We hope you enjoy this end-of-year issue. We are thrilled to report on the extraordinary good fortune we had in the latter part of November to host Khenpo Lodro Donyo Rinpoche for a series of teachings, including the weeklong Mahamudra seminar. In addition, we have important announcements about year-end events and an update on the Windhorse Fundraising Campaign and the opportunity of three-year retreat at SCOL.
With this issue, we are using a new format that is linked to our website. Please let us know (at email@example.com) if you have any difficulty bringing up or reading your newsletter this month. May your new year be filled with inspiration and connection.
A Visit From Venerable Khenpo Rinpoche
By Abby Krajewski
Last month, KCC hosted the visit of Khenpo Lodro Donyo Rinpoche, abbot of Bokar Monastery in Mirik, India. Accompanying him from Mirik were Umze Chopel, Lama Karma Tashi, and Lama Ozer.
Khenpo Rinpoche gave the gift of his teachings over two weeks in the Northwest, beginning with the Mahamudra seminar November 17‑24 at Seabeck Conference Center in Seabeck, Washington.
Dharma practitioners came from Oregon, Washington, Canada, and elsewhere to receive Khenpo Rinpoche’s teachings against the backdrop of the Olympic Mountains and Hood Canal. At the weeklong seminar, Khenpo Rinpoche guided the 108 attendees and Lamas through practices of the Mahamudra program—clearly, warmly, and with many stories and practical advice. Through translators Ngodup Burkhar and Eric Triebelhorn, he emphasized that we can make good use of the dharma by learning how to engage it in our everyday lives, and that practitioners should feel “very lucky and very fortunate” to have discovered it in this lifetime.
Between sessions, practitioners took walks around the Seabeck campus, chatted over mugs of tea in the pop-up KCC bookstore, and established new connections over lunch and dinner in the dining hall. Through his joyful demeanor, Khenpo Rinpoche related the culture and traditions of Tibetan Buddhism in an accessible manner. Over the week, Khenpo Rinpoche performed the refuge ceremony for seven individuals, offered the Chenrezig empowerment and led the Milarepa tsok.
After the seminar, Khenpo Rinpoche gave teachings at the Eliot Center in the First Unitarian Church of Portland, as his entourage grew by one with the presence of Lama Tashi from Toronto. Rinpoche’s teachings included advice for beginning dharma practitioners, the two Bodhicittas, and the practice of Chenrezig in life and death. All teachings were full of inspirational and practical reminders. Relating the importance of loving kindness and compassion to newcomers, Khenpo Rinpoche extended the encouragement: “One enemy is too many, and 100 friends is too few.” Before Khenpo Rinpoche’s teaching about Chenrezig, Lama Michael Conklin addressed the audience with this insight to remember when studying Buddhism:
“We’re talking about death, but don’t forget—it’s really about life.”
The day before Thanksgiving, Rinpoche and his entourage travelled to Goldendale, WA, to spend two days at Ser Chö Ösel Ling. Lama Michael Conklin, Lama Tara, Julia King Tamang, Eric Triebelhorn, and a small crew of sangha volunteers accompanied them. Stopping at blustery Multnomah Falls on the way, Rinpoche briskly walked up the path to the falls, commenting on the beautiful scenery. On arrival at the retreat center, Khenpo Rinpoche said it felt like home, as Umze Chopel, Lama Tashi, Lama Karma Tashi, and Lama Ozer expressed appreciation for the natural setting. On Thanksgiving, he enjoyed a vegetarian feast with SCOL staff and volunteers. Passing a bounty of pumpkin and apple pies around the table to share, all enjoyed the
treats provided by KCC sangha members.
At SCOL, Khenpo Rinpoche entered the cloisters to give teachings to one-year retreatants and visited North and South sides to bless the cabins. Walking around the land, he admired the scenery and asked questions about the center’s future plans. He blessed the Buddha statue near Old NW Road and walked through the sagebrush and rocks to the Tara statue offering a blessing, tossing rice, and touching his head to her feet. Back at the center after the walk, Rinpoche was shown the future site for SCOL staff quarters, and blessed it as well.
The last day of his visit in Portland, Khenpo Rinpoche performed the Chenrezig empowerment again and offered refuge to thirteen refuge seekers. At the small KCC send-off later that evening, Rinpoche beamed to sangha members from the throne which normally holds the photo of Very Venerable Kalu Rinpoche. Khenpo Rinpoche spoke for a few moments, reiterating his encouragement for the work KCC does to facilitate practice of the dharma. Walking out of the room to a sea of white katas, he smiled and waved goodbye. Sangha members stayed for a time to celebrate the gift of Khenpo Rinpoche’s teachings.
Three-Year Retreats with KCC
By Julia King Tamang
In March 2015, KCC will seal its first three-year retreat. Lamas Michael Conklin and Tara Goforth will teach. In a best-case scenario, eight men and eight women will enter the Ser Chö Ösel Ling retreat cloister, and will not exit the retreat for three full years. Each participant will do more than 12,000 hours of practice.
What does this have to do with you?
How did you learn to practice? Most of us can point to a teacher or other spiritual friend—or a book or two that guides our practice. We may have met great practitioners like the Karmapa or the Dalai Lama. We may have been deeply inspired by a practicing community member with no title who nonetheless embodies the dharma in a way that is accessible and instructive. Most of these people are inspiring because they are living, breathing examples of some level of spiritual accomplishment. Through our connection with these people, we experience the fruition of the dharma firsthand.
To accomplish and embody the dharma takes consistent practice. With sufficient discipline and motivation, such practice can be done outside of retreat. Our tradition and many others are filled with examples of practitioners leading lay or ordained lives outside retreat who have become realized beings, and an inspiration to others. But there have also been many examples of those who have relied on the support of long retreat to engage in deep and continuous practice.
For more than thirty years, KCC has supported the practice of those not doing long retreat, almost exclusively. Nearly 100 percent of our teaching resources have been spent on Sunday services and short retreats. In 2013, for the first time, KCC directed a significant amount of teaching hours to a small group of people inside an extended long retreat. In 2015, it will direct even more resources towards this same practice modality.
At this time, we will take another step towards fulfilling our mission and vision to support all practitioners at all stages of life and spiritual development. It is my hope that practitioners from the long retreats will inspire others as they progress on the pathduring and after the long retreat—fueling the likelihood that more and more KCC members will find the inspiration and support they need to create and maintain a stable and fruitful practice outside long retreat, in the context of a busy life that includes family, friends and work.
It will be easiest for this to happen if the KCC community understands the interconnected web of benefit that comes from hosting a long retreat. Our first few retreats are important experiments for this very reason. If the community focuses on the benefit of the long retreats, and if those in long retreat stay focused on the benefit of the community, I think we will succeed.
If you would like to learn more about the KCC three-year retreat, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll put you on a list of those receiving more news and information as our recruitment for the retreat progresses. You can also ask in Sunday question-and-answer sessions how you can be a part of the three-year retreat as a community member not intending to sit the retreat. Just as we need practitioners to sit the retreat, we also need community members who experience firsthand what it means to be part of a community that nurtures long retreats and benefits from hosting them.
KCC’s Annual Bodhisattva Night
Date: Saturday, December 21
Time: 6:30-9:00 pm
Place: KCC Urban Center
Please bring a SNACK to share!
Inspiration From Bodhisattvas Among Us
By Barbara Bell
The annual KCC Bodhisattva celebration is a joyous holiday gathering for adults and children alike, with stories, music, good food. As we enjoy the occasion, we might also consider its Boddhisattva theme by asking ourselves how to best respond to the difficulties of others as Bodhisattvas in training. Two KCC members—Hanna Karlin and Bob Harr—have found very personal and practical answers to this question.
After closing her Portland dental practice and spending most of the year raising funds and collecting donated equipment and supplies, Hanna Karlin prepares to leave December 25 to spend a year in Northern India and Tibet. Part of that time will be spent practicing dentistry. “I’m excited and a little bit overwhelmed. It’s important to me to expand the circle of giving beyond my immediate community and give to people who may never see me again,” she explains.
This is the longest and most extensive project she has undertaken since 2008, when she spent her vacation at the Kagyu Monlam prayer gathering and began doing extractions at nearby monasteries. “Over the years, I added a couple of weeks of work in monasteries before or after the Monlam to do teeth cleaning, filling and root canals. I am training monks, nuns and lay people so they can continue the work.” While at the monasteries, she worked eight to ten-hour days. “Due to lack of money and dentists in the area, I try to see as many people as I can. The patients move through as if on a conveyer belt and communication is through a translator whose job is also to sterilize the instruments.”
Hanna’s 2014 project brings her to live by the Gyuto Monastery. From there, she will travel to remote monasteries and nunneries to provide dental services. In Yushu, a city struck by a major earthquake a few years ago, she’ll help establish a medical/dental clinic where Thrangu Rinpoche nuns will be trained to clean and fill teeth. One of her key goals is to teach prevention—rarely promoted in the third world.
She also plans to return to Tibet, to the Nangchen area where she was part of a medical team that started a medical/dental clinic in a nunnery in 2011, and to villages in Kham, although bringing supplies into Tibet is a logistical challenge.
While Hanna tackles pain and ignorance through dentistry, Bob Harr tackles hunger in Uganda through a unique property investment project.
Back in 2009, Bob Harr accepted a three-month volunteer assignment to teach English at a private high school in Nkokonjeru, Uganda, Africa. “With no materials and no teaching experience, I could barely work with my students. I was happy to leave this assignment when the term ended.” But he was not ready to leave Uganda. Living there opened his eyes to the needs of the people of the communities surrounding the school. He had shared meals with them, played with their children. Many did not have sufficient food, simply because they had no place to grow it. Now that was something he could do something about!
Why couldn’t he buy some land, set up some way to ensure that the poorest people had a plot to grow food, provide good seed and fertilizer and see what happened?
Bob formed an advisory team of trusted men from the school. They helped identify and purchase property, interfaced with tribal chiefs to identify qualified families, and agreed to administer operations during Bob’s time in Oregon. Over the years Bob has faced both successes and failures with equanimity. “At times, cultural differences surface when advisors make decisions that seem strange to me. On the positive side seventy-five families are growing their food on twenty acres we’ve purchased over time. We even built an office for the project.” After tending his garden in Portland through spring and summer, Bob returned to Uganda for the second time this year to solve
logistical problems and work to secure the future of the project.
As KCC celebrates Bodhisattva Night, let us take inspiration from Hanna and Bob and look for opportunities for service and generosity throughout the year to come.
New Year Retreat with Refuge Ceremony
Registration is open for the 2013/2014 New Year Retreat on:
Tuesday, December 31, from 9 am to 4 pm, and
Wednesday, January 1, from 9 am to 3:30 pm,
followed by the Refuge Ceremony from 4:30 pm to 6:00 pm
KCC Urban Center
Led by Lama Michael Conklin
Zhinay, or Calm Abiding, will be taught during the New Year Retreat. The practice is the essential underpinning of all other meditation practices. While our minds are busy and distracted by a myriad of disconnected thoughts, feelings, and emotions, it is not possible to deeply engage the meditation methods that could lead us to the intended result of directly recognizing the nature of mind. Zhinay is a direct method for learning to let the mind rest naturally, free of our commitment to the tyranny of these distractions. This short, two-day retreat will provide participants an opportunity to learn how to meditate using a few of the many methods available. We will explore in open discussion
how we can carry this meditation into our daily affairs and, vice versa, our daily affairs into our meditation. In short, we will take this opportunity to consider how we can integrate our spiritual path into the rest of our life, laying the ground for them to become completely inseparable.
Everyone is invited to attend and witness the Refuge Ceremony—you may attend or participate in the refuge ceremony without having attended the retreat. If you are planning on participating in the ceremony, taking the step of formally entering the path, then we encourage you to invite friends and family according to what you feel is appropriate.
In addition, it is helpful for Lama Michael to know about your intention in advance, though not absolutely necessary.
Registration: There is a $120 suggested donation to cover the cost of offering this retreat. However, a donation of any amount is appreciated, and no one will be turned away for lack of funds. There is no charge for attending or participating in the Refuge Vow Ceremony.
This is KCC’s most popular retreat, so registering early is highly recommended. Visit KCC’s web site for more information.
Inspired Giving for the Windhorse Campaign
Capping an inspiring Mahamudra Seminar, Linda Besant, KCC Board member,announced a plethora of gifts toward the construction of staff residences at SCOL as well as several other Windhorse Comprehensive Campaign objectives. Taken together with previous gifts and pledges, the SCOL fund now stands at $79,442. The Urban Center Seed Fund stands at $130,000. During the seminar, word reached KCC that the Brill Foundation has released a gift of approximately $30,000 for construction of the Staff Residence Meditation Room, which brings SCOL funding to $108,443.
Founding KCC member, Sanje Elliott gave $20,000 toward SCOL and another $30,000 toward the future Urban Center, gifts honoring the memory of his sister and brother-in-law Pat and Jack Wood.
Janet McAlpin, a major contributor to SCOL, announced a $5,000 challenge gift that was swiftly met by Graciela Montani of Dallas, Texas, in memory of her father, William Watson. Announcing this challenge gift, Janet noted that supporting KCC and the SCOL project was her way of ensuring that the dharma is available for her son and others of future generations.
Another $3000 came from retreat participants, who received CD’s of teachings from the Venerable Kalu Rinpoche in gratitude for their gifts.
In its December report to the Board of Directors, the Development Committee indicated that KCC has received gifts of nearly $82,117 applicable to the 2013 General Fund goal of $90,000. End-of-year giving is always an important way of meeting KCC’s annual operations expenses. Every new and increased gift is being encouraged by a $10,000 challenge grant. In recent communications with KCC’s constituency, Lama Michael reminded all that “every donor benefits from being a part of something good!”