IMI Monks and Nuns

Impermanence

Age 80+         1
Age 70-79    10
Age 60-69    59
Age 50-59   118
Age 40-49    56
Age 30-39    45
    Age 20-29    25     Age 10-19     1

Total 315

 

October 2009

In this Issue

Wisdom From Our Teachers

Bhikshuni Thubten Saldon shares her thoughts on Sojong (Monastic Confession Ceremony) as a means for Building Communiity...read more

Announcements

Most Secret Hayagriva Retreat with Lama Zopa Rinpoche; Invitation to Participate in Online Study; New Translated Texts for Monastics; Free email for IMI members. read more

IMI Moments in Time

2008 - Monastic delegates representing the various regions and communities around the world gather at Land of Medicine Buddha....read more

Advice from Lama Zopa Rinpoche

Rinpoche offers some advice exchanging self with other...read more

2010 Lama Yeshe Sangha Fund Grants

The 2010 Lama Yeshe Sangha Fund Grant Guidelines (and applications) are now available.....read more

Transitions

Brother Monlam steps down as Director of IMI; Welcome Ven. Lhundub Chodron as new Director....read more

Thank You from the IMI Board

The IMI Board express the gratitude for outgoing director....read more

Ensuring Adequate Healthcare for Sangha in the U.S.

A central goal of the IMI plan is to ensure the healthcare needs of Sangha are met....read more

FPMT Australia Sangha Care Development Plan

Over the next several decades, population aging is expected to have significant implications for health and aged care services in Australia...read more

Sangha Teachers Meeting

At the Light of the Path retreat, September 2009, 21 Sangha members who are also teachers had a meeting on how to care for teachers within FPMT. ....read more

Experiencing the Light of the Path

For me this retreat was a homecoming: to be with Kyabje Zopa Rinpoche again and with monks and nuns studying and meditating again, and to just set everything else aside to dive into the lamrim....read more

Dear IMI

IMI shares responses letters received from the community on the wearing of robes....read more

Impermanence—Ven. Peg Adams

Ven. Tenzin Choenyi, Peggy June Adams, died in McLeod Ganj, India, September 12. Lama Zopa Rinpoche recommends IMI community members recite the King of Prayers on her behalfread more

Wisdom from Our Teachers

Sojong as Skillful Means for Community Building

Bhikshuni Thubten Saldon

Bhikshuni Thubten Saldon shares some thoughts on the rite of sojong (monastic confession ceremony) as part of our monastic life.

Today more than ever, I am deeply reassured about the potential of Sojong for the Western Sangha. The practice of or Sojong supports both the individual and the community by the dismantling of harmful karmic conditionings. Again and again, I have experienced the huge potential for transformation set up for us in the format of the Posada ceremony by the Buddha.

Just a few days ago, I had the fortune to participate in the Sojong ceremony with the community at Sravasti Abbey. I’m thrilled to see how this practice has evolved over the past two years. Ven. Thubten Chodron is adapting certain aspects of the formal procedure in order to make it more accessible and deeply meaningful to those of us in the West.

The ceremony begins with the entire community gathering in the meditation hall to sing verse eight from The Extraordinary Aspiration of the Practice of Samantabhadra. Between each repetition of the verse, which is done three times, the community prostrates once. The verse that is sung in English, has been adapted to a Chinese melody that is commonly used at most Chinese monasteries. It is working beautifully despite the challenges that the singing style presents to westerners. The verse expresses our deep-felt repentance for the unskillful deeds of body speech and mind that we have committed along our present and past lives.

After the repentance verses, the fully ordained recite the Sojong Blessings*, then the Abbess receives confession from the other bhikshunis, she then confesses herself, and afterwards she takes confession from the novices. The anagarika and lay community recite the refuge prayer and the five precepts in a separate location.

This is just an example of one of many ways in which Sojong could be performed in western monasteries. Gampo Abbey has developed a far longer and comprehensive ceremony closer to the Mulasarvastivada version while Ven. Thubten Chodron’s one is closer to the Dharmagupta’s version in simplicity and spirit. At Vajradakini Nunnery, Abbess Khenmo Drolma is translating to English for the first time the Drikung Kagyu Sojong version, and her vision is that Posada days would be the occasion for the community to study the Vinaya.

In the West, we are beginning a dialogue about what approach the monastic community can take in order to perform this ritual in a way that becomes a rich practice and nurtures us to transform our minds by burning the karmic propensities that keeps us bound in samsara.

Let’s have a look at a traditional quotation and see how we can apply its wisdom today.

Vasubandhu, describing Sojong said that is about, “To fully restore all that is positive and supportive and to clear away all that weakens us and causes harm.  To replenish insight and courage and purify habitual patterns, the Tathāgata has taught the practice of Sojong.”

Replenish and purify are actually the key words here, unfortunately this last word “purify”, in my opinion, has the negative moralistic connotation of purity vs. impurity, so let’s use an updated concept, free of puritanical undertones and let’s talk instead of dismantling patterns of ignorance.

What exactly are we dismantling with the practice of Sojong? We are dismantling our karmic propensities (and weakening the seeds), those propensities that compel us to function out of attraction and aversion.  Those same predispositions that have always lead us to dissatisfaction in the past and will always leads us to it in the future as long as we blindly follow them without learning how to effectively   cut the chain reaction. Of course, for that to actually happen we have to skillfully apply the Four Opponent Powers.

We can use Sojong in two ways, either to free ourselves by honestly applying clear seeing, or we can use it to strengthen negative patterns.

To read the complete article, please click here. 

Announcements

Most Secret Hayagriva Retreat with Lama Zopa Rinpoche

March 3-31, 2010
Tushita Meditation Centre, Dharamsala

Tushita Meditation Centre, Dharamsala, would like to invite you to join them in spending 4 weeks with our precious guru, Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche!

A long-awaited and unique opportunity to receive teachings on the Highest Yoga tantra practice of Most Secret Hayagriva.  Rinpoche will give the Most Secret Hayagriva initiation at the beginning of the retreat.  We expect Rinpoche to give a daily mantra commitment for initiates, with retreat being recommended, though not compulsory.

Tushita was founded by Lama Yeshe & Lama Zopa Rinpoche in 1972 as a retreat centre, having since been blessed by the presence of many lamas and practitioners and holding a long-term history of the Hayagriva practice. We are delighted to be able to host this extraordinary event in our new gompa, at a beautiful time of year – it will be springtime here in Dharamsala.

Sangha Sponsorhip for the retreat is being offered by Tushita Retreat Centre and IMI (all accommodation for the retreat is in shared dormitory).  However monastics wishing to attend the retreat are required to register and make a deposit of US$100 to hold their place in the retreat.  (Additional accommodation within and outside of Tushita may be possible, based on availability.)

For further information on the retreat, please visit the Tushita website here.

Invitation to Participate in Online Research Study

Emotion, Personality & Altruism Research Group Anonymous Online Study

You are invited to participate in an anonymous, online study about emotions and culture.  It consists of responding to questionnaires, and the whole process takes from 15 to 20 minutes of your time. We are particularly interested in the ways Buddhism helps people manage empathy-based, altruistic emotions. If you have any questions about the study, feel free to email Lynn O'Connor. The anonymous online study can be found at www.eparg.org/cultureb/emotions2.html

If you know of one else that you think would also be interested in participating in this study, feel free to pass this invitation on.  Should you be interested, after we have collected and analyzed the data, results will be posted on our website, www.eparg.org.  If you have any difficulty participating in this study, please get in touch with me at Lynn O'Connor.

Thank you very much for your participation. 

Lynn O'Connor, PhD.
Professor, Wright Institute
Director, Emotion, Personality, & Altruism Research Group

New Monastic Texts Translated and Available

IMI is pleased to help with the distribution of two new monastic texts translated by Ven. Geshe Graham and published by the Institute of Buddhist Dialetics.  The Essence of the Vinaya Ocean and The Namtse Dengma Getsul Training by Je Tsongkhapa have been distributed to novice monks and nuns within the IMI community.  This text provides the basis for our vows. 

Direct Instructions from Shakyamuni Buddha—A Gelongs Training in Brief by His Holiness Dalai Lama was retranslated by Geshe Graham from the original version (1974). This is a commentary on the gelong vows offered by His Holiness Dalai Lama and is one of the most extensive and recommended commentaries available.  This text has been distributed by IMI to all Fully Ordained Monks within the IMI community.

If you have missed your copy of either of these texts, please let us know and we will try to send a copy along to you.

Free email Accounts

monasticname@imisangha.org

Members of IMI are welcome to their own personal email account at no charge.  IMI is able and willing to offer POP and IMAP (or webmail) accounts to its members.  The internet, although not to be relied upon exclusively, is a great tool with which we can communicate around the world.

To request an email account, please send us contact information for you (or another IMI member) and we will set up the account and contact you.  All addresses will be name@imisangha.org.

IMI Moments In Time

  2008 With over 40 delegates invited, 20 delegates representing IMI communities and regions around the world gather at Land of Medicine Buddha, California for a 5-day planning conference.  Building on successful principles in their own lives as monastics, the group authors the vision and mission for the IMI community, setting the foundation for the future.

Vision

People all over the world who want to practice the Buddhist path as a monk or nun have a place to be and a way to do that.

Mission

IMI is the community within FPMT empowered to respond to, and take care of the needs of its family of monks and nuns through the development of quality education programs, harmonious monastic communities, effective communications, financial support, and advocacy. 

As emissaries of Buddhism, we inspire others through our speech and behavior and provide the opportunity for lay practitioners to integrate respect and support for Sangha into their practice of Buddhism.

Our community contributes to world peace and individual spiritual growth by keeping the Buddha’s teachings alive, and inspiring others with values of ethical behavior, tolerance, compassion and wisdom.

IMI is known for taking especially good care of its community and for the qualities of its monks and nuns and their contribution to happiness in the world. 

IMI is distinct in preserving the unique lineage of Lama Tsong Khapa, integrating study and practice as manifested by its teachers, HH Dalai Lama, Lama Zopa Rinpoche, and Lama Yeshe all the while adapting to various cultures and conditions around the world.

The IMI Development Plan, released in October 2008, serves as the blueprint for the Director (and the IMI Board) in understanding the services and programs needed to meet the vision and mission as outlined in that meeting.

Advice from Lama Zopa Rinpoche

The Ultimate Good Heart

When Rinpoche was in France, he was introduced to a homeless man who lived on the streets in Lavaur. Spontaneously, without having heard of Buddhism, this homeless man was practicing taking on the sufferings of other homeless people. Rinpoche wrote him this letter:

My very dear Popeye,

I'm very happy to meet you, especially knowing that you are helping other people, taking other people's pain onto yourself, their sickness. In Buddhism this is called exchanging yourself for others. This practice of exchanging self for others is one of the most important practices of Mahayana Buddhism.

All the sufferings and problems come from cherishing the I. All the obstacles, all the unfortunate things – even the discomfort of a mosquito buzzing, making a sound around your ear, on your nose, in front of your eyes, and then biting you, or a small tiny ant who bites you on the feet, on the small toes – come from the I, from the selfish mind that cherishes the I. All the bad things come from the I, so we need to give that up. We need to throw that away immediately.

Enlightenment, the cessation of all the gross and subtle defilements, the cessation of all the mistakes and completion of all the realizations, and liberation from the oceans of samsaric suffering and their causes: karma and delusion – all these are ultimate happiness. Temporary happiness is all the happiness of future lives and even this life's happiness, all the comfort – even the comfort of cool air passing through when you feel hot.

All the collection of goodness comes from the good heart, from bodhichitta. Bodhichitta and the good heart come from cherishing others. Every single happiness up to enlightenment and every single comfort in this life comes from others. Therefore, others are the most precious ones. Therefore, cherish others.

This is what made Shakyamuni Buddha achieve full enlightenment. From this bodhichitta – the ultimate good heart – and from renouncing the I and cherishing others, Buddha ceased all the gross and subtle defilements of mind, which has no beginning and continues from beginningless rebirths, and from this bodhichitta, Buddha completed all the realizations.

After one achieves enlightenment, in every second one is able to liberate numberless sentient beings from the sufferings of the lower realms (hell realm, hungry ghost realm, and animal realm). Even in one second, one is able to liberate numberless sentient beings from the oceans of samsaric sufferings and their causes: karma and delusion. Even in one second, one is able to liberate sentient beings from lower nirvana, that lower blissful state of peace for oneself, and bring numberless sentient beings to enlightenment. Even in one second, one is able to liberate the numberless sentient beings from the extremely subtle defilements and bring them to enlightenment. So like this, you are able to offer inconceivable benefit to sentient beings, skies of benefit in every second.

What you are practicing – exchanging oneself for others – is unbelievable, great! I rejoice in you! This is what makes your life most meaningful and most beneficial for numberless sentient beings, for every sentient being, and this is what makes the happiest life for you. There is no regret in the future, no regret when you die, and you have the most happy death. Each time that you do this practice, this is what purifies negative karma collected from beginningless rebirths, those very heavy negative karmas. Each time you do this practice, many eons of past life negative karma get purified and you collect inconceivable merits.

This makes each day of your life so meaningful. Your meditation makes your life meaningful. Your parents who looked after you, who gave birth to you, all the people who bore so much hardship to bring you up and created so much negative karma, who suffered so much for your well being, for your happiness – this makes all their efforts meaningful, so worthwhile.

So thank you very, very much.

With much love and prayers,

Lama Zopa

Scribed by Ven. Holly Ansett, October 6, 2009. Lightly edited by Ven. Gyalten Mindrol.

For more advice from Rinpoche, please visit here.

For more on the teachings of the Light of the Path retreat, please visit here.

Photo: Sarah Brooks

2010 Lama Yeshe Sangha Fund Grants

Grant Awards for Study, Retreat and Service

The Lama Yeshe Sangha Fund was established to provide support for the community of monks and nuns of IMI. Since it began the fund has offered assistance enabling monks and nuns with limited means to engage in study and retreat. In 2010 IMI is offering members of its community up to US$10 per day towards the cost of providing the four requisites (lodging, food, medicine, clothing).

The offering is to encourage and support those monastics in study, in retreat, and in service.

2010 Grant Guidelines

We welcome you to participate. The Lama Yeshe Sangha Fund Grant Guidelines for 2010 are now available in English, Espanol, and Italiano languages.  Please note there have been some changes in the guidelines from 2009, including a new Center/Project questionaire. Applications must be received by December 1, 2008 for awards beginning January 1, 2009.

Transitions

Goodbye and Thank You

It is with some sadness that I announce that I will be stepping down as Director of IMI at the end of this month. Ven. Lhundub Chodron has been named to serve as the new Director of IMI.

I am very happy to have had the precious opportunity to serve the monastic community these last two and one half years in helping to bring Lama Yeshe’s vision alive.  There has been a lot of effort made to build a stable foundation for the development of the community and I trust that Ven. Chodron and the IMI Board of Directors will do their best to continue the effort.

I am deeply grateful for the level of support from the lay and monastic community; this has kept me inspired in carrying out the many duties as Director.  We monastics are a varied lot with quite different personalities, some easier than others but all with a sincere motivation to enter the monastic life and benefit others.  And the sincere nurturing and caring for our brothers and sisters has kept me inspired to serve and has inspired the lay community as well.  In particular, I have had the care and support of our translators, Ven. Pema, Ven. Tiziana, and Ven. Tonden; the IMI Board and IMI Senior Sangha Council members, the many regional and community representatives and members of the IMI administrative team, Ven. Chokyi, Ven. Char and Jane Chesher along with countless volunteers who have served the community.

Welcome to Ven. Chodron

Ven. Chodron has held novice vows in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition for over nine years. Early in her life she was educated at convent schools by Catholic nuns. As an adult she practiced for 10 years in the Korean and Japanese Zen traditions, including extended training periods at Tassajara, a Soto Zen monastery in California. After meeting Lama Zopa Rinpoche in 1997 she began practicing in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition.

Ven. Chodron has served FPMT for 11 years in several capacities. While studying with Geshe Ngawang Dakpa at Tse Chen Ling in San Francisco, she held positions as the Basic Studies Program Coordinator, the Center Bookkeeper and member of the Tse Chen Ling Management Committee. At Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s request, Ven. Chodron spent 14 months touring with the Maitreya Project’s Heart Shrine Relic. Ven. Chodron has completed several extended retreats including six months at Shine Land in California. Most recently she has been the Director of the Lotsawa Rinchen Zangpo Translator program in Dharamsala, India.

Ven. Chodron brings a unique mix of spiritual practice and business knowledge to the role of director.  Professionally trained as a Certified Public Accountant, financial analyst and auditor, she has worked in the banking, real estate, public accounting and nonprofit sectors. Ven. Chodron’s experience will be a vital benefit in IMI’s goal to serve the needs of the Sangha.

 

Thank You from the IMI Board

A Big Thank You to Outgoing Director, Brother Monlam

In slightly over two years, Venerable Monlam has transformed the IMI to a more open and communicative worldwide institute. It was with regret that we heard about his resignation at the end of August.

Brother Monlam was appointed on April Fools Day 2007. When we look back to the emails he sent us during the month of May 2007 we can only conclude ‘he worked his heart out’. He was working on an electronic version of the Newsletter, collecting the data of the IMI as a legal institution, organising the financial reports, making the archive complete and collecting what was still at Nalanda, collecting sangha booklets we used (like specific So Jong texts, etc..), data and applications of monks for support,  defining IMI membership, setting up a survey  on how the IMI could best serve the communities, setting priorities and goals for the IMI, the IMI lunch at the teachings of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, about communication with IMI and Lama Yeshe Sangha Fund donors, about coming to Europe, and about a request on Saka Dawa he sent out to all IMI members to dedicate our good situation (to have met the Dharma, to have met our Precious Teacher His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Kyabje Zopa Rinpoche, and be able to live in the vows) to the long life of our Precious Teachers. This was only for the month of May!

Since then many IMI Newsheets have been sent out regularly, the website has been improved, the data base has been modernized, and many meetings in Europe, Australia and the USA (around retreats and teachings) were organized or financially supported by the IMI. This has given all the sangha a feeling of being more connected and in touch with each other, being a community of brothers and sisters independent of where we lived. The large sangha meeting at Land of Medicine Buddha, where many senior Sangha members worked on the IMI Development Plan, and discussed vision and values was also a great success.

Being an executive IMI Director of a worldwide organization and being responsible for overall management and operation is quite demanding, and you will not always find friends. Ven. Monlam was really motivated to serve and benefit the different Sangha communities and those who lived in other situations. Ven. Monlam put a great deal of effort into understanding the needs of the Sangha living within and outside a community environment.  He took a leading role to strengthen the IMI's legal and administrative structure and enhance its profile, and helped to take the organization to another level.

Dear Monlam, you have benefitted us as community the past years in many ways. We would like to extend our sincere gratitude to you for everything you have done the past period of time for your dharma brothers and sisters. May we meet you again in many future Dharma celebrations and may your practice be successful.

Ven. Losang Tendar, Director of Nalanda Monastery on behalf of the IMI Board

Ensuring Adequate Healthcare for Sangha in the U.S.

IMI is working towards delivering the services presented in the IMI Community Development Plan under “Belonging – IMI Family – Taking Care of Each Other”. A central goal of the plan is to ensure the healthcare needs of Sangha are met so the community can continue a thriving contemplative monastic life right into retirement. IMI has been very fortunate to work with Judith Weitzner on an assessment of the health and aging needs of Sangha living in the USA. Judith’s findings call for an urgent plan to bridge the gap between the current level of individual healthcare insurance coverage, and the estimate amount of care needed.

Judith Weitzner is a lay practitioner, and social worker with over 30 years experience in gerontology and elder resources. Judith began her career in aged care after being encouraged by Lama Yeshe in 1976, and she now has vast expert knowledge of the American social services system for the aged. During 2008, Judith conducted interviews with just over half of the Sangha members living in the USA on their health needs as an aging community. The findings uncovered a significant proportion of monks and nuns are not prepared for retirement, and a lack of knowledge about how to build the financial resources required to access health and aged care services.

The USA is now undergoing a major review of its health care system, and it’s not yet clear how the reforms will impact services for senior Sangha. Medicare is an essential element of health insurance after age 65 in USA, and without it, health insurance is unaffordable. There are also difficulties with current health insurance policies not covering pre-existing conditions, or setting expensive premiums.  Judith’s consultation with the community has helped to signal the priorities for managing rising health needs during the aging process. The table below identifies the existing range of coverage for the American Sangha who participated in the research, and pinpoints the pathway to securing services for those lacking adequate support.

For those Sangha who do not have enough coverage from Medicare or social security, every effort is now needed to pay taxes to reach value of 40 quarters of payments. IMI will consider how to internally administer salaries for individual Sangha, or through an FPMT center, to cover the 6% employer and employee tax contribution into social security and Medicare. It may also be possible to pool community financial resources to ensure all members have 40 quarter payments covered. Individuals will be encouraged to make their own payments if possible, whether self-employed or not working.

Older people tend to see a doctor more frequently as they often require treatments for chronic conditions involving multiple drugs. Their health status fluctuates regularly, usually requiring immediate attention. It is now more important than ever we make sure all Sangha members will have access to medical and aged care services. IMI will work closely with Judith Weitnzer, and other health professionals in the lay community, to assess the impact of healthcare reforms enacted by the Obama Administration. The Government has revealed the following intended outcomes of the proposed legislation: 

  • Preserving and strengthening Medicare
  • Cutting high prescription drug costs
  • Making preventive services free
  • Ending overpayments to private insurance companies that cost all Medicare beneficiaries
  • Improving quality and patient safety
  • Making long term care services more affordable

Over the coming months, IMI hopes to raise awareness within the Sangha about the need to prepare for old age, and solutions based on individual change and group-level plans. The San Francisco Bay Area Sangha Council has recently formed to tackle aged care needs for the local Sangha living in this region, and will work on a care development plan that reflects service opportunities within Californian law. It is hoped the care plan will become a blueprint for other communities within the USA, and other member countries.

For more information prepared by Judith Weitnzer’s on how to meet the demands of aging, please visit www.imisangha.org/members/resources.html.  If you would like to consult with Judith directly, please email her.

Jane Chesher, IMI Community Services

FPMT Australia Sangha Care Development Plan

Lay Community Support for Aging Sangha

Australia's general population, like that of most developed countries, is aging partly as a result of increasing life expectancy. Over the next several decades, population aging is expected to have significant implications for health and aged care services in Australia. Over half of the IMI Sangha in Australia are aged over 50 years, and their needs are rapidly changing. Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche has encouraged the worldwide lay community to support the Sangha through the aging process, and Australia has responded with a care plan aimed to commence early 2010.

IMI spoke with John Waite, FPMT Australia (FPMTA) Board Director and Center Director, Hayagriva Buddhist Centre, Perth, Western Australia, about how the lay community will care for older Sangha. We also spoke with Ven. Thubten Dondrub, IMI Senior Sangha Council member, and resident teacher at the Hayagriva Buddhist Centre, and we discovered how the union between the lay community and the Sangha helps to preserve the Dharma. Through ongoing dialogue with Sangha, a solid business plan, and the expertise of health professionals and volunteers within the community, the conditions for aging within the Dharma in Australia are within reach.

 “We’re maturing as an organization in our ability to fundraise, and we just have to keep working towards that aim. It’s time for the lay community to show how we do want to support Sangha in as many ways as we can. In the past, Sangha we left entirely up to their own devices”. (John Waite, FPMTA)

FPMTA is now drafting a unique aged care service model to be “piloted” at two regional Sangha communities; Thubten Shedrup Ling monastery in Victoria and the Chenrezig Institute in Queensland. The distinct type of care required at each location will be identified through consultation with the local communities, so precise needs are clear and resources can be targeted. Each program will fit the particular needs of the community. At this initial stage of the project, the foundations for fundraising and governance are being established. It is hoped the proposal can be reviewed at the FPMTA national meeting of center Directors in November, and the constitution governing the project can then be registered with the authorities by March 2010.

The first step is to set up a legal public entity, and apply for tax exemption with the Australian Government that will enable supporters receive a tax reduction for the money they give. The regulatory requirements for health services provided within a religious order will enable the community to build aged care facilities and services, and avoid administrative costs associated with a fee-based system open to the public. The funding for the project will come from government, non-government social services organizations, the private sector, individuals and FPMT centers. There are two proposed levels of funding, firstly to address the immediate needs of Sangha visitations or on-site services, and then secondly, to build live-in facilities, both meeting the entire scope of services needed through the stages of aging. Being a independent legal body, the project will have the ability to organize operations locally, and produce professional funding submissions.

Volunteers from within the Sangha and lay community will provide most of the skills needed. The Sangha will organize the service and allow skilled lay people to serve. IMI will appoint a board of directors and work with FPMTA and the centers to oversee management of the service.

“There is a lot of support out there we just need to give people a chance to participate, after IMI in Australia has had a chance to say what they want.” (John Waite, FPMTA)

The basis for a successful pilot service will stem from the ability to execute the information from the consultation process with the monks at Thubten Shedrup Ling monastery, the nuns at Chenrezig Institute, and the FPMT center staff and lay community in the area of both locations. Initial conversations have started within each community, and will run through the next several months. Once the exact needs of each are understood, the plans for building services, fundraising and sourcing volunteers can commence. Its expected a wide range of services will be needed, possibly involving providing dedicated aged care housing or hospice functions either on site or close to Thubten Shedrup Ling and Chenrezig Institute.

If the pilot is successful, the goal is to expand the service approach to other centers for Sangha, and eventually lay people. FMPTA has initiated engagement with the broader Australian Sangha through an online chat forum to discuss aged care generally. There are currently sixty-three IMI Sangha members scattered across the country. Most live outside communities, while others live at centers or in monastic residence. Providing services to such as diversely housed group will require a highly flexible service, that also allows for older Sangha to stay connected with their peers, student and teachers. FPMTA will also utilize knowledge on caring for elderly Sangha from Nalanda Monastery, France, and the expertise from the three FPMT hospices within Australia.

The plan is a wonderful opportunity for the lay community to serve the Sangha when they most need support. The benefit of nurturing our elders will ensure the Dharma thrives into the future. We wish FPMTA all the very best as the project comes together, and look forward to assisting to make this a great success for Australia!

Jane Chesher, IMI Community Services

Sangha Teachers Meeting Summary

At the Light of the Path retreat, in North Carolina, September 2009, twenty-one Sangha members who are also teachers had a meeting. Present at the meeting were four of the eleven members of the IMI Senior Sangha Council within which there has been discussion regarding how to support teachers within the FPMT. One member of the IMI Senior Sangha Council introduced the purpose of this particular meeting.

Teachers often feel isolated. They can be the only Sangha in the center or their role as “teacher” means that there is difficulty in opening up to other Sangha, and vice versa. The question arises as to what support can be put in place before they get into trouble. For example, one suggestion is encouraging networking, getting people to communicate locally with other teachers and Sangha utilizing the internet or meetings.

Everyone was asked for their ideas on how to support the teachers according to the discussion points below, as facilitated by Drimay, IMI regional representative for North America. Each question was followed by a minute or two of silence for people to collect their own thoughts and to jot down a few notes. Here are the questions:

Think of Dharma teachers you know and think what bad behaviour would blow your mind, would damage your faith and cause you to think they weren’t a good teacher?

There were many responses to this one, including flirting, using foul language, being self-promoting, and even lacking inspiration, to name a few.

How could you tell if any of those things were happening to you or that you are in danger of them happening?

Again, the lack of inspiration came up as a cause, as well as feeling overwhelmed and feeling lonely. Danger signs included enjoying wearing lay clothes and preferring lay company.

These days, organizations in America are required to have an emergency preparedness plan. When you start to spiral down, what is your plan? Do you have anyone you’d turn to? What would you do?

Several people would write to Lama Zopa Rinpoche – some writing a physical letter and sending it, others just writing it in their mind and sending it mentally. Some people would try to sit on the cushion and work the issue through. One person suggested that a mediator might be needed in some cases.

How do you help someone, a teacher friend who is spiralling down? Has anyone had to confront someone with their misbehavior? How can you do that effectively and with kindness?

“If you are trying to help them then it can work, but if you are trying to harm it won’t,” was one useful suggestion. 

Discussion followed concerning the need for building trust amongst us so that we feel we can turn to someone when we are in trouble. Maybe we can work on building even long-distance Sangha friendships, via Skype, etc. We were also reminded to make time each year for formal retreat to keep our Dharma practice alive and inspiring. One senior monk mentioned that Lama Yeshe said we need to support ourselves; in other words, Sangha members need to support each other.

The meeting concluded with some reminders about the FPMT Ethical Policy, about the grievance procedure, and about our job in educating people about the teachings of our lamas. There was a request for an informational booklet to be compiled that would help new teachers understand certain protocols, for example, the guidelines and precepts that come from the Vinaya about teaching. And finally there was a request to have more regular Sangha meetings at teaching events and retreats.

Ven. Kaye Miner and Ven. Drimay Gudmundsson

Experiencing the Light of the Path

Boot Camp or Summer Camp

I arrived at the Light of the Path Retreat a day early and encountered one of the treasures of the retreat on the way in.  We met up with monks and nuns coming from all over on our stopover in Atlanta, so a big group of us traveled the last leg together and flowed into Asheville like a sea of maroon to many turned heads and stares, but also many smiles.

For me this retreat was a kind of homecoming: to be with Kyabje Zopa Rinpoche again, to be with lots of monks and nuns studying and meditating again and to just set everything else aside to dive into the lam rim.  Rinpoche gave us so many potent teachings.  For me those given on the first night were especially powerful and set the tone of the retreat, when Rinpoche spoke on impermanence and how our clinging to permanence keeps us from ever truly practicing dharma.  In the next two weeks He also taught intensely on guru devotion and at some length on the complexities of karma.  Of course He taught on so much more – emptiness, suffering and bodhicitta, the whole lam rim really, but these are the ones that pierced my heart the most.  Another piercing experience came when listening to the chants led by Rinpoche, Ven. Sarah Thresher and Ven. Steve Carlier, as Rinpoche sweetly and repeatedly tried to teach us the chants in Lama Chopa, but mostly I used them to dive more deeply into a practice I love.  He kept apologizing for not getting to the actual root text, but somehow He covered it all and more.

To me this retreat felt very full-on, but somehow manageable, like dharma summer camp mixed with boot camp: summer camp because of the setting and connecting with old dharma friends and the sweetness of watching the mist on the mountains or walking around the lake, and boot camp because of the underlying message that hit me so profoundly that first night– I’m running out of time to realize this path.  My life is running out but also all these amazing conditions with my dharma brothers and sisters and with Rinpoche Himself, are running out.  He has invested every breath to helping us actualize these teachings and now it’s up to us. This is the precious part of the retreat that has stayed with me day by day as I take this light into my own path.  I firmly committed to return each year, karma willing, and I urge those of you who missed it to plan now to come.

Ven. Lobsang Chokyi, IMI Education Services
Photo: Ven. Roger Kunsang


Dear IMI

Letters to the Director of IMI

In the August 2009 issue of IMI eNews we ran a letter and response relating to monastics   wearing of the robes. We have received some responses from members of the community, we would like to share. 

Dear Venerable Monlam,

I hope this mail finds you happy and well.

Thank you for the article re the wearing of robes, and the wearing of surgical scrubs..

I feel very strongly re the correct wearing of our robes. I find it very difficult to accept that monks and nuns go out in public with fleeces etc on even in the streets of San Fransisco. I don't know how windy it is there, but from my own personal experience I have difficulty at the best of times in keeping my zen on, but to overcome this I put my jola over my head and over the zen, which keeps it nicely in place, no matter what the weather. For the cooler, cold weather, I ensure my torso is well covered with woollen singlets and vest, etc. also with woollen mayo, flannalette etc. Wear what you need to keep warm underneath but "look as His Holiness does in His wearing of His robes).

I remember when I was ordained by His Holiness, His Holiness requested that we didn't wear sleeves, hats or tassels. I always try to not wear sleeves, even when at home, and never wear sleeves in public. I do however wear a beenie or a sun hat according to the weather, if necessary.

We do live in degenerate times and often this makes for us to bend the rules to how we please (often a sign of the degeneration of the vows), often disregarding some of the vows as well, I think this is a time when we need to do our best to follow our vows to the best of our ability and to wear our robes completely and fully.

Wishing you many realisations

Kind Regards,
IMI Member

Another Response

Dear IMI,

Rinpoche says in the advice that we should not wear sleeves and that being cold is not a sufficient reason to wear them. So I was a little surprised by your reply that it gets chilly in San Francisco and you have to wear sleeves because of that. I feel your words might give people encouragement to go against Rinpoche's advice and feel like it's not reasonable to follow. Rinpoche never wears sleeves, as you pointed out. And He wants us to do the same.  Wearing sleeves is taking the signs of a lay person, isn't it?

It gets chilly here as well, and very very windy. And also the other place I mainly spend my time gets VERY cold, at my parents' house in in winter. So here's what I do about it...

I have two cloaks or capes made from burgundy fleece - no sleeves. They are more than sufficient for most of the West Coast (US) kind of chilliness, and when things get colder than that, I wear them both. This not only keeps me toasty - it also allows me to have my zen on underneath and keep everything together in the wind. A quick google search reveals MANY patterns for cloaks online, including this one (http://home.clara.net/arianrhod/Aldebaran/DoItYourself/Cloak02.html).

I don't sew at all, but have friends who do. And you can find them online as well to buy. This is kind of what the Tibetan Sangha do traditionally - they have these winter cloaks, not sleeves.  There are many pictures of that and I can send some if you like. 

Then, I ordered a long wool zen from Kopan. Long zens of both cotton and wool are quite impervious to wind, first of all, and they keep you really toasty.

Lastly, in terms of keeping warm, when it's really chilly or cold, I have underskirts made from yellow flannel. Again, I don't think the pattern is that hard and they really help.

I haven't been ordained long and am not the best at living perfectly in the vows, but this is one area I have really tried to follow. It's 100% possible to be properly dressed as Rinpoche asks in all weather conditions and every situation I find myself in - riding the bus with groceries, luggage, Tibetan babies (okay, that was the most challenging!), airports, walking places, etc. I feel so many of us, myself included, spend so much energy trying to find ways to get around our vows or cheat in little ways, when we (myself included) could be spending that energy trying to find ways to live purely and follow the vows. Lama said we're always saying things are impossible, but the mind is limitless and everything is possible So why not try?

Thank you,
IMI Monastic Member

Another Response

“In certain situations, Rinpoche has given me advice to wear lay clothes, such as visiting my family, so we may want to be more accommodating to our fellow sangha members.”


Impermanence

Ven. Peg Adams

IMI community member, Venerable Tenzin Choenyi, Peggy June Adams, died in McLeod Ganj, India, September 12 of an apparent heart attack. Ven. Choenyi was serving the IMI community in helping IMI catalog Monastic Education Resources. Lama Zopa Rinpoche recommends IMI community members recite the King of Prayers and Namgyalma Mantra daily as well as perform Vajrasattva Tsog every seven days.  

Ven. Choenyi  is survived by her brother Ron Adams, her Aunt Carrie, a host of friends both far and near and her many four legged friends.  Venerable Choenyi took her vows from His Holiness in 2000.

Choenyi-la, as a radiant jewel of compassion, will be remembered by many for her love of animals.  From Sera Je to Dharamsala she was the nun who always had a little something for the many dogs who live on the street.  She would stop and feed them a little, give them a smile and a blessing.  Her depth of compassion for these animals knew no bounds.  She had adopted three dogs from the street who lived with her in McLeod Ganj: Vajra, Little Bit and Bandit.

Choenyi-la was a long time member of the Kadampa Center in Raleigh, North Carolina where she offered many classes and kept our spirits lifted with her wonderful and sometimes irreverent sense of humor.  With her beautiful voice, full of sincere devotion, she would patiently lead us through our practice, pujas and many a nyungne.  Not afraid to laugh at herself she would often be heard saying something like, “Adams, what you do that for” followed by a chuckle.

Choenyi-la’s compassion was not spent entirely on her animal friends.  She befriended many of the lepers and poor who lived on the streets of Dharamsala, offering what little she had.  Treating them to her radiant smile, contagious laughter and endless loving kindness.

Despite chronic illness she persevered in her practice, especially in her devotion to His Holiness.  She never tired of joining the throngs on the Dharamsala streets to see him as his car passed by on the way to his residence. She made many pilgrimages sending back beautiful photos and wonderful descriptions of her travels.  She was planning a pilgrimage in January to Bodhgaya with her friend and helper Tsering.

When Venerable Choenyi took her vows she said, "I’m not sure what’s going to be the hardest for me - to tame my mind or my mouth - but I feel living life as an ordained person is the best way for me to make the most progress in whatever time ...I have left of this most perfect and precious human rebirth."  Venerable Choenyi from the mouth and the mind you tried so hard to tame, came a wondrous blessing to all the lives you touched.  For the gift of Dharma and compassion that you shared with us, thank you.  May you have a most fortunate rebirth free from pain and full of Dharma.

-Bill Judge

IMI eNews is published periodically to communicate with the IMI monastic community. If you would like to submit announcements or write an article for the IMI eNews, please email office@imisangha.org

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