SEC 100 Sakya Monastery Overview and Orientation

Last Tuesday of the month.  Please check our calendar, as dates occasionally change.
Time: 7:30 – 9:00 pm
Location: Cultural Hall
Free, donations accepted
All are welcome

If you attend only one class at Sakya Monastery, this is the one to come to. For people seeking spiritual and personal growth, Sakya Monastery provides access to the Buddha’s teachings and guidance in a community of practitioners. In 90 minutes, we will give you an overview of Sakya Monastery, Tibetan Buddhist philosophy and beliefs, and the variety of spiritual practices taught and practiced at Sakya Monastery. You will learn four simple, but effective, meditation practices in this class. We will also give you background on Sakya Monastery’s Founding Lama, H. H. Jigdal Dagchen Dorje Chang and the Sakya lineage.


In recognition of their commitment to the Monastery, members enjoy:

  • Free borrowing privileges at the Monastery’s Library, which houses 2,500 books on Buddhism, Tibet, and comparative religion.

  • Discounted rates for retreat use at Sakya Monastery’s Tara Meditation Center located at the beautiful 72-acre Earth Sanctuary on Whidbey Island.

  • Discounted rates for programs hosted by the Monastery’s educational branch, The Virupa Educational Institute. Its year-round schedule of programs includes the Spiritual Educational curriculum series, lectures, classes and workshops.

  • The privilege to elect at the annual meeting representatives to Sakya Monastery’s Board of Advisors.

  • The opportunity to participate in the life of the Monastery through committee work and program development.

Get Involved

The Community and the Opportunity

Sakya Monastery of Tibetan Buddhism is a spiritual community and cultural center led by renowned lamas from Tibet. It is dedicated to the realization and practice of wisdom, loving-kindness, and compassion, in order to nurture and bring happiness to all beings. Sakya Monastery has several resident monks, but the sangha (community) is largely composed of lay members. They actively embrace patience, kindness, generosity, and peace in their lives.

As a lay member, you enjoy the rare and extraordinary privilege of studying and practicing Tibetan Buddhism directly under the guidance of lamas who were trained in traditional Tibet before the Chinese occupation (1959).


Get Involved!

Here are ways that people new to Sakya Monastery can get involved:

  • Attend one of our Virupa Ecumenical Institute (VEI) classes (See VEI Events Catalog)  
  • Attend the monthly Orientation – this presentation answers the most frequently asked questions about Sakya Monastery and its spiritual practices.
  • Attend the 8:30 am Sunday morning introductory class and the 10:00 am Chenrezi service - open to the public. As we occasionally have special events, please check our calendar for the current schedule.
  • Attend the 7:00pm Friday evening calm abiding meditation. Free and open to the public.
  • Join us 9:30 am every Saturday to help with projects around the Monastery.
  • Become a Member

Tax-deductible donations can be sent to:

Sakya Monastery of Tibet Buddhism
Attn: Gillian Teichert
108 NW 83rd Street
Seattle, WA 98117 USA
Or call the Monastery at (206) 789-2573 and arrange a time to meet with Gillian Teichert (Treasurer) or Adrienne Chan (Executive Director).



Link to Mapquest
Road Map
Simply enter your starting point and Mapquest will automatically show how to get to the Tara Meditation Center at Earth Sanctuary.

Tara Meditation Center at Earth Sanctuary (The Earth Sanctuary House), 2235 Newman Road, Langley, WA 98260. Note: do not send mail to this address - no mail is received here. Direct all correspondence to Sakya Monastery.

Getting to the Whidbey Island Ferry:
From Seattle, take I-5 north. From the Eastside, take I-405 north to I-5 north.
After passing the Everett city limit sign on I-5, take Exit #189, the "Whidbey Island/Mukilteo Ferry" exit, and head west on Route 526 West. After a few minutes, you will pass by the huge Boeing buildings. Shortly after that you will come to an intersection with a signal, where 526 West becomes 84th Street SW/WA-526. Turn right here and go down the hill to a stoplight and major intersection.

Turn right here onto the Mukilteo Speedway, which leads to the small town of Mukilteo where you get the ferry to the town of Clinton on Whidbey Island. As you come down the hill get into the ferry line where the signs tell you to do so or whenever you see the "end of the line" of cars. Do not "cut" into the ferry line, or you may be sent to the back of the line.

Ferries leave every half hour on the hour and half-hour. The ferry ride from Mukilteo to Whidbey Island lasts about 20 minutes. Please note that sometimes there are lines to get on the ferry - especially on weekend evenings in summer.

For visitors renting the Earth Sanctuary House or attending an event at Earth Sanctuary House:
Once on Whidbey Island, drive north on the main highway, Route 525, for approximately 7 miles. Approximately 100 yards past Useless Bay Road on your left make a right hand turn onto Newman Road. Drive about 1/4 mile to Emil Road, which will be on the right. Earth Sanctuary House is located at the Northwest corner of the intersection of Emil Road and Newman Road, at 2235 Newman Road. There are many newly planted trees and shrubs in front of and around the house. Pull into the driveway and park. If you continuing driving and see ponds on the right, you have gone too far!

If you are a day visitor, do not park at the house - please continue driving on Newman Road and park at the West parking lot (see below).

For day visitors to Earth Sanctuary:
Follow the direction above for reaching the Earth Sanctuary House, but continue driving .6 miles past the Earth Sanctuary house. You will see Earth Sanctuary's ponds on the right. As the road begins to go down a slight hill, watch for a driveway on the right (the first driveway on the right once you pass the Earth Sanctuary House). The mailbox at this driveway says "2059." Turn right into this driveway. Go up the gravel-covered road for about 50 feet and go to the right when you reach the Y in the road. The West parking lot is about 100 feel from the Y. Park here. For a map of Earth Sanctuary, click here.

From Port Townsend or Northern Whidbey Island:
Take 524 South. Just after Freeland, watch for Double Bluff Road. Make a left on Double Bluff Road. Go a short way to a “T” with Newman Road. Make a right turn, shortly pass Maple Glen access road on the left, and then in about 100 yards there will be a driveway on the left. There is a mailbox (2059) by this driveway. Day visitors should turn left into the driveway, go about 50 feet and take the gravel road off to the right until you get to the parking area. People who have rented the Earth Sanctuary house should continue on Newman road east 0.6 miles to the Earth Sanctuary house at the Northwest corner of Newman Road and Emil Road: 2235 Newman Road.


  • People with serious mental disorders should not come with the expectation that retreat will cure or alleviate their metal problems.
  • People with unstable interpersonal relationships and a history of various treatments should not come. It is impossible for us to care for such people with these backgrounds.
  • Retreat is not a substitute for medical or psychiatric treatment and is not recommended for people with serious psychiatric disorders.
  • The Earth Sanctuary I LLC and Sakya Monastery of Tibetan Buddhism are not liable for any personal injuries, for any reason, that may be sustained during stay at Earth Sanctuary.


Rates and Reservations


The following rates include the use of the Tara Meditation Center house, as well as access to the Earth Sanctuary property. Very reasonable rates have been established to encourage Sakya Monastery Members to use the Tara Meditation Center. If members feel that more value has been gained from the retreat than the modest fee they paid, they are encouraged to make additional donations to Sakya Monastery or to Earth Sanctuary.

Rates - Meditation Retreats

Overnight stays:
$35 / night / person
$210 / week / person

Day retreats: (this does not include overnight stay)
$25 / day / person

All retreatants must make reservations for the Tara Meditation Center in advance. Leaders of meditation groups need to set up a reservation for their group. To make a reservation: read the appropriate information on this website, then print, read, and fill out the two-page application form, as well as the release of liability form.

Mail the forms to:
Sakya Monastery of Tibetan Buddhism
Attn: Tara Meditation Center
108 NW 83rd Street
Seattle, WA 98117 USA

OR, you can contact the Sakya Monastery office for further details on the facilities, terms of use, and reservation forms.

(206) 789-2573 (call between 8 a.m. and 12 noon, Monday through Friday, or leave a phone message)

(206) 789-3994


100% of the total amount is due at the time of your reservation in order to confirm and finalize the reservation. Checks (in U.S. Dollars), cash, or credit cards are accepted. If you cancel 30 days or more before your arrival date your deposit (minus a $25 Service Charge) will be returned. If your retreat proposal is not approved, the entire fee will be fully refunded.

Applicable taxes will be added to your final bill.

No refunds will be made for shortened stays.

You are responsible for transportation to and from the Tara Meditation Center.

We regret we cannot accommodate any children under 12 years of age.

We do not have accommodations for pets. However, there are four wild cats that live in the bushes and shrubs in the backyard. (They should not be allowed in the house.)

Check-in/ Check-out:
The check-in time is 2:00 p.m. The check-out time is Noon.

Guests must help pick up and clean the house before leaving.

What do you need to bring to the Meditation Center?
Depending on the length of your stay you may need to bring some or all of the following:

  • Materials for your spiritual practice (scriptures, shrine photos, votive candles in containers, incense, bell, journal, etc.).
    Clothing: For the Meditation Center: modest and comfortable clothing, including bathrobe and slippers. For walking the Earth Sanctuary property: hiking shoes and outdoor clothing appropriate to the season.
  • Toiletries and clock.
  • Food: Bring enough food for your stay. All food and drink must be kept in the kitchen area. You are responsible for preparing your own meals. Two supermarkets are located nearby.

For the safety of visitors and the protection of all living beings, we ask that you observe the following guidelines while you are at the Tara Meditation Center or on Earth Sanctuary property:

  • No dogs or pets.
  • Please treat the grounds, building and residents with care and respect. Return the areas which you used to the condition in which you found them or better.
  • Be sensitive to birds and wildlife. Do not disturb or hurt any animals or birds, especially in nesting and breeding season.
  • Hike only on the cleared trails. Remain outside of marked ecologically sensitive areas, including the bog island.
  • Please do not swim or canoe in the ponds.
  • No fires are allowed anywhere on the property.
  • Please dress appropriately for the retreat setting: simple, modest, and comfortable clothes are preferred.
  • Candles (only votives in containers are permitted) and incense are allowed in the main meditation room only. Candles and incense should not be left unattended.
  • Illegal drugs, intoxicants, and firearms are not permitted.
  • Abstain from stealing, sexual activity, and telling lies.
  • Alcohol is permitted only in the context of certain ceremonies.
  • Please do not smoke or chew tobacco anywhere on the property.
  • Park in designated areas only. You may be asked to park your car on an adjacent property (gated) away from the house.

Please note that violating any of these guidelines is reason for termination





The proximity of the Tara Meditation Center to the woods and ponds of Earth Sanctuary provides meditators with a special opportunity to commune with nature, while focusing on spiritual practice. Retreatants are welcome to walk the peaceful and beautiful trails around Earth Sanctuary’s three ponds and through its forest. Sacred spaces, consecrated by H.H. Jigdal Dagchen Sakya and H.E. Dagmo Kusho Sakya are excellent for meditation.

The interior & exterior of the Tara Meditation Center*

The Tara Meditation Center utilizes an entire single-family dwelling. Those renting it have the use of the entire house, as well as access to the Earth Sanctuary property, which is immediately adjacent. The building has electric heat which can be supplemented by the house's wood stove. The area outside the house is carefully and elegantly landscaped and features a deck.

The Tara Meditation Center house has a combination meditation/living room with two Buddhist shrines, meditation pillows, a sofa, easy chair, a wood burning stove, and a variety of spiritual and meditation books. Ten meditation chairs are also available. The meditation/living room has a beautiful collection of Tibetan Buddhist art, a Tibetan Buddhist shrine, and Tara Shrine and a non-denominational shrine. A curtain is available for interfaith practices.

The house has two bedrooms with single beds for overnight stays, and a bathroom. You are responsible for preparing your own meals in the fully equipped kitchen*. The grounds are carefully landscaped.

To facilitate your retreat, Earth Sanctuary’s caretaker, Celia Sullivan, will meet you and orient you to the Tara Meditation Center and Earth Sanctuary’s sacred spaces and trails.
The house in which the Tara Meditation Center is located and the grounds surrounding it have been blessed and consecrated by H. H. Jigdal Dagchen Sakya and H. E. Dagmo Kusho Sakya. The entire Earth Sanctuary property has been also blessed by Dagchen Rinpoche and Dagmola as well as spiritual leaders of other faiths. In addition, Earth Sanctuary has been energetically optimized according to Feng Shui principles and practices. Both Chinese and Tibetan Feng Shui systems have been used in determining design and placements.

In the Tara Meditation Center Earth Sanctuary House You Will Find:

  • Two bedrooms, each with a twin bed for retreatants. The beds come with clean linens, down comforters and pillows.
  • There is also a walk-in closet between the two bedrooms.
  • A combination meditation/living room with three shrines, sofa, easy chair, and wood-burning stove.
  • A variety of spiritual and meditation books.
  • Nine zafus with zabutons (Japanese meditation pillows).
  • Prostration Boards (for Ngon-dro practice).
  • Ten chairs suitable for seated meditation.
  • A fully-equipped kitchen and dining area.
    A bathroom with clean towels and washcloths.
  • A washer and dryer.
  • A closet and storage area.
    * There is no phone on the premises.*

In Appreciation
H.H. J.D. Sakya, H.E. Dagmo Kusho and members of Sakya Monastery thank Chuck Pettis for his continued support of the Tara Meditation Center. Due to his compassionate and meritorious activities, may this peaceful site endure eternally for the benefit of all beings.

Tara Meditation Center
c/o Sakya Monastery
108 NW 83rd Street
Seattle, WA 98117-3042
Phone: (206) 789-2573
Fax: (206) 789-3994
Email: Monastery@Sakya.org
Web: www.Sakya.org

*Photos © Peter Raulerson

Retreat Center


In Tibetan Buddhism, the monastery is the place where we learn the spiritual practices and the retreat center is a focused time for spiritual practice, as supervised by H.E. Dagyum Chenmo Sakya. It is an opportunity to attain a new level of personal renewal and spiritual practice.

Near Freeland, Washington, on the south end of Whidbey Island, is a 72-acre wildlife sanctuary with forest wetlands, three ponds, and abundant wildlife: “Earth Sanctuary.” Through the generosity of benefactor, Chuck Pettis, Sakya Monastery Members may use the Tara Meditation Center, Sakya Monastery’s retreat center, located at the southeast corner of the property.

Earth Sanctuary, nature reserve and meditation parkland, combines art, spirit and, the latest state-of-the-art in ecology to create a unique place for the application of Tibetan Buddhist teachings, personal renewal and spiritual growth.

The Stupa at Earth Sanctuary

The Tara Meditation Center at Earth Sanctuary is designed to support reflection, meditation, personal renewal, and spiritual growth. The house and the grounds surrounding it have been blessed, consecrated, and energetically optimized according to Feng-Shui principles and practices.

The Tara Meditation Center is available to Sakya Monastery Members wishing to make meditation retreats of one day or more. The Tara Meditation Center can also accommodate one-day group mediation retreats or 25 people or less.

Tibetan Buddhist Meditators Are Welcome
The Tara Meditation Center is available for use by Tibetan Buddhist meditators from all Buddhist sects, especially students of H.H. Jigdal Dagchen Sakya.  All retreats must be approved by H.E. Dagyum Chenmo Sakya. Note that Sakya Monastery Members receive a generous discount from the standard rental rate.

Tibetan Buddhist Retreats
The Tara Meditation Center provides the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual community with a quiet setting that is free of distractions and is conducive and supportive of special Tibetan Buddhist practices.

Tibetan Buddhist meditation retreats at the Tara Meditation Center are made under the supervision of H.E. Dagyum Chenmo Sakya, the representative of H.E. Avikrita Vajra Sakya, Head Lama of Sakya Monastery in Seattle. She approves individual retreat plans and can help guide meditators toward an illuminating experience.

There are three levels of retreat practice for Tibetan Buddhists: beginning retreats (involving simple mind-training meditations—such as the practice of listening intently to natural sounds), intermediate retreats (concentrating on practices such as repeating the vows of refuge, saying the one-hundred syllable mantra, and making mandala offerings), and advanced retreats (involving meditational practices dedicated to one deity).

An Invitation from H.H. Jigdal Dagchen Sakya, founder of Sakya Monastery, Seattle

This retreat center is a sanctuary for all people. Come and rest your soul from the pressures of your samsaric existence. In this place of peace and in this moment of repose, let your tired spirit come in contact with the soothing realization of the nature of your own self.

In Tibet, hermits spent months and years in solitude high in the mountains. Today, we have this opportunity to go back to nature even in the midst of civilization and yet feel so close to our very basic origins. As sentient beings, we are all interdependent and so to respect the environment in which we live is very essential. May this retreat center serve as an example for the harmonious co-existence of humankinds and nature.

It is my prayer and hope that people may enjoy the pristine beauty of this place and take back with them a higher understanding of their purpose in life.

~ H.H. Jigdal Dagchen Sakya, founder of Sakya Monastery, Seattle ~


Some Photos of the Tara Meditation Center at Earth Sanctuary
click on thumbnails to see full-size photos

Tibetan Language Pages - Home


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Contact Us


Sakya Monastery of Tibetan Buddhism
108 NW 83rd Street
Seattle, WA 98117 USA
Tel: (206) 789-2573
Fax: (206) 789-3994

For information, please contact Sakya Monastery’s office Monday through Friday from 8:00 am to Noon.



What does Sakya Monastery provide?
Where is Sakya Monastery located?
What is the purpose of Sakya Monastery?
What is the history of the Sakya Monastery building?
What programs does Sakya Monastery offer?
How is Sakya Monastery governed?
Who is H.H. Jigdal Dagchen Sakya?
What is the lineage of H.H. Jigdal Dagchen Sakya?
Where did the Sakya name come from?
What makes Sakya Tibetan Buddhist Lamas special?
How did the Sakya family become located in Seattle, Washington?
Who is Buddha?
What does Tibetan Buddhism teach?
What are Buddhist values?
What is Vajrayana Tibetan Buddhism?
What is the role of the Lama in Tibetan Buddhism?
What is appropriate etiquette when attending Sakya Monastery?
What to Wear?
While in the Shrine room...
What is Sakya Monastery’s Children’s Dharma School?

What does Sakya Monastery provide?

Sakya Monastery of Tibetan Buddhism provides access to the Buddha’s teachings and guidance in a community of practitioners. Sakya Monastery provides a place to learn from highly qualified and spiritual Tibetan Lamas in a beautiful traditional setting.

Sakya Monastery in Seattle is a seat of the Sakya School of Tibetan Buddhism in North America. It is also a non-sectarian religious center, and hosts visits and teaching from leading lamas of all four Schools of Tibetan Buddhism.

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Where is Sakya Monastery located?

Sakya Monastery occupies a beautiful renovated building, which houses a pristine example of a Tibetan Buddhist shrine that is one of only a few in North America. It is located at 108 NW 83rd Street in Seattle’s Greenwood district a few blocks from the intersection of Greenwood Avenue North and North 85th Street in Seattle. While called a monastery, it is primarily a community of lay practitioners, with various levels of experience in the Buddhist tradition. It is led by its founder, His Holiness Jigdal Dagchen Sakya (called Dagchen Rinpoche, meaning “Precious One” in Tibetan). He is a head lama of the Sakya School of Tibetan Buddhism, one of Tibetan Buddhism’s four main Schools.

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What is the purpose of Sakya Monastery?

The purpose of Sakya Monastery is to share and preserve Tibetan Buddhism and Tibetan culture. It does this through teaching and practicing traditional Tibetan Buddhism and by upholding Tibetan customs and traditions. Since the purpose of the Buddha’s teaching, as practiced in Tibet, is to develop loving-kindness and compassion, the main meditation practices at Sakya Monastery focus on the cultivation of these qualities. In keeping with the emphasis in Buddhism (and especially in the Sakya School) on education and learning, Sakya Monastery and VEI offer a variety of educational programs to foster a better understanding of the teachings of the Buddha.

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What is the history of the Sakya Monastery building?

Sakya Monastery’s building was initially erected in 1928 as the First Presbyterian Church. Over the years, different Christian denominations have owned the building. In 1984, a Baptist group sold it to Sakya Tegchen Choling center (Sakya Monastery’s predecessor). Since its founding in 1974, this center had successively outgrown accommodations in the Ravenna-Bryant, Capitol Hill, Wallingford, and University districts. When it moved to the Greenwood area, the center reorganized under H.H. Jigdal Dagchen Sakya, and adopted the name Sakya Monastery of Tibetan Buddhism.

Buying the large structure in Greenwood was a big step for the small center. A remarkable event helped catalyze the purchase of the building. While the search was being conducted for the center’s new home, Dagchen Rinpoche had a dream in which he saw the destined building. Upon waking, he had architectural plans drawn for the building as revealed to him in his vision. Amazingly, the Baptist Church was an exact match for these vision-based plans, and the decision was made to acquire the 108 building (Tibetan Buddhism prayer beads have 108 beads, hence, 108 is a sacred number in Tibetan Buddhism).

Since the purchase, many years of hard work and renovation by dedicated volunteers have brought the building to its present form and grace. At various stages of the renovation, the highest-ranking lamas in Tibetan Buddhism, including His Holiness the Dalai Lama, have consecrated Sakya Monastery’s building and its contents, imbuing them with the enlightened spirit of the Buddha and transforming the building into a North American home for the Buddha’s teaching. In addition, Sakya Monastery contains many holy objects from India, Tibet, and Nepal.

Following the first year of renovation, the downstairs cultural hall began to be used as an interim location for Sakya Monastery’s religious services. For the next twelve years, the main worship hall (the shrine room) underwent remodeling. Numerous Buddhist artworks were donated by Sakya Monastery members, friends, as well as by professional artists and Dagchen Rinpoche’s family. Extensive murals were painted on site. During this period, Bernardo Bertolucci shot scenes for the film Little Buddha at Sakya Monastery. This venture helped pay for the wood parquet floor in the shrine room. Outside the building, in keeping with the style of traditional Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, a portico was added over the front entrance. By 1997, the remodeling was sufficiently finished so that the main shrine room could be used for meditations.

In 1998, the outside of Sakya Monastery’s building was painted in traditional Tibetan colors and a memorial stupa was erected to H.E. Deshung Rinpoche (the lama who co-founded the original Sakya Tegchen Choling center). The bell shaped stupa is located in front of the Monastery and symbolizes the Buddha’s enlightened mind. In 2001, a library addition capable of holding at least 5,000 volumes was finished and opened.

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What programs does Sakya Monastery offer?

Sakya Monastery offers a variety of activities for its members and friends. Foremost are the public meditations: Chenrezi meditations for developing loving-kindness and compassion are held on Sunday morning at 10:00 am and Thursday evenings at 8:00 pm during daylight savings time (spring/summer) and 7:30 pm during standard time (fall/winter). This is the main communal practice of Sakya Monastery. Calm Abiding meditations, which are useful for the development of concentration and mental stability, are held on Friday nights at 7:00 pm.

Numerous other ceremonies and meditations are held at the Monastery:

  • Buddhist holy days – such as the birth of the Buddha and memorials to special lamas.
  • Refuge ceremonies are regularly scheduled for people who wish to formally join the community of Buddhist practitioners and become a Buddhist.
  • Initiatory ceremonies, called “empowerments”, are bestowed by Dagchen Rinpoche and other lamas upon request. These empowerments are required as a basis for special meditation practices involving meditational deities such as Chenrezi (the embodiment of compassion) or green Tara (the grantor of protection).
  • Monthly meditations are also held that have specific requirements for attending, such as being a Buddhist, or having received a specific empowerment or level of empowerment.

Additionally, the Monastery offers a variety of other programs and resources:

  • The Children’s Dharma School for children ages 5 and up is available on Sundays during Chenrezi practice.
  • The Sakya Monastery library, available to members and visiting scholars, houses 2,500 books on Buddhism, Tibet, and comparative religion, as well as audiotapes of teachings in Tibetan by noted lamas. The library has a connection with the Tibetan Works & Archives in Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh, India (home of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile).
  • The Virupa Educational Institute administers and organizes numerous classes, talks, book groups, discussions, and video showings held at the Monastery. These programs are open to the public and are widely attended.

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How is Sakya Monastery governed?

Following Tibetan tradition, Sakya Monastery’s Head Lama, H.H. Jigdal Dagchen Sakya, is the administrative and spiritual leader of the non-profit Sakya Monastery. Sakya Monastery is a “corporation sole” in Washington State. As such, the Head Lama is the “CEO” and makes all decisions. He consults regularly with an Advisory Board [link to photo page]. Ten of the Board’s members are elected by the members of the Monastery; the other four are the Head Lama, the Tibetan Cultural Advisor, the Executive Director, and an appointee drawn from the Sakya family.

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Who is H.H. Jigdal Dagchen Sakya?

His Holiness Jigdal Dagchen Sakya was born in 1929 in Sakya, Tibet. He was educated to be the head of the Sakya School of Tibetan Buddhism as well as the successor to the throne of Sakya, the third most important political position in Tibet in earlier times. The Communist Chinese occupation of Tibet, and the peril that ensued, precipitated his departure from the world his family had known for generations, and led him to a new role as a leader in the transmission of Tibetan Buddhism in the West.

Dagchen Sakya’s immigration in 1960 makes him one of the first Tibetans-in-exile in North America. He is the first Head of the Sakya Order of Tibetan Buddhism to live in the United States. From the Sakya Monastery of Tibetan Buddhism in Seattle, Washington, and its precursor (which he co-founded in 1974), he has taught and preserved Tibetan culture and religion. Because he is also a non-sectarian master within the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, he has defined Sakya Monastery as a non-denominational and ecumenical center for teachings about Tibetan Buddhism. His work has also included the founding of Tibetan Buddhist communities overseas in India, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Nepal, Bhutan and Southeast Asia, and teaching at Buddhist centers around the world. He is truly a pioneer among religious leaders.

His formal title of “His Holiness” indicates the high degree of esteem with which the Tibetan Buddhist community holds him. Dagchen is a title meaning “Lineage Holder.” Among his followers he is known as Dagchen Rinpoche, or simply as Rinpoche (“Precious One”).

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What is the lineage of H.H. Jigdal Dagchen Sakya?

Lineage is all-important in Tibetan Buddhist tradition, and Dagchen Rinpoche’s lineage is noble and revered for its holiness. It extends back for over a thousand years.

His father was Trichen (“Great Throne-holder”) Nawang Tutop Wangchuk, the last great throne-holder of the Sakya Order of Tibetan Buddhism in Tibet, and his mother was Gyalyum (“Mother of the Khön Children”) Dechen Drolma.

Dagchen Rinpoche’s family lineage is thought of as divine because family records and Tibetan histories state that his family is descended from celestial beings from the realm of heavenly clear light. Five generations of these celestial beings are said to have lived in Tibet. A famous ancestor of his from the late eighth century was Khön Lu’i Wangpo (Nagendrarakshita), one of the first seven Tibetans ordained as a Buddhist monk, a noted translator, and a personal disciple of Padmasambhava (who erected the very first Tibetan Buddhist monastery called Samye). Since the 11th century, the Sakya male progenies are also regarded as emanations of Manjushri, the Bodhisattva of Wisdom, Avalokiteshvara, Bodhisattva of Compassion, or Vajrapani, Bodhisattva of Power.

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Where did the Sakya name come from?

In 1042, Atisha, the great Indian Buddhist master who helped revive Buddhism in Tibet, was traveling in Tibet spreading the Buddha’s teachings. At the side of a mountain where there was “pale earth,” he foresaw the emanations of three bodhisattvas whom he knew would spread the Buddhist doctrine in Tibet: Avalokiteshvara (the embodiment of compassion), Manjushri (the embodiment of infinite wisdom), and Vajrapani (the embodiment of infinite power).

It was at the same site of pale earth some thirty years later, in 1073, that Khön Gönchok Gyalpo (1034-1102), ancestor of Dagchen Rinpoche, built the first Sakya Monastery. The monastery took its name from the pale earth (in Tibetan “sa-kya”) where the monastery was founded. Subsequently, the town that arose there, the family of the monastery’s founder (the Khön lineage), and the school of Tibetan Buddhism also took the name of the monastery: Sakya. Additionally, the Sakya name is renowned for having lamas as rulers of Tibet. The Sakya patriarch, Chogyal Pakpa (1235 – 1280) was given temporal authority over Tibet through the patronage of the Mongol rulers of China. Subsequently, the Sakya lamas governed Tibet for over 90 years.

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What makes Sakya Tibetan Buddhist Lamas special?

In Tibetan Buddhism there are several ways to become a lama (a spiritual teacher and guide). Some lamas are recognized as rebirths of former lamas and are called Tulkus. Some of these are also considered to be emanations of bodhisattvas. The Fourteenth Dalai Lama is a good example, being the thirteenth reincarnation of the first Dalai Lama, Gendun Drup, as well as an emanation of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara. Some, through their spiritual development in this life, are deemed to become lamas, but are not regarded as rebirths of previous lamas.

Finally, in some special families, all family members with blood relations to the father are considered to be lamas. The Sakya-Khön lineage, Dagchen Rinpoche’s lineage, is just such a family. In each generation of the Sakya-Khön lineage, in order to preserve the family line, one of the males must keep the custom of the Lineage-holder (ngachang) – a white-robed, married lama. This tradition is distinct from the more common ordained (rapchung) – red-robed monk-lama tradition prevalent in some of the other Tibetan Buddhist schools. Thus, in each generation, some Sakya-Khön lineage lamas are not monks, but married lamas who continue the spiritual lineage.

In accordance with the prophecy of the great Atisha, these Sakya lamas are regarded as emanations of Avalokiteshvara (the embodiment of compassion), Vajrapani (the embodiment of Buddha’s power), or especially Manjushri (the embodiment of Buddha’s wisdom).

Dagchen Rinpoche is in the twenty-sixth generation of the Sakya-Khön lineage descended from Khön Gönchok Gyalpo. Dagchen Rinpoche is regarded as an emanation of Manjushri as well as the rebirth of a Sakya Abbot from the Ngor sub-school, Ewam Luding Khenchen (The Great Abbot from the Luding family) Gyase Chökyi Nyima.

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How did the Sakya family become located in Seattle, Washington?

In 1959, owing to the violent changes taking place in Tibet, Dagchen Rinpoche and his family (including his younger brother H.H. Trinly Rinpoche and his wife’s uncle Deshung Rinpoche) fled to Bhutan and then to India. Professor Turrell V. Wylie from the Tibetan Studies Program at the University of Washington, the first such program in the country, invited Dagchen Rinpoche to participate in a research project on Tibet sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation. This enabled Dagchen Rinpoche to bring his family to Seattle, Washington, in 1960. The research project funding lasted for three years. Following that, over the next decade Dagchen Rinpoche had several positions at the University of Washington, including working in the Anthropology Department and at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture.

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Who is Buddha?

The historical Buddha (named Siddhartha at birth and commonly known as Shakyamuni Buddha) lived in northern India approximately five centuries before Christ. He was a prince who renounced a privileged royal life in order to search for ultimate peace and the highest good. He realized the highest level of enlightenment at the age of thirty-five. Through arduous practices, concentrated meditation, and deep reflection he became a fully awakened being – a Buddha. He then taught the path of spiritual liberation to numerous disciples for over forty years, until his passing at the age of eighty. Afterward the communities of monks and nuns that he founded dedicated themselves to preserving and upholding his teachings, thereby laying the foundations for what has become known as Buddhism.

The term “Buddha” means an “awakened” or “enlightened” one who has discovered true wisdom and attained nirvana (the cessation of desire) in this world. It is a descriptive title given to all fully enlightened beings, rather than being the exclusive name of a single individual. There have been Buddhas in the past (for example Kashyapa, Dipangkara, or Shakyamuni – the historical Buddha), and other Buddhas are expected in the future.

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What does Tibetan Buddhism teach?

Tibetan Buddhism teaches that we are all potential Buddhas, because we are essentially pure and luminous at the most basic level of existence. That purity, called Buddha-nature, is typically clouded over by a dense layer of ignorance and negativity, which dominates us and leads to suffering. The Tibetan Buddhist path encourages its practitioners to adopt the traits and characteristics of enlightened beings through the use of special meditation techniques, thereby realizing their innate Buddha-nature.

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What are Buddhist values?

Buddhism is a tolerant religion that places emphasis on practical methods for cultivating spiritual awareness and on the importance of finding the truth for oneself. It treasures loving-kindness, compassion, equanimity, clarity of mind, and wisdom. Its hope is to alleviate suffering and to create healing and transformation so that all beings may experience the highest peace (nirvana).

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What is Vajrayana Tibetan Buddhism?

Tibetan Buddhism draws upon the teachings, meditation techniques, and ordination vows of the Theravada, and the philosophy and cosmology of Mahayana. But it was in Tibet that many of the Vajrayana teachings were preserved, and most of the distinctive qualities of Tibetan Buddhism can be found in its Vajrayana heritage.

The Vajrayana path largely follows the Mahayana philosophical teachings, but there are some variations in attitude. Whereas Mahayana seeks to destroy the poisons of craving, aggression, and ignorance, Vajrayana places an emphasis on transmuting them directly into wisdom. This is based in the Tibetan Buddhist belief that the mundane world (samsara) is inseparable from enlightenment.

Tibetan Buddhism is distinguished by its many methods and techniques of spiritual development and for its great acceleration of the spiritual journey. Theoretically, the path of the Mahayana practitioner takes three incalculable eons to reach full awakening; by contrast, the path of the Vajrayana practitioner can be as short as one lifetime.

In order to accelerate the process of enlightenment, Vajrayana uses advanced yoga techniques in combination with elaborate meditations. The meditations incorporate visualizations of personified archetypes of enlightenment, frequently referred to as “meditational deities.” These archetypes are often represented in Tibetan religious art in the form of bronze sculptures, or in painted portable scroll icons, known as tangkas. The scriptures containing the esoteric teachings for yogic practices (such as meditative visualizations) are called tantras, and are part of a larger body of Buddhist sacred texts, based on the public teachings of the Buddha, called sutras. (Vajrayana’s use of tantric literature explains why it is sometimes referred to as “Tantric Buddhism.”) Mantras (chanted sacred syllables or phrases), mudras (ritual hand gestures), and mandalas (symbolic representations of enlightened worlds) are all used as part of Tibetan Buddhist meditational practices.

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What is the role of the Lama in Tibetan Buddhism?

Tibetan Buddhist tradition places great emphasis on the importance of the lama (the Tibetan equivalent of the Sanskrit term guru). These venerable teachers are often given the honorific title of Rinpoche (“Precious One”). All lamas complete a long course of study that prepares them for their future role as the bestowers of initiations and esoteric teachings. Qualified lamas introduce students to particular teachings and through “empowerments” bestow spiritual energy so that specific practices can be successfully undertaken by students. Formal and informal face-to-face oral transmissions of spiritual insight and wisdom typically occur between lama and student. The lama is the focus of passionate devotion for the aspirant, and is acknowledged to embody the Three Jewels (the Buddha, his teachings, and the sangha) as well as the qualities of the meditational deities.

Tibetan Buddhism innovated the idea of “incarnate lamas,” the belief that the mind of a deceased lama can reappear in the new body of a child. The most famous example of recognizing reincarnated lamas is the centuries-long tradition by which H. H. the Dalai Lama is identified.

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What is appropriate etiquette when attending Sakya Monastery?

Please turn off all cell phones. Photography is not allowed without the specific permission of the Monastery administrator.

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What to Wear:

  • Dress in clean, neat clothing and remove shoes before entering (preferably downstairs).
  • Please do not wear revealing clothing—knees, legs, and midriffs should be covered.
  • Men and boys should wear pants, no shorts. Women and girls should wear pants or a long skirt.
  • Please remove hats.

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While in the Shrine room:

  • Do three prostrations to the altar (optional).
  • Respect the ordained persons’ (i.e., lamas, monks & nuns) vows and help us have a very spiritual environment for all.
  • Be quiet and respectful.
  • Be respectful to all religious objects in the Shrine room.
  • While sitting in the Shrine Room, do not point the soles of your feet towards the altar.
  • As symbolic respect for the Dharma, do not put practice books directly on the floor or cushion. Put them on a bookstand or cloth.
  • Treat Lamas with respect and reverence.
  • When a lama (i.e., H.H. Jigdal Dagchen Sakya, H.E. Dagmo Kusho, and Tulku Yeshi Gyatso) enters or leaves the Shrine room, stand with your hands in the prayer position at your heart, and bow forward slightly.
  • When visiting a lama, offer a white scarf (katag) and a heart-felt offering gift such as flowers, fruit, incense, or money.
  • Treat monks and nuns with respect, dignity and courtesy.

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What is Sakya Monastery’s Children’s Dharma School?

Children are welcomed at the Sakya Monastery of Tibetan Buddhism. They are an integral part of the spiritual community and are greatly cherished. The programs for children at Sakya Monastery are created to help support families. They fill an important need that has been expressed by children, parents, and the larger community.

The Children’s Dharma School is held on Sundays starting at 10:00 am when the Chenrezi Meditation service begins. The “Sunday School for Buddhist Kids” is for children between the ages of 5 and 12. It is located in the Tibetan Cultural Hall, on the lower level of the Sakya Monastery building. This volunteer-based program is free and available to drop-ins, but pre-registration is recommended and donations are welcomed for snacks and supplies. The Children’s Dharma School is part of the Virupa Educational Institute (VEI), the educational branch of Sakya Monastery.

The curriculum of the Children’s Dharma School is designed to support a non-denominational education in Buddhism. It has the aim of keeping children engaged and interested while improving their body, mind, heart and spirit.

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