Young Tibetans in the Audience
Longest Scroll of Calligraphy in the World
June '10 Rigpa retreat at the Tenzin Gyatso Institute:
It is with great joy that I write to share and celebrate, both with those who attended and those who were present in spirit, the remarkable events that took place at the Tenzin Gyatso Institute in Berne, NY. Highlighted by Sogyal Rinpoche’s inaugural teachings on the land, Tongnyi Nyingjé Ling,the occasion was nothing less than a defining moment in Sogyal Rinpoche's tireless efforts, over many decades, to advance the values and aims of His Holiness, Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama. Even the weather was perfect!
As Rinpoche said on the first day:
“I always feel I know when something is beginning, I know it is. It happens in the beginning of our work, like when I began Lerab Ling..,I have a little bit of sense to see...and I see therefore, this time and this event is actually historical.”
Witnessing the moment were 500 special guests, neighbors, friends, students, and the curious who journeyed from across North America, Mexico, Australia and Europe, including 100 Tibetans and people from the Himalayan region now living in the U.S.
One person described the celebration this way:
“This is a momentous occasion and a wonderful program. The whole thing is extraordinary.” Another said, “I'm pinching my arm to remind myself that what I'm witnessing isn't just important for the Tenzin Gyatso Institute, or for Rigpa...this is important for humanity. I can't believe what has happened here.”
And a Tibetan teenager said, “This is my first time seeing Rinpoche...as we saw today, he's very traditional about the teachings but with a new method. The education for the youth is very important and he planted a seed. Buddhism is not just for Buddhists, but for all of humanity.”
We want to share a few of the special moments and why so many people felt the events were of such significance:
Lodi Gyari Rinpoche, His Holiness’ Special Envoy, and Senior Advisor to the Tenzin Gyatso Institute, spoke on 'Why the Tenzin Gyatso Institute Matters'. As he said, “Sogyal Rinpoche, from day one, from the beginning, has always been there and this Tenzin Gyatso Institute is Sogyal Rinpoche’s mandala offering to His Holiness. I have been involved from the very beginning, and I will certainly remain involved but this is not something that we can do alone. We need your participation, we need your help. There is no doubt that this Institute has a tremendous relevance to the future of humanity.”.
Remarks were offered by Lobsang Nyandak, His Holiness the Dalai Lama's Representative to the Americas, who congratulated Sogyal Rinpoche for founding the Institute and pledged the support of the Office of Tibet to the Institute's programs and goals.
Tsoknyi Rinpoche and Daniel Goleman both taught, delighting people with their unique insights on the significance of the coming together of meditation and scientific research, particularly in the Tibetan tradition, that demonstrates the practical and revolutionary effects that cultivating compassion can offer us and our troubled world.
Sogyal Rinpoche dedicated the opening of a public trail on the land. Naming it the “Path of Peace and Compassion”, Rinpoche spoke about the heart-warming support our neighbors have given us and thanked them for their generous spirit. Marked by a magnificient kiosk designed and built by a local master wood-craftsman and volunteers, the path was opened as Rinpoche cut a ceremonial ribbon.
We were treated to a surprise appearance and teaching by Mingyur Rinpoche, who observed that Rinpoche had boldly planted the Dzogchen banner by choosing Tsik Sum Né Dek [Dzogchen instructions on meditation] as his first cycle of teachings on the land. He and Sogyal Rinpoche blessed the future site of the temple which will be built.
Rinpoche offered special teachings in Tibetan for the Tibetan and Himalayan guests, saying that the Tenzin Gyatso Institute would be a place where their unique cultural traditions can be practiced and maintained.
Patrick Gaffney spoke eloquently about the how the Tenzin Gyatso Institute would promote three of the Dalai Lama's principle aims: Education, Religious Harmony and Social Action in the World.
There were captivating musical performances by acclaimed Tibetan singer, 14 year-old Tenzin Kunsel.
The longest scroll of calligraphy in the world, consisting of long-life prayers for His Holiness the Dalai Lama composed by 32 of the greatest Tibetan Buddhist masters was on display for the first time.
Rinpoche’s breathtaking aspirations for the future of the land and the Tenzin Gyatso Institute are a call to action. We [the Rigpa sangha—but others' help is welcome] are indeed part of an unfolding vision that includes:
Launching and growing the Tenzin Gyatso Scholars program whose first class of nine scholars arrive from Indian monasteries this August to engage in studies at Emory University in Atlanta, GA and the Five Colleges in Amherst, MA. The colleges have waived $40,000 per monk in tuition and fees, but we still are responsible for raising $20,000 per monk to cover their travel, room and board, insurance and incidentals. This is our most pressing fundraising priority and we're delighted to announce that $29,000 was donated to the program during the retreat.
Building a temple on the land combining, at Rinpoche’s guidance, the best features of Tibetan, Japanese and New York 'Adirondack' style architecture, as well as building on-site accommodations.
Establishing a Tibetan Village for elderly Tibetans and summer camps and other Dharma and cultural education programs for Tibetan youth.
Developing interfaith programs, and making the Tibetan teachings of Lojong, or Training the Mind in Compassion, available.
Rinpoche made it very clear that, with the inauguration of the Institute and the land, his work in North America is entering a new phase. In fact, Rinpoche announced:
The Tenzin Gyatso Institute will host Sogyal Rinpoche and other Buddhist masters and teachers on the land at a major conference in June or July next year, 2011. Rinpoche announced that he will invite others to participate in a special conference and as soon as more information becomes available we will share the news.
In addition to the annual autumn Rigpa retreat in November, Rinpoche will return to New York City and Atlanta in October 2010 and to San Francisco and Los Angeles in November to offer teachings.
In light of all this, we encourage you to reflect on the significance of what transpired and what is unfolding in front of us now. After offering a special blessing to the Founding Donors, and sharing the story of his family's generosity in Tibet, Rinpoche's parting remarks were, “Please support the Tenzin Gyatso Institute.”
We have been so inspired by the incredible offerings of time, talent and resources that hundreds of people have made. We look forward to what we can do together to bring this vision to fruition.
With deepest gratitude,
Tenzin Gyatso Institute
Blog Note—There's more information about TGI and how you can donate on the TGI website.
It will be exciting to visit the land for events, and many are coming up for the public. This is just one way that Buddhism is coming to the West, and not just for Buddhists, but for everyone!