Monday, October 27, 2014

The Shangpa Monlam in France 2014

Lama Palden Drolma

Kalu Rinpoche with his three year retreat grads who were in attendance
After driving through dense fog at 8 am, we arrived at Palden Shangpa La Boulaye, Kalu Rinpoche’s primary center in France. As the sun began to stream through the mist, a line of small stupas greeted us. Next we were welcomed by an impressive Bhutanese lhakhang (Tibetan for house of the gods – what they call temples). Before I could enter, I heard a voice say, “Kalu Rinpoche is calling you.” Turning around I saw Rinpoche striding towards me, and I hurried to greet him. After a warm embrace, he escorted me into the lhakhang to show off the altar he had arranged for the Monlam.

Rinpoche put his heart, time and love into this first ever Shangpa Monlam. A Monlam is a prayer, and a large Monlam like this one is where the lamas and attendees make many prayers for all beings’ benefit, which of course includes praying that all beings receive what they need and desire and live in harmony and peace. He had placed nametags for the lamas of his centers and sat the senior lamas in a row together— from East and West, male and female, with all the other lamas and three year retreat grads in rows behind. All the other dharma practitioners sat on the sides and in back. The large lhakhang holds 500 people or so.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Discovering Buddhism in Bangladesh

Stav Zotalis 

Stav and her father.
My journey to Buddhism has been a surprising one. I was born into a Greek Orthodox migrant family 48 years ago. Although I was born in Sydney, Australia, it felt like living in a Greek village. I spoke Greek at home, most of my friends were Greek, I attended Greek school (after regular English school) , went to Greek Orthodox Sunday school, did Greek dancing, ate Greek food, had Greek dreams (marriage to a Greek professional, 2 children, well-paid job and a two-storey house in a respectable suburb). The Greek Orthodox priest played a central role in my life, although his influence was more moral and social than spiritual. He christened me, set up the Greek school that I went to, and was there for important events such as Christmas, Easter, my two sisters’ weddings to Greek professionals, and, very sadly, at the burial of my beloved father when I was 29.

The love and support my father gave me is one of the greatest treasures I have received during this lifetime. He was an extraordinary man. He was born into poverty and deprivation in 1939, which was exacerbated when his father was murdered in 1946, by men from his village and after witnessing the rape of his eldest daughter, my dad’s 19-year-old sister. My father didn’t demonstrate the bitterness and rage that often results from a tragedy like this. He was a gentle, generous, simple, good-humored and wonderful man. In fact, he had a lot of the great qualities of the Buddha – phenomenal love and generosity. He also believed in karma, right speech, right action, and embodied kindness and love.