Thursday, April 30, 2009

Penor Rinpoche with Yangthang Rinpoche

In November 2008, Yangthang Rinpoche came to Namdroling to lead pujas for His Holiness Penor Rinpoche's long life. This picture was taken at a picnic held to celebrate the completion of the pujas.  

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


With another school year comes another 15 pages of root text I have to memorize.  A page means one two-sided Tibetan pecha page.  If the root text is in stanzas, which it usually is, that means 8 to 10 stanzas per page.

Most teachers do not require us to give all 15 pages in one go.  I usually give 4 or 5 pages at a time then start memorizing the next section. There is a deadline for providing proof of our memorization, the last day of the rainy season retreat (this year September 17th).  If a student fails to complete the memorization test by that time, she has to give 25 pages before classes end two months later.   For some people the deadline is no problem because they can somehow memorize hundreds of pages with ease.  Anyone who memorizes over one hundred pages receives present. 

Occasionally teachers insist that the student recites every stanza of the pages she is claiming to have memorized.  More often the teacher will get the student to start at the beginning of the text, then after a few stanzas the teacher will read the first line of a stanza part way through the text.  The student then continues reciting from that point until the teacher is satisfied.  This may be repeated a few times depending on how many pages are being given.

I'm not a great memorizer, but for the last four years I've managed to get through the memorization tests.  I remind myself that at other monasteries students must memorize every word of every root text on their curriculum. The truth is, the meaning always shines forth so much brighter when I am taught the commentary to text I have memorized.  I've told myself that someday I will memorize the Way of the Bodhisattva in English.  I think that would be a wonderful text to have written in my heart.   For now I'll have to start on Abhisamayalankara and the Seventy Points.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Memories of Sikkim

In February I was meditating at Norbugang in Yuksum, Sikkim and these little friends came to see what was going on.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Back to school

I've challenged myself to post on this blog everyday for a week. To that end…

We began shedra classes last Monday.  I'm in sixth year now.  We've started the year with Paltrul Rinpoche's general commentary on the Ornament of Realization (Abhisamayalankara).  The root text itself is a commentary on the Perfection of Wisdom.   This is a famously difficult subject.  So far we are just on the third page, so I'll have to let you know how it goes.  I have yet to meet a Tibetan text that wasn't difficult to understand.

Khenchen Pema Sherab and Khenchen Tsewang Gyatso were both quite enthusiastic about this text, as though they were excited I was getting the chance to study it.  People often say that if you do well on Abhidharmakosa (in fourth year) you will do well on Abhisamayalankara.  I had a great teacher for Abhidharma, Dolpo Tulku Rinpoche.  He really put in a lot of energy and joy.  He helped keep us keen on day after day of enumerations and definitions. All the same, I was glad to say goodbye to dear old Abhidharma.  

Sixth year is the last year we focus primarily on sutra traditions.  For the final three years of our program we mainly study tantra.    So I am aspiring to be diligent and give the Perfection of Wisdom the attention it deserves and to go for a more complete understanding of the Mahayana than I currently possess.

Friday, April 03, 2009

A letter to my lama, Penor Rinpoche

Dear Rinpoche,

Seven days ago you entered into your final meditation of this life. Even now you rest in equipoise. Our community is united in practice, both here in India and in every place where your teachings have found resonance.

There came a point when it became certain you were going to leave us.  It broke our hearts to see you so ill. We asked the dakinis and the buddhas not to call you, but still you had to go. Any one of would have give up our body to restore yours if such a thing were possible.  To us you are far more than a teacher, or parent, or doctor, you are the very sun who illuminates our lives.

The lamas have taught that when students fail to keep their samaya it shortens the teachers' life.  Rinpoche, I am so sorry for shortening your life. I am sorry for not being a good nun.  I am sorry for not having compassion for beings.  I am sorry for not practicing the six perfections.  I am sorry for not meditating on the profound truth. 

Rinpoche you have taught us the profound path of tantra again and again.  You have taught us exceedingly high teachings.  You taught us even though we were not all ready or capable.  Thank you, Rinpoche, for putting your life on the line for us.  You knew we were just beginners and yet you fulfilled our highest wishes.

I am sorry, Rinpoche, that I did not practice better.  I am sorry I let time slip away while engaged in worldly matters. I am sorry that I have been the mere shadow of a practitioner.  I thought that the tantric samayas were utterly beyond me as an ordinary person.  I am sorry I didn't try.  I am sorry for my lack of pure view.  I am sorry for fighting with my fellow students. I am sorry for not maintaining the continuity of practice. I am sorry for not eliminating my wrong views. I am so sorry for shortening your life. I lay this at your feet from the depth of my heart. I confess everything now in the midst of your Dharmakaya heart.

Who could do what you have done?  Who could nurture tens of thousands of monks, nuns, yogis, and lay people? Who could turn the wheel of Dharma year after year all over the world? Who could build so many monasteries, temples, and dharma centers? We can barely take care of ourselves, Rinpoche.  You have done all these things and more, it is astonishing.

Rinpoche there is nothing that I could offer you now that would prolong your life.  Someday soon your mind will leave your body and you will go on to your next destination.  If you decide to go to a pure land, I wouldn't blame you.  We your students have been ungrateful and probably quite disappointing to you.  I do hope, though, that you will come back soon. 

The only offering I can make to you now is my heart, Rinpoche, and to make these vows in the presence of your Dharmakaya heart:  I vow to never abandon the path of Dharma. I vow to truly take the three jewels as my guides in life.  You were so kind to ordain me, Rinpoche, I vow to keep these precepts you have given me. From now on I will remember bodhichitta everyday.  I will restrain my self from hurting beings.  I will try to love them and care for them and help them. I will lead a Dharma life.  Wherever I go, I will go towards the Dharma.  Whatever I do, I will do Dharma.  Whenever I am lost I will take the three jewels as my guides.  From now on I will exert myself in the path of the secret mantra.  During meditation and in daily life I will practice to the best of my ability.  I vow to go farther and deeper in my studies, so that I may go father and deeper in my practice.  And when I practice, it will be for all beings.  Not just for my self.  I will practice so that beings may be rescued from samsara. 

Thank you, Rinpoche, thank you for everything.  Thank you personally for these vows, these teachings, this monastery, this education.  Thank you Rinpoche for what you have given us.  Thank for what you have done for beings.  We can see only the material expressions of your kindness, but I am certain there is much much more.  I believe you have been benefiting beings with your every thought, word, and breath, for your whole life.  That is amazing, Rinpoche, I pray someday all beings will be like you.

From my heart,

Damchoe Wangmo