Sunday, November 29, 2009

For Sandra Olney of the Tibetan Aid Project

The Nyingma Sangha in America would like to honor the memory of Sandra Olney, who served as the director of the Tibetan Aid Project from 2001 through 2005. On November 4, 2009, Sandy passed away peacefully in Berkeley of lung cancer.

TAP thrived during the years of Sandy's leadership. Along with Laurent Manrique, she founded the annual benefit dinner, Taste & Tribute, in 2001. She also launched TAP's Light of Wisdom campaign, which was followed by the Treasures of Wisdom campaign, TAP's major fundraising initiatives. She also began the Community of 1000 Blessings, TAP's primary pledge drive.

During the course of her illness this past year, Sandy received excellent medical care and explored both alternative and traditional ways of healing. Following Sandy's wishes, Nyingma community members helped her with her medical treatments, prepared her meals, offered healing alternatives from many disciplines, and attended to her needs. Throughout this time, Sandy remained positive and focused her energy not just on healing her body, but working toward her spiritual goals and devotional practice.

The Nyingma community has already sponsored prayers at Odiyan and at the holy places of the Buddha, both during Sandy's illness and after her death. In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, the weeks immediately following a person's passing are set aside as a time for quiet prayer and meritorious actions dedicated to that loved one.

Now that this crucial time has passed, TAP will hold a short prayer service in appreciation of Sandy on the date of the full moon in December (December 2). Here is the schedule:

7-7:45 PM: Memories of Sandy: Short remarks by those who loved Sandy and treasured her presence will be followed by the recitation of the compassion mantra.

8-9:30 PM: Full Moon Chant: this chant includes period of silent meditation. The merit of the chant will be dedicated to Sandy's welfare in all lifetimes.

The service has been arranged by the Nyingma Trust, which was founded specifically to provide funds for medical and other needs of the Nyingma Sangha's full-time working community members, such as Sandy. Please let TAP know if you'd like to attend. If you cannot attend, you are welcome to send a short note in remembrance of Sandy. TAP people will read as many of these notes as time allows.

You may also contribute toward a prayer ceremony at Odiyan on Sandy's behalf, or make a donation in Sandy's honor to support the work she devoted herself to for so many years. Visit to make an offering.

Personal remarks: Ms Olney helped actualize the divine vision of the direct manifestation of Padmasambhava, Kyabje Tarthang Tulku Rinpoche. She followed his instructions to the letter, and also took model responsibility for keeping up her practice. There is absolutely no doubt that she has already received the benefit of her devotion and her practice, just as there is no doubt she will return to act for the benefit of all sentient beings. 

I also want to add that the Nyingma Trust is to be commended for the manner in which Ms Olney was cared for. 

There is a sharp distinction between the way they have conducted themselves, and other "Buddhist" organizations in the United States that force monastics and full-time lay vow holders to sign "hold harmless" agreements in case of illness -- stating that the host organization is not responsible for their care -- and corrupt organizations that raise funds for monastics which are subsequently diverted into business ventures, then completely lost. If you are a member of such an organization, please stop, look carefully, and note the difference between true Nyingma sangha and false claims of "sangha" that disguise a cult of personality. Please note that I am not naming any names here, but if the shoe fits, then wear it -- and if it gives you a blister, then fix it.

The Nyingma Trust quietly and efficiently "took care of their own," without becoming burdensome, or wailing with all sorts of schmaltz and angst. They did it with dignity and class-- no fanfare necessary. They did it with heartfelt purpose, genuine compassion, and direct engagement on a human level.

That is the greatest memorial I can think of for Ms Olney, for that is the way she lived her life, and that is the gift she has left behind.

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1 reader comments:

Anonymous said...

Dear Tampon

How can you, After such complimentary words about someone, jump into Dharma politics? Anyone saddened by Ms Olney's passing will be deeply bothered, to say the least, by your callous, self motivated & opprtunistic speech.
  your ranting that follows, implies to me that you have some unresolved issues & judgements. Aren't they suppose to be recognized as the failed attempts of suffering persons trying their best to be of benefit. Aren't Buddhists taught to generate compassion for those that are so consumed by their suffering that they make bad choices with good intent. aka a mistake.
   Do you even have a Sangha? You can not learn or discuss about the significance of a Sangha if you a: don't have one & b: aren't a master. The true value of Sangha is inherently going to include good and bad choices, the reflection of the viewers faulted perception. So to clarify, you see your faults reflected in others. Just as I see your faults due to my own. Duh!! Every criticism you have stated on your blog are your own faults. It's actually quite simple. Maybe your not getting it because the mind does one of two things while growing old & nearing death. Remains soft and changes or hardens and becomes tight minded. 
It's never too late to soften the heart.
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