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

His Holiness Jigdal Dagchen Sakya’s 2009 Teachings in Taiwan and Hong Kong

By Adrienne (Yeshe) Chan

Adrienne Chan is the personal assistant to H.H. Dagchen Rinpoche and Executive Director of Sakya Monastery.

After a 13 hour plane ride, HH Jigdal Dagchen Sakya, HE Dagmo Kusho, Lama Migmar and I touched down at Taipei, Taiwan airport at about 5:30 am. Although we were exhausted, the arrival was beautiful and heart warming—colors of golden silk, maroon robes, flowing white katags and flowers engulfed us. Dagchen Rinpoche was immediately sheltered by a traditional golden parasol three feet in diameter (reserved for high lamas).  Lama Tashi of Sakya Tsechen Thupten Dekyi Choling, led the welcome party.  Tulkus, lamas, nuns and students of all sects of Buddhism offered katags to Dagchen Rinpoche and Dagmo Kusho. At one point, Dagchen Rinpoche was interviewed by a news reporter.

Once the luggage arrived, students picked up our bags and we were whisked off to Tai Chung, Taiwan, where Dagchen Rinpoche was invited to teach at four Centers. He consecrated Pewa Tulku’s new center and gave a teaching on “Parting from the Four Attachments”.  He also gave a teaching on Chenrezi at a Chinese Temple as well as teachings at the Kagyu center led by HE Chime Rinpoche.  The bulk of Dagchen Rinpoche’s Tai Chung teachings were at the Nyingma Kathog Rigzin Chenpo Dharma Association Monastery, which is directed by HE Kathog Rinpoche.

The Tai Chung teachings began auspiciously on October 20, 2009 at Kathog Rinpoche’s monastery with HE Dagmo Kusho bestowing the Green Tara initiation to many devoted students. Because students worked during the week, it was arranged that Dagchen Rinpoche would bestow the esoteric Dharma teaching to the ordained in the morning and in the evening he would give teachings to all students.  Thus, Dagchen Rinpoche started a week and a half of morning initiations for monks which included initiations/teachings like Kurukulle, Hevajra, and Mahakala.  To all students he bestowed initiations like Red Tara, Hayagriva and Red Zambala.

One day, we were told to dress warmly and to put on mosquito repellent.  We were headed towards the mountains where Kathog Rinpoche had requested Dagchen Rinpoche consecrate a retreat site.  When we arrived at the bottom of the mountain side, an elaborately constructed sedan chair was awaiting Dagchen Rinpoche.  The students had taken a bamboo rocker and securely fastened metal poles to the sides of it.  Dagchen Rinpoche sat in the rocker and 8 strong men carried him up to the retreat site.  The sedan chair even had a petite golden parasol (12’’ diameter) suspended over Dagchen Rinpoche’s head. Seeing eight devoted men carrying Dagchen Rinpoche up the side of a mountain and the little parasol swaying to and fro above his head was awesome.

Once they reached the retreat site a beautiful ground breaking ceremony began. A delicious assortment of food offerings were made to the local deities, prayers were chanted, gyaling horns and drums played.  The ceremony concluded with Dagchen Rinpoche breaking the ground (digging) in a location designated by placement of Padmasambhava’s brass iron staff.

Our final day at Kathog Rinpoche’s monastery was an all day event.  Dagchen Rinpoche wearing a very precious and elaborate Padmasambhava hat, led a Jetsun Nynigdik Wang Druk puja/tsok and initiation.  At the tsok, 12 special people, which included our beloved Dagmo Kusho, were chosen to represent “dakinis”.  Each dakini wore colorful brocade garments and crowns. Then they were assigned to chant offering prayers.  At the conclusion of the prayers, tsok (food) items piled at least three feet high were distributed to everyone.  Our visit at Kathog Rinpoche’s monastery was magnificent and memorable.  We left with visions of dakinis dancing in our heads.

Could anything top that?  No, but could something equal that?  The next day Dagchen Rinpoche and Dagmo Kusho received a grand welcome from HE Chime Rinpoche and his students. The welcome ceremony began with loud explosions of fire crackers and Dragon and Lion Dances.  Two golden lions, six feet long with snapping mouths and adorable wagging tails danced about greeting Dagchen Rinpoche and Dagmo Kusho.  One lion acrobatically danced and skipped on the top of a row of eight poles which were about 12 feet high off the ground.  It was incredible—it was like watching a circus act—a little scary but fun.

After the welcome, Dagchen Rinpoche led Chime Rinpoche, other lamas and monks, including our Lama Migmar, in prayers for the site consecration of Chime Rinpoche’s new retreat center.  The prayer ceremony also included a huge fire puja offering, releasing of 100 birds (assisted by Dagmo Kusho) and tree planting ritual performed by both Dagchen Rinpoche and Dagmo Kusho.

For the next four days, Dagchen Rinpoche bestowed to Chime Rinpoche, his students and other Buddhist practitioners the three wealth deities initiations (The Three Red Ones: Kurukulle, Kamarja, Ganapati), which are from the renown “Sakya Thirteen Golden Dharmas” teachings.  He also bestowed a Medicine Buddha empowerment and led Long Life, Guru Yoga and Medicine Buddha pujas.  Additionally, Dagmo Kusho gave a public talk to eager students on the evening of the third day. On our last day in Tai Chung, November 1, 2009, Chime Rinpoche surprised us all.  He presented Dagchen Rinpoche with a mandala offering followed by gifts and an eight layered birthday cake. The birthday cake was a least five feet high (it looked like a wedding cake).  To be able to celebrate one’s lama’s long life and for the continuation of his teachings is indeed thrilling!  We were able to accomplish that four more times—in Taipei, New Delhi, Lumbini and recently in Seattle!  “Ku Tse Ring” (long life) to our beloved Dagchen Rinpoche!

Next on November 2nd, we arrived at Sakya Tsechen Thupten Dekyi Choling located in Taipei, capitol of Taiwan.  Since November 2nd is Dagchen Rinpoche’s actual passport birthday, Lama Tashi requested that Dagchen Rinpoche lead the lamas, monks and students in a Mahakala puja, which was followed by a mandala offering, more gifts and a delicious birthday cake.  Our reception in Taipei was “regal” and that is no understatement.  Dagchen Rinpoche and Dagmo Kusho were given the “Presidential Suite” in the Hyatt Grand Hotel.  The suite had an audience room with an emperor like throne/chair and six other rooms which included a kitchenette and piano room. 

In Taipei, Dagchen Rinpoche’s schedule was quite busy.  He taught at four Sakya Centers.  At those centers he gave Hayagriva, Yamataka and Vajrakilaya initiations.  Additionally, under Lama Tashi’s guidance Sakya Tsechen Thupten Dekyi Choling requested that Dagchen Rinpoche bestow to 400 students the major mandala empowerment, Vajrayogini. Those students also received from him the six armed White Mahakala empowerment and from Dagmo Kusho the White Tara initiation.

While in Taipei, Dagchen Rinpoche made a presentation at a conference sponsored by the International Tibetan Buddhism Study Institute.  Leaders of the conference were Kathog Rinpoche, Tulku Thupten Norbu, Khenpo Tsultrim Namdag and Geshe Cho Nyi Dontog.    
Including the Honorable Dawa Tsering representative from His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s government in Taiwan, four hundred other Buddhist leaders attended the conference.

Our visit to Taipei was incredible. Taipei is a thriving modern metropolis—taxis are every where. Exquisitely designed high rises dot the cityscape. Designer shops abound.  And Taipei even has three Costco stores!

In Taiwan, Dagchen Rinpoche and entourage were treated to numerous 8-10 course banquet meals.  Most often the meals took 2-3 hours to complete. At one banquet, we heard a familiar tune which I suddenly recognized was our own “Magical Chants” CD produced by Chuck Pettis.  It was beautiful to hear Dagchen Rinpoche and Celia’s chants played in a Buddhist restaurant in far away Asia. 

Dagchen Rinpoche’s next destination was Hong Kong.  As Lama Migmar described, Hong Kong is an island of tall and thin high rise apartments with tall and thin double-decker buses slithering between buildings.  To me, I saw Hong Kong as rows of compact high rise bee hives.  It is a dense place but the Buddhist students are very devoted to their Lamas and the Dharma.  That first evening in Hong Kong was emotional and heart warming.  Waiting patiently to greet Dagchen Rinpoche and Dagmo Kusho were about ten young people from Gaba, Kham, Dagmo Kusho and Migmar’s home town.  One of the visitors was named Pechen. She is the daughter of Tulku Sepa, a high Sakya lama in Kham.  She and her fellow Khampas wore traditional eastern Tibetan garments.  They respectfully prostrated before Dagchen Rinpoche and then humbly on their knees belted out in Tibetan, beautiful guru devotional songs.  It was as if we were in Tibet!  At the end, one singer could not stop crying—it was overwhelming!

The next day, Dhungsey Avikrita Rinpoche (grandson of HH JD Sakya) and Yangsi Lama Kan Tso and their teachers, Gen Tashi Nyima and Gen Kunsang joined our entourage.  Together with Dagchen Rinpoche they participated in the consecrations and Grand Openings of two centers.  The first was the consecration of Dagchen Rinpoche’s new Hong Kong Center, Sakya Tsechen Phunstog Choling.  After that blessing ritual, Dagchen Rinpoche bestowed to the students the Padmasambhava initiation, which was followed by a tsok.

The second consecration ceremony was the grand opening of the Maha Sandhi Yoga Center.  Many years ago the Maha Sandhi Yoga Center was established by the late Lama Kan Tso, who was a Dharma brother to and dedicated disciple of Dagchen Rinpoche. Before Lama Kan Tso’s paranirvana, he requested that only Dagchen Rinpoche should search for his reincarnation. Twelve years ago, Yangsi Lama Kan Tso was identified by Dagchen Rinpoche. While Yangsi Lama Kan Tso has been receiving religious training with Dhungsey Avikrita Rinpoche at the Sakya Heritage Foundation, New Delhi, his students have been faithfully maintaining the Maha Sandi Yoga Center and their practices.  On November 15th Dagchen Rinpoche led Dhungsey Avikrita Rinpoche, Yangsi Lama Kan Tso, many lamas, monks, nuns and students in the elaborate grand opening ceremony of the newly located and renovated Maha Sandhi Yoga Center.

Both consecration ceremonies were colorful and full of rich tradition, prayers and ritual music. Overflowing crowds attended both events. 

After Hong Kong, we boarded India’s 21st century Jet Airways airline to New Delhi. Dagchen Rinpoche’s first class seat resembled an egg or pod.  It was amazing, when one lays back to sleep, one is cradled comfortably like being in a cocoon. Can you imagine emerging from a night’s sleep to the sights and sounds and smells of ancient India? To be continued...

Sogyal Rinpoche Captivates Audience

By Chuck Pettis

Photo courtesy of Wonderlane

On Sunday, December 13, 2009, Sogyal Rinpoche, author of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, kept a sold-out audience captivated, entertained, and entranced with his teaching on the significance of Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche) and the Tso Kor Feast Offering Ritual. Sogyal Rinpoche was invited by Sakya Monastery to give this teaching. H.H. Jigdal Dagchen Sakya requested specifically that he teach the Padmasambhava Tso Kor practice.  H.H. Dagchen Rinpoche and Sogyal Rinpoche have a long time dharma connection as they share the same teacher, H.E. Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro Rinpoche and received teachings from him at Dzongsar Monastery in East Tibet in the early 1950’s.  

Guru Rinpoche was an Indian tantric master who brought Buddhism to Tibet and is considered by many to be the Second Buddha. Here are a few of the key points that Sogyal Rinpoche made about Guru Rinpoche:
• Guru Rinpoche is the embodiment of the compassion, the blessings, and the enlightened activity, of all the buddhas – all in one.  
• Guru Rinpoche is the active manifestation of enlightenment, whose powerful energy is invoked as a source of refuge and protection amidst the confusion and turmoil of this difficult age.
• If we have devotion and if we pray to Guru Rinpoche, the blessings of his compassion will immediately and certainly enter us.

The Tso Kor practice is one of the central practices of Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism. On the 10th lunar day of each month, a special feast offering (Tso-Kor) is made to Guru Rinpoche at Sakya Monastery. Sogyal Rinpoche said that the Tso Kor Feast Offering is a powerful method for accumulating merit and wisdom, purifying obscurations, and healing our Samaya link with the master, the practice and our fellow practitioners. Everyone who has taken Refuge is invited to the monthly Padmasambhava Tso Kor practice at Sakya Monastery. Check the calendar for actual dates and times.

Sakya Monastery Next of Kin Committee

By Teresa Lamb and Laura Ellis

What is the Next of Kin Committee?

Under the guidance and direction of our Head Lama, His Holiness Jigdal Dagchen Sakya, this group of volunteers works to help Sakya Monastery members with their end of life wishes.  As Buddhist practitioners our needs at the time of death may differ from those of other belief systems common in Western society.  Because of this, we hope to provide enough information to help members express their wishes to their Next of Kin. If members do not have family or if they are too far away, volunteers from the NOK committee can assist them at their time of death.

Anyone can join the NOK Committee, and, indeed, we would love to have more volunteers join our efforts to provide information and services to members around end of life issues.  Some projects we have been working on include: 

  1. The NOK Guide: This is a packet of information including a summary of prayers to be recited at the time of death, forms to assist members in deciding what their end of life wishes are, and checklists of legal documents.
  2. Research into Prayers and Protocols: His Holiness Dagchen Rinpoche has provided us with information on prayers and protocols for how to handle the body.  We have sought out resources from the community that can help us to follow these protocols.
  3. Advocacy:  We research WA State laws and hospital protocols so that we can advise members on how to request that local authorities and hospital staff handle the body correctly.
  4. Vigil Volunteers:  These Volunteers have helped provide continuous prayers for those who have had serious health conditions or those who required surgery. On the days of a scheduled surgery volunteers sign up for shifts so there is someone praying for that individual almost continuously throughout the crucial time, the night before, and the night after the procedure.  If requested names can be added to the Medicine Buddha Prayer group during their recovery.
  5.  We hold regular events including teachings, classes (download the VEI catalog [PDF]), and workshops.  For those who didn’t look forward to filling out their end of life forms, last month we held an event to make it more pleasant.  We held a pizza party to fill out the forms!  We hope to offer these pizza party events regularly for those who are interested.

We are profoundly grateful to His Holiness Dagchen Rinpoche who, through his great kindness, has provided invaluable support and guidance. He has also offered to give us a teaching on death and dying later this spring or early summer.

If you have any questions please contact Laura Ellis at or Teresa Lamb at


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