Lama's full moon letter June 2022

Berlin, Gana Gathering, Vows weekend & more

Sun 19 Jun 2022

June Full Moon Newsletter 2022


Five Wisdoms Weekend / Berlin Weekend

When I last wrote we were on the cusp of the Berlin weekend, 90 people signed up and it was nearly half and half Lama Agnes’s Herz der Dinge and AHS. Lama Agnes gave the introductory talk on Friday evening filling everyone in on the history of my involvement with the group who used to meet in Berlin until the lockdown, that’s why we are still calling it the Berlin weekend!

I spoke on the topic of the five Buddha wisdoms/energies/qualities/, the five aspects of the play of wakefulness/Buddha Nature/ non-dual Jnana/primordial intelligence – however you prefer to label them! I tended to stress that, like Openness, Clarity and Sensitivity, the five are all expressions of the same one Reality – Totality itself. Just as OCS are inseparable from each other and found in our immediate experience of ourselves and our world so are the five Buddha wisdoms. In fact, you can think of OCS as three of them and qualities and activity as two more that branch off from sensitivity. One could just as well include them in with sensitivity, meaning that in terms of the relation between these Five Buddha Wisdom teachings and DHB they complement each other. The five wisdoms being a more detailed development of DHB in terms of spiral learning.

I suggested that for us in AHS, once we are familiar with DHB and THB, we might like to familiarise ourselves with the Five Wisdoms. There is a lot written about them on the internet and I mentioned Francesca Fremantle’s Luminous Emptiness: Understanding the Tibetan Book of the Dead and Irini Rockwell’s The Five Wisdom Energies and shared an article of hers with everyone. I find the breakdown and application of the five energies fascinating and quite fun to explore, in much the same way as exploring personality traits in astrology and other such models. But personally I find it can get a bit too much and almost be a distraction from the central principle of the ultimate inseparability of all the aspects. In other words it can all get very analytical and heady rather than leading us back to our heart connection to the essence of them.

Nonetheless I have found over the years that my appreciation of different kinds or styles of expressing love or intelligence has helped to empathise more with these qualities in myself and in others. The sense of the wisdom energies as being intuitively available to us rather than something we can crank up through self-effort. As well as all the ways they can be made available to our awareness through art and poetry, stories and drama, dance and song.  Eventually the five wisdoms appear to us as spontaneous lights that we can encounter in our direct experience, especially in the after death state. That said I wouldn’t particularly recommend reading the Tibetan Book of the Dead unless one felt particularly drawn to it. It is primarily for much more advanced practitioners than I am ever likely to be. Although I find it interesting, the experience of what will happen for particular individuals as described in the text is not as definite as it sounds. I am going to aim to keep things as simple as possible when I die and keep to practices that I do every day because I know them best and I have built up a strong connection to them!

Talks over the past month

This past month I've given several talks. One of them was to Meyrav’s organisation, Abiding Heart Education (AHE) which is based in Nepal. AHE is a group of student teachers from all over the world and Meyrav is one of the advisors of the project. She’s been creating a curriculum for Buddhist training for Buddhist schools and she's got about 30 teachers who are training to be able to deliver that curriculum. She wanted me to give a talk on Guru principle and it was an  wonderful opportunity to share what I had to say with people who are going to be training children, so that is very worthwhile.

I also recently pre-recorded my talk for the International Association of Tibetan Studies conference in Prague. One of the themes of the conference is Buddha Nature and linking the practice tradition and scholarly study. The recording will be shown in early July, and I'll also answer questions live so you'll hear more about that then. It's mainly based on what Trungpa Rinpoche says in his book Orderly Chaos: Mandala Principle. Quite a difficult book I have to say! 

Also coming up in July I will be in conversation with Karma Phuntsho about Buddha Nature, which will be part of the ongoing series on the Tsadra website. It’s not been posted yet but here is the link to the events page.

Vows Weekend

It was so good to have people back at the Hermitage at long last! I think there was about 30 people here, including the team in the kitchen and family and friends - that was great. The cooks were amazing! Tamsin, who prepared meals for us in advance on Friday and then Sudhana's daughter and her boyfriend, Elfie and Charlie, who made all the food for the feast at the end. Refuge Vow taker Rhayna’s children Pasha and Jackson came to support her. And Theo, who's now Tsoknyi and his son Viriato, who's now Tinlay, both regular puja onliners from Portugal, and wife Alice and other son Gabriel were all at the feast and helped with serving and performing so it was really special. It's always very moving when people take their Refuge and Bodhisattva Vows. There were others who took the permanent Mahayanagana Vow and Mentor Vows and Jonathan took the Shrimalagana Vow. 

Here is a list of all the vow takers and their new names!

Refuge Vow Takers

Irene Delemore, Jinpa Pal

Theo Magokoro, Tsoknyi Senge

Viriato Magokoro, Tinlay Tserntu

Sean Tinslay, Tsultrim Dorje

Rhayna Mann, Gewa Ga Lhamo

Ana Pedro, Pema Samten

Liz Robinson, Gewa Shenyen

Jayne Goss, Geway Norbu

Susan Birch, Sherab Kunchab

Sheila Stone, Rinchen Zurpa

Bodhisattva Vow takers

Jigme (Tom Strivens), Dorje Tsultrim

Kunga (Malcolm Magee), Norbu Gyaltsen

Eli Elliott, Palbe'u Terbum

Jinlab (Mandy Bruce), Rewa Lenday

Lodro (Louise Clarke), Gawa Yeshe

Ngedon (Gillian Oppler), Pema Karpo

Permanent Mahayanagana Vow










Mentor Vow


Kate Konchuk

I also gave a few short talks over the weekend and the weather held up despite it being a bit blustery on the Saturday. We were not rained out and we were able to have it all outside in the garden around the stupa. It is always a joy to celebrate and take the vows in front of the stupa. The whole weekend was also celebrating the Saga Dawa, the Buddha's enlightenment and Parinirvana and I celebrated it again on the actual full moon a few days later.

Hermitage News

Dashu is doing really well in retreat. He's often sending me dharma questions and pointing to very interesting Dharma readings, which I'm very happy he's sending along as we go because if he gave them to me all at the end of his retreat I wouldn't have time to respond to all of them. So it's a very rich and rewarding experience having him there on the other side of the field. And when people come here to visit, including everybody who was for the weekend, they are very aware of his presence and we all knew he was celebrating with us during the vow taking. 

It's been wonderful having Rinchen Khandro here for the last couple of months, they have gone very quickly. She left the day after the vows weekend. Just before the vows weekend, our next new 6 month volunteer arrived, which is Jayne, now Norbu and she's settling in happily. I'm looking forward to being able to spend more time getting to know her. Jonathan is now training up Mebar to assist him in his role of operations manager. So this is just to let you know that this is what she'll be doing and you'll increasingly feel her presence, supporting and helping you with your various Sangha projects.

Word is getting out about the plans for a big space which I'm now calling a Dharma Hall. I see it very much as fulfilling the wishes of his holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, who told us to build a purpose-built stupa, or temple and a Dharma Hall would perfectly fulfil what he had in mind. We're still at the planning stage and seeing if we can get planning permission and get a clearer picture of what it's all going to involve so more news will come in the next months.

Over the course of the month, I've had talks on zoom with various colleagues like Elizabeth Callahan and Karl Brunnholzl and Anne Burchardi and Tulku Sherdor (who will be coming later in the year). Karl also wants to come sometime this year. So that's been very enriching and rewarding. Karl and Anne will be giving talks on the same panel as I will be in Prague. I am sad that I won’t be able to connect with them and other colleagues as I am not going to attend in person but I just feel I haven't got enough energy, especially if travel gets to be a bit hectic.

Tara and I will be down to the end of the peninsula to a cottage facing out to Bardsey Island, for the next week. We will be in a holy place and have a quiet week visiting our favourite little churches and bays and beaches around that part of the world. While we are there it will be the summer solstice and an opportunity to have a fire puja and burn the names of the people who've died over the course of this year to give them a final send off and all the good wishes and offerings they need to on their onward journey.

Our next big event at the Hermitage is the August week’s retreat on Confidence which will be led by Tara, Namka and Younten. The marquee is up and we look forward to seeing many of you here if you can make it! 

That’s all the news for now, I wish you a good month full of good dharma practice!