Ser Chö Ösel Ling Update Spring 2015

by Abby Cummings

On April 4th, Kagyu Changchub Chuling celebrated a momentous occasion with the sealing of its first three year retreat at Ser Chö Ösel Ling—The Land of Clear Light Golden Dharma. Seated in the lava rocks and ponderosa pines of Goldendale, Washington, the retreat sealing was an event more than 15 years in the making.

Guests came from as near as Hood River and as far as South America to give farewell wishes to the eleven retreatants: Kathleen Benz, Julia King Tamang, Hanna Karlin, Lois Beran, Susan Gladstone, Jane Harden, Galen Doucette, Liza Baer, Maggie Snee, Wendi Wood, and Susan Morgan.    

3YR Sealing—Green Tara Puja
Green Tara Puja

In This Issue






Barbara Bell, Linda Besant, Abby Cummings, Jake Cummings, John Cusack, Jessica Dennison, Barbara Miller,
Marci Roth, Bill Spangle, Rosemarie Sweet, and
Peg Swift​ contributed to the production of this update.

The day’s events began at 9:00a.m. in the shrine room of the south cloister, led by Venerable Lama Tsang Tsing of Kagyu Dakshang Chuling in Eugene, Oregon, who served as retreat master during Lama Michael’s three year retreat. Accompanying Lama Tsang Tsing were Lama Sonam, Lama Yangchen, and Ani Kunzang who were all on three year retreat with Lama Michael.

The primary leaders of the the three year retreat will be KCC’s Lama Michael Conklin and Lama Tara Goforth of British Columbia. Addressing the audience of visitors, Lama Michael noted the prevalent “sense of joy” filling the air as the community came together to support retreatants in doing “what they feel so passionate about doing.” He noted the exceptional amount of time, prayers, people-hours, and donations that made possible the creation of SCOL and the three year retreat.

Retreatant Lois Beran receives a kata from Lama Tsang Tsing
Retreatant Lois Beran receives a kata from Lama Tsang Tsing

Lama Tsang Tsing then guided the audience through the Green Tara Puja. Lama Eric Triebelhorn performed the Fire Puja in the bright sunlight just outside the shrine room. Through the translation of Ani Kunzang, Lama Tsang Tsing observed the “great power and great benefit” in doing the practice together. He said that “real benefit is realized from actual practice,” and encouraged the retreatants to give their “very best.”

Then came farewells. Sangha members, friends, and family filed through the shrine room offering the retreatants katas, hugs, smiles, tears, gifts, gratitude, and blessings. A delicious buffet lunch was then provided by SCOL staff and sangha volunteers, while lamas and retreatants remained inside the cloister.

Three Year Retreatants Circumambulating the Cloisters

Following lunch, the sealing ceremony for the retreat began. Lama Tsang Tsing led retreatants in a circumambulation of the north and south cloisters. The appropriate blessings and rituals were offered and white kata given to each retreatant. The retreatants then filed into the cloisters, and the gates were shut—the retreat was sealed.

by Jake and Abby Cummings

The staff quarters at SCOL have reached completion, marking the end of KCC’s initial construction goals, and giving way to a time of new beginnings at Ser Chö Ösel Ling. Newly-hung prayer flags flap in the wind. With the turning of spring, the grasses are green, the ground is defrosting, and the three year retreat has begun.

During the months leading up to the retreat sealing, hired contractors and sangha volunteers put in an incredible amount of work. The fruits of these efforts are seen in the great accomplishment of the residence building and in many other details around the cloisters.

In the new building, residents all have separate apartments with kitchen and bath that are well sound-proofed for privacy. On the way to each unit is a communal living room, providing the opportunity for staff socializing. Down some steps is a shared meditation room. Of the room’s placement, sangha volunteer Jef Gunn says, “You don’t pass it on the way to somewhere else; you go there to go there.” The layout and design of staff quarters is meant to support a contemplative lifestyle and provide a sense of home. Windows in the building regard calming scenes like Mt. Hood, oaks and pines.

In addition to preparing the new quarters, many other projects have been needed around the cloister in recent months. Volunteers organized and deep-cleaned the cabins, touched up paint, and laid down gravel on the cloister paths. Around the perimeter of the cloisters, they worked on the fire break designed to stop or slow the advancement of fires.

The Four Kings, illustrated by Tara SullivanAmong the final details added to the cloister before the retreat sealing, outside the door of each cabin in both cloisters hangs one of the eight auspicious signs. Sangha member and graphic artist Tara Sullivan designed the plaques several years ago, and, with the help of master woodworker Steve Parker and the painting of Betta Ledbetter, they were finished and installed during SCOL’s February work party. In addition, Sullivan watercolored paintings of the Heavenly Kings of the four cardinal directions which are now mounted outside the gates of the cloisters. Images of the Four Kings were traditionally placed on retreat gates to invoke protection from malicious forces. Sullivan’s paintings include elements that she came upon while researching 16th century thanka paintings, including rainbows and cloud patterns.

After the many months and years of bustle leading up to this time, resident staff and volunteers now turn their focus to supporting retreat. The road to the center is quieter, the coming and going has slowed. Retreatants are inside practicing with guidance from the retreat lamas. Away from the land, sangha members practice with them, united in a wish to benefit all beings.


This incredible milestone would not have happened without your generous support. As construction wraps up, we are calculating the final cost of all of our building at SCOL. Donations can still be made to the Building Fund to cover any remainder. Additionally, if you wish to contribute specifically to the upkeep of Ser Chö Ösel Ling, please designate gifts to the Cloister Fund, which go toward retreat expenses not covered by retreat fees and will pay for SCOL maintenance.

Checks can be sent to:

73 NE Monroe Street

Portland, OR  97212

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Kagyu Changchub Chuling

73 NE Monroe Street
Portland, OR 97212
United States