By Kirsten Throneberry
Sakya Monastery of Tibetan Buddhism was excited to welcome His Eminence Sakya Dhungsey Avikrita Vajra Rinpoche and His Eminence Sakya Dhungsey Abhaya Vajra Rinpoche back to Seattle on January 21st of 2014. The Dhungseys are the grandchildren of His Holiness Jigdal Dagchen Sakya Rinpoche and Her Eminence Dagmo Kusho Sakya and are the children of His Eminence Zaya Vajra Sakya and Dagmo Lhanze Youden. Traveling with the Dungseys were their teachers Gen. Tashi Nyimala and Venerable Khyentsela. The travel party also included Yangsi Tulku Rinpoche who, in his previous incarnation, was H.H. Jigdal Dagchen Sakya’s dharma brother, Lama Kantso, and Jamyang Gyaltsen, who manages the Sakya Phuntsok Phodrang in New Delhi, India, but will join Dzongsar Institute in Bir.
H.E. Avikrita Vajra resides in Chauntra, Bir, India for the majority of the year where he gains proficiency in the Sakya philosophical tradition at the Dzongsar Institute of Higher Buddhist Philosophy and Research. H.E. Abhaya Vajra Sakya also lives and studies at Dzongsar Institute in Bir, India.
Although on winter break from their formal education, both H.E. Avikrita Rinpoche and H.E. Abaya Rinpoche had a full schedule which included the second lecture of H.H. Jigdal Dagchen Rinpoche’s Dharma Legacy Series, an initiation bestowed by H.E Avikrita Rinpoche, an oral transmission given by H.E. Abhaya Rinpoche, several pujas, a Losar gathering, and the much anticipated celebration of the 30th Anniversary of the Sakya Monastery.
The first Sunday after the Dhungseys arrived, their grandfather, H.H. Jigdal Dagchen Sakya gave his second lecture of his ongoing teachings titled The Dharma Legacy Series which they attended. These lectures were inspired by teachings that he received from his own lamas when he was still able to reside in Tibet. The primary reason H.H. Dagchen Rinpoche sited for giving these lectures was to leave something behind for his grandchildren, in particular, for H.E. Avikrita Rinpoche, H.E. Asanga Rinpoche (who was unable to be present due to his ongoing dharma studies), and H.E. Abhaya Rinpoche who are all Khon Lineage holders. The lecture highlighted the importance of prostrations and the Chenrezig practice as well as the meaning of Chenrezig’s mantra. He also touched upon the importance of the lama as well as the qualities a lama should possess and of generating compassion for all sentient beings.
Following H.H. Dagchen Rinpoche’s teachings H.E Zaya Vajra Sakya and Dagmo Lhanze Youden held a lovely celebration for their son H.E. Abhaya Rinpoche’s 16th Birthday in the Cultural Hall of the Monastery.
The following Sunday, H.E. Avikrita Rinpoche bestowed the uncommon initiation of the Three Wand Sisters which is a special practice of the Sakya Lineage and had never before been given at the Sakya Monastery. H.E. Avikrita Rinpoche explained that the Three Wand Sisters are known as protectors of the dharma who assist practitioners in clearing obstacles on the path of enlightenment by providing abundance and the restoration of balance of the elements. H.E. Avikrita Rinpoche took special care to explain that abundance, in this practice, is not synonymous to materialism. Instead, it referred to spiritual riches, which have far more value, such as faith, (in the Triple Gem, one’s guru, and in one’s own skillful reflection) charity, morality, personal and social consciousness, and wisdom.
On the 16th of February, H.E. Abhaya Rinpoche bestowed the Tsa-Sur Teaching and Lung (reading transmission – which establishes a connection to the teaching). The Tsa-Sur is a pungent aroma ritual associated with Chenrezig. The practice allows one to make offerings that can assist the deceased as they pass through the bardos and it can also serve as an offering to the objects of refuge. H.E. Abhaya Rinpoche explained that this practice was composed by an 18th century Sakya Master as an addition to the Chenrezig Ocean of Compassion practice. In addition to allowing one the opportunity to generate merit it also has the ability to help the environment, a cause that he feels very passionate about.
On the 22nd of February H.E. Avikrita Rinpoche and H.E. Abaya Rinpoche joined their family and Sakya Monastery’s community of supporters in celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the Sakya Monastery of Tibetan Buddhism. The event was held at the striking Seattle Asian Art Museum located in Volunteer Park. Surrounded by beautiful Asian artifacts, the guests enjoyed light faire followed by a moving documentary which chronicled the impressive unfolding of His Holiness’ vision that would eventually become the incredible treasure we know today as the Sakya Monastery of Tibetan Buddhism. The documentary was a touching tribute, as well as an inspiration to all those in attendance.
On March 2nd, both Dhungseys also attended the Losar gathering at the Sakya Monastery in honor of the beginning of the Year of the Wood Horse. There were many prayers offered as well as a few speakers, one of which was H.E Avikrita Rinpoche. H.E Avikrita Rinpoche confessed that as he prepared for his Losar talk he felt inspired to break from traditional topics and instead address two issues in particular that had moved him on a personal level. One of these was the matter of gender equality. He highlighted the fact that Shakyamuni Buddha himself declared there to be no inherent difference between men and women. He urged that as a way of truly preserving Tibetan Culture well into the future, we must begin to examine what beliefs fall under the category of custom and culture versus those of the Buddha himself.
The second topic that H.E. Avikrita Rinpoche addressed was that of the environment. He stated that he felt strongly that the Buddha’s teachings would urge us to act to preserve our environment as a means to care for all sentient beings. He said that as Buddhists we should be leaders in this movement to care for the planet where so many forms of life reside. He said we can no longer afford to think that this problem has nothing to do with us but rather to seize the opportunity to cultivate bodhichitta in the form of environmental activism.
The following day H.E Avikrita Rinpoche and H.E. Abaya Rinpoche bade farewell to family and the Monastery community and flew to Hong Kong accompanied by H.E Dagmo Kusho Sakya and Dagmo Lhanze Youden.
Blessings are not always recognized at the time they occur, often it takes wisdom and perspective to understand the true value of what has happened. Perhaps, this is the case for many of us within the lay community of practitioners in regards to our beloved Sakya Monastery and those Sangha members who grace us with their teaching and compassion. This Monastery and, more over the precious members of the Khon lineage whose spiritual dedication and mastery, for nearly 1,000 years, continues on in H.H, Jigdal Dagchen Sakya and his grandchildren H.E. Avikrita Rinpoche, H.E. Asanga Rinpoche and H.E. Abhaya Rinpoche. By virtue of their presence and efforts we are being offered an opportunity which is as rare as it is priceless. As a means of honoring their life long, tireless efforts to keep the Buddha Dharma alive and thriving may we awaken fully to the possibility before us as it offers the chance to be of true help not only to ourselves but more importantly to all sentient beings suffering in samsara.