Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Theos Bernard in Tibet

I am so very, very pleased to see increasing notice of Theos Casimir Bernard (1908-1947), whose life's work so profoundly changed my life, and the lives of so many others. The books he collected in Tibet, in 1937, are now housed (in the main) at Yale and U.C. Berkeley. I cannot overstate the importance of these, nor of what he attempted. If you are ever in Santa Barbara, be sure to visit Lotusland (once intended as Tibetland). If you are ever in Berkeley, visit here.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Tibetan Calligraphy Site

Here is an interesting Tibetan calligraphy exhibition, and site. You can also find a thoroughly entertaining and informative discussion of 'Phags-pa script by clicking here.I enjoy 'Phags-pa because it lends itself to carving seals.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Tibetan Policy Act

Few people are thoroughly familiar with the following provisions of United States law:

Tibetan Policy Act of 2002, and other provisions

107th Congress, 2nd Session: House Resolution 1646. January 23rd, 2002

An Act

To authorize appropriations for the Department of State for fiscal year 2003, to authorize appropriations under the Arms Export Control Act and the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 for security assistance for fiscal year 2003, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled

Section 1. Short Title.

This Act may be cited as the 'Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Year 2003'.

Sec. 115. Migration and Refugee Assistance

(c) Tibetan Refugees in India and Nepal - Of the amount authorized to be appropriated by subsection (a), $2,000,000 for the fiscal year 2003 is authorized to be available for humanitarian assistance, including food, medicine, clothing, and medical and vocational training, to Tibetan refugees in India and Nepal who have fled Chinese-occupied Tibet.

Sec. 222. Extension of Requirement for Scholarships for Tibetans and Burmese.

Section 103(b)(1) of the Human Rights, Refugee, and Other Foreign Relations Provisions Act of 1996 (Public Law 104-319; 22 U.S.C. 2151 note) is amended by striking 'for the fiscal year 2000' and inserting 'for the fiscal year 2003'.

Title VI - Miscellaneous Provisions

Subtitle B - Tibet Policy

Sec. 611. Short Title.

This subtitle may be cited as "Tibetan Policy Act of 2002".

Sec. 612. Statement of Purpose.

The purpose of this subtitle is to support the aspirations of the Tibetan people to safeguard their distinct identity.

Sec. 613. Tibet Negotiations.

  1. Policy.--

    1. In General.--The President and the Secretary should encourage the Government of the People's Republic of China to enter into a dialogue with the Dalai Lama or his representatives leading to a negotiated agreement on Tibet.

    2. Compliance.--After such an agreement is reached, the President and the Secretary should work to ensure compliance with the agreement.

  2. Periodic Reports.--Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, and every 12 months thereafter, the President shall transmit to the appropriate congressional committees a report on--

    1. the steps taken by the President and the Secretary in accordance with subsection (a)(1); and

    2. the status of any discussions between the People's Republic of China and the Dalai Lama or his representatives.

Sec. 614. Reporting On Tibet.

Whenever a report is transmitted to Congress under section 116 or 502B of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (22 U.S.C. 2151m, 2304) or under section 102(b) of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (22 U.S.C. 6412(b)), Tibet shall be included in such report as a separate section.

Sec. 615. Congressional-Executive Commission On The People's Republic of China.

Section 302(h) of the U.S.-China Relations Act of 2000 (Public Law 106-286), relating to the Congressional-Executive Commission on the People's Republic of China, is amended--

  1. by striking "shall include specific information" and inserting the following: "shall include--

    "(1) specific information";

  2. by striking the period at the end and inserting "; and"; and

  3. by adding at the end the following:

    "(2) a description of the status of negotiations between the Government of the People's Republic of China and the Dalai Lama or his representatives, and measures taken to safeguard Tibet's distinct historical, religious, cultural, and linguistic identity and the protection of human rights.".

Sec. 616. Economic Development In Tibet.

  1. Declarations Of Policy.--It is the policy of the United States to support economic development, cultural preservation, health care, and education and environmental sustainability for Tibetans inside Tibet. In support of this policy, the United States shall use its voice and vote to support projects designed in accordance with the principles contained in subsection (d) that are designed to raise the standard of living for the Tibetan people and assist Tibetans to become self-sufficient.

  2. International Financial Institutions.--The Secretary of the Treasury shall instruct the United States executive director of each international financial institution to use the voice and vote of the United States to support projects in Tibet, if the projects are designed in accordance with the principles contained in subsection (d).

  3. Export-Import Bank and TDA.--The Export-Import Bank of the United States and the Trade and Development Agency should support projects proposed to be funded or otherwise supported by such entities in Tibet, if the projects are designed in accordance with the principles contained in subsection (d).

  4. Tibet Project Principles.--Projects in Tibet supported by international financial institutions, other international organizations, nongovernmental organizations, and the United States entities referred to in subsection (c), should--

    1. be implemented only after conducting a thorough assessment of the needs of the Tibetan people through field visits and interviews;

    2. be preceded by cultural and environmental impact assessments;

    3. foster self-sufficiency and self-reliance of Tibetans;

    4. promote accountability of the development agencies to the Tibetan people and active participation of Tibetans in all project stages;

    5. respect Tibetan culture, traditions, and the Tibetan knowledge and wisdom about their landscape and survival techniques;

    6. be subject to on-site monitoring by the development agencies to ensure that the intended target group benefits;

    7. be implemented by development agencies prepared to use Tibetan as the working language of the projects;

    8. neither provide incentive for, nor facilitate the migration and settlement of, non-Tibetans into Tibet; and

    9. neither provide incentive for, nor facilitate the transfer of ownership of, Tibetan land or natural resources to non-Tibetans.

Sec. 617. Release of Prisoners and Access to Prisons.

The President and the Secretary, in meetings with representatives of the Government of the People's Republic of China, should--

  1. request the immediate and unconditional release of all those held prisoner for expressing their political or religious views in Tibet;

  2. seek access for international humanitarian organizations to prisoners in Tibet to ensure that prisoners are not being mistreated and are receiving necessary medical care; and

  3. seek the immediate medical parole of Tibetan prisoners known to be in serious ill health.

Sec. 618. Establishment of a United States Branch Office In Lhasa, Tibet.

The Secretary should make best efforts to establish an office in Lhasa, Tibet, to monitor political, economic, and cultural developments in Tibet.

Sec. 619. Requirement For Tibetan Language Training.

The Secretary shall ensure that Tibetan language training is available to Foreign Service officers, and that every effort is made to ensure that a Tibetan-speaking Foreign Service officer is assigned to a United States post in the People's Republic of China responsible for monitoring developments in Tibet.

Sec. 620. Religious Persecution In Tibet.

  1. High-Level Contacts.--Pursuant to section 105 of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (22 U.S.C. 6414), the United States Ambassador to the People's Republic of China should--

    1. meet with the 11th Panchen Lama, who was taken from his home on May 17, 1995, and otherwise ascertain information concerning his whereabouts and well-being; and

    2. request that the Government of the People's Republic of China release the 11th Panchen Lama and allow him to pursue his religious studies without interference and according to tradition.

  2. Promotion Of Increased Advocacy.--Pursuant to section 108(a) of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (22 U.S.C. 6417(a)), it is the sense of Congress that representatives of the United States Government in exchanges with officials of the Government of the People's Republic of China should call for and otherwise promote the cessation of all interference by the Government of the People's Republic of China or the Communist Party in the religious affairs of the Tibetan people.

Sec. 621. United States Special Coordinator For Tibetan Issues.

  1. United States Special Coordinator For Tibetan Issues.--There shall be within the Department a United States Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues (in this section referred to as the "Special Coordinator").

  2. Consultation.--The Secretary shall consult with the chairmen and ranking minority members of the appropriate congressional committees prior to the designation of the Special Coordinator.

  3. Central Objective.--The central objective of the Special Coordinator is to promote substantive dialogue between the Government of the People's Republic of China and the Dalai Lama or his representatives.

  4. Duties and Responsibilities.--The Special Coordinator shall--

    1. coordinate United States Government policies, programs, and projects concerning Tibet;

    2. vigorously promote the policy of seeking to protect the distinct religious, cultural, linguistic, and national identity of Tibet, and pressing for improved respect for human rights;

    3. maintain close contact with religious, cultural, and political leaders of the Tibetan people, including regular travel to Tibetan areas of the People's Republic of China, and to Tibetan refugee settlements in India and Nepal;

    4. consult with Congress on policies relevant to Tibet and the future and welfare of the Tibetan people;

    5. make efforts to establish contacts in the foreign ministries of other countries to pursue a negotiated solution for Tibet; and

    6. take all appropriate steps to ensure adequate resources, staff, and bureaucratic support to fulfill the duties and responsibilities of the Special Coordinator.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Environmental Issues in Tibet

Here is a brief film on the growing environmental crisis in Tibet.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Dege Printing House

Unbelievably, the Dege Printing House has an online presence.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

More Tibetan Amulets

Here is an interesting and informative Polish site specializing in amulets. I hope they will keep this page up and active.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Blocked In Beijing?

Well, according to greatfirewallofchina.org, my sites are blocked in China, which I find strange, because site statistics show regular visits from China, such as this visit to http://www.nyingmapa.us from Beijing on July 12th.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

New White Mahakala Book

I finished my new White Mahakala practice text and commentary back in May, and we staggered on the Chinese translation, so the decision now is to publish in English only, for release later this year. Hopefully, this one will be available by December 2007.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Friday, July 27, 2007

Tibetan Protection Amulets

Here is the link to a really splendid collection of btags grol and srung ba'i 'khorlo available for free download. You can also purchase the real thing--produced overseas by Nyingmapa lamas, and appropriately empowered-- by clicking here.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Printing Prayer Flags

We are making a huge line of prayer flags, to hang from one peak to another around here, and received this nice block from a friend overseas. Unfortunately, the wood was not well seasoned (it was in fact still damp), and in the 19% humidity here, a crack developed. This did not, however, detract from the resulting image, so we keep working.You can just barely see a Gesar flag in the background. From the foreground flag to the background flag is a distance of about 300 feet, and that is where we will string the new prayer flags. We print them one at a time, on unbleached cotton, and then sew them on cotton clothesline.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Fourth Dodrupchen Rinpoche

The Fourth Dodrupchen Rinpoche

Many years ago, my teacher told me, "I really want you to make some connection with Dodrupchen Rinpoche, so sit down, write him a letter, and introduce yourself." Then, at the same time, he wrote to Dodrupchen Rinpoche and said, "I really want you to make some connection with this stupid guy, so please write to him."

One morning, not long after, I went out to check the post and discovered that I had received a package. Unfortunately, this package had been vandalized by a group of naughty teenagers, and the contents were strewn in wet grass all the way down the block. Dodrupchen Rinpoche had sent me color pictures of Padmasambhava and the disciples, together with a beautiful letter.

There I was, running down the street, trying to collect the pictures. One of these proved difficult to recover, always blowing away in the wind just as I reached for it. Finally, I gave up chasing and just waited. Sure enough, the next gust of wind blew the picture to my hand.

Dodrupchen Monastery

Rinpoche has, for many years, had a center in Massachusetts which, true to the U.S. Mail prophecy, burned down shortly after it was inaugurated. The durable students there nevertheless managed a comeback. This center sells all sorts of interesting things over the web, so take a look.

In any event, the exchange of letters was the extent of the connection with Dodrupchen Rinpoche. I never wrote to him again, and he never wrote to me. Forty years passed by, and then I chanced to make the acquaintance of the young reincarnation of the "last disciple" who proved so difficult to collect, that windy day. I told him the story, and he replied, "You're right...that is interesting!"

Within a day, he more or less spontaneously gave the reading empowerment of Dodrupchen Rinpoche's abbreviated Longchen Nyingthig Ngondro to a small group of students.

I have very great hope for those particular students.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Padmasambhava's Day

The 10th day of the 6th month (tomorrow, if you're in the U.S.) would be a good day to reflect that there are so many useful things you could be doing with your life... if you can only summon the will to just do them. When you are finished with the Guru Rinpoche Puja, get up from your seat and go live your life to the fullest. Whatever it is you feel compelled to do, just strongly do it in a manner that leaves no regrets. Once, I had a friend who worked in a convalescent home. She told me that the clients never said, "Oh, I wish I had not done this or that;" rather, they all said, "I wish I had done this or that."

I send a rain of blessings to my many friends all around the world.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Longchen Nyingthig Ngondro

I have just completed my new book on the kLong-chen sNying-thig sNgon-'gro. This should be available somewhere around Spring 2008, depending on the publisher. We might post excerpts at http://www.nyingmapa.us

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Buddhist Texts for Download

Just a reminder that we still have a couple of things available for download at: 


By the way: the illustration is of an eighteenth century porcelain kapala, of all things.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Lama Tharchin Recent Heart Surgery

I do not know the gentleman personally, but I can certainly extend deepest prayers for full recovery. Lama Tharchin had a pacemaker installed, and is reportedly doing fine.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Guru Rinpoche Flags

Does anybody know where to get these very good quality Guru Rinpoche flags? This is the paper print that came in the package. The flags are well printed on good cloth, stoutly sewn on strong cords, and hold up in the 80 mph winds we regularly have around here. Someone gave me these, but I do not know where to get others.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Still More Flags

This is a fifteen foot flag, just received from a Tibetan lady from Dolpo who lives hereabouts. We have been enjoying unusually windy weather lately.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Few Remember

H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche passed away in 1987, followed by Dilgo Khyentse, in 1991. Here is a photograph of H.H. Mindrolling Trichen, who is the actual Supreme Head of the Nyingmapa Sect, following the agreement of 1962 between H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche, and H.H. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. H.H. Penor Rinpoche, who most assume to be Supreme Head of the sect is actually the head of the Palyul lineage. Penor Rinpoche nominally succeeded Dilgo Khyentse as head of the sect in 1992, but resigned in 2003. To his credit, H.H. Mindrolling Trichen has never cared much for sectarian politics.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Dzi Beads

Many people have written to ask about these beads. Yes, it is true, they are listed in the materia medica of Tibetan traditional medicine. No, they are not petrified worms from outer space. They are etched agates, ultimately of Mesopotamian origin. You can find authoritative information about them in Etched Carnelian Beads by Horace Beck (1933), Etched Beads in India by M.G. Dikshit (1949), and Etched Beads and dZi Beads by Peter Francis, Jr.

The best place to buy them is in the pawnshops in Lhasa.

What should you pay, and what are they worth?

I have no idea.

Many years ago, Tarthang Rinpoche and I were dead broke, and the landlady was adamant: we either paid up or else. We were sitting around, more or less stunned by poverty, trying to find ways to raise the rent. Finally, he sighed, went upstairs to his trunk, and came back with a solid gold spoon, a complete Tibetan saddle, and a single Dzi bead. "What do you think we could get for these?" he asked, triumphantly.

"Well," I opined, "we will surely get something for the spoon, and we might get something for the saddle, but the bead won't even get us on the bus."

Buying these beads is worse than buying jade. Jade has no price. What is worth $5.00 to me might be worth $5,000.00 to you, and vice-versa.

Do Tibetans really value these beads?

Yes, they really do.

His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche (1910-1991) wore these beads on a necklace.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Friday, July 13, 2007

River Sky Redux

River Sky is back, in limited operation. Make appointments here.
Note that we have plans to put the Tibetan pharmacy site back up in the near future.
In the interim, if you have specific needs, write to rinpoche!@riversky.org (after first removing the exclamation (!) point). We still have the largest inventory of Tibetan traditional dietary supplements in the United States, available for investigational use.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Tibet Is Not Utopia

People are fanning the flames of the Samye statue controversy, but it would be useful to ask ourselves what--if any--benefit would come of this. Basically, two Chinese down around Guangzhou (if I am not mistaken) raised 800,000 RMB (roughly USD $106,000) to install a large statue of Padmasambhava near Samye, but did not make the proper local government relationships in Tibet. Construction began (see above), and then suddenly, the statue was removed.

If you want to say that this is a Chinese government attempt to repress legitimate expressions of faith in Tibet, you would probably be mistaken. If you want to say there is more to this story than the "flame fanners" know, you would probably be correct.

We do not have to look all the way to China to find "causes." In the United States, the city of Garden Grove, California discriminated against a Buddhist temple, necessitating a federal lawsuit.

What we have at Samye is a zoning situation:

On 1 January 2007, a new "Measures for the 'Regulation on Religious Affairs'" with 56 articles, issued by the 11th Standing Committee of the "TAR" People's Government on 19 September 2006, entered into force.

Article 13 of the new "Measures for the Regulation on Religious Affairs", states that, "Religious organizations or venues for religious activities that plan to build a religious structure such as an open-air religious statue, stupa, or Mani Lhakhang [Prayer (wheel) Temple] outside a venue for religious activities petition the Autonomous Region's government religious affairs department for examination and approval after receiving consent from the prefectural (city) administrative office (people's government) religious affairs department where the venue is located. The autonomous region's people's government religious affairs department shall put forth its decision on whether to grant approval within 30 days of receiving it.

Religious organizations and venues for religious activities that plan to build a large-scale, open-air religious statue outside a venue for religious activities handle [the matter] in accordance with the provisions in the State Council "Regulation on Religious Affairs." No group or individual outside of religious organizations and venues for religious activities may build religious structures such as a large-scale open-air religious statue or mani lhakhang [prayer (wheel) temple]"

As a reinforcement, Article 48 states that, "Where, in violation of provisions in Article 13 of these measures, a religious structure such as an outdoor religious statue, stupa, or mani lhakhang [prayer (wheel) temple] is built without authorization outside of a venue for religious activity, the people's government religious affairs department at the county level or above orders redress, suspension of construction, and demolition within a specified time limit, in accordance with relevant laws and regulations."

Before we start shouting slogans, we need to remember the concept of Skillful Means. Perhaps if the people in China had researched a bit more carefully, the statue would still be in place.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Situation at Samye

Briefly stated--- there is an issue involving a new, large statue of Padmasambhava, at Samye. Below are references to both sides of the story.

Here is the "official" line:

Samye Monastery made bold to erect a copper statue of Buddha Padmasambhava in the open air donated by a related enterprise's principal, which disobeyed the Law of the People's Republic of China on Protection of Cultural and the Notice of Illegally Building Open Statue of Buddha jointly issued by the State Administration for Religious Affairs of People's Republic of China, Ministry of Construction of the People's Republic of China and China National Tourism Administration.Relics Samye Monastery then self moved the open-air statue forwardly.

Democratic Management Committee of Samye Monastery,
Lhoka Prefecture,
Tibet Autonomous Region, China

June 8th, 2007

Here is the other version.

I do not want to comment on the concept of "illegally building open statue of Buddha" beyond stating that even in the U.S., you would still need to observe certain laws before erecting a large statue of this type.

If they need a place to put the statue they "self moved forwardly," they can send it here. We'll pull the permits.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Splendid Kapala

Some things are eminently useful, although the real thing is infinitely better.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Great Perfection Tourism

You can obtain further information by following this link.

Please carefully note the references to the personal property of Jigme Lingpa --- which by any objective measure will have been formerly housed in Tsering Jong.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Gesar Flag

The colorful Gesar flags are produced and sold by my friend in Taiwan, who then donates half of everything he makes to the support of over 3,000 monks in the care of Penor Rinpoche.

Here you see we have placed one in a strategic location...after an invigorating little climb.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

The Liberation of Small Creatures

I completed my short book about releasing animals. We have an electronic review version on the web (for a limited time), and you can download this here.

When you click the link, navigate to the "Teachings" page and then find the link for Perfectly Natural Reation: The Liberation of Small Creatures.

If you read this, please be kind enough to write to me and tell me how it might be improved. My address is: rinpoche!@riversky.org. Of course, you would remove the exclamation point (!) from this address.


Stumble Upon Toolbar

New Kurukulle Book

UPDATE: This was an edition in November 2007. We revised the plans for this book by eliminating the Chinese translation. With all respect to the translator, who certainly tried her best, the resulting translation did not pass our panel of judges. This is a pity, because in many ways I wrote this book for the Chinese audience, in order to dispel some of the more worldly notions about Kurukulle practice. As of 2014, the book is no longer available.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

The Karmapa's Rabbit

Somebody who knows my unreasonable fondness for rabbits sent me this picture of the 13th Karmapa and his rabbit (lower right corner). So, I did what anybody would do. I printed out this picture and gave it to my rabbits---who last night listened so lovingly and attentively to the puja.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Nature's Own Kite

Jade Grace, 11, is visiting for the summer--as is her custom--and last evening, decided she wanted to fly one of the kites. Near sunset, the line became entangled in a creosote bush. We tried, for awhile, to disentangle it but then just gave up. The creosote bush proceeded to fly the kite without any further assistance from us. Three in the morning, and the kite was still aloft.

"You know...there's a teaching here," observed Jade Grace.

"What might that be?" I asked.

"Sometimes you just have to let nature fly the kite on its own," she replied.

Yesterday, we repaired the damaged flagpole and sent one of Tarthang Rinpoche's flags aloft. These are the finest prayer flags in the world, bar none. You can purchase them for USD $125.00 each--well worth the price--and all proceeds go to aiding Tibetan refugees. These flags fly all over the world, and are a kind of badge of honor.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Latest Flags

Everybody who follows this site knows we are quite fond of flags. Here is a photo of the often rumored but rarely encountered Mahakala flag (top), and a mounted "Thousand Eyes" flag (bottom), which is the companion to one we had made for our Lion City friend, Lotus Lake. That is a Hilleberg Keron GT3 expedition tent in the background --- still going strong after 80 mph winds.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Sending Vast Luck to Everyone

Today we are printing prayer flags, and sending luck to you on the winds.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

What Makes You Not a Buddhist

This book was an extraordinarily great pleasure to read.

1. All compounded things are impermanent.
2. All emotions are pain.
3. All things have no inherent existence.
4. Nirvana is beyond concepts.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Sunday, July 08, 2007

British Photography in Central Tibet, 1920-1950

The most remarkable visual resource treating Tibet in the first half of the twentieth century may be visited by clicking here.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Happy Birthday to the Dalai Lama

Happy Birthday to His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, who was 72 (73 Tibetan) yesterday.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Ram, Yam Revisited

The temperatures are approaching 126 degrees, the winds are regularly 60 mph or better, and then---in the middle of a clear day---lightning struck, touching off a 400 acre wildfire. Shades of last summer! The flagpole on the left in the above picture snapped off in the wind, so now we have another repair.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Thursday, July 05, 2007

How to Set Up A Tibetan Buddhist Shrine, or Altar

After studying the search queries that bring visitors to these pages, I learned that many people want information on how to establish a shrine in their homes. With this in mind, I want to offer a few words of advice. I also want to encourage you to consult other sources. There is a wrong way, a right way, and then there is my way. Hereinbelow you will read "my way," which is not necessarily the right way.

(1) Direction.

Most shrines in America are erected facing West, toward Tibet. The lama will invariably sit with the shrine on his left, in which case he will be facing South. I have read advice to the effect that the shrine should be on the West wall, facing East. Overseas, I had one shrine set on the North wall facing South. My feeling is that Padmasambhava pervades the ten directions, so any position is by definition, inherently auspicious.

(2) Central Figure.

Many people ask if it is appropriate to place Padmasambhava as the central figure, or Shakyamuni as the central figure. I usually arrange Padmasambhava as the central figure, with Shakyamuni behind him and slightly higher. This reminds one that there is fundamentally no difference.

(3) Lama, Yidam, Dakini, etc.

I put my teacher's picture directly in front of Padmasambhava. On Padmasambhava's right (my left), I put a scripture. On His left (my right) I place a stupa. On the second tier down, I put (from left to right) Manjushri, Chenrazigs, and Vajrasattva. On the next tier down I place (from left to right) my yidam(s), dakini(s), and protector(s).

(4) Offerings.

The offering bowls are (from left to right) drinking water, bathing water, flowers, incense, light, perfumed water, food offering, and music offering. You can also put a row of butter lamps behind these, and then replace the "light bowl" with a mandala. I have seen this but I do not do this myself. I like to put up mandalas by themselves. I think the nicest way is to put three levels of offerings: a row of tormas and mandalas, then a row of butter lamps, then the row of bowls. I like to arrange these in tiers.

(5) Fixtures.
I think it is essential to use nice cloth beneath the images and offerings. You can purchase shrine cloth, umbrellas, and so forth from many places, and these may be as simple or elaborate as your budget permits.

(6) Structures.
The homes and temples in Tibet are being systematically looted of furnishings. Please do not encourage this by purchasing antiques. You can purchase all sorts of tables locally, or you can purpose-build cabinets on your own. It is traditional to have cabinets made with niches for the various images, and then you can have tiered tables in front of these for the offerings.

Do a Google image search on "Tibetan shrine," or "Tibetan altar" and you will see numerous examples.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

International Dunhuang Project

The British Library--surely one of the finest such institutions the world has ever known--is attempting to make over 100,000 items from Dunhuang available over the Internet. You can read all about this, here. The real thrill is that you can sponsor a sutra, just like the old days! I see that it will cost £1,107 to do the Vimalakirtinirdesa Sutra. This is the Chinese, but they also have numerous Tibetan works. Therefore, if you wish to sponsor a sutra in Tibetan, visit the above site. If I had more time, I would spend it studying the treasures found at Dunhuang.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Chushi Gangdruk - "FOUR RIVERS, SIX RANGES"

News of a large statue of Guru Rinpoche recently moved at Samye Monastery calls to mind "Four Rivers, Six Ranges." This was the nominal designation of Tibetan guerillas based in Kham, who waged unsuccessful resistance warfare in the 1950s. This expenditure of blood and treasure... what did it gain? What I mean to say is that when you hear of such things, there is always this tendency to react...to aggressively wish something. But, we should stop and think. Getting angry at the Chinese doesn't help anything... planning reprisals doesn't help anything... shouting slogans doesn't help anything. Quite possibly, we don't know all the facts surrounding the Samye matter.

Then.. there is this quotation from H.H. Dalai Lama XIV:

"The ability to look at events from different perspectives can be very helpful. Then, practicing this, one can use certain experiences, certain tragedies, to develop a calmness of mind. One must realize that every phenomenon, every event, has different aspects. Everything is of a relative nature. For example, in my own case, I lost my country. From that viewpoint, it is very tragic--and there are even worse things. There's a lot of destruction happening in our country. That's a very negative thing. But if I look at the same event from another angle, I realize that as a refugee, I have another perspective. As a refugee there is no need for formalities, ceremony, protocol. If everything were status quo, if things were okay, then on a lot of occasions you merely go through the motions; you pretend. But when you are passing through desperate situations, there's no time to pretend. So from that angle, this tragic experience has been very useful to me. Also, being a refugee creates a lot of new opportunities for meeting with many people. People from different religious traditions, from different walks of life, those whom I may not have met had I remained in my country. So in that sense it's been very, very useful."

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Remembering Pema Wangyal

I learned that Pema Wangyal passed away.

I once commissioned him to paint two tangkhas: Longchenpa and Jigme Lingpa. I still have the Longchenpa tangkha hanging at the head of my bed. The one of Jigme Lingpa was lent to a student who now refuses to give it back.

Once upon a time, Pema was staying in San Francisco and we decided to have lunch together. When we finished, he sat down to paint and I sat idly by, picking my teeth and playing with the pots of colours. We were chatting about women---Pema had a string of blondes, and they were all becoming jealous of each other. He wanted me to intercede to keep the peace. Without thinking, I dipped my fingers into the blue and put my fingers on the wet toothpick, which I then placed in my mouth.

That was enough to stop my breathing.

One of the lamas came rushing into the room when he heard me choking, and Pema shouting that I had poisoned myself with the blue---cyanide---paint. The lama smacked me over the heart with his thumb and forced one of H.H. Karmapa's Precious Pills down my throat. Thereafter, with his fingers on my pulse, he asked me, "How do you feel?" I replied: "I don't care how I feel."

That is how effective the Precious Pills are.

I got the above photograph from Mike Dunham's blog. I hope the photographer will not mind if I include it here with this memory of my friend.

Stumble Upon Toolbar