Thursday, March 31, 2016

Interview with Louise Landes Levi in Tokyo, Japan

[In the commodore dining room of GAR, Padreo Gonzales, Isla Magargarita,  circa 2008]


late March 2016
St. Marks Cafe, Sendagi, Tokyo

Interview Questions on THE BOOK L

Q1. Thank you for meeting with me again today Louise. I thought a good way to start the interview would be to ask you first about the title of the book – THE BOOK L. Is it simply a reference to your name, Louise Landes Levi, or is it more than that?

LLL: I was in the Gar (Buddhist Meditation center) on Isla Margarita, in Venezuela &, one morning, I was, for some reason, visualizing the Hebrew word 'Elohim' trying to remember exactly how to spell it (in Hebrew). A bit later, I was walking to the near-by village, when sudden rain forced me to stop & take refuge on a porch. A young man, looking remarkably like the young Jack Kerouac, I later thought, had motioned for me to rest a moment, while the rain fell. He went into his small house, really a hut, & returned, handing me a Bible in Spanish. 'Read this while you wait’. The first page I opened to clearly showed, amidst the Spanish text, the word Elohim in Hebrew. It means ‘angels’ literally but as I say in the book it can translate as ‘god’ (or ‘gods’) or ‘grace’. The ‘L’ is a kind of sacred symbol and letter – as in 
Elohim, Allah, Hallelujah But it’s also Louise. The title is directly inspired by Bert Schierbeck’s, HET BOEK IK (transl. fr. Dutch The Book I), a post war master work in Dutch, a seminal work of the Fiftigers, a post war group in Holland, most of whose writers lived in Amsterdam. A later work of Bert’s, Zen Gardens, introduced Zen Buddhist thought to the low lands. His translator (& son-in-law) Charles McGheehan, was a friend & my host, later on, in Amsterdam. 

Q2. You mention at the beginning of this book that it is the first in a trilogy. What are the other two books that make up the trilogy?

LLL: The two, in mind, at the time, Hotel Gaia (not yet compiled, except in a condensed (bi lingual Italian/English) edition: CHORMA, Porto dei Santi, Bologna 2000), a collection of retreat and other poems and A Spiritual Autobiography, parts of which are on the internet net, Louise in Afghanistan, for example but not the main piece, the title of which is A Spiritual Autobiography.

Q3. You refer to Che Guevara in the book briefly. I love the quote you mention by him – “The new man will be driven by moral rather than material incentives”. Do you think Guevara’s prediction was accurate? I don’t feel that that is the case in Japan where we are right now. What exactly did Guevara mean by this? And is he perhaps referring to future times?

LLL: I think he is talking about the utopian man, the true inheritor of the Earth, the first man, reconstituted to oppose the military-industrial complex specifically & our inability to relate, as a human community, generally.

Q4. What are your feelings about Guevara? When I was in university, every man and his dog seemed to have a Guevara T-shirt back then – either that or a Bob Marley T-shirt. What is the power of Che Guevara as an icon in the modern day? You mention in the book how his picture was everywhere in Isla Margarita. Is he perceived as the sort of ‘pin-up boy’ of the counterculture or the resistance as some make him out to be or was he actually a paranoid murderer as others have portrayed him to be in film? Which portrait is more accurate or should we accept more of a pluralistic portrait of the man?

LLL: He has survived as a symbol of resistance, renunciation & even sacrifice in the Western psyche. I am not an historian. I can not affirm or deny the opinions of others. We know that his assassination was, as were so many other assassinations directly assisted & most probably instigated by the CIA – so of course, he represents, indeed he embodied, after his death, the deeply felt desire for autonomy - indigenous resistance to the ruthlessness of imperial authority & appropriation - through out the whole of So. America.

Q5. What was the main inspiration behind this book?

LLL: I was studying on Isla Margarita, in the Caribbean, just east of Caracas, with the Dzog Chen master Namkhai Norbu who received, an indication, in a dream, that he should deliver the entirety of his dream teachings, called in the tradition ‘terma’ there, on that island. I keep to my (humble) task & a kind of solitude, even in the midst of 'sanga' (the Buddhist community), The master himself has always been very supportive of me, of my path. (His sister was a poet, tortured by the Chinese, & jailed for 30 years solely for her intellectual authority & interests.) Being so isolated, in general fr. the ‘Community', tho not at all fr. the teacher, I made 'friends' among the people. The indigenous population, living just across fr. the GAR was particularly intriguing to me, as were many of the other inhabitants. It was a time of social revolution, not very well reported in the Western Media, very fascinating as it unfolded, for better & for worse. The originality of the people on the island, the chaos resulting fr. the introduction of a well-endowed Buddhist Community there was fascinating& sometimes very distressing (see for detail). Casa d’Esther, a local restaurant, offered itself as refuge, when the Buddhist refuge was too much for me. I did a lot of work there, sustained by ESTHER herself, the cook & proprietor. And, to my delight, a well-known editor & friend (living in NYC) also manifested (as a bird), which was both weird and wonderful. I’d spend hours practicing music in that place & noticed that grey bird, no ordinary bird I gradually understood.

Norbu has had a deep influence on me and has always encouraged me, even from long distance, like right now. He was able to extend my inquiry into poetic domain at the same time gave, access, to a fragile (& fucked up) person like myself to a certain work (on my own person), called realization in their tradition or domain. In that domain, poetry is considered a form of sadhana which in Sanskrit means ‘spiritual training’. He helped me to recover from loss, heartbreak & physical debility, at the same time permitting me access to the promise of poetry & of music, my primary interests. In Dozg chen. he said 'the transmission develops according to the potential of the individual'.

[Playa Sagaroza, Pedro Gonzales, Isla Margarita 2008]

Q6. What was it that initially drew you to the island of Isla Margarita? Was it Norbu?

LLL: Simple answer ‘yes’. The island was not far from NYC (by air). I was very fortunate to be there, living in a tent, secretly sleeping in the ‘mandala’ area & moving around on bicycle, a very organic life style. I kept my computer at the restaurant, cld. go there in the morning, to make breakfast, wash clothes etc, & in the afternoon, to work. Bless Esther.

Q7. On the Cool Grove website, it mentions that the “dangers of elitism” is one of the themes of this book. Could you elaborate a little on what exactly you mean by this?

LLL: At this distance, it is difficult to say w. freshness, but I felt that the Western Buddhists were, in general, indifferent to the native population, to their basic needs, i.e. water, books, medicine, in some cases (you can read about this, in detail in my essay Tanks & Thangkas at


Hiragana – the new Japanese alphabet based on the old Sanskrit Sidham, codified by the founder of the shingon Buddhist school, in Japan, Kobo Daisch, Kokai, in the 8th century, still in use today.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Community Artists Exhibit their Works


Peter Fortunato's  PAPER & PAINT, ABSTRACT & LARGE, opening Friday 4/1/16 at Buffalo Street Books, 215 N. Cayuga Street, Ithaca, 5:00 PM

Peter writes, "Artwork is opening this Friday, April 1 at Buffalo Street Books in downtown Ithaca, and I hope to see you there.  It’s a Gallery Night event, between 5:00 PM and 8:00 PM.  The work will be on display for the entire month, so stop by some time if you can’t make it Friday (and buy some books while you’re at it!)"


by Peter Fortunato

simple and easy are not the same –

behind these words
the experience of poets and painters,
the strokes of their brushes and pens –

behind them
spring flowers


Pictured below is a detail from Resurrection


[Nightflowers, 2016]

Alix Merritt's paintings were shown as part of a Digital Painting show at the Blue Door Gallery, Riverdale Ave, Yonkers, NY. in February and March.

Ten of Alix's digital paintings on canvas range from scenes of New Yorkers to fanciful abstract transformations of cafe scenes, concerts, paperbags, etc. You can see more of her iPad works at


[Bumpin on Sunset, 2016]

Found at Saatchi Art. Recent Exhibition at Tibet House in NYC 

[Michael Katz in his studio after being away for ten weeks, reprinted from Facebook, April, 2016]

Monday, March 28, 2016

The Yoga of the Calm State Weekly Practice Open to the Public

Every Thursday morning rain or shine, a few of us gather in the Schoolhouse Gonpa at 8:00 AM to practice Zhinay/Shamatha meditation commonly known among Westerners as Mindfulness/ Awareness practice. Hosted by Shang Shung Institute this practice is open to the public who are welcome to join us and requires no prerequisites or particular spiritual affiliation.

WHEN: Thursdays 8:00-9:00AM
WHERE: Tsegyalgar East, 18 Schoolhouse Road, Conway, MA 01341
Zhinay (Tibetan) or Shamatha (Sanskrit) which means "Calm Abiding" has been the cornerstone of Buddhist meditation for 2600 years. It is now widely disseminated through out the world as an effective method to calm the mind in order to develop awareness and promote well-being.  In recent years, a secular Western version has evolved that focuses on the method alone which is now found in schools, hospitals, prisons, among many contexts.  Western Mass is the epicenter of the mindfulness movement with many opportunities to train in it. The region is also home to numerous Buddhist groups that have cultivated this practice for decades such as Barre's Insight Meditation Society founded by Joseph Goldstein and Sharon Salzburg 40 years ago and the Shelburne Falls Vipassana Center founded by Goenka.

The Dzogchen Teachings are among the most profound and sacred teachings. A basic meditation practice such as Zhinay/Shamatha provides a foundation for development of awareness indispensable in the discovery of one's true nature. Through observing oneself, we are able to identify and relax tensions which promotes harmony. In the Base of Santi Maha Sangha, The Precious Vase by Chogyal Namkhai Norbu, it is said that the results of learning lead to a diminishment of one's non-virtuous behaviors, while the results of meditative stability lead to a diminishment of one's afflictive emotions. 

Please join us each Thursday morning whether one is beginning on the path or a seasoned practitioner. For further information, visit Shang Shung Institute calendar of events or contact the SSI at

[Photo courtesy of Jeremy Keaton, 2015]

Chesterfield Council on Aging Presents Menpa Phuntsog Wangmo, April 10, 2016

News About Khandroling Farm Cooperative from Our Geko Jeremy Keaton


The NEXT Farm Coop Meeting is March 31 at the Ox and Rabbit 
(pot-luck as usual circa 6:30 PM)  in Shelburne Falls
to discuss schedules and our mission statement

Hello friends,

This is Jeremy Keaton, reporting live from... a computer. I created this email list on MailChimp with the primary intention of providing updates on what is going on at the farm. You are receiving this message because I added you manually, based on the email chain for the task list Nary and I created. If you would like to be removed, there is an unsubscribe button. If you know someone who would like to be added, let me know!

Specifically the reason I created the list is to update on what we did on the task list, suggestions on the next priorities, and to try to coordinate the next day to perform these tasks. I plan on sending one of these updates out after each day we spend at the farm so that we can keep this thing moving that we are doing. I'll keep do this as long as it is still useful in some way. This is a test....

RECAP: Monday, March 14th Cleanup Day 

[Lower Khandroling Farm shed photo by Jeremy Keaton]

About 4 of us met on Monday to do a little of what we discussed at the meeting on March 10th. We made quite a lot of progress cleaning up the red shed and part of the barn. There were about 8 bags of trash or so as a result. We found many things useful for the co-op, including materials we can use and tools. The shed is much more manageable now. Thank you to all who helped out!

Since the soil is not workable yet, my suggestion is that we continue what we were doing. I think we can clean out and organize the garage, move any tools from the garage to the red shed and any engine fluid or vehicle maintenance materials into the garage. It would be nice to build some shelves with all this extra wood we have and organize the tools and materials in the red shed with labels (hammers, screwdrivers, etc... for example). Farming is hard work. An organized storage and work space will make it a little bit smoother.

As we discussed at the meeting, the ATV path needs repaired. This is necessary for legal reasons and for maintaining an ATV path connection between Upper and Lower Khandroling, for transporting tools, materials, people, etc. I walked the path a few days ago and there are a few problematic stretches where water drainage has eroded the tracks to the point that it isn't drivable even with the Gator. This is a relatively easy thing to patch up with old, pre-milled, cut wood which we have quite a pile of on Upper Khandroling.

Also as we discussed, we can repair the Greenhouse. It is an easy fix and won't take long. Once we have the Greenhouse functional, we can start seeds.

Nary was creating a pond at the bottom of a stream behind the house with sandbags so we can pump water for irrigation. We can finish that project, which includes placing the sandbags strategically and scooping out the silt which will be used at the hugelkultur bed at the Schoolhouse, which Nary had planted food into last year and has been preparing for this year.

Nary suggests that we also need to thin out the raspberries. Lots of weeding will be needed all over the farm, especially once the soil becomes more workable.

When to meet

Personally, the best days for me to meet are on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays generally, depending on what kind of Gekoing is needed. I would like to make a suggestion that we plan to meet for the next work day where many of us can meet, and/or alternatively, I can meet with someone if you schedule a time with me. As warmer weather approaches, I plan on being on Upper and Lower Khandroling as much as possible, focusing energy there on the farm and major work to be done on the cabins. If you would like to set up an individual time to meet with me, email me at and I will do my best.

I will be keeping future updates and scheduling emails much more succinct and simple. Please launch any suggestions or criticisms at me about this email list idea.

Be well,

Jeremy Keaton

[Photos courtesy of Jeremy Keaton, 2016]

Sunday, March 20, 2016

News from Around Tsegyalgar East


 [Amanda Pollock's selfie]


Recently Joe Zurylo wrote:

The other day while taking a ride up to KHANDROLING i stopped and picked up our
small sign along the town road, so it wouldn't be destroyed by the snow plow.
This gave me the idea that it would be nice to have a real sign on our propertywhere the new road joins into the public road. made and painted by us. The back ground will be a dark red and the carved letters will be gold leaf painted.

Jim Smith hand carved a Long-Sal symbol above the letters KHANDROLING, it will also be gold leafed. The sign will be set into PT timbers buried into the ground and have a small roof over it for protection. The sign is approximately 24" high and around 60" long.

Above the finished sign. 


[Photo by Amanda Pollock, Group photo of Tara Retreat led by Paula Barry]

[Photo by Anastasia of Jeremy, our Geko and Paula Barry]


Khandroling Paper Cooperative held another Open Studio focusing on refining our lotus origami skills (not as easy as you think). Afterwards we embarked on carving more wood blocks to make our first edition of cards using our own paper.

Nick Boutros stopped by to show us an amulet folding. Lots happening these days as we coordinate an outstanding variety of Paper and related Contemplative workshops in light of our Lotus Paper Project. Please visit our 2016 Spring and Summer Schedule here.

[Two new woodcuts by Jacqueline (left eternal knot on a lotus) and Sheryl (right AH) on our handmade paper]

The next April 3 workshop Writing the Mani Mantra  with Tibetan Translator Dara Juels takes place in the yellow schoolhouse at 18 Schoolhouse Road, Conway, MA 10:00 AM-4:00 PM. Participants can also make paper, fold origami lotus' and print on the etching press if they wish. 

Daria Juels became interested in Buddhism as a teenager and after taking a college course in Buddhism began to study Zen meditation. She lived in a Zen Buddhist community for a few years while attending art school. She met her Teacher, a Tibetan Nyingma Lama, ten years ago and became interested in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition as well as the Tibetan language. Studying scriptural Tibetan with Heidi Nevin, a well-known translator, she developed her knowledge of the written language. Wishing to become fluent in the spoken language Dara travelled to Nepal five years ago where she lived for almost two and a half years studying both language and meditation practices with various teachers in the Nyingma Lineage. When she returned to the United States she furthered her studies at a translator program at Rangjung Yeshe Gomde in Northern California. Dara began doing both written translation of dharma practices and teachings for buddhist teachers as well as oral translation for her husband. She has a passion for both Tibetan language and translating the vast wealth of wisdom within the spiritual tradition into English. Her wish is participate in assuring that the blessings of the path are carried into the Western languages.


Shang Shung Institute of America's Menpa Wangmo and the Conway Historical Society's Board gather after her talk on Tuesday, March 22. About 30 people attended the talk.
Community member, Marilyn McArthur was elected to the Historical Society board. Red Gakyil member, Amanda Pollock became a sworn official of the town of Conway. She is a member of the 250th Anniversary Committee for the town.

Friday, March 11, 2016


Greetings Friends,

Many people may know that while Rinpoche was doing retreat in his cabin on Khandroling in 1989 and 1990 in particular, he had some of the dreams of the Vajra Dance. In the description of his dreams, he calls the cabin "The Fortress of the Dakinis".

This past week on Khandroling, 5 trees were removed that were growing closest to The Fortress of the Dakinis (AKA Rinpoche's Cabin). The purpose is to help extend the life of the cabin, to help to keep it dry and to protect from the potential of falling trees. This is the first big step towards planned repairs on the cabin for this year, which includes replacing the long time leaking roof with a new roof, replacing water and ant damaged structural beams, repairing and replacing siding on the front of the cabin, power washing the stairs and ramp and sealing them, fixing the doors, replacing the propane cook stove, replacing the large windows in the front, and other much needed work.

This plan also includes the removal of a grove of pine trees to the right of the Guardian Cabin. In 2014, one of the pine trees fell within a couple feet of the stairs to the Guardian cabin, and in a recent particularly strong storm, a large portion of another pine tree almost hit the rear side of the cabin. Also included in the plan is the finishing and stabilization of the Togal cabin. As announced in a previous blog post, some attempts were made to help further stabilize the cabin in 2015, and some wood finish was applied to the inside of the cabin. As a more long term plan, some trees to the east and the west of the Togal cabin are to be removed so the practice can be done in the cabin, but this would leave the cabin even more vulnerable to wind gusts. To help remedy this imbalance, the plan is to build a porch on 2 or 3 sides of the cabin, affix the foundation of the porch into the mountain properly, and then attach the porch to the cabin itself. Other work includes installing the chimney properly so the woodstove can be used for heating, building a firewood storage shed, powerwashing and caulking the siding, and installing a laminate floor.

As usual, these projects will be done using all the materials we already have stored, which reduces the total cost in the end. For example, we have nearly all the roofing material we need already.

We will also need lots of helpful Karma Yoga participants and volunteers to help with the cleanup phases and the smaller tasks. Please contact me, Jeremy Keaton, if you are interested.

The total cost estimate of all of the above mentioned work is $17,840. We need all the help we can get, in any capacity, to make this happen. Donations are appreciated and will help to make the major work possible, as well as anyone who would like to help in a physical sense.Donations can be sent through PayPal to If you choose this method of payment, please write in the comment box what the donation is for. I suggest writing something like "Maintenance of Rinpoche's cabin, Togal cabin and tree work". Alternatively, if you would like to send a check, please write on the check or along with the check what the donation is for, and send to:

Dzogchen Community in America
PO BOX 479
Conway, MA 01341

Make checks payable to DCA.

"Each individual's contributions are like the many drops that make an ocean, because if you want to do something you must have collaboration from the whole group and then everything becomes very easy." ~ Chogyal Namkhai Norbu

NEWS UPDATE....Urgent: 

Nested in magnificent natural habitat, exposed to the elements our Khandroling Retreat Cabins have slowly deteriorated to the point where need of IMMEDIATE REPAIRS.

You can contribute through this link:

Please share with the international community members, in all other Gars and Lings around the world, or at your local Gar or Ling!"

Be well my friends,
Jeremy Keaton
Tsegyalgar East Geko