at Gebchak Nunnery are quite difficult. Your food is not very good, neither are the buildings. You never get to go on any holidays, you have to be separated from your parents, and the weather becomes extremely cold. What is the reason why you are so happy?

Kunzang Pantso: Because I’ve got this precious human life. I’ve met with an authentic lama, and I’ve received practice instructions from him and from my other teachers. I really feel how precious this life of Dharma is.

Q: Do you have complete faith that you can become liberated from samsara?

Kunzang Pantso: Yes, I do.

Q: And this state of liberation from samsara, what is it like?

Kunzang Pantso: Once you reach the level of no return, you can go to Dewachen[6] where you don’t need to wander in samsara, and there you can quickly get enlightened.

If your mind is attached to samsara, then that is where you will stay. If you’re not attached to samsara, then you can get free and go to the true happiness of buddhahood.

Q: What qualities do enlightened beings have to accomplish the benefit of others?

Kunzang Pantso: They have great blessings to help others. I pray to reach the same state of enlightenment myself.

Q: Isn’t it difficult living everyday in your meditation box? Doesn’t your body ache?

Kunzang Pantso: No, it doesn’t, due to the kindness of the Three Jewels. Our system of practicing in meditation boxes was set out by Tsang-Yang Gyamtso, and so it is very blessed.

In the beginning it was difficult to sit like that and my knees hurt, but then after two or three months it became fine, and now I can sit like that for as long as I want.

Q: Nowadays you practice continuously in your Vajrasattva retreat division. What would you say is at the heart of your practice?

Kunzang Pantso: Mainly the Four Reversals, the four thoughts that turn the mind from samsara: the rarity of a precious human rebirth, death and impermanence, the inevitable results of karma, and the faults of samsara. Mainly I think about these in my practice sessions. If you don’t have these thoughts then your attitude in your practice is no good. We need to practice with an understanding of impermanence, how rare human life is, and so forth. First we must meditate on these thoughts, and based on them we can practice Dzogchen and Mahamudra. These Four Reversals are really at the heart of my practice.

Q: Can you tell me more about the reasons your mind is so happy? Is it because you have the faith that you are going to buddhahood?

Kunzang Pantso: Yes, I have this faith and happiness. If you have the faith that you can achieve buddhahood, then you can achieve it. If you don’t believe that you can achieve buddhahood, then you can’t achieve it, can you?

Q: How did you develop such a faith?

Kunzang Pantso: From my lamas Tsang-Yang Gyamtso and Pema Drimey, and from my spiritual teachers like Khenpo Kargon – from all of them I learned about the suffering nature of samsara, the preciousness of human life, impermanence and so forth, and that through good practice we can go to a Buddhist pure land in our next life.

Q: How many nuns are there in your retreat division? Does it ever disturb you living in the same room everyday and night with so many other nuns? Like for example, if others are talking while you’re trying to meditate?

Kunzang Pantso: No, not at all! The nuns here are all [gives the thumbs up gesture]! Among the nuns here at Gecbhak there are never any disputes. This is due to Tsang-Yang Gyamtso’s compassionate blessings.

Q: Now Gebchak Nunnery is quite poor, and in the future it will have to depend on relationships with many sponsors from modern, foreign countries. There is a big difference between the simple way of life here in Nangchen and that of the outside, developed countries where the pace of life is so busy and materialistic. How can Gebchak’s lineage of pure practice be preserved in the future?

Kunzang Pantso: In order to preserve Tsang-Yang Gyamtso’s lineage, his special system of practice that he established, each nun has to fulfill the instructions of the lama. If the teachings of Tsang-Yang Gyamtso are practiced and upheld by each nun, then his lineage will remain unbroken in the future, which is good. Otherwise, the lineage will be broken, won’t it? Therefore, all of the nuns now practice and pray strongly to maintain the practice in their future lives. And they pray that by Tsang-Yang Gyamtso’s compassionate blessings his lineage will remain forever and continue to flourish. All of the nuns pray in this way. It depends on the nuns themselves; as it’s taught that the teachings of the Buddha depend on the sangha, it depends on all of the nuns. The 84,000 teachings of the Buddha need to be upheld by the nuns, the sangha. If the nuns, the sangha, practice well, then the teachings of the Buddha, the lineage of Tsang-Yang Gyamtso will remain pure and grow ever greater.

Q: Do you have a wish that in the future, once you feel you’ve accomplished the Dharma, you may teach the Dharma to others?

Kunzang Pantso: Yes, yes I do. Now I’m not able to teach others in this way. But I pray to the Buddha that in the future I may be able to teach and benefit all my mother sentient beings, and lead them to perfect buddhahood. Once I’m a buddha myself, this is my plan. All sentient beings of the six realms have at one time or another been our father or mother. All beings are our mothers! But under the power of karma they are being born again and again in samsara.

[1] Nyung Nae: a two-day purification of Chenrezig. On the second day the practitioner may not speak, eat, nor drink anything, and on both days many hundreds of prostrations are performed
[2] Vajrakilaya: Tib – རྡོ་རྗེ་ཕུར་པ།, a wrathful deity embodying enlightened activity. This deity is noted for being the most powerful for removing obstacles and destroying non-compassionate forces.
[3] yidam: personal meditational deity.
[4] Vajrasattva: Tib – རྡོ་རྗེ་སེམས་དཔའ།, A sambhogakaya buddha who embodies all of the five or hundred buddha families. He is also a support for purification practice.
[5] Tsang-Yang Gyamtso: the founder of Gebchak Nunnery. The first Tsang-Yang Gyamtso was a heart disciple of the first Drubwang Tsoknyi Rinpoche.
[6] Dewachen: Amitabha’s pure land of Great Bliss.

Note: Interview conducted in July, 2006, at Gebchak Gonpa. Translation by Tenzin Chozom.

[Extracted from: http://gebchakgonpa.org/gebchak-nuns/interviews-with-nuns/kunzang-pantso/]


Gebchak Nuns

About the nuns

Spiritual Training

Senior Gebchak nuns, 2007.

Gebchak Gonpa is unique for its intensive retreat system, which includes a three-year retreat for all nuns followed by entry into one of sixteen retreat groups where they remain in practice for the rest of their lives. This retreat system and all Gebchak meditation practices are based on sixteen Volumes composed by the first Tsang-Yang Gyamtso. These Volumes outline detailed instructions on the Six Yogas of Ratna Lingpa, with adaptations of these yogas for the female body, including eight volumes of meditations that the nuns continue to practice today in intensive group practices. These are: Hayagriva, Troma Nagmo, Tamdrin Nagpo, Tamdrin Marpo, Garuda, Varjapani, Yamantaka, and Yeshe Tsogyal. To this day the nuns continue to read and follow these texts.

For the nuns’ practice teachings including Tsa-lung and other yogas, as well as Dzogchen meditation, the senior nuns provide instruction. All the official monastic posts are filled by nuns, such as the role of Vajra Master, chant leader, disciplinarian and bursar. A committee of nuns decides regulatory matters by consensus.

The nuns rely on and request their Gebchak lamas for necessary empowerments, spiritual guidance, as well as their welfare. Gebchak Gonpa has strict rules in order to maintain their spiritual endeavors with purity and integrity. As the nuns are not permitted to leave the nunnery for extended periods of time, the nuns depend on outside support.  Wangdrak Rinpoche oversees their spiritual training and holds responsibility for their food, health care, and material well-being.

[Extracted from: http://gebchakgonpa.org/gebchak-nuns/]

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This entry was posted on 12121212, in Practices.

Always Praying to Guru

Ah Song Tulku is the successor of Achuk Lama Rinpoche in Yachen Monastery in Tibet.  He is the emanation of one of the 25 disciples of Guru Rinpoche, Namkhai Nyingpo.  At a young age in this very life, he has attained very high realisation and manifested rainbow body.

Photo taken by his attendant, Rinpoche’s body was transparent and manifested Buddhas and Bodhisattvas mandalas. When asked about it, Rinpoche just said, “I don’t know, just look (at the photo).”

Ah Song Tulku

A teaching by Ah Song Tulku on Guru Yoga

Root Lama of Great Kindness, Achuk Lama Rinpoche

Students who don’t have time to do the preliminaries should regard practising Guru Yoga as very important!  It is really very important!  Guru Yoga must definitely be practised!  If you wish to attain accomplishments, you need to rely on the Guru.  If you do not practise the Guru, even by practising other numerous methods, there is fundamentally no accomplishment.  If you practise the Guru Yoga, even if you do not practise many methods, you can gain accomplishment.

I will tell you of a layperson who relied on supplicating the Guru to attain accomplishment just a few days ago.  He came from the Changdu region Gongjue district in Tibet.  His name is Pomu.

This old layman came to to Yachen Monastery 2 months ago.  In Lama Rinpoche’s yard, he met Lama Rinpoche for the first and only time in his life.  He listened to Lama Rinpoche’s teachings and after that, due to his sickness, he went to a hospital for treatment about a month ago.  A few days before he passed away, I went to visit him and asked him what kind of practice he was doing.  He said, “When I saw Lama Rinpoche for the first time, I felt an incredibly strong faith, before my eyes Lama Rinpoche was constantly appearing.  During the day and night, I constantly practised Lama Rinpoche (he did not know how to say “Guru Yoga”), constantly prayed to Lama Rinpoche, reciting Guru Rinpoche’s mantra.  Now, before me, at all times and all places, there is no appearance that does not manifest as Lama Rinpoche.   Besides this, there is no other practice.”  I said to him, “When you are in pain, do you remember the Guru or not?”  He replied, “Never forgetting the Guru, before my eyes, all that manifests is the appearance of Lama Rinpoche.”   I said, “Since that is so, do not forget the Guru at all times, since all that appears before your eyes is Lama Rinpoche, that is very good.  Even if you have not done many practices, you will definitely attain accomplishment!  Whether it is now or in the bardo, always pray to the Guru.  Never forget the Guru at all times! When you are dying, Lama Rinpoche will definitely bless you and bring you to liberation.  You will definitely attain accomplishment.  Rest fully assured!  Pray to the Guru well, do not forget the Guru.”

On the second day, this layman was on the verge of dying.  He said, “I am always thinking of Lama Rinpoche, Guru Rinpoche’s pure-realm has manifested in front of me.  I am now going to Guru Rinpoche’s pure-realm.  I am completely unafraid of death, I am very happy! Very comfortable!”  So saying, he passed away.   I went to see him again, and his corpse was looking as if he were still alive, his face was ruddy and soft, just as before when he was alive and young.  I said there and then that this kind of appearance definitely was a sign of accomplishment, and that we will see if that is so in three days time.

Before this, I have never met any layperson who manifested accomplishment in this life without receiving the Dzogchen pith instructions and having done a lot of practices.  Therefore three days later, I went to see him again.  According to the understanding in Dzogchen, if his heart region three days later remained warm, then it was a clear sign of accomplishment.  I invited a monk to touch his arm and heart to check if there was any difference in temperature. After the monk touched the places, he reported that the heart region was still warm while the other parts of the body were already icy cold and stiff.  This is therefore a sign of accomplishment!

I think his accomplishment is completely due to relying on his faith in Guru.  This is not something I heard from rumours, but something I personally witnessed.  Therefore all of you should practise Guru Yoga diligently and increase your faith.  To what degree should you practice to attain accomplishment?  When would you be liberated from birth and death?  Just like this accomplished layman who passed away, when the Guru appears before you at all times, you would have obtained the complete blessings of Guru, this then is accomplishment.  Just as Lama Rinpoche had wrote in the ‘Guru Yoga that confers swift realisation’: “If one has pure view and devotion, every phenomenon is never anything but the Guru, all depends on oneself.”

If you have not done so, then you should diligently practice Guru Yoga.  The reason for not having received perfect blessings from the practice is due to a lack of diligent practice.  The second reason is that you have not prayed well to the Guru with faith.  Therefore, when you practice Guru Yoga, it is very important to supplicate the Guru for blessings with faith.  If there is faith, during the day and night, Guru will manifest.  If it is merely reciting the mantra and text (perfunctorily), there will be no blessings or accomplishment.

The most important point about practice is use your mind.  Look at your mind well.  Ask yourself: Is my mind like that of a dharma practitioner?  Is there truly faith in my mind?  Is there meditation in my mind?  Is there true practice of Guru Yoga in my mind?

In short, pray to the Guru deeply all the time!  Observe your own mind.  This way of practice is very good, isn’t it?

(Note: Another post on Achuk Lama Rinpoche here:

https://bodhiactivity.wordpress.com/2011/01/18/mahasiddha-khenpo-achuk-lama-rinpoche/)

The Lesson of a Leaf

Tsoknyi Rinpoche, Huffpost,  refer to link at bottom

As we work with the various meditation practices, a genuine transformation begins to occur. Our attachment to a self as a solid entity begins to soften and melt, and we begin to reconnect with the openness and warmth of our essential nature.

Unfortunately, many of us get caught up in the resulting sense of well-being and forget the most important of the Buddha’s teachings: that until all of us are free, none of us are free. We rest in our own comfort zones, our contentment dimming our awareness of the pain and hardship that others around us may be feeling. We get caught up in a stage of practice that I’ve learned to describe as “cozy realization,” where we think, “Yeah, I’ve done a really good job. I’ve made a lot of progress. My life is so good. I’m so happy.”

Yet lurking just beneath that self-congratulatory satisfaction is a nagging discontent, a feeling that the path we’ve undertaken offers something much grander and more fulfilling than coziness. Sometimes — if we’re lucky — that discontent become very uncomfortable.

That, at least, was my experience a few years a few years ago, when I was teaching in Bodhgaya, the place where the Buddha attained enlightenment. It’s a very powerful place, which exerts an influence that can induce you to reexamine your life. As I looked back over my own life, my work, my practice and my relationships, I began to feel that something was missing. I saw in myself, while teaching, for example, a tendency to get tired, to want to finish quickly, to do something else. Even my meditation sessions had become a bit tiresome. I just wanted to sit back, relax, and eat or watch television with my wife and daughters. I was tired, distracted, and sometimes bored.

But in Bodhgaya, I began to think about the many great teachers who had helped and encouraged me. They never seemed to be tired; their enthusiasm for whatever project in which they were engaged never flagged. They were entirely motivated by bodhicitta — the sincere desire to help all sentient beings become completely free of suffering, which is the heart of the Buddhist path.

When I looked at my own life, I realized that I was uncomfortable because I wasn’t committed to bodhicitta. I was locked in my coziness — making boundaries between my work life, my practice life, and my family life.

So one evening I went to the area of Bodhgaya where there’s a tree grown from a cutting of the original tree under which the Buddha attained enlightenment. I didn’t tell anyone where I was going. I just went by myself, with the determination to take a vow of a bodhisattva — one who works selflessly for the benefit of all beings.

I sat under the Bodhi tree and prayed a little bit, and then circumambulated it three times while reciting the bodhisattva vow. The moment I finished, I felt something lightly glancing off my head. I looked down, and there at my feet lay a leaf from the Bodhi tree.

What happened next was quite surprising. I’d been aware of people on either side of me, near the Bodhi tree. I thought they were chanting or praying — but they’d actually been waiting for a leaf to fall. It’s illegal to cut a leaf from the tree; no one can collect a leaf unless it falls naturally.

Suddenly, people began crowding in, grabbing for the leaf. I have to confess, I felt a similar urge, and since it had fallen right in front of me, I grabbed it. All of this happened in the space of a few seconds. I was holding the leaf, thinking, “The Bodhi tree had sent a leaf to me. I must be such a good person, such a good practitioner!”

As I walked away, though, I began to feel guilty. “You’re such a terrible bodhisattva,” I told myself. “You took a vow to dedicate your life to all sentient beings, but you can’t give up this leaf to someone else.” I felt so disgusted with myself that I almost ripped up the leaf and threw it to the ground.

Then another voice came, from nowhere: “Keep this leaf as a reminder of how easy it is to break the commitment to work for the benefit of others. You might say the words as sincerely as you can, but it’s your actions that really count.”

A few days later, I asked one of my students to put the leaf in a frame, along with a line or two I’d written about the experience. I brought it back to my home in Nepal, where it hangs over my bed. When I see it, I’m reminded that sometimes the most profound lessons are often learned through events and experiences that appear quite brief and simple.

What happens if we allow ourselves to become attuned to the simple transactions of our daily lives? What can we learn from those moments that nearly slip past our awareness? How can we benefit others by paying more attention to our own “leaf lessons?”

(http://www.huffingtonpost.com/Tsoknyi-rinpoche/the-lesson-of-a-leaf_b_1427251.html)

Going Beyond Techniques

By Tsoknyi Rinpoche, taken from Huffpost, refer to the link below for more interesting articles by Tsoknyi Rinpoche

As I’ve traveled around the United States recently, I’ve been so moved by the interest people have shown in finding ways to connect with essence love. This is very exciting because for many years in the West and in many parts of Asia, I’ve seen a tendency to reduce the Buddhist path (as well as other spiritual paths) to the mechanics of methods. This tendency arises from a kind of narrow commercial perspective — common to many cultures throughout history — that sees the fruits of spiritual practice as commodities that can be acquired by practicing the right techniques.

Developing a broader, less-specifically self-centered perspective is in many ways the focus of the paramitas, the positive qualities or dimensions of character that we’ve been exploring over the past few weeks. The fifth of these known in Sanskrit as dhyana, or sometimes as samadhi, and in Tibetan as samten, is often translated as “meditation,” and it’s easy to understand it in terms of developing or cultivating some sort of technique. There are certainly a lot of techniques available within the Buddhist tradition.

Both the Sanskrit and the Tibetan terms, however, can be translated as “concentration,” which is not so much a technique as an approach to living that we can cultivate when we’re formally meditating or — perhaps more importantly — while going about our lives: riding a bus, for example, or cooking a meal, washing dishes, writing an email (or a blog post), having a conversation. Essentially, concentration involves allowing our minds and hearts to rest very simply, alertly, and openly. It means allowing everything into our awareness, without focusing too narrowly or strenuously, and without being distracted by our judgments, our opinions, or the challenges that life continuously offers.

I saw an example of this calm, steady openness in my father, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, about a year or so before he passed away. At that time, even as his body was failing, he had begun a new program to renovate the shrine room at the monastery where he lived. My father had asked to me to help, and one day I noticed a problem in the construction. I went upstairs to inform my father about the problem and ask his advice. He was, of course, in his small room where he both slept and gave teachings. The entrance was not closed off by a door but rather by a heavy curtain. I pulled back the curtain a little bit and saw that he was meditating. Not wishing to disturb him, I let the curtain fall back and waited for a few minutes.

I must’ve done so four or five times, and after about half an hour I started to get a little bit cold standing in the hallway and began thinking, a bit selfishly, that it wasn’t my monastery, and it wasn’t my problem; really, he should be the one to figure out a solution.

At the same time, I was interested to see how he would respond. Would he break from his meditative state and pay attention to “practical” concerns or, as I’d heard of great masters, was his concentration so open and free that without leaving that state he could respond accurately and precisely to any situation around him?

I went in, and addressed him formally. He looked at me calmly, without any change in expression, no sign of dealing with what might be considered an intrusion. I told him about the problem, asked for his advice, and he gave me some instructions. And as I backed out of the room he simply continued sitting calmly. There was no sign that he’d broken his concentration or that he had to reconnect with his practice. There was no in and out. He was the same, whether meditating or giving advice about a construction issue. He was so clear and open, but there was no sense of holding on to that clarity and openness; it was just part of his being, effortless and continuous.

This was a great lesson for me. Addressing my father and listening to his instructions, I realized that concentration is not an effort of focusing on something but an abiding in a spacious, “centerless center” from which to function.

To develop this kind of concentration requires a good deal of kindness toward ourselves, toward others, and ultimately toward all the shifting circumstances of daily life. We can begin by expanding our attention to the thoughts and feelings that accompany just about everything we do, simply acknowledging feelings as feelings and thoughts as thought — a part of experience, but not necessarily my whole experience. Gradually, we can begin to work with them, breathe with them, and welcome them into our “home.” As we do this, our hearts expand, our minds clear, we become steady and relaxed.

We can expand this welcoming attentiveness to other people, allowing them to be part of a larger, more spacious experience. In so doing we may begin to notice things — gestures, facial expressions, certain tones of voice — that offer new and more profound ways of understanding who they are. As we see and hear the people and the world around us more clearly, we will quite naturally and spontaneously feel our hearts expanding. At the same time, we’ll experience an increased ability to remain steady and clear no matter what happens. We will be able to see everything that is happening without having to focus on any particular thing.

And in the process, a childlike wonder begins to open up, an innocent perspective that is one way of experiencing essence love begins to awaken. Can you describe others? That is one challenge for the week.

Here’s another: When you encounter a situation that requires concentration, can you approach it as an opportunity to welcome distractions? Can you allow your mind to become spacious enough to see a bigger picture? Can you allow your heart to become a “home?”

(Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/Tsoknyi-rinpoche/meditation-_b_1585423.html)

Instruction on Meditation By Dudjom Rinpoche

Since everything originates in the mind, this being the root cause of all experience, whether “good” or “bad”, it is first of all necessary to work with your own mind, not to let it stray and lose yourself in its wandering. Cut the unnecessary build-up of complexity and fabrications which invite confusion in the mind. Nip the problem in the bud, so to speak.

Allow yourself to relax and feel some spaciousness, letting mind be to settle naturally. Your body should be still, speech silent, and breathing as it is, freely flowing. Here, there is a sense of letting go, unfolding, letting be.

What does this state of relaxation feel like? You should be like someone after a really hard day’s work, exhausted and peacefully satisfied, mind contented to rest. Something settles at gut level, and feeling it resting in your gut you begin to experience a lightness. It is as if you’re melting.

The mind is so unpredictable – there’s no limit to the fantastic and subtle creation which arise, its moods, and where it will lead you. But you might also experience a muddy, semi-conscious drifting state, like having a hood over your head – a kind of dreamy dullness.

This is a manner of stillness, namely stagnation, a blurred, mindless blindness. And how do you get out of this state? Alert yourself, straighten your back, breathe the stale air out of your lungs, and direct your awareness into clear space in order to bring about freshness. If you remain in this stagnant state you will not evolve, so when this setback arises clear it again and again. It is important to develop watchfulness, to stay sensitively alert.

So, the lucid awareness of meditation is the recognition of both stillness and change, and the quiet clarity of peacefully remaining in our basic intelligence. Practice this, for only by actually doing it does one experience the fruition or begin to change.

View in Action

During meditation one’s mind, being evenly settled in its own natural way, is like still water, unruffled by ripple or breeze, and as any thought or change arises in that stillness it forms, like a wave in the ocean, and disappears back into it again. Left naturally, it dissolves; naturally.

Whatever turbulence of mind erupts- if you let it be – it will of its own course play itself out, liberate itself; and thus the view arrived at through meditation is that whatever appears is none other than the self display or projection of the mind.

In continuing the perspective of this view into the activities and events of everyday life, the grasp of dualistic perception of the world as solid, fixed and tangible reality (which is the root cause of our problems) begins to loosen and dissolves. Mind is like the wind. It comes and goes; and through increasing certainty in this view one begins to appreciate the humor of the situation.

Things start to feel somewhat unreal, and the attachment and importance which one signifies to events begin to seem ridiculous, or at any rate lighthearted.

Thus one develops the ability to dissolve perception by continuing the flowing awareness of meditation into everyday life, seeing everything as the self-manifest play of the mind. And immediately after sitting meditation, the continuation of this awareness is helped by doing what you have to do calmly and quietly, with simplicity and without agitation. So in a sense everything is like a dream, illusory, but even so humorously one goes on doing things. If you are walking, for instance, without unnecessary solemnity or self-consciousness, but lightheartedly walk towards the open space of suchness, truth. When you eat, be the stronghold of truth, what is. As you eat, feed the negativities and illusions into the belly of emptiness, dissolving them into space; and when you are pissing consider all your obscurations and blockages are being cleansed and washed away.

So far I have told you the essence of the practice in a nutshell, but you must realize that as long as we continue to see the world in a dualistic way, until we are really free of attachment and negativity, and have dissolved all our outer perceptions into the purity of the empty nature of mind, we are still stuck in the relative world of “good” and “bad”, “positive” and “negative”actions, and we must respect these laws and be mindful and responsible for our actions.

Post Meditation

After formal sitting meditation, in everyday activities continue this light spacious awareness throughout and gradually awareness will be strengthened and inner confidence will grow.

Rise calmly from meditation; don’t immediately jump up or rush about, but whatever your activity, preserve a light sense of dignity and poise and do what you have to do with ease and relaxation of mind and body. Keep your awareness lightly centered and don’t allow your attention to be distracted. Maintain this find thread of mindfulness and awareness, just flow.

Whether walking, sitting, eating or going to sleep, have a sense of ease and presence of mind. With respect to other people, be honest, gentle and straightforward; generally be pleasant in your manner, and avoid getting carried away with talk and gossip. Whatever you do, in fact, do it according to the Dharma which is the way of quieting the mind and subjugating negativities.

(Source : http://dudjom.blogspot.sg/2009/12/instructions-on-meditation-by-dudjom.html)

Clearing the hindrance of bodily sickness taught by Padmasambhava

At times when practicing in retreat, the mind is pliable, there is progress in spiritual practice and the meditator bursts into long melodious song. At other times the mind is untamable, the spiritual practice wanes, the attention scatters, and the meditator feels acutely miserable.
 
A variety of high and low experiences arise at the time of separating samsara and nirvana. Rather than feeling discouraged or conceited, keep to the key point of letting things spontaneously happen without attachment; thus you will be able to bring them onto the path.
 
Perform your retreat practice unflaggingly and without straying into distraction; then everything will be an enhancement.
 
Second, for clearing the hindrance of bodily sickness and pain there are five points: the basis where the sickness abides, the cause for the sickness to occur, the circumstances that activate it, its matured results, and the way to cure it.
 
First, sickness abides latently in the all-ground, in the manner of the constitution of the channcels and as habitual tendencies. It occurs due to unwholesome karma accumulated through ignorance and ego-clinging. It is activated by means of the disturbing emotions, conceptual thinking, prana-winds, or gods and demons. Its matured result are the 404 types of disease, headed by heat and cold, phlegm, aches, and swelling. In short, the disease of coemergent ignorance is the chief cause and the disease of conceptual ignorance is the chief circumstance.
 
All sickness possesses these five factors: the latent basis, unwholesome karma as the cause, disturbing emotions as the circumstance, conceptual thinking as the connecting link, prana-wind as the concluding assembler, and gods and demons as the supportive factor.
 
For instance, if a ‘coldness’ disease manifests, it is caused by the habitual tendency for desire lying present in the all-ground, and is activated by the circumstance of intense desire. The connecting link is made by the conceptual thought, “I am sick! I am disabled! What shall I do if it gets worse?” This causes the ‘downward clearing wind’ to malfunction, opening you up to attack from the female class of evil influences.
 
Similarly, the seed of anger as the cause is activated through the circumstance of intense anger connected with the link of conceptual thinking. This causes the fire-equalizing wind to malfunction, opening you up to attack from the male class of evil influences, resulting in the heat diseases.
 
The seed of stupidity as the cause is activated by the circumstance of strong stupidity, connected with the link of conceptual thinking. This causes the ‘equal-abiding wind’ to malfunction, opening you up to attack from evil ’earth spirit’. It results in the phlegm diseases.
 
The seed of envy as the cause is activated by the circumstance of strong jealousy, connected with the link of conceptual thinking. It causes the ‘life upholding wind’ to malfunction, opening you up to attack from the tsen class of evil influences, and resulting in the aching diseases.
 
The seed of pride as the cause is activated by the circumstance of strong conceit, connected with the link of conceptual thinking. It causes the ‘pervading wind’ to malfunction, opening you up for attack by the gyalpo class of evil influences and resulting in the swelling diseases.
 
Since the cause is ignorance, you must recognize coemergent wisdom to cure these diseases. Since the condition is disturbing emotions, you must settle your attention in evenness. Since the connector is conceptual thinking, you must cut through the ties of thought. Since the gatherer of the conclusion is wind, you must focus on the key point of wind. The black-support is the gods and demons: you must abandon the notion of a demon. By doing this you will be freed from all kinds of disease.
 
To cure the essence of illness there are three points: best is to leave it to be self-liberated; next-best is to abandon reference-points concerning exorcism or meditation; last is to cure it by means of visualization.
 
For the first, don’t even take one single does of medicine. Don’t chant one syllable of a healing ceremony. Don’t regard the illness as a fault, or see it as a virtue. Leave your mind unfabricated and spontaneous. Totally let be in the natural thoughtfree state of simplicity. By doing so, the flow of conceptual thinking is cut; thoughtfree wakefulness dawns, and the illness is cleared away. The sickness and the thought are liberated simultaneously.
 
That is to say, during the preliminaries, don’t pursue the sickness. During the main part, don’t cultivate the sickness. During the conclusion, don’t dwell on feeling sick. Through that, you will untie old sickness and remain unharmed by new ones.
 
For the second, exorcising or meditating, there are three parts: transmuting adversity, cutting directly, and equalizing.
 
For the first, regard the sickness with gratitude, thinking again and again, “How wonderful that by means of you, sickness, I can cut through the conceptual demond!” Let your mind be jubilant; eat food that harms the illness and act in adverse ways towards it.
 
Next, eat some fresh ‘solid fragrance,’ still warm but not steaming. Drink some warm reeking ‘liquid fragrance.’ By meditating on the prana-wind, the disease in the upper part of the body is vomited out, and the disease in the lower part is purged out. This process of the illness vacating is the medicine of cutting through.
 
Second, for cutting directly, bring forth a radiant facial expression and stop whimpering. Mentally, directly cut through the worries, hopes and fears of thinking “When I am sick and weak, or if I die, what shall I do?” With total disregard, cast these worries far away.
 
Third, to equalize, you must utilize misfortune as your path as soon as it arises. Brighten your awareness and remind yourself of spiritual practice. Don’t meditate on a visualization to counteract the illness, and don’t apply any healing ritual or medical cure, but look into the identity of who feels sick! By resting in that continuouse state, when an experience occurs, it vanishes by itself, and when realization occurs, it dawns as empty cognizance. At least you will not have to suffer with the thought of feeling sick.
 
Lastly, for curing by means of visualization, generate bodhicitta, assume the cross-legged position and visualize as the yidam deity. Imagine a dark blue HUNG in you heart center, the size of a barley grain. If it is a heat discease, imagine that a white HUNG the size of a barley grain emerges from the HUNG in your heart center and circles throughout the upper part of your torso. It completely draws out all the sickness, just like a magnet collecting needles. Emerging from the top of your head it vanishes into space. Imagining this, draw the winds upward.
 
If it is a ‘coldness’ disease, imagine a red HUNG the size of a barley grain appearing from the HUNG in the heart center and circling throughout the lower part of your body. Emerging through the lower opening, imagine that it disappears into the center of the earth.
 
If you suffer sickness in your arms and legs such as boils or swelling, visualize a black HUNG at the location of the disease. Imagine that it gathers up the sickness and leaves through the boil or out through your fingertips.
 
For diseases that have not been diagnosed, imagine that a dark blue HUNG appears from the HUNG in your heart center. It gathers all the sickness throughout your body and vanishes into midair after emerging through whichever nostril the breath moves.
 
In general, when resting in equanimity your mind should completely become the essence of nonthought. You must cast all concerns far away and be free from doubt and hesitation about what is exorcised or visualized. The visualization and your mind should become unified. It is important to rely and concentrate upon these three points.
 
Here is how to dispel the hindrance of a mentality that harbors thoughts of gods and demons. When you have frequent experiences, due to the link between the structuring of your channels and the shifting of the thought flow, you will be attacked by the magical displays of so-called demonic forces and feel doubt. When thoughts of fear and dread arise, identify them quickly and bring them onto the path. If you let them run wild or fall under their power, they will become an obstacle for your practice.
 
Moreover, unless you put any kind of hindrance, high or low, to use as your path, it will return with developed force and become an obstacle to your practice. It is essential to use hindrances as the path. 
 
Basically, to cross the dangerous defile of your own thinking is to bring hindrances onto the path. The experiences of evil forces and magical displays are experienced within your own mistraken mind. There are definitely no ‘gods’ or ‘demonds’ outside of yourself. The very moment you experience evil forces and magical displays, apply the vital point of understanding that they do not possess any true existence as they are devoid of arising, dwelling and ceasing. Whenenver a magical attack occurs, assume your yogi posture, keep the gaze and look into its identity. The thought then dawns as empty cognizance. As soon as your thinking turns into empty cognizance, you possess the confident courage that thoroughly cuts through fear and dead.
 
Even if the hordes of Mara surround you like an army, they will not be able to move one hair on your body; nor will they be able to create any obstacles. Keep the self-assurance of thinking, “I cannot be harmed by obstacles! To faintheartedly think “I wonder if I will meet with some obstacles!” merely creates a welcome for demonds.
 
All experiences of gods and demons are just your own conceptual thinking taking form. They do not possess even an atom of existence outside [your own mind]. Cut the stream of conceptual thinking! Offer your aggregates as a feast.

Saka Dawa 2012

On this important day of Saka Dawa (Buddha’s Enlightenment Day according to Tibetan Calendar, 4 June 2012), there is also a partial lunar eclipse… Effects of Dharma practice is multiplied many times and highly encouraged.

Penumbral eclipse starts – 08:48:09 UTC/GMT
Partial eclipse starts – 09:59:53 UTC/GMT
Greatest eclipse – 11:03:13 UTC/GMT
Partial eclipse ends – 12:06:30 UTC/GMT
Penumbral eclipse ends – 13:18:17 UTC/GMT

This entry was posted on 12121212, in Practices.