Thursday, January 31, 2013

Recent News from Khandroling Paper Cooperative

A couple of weeks ago Naomi Zeitz and I attended a three hour workshop on pulp painting at Dieu Donne paper mill in NYC as part of our Khandroling Paper Cooperative venture. We are always seeking to improve our craft.  Here are a few examples of our work from the workshop which was mailed to us after drying.

11 X 14 pulp painting on Abaca using a classic mould, pressed in a hydraulic press, then restraint dried. Naomi Zeitz

Although you can't see it here, the abaca is tissue thin and very translucent. This work is destined for our upcoming show

 11 x 14 cotton papers with stenciled pulp painting using a classic mould, pressed in a hydraulic press, then restraint dried. Naomi Zeitz

We made a stencil of a Tibetan cloud which
worked well here. Naomi Zeitz. Cloud stencil by Jacqueline Gens

Here is my experiment joining two pieces 11 x 14 cotton paper to make a long scroll. I then experimented with a brush to paint calligraphic gestures with the pigmented pulp. When the paper tore with the use of a brush, I simply patched crudely with cotton pulp pulled out of the vat that  pressed out evenly. Jacqueline Gens

During the workshop we viewed Dieu Donne's archive of works on paper. We love pulp painting and hope to continue with our experiments using handmade stencils and pigmented pulps to add to newly made wet pieces of paper. Naomi is especially gifted at coloring her pulps. Here  she is taking notes from our instructor at Dieu Donne.

One of the main projects we are currently developing is to make paper for handmade boxes to hold crystal wands.  Each box will be made with paper infused with sacred substances we have collected. Thanks to a generous donor we have many fine crystals to use for this project.

Here are some of our expermimental prototypes made by Margherita during our Janaury workshop.

For further information about Khandroling Paper Cooperative updates, workshops and our Spring schedule, visit

Friday, January 25, 2013

How Zen Catalyzed Conceptual Art: A Review of Ellen Pearlman's Nothing and Everything: The Influence of Buddhism on the American Avant Garde

MOST EVERYONE IN THE ARTS AND AMERICAN BUDDHIST scene knows that the Beat generation provided a great impetus to the development of Buddhism in the West, especially America. Ellen Pearlman's newest book. Nothing and Everything: The Influence of Buddhism on the American Avant Garde sheds light on the unique manifestations of Buddhism on avant garde music, theater and literature. 

Recently,  a review that "get's it" appeared which takes a step further and shows how Zen Buddhism, in particular,  influenced the development of conceptual art. 

To read the entire interview, visit here.  

Ellen Pearlman’s Nothing and Everything: The Influence of Buddhism on the American Avant Garde (2012) is available from Evolver Editions for $21.95 or $15.95 ebook. Her previous books include, Tibetan Sacred Dance (Inner Traditions, 2002). She recently visited Tsegyalgar East for her annual retreat. She spends part of each year in China where she has many friends in the Dzogchen Community.You can view her award winning blog here

Ellen writes extensively on the arts in China, Mongolia and Tibet. To read her recent article on Contemporary Tibetan Painting, click here.

Interview with Lauri Marder on Art & Community

The following interview was conducted by Jacqueline Gens with Lauri Marder, long time resident of Conway, MA and one of the founding members of Tsegyalgar East.

JG….Lauri, can you talk a little about what it was like to grow up in family where both your parents were  practicing artists?

My mother made many paintings of sort of frightening images, sometimes as self-portraits, based on imagery from Indian art and also from Tibetan thangkas- of which there were several in the house, as well as statues and ritual objects. She was quite interested in the principles of energy, and talked about this quite a lot.

My father, Ted Denyer, on the other hand, had quite a different interest in spiritual matters. For him, that was part of art itself- the seeking of truths. So he sought to find the calm and spacious state in his paintings, creating a dimension on the canvas of color and form, a reality which reflected his felt sense of inner reality, which he also firmly believed had a valuable existence outside.

JG…. In your experience do you find that the artistic process has a spiritual dimension and how would you describe those qualities.

LM...I was fascinated by the saints- and painted images on the walls of my room at home of St Sebastian, full of arrows, and looking a bit like Mick Jagger, people tell me, and John the Baptist, based on a guy I knew, as well as lesser known saints- and one of Jesus of which only the head remains. What I was left with, from my parents’s interests, was a realization that somehow humans could embody something divine, despite the apparent complete craziness of the human condition, namely mine. I still believe this.

They sent me off to art school and the first thing I did was to try to meditate, sitting as instructed, on a folded blanket, referring to a yoga book that my father had been using to get the family to practice yoga with, some years before with little success. I found I was not very interested in art for art’s sake, very quickly. Actually I already knew that- I did not want to be in art school, I wanted to be a waitress so I could begin real life. But that never happened. Real life happened but I was not a waitress. It was all real life.
In the early seventies, we found the Gurdjieff work-  Many of the artists and musicians in our Group were discouraged about pursuing their art form, and gave it up for many years. And they and others also used this creative energy to fuel their practice of awareness. That is what Mr Anderson told me, “Don’t make art- use this for your Work- it’s the same energy!” This could be useful but you have to know how to transform the energy and have very strong intention.

JG….When I first encountered the Game of Liberation, I was deeply touched by your illustrations of all the dimensions. Can you talk about how that project came to be and the various stages it took to complete it.

LD….The Game of Liberation was something I participated in through the kindness of Rinpoche, who allowed me to try. “You can try,” he said when I asked if I could work on it. Before me, a whole group of artists, some very very skilled ones like Glen Eddy and several Russians, had been working on the game board for some time, but all their work  burned in a fire in Russia. So suddenly there was nothing left. And someone had to start again. I worked for about five years collecting information about various aspects of it and making sketches and little paintings ( I lost all my work too, at one point).

JG…. It seems that many people when they connect to the Teachings experience a desire to make art of some kind. Why do you think that is so?

LM….I think art is a capacity of humans, and that everyone has it in them; they just have to find out how to  do it.  That was one of the gifts I saw artists have, when I interacted with my friends, growing up. They were always interested in a family of artists, and wanted to do it themselves - to work with color, to make things, to have a chance to invent a new dimension of reality and be in it that way. So some of them did take inspiration from being able to do that with my family and me.  All my family’s friends at that time were artists also, so it seemed entirely normal to have a studio in the house and to do a lot of painting and individual work along those lines. Giving people a feeling that this is normal and quite easy was good.

JG…Has Ursa Major Gallery nourished your own artistic process?  What was the reason behind your opening a gallery?

LM.....And I guess that is what I want to do with the gallery. I began showing my father’s work, then some of friends and family in the community and around, and some Tibetan works. Now I am hibernating, the gallery is closed for the season,  and I wish to do some of my own work but it’s hard to get to because there is so much else to do, so time is passing. The gallery really gave me a new lease on life- it’s a way to interact with others, to give something to both the artists and the local community. I see having it as a creative act in itself. It’s a work in progress.

For a review by Louise Landes Levi of Ursa Major's most recent show, Indestructable Mirror: Modern Tibetan Painting, visit here.

Photo credits: Lauri Marder, Charlotte Knox

U p c o m i n g   E x h i b i t i o n

Christin Couture/ The Nearest Faraway Place
May 2 through May 27, 2013
Opening Vernissage:
Saturday, May 4 from 5 to 8p.m.


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Losar Year of the Water Snake 2140 Schedule at Tsegyalgar East

Event:Losar Events: Water Snake Year 2140
Date:February 9th, 2013 (3 days), including 2/11/13, 2/13/13.

To view the entire Tsegyalgar East Losar Schedule, click below.

The actual morning of Losar begins with a traditional Star Washing to begin the New Year. For an interesting overview of Star Washing in Tibetan culture with applications in the Tibetan medical system, visit Malcolm Smith's page here.

Thursday, January 17, 2013


Meet some of our talented staff at Tsegyalgar East

 ANNA, SHANG SHUNG US BOOKSTORE was born in Dayton, Ohio and spent much of her childhood in Yellow Springs, OH.  She moved to Northampton, Massachusetts to attend Smith College, and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Music in 2002. She has been a collaborator at Tsegyalgar East since 2003.  She has also worked extensively in the Music business, Arts Administration, and non-profit fields.


MARTIN, SHANG SHUNG US BOOKSTORE was born in Wilkes-Barre, PA and grew up in various sites in Pennsylvania.  He attended Shady Side Academy in Pittsburgh, and graduated from Allegheny College in Meadeville, in 2007 with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics. He has been a collaborator at Tsegyalgar East since 2008.  Martin's personal interests include Contemporary Dance and Classical Indian Music.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Making of the Longsal Spire for the Vajra Hall

Joe Zurylo and I paid a visit to the local metal shop to check on the progress of the Longsal spire. At this initial stage, the structural base is being formed from steel at a local metal shop in South Deerfield, MA.

The eight foot spire was selected by Rinpoche in relation to the scale of the Vajra Hall. But for now, at the beginning, in preparation for 2013 season, the spire is a long way from it's final golden form.

To keep up to date with the Vajra Hall construction and fundraising, please visit here.

The work involves cutting the steel form from the wooden pattern (above).

Then evening all the edges by hand.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Leela Whitcomb-Hewitt on How I Met Chögyal Namkhai Norbu

How I Met Chögyal Namkhai Norbu
Leela Whitcomb-Hewitt

The following is reprinted from the MIrror, Issue #119
I had first started to come to Tsegyalgar East through my mom. She had been reading this book called the Tantric Quest and somehow related to that book, I think in the back of the book, the Dzogchen Community was listed and she was looking them up and she found out they were in Conway [very close to home]. At that time Tsegyalgar East was meeting at the Schoolhouse and my mom started to go there for practices. She would go to Ganapujas and they would be held in a small room that was the winter Gonpa, when the heat was off in the winter in the main Gonpa, which is now Dr. Phuntsog’s office. Then she started to bring me.
I had always felt drawn to spirituality from reading different things, especially Buddhist books; my mother had introduced me to them when I was younger, like Pema Chodron, Thich Nhat Hanh and Chögyam Trungpa. Also my mother raised me pagan, so we were always doing rituals for the holidays, there are eight holidays on the Pagan calendar, solstice, equinox and the cross quarter days, May day and others. So we always celebrated those holidays throughout my whole young life, those were like our main holidays. We also did Christmas as well, but the main holidays were the other. And the spiritual aspect was always really interesting to me and I always felt that was an important part.
I started coming to the Gar at a time in my life when I had just come back from traveling in India for 6 months on my own. I was 18 years old. I was conceived after both my parents had spent some time in the East and in India specifically, so I felt drawn to go there. They named me Leela after the Indian Goddess, which means the Cosmic Dance, and someone else explained to me that it is like the rolpa energy, the manifestation.
When I went to India I felt a strong connection with Hinduism and the gods and goddesses that were all around and really permeated the atmosphere, and that was something strong for me because that was all I had at that time, since I was on my own. I traveled all around India to different ashrams in the south and went north to Nepal where I stayed with one family and ended up supporting them and left with just enough money to get home. My family still makes fun of me because of the way I work with my money, because I am always giving it away.
So then coming back from India I felt more of a connection with the spiritual aspect of life and when I started coming to the practices, actually my mother started bringing me to the Ganapujas, and I really liked it, it felt really strong to me and at that point I hadn’t really learned what we were doing at the practices, I had not yet received teachings directly from Rinpoche and I didn’t know about the Dzogchen practices or specific types of Buddhist practice, so I just felt the energy and did what I understood as being present with sounds and the practice itself. During that year I met Rinpoche. I know I was at a retreat with him. That time was not so clear to me, I think it was because I was a little more passive and my mom had brought me and I had not decided that I wanted to participate.  I finally felt my own connection in either 2002 or 2004 when I attended a retreat with Rinpoche.
In between the time of the first retreat experience and when I felt I really entered the transmission in 2002 or 2004?, I had been doing things like deep ecology, with yourself as a being in the whole eco system, and I was living in a commune doing gardening and then I studied with a shamanic herbalist, and so I was always connecting spirituality with other things. 
Then after my first encounter with Rinpoche I returned to the Gar to do childcare during a retreat and was not able to participate in the retreat, but I connected with some people there and one of them, Malcolm Smith, told me it would be really important for me to receive transmission. I was either 22 or 24 at this point. Even though I was doing the childcare, I was taking part in all of the other activities around the actual teachings, so I was doing the Vajra Dance and Yantra Yoga classes, and going to the big Ganapujas with Rinpoche and going to the auctions. I was either staying on Khandroling or spending a lot of time there, I remember canoeing with someone on the pond in a full moon.
So these friends organized for someone to do childcare during the time of the transmission and I went in and I remember vividly the direct introduction and how it just brought everything completely clear to me, my own state, my whole karmic vision was just there but it was very much removed from being so caught up and the emotional piece was just kind of deflated.
So from that time is when I really caught fire, that is what it feels like, and since then the connection really came alive and after that time I started sounding the A every day and doing Guruyoga. After that I started to enter the teachings more deeply and looked into it and did some personal retreat, the teachings became the most important thing for me in my life. At that same point I also started to feel like I really needed a structure, so I became the Gekö, and that was only for a year and then I went on the Gakyil for some years, and all of this was a piece of life and I still wanted to be more immersed in something. What I thought was that if there was a Santi Maha College I would attend, that is what I would really want to do. I even thought about how I could start something like that, but the structure just was not there.
At the same time I was finishing up my Gekö time, the Tibetan Medical Program started and Dr Phuntsog had been living in the schoolhouse while I was the Gekö, so I got to know her. The experience with the medical school was similar to how my mom brought me to the teachings, it was like I didn’t feel at first, I didn’t notice, my own connection right away and it was the same thing with the Tibetan Medicine program. And then, once again, Malcolm advised me to study medicine and become a doctor. I did not think that was right for me.
So I transitioned out of being the Gekö, I was on the Gakyil, I was working doing personal care for disabled people, but was still feeling this desire for structure and already had the connection with spirituality and the teachings, and medicine through the shamanic herbalism and my parents - my father is an organic farmer and my mother a nurse mid wife and my grandfather on my mom’s side was a doctor, so there is this lineage of medicine being important, so I started to think that maybe I would do the Tibetan Medical training.
When I was considering studying the medicine I was noticing this really deep yearning, like an actual physical craving of my brain, to expand and really work and to work itself in ways it had not been working for a while. I had graduated from high school and done a couple of semesters of college, but I had been doing lots of hands on things and not much intellectual learning. I really desired that aspect. That was one aspect and the other was realizing the qualification of Dr. Phuntsog, realizing what a profound medicine it is, and then it shifted from should I do this program to wow, I have the opportunity to do this program right in my own backyard!  And then also connected with Rinpoche, it was like this is just amazing.
 That was a problem I always had going to school, that people were conditioning my mind in a way that I did not trust. I thought, “How do I know to trust your knowledge and condition my mind to your knowledge?” But where Rinpoche is involved there is no question, it is like, “Yeah, I want to condition my mind with your knowledge!”
The accuracy of my feelings was evident in that the Tibetan Medicine program really worked for me.  My mind worked well and I thought I did not have such a good memory. I think it is because I trust the source of the knowledge and I did not even have a slight resistance to learning it. It is a very rigorous study, learning Tibetan, on top of this whole body of knowledge. It is another way of considering medicine, like we have subtle ideas that we get from our culture, so this medicine gives a completely new way of thinking in that way. The training also requires a huge amount of memorization, a lot of lists, names of diseases, names of herbs, formulas, etc. So I spent a lot of the early morning just walking outside reading texts. Early morning is the best time to memorize.
Before we graduated we went to Tibet. The end of the program was a 3-month internship in Tibet and we stayed in the Xining city and went to sit with doctors at the hospital there.  That was an incredible culmination to the program. It was very fulfilling after a time of studying this medicine that is not really known in the West, and there are not that many people studying or practicing it, so sometimes we would question what we were doing, and how important is this, and can it really help people, and then going to Tibet and seeing the medicine fully in action, and so many doctors practicing and the doctors are so highly respected, revered, and the patients are having so much success with the treatments, so this experience was an essential part of the program for sure, to bring it full circle. And also to give a lot more credibility to the knowledge we were accumulating.  We had a small graduation ceremony in Tibet.

This past November in Tenerife I was authorized as a Vajra Dance instructor. I first became seriously interested in the Vajra Dance in 2002 or 2004 when I was learning the Dance at the retreats, and then Prima Mai and Adriana were offering a Teacher Training course and I asked if I could participate. They said I could if I only just watched. So I just took part but I had no idea of protocol. I was really eager and into and open so when I saw a space on the Mandala, if people were just hanging out, I would jump in, and Kyu took me aside and said,  “You should not really be entering the Mandala.”

All along the Dance felt really strong to me, Yantra Yoga also felt strong to me, all the practices do, but the Dance just seemed to flow pretty easily in my body in a certain way. I would go on the land [Khandroling] and dance and what I wanted to do on my birthday, for example, was to camp on the land and dance. So the idea that I could become an instructor started to develop and I went to Teacher Training at Merigar in between my third and fourth year of medical school. That is when Prima Mai, who was also supportive of me doing both, thought we could ahead for supervision for me. I was a little concerned even about going to the teacher training in the middle of medical school so I did check in with Dr. Phuntsog and she was very supportive.
So then in the last year of my medical training where I had to memorize everything, I was also memorizing the steps and training in the Vajra Dance so I would be able to teach the steps, the foot points and the principle of the Vajra Dance at my supervision. Both the medicine and the Vajra Dance really compliment each other. The actual study of each in tandem worked together and one helped me focus on the other, but also we are working on a concrete level in the Dance with the chakras and our channels, and the base of the medicine is channels, that is where our body originates from and the health and disease of our body has to do with our channels working correctly so the correlation between Yantra Yoga and Tibetan Medicine that is being addressed right now, there is also some activity to find the same correlations with the Dance, and how we could use that as therapy in the future as well.

Then when we came back from Tibet we had a graduation ceremony at Amherst College and Rinpoche was present. He gave a beautiful talk on the value of Tibetan Culture and it was beyond words to have our Master present at our graduation. Then right after the graduation I went into my supervision on the land of Khandroling during Rinpoche’s retreat. And then not long after that I traveled to Tenerife for the Vajra Dance authorization. Now I have many diplomas and before I only had my high school diploma. Also we had the Instructors Meeting with Rinpoche in Tenerife and that meeting was very helpful. It gave juice to what we are doing, It gave more clarity and also inspired energy, like I see we are holding the teachings and we are teaching as authentically as we can to honor Rinpoche’s vision of carrying on the teachings.
So now I am helping to manage our small clinic of Tibetan Medicine in Northampton, a town near by, where we are mainly doing Ku Nye massage, with the goal of eventually getting enough training and clinic time to practice the medicine more fully. I also have another job doing personal care work with a mentally ill person. With the Vajra Dance I am looking into teaching more publically and would like to contact younger people, maybe going into colleges and universities, festivals, etc.

Top Photo Credit: Paula Barry

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Greetings from Chögyal Namkhai Norbu to Tsegyalgar East

Tsegyalgar East recently received this holiday greeting from Chögyal Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche.
His sense of humor shines through in the message! Dzamlingar is the newly formed Global Gar in Tenerife, Spain.

Viideos of Tibetan Songs and Dances being taught in the International Dzogchen Community

The following video shows one of the many Tibetan songs and dances being taught through out the international Dzogchen Community. Here Adriana introduces a dance. Stay tuned for further information about Tsegyalgar East's instructional programs in Tibetan Song and Dance.

 YOU TUBE is a great resource for the music of many nationalities. Just enter into their search "Tibetan Songs" for hundreds of both traditional and contemporary examples The following video is a contemporary group favored by  Chögyal Namkhai Norbu. The are evidently singing about how great Tibetan women are.


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Let's Get Them To School: Send 500 Tibetan Nomadic Girls to School

The following video about a Golok school is produced by A.S. I. A.  A.S.I.A.'s newest initiative is to find sponsors for 500 Tibetan nomadic girls. Educating girls, of course, is the best kind of aid there is that can transform the lives of whole regions.
A girl who has studied has more possibilities of choice and when she becomes a woman will be aware of her rights. Her education will have positive effects on the whole society: she will be advantaged in setting up economic activities, more protected from disease and exploitation and her studies have positive effects on the health and well-being of her children.
In our case, educating a Tibetan nomad girl has even more value - to support a civilization in danger of extinction.The Tibetan nomads, who have survived for thousands of years in extreme weather conditions, are now at risk of extinction. Their disappearance would permanently destroy the very origin of Tibetan culture. For this reason we ask you to help us, with 25 euro per month, to allow a child to study and a culture to survive.   for more

On Tibetan Songs and Dances by Chögyal Namkhai Norbu

The following article on Tibetan Song and Dance is excerpted from the Merigar Newsletter #15

On Tibetan Songs and Dances
Chögyal Namkhai Norbu

For those who are interested in learning a Tibetan song, I prepared some. There is a reason why we learn them, it is not only because they are Tibetan songs; that’s why I prepared them, I teach and we learn them. You know very well how is the situation in Tibet. All of these songs come from Tibet, not from outside. You need to understand what they sing, what they communicate, what they want to show. You know in Tibet people are not free, they cannot talk too much, but they are not happy; they have their feelings and desires and they communicate and show them in this way.

Sometimes they sing in Tibetan, other times in Chinese, but we learn those in Tibetan. They sing also in Chinese, to make Chinese people understand the feelings of Tibetans and what they want; this is very important for Tibetans.  When they sing in Tibetan, they make also Tibetans understand their desires and, even if they are not Tibetans, when they listen they can learn and understand. They are not just love songs that say, “I love you, I am dying for you!” and you can also see where they are singing. Very rarely they perform in a theatre, they mainly show the environment, the way people look and how is the landscape. For example you can see many stupas. Stupas are not found everywhere in Tibet and China.

I cannot explain the meaning of the songs now, but we can learn and understand. I started with some that are easy to sing, because they are slow. I prepared ten of them, and this is the first…

... they really feel they are Tibetans and, more than anything, as they grow up, they find out they have a national identity, origin and culture, and that they are loosing all of this; they really feel this.  Two years ago some young poets wrote poems in a more modern, not so traditional style that have been published on many magazines. Some of these poets have been imprisoned, because they spoke too much. You can’t even understand (the meaning) well, because they are written in a poetic form, but they communicate their feelings, and the situation in Tibet. I was very surprised and this was the primary cause, two years ago. Last year I started to listen to some of their songs and music. Many of these young people became singers, some are even famous. I looked in the Internet and (realized) that 70/80% of their songs are for sustaining Tibetan culture, with their feeling; you can see it very clearly.

In some of the songs they make really understand the condition and the situation of Tibetans: “We send it through the melody, we send it with the rivers, through the air, to spread it around”, that’s what they sing.
So I became interested and started to understand a bit more of what they were talking about. I started to write them down last year, in Tenerife, going through all songs, and collecting the most important. I not only collected them, but also tried to understand the sense, sing the melodies and watch how they dance, because it is part of Tibetan Culture. Tibetan culture is not only important for Tibetans, but for the whole humankind, above all for those who follow the teachings and the spiritual path.
Teachings, a higher teaching like Dzogchen, but all Buddha’s teachings, starting from Sutra, Kanjur and Tenjur for example, and the hundreds of volumes belonging to Vajrayana, where are all alive? They are alive only in Tibet, nowhere else we can find the authentic teachings. The origin of the Teachings is India, but there’s nothing left there. Even in one of the most important places where teachings originated, Oddyiana, today’s Pakistan, where is the teaching? That’s an example.

Tibet and Tibetan culture must not die. It is very important that people understand a little the sense of the teachings. That’s why I am engaged to transcribe all of these songs. If you look and compare what I wrote and what they did, you can see that I am a scholar; I studied and know Tibetan language very well. What they wrote is often full of mistakes, there is a lot of good will, but education is lacking. I tried to write everything perfectly for westerners, even if it’s been a lot of work for me. I also did the transliteration, so you can read and learn it well, and it will also be of help for your practice. Many do not read and pronounce well so, while you’re singing, you can also learn how to read (correctly).
Furthermore, when you watch (the videos), you can understand a bit. Mainly they are showing Tibetan lifestyle, the nomads, and their country, with its characteristics. They don’t want all of this to be lost.
So, sing, watch, so we can understand how important Tibetan culture and Tibetan people are.
In first place I am a Dzogchen practitioner; I am not interested in any struggle. On a relative level I belong to the cultural world, and never say anything against Chinese government; but all of this really reflects Tibetans’ feelings, so we have to understand, and not ignore it.
That’s all. This is the reason why I sing and we learn. Many people don’t understand; they think I like Tibetans songs because I am Tibetan, but it is not like that.

… if you dedicate one or two days, you can learn (drajyor) very well. Even if you learn, it still remains at an intellectual level. So, when you practice with someone who pronounces correctly, observe, read 2 or 3 times, then you really learn.  Last year, when I was in Tenerife, I started to transcribe many Tibetan songs; we read and sang them and we learned them. What’s the reason for doing that? It is not only because I am Tibetan and support Tibetan Culture, but also because Tibetan culture is important for those who follow the Vajrayana teachings. The source of Buddha’s Teachings, of Tibetan Vajrayana Teachings, are originally the kanjur and tenjur. Kanjur consists of more than one hundred volumes, tenjur of more than two hundred. All have been translated from Sanskrit into Tibetan, but their origin was India and Oddyiana. Where are these teachings now, in India, and Pakistan, which corresponds to ancient Oddyiana? They disappeared. The texts, the teachings and transmission are alive only in Tibet. That’s why Tibetan Culture is important for all of those who follow Buddhist teachings; this aspect must be understood.
Nevertheless, you know how weak is the situation in Tibet. Most of new generations are well prepared in Chinese language and culture, but not in Tibetan. Even if we try to help and develop something outside Tibet, such as Tibetan schools in India, everything is very provisional. If there are no Tibetans, if Tibetans become automatically Chinese, Tibetan culture will be lost, and it would really be a pity. I am not saying Chinese are changing or destroying Tibetan Culture, but it is naturally happening. New generations speak Chinese, because it is the official language. Even if some have a chance of learning a bit of Tibetan, they cannot use it. We know we have to work in society, and in order to find a job one has to know Chinese, otherwise one cannot do very much; in this way Tibetan culture can be lost. It is very important to help and protect.
In China for example many singers sing to support Tibetan culture. Many of them were born and grew up in China, and mainly speak Chinese, but they feel they belong to the Tibetan language and culture, which they want to protect. In their songs they describe the true sense of the situation as it is in Tibet. So these songs can become useful to make western people and Chinese, especially Chinese authorities, realize how better it is that Tibetan culture does not disappear. In the west they talk about an ancient culture, which existed in Europe, called the Viking culture. If we want to find out something about it, nowadays we can only see a few objects in the museums, that’ all.
If Tibetan books and crafts were one day just be confined in a museum, it would really be a shame. We have to be well aware, inside and outside China; that is the reason why I sing these Tibetan songs, to sustain and to keep Tibetan culture alive.  At the same time I transcribe them for Western people, so that, as they sing them 2, 3 or 4 times, they also learn to pronounce Tibetan correctly, and when they practice the puja pronounce in a perfect way. It is useful for everybody.

…we can always sing and dance. Remember, we are Dzogchen practitioners; when we have at least the knowledge of Dzogchen, we can integrate it in different aspects, we don’t need to always be sitting and reciting mantras. Some people are surprised, they say: “They are singing and dancing, they are not Dzogchen practitioners!” For a Dzogchen practitioner everything is Dzogchen practice. If you are not in the knowledge of Dzogchen, even if you put the title “Dzogchen” it is not really Dzogchen. That’s why we sing and also try and do the same!

These are transcriptions of Rinpoche’s words, taken from different retreats. They have been collected in collaboration with Adriana Dal Borgo, Edith Casadei and Sergio Quaranta.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Vajra Hall Nears Completion

[photo, courtesy of Neil Murray, 2012]

ABOUT A MONTH ago on a sunny early December day,  I took a walk on upper Khandroling with Yuchen Namkhai. I had not been there for many weeks. I was astonished at the visual impact of the landscape after all the construction debris was cleared. Jim Smith had already built magnificent steps at the Western entrance of the hall (in photo above)l; Rinpoche's famous rock was now perched against a cleared backdrop surrounded by a semi-circle pathway; the slope from the Stupa leading up to the Vajra Hall was cleared and seeded with grass. There appeared to be many stones ready for building a stone wall next to the Stupa. Soon there will a forest management plan activated that will transform the woods for posterity (in a forthcoming article).

I recently asked Joe Zurylo for a recap of this season's work and what to expect next season. Here's his reply:

Here's a recap of the projects completed on the Vajra Hall this season in 2012:
  • Interior of ring wall was stuccoed
  • Wall caps fabricated and installed
  • Pavers down on the promenade floor
  • Lower roofing put on
  • Sky lights installed
  • Roof line trims installed ( facia and soffit )
  • Road from bath house to VH cleared, graded and seeded
  • New road built along southern section of VH
  • Stone steps at western entrance
  • Accessible drive up at eastern entrance
 After four building seasons and the expending of 12,500 man hours of labor,  the Vajra Hall will be entering its final phase.  It's hard to describe my experience working on this project.  From an emotional stand point I am most fortunate to have had this experience and most grateful to all who have given their support-- both financial and emotional for this great work. After forty plus years of doing construction work, nothing that I have built in that period of time even comes close to the magnificence of this structure, not just its architectural shape and size,  but the very purpose of its existence has no comparison in the western world. To my knowledge there are no other terma sites on this continent. But i am glad its coming to an end after all of these decades of this type of work.  Now approaching my 64th year, I'm beginning to feel the way a pair of my old work boots look, they still fit, they can still do the job, but upon a closer examination all you can say is "well they were good boots but not much left to them." Anyway I'm not face down yet, so for this coming 2013 season we still need to do these things:

  •  Finish the stucco on the exterior perimeter wall 

  • South entrance way needs pavers.

  • The whole exterior of the building needs to have screens to keep the birds and insects on the outside

  • Benches need to be built along the interior of the perimeter wall

  • Finish grading and landscaping of the exterior grounds.   
1. The mandala needs to be installed on the interior floor2. The Longsal symbol which will act as a spire for the building will be erected next summer.  from Joe Zurylo
 To see the Vajra Hall in action visit our July retreat photos at

Jacqueline Gens