Losar Tashi Delek!
From the foothills of the Himalayas, I send you all my best wishes for a happy and prosperous Tibetan Year of the Water Dragon.
I am writing to you from my home in Nepal, where I have been staying for the past several months. My mother-in-law passed away recently, and I have been offering support to my wife, Chime-la, as she mourns that loss.
Now as a new year begins, I would like to take a few moments to reflect on some of the projects and events of the past year and share some of the exciting news about the coming year.
As some of you may know, two years ago Gebchak Changchub Nuns Meditation Retreat Center was resettled in the small village of Chobar, close to Kathmandu. Since then, a number of young women—including 80 girls from my own hometown of Nubri—have come to Chobar to participate in the general and the spiritual educational opportunities offered there. In order to accommodate so many new arrivals we transformed the administrative building into a boarding house and built temporary structures to use as classrooms, dormitory space and clinic space. We also hired an English teacher, a Nepali teacher and a Tibetan teacher to enhance the curriculum and support the monks and nuns who already teach there. A total of seven teachers are now in residence, while two caretakers have been engaged to look after the basic needs of the youngest nuns. Doctors have also begun visiting regularly during the past year, to provide immunizations and regular health care.
Chobar Nuns Studying
Meanwhile, the nuns enrolled in the Chobar shedra—or center for the higher study of Buddhist philosophy—recently completed their second year examinations. Several senior teachers from the renowned Nyagyur Nyingma Institute of Namdroling Monastery in Mysore, India are teaching in the shedra. Our goal is for the nuns studying there to become qualified to teach the Dharma in both Tibetan and English, fulfilling the first Tsoknyi Rinpoche’s vision of establishing an order of fully accomplished women who are able to impart their knowledge and wisdom to others.
New Shrine Hall at Muktinath; Grandfather, H.E. Khamtrul Rinpoche & Tsoknyi Rinpoche
I am also pleased to announce that last October, the new shrine hall at Chumig Gyatsa nunnery in Muktinath was formally consecrated. Details of the consecration ceremony—which was attended by His Eminence Khamtrul Rinpoche, the Prince and Princess of Mustang, Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche, Chokling Rinpoche, Shangpa Rinpoche, my grandfather, my mother, my daughters, and many monks and nuns—can be found here.
New Chumig Gyatsa Nunnery at Muktinath
I am grateful for the help and contribution of many of my students from all over the world, and especially for the support of James and Jean Chang, for bringing this project so close to fruition. The shrine hall, where the nuns will study and practice, is nearly complete—and I must admit that, of the many building projects in which I’ve been involved over the years, this is the most exquisite. The enormous building stones, the splendid interior artwork, and the superbly crafted shrine objects all combine to create an inspiring environment for study and contemplation. It was also quite moving to see the rapt expressions on the faces of the elderly nuns who have resided there for many years. This new shrine hall fulfills, for many of them, a lifelong dream.
I have high hopes for the future of the Chumig Gyatsa community. The younger nuns, who range in age from 22 to 45 years old, are brimming with enthusiasm for the Dharma. When the shrine hall is finally complete, approximately ten of these dedicated women will enter a traditional three-year retreat.
Tsoknyi Nangchen Nuns in VajraKilaya Practice
The community of Tsoknyi Lineage nuns in Nangchen has grown somewhat over the past year. At Gebchak, the central nunnery, the main shrine hall—severely damaged by the 2010 earthquake—has been fully demolished. It is my sincere hope that construction of a new shrine hall can begin this year. Some funds have been raised, and we hope to fulfill the endowment fund this year. In the meantime, we are coordinating with the Chinese authorities on a variety of matters. More information the Tsoknyi Lineage Nuns of Nangchen can be found here.
Meanwhile, the Pundarika organizations in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Europe sponsored a number of wonderful retreats throughout 2011 (14 retreats in 10 countries in 5 continents across the globe). This included the month-long pilgrimage, which visited the Buddha’s four sacred places in India and Nepal, the consecration of the new shrine hall for the Tsoknyi Nepal Lineage Nuns at Chumig Gyatsa, and a spiritual tour of Bhutan. I also participated in a major conference on the future of Buddhism in Mongolia, which took place in Lumbini, Nepal and one on global Buddhism, which took place in Delhi. Vajra Television in New York City invited me to give a dharma talk that was broadcast across the Himalayan region and China. I was also very fortunate to be able to attend, for the second year in a row, six weeks of teachings on the history and transmission of the Dzogchen lineages given by Khenpo Namdrol in Oakland, California.
Yeshe Tsogyal Cave in Bhutan
In the fall of 2011, a large group of my students and friends from all over the world embarked on a pilgrimage to India and Bhutan—a very powerful means of enhancing practice and deepening our connection to the great bodhisattvas and yogis of the Buddhist tradition. The pilgrimage was a wonderful opportunity to make an actual physical connection with a sacred place and to open ourselves to the blessings that permeate the atmosphere. Photographs and a description of some of the highlights of the pilgrimage can be found here.
Looking ahead, I’m happy to announce that my new book, Open Heart, Open Mind, will be published in the United States on April 3, 2012. As many of you know, I have been working on this book for some time now, together with Eric Swanson. The book focuses primarily on the importance of connecting with “essence love—the tender, unbiased openness toward all creatures that lies at the heart of our being—and explores a variety of practical tools for making that connection and for nurturing that brilliant spark into a bright, burning flame that warms the whole world. Understanding the importance of essence love and learning to cultivate it is, I believe, crucial for the times in which we live, and is equally relevant to people who may know little or nothing of the Dharma as well as to long-term practitioners.
To date, rights to the book have been sold to publishers in Germany, the United Kingdom, and Taiwan. In addition, Pundarika Foundation in the United States has just launched a new web site, www.tsoknyirinpoche.org. The new site includes all of the resources of the former Pundarika web site, and it will also offer new learning resources and incorporate some exciting new social media features that will help us stay more connected as I travel around the U.S. and the globe over the coming year.
My U.S. book tour and international teaching schedule can be found here, and I hope to see many of you over the coming year. In the meantime, I encourage you to check the new web site for the latest news and updates. I also invite those of you who are active on Facebook and Twitter to join me there, too—and to please bear with me as I learn a few new skills!
With deep love and respect,