[This document can be acquired from a sub-directory coombspapers via anonymous
FTP and/or COOMBSQUEST gopher on the node COOMBS.ANU.EDU.AU]
The document's ftp filename and the full directory path are given in the
coombspapers top level INDEX file]
[This version: 2 August 1993]
THE NEWSLETTER OF THE TIBETAN BUDDHIST SOCIETY, CANBERRA - No 13
November'92 - January '93
For all Centre matters and enquiries please contact the relevant committee members:
President: Alan Mogridge
ph. 257 6944 (w) 236 3285(h)
Vice-President: Kerry Arthur
ph. 282 1455 (h)
Secretary: Chris Sinkora
ph. 250 6902 (w) 287 1033 (h)
Treasurer: Jenni Chen
ph. 205 0470 (w) 291 4029 (h)
Public Officer: Melanie Newbourne
Susie Servantie ph. 281 6926 (h)
Sigrun Meilke ph. 281 1026 (h)
THE RELOCATION OF THE CENTRE
As soon as we found a nice and spacious house in Weston at 3 McInnes St, off
Hindmarsh Dr. we also met Rod Woolley who was interested to live in the centre
and be its resident. As a long time Dharma student, Rod is a devoted
practitioner who considers himself as fortunate as the committe was to have met
him. The house will only be open as a centre on Sunday morning 10 am and
Wednesday 7 pm sessions and other special workshop and practice days nominated
in the newsletter. Rod is however happy to allow members to come and do their
practices on weekday evenings as long as it is feasible to arrange. The
committe and Lama Choedak welcome Rod and thank for his generosity and
TAPES ON NGON-DRO TEACHINGS
According to the notice in the previous newsletter, Lama Choedak has been giving
teachings on Ngondro practices on the basis of Lamdre teachings for the past two
months. Lama also gave the oral transmission of the practice although some
students would have received it from Her Eminence Jetsun Kusho-la in 1989.
There are tapes ($7 each) of Lama's teachings on Ngondro which may be ordered
through the centre. To place your order, please contact Rod on 288 9355.
H. H. DALAI LAMA'S TEACHINGS ON VIDEO
Excellent video tapes on public talks and teachings given by His Holiness the
Dalai Lama in Canberra during his visit are now available at the centre. Each
tape costs $ 20.
WORKSHOP ON SAMATHA MEDITATION
Date: Sunday 29 November, 1992
Time: 10 am - 4. 00 pm.
Venue: The Centre , 3 McInnes St. Weston
Cost: $ 50 Members and Conc. $40
Lunch and refreshment provided.
Lama Choedak will be conducting the sixth Samatha meditation course. Samatha
(Calm abiding meditation) being the foundation of all Buddhist meditations is
suitable for both beginners and old students. If you or your friends have been
thinking of learning how to meditate properly, then please make your bookings
as soon as possible as there will be only a limited seats available.
AN INTENSIVE TIBETAN LANGUAGE COURSE
Date: 4 -29 January, 1993
Time: 10 am - 4. 00 pm.
Venue: Asian Studies, A. N. U. Campus
Cost: $ 450 Registration by 15 Dec, '92
This summer Lama will be giving a four week intensive course on Tibetan
language. Tibetan is one of the most important Buddhist languages since very
few texts are no longer extant in Sanskrit. This course is designed so that
students will be able to read, write and speak modern Tibetan and have the
knowledge of the classical grammar. It will be based on a Tibetan Primer Lama
has written and other Tibetan language materials.
For details Contact Lama Choedak (06) 292 8150
THE FOUR TIBETAN BUDDHIST SCHOOLS
The normal Samatha meditation will resume on November 22, when the next theme
for the Sunday classes, the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism will start. Since
Buddhism came to Tibet in 7th century, it is known to have developed four major
schools namely Nyingmapa, Kagyupa, Sakyapa and Gelukpa. Nyingma, the earliest
school has produced some of the reknowned mystics such as Padmasambhava, who
became the founding father of Tibetan Buddhism. Kagyupas are synonymous with
Milarepa and Marpa whose diligence and emphasis on practice has become the
living spirit of Tibetan Buddhism. The Sakyapas established true religious
education system and Dharma rulership of Tibet. It is through the extraordianry
influence of Sakya Pandita's scholarship that the Mongols became Buddhists
including Kublai Khan himself. The learned abbots of Sakya monastery taught and
groomed Tsongkhapa who later found his own school which later became known as
Gelukpa. The latter school which is somewhat more orthodox and conservative
emphasizes study and morality where as the other three are more liberal and
open minded. The classes will focus on the historical relationship between
these schools, their teachers and their approach and interpretation of the
Buddhist doctrine and practice.
THE VAJRAYANA FOUNDATION PRACTICES
Until a few months ago, the Ngon-dro, or Preliminary Practices of Tantric
Buddhism, were unknown to me. Since then, I have been learning about, and to
some extent, practicing them. (I must say, I was suprised how few Vajrayana
practitioners, that I know, are aware of the Ngondro, particularly as it is so
well known amongst Tibetans, its accumulation often occupying the first nine
months of a Lama's three year retreat). In this article, I hope to provide those
readers who have little or no concept of the Ngondro, with some idea of its
practices. As I have completed only a small fraction of the first two practices,
this article will draw substantially on readings and instruction from various
The Ngondro, or Preliminary Practices, are common to the four main lineages of
the Vajrayana, and are considered as a foundation, which practitioners are
advised to accumulate, as a basis for any subsequent practices. The main tantric
practices are, at best, of little benefit to practitoners who have not prepared
themselves suitably, the most suitable way being the accumulation of the Ngondro
or Preliminaries. Some Lamas, I am told, will not instruct practitioners, even
in samatha meditation, until they complete the Ngondro. Ngondro consist of four
common and four uncommon Preliminaries.
The four common Preliminaries are four conditions of our existence which we are
advised to contemplate. Doing so will inspire and motivate our practice. They
are as follows:
1) The scarcity of, and good fortune in, having obtained a rare, and precious,
human rebirth (one endowed with 18 conditions such as living in a place where
Dharma can be found, having a body which allows us to receive it and a mind open
to viewing it correctly).
2) The impermance of all dependent phenomena, including our precious human
rebirth, which may disappear at any time.
3) The law of cause and result, whereby all we experience, is seen as the
result of past thoughts and actions. Similarly, what will manifest as our
future, is determined by our past, along with the type of seeds we continue to
sow, at this very moment.
4) The monotonous unsatisfactoriness of Samsara and Dharma practice being alone
in having any real value, to others and ourselves.
Having reflected, or realised thus, one is open to the practice of the four
Extraordinary Preliminaries. They are as follows:
1) The first is the practice of prostrations and refuge. One visualises before
one, a refuge tree consisting, essentially, of Guru, Buddha, Dharma, Sanga.
Rainbow light emanates from the tree along with pure fragrances and blessings.
The components making up the tree are not static, but are active and alive,
radiating emanations and inspirations to all beings. They look at you, smiling,
and extremely pleased with the connection you are forming with them. One is in a
pure place, surrounded by all sentient beings, who will practice as you do. One
recites the refuge prayer whilst one prostrates (preferably full length) before
the tree, knowing that one is casting oneself, like a seed, into the merit
field. After completing as many prostrations as we like, or can, the refuge tree
dissolves into the Guru, who dissolves into light and streams into us, like
mixing water with water.
Done sincerely, and attentively, this practice serves to remove hindrances of
body, speech and mind, and develops a deepening integration and confidence with
the lineage, and Tantrayana in general. The body moves through life more
smoothly and with less drama, and one becomes more receptive to the influence of
blessings, or inspiration.
2) The second practice is that of Dorje Sempa. Dorje Sempa or Vajrasattva is a
manifestation of the purifying aspect of all Buddhas. Dorje Sempa is visualised
above our heads, and as we recite his 100 syllable mantra, white nectar flows
from him through and over our bodies, dissolving all defilements and
negativities of body speech and mind, accumulated since beginningless time, out
through the pores of our skin, the soles of our feet and our lower openings. We
visualise this leaving our bodies as soot, tar, spiders, ink, pus etc. and
dissolving into space. There are four ‘powers’, which increase the purification,
and may be brought to mind as we practice. They are, 1) regret over having
accumulated defilements, 2) a wish to purify them through practices such as
Dorje Sempa, 3) making a decision not to do harmful acts again, and 4) intending
to pursue positive directions in future, eg. refuge in the triple gem. To
conclude, we fill with nectar and are totally purified. Dorje Sempa then
dissolves into light and mixes inseparably with us. This practice can really be
a very powerful way to purify negative karma and tendencies, and broken vows,
leaving one feeling clear, light and pure.
3) The third, offering the Mandala, consists basically, of visualising Guru,
Buddha, Dharma, Sangha to whom one offers, symbolically, but with sincere
intent, all that is worthy of offering in the universe, by means of pouring
small heaps of rice onto a round metal plate, each heap representing a
particular aspect of the universe. This arrangement is then offered, and then
poured back into a heap in our laps, ready for the generation of the next
Offering the Mandala is quite involved, but done with a sincere attitude of
giving, this symbolic offering generates a willingness to give all, and reduces
attachment and self interest, but most importantly, it is a very effective means
to accumulate great merit (positive energy), an absolute prerequesite for
4) The fourth Preliminary is Guru Yoga. One visualises (senses, feels or knows,
which may help those who are not very comfortable with the term visualisation,
which, I am told, is a translation many Tibetan teachers are not entirely happy
with either) the Guru above ones head in deity form. One then generates certain
devotional bonds and recites prayers of aspiration, and then dissolves the Guru
into oneself, experiencing his qualities as not seperate from oneself.
This identification and merging with the Guru eliminates obstacles which keep
our nature seperate from theirs. We become very open to receiving transmission
and begin to experience glimpses of wisdom which really effect our lives.
All sessions of Ngondro practice should be preceeded by calming the mind,
reflecting on, or recitation of, the four Ordinary Preliminaries, refuge in the
Triple Gem and generating Bodhicitta. All sessions of Ngondro practice should be
concluded with dedication of merit to all beings, and an aspiration toward
Bodhicitta, or altruistic enlightment.
This then, is a sketchy description of the Ngondro or foundational practices. It
is prescribed that each of the four should be completed at least 100,000 times.
The inevitable 'need' to count ones progress and anticipate dates for
completion, lessen with time. Actually, the large numbers encourage one to let
go of the yearning for 'numerical and temporal' progress, and as we settle with
the practice, the goal starts to become apparent in the path. Some contentment
arises with our practice and our urge for quick completion of the Ngondro
subsides (Some Tibetans have completed the full Ngondro 20-25 times!).
In fact, being able to estimate an endpoint, albeit a seeming distant one, for
the practice, (something not possible for most other practices) should, if
anything, serve as an encouragement. The Ngondro is itself a complete and
profound practice. After having acuumulated their first Ngondro, many
practitioners will continue with the practices, in some form, as the continued
accumulation of inspiration, purification, merit and devotion,are of great
benefit, at verey stage of path. In this way, the Ngondro goes on to serve as a
supplementary, as well as a preliminary practice.
Some confidence, dedication, and no better answer to the question "What would I
be better off doing?" have motivated me with the practice for a few months now.
Actually, I think I would rather pass away with some accumulation of Ngondro,
rather than having had some kind of experience with many of the higher tantras.
(One can view Ngondro as not unlike the preparations and ordeals experienced by
Milarepa under his Guru, Marpa, which occupied him for many years before he was
suitable to receive and really benefit from the exceedingly profound and rapid
To practice Ngondro, one should develop a clear concept of the practice by
reading, and discussion with Lamas and other knowledgable practitioners. One
should then receive some form of oral transmission from a Vajra Master or
Lineage Holder, and a copy of the root text from which to practice. It is then
up to you to accumulate the foundations. I have access to a few small booklets
which anyone can borrow to help develop a more complete understanding of the
Ngondro. Here are a few things I consider important in my practice:
- Avoid being driven primarily by trying to clock up ones quota of numbers.
If one is sincere and 'with' each practice, they become more effective and
meaningful. Quality here is preferable to quantity (A few heartfelt sessions are
of much greater benefit than an ego telling itself that it has almost completed
5,000 prostrations.). Lift oneself into an awareness of, rather than thinking
about, each practice.
- Fairly consistent, and ongoing practice (as with almost all Buddhist
practices) is necessary to achieve anything more than some level of incidental
benefit. One should also try to complete larger blocks of practice eg. a weekend
practice retreat. (If interest is sufficient, and as practitioners become
established in the practices, we could perhaps organize something together.)
- If practising in the evening, do so earlier rather than last thing when one
is ready for sleep. Ones experiences are then more vivid.
Doing the Ngondro brings the direction of ones life around to a path more in
line with the Dharma. The windy bits straighten out somewhat, and detours hold
less interest (One shouldn't be suprised though, to find oneself jostled by a
few potholes as one proceeds). 400,000 preliminaries should leave one with an
unshakable confidence in, and dedication to, ones practice, a suitable
receptacle for subsequent teachings and blessings, and an effective vehicle for
subsequent practice. (At the very least, waking a little earlier and performing
prostrations, leaves one bright and awake, after having introduced at least some
spiritual influence into your mindstream, following what might be the most
worthwhile 1/2-1 hour of your day. Definitely preferable to fumbling around,
half asleep, one bleary eye seeking out the Weet Bix, the other one on the
Engaging a Precious Human Rebirth in Ngondro, could be similiar to a capable
person acquiring a small field. First, she tills the earth to break the clods
and open up the structure. Next, she removes all weeds and stones. Then, she
enriches it with fertilizer or compost. She then sows the the seeds of her
May your sweat and determination be sustained by all the Buddhas. May
increasing blessings derive from your flourishing practice. May the merit of
your practice serve to rapidly transport all beings to Buddhahood. Karmapa
Khyen-no! - Luiz Ribeiro
THE DISCOVERY OF THE 17TH KARMAPA
Karmapa Khyen-no (Karmapa Knows)! The long wait is over. The 17th Karmapa has
been found in eastern Tibet, not far from where the previous one was born. It
has been long eleven years since the previous Karmapa, the head of Karma Kagyu
tradition passed away in Chicago. Adherents of Karma Kagyu school and others
alike awaited patiently where, how and when his rebirth will be found. After
overcoming the normal hurdle of controversies as whose submission of the
candidate might be recognized as the actual rebirth of the previous Karmapa, the
office of the Cultural and Religious Council of the Tibetan government in exile
issued an official notice and confirmed Ugyen Trinley, a 7 year old boy born on
26 June 1985, in eastern province Kham as the 17th Karmapa. This timely
notification came at a time when the regents of Rumtek monastery were caught
in a heated argument regarding the authenticity of the sacred letter that Tai
Situpa produced. The sacred letter purportedly by the late Karmapa was found
in an amulet given to Tai Situpa, which clearly revealed the names of the would
be parents, date and place of birth of the 17th Karmapa. The official notice of
Dharamsala said: "His Holiness the Dalai Lama granted his final seal of
approval and recognition to the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa not randomly or hastily for
any reason, but after satisfying himself by means of hearing a series of reports
from all those concerned, studying and praying due consideration to the overall
matter, and reconfirming the final indications with exclusive traditional
It is a wondeful news to discover the incarnation of such a truly great
Bodhisattva once again in a human form who will no doubt benefit many sentient
beings as his predecessors. I recieved my novice ordination from the late 16th
Karmapa in 1967 during my high school days in Pokhara. Although I did not hear
almost anything what he said, I can recall the warm and comforting feeling
permeating my body as he touched his hands to mine during the ordination
ceremony when he was giving me the blessing of robes. He named me Karma
Tsultim Namdak, a name I never got to use it for various reasons. The last time
I saw him was in Lumbini, the birth-place of the Buddha before I went into the
three year retreat. The late 16th Karmapa had a most powerful presence which
can change the way you think of life and implant spiritual blessing which will
remain as an intregal part of your life. The discovery of his 17th incarnation
of Karmapa will significantly encourage many other great Tibetan masters who
have passed away to remanifest and enliven their Bodhisattvic activities. This
will also stop the speculation about the present Dalai Lama being the last
Dalai Lama. Lama Choedak
ENJOY THE FREEDOM TO PRACTICE
From 11th November, Wednesday nights will have an added significance for
practitioners as Chenrezig and Ngondro practices will be combined so that
students are given an opportunity to practice at the centre as a group.
Practice gives us an opportunity to extract the real benefit of our knowledge of
the Dharma and tests our patience, diligence and devotion to the Buddhadharma.
Practice helps us to overcome what we are not good at and teaches us the true
value of time we have. It is difficult to experience the true benefit of the
precious Dharma if we fail to keep up our daily or weekly practice commitments.
Day by day we are getting closer and closer to the inevitable death and if we do
not practice with diligence while we have the opportunity, we may never find
such a time in the future. This new arrangement helps us to introduce a sense
of discipline in our practices and offers encouragement to attend the practice
sessions more regularly so that our refuge vow in the Triple Gem is maintained.
Attending a session once a week should not only be treated as what we may
benefit ourselves but how others may also benefit from our companionship. Our
regular attendance will give much needed encouragement to others and will built
a strong Sangha within the group. Nothing good comes out of idleness so come
and join the practice. Break up the deadlock by marking in your diary that on
Wednesday nights, you are free to practice.
Registration and Rental Donation Form
Treasurer, Tibetan Buddhist Society of Canberra, P.O. Box 3430, Manuka, ACT, 2603
Yes, I would like to help support the Centre on a regular basis.
I agree to pay $.......... as a monthly standing donation.
from (date) ................................ until further notice
1) I enclose a cheque for $........... as a donation towards : please tick which one(s)
( ) a hand carved shrine ( ) the Building Fund ( ) mics. expenses
2) I enclose a cheque for $ ............ as a deposit for the
3) I enclose a cheque for $ ........... for membership/the subscription of the newsletter
end of file