“Knowing how difficult it is for us to see our own prejudices, cultural patterns, and superstitions, I experienced Rinpoche's actions as miraculous. Most of the people I knew in the counter culture movement believed in equality and freedom but actually felt themselves to be superior to most other people. While they had high aspirations, they lacked the methods and tools to manifest them. Kalu Rinpoche's words told me that he understood our innate qualities and potential and from that place of accurate seeing, he just effortlessly spoke the truth. This was the likely, even normal outcome of the deep spiritual work and inquiry he pursued. And from my perspective in early 2014, just three months from finishing a cloistered one-year retreat with nine women and three men, and the three-year retreat looking like it will have more women than men, I'd say that he saw things very clearly indeed.”
Part of Kalu Rinpoche’s life was spent in sustained meditation in the wilderness. For those of us who live in the bustle of the modern world, his life may seem to have little to do with ours. But a closer examination illuminates our connections with this extraordinary being.
With auspicious signs surrounding his arrival, Kalu Rinpoche was born in 1905 in eastern Tibet to a mother and father who had both just recently completed several years of retreat. Even at a young age he exhibited deep concern for the well-being of others and enthusiasm for study and meditation. He received monastic vows from the eleventh Situ Rinpoche at the age of thirteen, and, at sixteen, he went on to begin three-year retreat where he had the opportunity to receive the teachings of the Shangpa Kagyu lineage.
At the age of twenty-five, Kalu Rinpoche began a period of austere and intensive retreat in the mountains of Tibet in order to go deeply into the heart of the teachings and practices he had received. During this time his nephew, Gyaltsen, briefly visited him and found his uncle contentedly living on a rocky ledge that he described as barely sheltered enough to merit classification as a cave, with the front wide open to a constant north wind.
After twelve years of retreat, Kalu Rinpoche acceded to repeated requests by his own retreat master to return to Palpung monastery and take responsibility for the retreat center there. While he also taught, caring for retreats was a central activity of his life until the mid-1950's when he left Tibet for Bhutan, and later, India.
In India, he accepted the offering of a small monastery in Sonada, near Darjeeling, where he built a retreat center and began to train monks and lamas again. In the 1960's, he began to encounter travelers from the West who were struck by his presence and wisdom. In 1971, these individuals invited him to teach in Europe and North America, beginning yet another phase of his activity.
Through the 1970's and 1980's, he made a number of trips, first establishing Dharma centers and sending lamas he had trained and then opening centers for the traditional three-year retreat, first in France and then in Canada and the United States. One of the retreats he helped supervise was the three-year retreat in Oregon that Lama Michael attended. There is a direct connection between this retreat and the eventual development of KCC's long retreat center. When Lama Michael arrived at KCC, it was clear to those in leadership that he embodied the great potential that long retreats hold to create transformative teachers. From then on, KCC leaders held the aspiration to develop a long-term retreat center, which of course came to fruition with SCOL.
Kalu Rinpoche's story exemplifies a way of life that is now largely an anachronism in the tide of modernity, both east and west. If we focus on what is remote and exotic in his life, we may be inclined to think that the opportunity to practice and realize the meaning of the Buddha's teachings has passed, along with that way of life. Yet it is also clear that this great being had a deep confidence that the profound meaning of the Dharma could be absorbed by those whom many Tibetans thought of as barbarians from distant lands (like us!). Our retreat lands and our individual and collective efforts to follow the path of the dharma are testimony to the strength of his vision.
Teacher Supported Practice Sessions
Saturdays, starting January 18, 2014, 7:00 am-10:00 am
Event Leader: Julia King Tamang
Location: KCC Urban Center
In an effort to help us all keep practice commitments in 2014, we are offering a simple “extra” practice time at KCC for the next several months. There is no fee and no registration is required to engage in this—just show up! Offerings to Julia and/or to KCC will be gratefully accepted.
You may do any practice taught at KCC. This means that there will be more noise than usual as people softly recite mantras or do prostrations, mandala or other practices. We'll work with this expectation and hopefully, in harmony. Those of you who have no practice commitments are also welcome–just come and sit as we do on Sundays. There will be a ten-minute practice break each hour and, though there is no question and answer session, Julia is happy to privately answer questions during the short breaks.
We will meet on Saturday mornings from 7:00 am-10:00 am on the following dates at KCC Urban Center:
Out of respect for the KCC residents, please come and go quietly, use the restroom downstairs only, leave on time and clean up after your self. There is no childcare available.
Come and practice together on these special Saturdays at KCC!
Ngondro Quarterly Sessions
The Ngondro practices are frequently referred to as the preliminaries for the Vajrayana. At KCC, Ngondro is mainly taught and supported as a component of the Mahamudra Program designed by Kyabje Bokar Rinpoche, although it is not required as part of the Mahamudra retreat.
January 11 – Refuge and Prostrations
March 1 – Vajrasattva
June 7 – Mandala
August 23 – Guru Yoga
The schedule on these days will be as follows:
9am - 12 noon, Instruction and Q&A
12 Noon - 1pm, Brown Bag Lunch
1pm - 3pm, Practice Session
Please come for all or part. For questions, contact Bill Spangle. No registration is required.
Seven Points of Mind Training
The Seven Points system is a complete path emphasizing both relative and ultimate bodhicitta. The system includes tonglen or ‘taking and sending,’ about which much has been written in contemporary Buddhist press. The system also includes more than fifty slogans to guide daily practice. Though many of the mind training slogans are transparent, a few are somewhat cryptic; so many people find it helpful to have a formal introduction.
This seminar will focus primarily on the aphorisms (tonglen is the focus of a retreat offered later in the year). The Seven Points of Mind Training system is known for being excellent for busy householders, who can use the aphorisms as focal points for carrying practice throughout the day, thereby increasing practice without necessarily increasing time on the cushion. For questions on the content of this seminar, .
Friday, February 21, 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM through
Saturday, February 22, 9:00 AM - 3:00 PM
Event Leader: Julia King Tamang
Location: KCC Urban Center (non-residential retreat)
Practical application and practice sessions, with brown bag lunch break and tea breaks.
The suggested donation for this event is $20 for Friday evening only / $80 for Friday and Saturday.
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