A day in the life of Sangha at Kachoe Dechen Ling

By Venerable Lobsang Thubten Namgyal

 

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Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s house in Aptos – Photos by Sarah Brooks

 

When I was asked to write a small article about “a day in the life of sangha at Kachoe Dechen Ling” (Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s house in Aptos California), I wasn’t sure how to approach it. But I will give it a try; Rinpoche’s house is such a testament to pure Dharma. There are eighteen altars; every possible space is covered with Holy Objects, and accompanying most of the Holy Objects are water bowls to be offered.

 

So how does one express in words the feeling, maybe the best way is a Pure Land (that is it’s name sake after all). Most of us who visit or who have the incredible good fortune to offer service at Rinpoche’s house experience it through the lens of our ordinary aggregates, but even then you see this amazingly special place Rinpoche has created. Rinpoche has made this place which provides an opportunity to create so much incredible merit and at the same time purify our negative karma. The whole of Kachoe Dechen Ling is a Holy Object.

 

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The community here at Rinpoche’s all live and work at Rinpoche’s house. Our daily routine varies depending on our individual jobs, but we all come together to eat lunch and each takes a turn cooking one or two meals a week (I’m a poor cook so I only cook one meal a week, I think everyone is happy with that..haha). Other meals we may eat together depending on each person daily schedule. Oh, and Uma (Rinpoche’s dog) usually eats breakfast with the person looking after her. She is a wonderful ten year old Lab mix who loves to swim in the ocean. Also, there are is a small indoor pond which is home to eight very lucky goldfish.

 

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So a day in the the life looks a little different for each of us here at the house. There are roughly three to five sangha here at the house at any given time. Venerable Tsering has been a constant at Rinpoche’s house for the last 15 years. He has been writing the Prajnaparamita Sutra (Perfection of Wisdom) in gold. When completed, it will go into the Maitreya Statue in India.

 

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Venerable Tsering

 

There are close to 300 waterbowls (50 gal/225 litres) to be emptied and filled each day. This is divided between two sangha, and usually takes two to three hours each day. Accompanying this is a the cleaning of the the altars and the Holy Objects.

Most of the time we will clean a different altar each week. There are three types of tsa-tsas made daily; they include three Kadmapa Stupas, three long life deity tsa-tsas and ten Migtupa tsa-tsas. During the Tibetan 8th and 15th there are special tsa-tsas made.  As well, there is quite an extensive offering garden that surrounds Rinpoche’s house.

 

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So these are the main daily responsibilities, in conjunction with these; there are morning Tibetan tea offerings, evening Protector tea offerings, Sur offering and daily light offerings (Rinpoche has approximately 15,000 led lights offered each night) and a weekly animal liberation practice and a weekly Namgyalma mantra board ocean blessing. We usually keep pretty busy throughout the year.

 

Between one’s personal commitments and the practices we have here at the house, it doesn’t take long to settle into a routine at Rinpoche’s. It continues to feel like such a blessings to have the opportunity to offer service in this way. I hope that this gives a little insight into our life here at Kachoe Dechen Ling pure land.

 

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In 2008 I resigned from my job as a wildlife biologist in Alaska to offer service at Milarepa Center in Vermont. I had met Lama Zopa Rinpoche at the 2006 November course at Kopan Monastery in Nepal and knew immediately my life was to take a different direction. After working at Milarepa Center for three and a half years I left for Kopan once again, this tiime to become a monk. I was ordained as a getsul after the 2011 November course by Jangtse Choje Lobsang Tenzin Rinpoche (the present Ganden Tripa). At this this time it came out best to help at Root institute in Bodhgaya, India for a short period and then proceed to Rinpoche’s Aptos house in California. So after a little over a year at Root Institute; in March of 2013 I arrived at Rinpoche’s house.