H.E. Khöndung Asanga Vajra Rinpoche and H.E. Dagmo Kusho Sakya’s travels to Vietnam

First Sakya Lamas to visit Vietnam

By Kristine Honda and Kirsten Throneberry

 

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In September of 2012, honoring a request made by Mr. Tho Luu, His Eminence Khӧndung Asanga Vajra Sakya Rinpoche and his paternal grandmother, Her Eminence Dagmo Kusho Sakya travelled from Seattle, Washington to Vietnam for nine days.   Mr Tho Luu is a longtime dedicated student of His Holiness Jigdal Dagchen Rinpoche and founder of the Center for Buddhist Studies (in the Sakya Tradition) located in Ho Chi Minh City. The center was built in order to fulfill a commitment to expand Tibetan Buddhism, and especially the Sakya tradition, in Vietnam in honor of H.H. Dagchen Rinpoche. Mr Tho Luu requested the blessing and consecration of this center as well as blessings at the groundbreaking ceremony of a crematorium and temple complex. As representatives of His Holiness Dagchen Rinpoche, H.E. Khöndung Asanga Rinpoche, and H.E. Dagmo Kusho Sakya travelled to Vietnam accompanied by Venerable Lama Tashi Rinpoche, head of the Sakya Tsechen Choling Center in Taiwan, Lama Migmar of Sakya Monastery, and Ms. Chen Shih Fang, President of  Sakya Tsechen Choling Center.

 

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On September 21st, Khöndung Asanga Rinpoche and Dagmo Kusho la performed the consecration and blessing of the Sakya Buddhist Study Centre in Vietnam. On September 22nd, Asanga Rinpoche also bestowed a Medicine Buddha initiation in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City with about 200 people attending. The teaching took place in the private setting of a conference room inside a 4-star hotel (Vietnam is a State controlled country, all public gathering even for religious activities must have clearance from the State in advance, and attendees are limited in numbers).

 

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The next day, the entourage travelled to the Phu Hoa Dong Hamlet, a subdivision of Ho Chi Minh City--an area that saw much bloodshed during the Vietnam War (CuChi tunnel) in which many Vietnamese from both sides as well as American Soldiers lost their lives. According to Dagmo Kusho la, before they entered the area a heavy feeling permeated the air. She and Asanga Rinpoche, Ananda Rinpoche, Lama Tashi, Lama Migmar and their entourage participated in a groundbreaking ceremony of the Long Tho Crematorium. This future site of a cremation complex reflects a Buddhist theme in architectural designs (Long Tho is the Vietnamese name of the Bodhisattva Nagarjuna). Event organizers invited Buddhist representatives from many parts of the world. Buddhist monks and high ranking members of the Vietnamese Sangha and local congregations of all traditions, as well as delegations from Thailand, Cambodia, Singapore, Malaysia, and the United States were in attendance. State and high ranking members of the central government and local officials joined this event as well. Altogether there were over 1000 attendees.

 

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The program included the history of the area and the importance of the land. Some very kind and generous Vietnamese donors offered to sponsor the event, some of them being the financiers and shareholders for the project. In addition, the government benevolently granted the land use right for the project and approval for the event to carry on in such a high profile manner which was covered by the local media network (state controlled). During the ceremony, each of the Mahayana, Hinayana, Theravada, and Tibetan Buddhist monastics performed prayers to help benefit the deceased and the land. Asanga Rinpoche and the Sakya lamas personally performed a blessing for the land and a fire puja during the groundbreaking ceremony. During the fire puja, there was a downpour of rain that lasted for close to thirty minutes and in spite of this, the ceremonial fire burned very bright and strong! This created a feeling among many of the attendants that a miracle was being witnessed. Some even shared that they were able to see figures in the fire during the puja.

 

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The following day, September 24th, Dagmo Kusho la bestowed a Green Tara initiation and teaching. Approximately 150 people gathered to receive this blessing and several attendees stated that they felt at one with their local deity (Vietnam has a tradition of reverence and worship for "Heavenly Mothers" in the local temples of the natives. In fact, there is a "Green Royal Mother" figure in the legend who rules the mountain, forestry, and highland culture ...she bestows blessing on followers for protection, wealth, and health).

 

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The next day, the entourage travelled to the Suoi Tien Amusement Park NW of Ho Chi Minh City. It was a delightful and unique Buddhist themed amusement park that had rides, a zoo, many Buddhist statues, dragons, and a Buddhist shrine. There, Asanga Rinpoche performed a dedication for the temple and performed a large Vajrapani fire puja. The local sangha welcomed the group and participated in a joint session of praying and providing ceremonial offering to the Buddhas. Then the lamas performed the puja having Asanga Rinpoche preside as the Master in charge with Lama Tashi Rinpoche of Taiwan in assistance. Many attendees participated in the event and placed offerings of food ingredients in the fire along with names of their deceased loved ones. The event went well and saw a large crowd waiting late into the night for blessings.

 

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On September 26th, the entourage visited the Pagoda and Retreat Center located near the Suoi Tien Amusement Park. Asanga Rinpoche and the lamas performed a blessing for the land as well as a consecration. Many villagers happily greeted them and Asanga Rinpoche also gave them his blessings. The site is planned to have a Maitreya complex, on a smaller scale of the Indian version, later development.

 

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Dagmo Kusho la remarked, “It was a very successful trip for Buddha Dharma as well as the people in Vietnam. People were very receptive to the Buddhist teachings.” The Sakya Monastery is very grateful to Mr Tho Luu, Mrs. Hong Dang, students, and local donors who generously sponsored all the events, refreshments, and meals for all the attendees of the initiations.

 

 

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During their stay, there were some private visits with high ranking Vietnamese dignitaries that went well with mutual respect, goodwill, and friendship.

Asanga Rinpoche, even though young, has earned people’s hearts, especially those of the Vietnamese who were able to come close to him. On his own merits as well as his spiritual performance on behalf of the Sakya tradition, Asanga Rinpoche left a good impression of Tibetan Buddhism as a whole (Vietnam is also rooted in the Mahayana as well Hinayana traditions of Buddhism for over a thousand years...). All those who have met and received Khöndung Asanga Rinpoche’s teachings and blessings have requested that he return soon to Vietnam to give more teachings and blessings and he hopes to fulfill their wishes. As the first Sakya Khön lineage holder lama to give Buddhist teachings in Vietnam, this connection will help to spread teachings of the Buddha Dharma and thus benefit all sentient beings, especially those in Vietnam.



 

His Eminence Khöndung Asanga Vajra Rinpoche Gives Teachings in California for the First time

By Beth Johansen, Kristine Honda, Allen Crouch, and Kirsten Throneberry

 


 

In July of 2012, His Eminence Khöndung Asanga Vajra Rinpoche travelled to Southern California in the company of his grandmother, Her Eminence Dagmo Kusho, his father His Eminence Khöndung Ani Rinpoche, sisters Jetsunma Aloki and Jetsunma Mamaki, his mother Dagmo Chimey Dolkar, cousin Jetsunma Thupcho, and longtime Sakya students Beth Johansen and Jeaneen Bauer.

 

 

During his time in sunny California, on August 1st, Asanga Rinpoche bestowed the Oral Transmission on the Aspiration of Samantabhadra, regarded as the King of Prayers, and gave teachings about it at the Tara Center, Dagmo Kusho’s center located in San Gabriel California.

 


 

The Sakya family was warmly received there by their hostess Maria Shaw and Jeffery Chung who manages Dagmo Kusho’s center. The mostly Chinese followers at this center were very pleased and impressed to have Asanga Rinpoche teach and give them blessings, especially for someone so young in age.

 


 

On August 5th, at the Tara Ling Center in Santa Barbara, Asanga Rinpoche gave a Teaching on the Significance and Meaning of Taking Refuge as well as bestowed the Oral Transmission of Manjushri and led the congregation through the sadhana practice. As a Sakya Khön Lineage Holder and an emanation of Manjushri, Chenrezi, and Vajrapani, giving this oral transmission was auspiciously appropriate and was a great blessing to the congregation of devout Buddhist students. During the California trip, H.E. Dagmo Kusho also bestowed a White Tara Initiation and gave teachings to her students in San Gabriel and Santa Barbara. The teachings in Santa Barbara were organized by Dagmo Kusho’s devoted student and leader of the Tara Ling Santa Barbara, Vidya Gaucci and the family was hosted by Joel and Joanne Shefflin who opened up their beautiful home to the entire Sakya family.

 


 

This was the first time Asanga Rinpoche gave teachings in California and the leaders and followers of both centers expressed a strong and sincere wish that he return to give more teachings in the near future.

Together with his family, Asanga Rinpoche visited Disneyland, Universal Studios, The Getty Villa and enjoyed the sunshine of beautiful Malibu beach where the family spent the remaining days of the California trip at the home of longtime friend of the Sakya family, Carol Moss. Carol graciously allowed the children (and adults young at heart!) to play at her beautiful beach front home for three glorious days. While in Los Angeles, Asanga Rinpoche was able to spend time with his uncle, His Eminence Khöndung Minzu Rinpoche and his wife, Dagmo Carol Hamilton at their home in the Beverly Hills where the family spent a lovely day enjoying a barbeque beside their pool. Asanga Rinpoche also played the piano for the family while family members joined him in song.

 


 

While Beth Johansen provided general support and help with day-to-day preparations, Jeaneen Bauer received the Sakya Family at the airport, drove the Sakya Family to every destination during their entire stay in sunny Southern California, and back to the airport in a large rented van which could seat 15 people. Having Beth and Jeaneen made the trip not only easy and efficient but fun and entertaining and the Sakya Family was most grateful for their many contributions and help.

As this was the first time H.E. Khöndung Asanga Vajra Rinpoche has given teachings in Southern California, those that received them have asked him to return soon to give more teachings and initiations as their faith and devotion has been strengthen due to his example, leadership and guidance, especially from someone so young in age, yet so accomplished.

An Excerpt from Entryway to the Dharma, pt 3


Written in 1167 C.E. by Lopön Rinpoche Sönam Tsemo

Translated in Jeffrey Schoening's Classical Literary Tibetan Class

with Jeff Bennett, Tom Linder, and Bill Sternhagen

(Continued from the previous issue of Sakya Chronicles, which presented deeds three and four of the Buddha: Skill in Crafts and Taking a Consort and The Great Departure)

 

The Fifth Deed: Austerities

     Then, the Bodhisattva went to the place (of the brahman woman) Śākī (Rigs ldan)[1] for alms.  Similarly, he went to the place (of the brahman woman) Padmā (Padmo).  He went to the place (of the Brahma worshipper) Raivata (Nam gru).  Rājaka (‘Od ldan) invited him as a guest.[2]  Then, at Vaiśālī there was one who dwelled in meditation called Ārāḍa-Kālāma.  Because (the Bodhisattva) requested the Dharma from him, he was told, “Do 'nothing whatsoever' meditation.”  Because the Bodhisattva had sharper faculties, he realized (the meditation) without impediment.  “Now what do you teach?”  (Ārāḍa) replied: Nothing at all.

     Then the Bodhisattva went to Pāṇḍava mountain in Rājagṛhā and accepted alms from king Bimbisāra.  The king, having faith because the Bodhisattva was adorned with (holy) marks, paid homage, and offered him his kingdom.  The Bodhisattva said: I put aside a kingdom and was ordained.  (The king) asked: Who are your parents?  He replied: King Śuddhodana.  (The king) said:  He is my teaching master; I beg to ask to obtain the nectar of your dharma.  Thus saying, he offered (the Bodhisattva) alms.

     Then, in that very Rājagṛhā was Udraka Rāmaputra.  He is one who abides in meditation.  Because (the Bodhisattva) requested instructions from him, he instructed, “Do ‘without cognition yet not without cognition’ meditation.”  (The Bodhisattva) asked: Who instructed you?  Udraka Rāmaputra replied: I have no teaching master at all.  Because he was instructed there by him, (the Bodhisattva) quickly made (the meditation state) manifest.  (The Bodhisattva asked:) Now what do you teach?  He replied: I have only this much.  Thinking that that is not complete purity, (the Bodhisattva) then departed.

     At that time, a group of five ascetics followed after the Bodhisattva: 1) Ājñāya (All-knowing) Kauṇḍinya; 2) Aśvajita; 3) Vāṣpa; 4) Mahānāma; and 5) Bhadrika.  Together with them (the Bodhisattva) went to the summit of Gayā mountain.  There he took to heart the three teachings beginning with the separation from desires.[3]

     Then he went to the town Uruvilva (Lteng rgyas).  At that time, because there were many ascetics such as reciters of praises and many false refuges, in order to take them under his care and in order to purify the obscurations of voice from the time of the Buddha Kāśyapa, relying on the meditation “pervading space,” he performed the austerity of not eating anything at all for six years.  He had no protection such as clothing for the body.  He became like the color of a madgura[4] fish.  Although harassed by cow herders, he did not move.  Even Māra could not harm him.

 

Delighting in the temporary experience (nyams[5]) of isolation,

to the east of Uruvilva,

at the river Nairāñjanā,

I shall strive for the sake of abandoning (faults).

 

So [the Bodhisattva] said.

     Then, seeing that asceticism has no essence, in order to refute those who grasp at purity through asceticism, he vowed to eat substantial food.  At that time this group of five lost their faith, (saying), “Eating in great laxity, (he) is fallen from asceticism,” they went to the region of Vāraṇāsi.[6]

     Then, the Bodhisattva, having taken a loincloth, covered his loins.  Then, the gods offered saffron-colored robes and washed his body; having put on the clothes, he had the appearance of a śrāmaṇa (= monastic).  At that time, because the Bodhisattva’s form was beautiful, he was called, “the beautiful monastic.”

     Also at that time, the gods commended Sujātā, daughter of a farmer, saying, “Tomorrow, you will give sustenance to a monastic and it will be beneficial to you.”  When day broke, she prepared cooked rice with milk and because she sent (a female servant) to seek a guest, having spotted the Bodhisattva, the female servant said: A beautiful monastic has appeared.  Sujātā said: Call him.  When she called him, Sujātā presented him (the food) in a golden receptacle.  He said, “I do not need the container.”  Because she said, “I will offer it as a gift,” he took it and went to an island in the river.  There he sat upon the nāga-prepared throne, consumed the milk, and tossed the bowl into the water; the gods took it.

                   By that his faculites were strengthened and all his marks and signs became clear.

                   That is the Fifth Deed.

 

The Sixth Deed: Subduing Māra

      Then the Bodhisattva intended to go to the seat of awakening (bodhimaṇḍa).  The gods adorned the entire path to there.  When he went, light came from his body, and the beings touched by that were freed from suffering.

     Also, when he thought to stay on one seat and to become enlightened, he knew that previous buddhas sat on a seat of grass; on the right side of the path, he begged a grass merchant for cut auspicious grass, saying:

 Quickly give to me auspicious grass. 

Today giving me grass will be a great benefit.

Having defeated Māra and his host,

I will attain the holy awakening, peace.

 

He gave (the Bodhisattva) an armful of kusha grass, blue like the throat of a peacock.

     At the seat of awakening, after pointing the grass peaks inward and the grass roots outward, laying them out without disturbance, he circumambulated the tree of awakening seven times and sat cross-legged.  The gods of the awakening tree each prepared precious thrones and (he) sat on them.  Inferior (dman mos) beings saw that he sat on the grass.

     Then he made this vow, saying:

 

Though on this seat this body of mine were dessicated, it’s ok.

Even were the skin and heap of bones destroyed,

So long as I have not obtained awakening, difficult to obtain over many eons.

I will not move the body from this seat.

 

     In addition, the Bodhisattva sent out light rays from the point between the eyebrows, illuminating all the buddhafields.  Then, the bodhisattvas worshipped the Bodhisattva.  Again, he emitted from between the eyebrows a light that goaded Māra and dimmed all the places of Māra.  A sound like a cymbal sounded.  (Māra) had thirty-two nightmares such as his god of desire weeping.  Also, there were stanzas such as this:

 

A very pure sentient being, practiced in training for many eons,

Son of Śuddhodana, having renounced kingdoms,

Left home to benefit (others) and out of desire for nectar

Has come to the Bodhi tree, thus today you must focus, (Māra).

 

     Then, Māra Garap Wangchuk who shatters minds through the mere seeing of his extremely fearful army of demons -- illusory mindless (apparitions):

Red-faced and yellow-bodied,

red-bodied and yellow-faced,

One-headed, two-headed, three-headed,

on up to a ten billion-headed, extremely plentiful,

 

and the thirty billion strong army of fearsome weapon-wielders arrived where the Bodhisattva was.

     To the right of those were those having faith and motivated interest in the buddha.  On the left were arrayed those dark-side demons.  Also, at that time, the dark-side demons said: This one is alone; thus there is no obstacle for us whom are many to overcome (him).  The demons who had faith in the buddha said:

 

On this earth, the lion and

the Ruler with a Wheel do not make friends.

Having fixed on awakening,

the bodhisattva who entered [on the path] does not need friends.

 

So they debated back and forth.

     Although it was like that, the king of demons caused, through the power of incitement, a rain of weapons to fall on the Bodhisattva.  They became bundles of flowers and remained in the sky above.  Again the king of the demons spoke to the Bodhisattva, saying such things as: Hey, get up!  Run the kingdom!  The Bodhisattva replied: Because you gathered the accumulation, you were born in the demon realm.  I gathered unfathomable accumulations more than you, thus I have entered the homeless life (mngon par ‘byung bar byed).  (Māra) replied: If you are the witness of my fulfilling the accumulations, who is your witness of fulfilling the accumulations?  Placing his right hand on the earth, the [Bodhisattva] said:

 

This earth is the support of all mobile and immobile beings,

Thus, Stable One, be my witness today.

 

When he said that, the earth goddess Stable One (Brtan ma; Sthāvarā or Dṛḍhā) arose and said, “Because this one fulfilled the accumulations without number, you are not able to be an obstacle,” so the demon of despair (yi chad) together with the army of sympathizing (gtsang ma’i ris) demons were repulsed.

 

The King of the Śākyas, having realized the teaching

of dependent arising, essential nature of no-thing,

Well-endowed with a mind like space,

is not trampled by the crafty one with his host.

 

So at that time the tree god voiced praises.  Māra was defeated. 

This completes the Sixth Deed of the Bodhisattva.

 



[1]     See Edgerton, BHSD, 525, under Śākī for discussion of Tibetan name Rigs ldan.

[2]     I am not familiar with the story of the four people and the text does not describe them.   The Lalitavistara (ACIP, 192a) in Tibetan and online Sanskrit version (http://dsbc.uwest.edu/node/4062), ch. 16, paragraph 4, give a little additonal information, saying Rājaka ('Od ldan) has the patronym of Datṛmadaṇḍikaputra (Gdul ba'i be con can gyi bu = “Son of one who has a stick for discipline”).  See Edgerton, BHSD, 261, under Dattrima-daṇḍika-putra.

[3]     For a canonical source of this passage, see Lalitavistara (ACIP, 198b5-200a5) in Tibetan and online Sanskrit version (http://dsbc.uwest.edu/node/4063), ch. 17, paragraphs 12-14.  Edward J. Thomas, The Life of the Buddha, p. 64, summarizes the Lalitavistara passage:  The account of the strivings is introduced by three similes which then occurred to Gotama.  That of a man trying to kindle fire by rubbing a fire-stick on wet green wood plunged in water.  He can get no fire, and like him are the ascetics whose passions are not calmed.  Whether they experience sudden, sharp, keen, and severe pains or not, they cannot attain knolwedge and enlightenment.  So it is in the second case, if a man rubs a fire-stick on wet green wood, even if it is out of the water.  In the third case he takes dry wood and can kindle fire. Even so ascetics who are removed from passion, in whom the passions are abandoned and calmed, may possibly attain knowledge and enlightenment.       

[4]     Monier-Williams: Madgura, m. a species of fish, Macropteronatus Magur, Lalit.

[5]     Illuminator: Nyams = I. <noun> "Temporary experience".  When one practices meditation, various experiences might occur because of the meditation.  These experiences are due to the practice of the path but are not the final result, they are not the end-realization.  Because they are not realization, they are not stable and pass away; they are temporary experiences of the path.  The distinction between go rtogs intellectual understanding, nyams temporary experience, and rtogs realization was clarified by Padmasaṃbhava who said,

                                "Intellectual understanding patch-like drops and goes;

                                Temporary experience mist-like dissolves and goes;

                                Realization, unchanging is permanent."

[6]     Bu ston (96) has Vā ra ṇā si in place of ‘Khor mo ‘jig, indicating their equivalence.


His Eminence Khöndung Asanga Vajra Rinpoche Returns to Seattle for the First Time after Studying abroad for the past Seven Years

By Kristine Honda, Beth Johansen, Allan Crouch and Kirsten Throneberry

 

HE Asanga Rinpoche
 

His Eminence Khöndung Asanga Vajra Sakya Rinpoche blessed the community of Sakya Monastery with his inspiring presence this past summer. This was his first visit to the United States since he departed Seattle in 2005 to pursue his studies at the Tharlam Monastery in Nepal. The effort this young spiritual visionary has put forth in order to develop his highest spiritual qualities for the benefit of all sentient beings is awe inspiring and truly deserves the utmost admiration and respect. In Western culture, there are scarce few examples of individuals foregoing personal pursuits so that they may bring grace and encouragement to the lives of others, particularly at such a young age. Luckily, his spiritual strivings were matched by the sacrifice, wisdom, and selflessness of his family who fully supported his aspirations and visited him often in Nepal and India.

View the embedded image gallery online at:
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Asanga Rinpoche is the son of His Eminence Khöndung Ani Vajra Sakya Rinpoche, the second son of the Phuntsok Phodrang family, and Dagmo Chimey Dollkar. Asanga Rinpoche comes from a long, distinguished and accomplished lineage of highly realized spiritual masters from both the paternal and maternal branches of his family. Asanga Rinpoche is the paternal grandson of His Holiness Jigdal Dagchen Sakya Rinpoche of the Sakya Phuntsok Phodrang (Auspicious Royal Palace of Sakya), a hereditary line of spiritual lineage holders who ruled over Sakya, Tibet. Asanga Rinpoche is also the maternal grandson of His Eminence Garje Khamtul Rinpoche, who is a highly respected and accomplished Nyingma master who also served as spiritual advisor to His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, India. Like his grandfather H.H Jigdal Dagchen Rinpoche, Asanga Rinpoche is considered to be an emanation of the Bodhisattva of Wisdom, Manjushri.

Born on May 1st, 1999, Asanga Rinpoche spent his formative years with his family in Seattle. At a very young age the young Rinpoche displayed a remarkable interest in the life of the Buddha and in the Buddha Dharma. Asanga Rinpoche naturally and effortlessly memorized numerous prayers and enjoyed playing with religious musical instruments. Since the age of three he also regularly attended pujas at the Sakya Monastery of his own accord, displaying an extraordinary memory and deep focus on all things religious and spiritual.

Just before Asanga Rinpoche turned six years of age, he left Seattle to begin his studies, with great diligence, at Tharlam Monastery in Kathmandu Nepal. Here he has rigorously focused his energies so as to be able to carry on the Buddhist teachings and the Sakya lineage in the tradition of his forefathers. He has been privately tutored by a group of carefully selected monk scholars in reading and memorizing numerous volumes of Tibetan scriptures, sutra, grammar, use of religious musical instruments, and various rituals following a regimen of quintessential and highly structured education according to the Sakya Buddhist tradition. In addition to his traditional Tibetan spiritual education, he also studies English, Mandarin, Math, and Science. Given his studious nature, determination, quick mindedness, and inspiring humility, Asanga Rinpoche excelled in all aspects of his training and studies at Tharlam Monastery. His success is a testament not only to his own diligence and aptitude but also to the oversight of a loving and devoted family as well as uniquely capable and wise teachers.

Largely due to the above mentioned qualities and conditions, in September of 2011 (at the age of twelve) Asanga Rinpoche was able to lead a congregation of distinguished lamas, monks, and adept practitioners in the annual Vajrakilaya ritual puja and ceremony at the Sakya Center in Rajpur India. His Holiness Sakya Trizin Rinpoche (wearing a huge smile) graciously commented that Asanga Rinpoche’s performance was “100 plus!” Indeed, Asanga Rinpoche was able to lead the congregation flawlessly through the intricate oral prayers and use of various religious instruments in a ritual practice which commenced before dawn and concluded after sunset. Asanga Rinpoche’s efforts allow him to hold the unique distinction of being the youngest person ever to have successfully completed the rigorous day long Vajrakilaya exams with a perfect score.

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Since his recent return to America on June 24, 2012, Asanga Rinpoche has been staying at his family’s home in Shoreline, where he has been able to spend quality time with his parents and his two sisters, Jetsunma Aloki, age 11 and Jetsunma Mamaki, age 6. In the course of the summer, Asanga Rinpoche had the opportunity to spend some time traveling, sightseeing, and enjoying an active summer vacation with his family after being away for the past 7 years. Among other things, Rinpoche visited the Space Needle, the Great Wolf Lodge (waterpark), Pacific Science Center, Woodland Park Zoo, Seattle Aquarium, Northwest Trek, and a Seattle Sounders soccer game, where the Sounders had a resounding 3-1 win against Dallas. Asanga Rinpoche also joined his family and members of the Sakya Monastery at the Camano Island State Park, for the monastery’s annual camp out. Here he was able to enjoy nature while also becoming reacquainted with the sangha members.

Asanga Rinpoche was also able to visit the Earth Sanctuary on Whidbey Island touring the retreat center and participated in a ritual puja before the sanctuary stupa. Taking advantage of the long and warm summer this year, Rinpoche and family enjoyed a quiet vacation at a beachfront home of a good friend in Ocean Shores, Washington. Rinpoche and his sisters flew kites along the beach, swam in the Pacific Ocean, built sand castles, rode horses, drove Go-carts, peddled cycle-carts, and picnicked on the sandy beaches with their parents. One of the highlights of Rinpoche’s vacation was a five-mile hike with his father, his teacher, his monk attendants, and his father’s best friend David Guterson (author of the famous Snow Falling on Cedars novel) on the Duckabush Trail in the Olympic National Park. David Guterson who previously traveled to Nepal and stayed at the Tharlam Monastery Guest House with his youngest son, Henry Guterson, is especially close to Asanga Rinpoche and is much impressed by Rinpoche’s focus, devotion, discipline and dedication to his purpose in life. Although on vacation, Asanga Rinpoche maintained his priorities and continued his education and spiritual practice though at a more leisurely pace.

During Asanga Rinpoche’s stay in Seattle, the Sakya Monastery requested and organized various teachings to be given by him. On July 29th, Asanga Rinpoche bestowed his first public initiation in the West. He graciously bestowed the Amitayus-Hayagriva combination long life Initiation at the Sakya Monastery and also gave a comprehensive teaching and instructions on the practice of the deities. Amitayus is the Buddha of Long-life and Hayagriva is the wrathful deity who protects against obstacles and misfortune. As Asanga Rinpoche is fluent in both Tibetan and English, he spoke Tibetan within the initiation and gave translation and instructions in English, making it easy for the sangha members to understand. Everyone came away feeling inspired by his teachings as well as his kind, calm, and humble nature as he bestowed the initiation with both grace and poise.

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On August 19, 2012, at the Sakya Monastery, Asanga Rinpoche also gave a teaching on The Significance and Meaning of Taking Refuge and an Oral Transmission and Commentary on the Aspiration of Samantabhadra. During his teachings Asanga Rinpoche reminded the listeners that when one takes refuge it is done with total faith in the Three Jewels (The Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha). At the same moment however, we must remember that a force outside of oneself cannot free us from our negative emotions and karma—only we can work towards that end. It was a declaration that reminded everyone of both the preciousness of the Buddhist teachings as well as our own responsibility to cultivate their manifestation within ourselves.

Likewise, while speaking on the importance of the Aspirations of Samantabhadra (a prayer he fully learned by the age of five), Asanga Rinpoche reiterated that we all have within us the seeds of the Buddha nature but in order for these seeds to grow we must be our own watch guards—always practicing mindfulness in regards to our speech, thought, and deeds. His sincerity and conviction truly inspired those who had gathered to listen to his words of insight and wisdom for someone so young.

While visiting Seattle, Asanga Rinpoche also attended several monthly Board of Advisors meetings at the Sakya Monastery. Rinpoche made it clear he wanted to attend as he knew that the Board of Advisors were volunteers who devoted their time, effort, and resources to serving his respected grandfather, H.H. Jigdal Dagchen Rinpoche, helping to ensure that the monastery continues to function and operate in accordance to His Holiness’ vision. Asanga Rinpoche listened attentively to what was discussed at the board meetings and took great interest in its operation and aim. At the end of each board meeting, Asanga Rinpoche thanked each board advisor for their dedication, devotion and service. He made it clear that without their valued service, the monastery could not operate as well as it has and for that, he conveyed his heartfelt and sincere gratitude for their devotion and service.

In late summer, much to the delight and relief of Asanga Rinpoche and his family, his entourage of four monks finally received their religious worker visas and they were then able to join the family in Seattle. Rinpoche’s teacher, Venerable Gen Ngawang Rigdro, treasurer and his former teacher Venerable Gen Nyima Tsering, attendants Venerable Sopon Tashi Tenzin and Venerable Sopon Ngawang Rinchen were able to travel to the United States for the first time. Three of the four monks had served Asanga Rinpoche since 2005 when Asanga Rinpoche was only five years old. Asanga Rinpoche’s parents had invited the monks to come and join them in Seattle in appreciation of their years of service to their son. Together with family and monastery sangha, the Sakya Monastery hosted a Welcome potluck reception in honor of his teachers and attendants’ first trip to America and the Sakya Monastery. These four very loyal and dedicated monks continued to serve Asanga Rinpoche even here in the West

View the embedded image gallery online at:
http://www.sakya.org/newsletter.html?start=66#sigProIdf473e8306c
(click on thumbnails to see full-size images) 

When asked to share any personal words for our Sangha members, Asanga Rinpoche wanted to relay the following. “I have had a wonderful summer visiting family, friends, and the Sakya Monastery here in Seattle. As always, I find Seattle to be a most beautiful place and the people are so kind and gracious. I want to thank the people of this great State of Washington for making us feel so welcomed and I would especially like to thank the members of Sakya Monastery for helping my grandparents and my family to preserve our unique and ancient culture through the presence of the Buddha Dharma activities taking place all the time at the monastery. When I return back to my studies in Nepal and India, I will carry back some really wonderful memories I will treasure forever. However, no matter where I am, I feel that I have with me, the dual blessings of a rich background of ancient Buddhist traditions to follow and the very modern conveniences of technology to enable me to stay close to my family and loved ones. The world is indeed a small place and we are all very closely connected”.

It should be noted that due to his remarkable personal achievements which are widely known by all, Asanga Rinpoche has also been featured on various media outlets ranging from cable, print, radio, and news print to name a few. Two of the most public examples include broadcast on the cable Seattle Channel and King 5 News. These wonderful videos can be viewed at (Penny Legate Seattle Channel Interview 9/20/12) and at (Lori Matsukawa King 5 Interview 8/23/12), respectively. He was also featured on the Seattle Times newspaper front page of the Sunday edition dated June 21, 2012. The article and pictures of his reunion with his family at Sea-Tac Airport, Sakya Monastery and home in Shoreline can be found at Lornet Turnbull Seattle Times Article 7/21/12 and Pictures of Asanga Rinpoche's arrival - Seattle Times respectively.

After his stay in America, Asanga Rinpoche made his first trip to Taiwan and Hong Kong in October-November visiting Buddhist centers with his grandparents, H.H. Dagchen Rinpoche and H.E. Dagmo Kushok, who wanted to introduce him to their many Chinese students and visit their centers. Following their trip to Taiwan, Hong Kong and India, Asanga Rinpoche will return to Seattle in December with his esteemed grandparents to receive special teachings from his grandfather, H.H. Dagchen Rinpoche. On December 30th, Sunday at 10:00am, Asanga Rinpoche bestowed the Medicine Buddha Initiation and Teachings which not only the empowerment but also clear teachings on the deity and the practice both in Tibetan and English. In February 2013, after the completion of these events including the Long Life Ceremony for H.H. Dagchen Rinpoche and Losar (Tibetan New Year), Asanga Rinpoche will return to Tharlam Monastery in Nepal and go into solitary retreat to further develop his meditative and Buddhist practice on a higher level. Then in pursuit of further studies, in July 2013, Asanga Rinpoche will be joining the prestigious Sakya College in Mussoorie, India where he embarks upon the next stage of his education and learning by enrolling in a nine-year intensive study program where upon completion, he will graduate with a degree equivalent to a Ph.D in Higher Buddhist studies. He is one of the youngest monastic to be admitted to this esteemed Sakya College and will be under the tutelage of scholar Venerable Khenpo Gyatso Rinpoche, the principal, abbot and head scholar of Sakya College who has been eagerly waiting for Asanga Rinpoche to attend his institute of higher Buddhist studies. In addition to his making special residential accommodations for Asanga Rinpoche, Khenpo Gyatso Rinpoche has also agreed to personally educate and give special teachings privately to Asanga Rinpoche befitting his intellect, position and aptitude.

 

Long Live the Buddha Dharma!

Long Live the Sakya School of Tibetan Buddhism!

Long Live H.E. Khöndung Asanga Vajra Sakya Rinpoche!

2012 Visitors to Sakya Monastery

by Adrienne Chan

May 17, 2012-----Sakya Monastery was honored to host a World Affairs Council delegation from Indonesia. The delegation was composed of 11 members of various religious backgrounds: Muslim, Buddhist, Christian. They sat in a circle on the Monastery shrine room carpets; and led by Venerables Tulku Yeshi and Khenpo Jamapa, they learned a bit about Tibetan Buddhism. The delegation respectfully listened to Tulku-la and Khenpo-la and subsequently, asked questions. After group discussion and photographs, we all went down to the Cultural Hall for tea. It was heart warming to see the cooperation and respect between the various faiths.


 

May 24, 2012-----On May 24th Bhikkhuni Venerable Guo-Jiann a visiting Buddhist nun from Taiwan met with Venerables Khenpo Jampa and Tulku Yeshi. The nun requested the visit so to learn more about Sakya Monastery and the Dharma in the west. While the nun and her attendants enjoyed tea in the Cultural Hall, Khenpo-la and Tulku Yeshi-la introduced them Tibetan Buddhism. The lamas explained to the nun and her attendant about the four sect of Tibetan Buddhism; the history of the Sakya Sect, which originated from the 5 Founding Fathers, over 900 years ago; and that the main Sakya Monastery is still active and that it is located in Sakya, Tibet. In conclusion, the guests went upstairs to our Holy Shrine room to pay their respects.



June 23, 2012-----The Harmony Run USA committee selected Sakya Monastery as their Seattle starting point for the 25th Anniversary of the World Harmony Run. The World Harmony Run was founded by Sri Chinmoy. It is a global torch relay that symbolizes humanity’s universal aspiration for a more harmonious world. The relay began in New York City on April 12th. Seattle was the 34th city on the Harmony Run USA relay route. The runners visited a total of 58 cities and returned the torch to New York on August 15, 2012.


 

The World Harmony Program at Sakya Monastery began with tea and cookies in the Cultural Hall followed by a presentation of a katag to each of the 23 Harmony Run participants. The Harmony runners represented people from all over the world: Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, Mexico, Mongolia, New Zealand, Russia, Serbia, Ukraine, and USA.



After the katag welcome, Tulku Yeshi and Khenpo Jampa each gave inspiring speeches for peace and harmony. The Harmony runners then sang their “World Harmony Run Theme Song”. In appreciation, the Harmony leaders then presented to Sakya Monastery a special medallion. The enthusiastic and warm-hearted group of international Harmony Runners and Monastery members then moved upstairs to the Shrine room to continue the program.

In the Shrine room, Tulku-la led them in a meditation and then they circumambulated the Buddha reciting “Om Mani Padme Hung”. The group then moved to the entrance steps, where the harmony touch was lit, a Certificate of Appreciation was given to Sakya Monastery and the march began… The entire program was memorable and awesome---the love, respect, camaraderie was beautiful and energizing!

 

Letter from H.E. Avikrita Rinpoche

We would like to share with you a letter written by H.E. Avikrita Rinpoche to his younger brother H.E. Abhaya Rinpoche. While it was written as an informal letter, H.E. Avikrita Rinpoche has consented to publish it here as it contains an excellent and concise biography of H.H. Jigdal Dagchen’s father, H.H. Ngawang Thutob Wangchug. We are sure that you will enjoy it.


Dear Abhaya-la,
I hope this letter finds you well. All is well here in Dzongsar with my life and studies. I was just thinking that you like to read and learn a lot about history, especially you show interest in our ancestors, so although I can’t explain a great deal about all of them and I don’t have so much free time between study-sessions to write a lot, at least I thought I could share a little of what I know about our great-grandfather, Trichen Dorje Chang, Ngawang Thutob Wangchug, as there isn’t much written material about him yet.

To read the rest of the letter please download it here.

 

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