Lama Rabten Tshering is the resident teacher and spiritual director of Nalandabodhi Canada. His dharma education started at a very young age and he spent his early years training at Rumtek Monastery, seat of Gyalwang Karmapa in Sikkim, India. In 1992, Lama Rabten served as Assistant Disciplinary Master of Rumtek Monastery, appointed by Kenting Tai Situ Rinpoche and Goshir Gyaltsap Rinpoche, and carried out this responsibility for five years.
In 1997, Lama Rabten entered a three-year retreat at Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche’s Pullahari Retreat Centre in Kathmandu, Nepal. While there he completed more training in meditation and tantra under the guidance of Drupon Khenpo Lodro Namgyal, Bokar Rinpoche, Tenga Rinpoche, and Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche.
To serve the Nalandabodhi community, Lama Rabten came to Canada in 2002 under the invitation of Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche. He currently teaches regularly at Maitrivana, Nalandabodhi Canada’s headquarters in Vancouver; and travels to Toronto, Montreal, and Halifax to teach and guide students in their meditation practices.
On behalf of board members, staff, and volunteers, it is with deep sadness that Karmapa Center 16 announces the passing of our beloved friend, Phuntsok Bist, Founding Board Member, Vice President, and Treasurer. Lama Phuntsok passed away in the early morning hours of December 5th near Zion, Illinois, location of the parinirvana of His Holiness the 16th Karmapa. Lama Phuntsok dedicated his life to serving His Holiness Karmapa and the Karma Kagyu lineage, and kept his monastic vows from age 12 until the end of his life. His passing is a tremendous loss for us all.
After completing the monastic training at the Rumtek Monastery, he was appointed the junior chant master and soon became the teacher and administrator of Jamyang Khang, the monastery’s primary school. For many years, he served as Umdze and Chant Master at Dharma Chakra Center, Rumtek and also went into short retreats.
Due to a medical condition, in 1993 he took leave from the monastery and travelled to the United States for treatment. Lama Phuntsok worked as a volunteer teacher at the Karma Theksum Choling monastery until 2000, where he taught Tibetan language and literature, and monastic rituals. Also at this time, Lama Phuntsok was appointed the Dronyer Chenmo, Chief Public Relation Officer of His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa in exile in India, and served until 2011. In 2012, Lama Phuntsok semi-retired and settled in the United States of America. Since that time he has been continually serving the Karma Kagyu lineage in a variety of ways, including the establishment of Karmapa Center 16 in Wadsworth, Illinois. The vision of this project is to commemorate the life of His Holiness the 16th Karmapa with a stupa, memorial, meditation hall, retreat center, and a place to learn and study Buddhism, and the history of the Karmapa lineage.
Lama Phuntsok will be remembered as a dedicated and devoted individual who lived his life helping others with kindness, gentleness, and a robust sense of humor. Donations for the traditional end of life practices and in memory of his life can be made at www.karmapacenter16.org/donate. May all be auspicious!
Dilyak Drupon Rinpoche
Founding Board Member & President Karmapa Center 16
With your supreme intelligence, you realized the intention Of the unsurpassable vehicle, the tradition of Padmakara. Guru of unequalled kindness, I remember you from my heart. I supplicate you—bless me with your compassion. I, Pema Trinley Palzang, a performer of three activities, From now on, will take control of my own discipline in thought and deed. I make a firm commitment, as follows, To avoid thoughtlessness and senselessness.
In physical conduct, I will not allow myself to be rootless and hurried, Incapable of being still, carelessly following my every whim. I will always hold my own space And be adorned by the training in pure discipline.
In speech, whether spiritual or secular, I will choose meaningful words And shun unconnected talk of past events or boring discussions concerning any of the three times. I will always exert myself in dharmic recitations, proclamations, and readings.
In mind, I will not flutter back and forth like a young bird on a branch. Not getting absorbed in discursive thoughts of good and bad, I will meditate, cultivating forbearance and relying on my own perceptions, not those of others. I will reflect on how best to benefit the teachings and beings.
In particular, the vital essence of the thought of all victorious ones Is the true nature—the uncontrived, innate dharmakaya. Without ever lapsing, I will sustain it with one taste in equipoise and post-meditation. In sum, I will hold myself to the sublime, dharmic conduct of the three gates, Not falling under the influence of others. Arrogance, haughtiness, or thoughts of self- aggrandizement—whatever of these arises, I will not let them move me in the slightest. I will remain dignified, and fearless, like a mountain.
Until this collection of elements has rotted away, I will not waver from this way of being. Of this way I will be a fearless warrior—that will be my quality. This is my vow, like an image carved in stone. May it be virtuous! Gods and protectors, work to help this come to pass! May the virtuous signs of auspiciousness excellently blaze!
Composed by the 16th Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, the verses were selected by Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche and translated by Tyler Dewar under his guidance, from Heart Advice of the Karmapa.
According to the Tsurphu calendar, the 14th day of the first month was observed as the day of the parinirvana of Jetsün Milarepa and the 15th was the parinirvana of Marpa Lotsawa. On these two days, the Karmapa Center 16 performed Guru Yogas for both linage forefathers.
According to the Tsurphu calendar, January 31st marked the 29th day of the 12th month of the year. On this special occasion, the Karmapa Center 16 completed the Mahakala puja, performed to dissipate all obstacles before the start of a new year. The lamas also recited aspirations prayers for the long life of the Karmapa, all the teachers, and all sentient beings.
On the 4oth anniversary of the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje’s parinirvana, the Karmapa Center 16 held a five-day commemoration joined by Tibetan Buddhist masters with a special connection to His Holiness, such as His Eminence Tai Situ Rinpoche, His Eminence Goshir Gyaltsap Rinpoche, Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, Khandro Rinpoche, Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche, Ayang Rinpoche and Dilyak Drupon Rinpoche.
These special events included two days of prayers to Medicine Buddha and three days of practice on the Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorje Guru Yoga. Tai Situ Rinpoche and Goshir Gyaltsap Rinpoche each composed a Guru Yoga for Rangjung Rigpe Dorje. Both of these are practiced in alternation at the Karmapa Center 16, annually. This year’s 40th anniversary coincided with the turn of the Guru Yoga composed by Goshir Gyaltsap Rinpoche. The events were joined in person by 13 members of the sangha, several lay practitioners and many more followers over the internet.
The teachings and addresses offered by the various Buddhist masters centered, in general, on their experience with His Holiness the 16th Karmapa, and in particular, the teachings they received from him.
Karmapa Center 16 celebrated the extraordinary, enlightened activities of the 16th Karmapa on the occasion of his 40th parinirvana anniversary.
Gerry Wiener, who first began is Buddhist studies with Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche in 1971, recently joined the Karmapa Center 16 Board of Directors and will oversee the center’s information technology.
A software engineer at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, Gerry is also a Tibetan translator. After the parinirvana of his teacher, Trungpa Rinpoche, in 1987, Gerry continued his studies under Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche and, with his guidance, has focused on the development of the Nitartha Digital Library.
Gerry first met His Holiness the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa in Boulder, in 1974, when Trungpa Rinpoche hosted His Holiness. Gerry received many teachings and witnessed several Black Crown ceremonies during His Holiness’s 1974 and 1980 visits to the United States. Recalling a memory from 1974, when as a member of Trungpa Rinpoche’s Vajra Guards he was asked to drive the Black Crown from Stapleton Airport in Denver to Boulder, Gerry said, “The crown was next to me, sitting on the lap of one of His Holiness’s monks. I remembered thinking, ‘I need to be so careful and not get into an accident!’”
Continuing to serve in his role as Vajra Guard, Gerry traveled to Los Angeles and stayed in the same house with the Karmapa, where he had a momentary but powerful experience. He was woken early one morning, around 5 a.m., to help His Holiness attend his birds in the backyard. “I helped His Holiness up the stairs,” Gerry said, “and he put his hand on my hands for support. I had the feeling of not being in this realm anymore, for the briefest amount of time. I felt he is in this realm, but he is not part of the samsaric realm that we abide in.”
Gerry attributes much of his good fortune in meeting the 16th Karmapa to “tashi tendrel” or karmic connection or coincidence. “We’ve been taught, and I feel this to be the case, that lineage is important,” he said. “Without teachers like the Buddha, and lineage masters like Tilopa, Marpa, etc., we really don’t have a lineage that actually goes through the 16th Karmapa and then to my first teacher, Trungpa Rinpoche, without whom I would not be (on this path) today. I want to express great gratitude to Trungpa Rinpoche, who opened the door and cared for me in a very distinct way and also, without His Holiness, there would be no Trungpa Rinpoche whom I would know, so there is some kind of tashi tendrel or karmic connection or karmic coincidence, some fortuitous karma going on that allowed me to become a Buddhist, to study with Trungpa Rinpoche, who was recognized by His Holiness and eventually to meet His Holiness.”
Along those same lines, Gerry said, he received a Praise to His Holiness the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa written by Trungpa Rinpoche and had the good fortune to translate it. Below is an excerpt from the translation. The full translation will eventually reside at Karmapa Center 16.
IN PRAISE OF HIS HOLINESS THE 16TH GYALWANG KARMAPA By Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche
Translated from Tibetan into English by Gerry Wiener
In the mandala of profound brilliant Vajradhatu, you are the Supreme Guru of the simplicity of samsara and nirvana. Vajra luminosity, the delight that transcends words, the great bliss Heruka, holder of wisdom, the single and changing nirmanakaya, Rigpe Dorje, seeing your activities — how wondrous. You do not abide in any specific place. You are not contrived by anyone. Your activities continue without interruption. Karma Ka, I always pay homage to you. Not observed having a beginning or end, you possess the profound and vast dharma. Eternal form of Dorje Chang, you are Vajradhara in person.