Journey to the West : Celebration of 30 Years of the Founding of Sakya Monastery

By Adrienne Chan


It’s done!--- On February 29, 1984, H.H. Jigdal Dagchen Sakya Rinpoche and H.E. Dagmo Kusho signed the papers to purchase a church building in the Greenwood area of Seattle.  It was a gigantic step for a small congregation of 15-20 members.  In addition to the prayers and divinations performed by H.H. Dagchen Rinpoche, a few auspicious signs also convinced us that this would be our home: 1) H.H. Dagchen Rinpoche had a dream foreshadowing the church building 2) the building had no steeple, instead it had a flat roof in the tradition of Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and 3) the building’s address was 108 (number of beads on a mala).

Now, thirty years later on February 22, 2014, Sakya Monastery celebrated its 30th anniversary at a most elegant venue, the Seattle Asian Art Museum.  As soon as guests arrived, they were treated to the viewing of magnificent Asian and Buddhist artworks and delicious Asian hors d’oeuvres.

The ambience was now set for the main event of the evening. At 8pm, everyone gathered downstairs in the auditorium to view an inspiring DVD created by Coren Lindfield.  It artfully documented the history of the renovation of a church building into a Tibetan Buddhist monastery.

Following the documentary, the four people who were most instrumental in leading the renovation project were honored: H. H. Dagchen Rinpoche, H.E. Dagmo Kusho, John Vichoreck and Dawa Dhondrup Ngoche. 

Firstly, Ven. Yeshi Tulku and Ven Khenpo Jampa introduced H.H. Dagchen Rinpoche. They spoke about his legacy and leadership here and abroad. Then on behalf of the Washington State Commission on Asian Affairs, Commissioner Tashi Namgyal honored Dagchen Rinpoche with a letter of commendation.

Secondly, Chuck Pettis, Co-Executive Director of Sakya Monastery, recognized H.E. Dagmo Kusho.  He spoke of her unique childhood, marriage to HH Dagchen Rinpoche, accomplishments as Buddhist teacher and her dedication to Sakya Monastery. In commemoration of the 30th Anniversary, the Monastery presented an engraved Waterford clock to H.H. Dagchen Rinpoche and H.E. Dagmo Kusho.

Carolyn Massey (mother of Ven Dezhung Tulku IV, assistant volunteer to John Vichoreck, life-time member of Sakya Monastery) flew in from Evansville, Indiana to attend our celebration. She eloquently introduced John Vichoreck, who was honored and given a plaque, as Master Craftsman.  Under the direction of H.H. Dagchen Rinpoche, John skillfully built almost every piece of hardware (large and small) at the Monastery:  the Protector Deity alcoves; the stupa; prayer wheel frames; roof top deer; the shrine altar; the thrones; conch shell lights; double dorje appliqués; destruction and construction of the shrine room parquet floor etc.

Subsequently, Dr. Jeff Schoening, (VEI teacher, Tibetan language translator, former Monastery Librarian/VEI Director, Monastery President, life-time member) introduced Dawa Dhondrop Ngoche.  In 1990, Dawa, a graduate of a Dharmasala, India thangka painting school arrived to Seattle.  In 3 years he transformed the interior of our shrine room from white walls of canvas to spectacularly vibrant and detailed spiritual murals:  9’ tall Guardians of the 4 Direction, 9’ high mural of the Wheel of Life, Lamdre lineage, 8 Mahasiddhas etc. In honor of his magnificent work, Dawa was presented a plaque honoring him as a Master Artist.

The sponsors (David Spiekerman, Tho Luu, Chuck Pettis, Gillain Teichert, Kathleen Ramm, and Adrienne Chan) of the evening’s glorious 30th anniversary event were also honored.  H.H. Dagchen Rinpoche and H.E. Dagmo Kusho presented to each of them a thank you katag and a beautifully etched picture of a golden Chrenrezi or Manjushri.

  Two hundred guests attended the gala event. An array of special guests included:
      1)   H.E. Minzu Rinpoche and Dagmo Carol from California
      2)    H.E. Dhungsey Avikrita Rinpoche and H.E. Abhaya Rinpoche and their teachers: Gen. Tashi Nyima and Ven. Khyentse from India
      3)    HE Jestsun Kusho of Sakya Tsechen Thubten Ling, Vancouver, BC, her granddaughter, Misa and their attendant drove down from Canada
      4)    Ven. Dhontog Rinpoche, director of Sapan Institute came from Washington DC
      5)    Ven Pema Oser (Yangsi), Gen. Tsering Gonpo, Mrs. Lam ( Lama Yangsi’s teacher, and center member respectively) represented the Mahsandhi Yoga Center in  Hong Kong)           
      6)    Ven Jamyang Gyaltsen, Director of Sakya Heritage Society, New Delhi, India
      7)    Ven Tulku Jigme and entourage came up from the Eugene Sakya Center, Eugene, Oregon
      8)    Geshe Jamyang, founder of Nalanda Institue, Olympia .WA
      9)    Tashi Namgyal, member of the Tibetan Parliament North America and a Washington State Commissioner on Asian Pacific Affairs 
      10)     Kunga Tenpa, Sakya Tsechen Association, New York
      11)    Johnnie Vichoreck from Argentina
      12)    Carolyn Massey from Indiana

In conclusion, in residential north Seattle, an authentic Tibetan Buddhist monastery, Sakya Monastery of Tibetan Buddhism, evolved before our eyes.  It is now an exquisite home for the Buddha Dharma in the West.