Spring 1998

 

 


Namo Buddha News Goes Electronic

Namo Buddha News was founded to help the students of Thrangu Rinpoche to stay abreast of his numerous activities and travels. Until now this has been done mainly through sending out the Newsletter published twice a year with the latest information on Rinpoche's activities. Because of the expense of printing and mailing the newsletter, it has always remained relatively short and has only contained black and white photos. With the the dawn of the internet age, the Namo Buddha Newsletter will change its form. We are asking that anyone who has an E-mail address to please E-mail Clark Johnson at cjohnson@ix.netcom.com and say that you would like to receive the Newsletter electronically. We will then E-mail you the Newsletter which will contain everything that is in the printed Newsletter, but you will receive it earlier. This will save a great deal in postage and make communication much easier between Rinpoche's students. We are planning to post the photos in color on Rinpoche's website www.pe.net/~kml/ and try to post the latest changes in Rinpoche's schedule on this internet site. Hopefully, we will also have some interesting photos of Rinpoche which can be downloaded.


Thrangu House in Oxford, England

Thrangu Rinpoche first came to England in 1979. He was initially based in North London at the home of Monica Fay, which served as the London center for the Karma Kagyu. After teaching widely in London and at the Marpa Institute, Rinpoche was invited in the spring of 1980 to Samye Ling. At this point, he began teaching extensively on the Uttara Tantra, the Jewel Ornament of Liberation, the four ordinary and the four extraordinary foundations until the end of the summer.

In the early 1980s, some of his students, mainly from Worcester, felt that for him to work effectively in the West, he needed a home base of his own. He thought Oxford a good choice for such a base. A member of this group, Jenny Hills enabled a small terraced house to be bought in the name of the Thrangu Rinpoche Trust, a charitable trust which is overseen by Thrangu Rinpoche. The house, in St. Mary's Road, Oxford, was very small, with room for just six or seven people in the shrine room! Once Thrangu House had been established Jenny turned her attention to the anti-nuclear movement. Shenpen and Mike Hookham originally ran the center and were responsible for setting up the Thrangu Rinpoche Trust, as a charity, in December 1981, "...to promote the study and practice of the Buddhist religion and, in particular, but not exclusively, according to the Karma Kagyu school of Buddhism, in the United Kingdom and elsewhere."

In 1981 Rinpoche had returned to Samye Ling and again taught throughout the whole summer along with Tai Situpa Rinpoche. He first taught in Oxford in 1983 at the Oakenholt Buddhist Conference and retreat center.

In 1986, the house in St Mary's Road was sold, and Thrangu House moved just round the corner to its present site in Bullingdon Road. This area of Oxford is perhaps the most colorful and cosmopolitan part of the city, with its Asian delicatessens, Pizza parlors, two Caribbean restaurants and several New Age shops. It is also an affordable place for students to live. All of this makes for a wide-ranging group of potential visitors.

Until 1993, David Sale, now living at Samye Ling in Scotland, was the main caretaker of Thrangu House. Ani Yeshe Palmo returned to the centre from her four-year retreat at Samye Ling in March of 1995 to teach and administrate the center.

The center has a small core-group of regular meditators and supporters. Our aim is to be available to whomever might need us-whether their need is meditation instruction, or to use the library, or simply to have a chat over a cup of tea. There is a regular program of meditation practice, vajrayana practice and Buddhist-inspired therapy. The meditation is on two levels, serving different levels of practice. There are weekly Chenrezik and Guru Rinpoche pujas, together with monthly Guru Rinpoche tsok puja. Other vajrayana practices of chod and Mahakala are done regularly. The Buddhist-inspired therapy created by Akong Tulku, Back to Beginnings and Taming the Tiger, has three groups attending the center. The shrine room is always open for meditation.

Our main event of the year is Thrangu Rinpoche's visit. We are also fortunate to also host teachers such as Jetsen Chime Rinpoche, HH Sakya Trizin, Situ Rinpoche, Ringu Tulku Rinpoche, Ato Rinpoche, Chime Rigdzin Rinpoche and Traleg Rinpoche. Thrangu House was also one of the signatories who invited HH the Dalai Lama to the UK this year.

We have also been working on a text of the long version of chod practice with both a translation and a Tibetan text produced on our computer. It is heartening, that people come back to Thrangu House for friendship and formal Buddhist practice. We do have size limitations and we are at present looking for a larger center with a larger shrine room to accommodate more students than we have at present. It is hoped that we can keep Thrangu House as a community house, where Buddhists can live in a supportive environment and which might also help financially with a larger center. Please do remember this project in your prayers, since it will bring much benefit to many people.

-by Ani Palmo


Rinpoche Begins a New Center in Sweden

We have just received the exciting news from Karma Jampa Lhamo that Thrangu Rinpoche has a new Dharma group which has been formed in Sweden. The new group has been named Karma Chagchen Ling and has the following address.
Karma Changchen Ling Karma Jampa Lhamo/Lena Nordstrand
Wittstocksgatan 19, 115 27 Stockholm, Sweden
Phone: 46-8-661 53 25.

As we get more news about this group, we will include it in the Newsletter.


10 Years of Namo Buddha Publications

Before 1959 Tibet was perhaps the most religious country in the World. There were 6,000 monasteries that housed thousands of monks and texts. The lamas and monks passed on the enlightened Buddhist teachings from master to pupil so that Buddhism remained a living tradition in Tibet. These teachings spanned the Hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana teachings. A great many of them had come from India but were lost over a millennium ago with the Moslem invasions of Northern India.

In 1959 Thrangu Rinpoche escaped from Tibet. He and Khenpo Karthar were only a few of hundreds from his monastery who escaped. During this dark period many of the religious texts of Tibet were lost. Thrangu Rinpoche has said that when he finally made it to India, he didn't have a single book. Rinpoche and other lamas then spent the next decade trying to reconstruct the Tibetan teachings from the monasteries and private collections found in countries neighboring Tibet. Even to this day, many of the teachings of the previous Karmapas are missing with no certainty that they will ever be found.

His Holiness the 16th Galwa Karmapa apparently had foreseen these events and a few years before 1959 had sent the wooden blocks of the Kangjur (the Tibetan collection of the words of the Buddha) to India. After 1959 he asked Thrangu Rinpoche and Khenpo Tsultrim and others to establish the Nalanda Institute of Higher Learning at Rumtek and to begin training the new group of Kagyu and Nyingma tulkus so as to continue on the dharma traditions of Tibet. Thrangu Rinpoche taught at Nalanda Institute for the next 20 years until 1979 when he began coming to the West giving teachings in Europe and North American.

Thrangu Rinpoche took a traditional approach. Rather than giving teachings specifically tailored for Westerners, he began with a series of teachings at Samye Ling in Scotland which were a mixture of general overviews of Buddhism and detailed examinations of major traditional texts such as the five works of Maitreya and a number of middle way topics on emptiness and meditation. He also introduced vajrayana practice to his students. After giving these extraordinary teachings over a three year period, he told his audience that they had received the teachings as he traditionally teaches in the Monastic college (but obviously in a slightly different format).

In 1986 Thrangu Rinpoche began the first Namo Buddha Seminar in Nepal with a teaching on Buddha-nature which has since been published as Buddha Nature by Rangjung Yeshe Publications. From that time on Clark Johnson has been trying to collect all the teachings of Thrangu Rinpoche and to offer these teachings to as wide an audience as possible. Incidentally, Wolfgang Schmidt has started an archive of tapes and translations of Rinpoche's teachings into German and he also publishes a European Newsletter similar to this one.

The first step in setting up the archives was to collect all the audio tapes of all of Rinpoche's teachings. To date the Namo Buddha archives has over 600 tapes of Rinpoche's teachings and these are available at a modest price. A few volunteers have taken some of these tapes and made Tibetan only-copies which Thrangu Rinpoche has taken back to India and Nepal so his Tibetan students to listen to them. It is hoped that some day we will have the time to make a complete set of Tibetan tapes for Rumtek.

A number of other volunteers have transcribed these tapes to make written transcripts. There are presently 22 transcripts available and since there are over 40 teachings of Rinpoche in the archives, one can see how many more volunteers are needed.

The transcripts of Rinpoche's teachings are not simple transcriptions. These transcripts have been edited, compared to other teachings on the same topic, and include extensive glossaries and notes of explanations. The transcripts are typeset on a computer (we now have a PC and a Mac) and are tape bound. After the translators had checked the originals, these transcripts are sent to publishers to see if they could be published as paperback books. For the past five years, Namo Buddha Publications has sold 1,000 of these transcripts per year showing a wide interest in Rinpoche's teachings.

What has been exciting this year is that Snow Lion Publications will be publishing two books by Thrangu Rinpoche-The Moonlight of Mahamudra and reprinting Tranquility and Insight which sold 3,000 copies in its Shambhala Publication edition. Also Karme Thekchen Choling in Vancouver will be publishing Rinpoche's brilliant work on Madhyamaka logic as a book in the newly revised Open Door to Emptiness. This text was actually the first book of Thrangu Rinpoche's ever printed in English as a pamphlet in 1978.

There is also a non-profit foundation interested in giving the money necessary to begin publishing The Three Vehicles of Buddhist Practice. All the money from this book will go to the publishing of other texts of Rinpoche's. This should increase the availability of books by Thrangu Rinpoche.

At the last Big Bear retreat there was also discussion of publishing The Essential Teachings of Thrangu Rinpoche which will be a book and will include a computer CD ROM which will not only have the text, but will also include pictures and video clips of Thrangu Rinpoche and his projects.

The process of making transcripts into books is a lengthy process. It involves raising the money to actually print the book, designing a color cover, getting book cataloging and ISBN data, and then distributing the book to the bookstores. If you have any expertise in any of these areas, help would be greatly appreciated. The most difficult task will be to get Rinpoche's books distributed and into bookstores. To get them distributed dharma students will have to go to their dharma bookstores and ask for these books.

Finally, Namo Buddha Publications has entered the internet age and Lee Miracle has set up Thrangu Rinpoche's website. Hopefully, many books will be distributed through this medium.

Many have asked if Namo Buddha Publications in Boulder is a center or not. It actually is just the basement of Clark Johnson's house. Since he has a family and works a regular job (his Ph.D. is in psychology) these publications are offered with devotion.

-by Clark Johnson, Ph. D.


A Teaching by Thrangu Rinpoche

The hinayana schools maintain that our experience is based on the conditioned production of compounds. These compounds, being compounds, are mere designations having no reality of their own. They are made up of elements which are extremely small-the finest possible analyzable particles and the finest possible analyzable moments or units of time. According to this view, which reflects an incomplete attitude toward emptiness, all cognizable objects are built up, with the help of appropriate conditions, out of these real particles and moments.

The Vijnanavada or Cittamatra school of the mahayana maintains that all experience is a projection of mind occurring as a result of previous karma. Due to the ripening of karmic seeds, we project our world, which then functions in conformity with the way it is projected, but which is empty of any reality in and of itself. The projecting mind, however, is held by this school to be real.

But a position which attributes true existence to some things in the phenomenal world, for example, the hõnayÝna tradition holds that small particles (atoms) and units of time as real and the Cittamatrins hold the perceiving mind as inherently real, is a position which still clings to a partially false notion of some kind of self-nature.

In the view of Madhyamaka school, however, there is no adherence to any concept of essential nature at all. In none of the experience of the skandhas is there anything truly real; if we examine the basic nature of reality, we cannot find anything that constitutes the essence of that reality. But this does not imply a mere nothingness.

The lack of objectifiable reality nonetheless permits the continued expression of all kinds of experiences. When investigating the ultimate nature, we discover that there is no fundamental characteristic, no essential reality, no objectifiable reality to anything, so it is said that all things are empty, that there is no true reality at all. However, emptiness is not distinguishable from the appearance of the phenomena we experience. These phenomena themselves are not separated from the fundamental nature, so our basic experience in the world is, in reality, never anything but fundamental emptiness, or the lack of reality in everything.

So the conventional truth concerns the way all appearances and experiences function, and the ultimate truth concerns the lack of objectifiable reality in everything are inseparable; they are not two different things, but rather an integrated whole. This is the basic viewpoint of Madhyamaka as expounded by Nagarjuna, and it is a description of the actual viewpoint on reality of an enlightened Buddha.

-from The Open Door to Emptiness


All persons working for Thrangu Rinpoche do not receive any compensation for their work. Below are just some of the projects and centers helping Thrangu Rinpoche spread the dharma. Just click on the one you are interested in and it will take you to their page.

For information on Tara Abbey

For information on programs in Germany

For information on programs in Vancouver

For information on program in Seattle

To contact Thrangu Monastery in Nepal

For Information on Thrangu House in Oxford

For information on sponsoring a monk or nun a student at Rinpoche's school

For information on the Namo Buddha Seminar in Nepal or books, tapes and publications

For information on the Maine program

For Information on Hawaii program

For information on Toronto program

For information on California program