Lama's full moon letter April 2022

Fri 22 Apr 2022

Dear All,

Springtime is upon us, the shrine room has been full of daffodil offerings, the tulips are blooming and the dawn chorus of birdsong is exuberant and joyful. The trees we planted in the fields continue to grow and are even blooming. They look like they have almost doubled in size from last year!

I was delighted to see an in depth review of my book , The Guru Principle, in the Shambhala Times written by Christine Hemming, a senior teacher in Shambhala and practitioner for over 45 years. In closing she writes:

“The Guru Principle has been tremendously helpful to me personally as I traverse the issues of the role of the guru and the student-teacher relationship. Lama Hookham writes with directness, clarity, and fearlessness. There is no doubt that she has thought about these issues long and hard. I would say every Vajrayana student should read this book.”  

Patis' book, Dementia Together: How to Communicate to Connect, has received not just one award, but a double award in Psychology and Self Help by The Independent Publishers in the US. It has now been translated into Dutch, Swedish, Taiwanese and there is more to come. Congratulations Pati! She is now in Poland visiting friends and family and is also visiting buddhist friends who are doing wonderful work supporting Ukrainian refugees. Here is a link if you feel inspired to support them.

As many of you may have read in my message to the sangha earlier this month my friend Mike Lear died 18th March aged 84. His funeral will be on April 22nd. He was the friend who supported me all the time I was in India – the one I left when I became a nun. (As told in my life story) 

Mike Lear

He was such an unselfish and generous man, I kept in touch with him by letter and phone over the years and spoke to him just a few months ago. I am praying for him and dedicating punya for him and telling everyone who has read Keeping the Dalai Lama Waiting so that they can pray for him too. It is a blessing for us too to have a special connection with such a fine person – I think he is a Bodhisattva in fact!

Ursula, from Lama Agnes’s German sangha, was here on retreat for over 2 weeks and she joined us in the shrine room for pujas and then meditated in the small cottage or out in the fields (it was incredibly good weather while she was here). She also tackled the overgrown brambles with great gusto - thank you! Sudhana’s daughter Elfie and her partner Charlie stopped in for two nights and camped alongside his tent out in the field. Sumeru from France arrived at the end of February and is here until late April volunteering and Rinchen Khandro from America has recently arrived and will also be with us for two months volunteering.  Deden has also been here for this past week’s retreat.

Tara is getting stronger by the day, slowly recovering her strength and its good to have her back in the shrine room. Jenny and her elderly dog Josie have visited a couple of times around the stupa. Josie is in her final days and Jenny helped her to do some kora around the stupa creating good tendrel. Dashu is doing well, we had our regular interview earlier in the month. The vegetable garden was recently planted up by Eli and Sumeru so we will see what made it through the last frost. Eli has reused the biodegradable lambswool packaging to create little blankets to give the seedlings a fighting chance and there is rocket sprouting right now!

As you may know I have been invited to the International Association for Tibetan Studies (IATS) conference on Buddha Nature in Prague in July. I have been continuing to prepare my talk for the conference which will be on Mandala Principle. I was talking to Anne Burchardi from Denmark, who will also be presenting in Prague, saying it is important now to reexamine our previous assumptions about Buddhism that are wrong, such as that the Buddha taught there is no self. Here is a link to her discussion from a practitioner's view on the Tsadra site that I recommend watching.  Lopen Karma Phuntsho (a Bhutanese scholar and practitioner) will also be part of the conference.  He wrote to me by email and we shared our view that  a practitioner can be just as analytically  rigorous and critical as any other academic and their work should not be automatically dismissed as biassed – which is how it has often been in the past. In fact a practitioners point of view might enhance the academic field of study. He is the digital writer in residence for the Tsadra website and has been hosting the Buddha Nature discussions there. I have been invited to be interviewed with him soon as part of this series of discussions.Recently a few of us here also watched an interview from the Tsadra site with Potprecha Cholvijarn discussing the Inspiration behind His Study of Self & Non-Self Debates in the Thai Theravāda Tradition which was very interesting.

I’ve also been listening recently to discussions between Rupert Spira and Bernado Kastrup – Spira is a non-dual Vedantist and Kastrup a scientist.  I thought it was an interesting discussion – especially Kastrup’s view of scientific materialism being so internally inconsistent that the only reason it is remotely plausible is historical accident – western science grew up under threat of being burnt alive if you trespassed on the Churches territory and the habit of limiting one's thinking to just the material world became entrenched and institutionalised. If you would like to listen here is the link Rupert Spira and Bernado Kastrup discussion

Rigdzin Shikpo rang me unexpectedly to invite me to his long life celebration.  We had an interesting Dharma discussion and he made various interesting observations including his view that scientific materialism and abhidharma are basically the same view. I attended the celebration on-line on Sunday and we did long life  for him. Many of my old friends and colleagues from Longchen were there – it was great to see them.  It ran from 2pm to 11pm! I contributed an offering for the tencho on our sangha’s behalf creating good tendrel for us all.

Plans for big space are ticking along and we will be meeting with a local architectural firm in the coming weeks to help manage the project. Jayasiddhi is investigating plans for a new boiler, good old Betsy has been repaired several times in the past few months and is now doing ok. But as we look forward to a new one we are keeping in mind the climate crisis and fuel crisis.

This week has been the Meditation & Daily Life Practice Retreat and I’ve been linking meditation to daily life practice. Thank you to Katie, Agnes, Five and Sherab for their excellent talks each day over the retreat. I heard from everyone here how much they were appreciated.In my first talk I used the DHB language and in the Thursday talk I linked this into the LAH of daily life practice and shila – in other words the precepts, the paramitas and Mandala Principle – our connections with others. Dharma practice is first and foremost about how we live our lives, our behaviour of body speech and mind. It's not just about sitting on a meditation cushion – even though this is an important aspect of the whole path and feeds into how we live our life – just as how we live our lives forms the necessary basis for meditation. This follows on from the previous retreat in which I laid out an outline of how all the various aspects of the teachings relate together and relate to how to practise Dharma in our daily life – not just on the cushion but within the context of a whole vision for what our life and death are about. 

Thank you everyone for your commitment and practice on and off the cushion – may it increase in power and create a strong mandala of Awakening that will Awaken to the world and all being!

With much love,