In the Very Merry Month of May

By Stephanie Prince


In 2013 and in 2014 in early May, His Holiness Dagchen Rinpoche and his family and the members of Sakya Monastery of Tibetan Buddhism were very pleased and delighted to host His Holiness Sakya Trizin and his entourage to Seattle. Many volunteers contributed to creating a wonderful and traditional welcome on both occasions with banners of Dharma victory, new prayer flags, traditional music, incense, and offering of ceremonial scarves (katags).


The schedule in 2013 (May 6-8) began on the evening of their arrival with a sumptuous dinner at an Indian restaurant sponsored by Tho Luu, a long time disciple of H.H. Dagchen Rinpoche.


The next day H.H. Sakya Trizin, after receiving a Dharma King’s welcome at the Monastery, gave Mahayana teachings on bodhicitta and then bestowed the White Mahakala initiation. I remember his mentioning before the bestowal that some people would think there was a contradiction regarding the name “White Mahakala” because we are more familiar with Black Mahakala. But He assured us that there was no contradiction and that meditation on this form encourages the removal of poverty, generates harmony in the environment, and increases the well-being of all sentient beings.


In the evening of H.H. Sakya Trizin’s last day here, he met with the Tibetan Association of Washington and gave a Vajrakilaya blessing. Shortly afterwards on that same evening, H. H. Sakya Trizin joined H. H. Dagchen Rinpoche as we all gathered to conduct our monthly Gurgyi Gonpo Mahakala Torma puja. It is so inspiring to be able to practice with the great masters of the lineage.


In 2014 we were exceedingly fortunate to have H. H. Sakya Trizin visit us once again and several programs were planned. On the first evening of teachings, H.H. Sakya Trizin gave us a detailed and enlightening Dharma lecture on “How to Be a Good Buddhist”. He stressed the importance of first being a good human being. Then he gave a clear explanation of what makes us a Buddhist. From the method side, we take our Refuge vows in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, and, in the Vajrayana, in the Guru who is inseparable from them. Then from the wisdom side, we have an understanding and acceptance of the four seals: that all composites are impermanent; that all defilements/obscurations are suffering; all phenomena have nature of emptiness; and nirvana (transcendence of suffering) is peace.


On Friday late afternoon, May 9, H. H. Sakya Trizin met with the Tibetan Association of Washington community of family and friends. He gave a general talk and then bestowed a Powa transmission as requested.


Later in the evening, H.H. Sakya Trizin bestowed the initiation of the 1000-armed Chenrezi Bodhisattva of Compassion. It was very auspicious to receive this especially because next month during Saka Dawa (Holy Buddhist days), a special meditation retreat focusing on this tutelary deity will take place. As part of the preliminary teachings His Holiness told us about the three types of creating the enlightenment thought: as a king [or queen] who after being enthroned uses their power to help people; or as a sailor who travels together with the passengers to reach the destination; or as a shepherd who sends the beings first and remains last—this is considered the greatest type like that of Chenrezi. Then His Holiness told us the story of the 1000-armed Chenrezi and how after making a vow never to abandon beings or he would split apart if he did, Chenrezi did get discouraged when he saw that so many beings still were suffering even though he had liberated so many others. And thus he split into many pieces when he thought he could no longer keep his vow. However, his spiritual master, Amitabha, took pity on him and restored him with 1000-arms and eleven heads.


After this most sublime initiation, mandalas and the symbols of body, speech, mind, qualities and deeds of the Buddha were offered by the Sakya Phuntsog Family and then by the Board of Advisors and patrons. Long life prayers were recited and our traditional Happy Trails song was sung. Thank you Root and Lineage Lamas for all your blessings and activities dedicated for the benefit and liberation of all beings.

Sarva mangalam. May all be auspicious

H.E. Abhaya Rinpoche Completes the Vajrakilaya Ceremony and Exam

By Laura Ellis

 


 

His Eminence Abhaya Rinpoche successfully completed the Vajrakilaya exam during the ten day annual Vajrakilaya ceremony in Dehra Dun, India. The ceremony, presided over by His Holiness Sakya Trizin, was attended by an unprecedented six lamas of the Sakya Khon lineage, three from the Drolma Phodrang and three from the Phuntsok Phodrang, as well as tulkus and lamas from the Sakya sect and over 500 monks.


On the day of the exam, August 21, 2013, Sakya family members including the parents of Abhaya Rinpoche, Dhungsey Zaya Rinpoche and Dagmo Lhanze, Dhungsey Sadu Rinpoche, his three Jetsunmas and Dagmo Pema, and H.E. Dagmo Kusho, all made mandala offerings to H.H. Sakya Trizin, H.E. Abhaya Rinpoche and his three teachers. And they made offerings of meals and money to the 300 monks participating in the ceremony and an elaborate feast for all including the lay practitioners who attended the ceremony that day.  Ordained representatives from all Sakya monasteries in India and Nepal as well as lay people came to make offerings and congratulate Dhungsey Abhaya Rinpoche.

 


According to Dagmo Kusho, Abhaya Rinpoche performed beautifully and eloquently. After the ceremony was completed H.H. Sakya Trizin informed the family that Abhaya Rinpoche “did very well”. He repeatedly congratulated Dhungsey Rinpoche and his teacher Gen. Kunsang Gyatso.  Everyone was very happy to hear this auspicious news.


Abhaya Rinpoche had been preparing for the Vajrakilaya ceremony for over one year. The eight hour ceremony involves memorizing over 400 pages of text as well as faultlessly keeping time with the drum while reciting prayers from memory.


Family members from the Phuntsok Phodrang were graciously hosted by the Drolma Phodrang during their 10 day stay in Dehra Dun. It was a beautiful and memorable time for the Sakya family.

H.E. Abhaya Rinpoche is now preparing at the Phuntsok Phodrang in New Delhi for retreat and prequalification education for college. In 2014 he will begin his higher studies.

Long Live H.E. Abhaya Rinpoche!

Sakya Family Asia Visit and H.E. Dagmo Kusho’s World Tour

By Laura Ellis

On August 10, 2013, members of the Sakya family, accompanied by Gillian Teichert, departed from Seattle for Asia in order to attend H.E. Abhaya Rinpoche’s Vajrakilaya exam and ceremony in Dehra Dun, India.  En route to India the party first stopped in Hong Kong where Dhungsey H.E Sadu Rinpoche and H.E. Dagmo Kusho were invited to give teachings at the Mahasandi Yoga Center and the Hong Kong Sakya Center.  Sadu Rinpoche gave Chenrezi and Medicine Buddha oral transmission and teachings as well as the Three Long Life Deity oral transmission and teaching.  As always, the Sakya family enjoyed the hospitality of Mr. Edward Wong from the Mahasandi Yoga Center and Mr. Roland Yeung from the Hong Kong Sakya Center.  They were grateful for all of the help from friends and students at these two dharma centers.


In New Delhi, the travelers were greeted by the 72 monks and teachers at the Phuntsok Phodrang.  Dagmo Kusho was glad to see that the 40 new monks, who she met for the first time, were all happy, healthy and studying hard.  They even spoke a little English!


On August 20th, the Seattle group with attendants from Delhi, arrived in Dehra Dun, one day prior to the Vajrakilaya exam.  There was much preparation to be done.  The next day the family, including Dhungsey Zaya Rinpoche, Dhungsey Sadu Rinpoche, his daughters, Jetsun Soyangla, Jetsun Chodronla, and Jetsun Dechenla, Dagmo Kusho, Dagmo Lhanze, and Dagmo Pema were to make elaborate offerings to His Holiness Sakya Trizin Rinpoche, H.E. Abhaya Rinpoche and his two teachers, and all monks present at the Vajrakilaya ceremony.


The Drolma Phodrang graciously welcomed the whole family including attendants. Family members of both holy palaces enjoyed meals together every day. It was a beautiful and memorable time. In all there were nine Khon lineage holders plus four jetsunmas, five dagmos and extended family at this family reunion in Dehra Dun.

According to Dagmo Kusho, H.E. Abhaya Rinpoche performed beautifully on his exam. She could hear his voice clearly since she was seated nearby during the ceremony. “He had such a deep voice with no accent and was fearless,” said Dagmo Kusho of Abhaya Rinpoche’s performance. After the exam the two families gathered again at the Drolma Phodrang. As they sat down for the evening meal His Holiness Sakya Trizin Rinpoche said, “Abhaya Rinpoche did very well.” Everyone was so happy. What an auspicious day for the Sakya Khon lineage and all sentient beings!


During the next few days, the visitors made offerings at many monasteries and nunneries. Twelve were visited in person and three had offerings sent to them. Those visited were Sakya College, Sheta College, Kyigu Monastery in Kanwar, Sakya Puliwala and Dzongpa Monastery. Each received money offerings and a manja; occasionally, a full lunch was sponsored. With so many august personages present, Dehra Dun offerings were the most elaborate.

Back in New Delhi, the travelers stayed for two more days at the Phuntsok Phodrang. They offered a puja and gifts to all of the monks. Dagmo Kusho had ordered shirts for the monks from the Sakya Vietnam Center. The 72 monks received clothes, money, and a special meal during the all-day puja.


From New Delhi, Dhungsey Sadu Rinpoche and family, Dagmo Kusho and Gillian Teichert traveled to Nepal where they visited and made offerings at four more monasteries and a nunnery and made offerings including: Tharlam Monastery, Tarig Monastery, International Buddhist Academy (IBA), a Sakya nunnery in Kathmandu, and Chogye Monastery. They stayed seven days in Nepal. Every day there was a special long life puja for His Holiness Dagchen Rinpoche. At Tharlam Monastery the Sakya family sponsored two days of puja and offerings, including lunch and dinner for the monks.

Dhungsey Sadu Rinpoche and family and attendants visited pilgrimage sites in Pharping, Swayambunath and other holy sites including Lhug Gang Kye (Tib) or Shref Budhanilkantha Bishnu Bhagwan (Nep), the site of the self-arising statue from the middle of a lake. Dagmo Kusho tried to spend every moment with her beloved 94 year old aunt and nun, Ani Chimey. Ani Chimey resides at Tharlam Monastery, which was founded by her brother and Dagmola’s uncle, the late Dezhung Rinpoche III. Tulku Dezhung Rinpoche IV is 23 years old and is studying at Sakya College in Dehra Dun.


Although Dagmo Kusho did not have plans to teach while in Nepal, a request came for her to give a White Tara initiation. Since the request came from a very devoted student of H.H. Dagchen Rinpoche, Dagmola could not refuse. The student has been in solitary retreat since he received the Lamdre initiation from Dagchen Rinpoche seventeen years ago! Dagmo Kusho bestowed the White Tara initiation to Guru Rani and 150 devotees at the Guru Ama Rani Center in Kathmandu on August 31, 2013.

On the last day before the group was scheduled to return to Seattle, Dagmo Kusho received news that the monks who were to accompany her to the long-anticipated teachings in Spain, had received their visas.  H.H. Dagchen Rinpoche had been invited to give teachings at the Sakya Center in Barcelona, Spain, however he was not able to travel at the time so Dagmo Kusho was invited.

Dagmo Kusho and two monk attendants from the Phuntsok Phodrang in New Delhi, arrived in Barcelona on September 14, 2013.  Over the next six days at Sakya Tashi Ling, Dagmo Kusho bestowed a Green Tara initiation and teaching, a Chenrezi teaching and refuge vows. Dagmola very much enjoyed the natural beauty and scenery at this dharma center set peacefully atop a mountain in Barcelona and she was moved by the faith and devotion of students in Spain.

One day the group traveled to another dharma center in a village several hours away. The scenic ride on country roads lined with pomegranate trees, flowers and fruits of every kind was relaxing and pleasant. Although Dagmola has been travelling several weeks, she found her time in Spain to be regenerative due to the warm hospitality of Lama Jamyang Tashi, Kutsap and center members.  

Dagmo Kusho returned to Seattle on September 20, 2013, and spent a few days at home before embarking for southern California where she gave 10 days of teachings at centers in Santa Barbara, Malibu, San Gabriel, and Santa Monica. In Malibu she stayed with her son H.E. Dhungsey Minzu Rinpoche and Dagmo Carol. Her eight-week round-the-world tour was a busy time but Dagmo Kusho stayed healthy and accomplished many activities for the dharma and all sentient beings.

Long Live H.E. Dagmo Kusho!

Celebratory Dinner and Fundraiser to Honor H.H. Jigdal Dagchen Sakya and Finance a New Monastery Roof

By Adrienne Chan                                          
 
On Saturday, November 9, 2013 Sakya Monastery and five Tibetan families (H.E. Zaya Rinpoche, Thinley Gyatso, Nyima Choedar, Chime Tenzin, Lungtok) hosted a formal dinner to honor H.H. Jigdal Dagchen Sakya Rinpoche for his lifelong devotion to sharing the Dharma.  Proceeds from the dinner were dedicated toward  the Monastery’s new roof.  A silent auction was also held at the dinner to raise funds to replace the leaky roof.  Our dinner event was held at the Nordic Museum.  It was a sold out evening!  Kathleen Ramm and her staff transformed the main museum hall into an elegant dinning room with white table cloths, silverware, gold rim place settings, wine/water goblets and floating candle center pieces. Adding to the ambience, Bill Sternhagen played classical piano throughout the evening.

While wine and scrumptious Indian hors d’oeuvers (made by Phurbu and family) were served, guests mingled and participated in the Silent Auction organized by Marilyn Harris and her team of volunteers. Some auctioned items included a Buddha picture donated by Dagchen Rinpoche, calligraphy by Ven. Tulku Yeshi, a thangka donated by Ven. Khenpo Jampa, gift certificates, carpets, jewelry and many other wonderful items.  The Silent Auction was a resounding success!
 
In the museum’s kitchen, Tse Dolkar, Atsuko and many others helped to prepare a delicious Indian dinner for all of us to enjoy, followed by the  the Mexican dessert “tres leche” cake, a creamy delicious treat.


After dinner, we experienced the best moment of all.  We viewed a 20 minute film entitled “Our Precious Guru and his Monastery”.  Coren Lindfield created and narrated an incredible documentary honoring Dagchen Rinpoche.  The film incorporated testimonials and photos of Sakya Monastery past and present.  As one guest mentioned, the film almost brought her to tears.  At the conclusion of the movie, Dagchen Rinpoche received a standing ovation.

Following the movie, speeches were made by Nyima Choedhar, David Spiekerman and Thinley Gyatso. A Tibetan musical interlude was provided by Thondup Dorje, Tsering Yangchen and Nyima.  A Lifetime Achievement award and a huge bouquet of flowers were presented to H.H. Dagchen Rinpoche.  On behalf of H.H.J.D. Sakya and the Sakya Phuntsok Phodrang family, H.E. Dagmo Kusho read a thank-you speech and Dagchen Rinpoche offered katags to members of the organizing committee.

 

H.E. Dagmo Kusho Gives Teachings in California

by Camellia Xin Wu and Jeaneen Bauer

Just over a year since her last visit to Santa Barbara, California, Her Eminence Dagmo Kusho returned with Ani Dolkar on Friday, September 27, 2013 to a warm reception at the home of Joel and Joanne Shefflin in Montecito.


Saturday morning, September 28th, Dagmo Kusho spoke to the Tara Ling Santa Barbara students about Guru Yoga in the Sakya tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. She included some wonderful stories of her life and teachings. The afternoon session was a question and answer session with Dagmo Kusho followed by private interviews.

Sunday, September 29th, Dagmo Kusho, joined by Lama Jamyang, the resident teacher of Tara Ling San Gabriel, blessed us with An Ocean of Compassion Chenrezi practice, followed by a Refuge ceremony, in which 8 students took refuge. Two students had just relocated from Mexico and one was from Argentina! The afternoon session was the Heart Sutra practice followed by a rousing question and answer session. Afterwards at the Shefflin home, Dagmo Kusho gave the children blessings and taught them special mantras.
On Monday, September 30th, Dagmo Kusho reserved the morning and afternoon for private interviews at the Shefflin home.  The setting for the interviews was glorious, outside in the cabana, with Joel and Joanne offering their Shrine room for students to meditate and pray before or after their interviews. Following the interviews, Joel treated Dagmo Kusho to his collection of “Holy Earth” – a collection of soil from his many pilgrimages to Holy sites.  Dagmo Kusho picked some soil to use in the Statues at Sakya Monastery. One of the precious offerings Joel made was a photo of the Nga Dra Ma Padmasambhaya Statue at Samye Monastery.  Monday evening, Dagmo Kusho met with the Tara Ling students at their regular Monday meditation practice. Dagmo Kusho gave instruction and led the practice. Tara Ling Santa Barbara students graciously requested that Dagmo Kusho return soon and she accepted.  Dagmo Kusho enjoyed all of the meals and atmosphere offered by the Tara Ling Santa Barbara students.

Tuesday, October 1st, we left Santa Barbara and headed to our next destination in Malibu, to the home of Dagmo Kusho’s longtime student, Carol Moss.  Dagmo Kusho led a Buddha Dharma practice with questions after the practice.  Don Farber came to videotape the event and when asked if he liked the talk, he said, “It was everything I had hoped for and more.”

Wednesday morning, Dagmo Kusho and Ani Dolkar arrived at the home of Erin Hess, another student of Dagmo Kusho, for a house blessing.  After the blessing, Dagmo Kusho arrived in Beverly Hills at the home of her eldest son, H.E. Khondung Minzu Rinpoche and Dagmo Carol Hamilton for the night.

Thursday, Oct. 3rd, Camellia Wu took H.E. Dagmo Kusho and her assistant Ani Dolkar to the Tara Ling Center in San Gabriel, California. They were welcomed by Maria Shaw, longtime student and benefactor for the San Gabriel center.

Lama Jamyang made a beautiful arrangement in the Shrine room, as he has always been devotedly doing, maintaining Tara Ling San Gabriel Center.  H.E. Dagmo Kusho led the Sangha in the Chenrezi Practice dedicated to Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva.  On the evening of Oct. 4th, Dagmo Kusho gave a general Dharma talk at the center.  H.E. Dagmo Kusho chatted with some old members and new students about their families, and answering questions of Dharma. Amazingly a 3-year old girl PeiChen received Green Tara mantras word by word from Dagmola, now she can chant on her own every day, according to her mother.

Oct. 5th, Dagmo Kusho bestowed Green Tara Empowerment at 7:30pm. It is very auspicious to receive this empowerment with permission to practice. Dagmo Kusho said the practice of Green Tara is considered one of the most universal and important within Tibetan Buddhism.  Our small center was packed with members; most of them drove about an hour or so to attend the event. We were also very honored to be joined by H.E. Khondung Minzu Rinpoche and Dagmo Carol Hamilton.

With a certain percentage of new Dharma practitioners, H.E Dagmo Kusho gave us a brief introduction of her family and background. She said as a lady of her family, her mission is committed to serve H.H. Dagchen Rinpoche, the Sakya Khon Lineage and giving some Dharma teaching to benefit sentient beings. She said “I respect all religions; they are all for benefiting people in the world. I am a Buddhist in this life because my karma had a connection to the Buddha Dharma. Tibetan Buddhism is a tool to use, making our lives meaningful and creating a good rebirth for our next life. It is like we are all climbing to the top of the mountain, there are many ways to get there, as long as we focus and are on the right track.”

Sunday, Oct. 6th, H.E. Dagmo Kusho led a daily mid-length Sadhana Tara Meditation Practice on Green Tara. Throughout the practice sequence, H.E. Dagmo Kusho gave additional instructions and advice to new Tara practitioners.

We are blessed by H.E. Dagmo Kusho’s kindness for making this trip to Tara Ling Santa Barbara, Malibu and Tara Ling San Gabriel Center.

Working at her age as a loving mother to all, I believe we will make Dagmola's trips very rewarding if we hold fast to Dharma practice, cultivating ourselves and benefitting others.

Dagmo Kusho would like to thank Vidya Gauci, Lama Jamyang, Jefferey Chang, Camellia Wu, Maria Shaw, James and Sangay Elliott, Joel and Joanne Shefflin, Carol Moss, Candace Tysdall,  Jeaneen Bauer and many others for their devotion and taking care of the Tara Ling Centers and us  during their California visit.

With a certain percentage of new Dharma practitioners, H.E Dagmo Kusho gave us a brief introduction of her family and background. She said as a lady of her family, her mission is committed to serve H.H. Dagchen Rinpoche, the Sakya Khon Lineage and giving some Dharma teaching to benefit sentient beings. She said “I respect all religions; they are all for benefiting people in the world. I am a Buddhist in this life because my karma had a connection to the Buddha Dharma. Tibetan Buddhism is a tool to use, making our lives meaningful and creating a good rebirth for our next life. It is like we are all climbing to the top of the mountain, there are many ways to get there, as long as we focus and are on the right track."


Sunday, Oct. 6th, H.E. Dagmo Kusho led a daily mid-length Sadhana Tara Meditation Practice on Green Tara. Throughout the practice sequence, H.E. Dagmo Kusho gave additional instructions and advice to new Tara practitioners.

We are blessed by H.E. Dagmo Kusho’s kindness for making this trip to Tara Ling Santa Barbara, Malibu and Tara Ling San Gabriel Center.

Working at her age as a loving mother to all, I believe we will make Dagmola's trips very rewarding if we hold fast to Dharma practice, cultivating ourselves and benefitting others.

Dagmo Kusho would like to thank Vidya Gauci, Lama Jamyang, Jefferey Chang, Camellia Wu, Maria Shaw, James and Sangay Elliott, Joel and Joanne Shefflin, Carol Moss, Candace Tysdall,  Jeaneen Bauer and many others for their devotion and taking care of the Tara Ling Centers and us  during their California visit.

Tulku Yeshi Rinpoche’s Pilgrimage to India

By Peter Ober, from an interview with Tulku Yeshi Rinpoche


Ven. Tulku Yeshi Gyatso and a group of Monastery members traveled to India in November, 2013 to go on pilgrimage to the Buddhist holy sites of Bodhgaya, Vulture Peak, and Varanasi.  This interview is about that trip.

Peter: Tulku Yeshi, what was your original motivation in organizing a pilgrimage to India?

Tulku Yeshi: In the beginning, my goal was to visit my parents. I had not seen them since I left Tibet twenty years ago! I missed them very much, and I was worried that they would soon be too old to travel. Since it would have been difficult for me to travel to Tibet, I thought of offering to fly them and my brother to Hong Kong and meeting them there.
Then I realized, Hong Kong is about a six hour flight from India; why not invite my Dharma sisters and brothers along, too? So I announced the idea of a pilgrimage and invited those who were interested to join me in India.

Peter: It must have been very emotional for both you and your parents to see each other after so many years and then to say goodbye again!

Tulku Yeshi: Don’t forget, we‘re Buddhists! I kept the lines from our Thursday Chenrezi Practice in my mind: “That which is united is separated, that which is accumulated is consumed, that which rises must fall, and that which is born eventually dies: These are the four conditions of impermanence.”

Peter: What sites did you and your fellow pilgrims decide to visit?

Tulku Yeshi: We decided to meet up at the Tibetan Refugee Camp in New Delhi and then to concentrate on the three places of central importance for the Buddha and his Teaching: first Bodh Gaya, then Vulture Peak, and finally Varanasi.

 
Peter: Please tell us about your stay in Bodh Gaya and its importance for Dharma students.

Tulku Yeshi: Bodh Gaya is the Center, the most important pilgrimage site for all Buddhists, because it was there, on the banks of the Naranjana River, that the Buddha meditated for six years and finally attained Enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree.  King Ashoka built the first temple there, and that is where the great Mahabodhi Temple Complex is located today.

Peter: Is the original Bodhi Tree still there?

Tulku Yeshi: Children of King Ashoka carried a cutting from the original tree to Shri Lanka and planted it there. Later, Muslims destroyed the roots of the original tree, so a cutting from the Shri Lankan tree was returned to Bodhi Gaya and planted there, and now the blessing of the original tree is available once again. It’s just like the Buddha’s own blessing passing down through the Lineage to us today!  We stayed in Bodh Gaya for four full days. While there, our group participated in reciting the Twelve Deeds of Lord Buddha and the Seven Branch Prayer and also offered up personal prayers. I also gave several short teachings, and, of course, we meditated. We also practiced Chod together on the banks of the Naranjana River

Peter: And what is the significance of Vulture Peak?
Tulku Yeshi: Lord Buddha gave many Sutra Teachings there including the Heart Sutra, which was translated into many languages over two thousand years ago. We chant it today in our Sunday Chenrezi Practice.

Two great disciples of the Buddha, Shariputra and Maudgalyayana, also gave many teachings there. It is an extremely holy place. When the sixth Dalai Lama made a pilgrimage to Vulture Peak, he did not see grass and stones, but Dharma books piled as high as a mountain, and since they contained the sacred words of the Buddha, he refused to step on them. Instead he made prostrations at the foot of the mountain. Many other people have had similar experiences. Everything there is blessed, the plants, the wildlife, even the rocks.  When the Buddha taught at Vulture Peak, by his power all the people on the mountain could hear him perfectly clearly, every one in his own native language!

Peter: We have a picture of you and your students in a cave labeled “Vulture Peak.” Can you explain its significance?

Tulku Yeshi: There are several caves there. The picture was taken in Shariputra’s Cave, where he sat after the Buddha’s Teachings to answer disciples’ questions. From the top of the mountain, the Buddha knew that the answers Shariputra gave were his own. I lit six candles in the Cave for the Six Perfections.

Peter: Now, please tell us about Varanasi. What makes it so special?
 
Tulku Yeshi: Many different religions made Varanasi what it is today. The Ganges River is there, and that makes it sacred to Hindus.

Peter: Why is that?

Tulku Yeshi: Because they believe that the Ganges came from Shiva’s hair. “Vara” and “Nasi” are the names of two rivers, and Hindu pilgrims will travel thousands of miles to bathe in the sacred waters there and to purify themselves.

It was a very holy site long before the time of the Buddha, so after reaching Enlightenment he traveled to Varanasi and began teaching the Four Noble Truths there, knowing that the five old friends who had performed austerities with him before his Enlightenment would understand the new Teaching. They were very strong practitioners and he knew many others would follow if they became his disciples, which they did. Many Hindu masters were at also Varanasi together with their students, and they also became his students. So Varanasi became the hub of the wheel of the Buddha’s Teachings and remained so until the end of his life.

Peter: How wonderful that the different faiths coexisted back then! Today, it seems so much violence has broken out between the different religions in India and in many other places as well. As Buddhist pilgrims, did you ever experience tension with the local people?

Tulku Yeshi: Not at all! The local people know the benefits of Buddhism and of being open-minded about other religions. That’s why the Dalai Lama himself says, “India is the best example of how other religions can coexist peacefully.” In Varanasi especially we saw Hindu, Buddhist, and Muslim temples next to each other. Hindus believe that Vishnu has ten thousand emanations, and one of them is the Buddha. That’s why Gandhi said, “Buddhism is part of Hinduism.”

Peter: Do you think you will be leading any more pilgrimages in the future, and if so, what changes would you make?

Tulku Yeshi: Yes, certainly! If there is enough time, I would love to include southern India in the next pilgrimage and to visit the Ajanta and Ellora caves, which were made famous by the Buddha’s followers.
Westerners are actually at an advantage because Indians speak English throughout the country. The challenge is the food, water, and air, which are not up to the standards which Americans expect. Fortunately, we had no problems this time. One thing I did learn this time was how important it is for future pilgrims to be completely honest with themselves about their motivation. They should be 100% sure in their hearts before signing up. Then everything will go well.

Peter: Thank you so much, Tulku Yeshi. I’m sure many Sangha members will want to follow you on your next pilgrimage!

 

 

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