Community Event: Annual Camping Trip

(Held August 20 - 22, 2010)
By Tim Tapping

Our annual camping trip took place this year along the Mountain Loop Highway, east of Granite Falls at the Gold Basin Campground in western Washington. Before heading out, our abbot, Khenpo Jampa la, drew up the layout of the campsite for us.

We were to place the Head Lama tent at the head of the camp, with all the tents laid out in a circle. Encircling the entire camp circle were Lungtas (‘Wind-Horses’), Tibetan prayer flags. A tall order indeed!

I brought some Lungtas (prayer flags) that I had picked up in Chengdu and the Alcaraz family and the Lamb family bought the Sakya Monastery Dharma shop out of all the prayer flag in stock. As it turned out we had just enough flags to surround the entire campsite with not one string left over. Auspicious!


An army travels on its stomach and so does, apparently, the Sakya Monastery Sangha! We set up a large tent to store the food and a couple of shelters to serve as kitchen and clean up areas. The Friday night’s meal was a gourmet feast we all enjoyed after a wonderful day in the great outdoors.

His Holiness Jigdal Dagchen Sakya arrived with his sons, Sakya Dhungsey Ani Rinpoche, Sakya Dhungsey Zaya Rinpoche and Sakya Dhungsey Sadu Rinpoche and their dagmos (wives) and jetsumas (daughters). Additionally, joining the festivities were HH Dagchen Rinpoche's three sisters or jetsumas and his brother-in-law. Shortly after everyone’s arrival HH Dagchen Rinpoche and Khenpo Jampa led us in a Local Earth Deity Puja to pay our respects to the local deities and for the opportunity for the Sangha to gather and enjoy each other’s company outside the monastery.

After a grand feast for lunch, folks fanned out to go to the river, hiked the mountain trails or just lounged around at the campsite. We all gathered again in the late afternoon to wish HH Dagchen Rinpoche goodbye. If it was up to him, he would have camped the night but doctor’s orders were that he was not to stay overnight outdoors. After dinner, around the campfire, spooky stories and songs went from person to person around the circle, with Khenpo Jampa la and Tsering Gaga la singing songs in Tibetan. All the while, the kids were roasting marshmallows and running around out into the dark and back to the light, metaphorically like us grownups!

Saturday night, the rains came but everybody stayed dry throughout the night. The morning drizzle chased everyone from camp after a soggy breakfast. An afternoon downpour got the last of us to leave who were hoping for clearing skies.

The rain may have come but our spirits were not dampened and we look forward to next summer’s campout!

Volunteer Profile: David Spiekerman

By Sharon Salyer
David Spiekerman has been a member of Sakya Monastery since 1999 and has served on its board of advisors since 2001. He currently is board president. His volunteer activities include: Coordinating volunteers and greeters; fundraising for both the shrine room’s carpet project and the prayer wheel project; helping codify greeter duties and sound system production; assisting in writing a security policy for the monastery and helping Tulku Yeshi translate his autobiography into English.

How many hours do you volunteer at the monastery each week?
Three to 10.

And you have a job as well. What do you do?
I have a business that I run…Small Changes….a wholesale magazine distributor with 10 employees.

So how do you juggle your responsibilities to work and family with your volunteer commitments?
The easiest time for me to really commit to was Sundays. I identified that time that would work for my family, myself and the Monastery and then I just made the commitment. I didn’t say, ‘Well, I’ll try a little bit here or there.’ I just knew that I have a busy life and I’ve got to find some time that I can actually volunteer and do it in a serious manner over a long term and that was it….It’s just managing your time correctly.

Could you talk a little about the reasons you volunteer?
A person who wants to volunteer should be aware of their lives, but still push through those limits to get rewards…to know you’re strengthening the position of the monastery. Ninety percent of the time when I’m volunteering I leave the monastery feeling, in simple terms, better than when I came. My volunteering is not about me. It’s about creating strong roots for Buddhism to flourish in North America as a culture.

Is there a short Dharma quote that guides you daily life?
Do not become attached to peace and comfort.

And you also memorized the text of The Aspiration of Samantabhadra in English?
Yes. I never thought I had a good memory. I never thought I had that capacity…Once I did it, it was a test to show me I was on the right path… I say it a couple times a day. It’s a very good practice…I’ll say it when I feel I want to ground myself.

You’ve been working with Tulku Yeshi,too?
When Tulku Yeshi came to the Monastery he knew no English. At first we went through learning English on books and tapes. Then…he could read fairly well and he was going to translate his autobiography from Tibetan into English…and I would transcribe that. His English got better over time. I had to fill in the blanks, but I felt competent enough to do it. I think there was mind transference going on there…it’s interesting. He’s read what I’ve written and he’s made very few corrections. That project has taken about four years. He came in 2003…we started in 2004 and we probably finished it in 2009... Now he wants to add a little more…He wants to talk about the last year.

That was a vehicle to have a conversation talking about his life. It’s a pretty intriguing story. You get to see the human part of him…growing up in Tibet in a very difficult time, the Cultural Revolution. But there were many things that happened before that which were even worse for his family. They were extremely poor.

What is your favorite Dharma book?
“The Essence of Mahayana Lojong Practice: An Oral Commentary to Geshe Langri Tangpa's Mind Training in Eight Verses.”

I’ll summarize what it says:
• All beings are extremely kind.
• View yourself as lowly and respect others.
• Observe your mind and drive out bad thoughts.
• Cherish those who commit evil or suffer greatly.
• Accept blame without trying to defend yourself.
• One who harms you is kinder than one who helps.
• Give help and take on suffering.
• Remain pure and overcome attachment.

What do these sayings and this book mean to you?
You can see how if you are going to accept blame without trying to defend yourself you’ve got to have a lot of patience. That’s also equanimity there, too.

This little book is short, but very pithy and very practical. That’s another thing I memorized so that I can get help when I need it. That’s the point of memorizing these things. It’s a great help. There are times I recite them when I don’t need help. It’s just sort of expands my mental space.

2010 International Conference on Tibetan Buddhism

In October of 2010, Ven. Tulku Yeshi, Ven. Khenpo Jampa and Chuck Pettis attended the International Conference on Tibetan Buddhism held at Emory University in Atlanta. The conference was hosted by H.H. Dalai Lama. The full video for the International Conference on Tibetan Buddhism is currently being put online at The following are some notes by Chuck Pettis of presentations by H.H. Dalai Lama, Dr. Richard Davidson, and Prof. Robert Thurman.

H.H. Dalai Lama
• Need to promote harmony among religions, sects, and traditions. Avoid competition.
• Pay more attention to the root teachings and texts rather than the “branches.” Don’t forget the root.
• Serve others as much as possible.
• Develop inner spiritual qualities and progress toward Buddhahood step-by-step.
• Preserve and seek the authentic Buddhist teachings.
• Create a platform of shared Buddhist behaviors.
• Regular coordinated meetings are important.

Dr. Richard Davidson
• The brain changes in response to experience – neuroplasticity.
• Mind training can change the expression of the genes – epigenetics.
• Meditation increases immunity to disease, reduces anxiety, and enables faster recovery after a negative provocation. (http://
• More meditation practice = quicker healing.
• The mother-child relationship is the seed for compassion.
• Practice radical honesty.
• Recognize the nobility of mind training.
• Buddhahood = Buddha activity, i.e., act like a Buddha.

Professor Robert Thurman
• Buddhism has become intellectually overwhelming and leaves out emotion. We need more experiential practice. We need more simple study guides that are relevant, accessible and authentic. Learn and then practice. Teach experientially to transform lives.
• We need to look at what has worked and not worked and make changes accordingly.
• We need to integrate ancient wisdom with modern methods and develop “delivery systems” to demystify Buddhist teachings.
• The new therapy is where being and teaching merge.
• We should be servants of peace.
• Wisdom is an endangered natural resource.
• Buddha – the grand unified experience of the nature of reality.
• The mind controls gene expression.
• Be ethical – recognize the long term effects of actions – karma. If you kill someone when he is mad at you, he’ll just get madder.
• Religion is too intolerant – we should allow God to have the power to have as many religions as he wants.
• America is viewed around the world as the symbol of the free world. If America is demoralized, then that could be the end of the free world.

Interview with Reggie Ray

By Michael Schwagler

Dr. Reginal Ray, writer and Buddhist scholar, presented a lecture at Sakya Monastery on “Buddhism in the West” on January 27th, 2010.   At the request of Monastery members, Dr. Ray agreed to this interview.  We are very thankful that he was so generous in sharing with us his time, his knowledge and wisdom.

MS: The main thing I gathered from your talk last night is that in order to be Buddhist you have to practice.  What further comments can you add to this?

RR: I’m an historian; that’s my training.  My academic training is the history of religions and one of my special areas is very early Buddhism.  And what we learn from the study of the earliest Buddhist tradition is what Buddhism first was and most essentially was:  the practice of meditation and what it leads to.  And it’s that simple.

Over time Buddhism became much, much more complicated and it has a lot of other things going on.   And oftentimes in the West people become distracted from the essence of Buddhism which is practice and they may not practice very much at all.  They may do other things: study, and go to church and hang around teachers but that’s not really the essence of Buddhism.  So from my point of view it’s kind of a shame if we become distracted from the essence because then we don't change.  You don’t really change by studying, you don’t change by going to church, you don’t change by hanging around teachers.  The one and only way you change is by meditation practice, so in Dharma Ocean that’s what we do. That’s what we emphasize.

MS:  To go deep within yourself?

RR:  Exactly.

To read the complete interview, please download the PDF.

My First Trip to Dzongsar Institute

By Dhungsey Zaya Sakya

On the 26th of February 2010 at 7:00 am, Their Eminences Dhungsey Avikrita Rinpoche, Dhungsey Abhaya Rinpoche, Jetsun Chime-la, Dagmo Kusho, Dagmo Lhanze, Mangtho-la,Yangsik, his students Edward Wong and Mrs. Lam from Hong Kong, and teachers, attendants and myself departed from the New Delhi Phodrang in a four car caravan. Our destination was Dzongsar Institute, where H.E. Dhungsey Avikrita Rinpoche will be studying under the instruction of H.E. Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, Khenpo Jamyang Losal, Khenpo Choying Dorjee  and all of the Dzongsar Khenpos.  Dagmo Kusho made a special trip to be able to represent H.H. Dagchen Rinpoche and the Sakya family in seeing Avikrita Rinpoche, her grandson, off to college for higher Buddhist studies. Jetsun Chime-la, my Aunt, and Mangtho-la also came all the way from Seattle to attend Avikrita Rinpoche’s welcome at Dzongsar. Our caravan drove along mostly safe roads for about nine hours staying one night at the Suvhida Palace Hotel in Una where we were recieved by Dzongsar College Khenpo Sonam and Lama Wangchug.

On 02/27/2010 at 6:00 am, we left for Dzongsar Chokyi Lodro’s College, driving for about four hours, occasionally having beautiful snow capped Himalayan mountains reveal themselves as we entered the richest state in India - the Punjab. Known for its colorful head garb, immense land and harvested crops that feed temples. We were fortunate to have scenic peaks at the everyday lifestyles of the locals who often gazed at our vehicle caravan in awe. We encountered what seemed to be a zoo parade with all types of animals such as camels, elephants and flocks of sheep.As we neared  Dzongsar along the road to Chauntra, we were received with a Grand reception of about 75 people offering the traditional Khatas and lit incense. Our caravan now swelled to about 30 miscellaneous vehicles and several motorcycles, many in the lead waving colored khatas announcing our arrival and paving a path through the miscellaneous traffic of vehicles and assorted animals for our ever-growing group.

This reminded me of the tales my parents, Dagchen Rinpoche and Dagmo-la, often told me as a youngster about the Bir Tibetan Resettlement Communities. Only now the horses and hand carried palanquins were replaced by modern SUV's and motorcycles.  We arrived amidst all the pomp and splendor afforded royalty and I was humbled by the fact Dzongsar Khentse Rinpoche was the first to greet us once we entered the Grand Dzongsar College Campus main gates. This brought to mind the Late Venerable Khenpo Kunga Wangchuk, the College founder and a highly revered Sakya master. It was his vision to build the magnificent Dzongsar Institute for Higher Studies, a legacy he wanted to continue from Dzongsar, Tibet, in honor of his lama Chokyi Lodro Rinpoche. He passed away in May 2008 during the 2008 Lamdre teachings by H. H. Sakya Trizin, perfectly timing his passing into Nirvana right after the teachings. My only regret is not having had the chance to meet such a great Master. However, I am happy knowing that my own son, Dhungsey Avikritar Rinpoche is partaking in that vision by studying here.

We had lunch with Dzongsar Khentse Rinpoche and rested, amazed by the enormity of the grounds and beautiful landscaping. They have solar panels atop the roofs and filtered water everywhere along with a variety of other modern appliances and grounds. Right after lunch we all went to pay respect to Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro's memorial stupa at Khentse Rinpoches residence in Bir, about 3 kms from Dzongsar College.

On 02/28/2010 at 9:00 am we attended the welcome ceremony at the magnificent prayer hall of the Dzongsar Main Temple, also attended by Khentse Rinpoche, many Khenpos and around 500 monks. Here, H.E. Dhungsey Avikrita Rinpoche, H.E. Dhungsey Abhaya Rinpoche and myself were honored by Dzongsar Khentse Rinpoche, each of us recieving Mandala offerings per Tibetan tradition.

H.E. Dhungsey Abhaya Rinpoche represented our Phuntsok Phodrang and made the Mandala offering to H.E. Dhungsey Avikrita Rinpoche. Jetsun Chime-la and Mangtho-la, and Lama Kantsao Yangsik and his members also made Mandala offerings to H.E. Dhungsey Avikrita Rinpoche. My mother, Dagmo Kusho made the Mandala offering to Khyentse Rinpoche. It was quite humbling and exciting at the same time.   I had the honor of handing out certificates to those students who had excelled at their respective studies for the year 2009.

I also was fortunate to be the first to open the latest edition of the annual magazine book which has many commentaries and poems written by the students who reside here, as well as details of the events of the past year. Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche bid us all well as he left to give afternoon teachings, leaving us all to finally rest and recoup.

On 03/01/2010 at 6:00 am we had a three vehicle caravan trek three hours (a short time compared to others) to a very Holy Site called Tso Pema where Guru Padmasambhava was born and performed many miracles. We went first to the cave where Guru Rinpoche meditated and were amazed and pleased to meet around sixty kind Nuns who opened their hearts to us once atop one of the many arduous hilltops we climbed. We performed a Tsok offering in one of the caves Guru Padmasambhava stayed in for many years and left photos of  my parents, H.H. Dagchen Rinpoche and Dagmo-la. Once word of the Sakya Dhungseys’ arrival became known, droves of Tibetan pilgrims came out of nowhere to be blessed.

On 03/02/2010 we were in a swirl of activity as the Dolma Phodrang's Gyalyum Kusho arrived for lunch. Back at Dzongsar College we took a tour of the beautiful College Campus Grounds, the huge libraries, the traditional class rooms, the luscious gardens and we also saw where H.E. Dhungsey Avikrita Rinpoche would reside. His quarters are in the building that houses all of the khenpos.

Dagmo Kusho left the next day to visit Khamtrul Rinpoche and his family and to offer a manja to Kamtrul Rinpoche’s new monastery in Norbu linka.We also departed Dzongsar College the following day. Dolma Phodrang Gyalyum Kusho along with H.E. Dhungsey Avikrita Rinpoche and all the Khenpos drove along the roadside a few miles out to wish us goodbye. Saying goodbye to H.E. Dhungsey Avikrita Rinpoche on that rainy afternoon, many emotions crept inside my head and heart, all the pressure and stress from the last few days abated only to be replaced with a longing to be with my sons. I am reminded to be as poised and seemingly insensitive to all this, although it never is easy and as humans in this world. Without the support and compassion from H.H. Dagchen Rinpoche, Yab-la and Mama-la, our family members and most importantly, my extremely patient and compassionate wife, none of this would have been possible. I am comforted by the fact that many people have confided to me personally of all the good we are doing and that the future is bright. As I conclude my vacation, now that all of us have safely returned to the Phuntsok Phodrang in New Delhi, Dagmo Lhanze-la and I both look to be simultaneously positive and humble while steering our children toward a Dharma World hopefully as receptive and kind-loving as you have all been to us- Thank you! Hope to see you all soon.

Respectfully, Zaya Vajra 

Vajrapani Fire Puja

By Teresa Lamb

The Vajrapani Fire Puja, presided over by His Holiness Jigdal Dagchen Sakya Rinpoche, was held on February 7th, 2010 at the Tara Retreat Center on Whidbey Island.  The Puja was requested by Tenzin and Katie Denison.

This traditional Fire Puja is beneficial on many levels; for fulfilling wishes, removing obstacles, improving health and increasing merit and wealth.  The blessings of the Puja can also stabilize one’s meditative concentration and improve one’s spiritual practice.  The smoke from the fire itself is charged with vibrations that travel for miles creating peace and harmony in the world.

For the deceased it is a wonderful way to purify negative karma and attain higher rebirth.  Participants were asked to bring either a photo or the written name of the deceased.  Those who were unable to attend were still able to participate by giving offerings and names and photos of deceased loved ones to the Monastery before the event.

The morning of the Fire Puja, the Sakya Monastery Monks, Tulku Yeshi, Khenpo Jampa, and Lama Migmar began preparations for Dagchen Rinpoche’s arrival.  The sand mandala was constructed, which serves as the foundation for the fire, as well as a space for the Fire Deities to reside during the Puja.   A beautiful traditional Tibetan tent was set up for Dagchen Rinpoche.  Due to the misty rain coming down, some not so traditional tarps were set up for participants.

Dagchen Rinpoche arrived, taking his place inside the Tibetan tent with Dhungsey Sadu Rinpoche at his side.  Dagchen Rinpoche’s wonderfully powerful presence was felt throughout the entire area.  Dagchen Rinpoche, Sadu Rinpoche, and Her Eminence Dagmo Kusho, along with the monks began the recitation of the prayers, including prayers to clear the rain!  By the beginning of the Fire Puja the rain had, indeed, stopped!
As Dagchen Rinpoche, now emanating as Heruka and wearing the Heruka crown, began the Fire Puja prayers, the space we occupied began to change.  As we continued to make offerings to the fire deities the area became charged with energy from the power of Rinpoche’s prayers. 

Auspicious signs abounded.  Within the flames, many saw Dagchen Rinpoche’s face appear, others saw Vajrapani waving his arms.   Time seemed to stand still suspended in this circle, and a deep connection between the participants was created there.
The offerings of dried fruits, honey, barley, rice, oil, kusha grass, black and white sesame seeds, noodles, fresh and dried flowers, continued until there were no more to offer.  With prayers continuing, the names and photos of the deceased were placed into the fire.

This was a very personal moment, and a very transformative and reflective moment for all those participating.  Even for those who were not able to attend in person, they were also able to experience the transformative effects of this Fire Puja.

On behalf of Monastery friends and members who attended the Puja, we are immensely grateful to His Holiness Dagchen Rinpoche for this great and wonderful gift and for his infinite kindness and blessings. We would also like to thank Dhungsey Sadu Rinpoche, Her Eminence Dagmo Kusho, Tulku Yeshi, Khenpo Jampa, Lama Migmar and Lama Lodro, Adrienne Chan, Chuck Pettis and all who assisted and participated in any way.

Here are comments from some of the participants:

“I was so happy to learn of the blessings for those whose names go into the fire. I brought a small blizzard of pieces of paper.” – Marianne Kenady

“Powerful, emotional and very personal”, said one participant.

“…..Burning up obstacles, negativity for ourselves, other people and the planet with a loving group of people, what is more powerful!! I would love to see Fire Pujas take place more often. It was very wonderful to have shared this experience with everyone there. May the effects of the Puja go deep and wide…” – Sara Storm

“Powerful”, “Intense,” “Afterwards I went to the PCC and the children that were there responded to me by smiling and laughing even though I did not know them.” – Gail Fredrickson

“It was interesting, I noticed that during the Fire Puja and while in Dagchen Rinpoche's presence, I had all sorts of energy, but afterwards I felt like I had worked really hard all day, the kind of spring cleaning we do at this time of year.  Since the Puja, I have just felt lighter and things seem easier to do than normal.
I would also like to really thank Chuck for sharing his land with the Monastery and Heidi for her help.  What a wonderful thing.  I had a very enjoyable time at the Fire Puja.  It was so good to see everybody there!  The element fire has to do with love and communication, and I sure felt lots of that there! .” – Jean Freeman


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