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February 2010

In this Issue

Wisdom From Our Teachers

An excerpt from HH the Seventeenth Karmapa’s teaching on Meditation on Selflessness as an Instrument of Compassion more


Update on offered robes for IMI members; 16th Western Buddhist Monastic Conference dates, location and topic announced; Cabin available at Land of Calm Abiding; Vinaya Teachings at Instituto Lama Tzong Khapa more

Changes on the IMI Board of Directors

Heartfelt thanks to those who are leaving and a warm welcome to new more

Report on the Sangha luncheon in Bodhgaya in January

More than 60 monks and nuns attended the special IMI lunch hosted at Root Institute on January more

Ordained sangha member wanted at Shambhala Retreat Centre in Findhorn Scotland

Retreat is seeking an ordained Sangha member for 9-10 months of the year more

Do you need a copy of The Essence of the Vinaya Ocean (for Getuls) or Direct Instructions from Shakyamuni Buddha (for Gelongs)?

In 2009 Ven. Losang Monlam, then director of IMI, sent out copies of The Essence of Vinaya Ocean and Direct Instructions from Shakyamuni Buddha to our more

IMI End of Year 2009 Financial Statements

IMI continues to provide support to the FPMT community of monks and nuns through a variety of programs and services more

Letter to the Editor

A comment on the term Ani or Ani-la versus more.

Report back on Guhyasamaja Empowerment and Lama Chopa Commentary in Indonesia

An article by Ven. Angie more.

Wisdom from Our Teachers

His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa: Meditation on Selflessness as an Instrument of Compassion

The following is excerpted from His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa’s annual winter teachings for international students in Bodhgaya, in December of 2009. While teaching on Nagarjuna’s Letter to a Friend, the Gyalwang Karmapa replied to the question: ‘How should we meditate on selflessness and how can we help beings through that meditation?’ Recordings of the teaching series can be downloaded here 

Translated by Lhundup Damchö and reprinted here with permission of the Gyalwang Karmapa.

When we speak of ‘me’ and ‘you,’ or of ‘self’ and ‘others,’ what this ‘me’ or ‘self’ usually evokes for us is a sense of being over here, separate from everything else and autonomous. We feel we do not really need others in order to exist, as if we could just give up everyone else and still continue to stand here on our own, self-sufficient with our own objective existence.

Yet if we actually ask ourselves what this ‘I’ is, it is utterly dependent on others. Even just in terms of our survival, there is absolutely and completely no me that can exist outside of my relationships to others.  Whether it’s the books we read, the clothes we wear or the food we eat, these are all things produced by others. Even the very oxygen we breathe comes from outside us. Thus this me is a part of others; it is something that exists in relation to others. There is no self or I whatsoever that can exist on its own or independently. I am a part of others and I am connected to them.

When we recognize this actual situation we are in—and can really confirm this basic reality for ourselves—then we see that if we need goodness for ourselves, naturally we need others to have goodness. If things don’t work out well for others, automatically and naturally they don’t work out well for me. If I want to eat well, I need the people who give me my food to be happy, to be alive and well.  The more I understand this interdependence, the more I see how important others are for me, and the more working for their benefit comes to seem necessary. Put simply, if there are no other sentient beings, there is no self. I cannot survive without others. This fact alone should increase our certainty that others are more important than we are, and make our recognition of their importance more and more clear. 

Any meditation on selflessness must become an instrument of our wish to benefit others. This is extremely important. Otherwise, sometimes these high practices of meditation on emptiness, Mahamudra or Dzogchen just end up making our selves bigger, more puffed up with pride and self-importance. But if you yourself clearly understand how things are in reality, then when you see someone who does not understand how things are, what comes is compassion. Though this person wants and needs happiness, they do not know how to bring it about for themselves. As far as cause and effect, they have turned things upside down. The result they want to bring about is happiness, but the causes they create bring only suffering. Because they have gone completely wrong, and their wishes and their behavior are at odds, they are particularly worthy of our great compassion. 

If you can see this and only then begin meditating on emptiness, your meditation will be able to reach its target.


Update on Robes offered to IMI members

Our deepest gratitude once again to Venerable Tenzin Pemba, on behalf of Cham-Tse-Ling Centre (the FPMT center in Hong Kong) for the very kind offer of robes for the ordained sangha.  And thanks to all of you who responded and submitted your robes requests (or let us know you didn’t need robes at this time).  We had a total of 108 robes ordered and submitted our request to Kopan in addition to additional robes being made at Sera Je monastery in South India.  Because of the abundance of robes being made at this time for all the monks and nuns of Kopan as well as all the teachers of the FPMT, our robes will not be ready and mailed until Sakadawa according to Ani Fran. We can not accept any further orders or changes in orders at this time.  Thanks so much for your cooperation.

16th Western Buddhist Monastic Conference  to be held November 8-12, 2010 at Vajrapani Institute, Boulder Creek, California, USA

Conference topic: Reflections on Renunciation: The Practice of Vinaya in the 21st Century

In this conference, we will be looking at the unique challenges posed by practicing the monastic vows in the 21st century. We will be hearing from leaders of monastic communities to see how they have applied the monastic training to the circumstances of our modern times. We will be listening to stories of how our lineage masters, the pioneers who brought the teachings from Asia to the West, guided their students, adapting to the vastly different conditions they found themselves in. We will be exploring approaches to modern circumstances in small group discussions and workshops, examining how the vinaya training can be applied to situations that are not explicitly addressed in the vows themselves, in terms of communication, gender equality, technology, and so on.

All of us, whether we practice in communities or in more isolated situations, need to address the pressures and challenging circumstances of the modern world and their impact on our monastic training. These discussions will provide opportunities for us to broaden our understanding of these topics, expand our capacity to work within our own communities and gain greater appreciation and understanding of other communities in these areas. We hope that by sharing our experiences and various approaches to these issues, we will support and encourage each other in sustaining our monastic training.

Participation in the conference is limited to approximately 40 attendees. If you would like to reserve your place, please send an email to Ven. Tenzin Chogkyi at A more detailed registration form will be available approximately May 1 on the Western Buddhist Monastic Conference e-group site, and will also be sent to those who have pre-registered. If you have not yet signed up for this group, please visit Buddhist-Western-Monastic- Gathering to join.

Cabin available at Land of Calm Abiding, USA

A retreat cabin is still available at Land of Calm Abiding in California, USA. (located near Big Sur).  Cabin 3 is available for up to 4 years. Contact Center Director Brian Halterman at for more information.

Vinaya Course, Part 2, July 13-27, 2010, Instituto Lama Tzong Khapa

More information will become available on the ILTK website as the course dates get closer .


While the first part of the course in 2007 was open to lay people planning to take ordination, the second part of the commentary is NOT. This means that those lay people who participated in the first part of the course but who have not taken ordination in the intervening three years CANNOT ATTEND the second part of the course.  Otherwise the course is open to all ordained sangha who were present at the first part of the commentary as well as to ordained sangha who were not present at the first part but who have either listened to the audio recordings of the commentary or read the transcripts. 

[Please note: If you would like to attend this course but were not at the first course , or would like a copy of the transcript, please contact Ven. Joan Nicell directly at


The course will begin at 16.00 on 13 July 2010 with a short organizational meeting followed by teachings at 17.30. The course will end at 12.30 on 27 July 2010. Geshe Tenphel will teach every morning, from approximately 10.30 to 12.30 and every afternoon from 17.30 to 19.30. There will likely be morning and evening group practices which participants in the course will be expected to attend.


The course will be taught by Geshe Tenzin Tenphel and Tibetan to English translation will be provided by Ven. Lhundup Damcho. See bios below.  English to Italian translation will also be provided (if you can help with the English to Italian translation please let us know).


Istituto Lama Tzong Khapa has kindly offered to provide dormitory accommodation free of charge to IMI members attending the Vinaya Course. This will be effective from the afternoon of 12 July 2010 through to and including the night of 27 July 2010. If you would like to come earlier or stay later you must make arrangements in advance.  The cost for other types of accommodation is the same as the usual cost for ILTK guests (please contact reception at for more information).

For IMI Sangha Members, the IMI will generously sponsor the costs of:

  • transportation from India as well as food and accommodation for Ven. Damcho, the Tibetan-English translator
  • lunches at Istituto Lama Tzong Khapa for all monks and nuns attending the Vinaya Course from lunch on 13 July 2010 to lunch on 27 July 2010
  • an offering to the teacher and translators

Sangha will need to pay for breakfast and dinner:

  • Breakfast - 3 euro.
  • Dinner - 5 euro.

Please note that the Institute is unable to accommodate special diets. Meals are mostly typical Italian food, although vegetarian, with plenty of pasta dishes. If you would like to cook in the small kitchen available to ILTK residents, you will be expected to do your own shopping (there are two small grocery stores in the nearby village of Pomaia).

Also be aware that the weather in Tuscany in early July can already be quite hot (25-28°C) and the Institute does not have air-conditioning, however there are ceiling fans in the gompa.


If you would like to attend the program please send the following information in an email addressed to Ven. Daniela Brandstetter at  Registration forms should be submitted to Istituto Lama Tzong Khapa before 30 June 2010 but it would be helpful to receive your registration as soon as possible, in order to be able to book you a place to stay.  Please note that registration information for this course does not go to IMI.  

  • Passport name:
  • Ordination name:
  • Sex: M/F
  • Nationality:
  • Email address:
  • Level of ordination: gelong/gelongma, getsul/getsulma, rabjung
  • Date of ordination:
  • Ordaining lama/abbot:
  • Are you a member of the IMI? Yes/No
  • Did you participate in the first half of the course in the summer of 2007? Yes/No
  • If not, do you need a copy of the transcripts from the first half of the course in the summer of 2007? Yes/No
  • Accommodation preference: dormitory/double room/single room
  • Expected time and date of arrival:
  • Expected time and date of departure:
  • How will you arrive: car/train to Rosignano/airplane to Pisa


Geshe Tenzin Tenphel – Teacher of course

Geshe Tenphel, a holder of the Lharam Geshe degree from Sera Je Monastery, has been resident teacher at Lama Tzong Khapa Institute since January 1998. In addition to teaching some of the supplementary subjects during the first seven-year residential Masters Program 1998-2004, he was one of the main teachers for the two-year residential Basic Program 2005-2007, and taught the first subject of the second Masters Program 2008-2013, the Ornament for Clear Realization. In addition, Geshe Tenzin Tenphel teaches regularly at the other FPMT centers in Italy and also attends numerous conferences each year related to such topics as inter-religious dialogue and the Tibetan situation. Geshe-la is particularly appreciated by his many disciples for his clear and logical explanations, his enthusiasm for the practice of Dharma in daily life, his keen interest in debate, and his never-ending humility.

Ven. Lhundup Damcho – Tibetan to English translator

After seven years as a journalist in her hometown of New York and in Hong Kong, Damcho was ordained as a sramanerika in 1999. She studied Buddhist philosophy for seven years with Geshe Lhundup Sopa, her preceptor, and produced the English translation of the Sanghata Sutra. Recently Damcho received her PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, working on Sanskrit and Tibetan narratives about Buddha's female disciples. Damcho is currently working on an English translation of those stories. She is a disciple of His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, Orgyen Trinley Dorje.


Changes on the IMI Board of Directors

IMI would like to welcome our new Board members, Ven Chantal Tenzin Dekyi and Ven Kaye Miner. We appreciate their willingness to support the sangha community in this important way.

We would also like to thank the outgoing Board members, Ven  Lobsang Tendar, Ven Elisabeth Drukier, Ven Char Fanning and Ven Angie Muir, for their work on behalf of the IMI  monks and nuns.

Report on IMI Sangha Luncheon in Bodhgaya

On January 10, 2010 more than 60 monks and nuns of the IMI along with special guests Lama Zopa Rinpoche, Dagri Rinpoche, Khenrinpoche Lama Lhundrup , Cherok Lama, Venerable Jetsun Khandro Rinpoche and several members of Lama Zopa Rinpoche's family, all gathered at Root Institute in Bodhgaya the day after the teachings and long life puja for His Holiness the Dalai Lama ended.

The lunch was beautifully hosted by Root Institute and the monks of Nalanda Monastery.  We wanted to give you a taste of that day and here include a link to some wonderful photos taken. Please enjoy.   Sangha Luncheon at Root Institute

Ordained Sangha Member wanted at Shambhala Retreat Centre in Findhorn, Scotland

Shambala is a Tibetan Buddhist Centre for Healing and Universal Compassion located in an exquisite waterfront position on the Findhorn Bay in the north-east of Scotland, and in close proximity to the world-famous Findhorn Foundation Community and Ecological Village.

Inspired through the work of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Shambala offers both traditional and innovative contemporary Tibetan Buddhist teachings in the spirit of Lama Yeshe's vision of "Universal Education", to promote an understanding of the Tibetan Buddhist path in the Western world. At the same time Shambala   encourages the broadening of understanding across all religious and spiritual groups through the promotion of harmony, tolerance and understanding among seekers of all religious and spiritual traditions.

Whilst being an independent centre, Shambala has a strong affiliation with Kopan Monastery and the FPMT, and our spiritual guides include Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche and Khen Rinpoche Lama Lhundrup. In order to nourish the spiritual foundations of the centre, we are now seeking an ordained Sangha member to stay with us for 9-10 months of the year, who would perform daily prayers and practices at the centre and offer regular Buddhist teachings, meditations and study opportunities for guests and staff. The position is available from March 2010 and would suit a monk or nun ordained in the Gelugpa lineage with experience in leading meditations, retreats, pujas and ceremonies.  

If you are interested in this position please contact the centre for more details:

Tel. +44(0)1309 690690, 

Thomas Warrior,  Centre Director
Shambala - A Retreat Centre for Healing & Universal Compassion
Findhorn Bay, IV36 3YY, Moray, Scotland

Do you need a copy of the Essence of the Vinaya Ocean (for Getsuls) or Direct Instructions from Shakyamuni Buddha (for Gelongs)?

In 2009 Ven. Losang Monlam, then director of IMI, sent out copies of The Essence of Vinaya Ocean and Direct Instructions from Shakyamuni Buddha to our members.  If you did not receive a copy, please contact us at and include your ordination level and current mailing address.

IMI End of Year 2009 Financial Statments

IMI continues to provide support to the FPMT community of monks and nuns through a variety of programs and services.  Here is the net results of our 2009 Fiscal Year.

During 2009 IMI incurred expenses in excess of income earned during the period for a net loss of $87,852.  This loss was funded by cash reserves, which at 12/31/2009 amounted to $244,697. For the second year in a row IMI continued to expand the way it supports the sangha, by providing regular communications and educational materials to our community of monks and nuns,  offering basic support to our sangha members most in need, providing ordination training programs and support for sangha doing  retreat with Lama Zopa Rinpoche.  It is our wish to continue providing for the FPMT sangha in this way and hope that in 2010 we can generate funds to be able to do that.

The following is a breakdown of income and expenses during 2009.

Income earned during 2009 amounted to $90,359. The sources of this income are presented in the following graph:

Expenses in 2009 amounted to $178,210. The sources of these expenses are presented in the following graph:

If you have any questions or would like a more detailed copy of our financial reports for 2009, please contact us.  


Letter to the Editor

In our last eNews we published a short article about what one monastic can do by telling the story of Ani Dechen from Malaysia and the sheep she saved from slaughter.  In response we received the following note, not in comment on the story but rather regarding the use of the term Ani or Ani-la.  We thought it was important enough to share.  If you have comments regarding anything we publish in our eNews, please contact us at and if it seems to be of general interest, we’ll include it in the following eNews.

 “This is a term [Ani-la] most Tibetans use, and many westerners as well, but one of my teachers, Dagpo Rinpoche, told me many years ago that it's not a very respectful term for nuns, as it means "Aunty." He uses the term "Chö-la" (Chö as in Dharma). I've heard some Tibetans in Dharamsala use that term, as well our resident Geshe and Gomo Tulku who sometimes visits.  It seems that Tibetans who are in-the-know use Chö-la rather than Ani-la, so I think it's good if we westerners could pick up this habit as well, rather than perpetuating an inappropriate Tibetan habit. Maybe you could even put a note about this in the next IMI newsletter!”

Precious Dharma Jewels from our Holy Guru in Jakarta: Lama Chopa Commentary with Kyabje Zopa Rinpoche

By Ven. Angie Muir

The second year of this fortunate occasion of the Lama Choepa Commentary with Rinpoche, began with a 5 day Guyhasamaja empowerment finishing on the last evening at around 6am in the morning after almost 10 hours straight of teaching and initiation. Of course, we are always amazed at Rinpoche’s energy and huge ability to give, but I was also in awe of Venerable Joan Nicell who busily transcribed the whole evening with very little break-time!

After a day of rest, the Commentary began and continued over a period of a week. Apart from weekends, there was only one 3 hour session of evening teachings each day during which time Rinpoche surprisingly held to the schedule. After so many years of training our body and mind to sit for marathon teaching sessions with Rinpoche, for some of us sangha and older students it was quite a shock, and to some extent, perhaps a disappointment (anti-climax), to experience Rinpoche finish the teaching session on time!

This Experiential Commentary, as Rinpoche says, is a very rare and secret text called Testament Delivered on the Wind by Jadrel Tsultrim Nyima. Rinpoche received the Oral Transmission of this text from Dakpa Rinpoche, the ex Abbot of Sera Me in Buxa, in San Jose just a few years before.  Rinpoche offered the 5 colors of kata or cloth to the text to show the special quality and preciousness of this commentary and also spent some time translating the inspiring and deep quality and benefits of this guru yoga practice. Although Rinpoche did not complete a great deal of the commentary (around 4 pages), I believe, each session was very rich and full of vital points to help us have success in our practice of Guru Yoga as a basis to quickly complete the other stages of the path.  To highlight the importance of Guru Yoga and to encourage a sense of devotion and inspiration with us, Rinpoche beautifully intertwined many inspiring quotations from other texts, such as the 50 verses of Guru Devotion, with the life stories and great attainments of past masters.

Included in the event, was a marvelous 22-hour Lama Choepa practice day, where Rinpoche spent precious time with us clarifying tunes and the way in which the practice should be done. During a session of prayers with the Sangha, Rinpoche introduced us to a very inspiring dedication prayer put together for the FPMT/IMI Sangha which I share with you here:

“Outwardly showing the conduct of the hearer-listener, inwardly training the mind in the two bodhicittas, and secretly developing the wisdom of bliss and voidness.”

This is how Rinpoche wishes us to practice.

Our time in Indonesia came to a very auspicious end when over 30 students travelled to Jambi with Rinpoche on the Tibetan 25th on pilgrimage to seek out the place where Lord Atisha had traveled to receive the precious lineage of bodhicitta teachings from his Root Guru Lama Serlingpa. Last year, Rinpoche had expressed a wish to try to find the place where Lama Serlingpa (Dhamaraksita) lived and requested Salim Lee, the main teacher of Potowa Center, to do some research. As a result, Salim Lee researched this and it seems the place can now be identified as the ruins of a huge monastic complex called Maura Jambi, on the Island of Sumatra. Although it was heavily destroyed, there is still a Prajnaparamita statue and other stone relics and a huge Yamantaka statue was also found and currently on display in the State Museum in Jakarta. The Archeaologists and Government in Jambi were delighted to greet Rinpoche and our group and Rinpoche was shown some of the precious relics they have there, which are usually kept locked up. These included some gold text platelets showing vajras and the letter AH, which Rinpoche said could definitely signify the presence of Vajrayana teachings. Rinpoche announced that He would like to check with other Lamas who can see more clearly and if they find that this is indeed the place of Lama Serlingpa, then Rinpoche would announce to the world. The Government officials appeared to be blissed out! When we arrived to the pilgrimage site, immediately one could feel a deep peace there, a special feeling, and together with Rinpoche, we chanted a glorious Lama Choepa and tsog offering with special emphasis on the Lineage Lama requesting prayers to Lama Atisha and Dromtonpa to develop bodhicitta in our mindstreams.

E ma ho!!

For those of you who were not able to come this year, do consider coming next year. Not only are the teachings with Rinpoche very profound, but the Potowa Center group are extremely sweet and delightful. An article on their outstanding, as well as very sincere care of the sangha will be coming up soon in the Mandala, at Rinpoche’s request.