December-February 1999 ISSN 1203-3367 Volume 9 Number 2
In this issue
The act of giving is something everyone can appreciate, and it is part of many festivities the world over. If we think about what makes a gift meaningful, it is not so much the thing itself. Even the simplest gifts can bring great joy to both the giver and the recipient. Just as modesty is most striking in one whose virtues and accomplishments are great, so giving when one has little or seemingly nothing to give can have an exquisite quality. Perhaps the reason for this special quality is that the act of giving when done in a selfless, compassionate, unconditional way takes everyone involved beyond an ordinary view that separates me and mine from you and yours. It brings us closer to an understanding of the way things really are.
Giving is a fundamental practice on the path of the Bodhisattva. Sakya Pandita, in his treatise on mahayana Buddhism entitled, "The Sage?s Intent" (Tib. Thub pa?i dgons pa rab tu gsal ba) explained giving as part of the Six Perfections (Skt. Paramita), those practices which help one develop on the Bodhisattva path, and the Four Social Means, practices by which one brings others along on the path. Before embarking on the Six Perfections, one takes refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha making the commitment to rely upon them under all circumstances. Then one resolves to attain buddhahood for the sake of all beings, the aspiration called Bodhicitta. This is followed by the practice of the Six Perfections of giving, ethical behaviour, patience, diligence, meditation and wisdom. These six build upon each other, with the first one, giving, strengthening one?s ability to accomplish the next one, ethical behaviour, and so on. In addition, each of the first five is ideally performed with, and forged into its purest form by means of the sixth quality, wisdom.
Giving is the act of conferring anything of value upon another person.One should give something that the other person needs or wants, and give with the sincere desire to benefit the recipient, with an attitude that is free from clinging to notions of giver, recipient, and gift. The value of giving is in counteracting tendencies toward selfishness. Having the right motivation along with freedom from attachment to the result is the most important aspect of giving. Just as in developing any other skill, it is good to start on a small, manageable scale, giving whatever one finds easy to give - even a glass of water. As one practices giving, it is good to cultivate an attitude of rejoicing in the opportunity to do something for the sake of others. One should greet beggars and those who ask things of one as though they were buddhas, since they are helping one develop the ability to give. It is important to accomplish such virtues carefully and purely, without expecting any return, being free of any kind of fear, avoiding giving bad gifts, and eschewing the slightest tendency to show off or desire fame. One seals the act by dedicating the merit of it to achieving enlightenment for the benefit of beings. Eventually a bodhisattva is able to give away all possessions, friends, loved ones, even life and limb for the benefit of others.
-by Abby Petty, including
notes from Deshung Rinpoche?s teaching of The Sage?s Intent given in
January 1983 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, translated by Jared Rhoton. See
also Illuminations by Sakya Pandita. Translated by Geshe Wangyal and Brian
Cutillo. Lotsawa, 1988.
In the memory of the late Khenpo Dorje Gyaltsen Rinpoche (An appeal from Pfauenhof, Germany)
The venerable Lama Khenpo Dorje Gyaltsen Rinpoche died on
the full moon night of the 6th May 1993. He was one of the Tibetan lamas
who had dedicated all his life in helping sentient beings through teaching
the Dharma and healing hundreds of people who suffered from difficult
illnesses of all kinds.
In his last speech, Rinpoche wished to have his stupa built here, at the land of the peacock centre (Pfauenhof) in northern Germany.
This centre was a home for the homeless monk. Pfauenhof organised the first Kalachakra initiation of H.H. Sakya Trizin in the west. This centre in now developing under the kind and skilful guidance of H.E. Jetsun Kushok.
We are now in the planning phase for this stupa which shall be erected under the guidance of Her Eminence in September 1999. It is our great wish to reach as many people as possible who had the fortune to meet this extraordinary lama, to contribute time and/or financial means to make his wish come true. Donations can be made to the following account:
Pfauenhof e.V. (Stupa project)
(BLZ 350 700 30 Account no.: 359 2706)
Tax deductible receipts can be issued by Pfauenhof. For any questions please address Michael Hellbach at the Pfauenhof address: Pfauenhof, e.V. Germany, Pauendyck 1 - 47665 Sonsbeck. Tel & Fax no: 49 (0) 2835-44133 Tel 49 (0) 2835-4101
Given by Lama Tashi Namgyal Sept. 12 & 13 at STTL
A fortunate group of students gathered for a weekend with Lama Tashi Namgyal to explore the roots of their tradition, the Sakya lineage. Like the others, I was curious to know where and how our teachings began. Because there is such a rich and extensive body of knowledge, certainly more than we could cover in two days, Lama decided to focus on four topics: Origins of the Sakya School, Important Sakya teachers, the Main Teachings of Sakya and Dharma Protectors of the Sakyapa Tradition.
The Sakya tradition is nearly a thousand years old, founded in 1073 and so named for the "land that is greyish yellow in colour", that is "Sa" (land) and "Kya" (Gary). The Khön family founded the first monastery and this became the seat of the Sakya lineage. Later, Padmasambhava built four stupas to stabilise this seat.
When Atisha first came from India to Tibet to spread Buddhism, he is said to have seen two wild yaks fighting on this spot and prophesied that they were the two aspects of Mahakala and would become the protectors of this school. When Atisha was seen doing prayers and prostrations there, a disciple asked him why he chose such an empty place to this. He replied that he had seen seven letters DHI and HUM and HRI, meaning that seven incarnations of Manjushri would come to this very place, thus beginning the lineage. Sakya has two lineage, the Khön lineage and the Dharma lineage. Although not all Dharma lineage holders have been Khön lineage, the current Sakyapa head, His Holiness Sakya Trizin is both.
The five most revered Sakya lamas are known as the "Three whites (for their layperson?s robes) and the two reds (fully ordained monks). They were Sachen Kunga Nyingpo, Sonam Tsemo, Drakpa Gyaltsen (whites), Sakya Pandita and Chogyal Phakpa (reds). Their stories were made as colourful as their garb as Lama told us tales of transformation, magic, revelations and visions, all too elaborate to repeat here.
As Bodhgaya is the holiest of places for Buddhists, so is the Sakya seat a similar source of refuge in the north, near Mount Kailash. "It is a place likened to the highest realm in Samsara, near in spirit to the Pure Land."
A special thank must go to Lama Tashi Namgyal for sharing his wisdom, (as well as his delightful humour) and to our superb translator, Thubten Jhampa.
-by Graham Peat
Vajrapani-Retreat at Pfauenhof, Germany
On September 1st, Jetsun Kushok bestowed the Vajrapani initiation to about 25 people at Pfauenhof, Germany, followed by very clear and detailed explanations the next day. Thus, thoroughly introduced, a small group of seven students who had gathered from Brazil, USA, Switzerland and Germany began a six week Vajrapani retreat under her guidance.
It was the first formal retreat of this length ever held at Pfauenhof since its inception seven years ago. Heartily welcomed by our small sangha, we felt it fulfilled a prediction: during the days of the creation of the Pfauenhof, Khenpo Dorje Gyaltsen Rinpoche had foreseen that it would take us seven years of building and gradual inner growth, before our centre?s work could eventually begin to blossom. Now seven years had passed and Jetsun Kushok offered a Vajrapani retreat which would help us clear away inner and outer hindrances.
Being the first retreat of its kind, we did not know what to expect. Due to its length and late announcement we had only a few registrations. We kept the financial and organisational management as flexible as possible until the last moment. In this way we intended to give everybody who wanted, the opportunity to participate.
We got up at 3.30 in the morning and our sessions took place from 4-7, 9-12, 14-17 and 19-22. Our daily routine was interwoven by other programs taking place in the other halls. On the first Sunday of every month, a small group of students from Thich Nath Han gathered. They practised awareness, not only during their meditation session, but also during daily routine works, turning the washing of dishes into a meditation practice. On the 10th September Trogawa Rinpoche, Head of the Chagpori Medical Institute in Darjeeling, India and his nephew Trinley Trogawa came to visit Jetsun Kushok. Rinpoche offered a beautiful Medicine Buddha initiation on the twelfth of September and medical consultations for the retreat members and those who had gathered during the initiation.
At the third weekend of September a group of students from Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche gathered to practice Yantra Yoga. A week later a dance group playing African drums accompanied our evening dreams.
In the first week of October Lama Gendun came from Rikon, Switzerland to help us with the preparation for a three day fire puja to conclude our retreat. We cleaned, washed and dried the grains, made tsampa, tormas and so on. Lama Gendun blessed the ground and helped us constructed a fireplace that would allow us to make fire without killing any small animals hiding in the earth below.
Two days later the board members of the newly established Sakya Foundation held a meeting together with Jetsun Kushok planning our next years activities. In the afternoon of the same day, concluding her stay with us, Jetsun Kushok offered a Kuru Kulle initiation and a Vajrayogini tsok.
May her example of true wisdom and unchanging love let the Dharma flourish.
May her love and compassion shine to all sentient beings and illuminate their heart.
May the fire of her wisdom melt away all outer, inner and secret hindrances.
May she live long and may we eventually become worthy students of her.
- by Katrin Jäger
At the retreat place left without food because it was stolen by thieves in Holland and the rest was eaten by mice - how dependent I am on the help of others.
On the cushion I am attacked by 'wild animals' like mosquitoes and fleas-can I deal compassionately with them?
Diseases are weakening my body-tired, how can I work with my mind?
With the elements my bad relationship is manifesting:
- restlessly moving from one sleeping place to another
- even though it rains day and night, there is not enough filtered drinking water
- the incense smoke is burning my eyes and my throat is dry because of the central heating
- the autumn storm makes strange noises all the time
How can I avoid being conditioned by circumstances?
In this situation old friends are coming: doubts, conflicts and tensions -
Demons that like to say hello and want to stay with me! So I have to react and communicate with them. If it was not a secret, I really would like to introduce myself to them: "Well recently my Guru disclosed to me that I am the Subduer of demons!" But is it necessary to say anything? Anyway my transformation will be obvious when I act.
-by Djamyang Choenyi
Every Sunday: 4-Mandala Tara Puja
15-22 May: Ngöndro retreat with Jetsun Kushok, organised by STTL
28-30 May: Green Tara weekend with
Jetsun Kushok, Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche and Sogyal
(details next issue of Sachen news)