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Crossover: Guru Rinpoche and the House of the Rising Sun

Now and again I hear a bit of devotional music, with Tibetan roots or, for that matter, Indian roots (I’m talking kirtan here), but using some Western elements to good effect. My own musical roots are, of course, western, with a strong element of blues and folk, so I was inspired to put Guru Rinpoche’s most famous praise (the “Seven Lines”) and the best-known version of his mantra (Om Ah Hung Benza Guru Pema Siddhi Hung) to the arrangement I’ve used for the House of the Rising Sun.

I’m not sure how well this works at all, so this is just a first attempt. My pronunciation may be very poor, as well. So I put it out here now to see what sort of reaction it might bring.

I hope you enjoy it. If you see the singalong scope, I could do one with more (many more?) repetitions of the mantra.

It’s here!

Guru Rinpoche
Guru Rinpoche

Yuthok Nyingtig and Chöd

Living as I now do in the rural centre/north of Italy has many benefits. I have  recently, for instance, set up a lhakhang (shrine room, if you will). It is perhaps more reminiscent of a cave than a mountain-top hermitage, but it is cosy, and it is a place where I can ring bells, bang drums and make somewhat trumpeting sounds without disturbing anybody!

All the same, I do sometimes miss having a community of other practitioners to meet from time to time or even practice together on occasion. So it was particularly nice to find out how kind, serious, and welcoming the people associated with Sorig Khang are here.

I was able to attend a few days teaching, just outside Pisa, on the chöd practice that is part of the “preliminaries” or “foundations” of the Yuthok Nyingtig cycle of teaching. Most of the other students there had done this particular practice “merely” as a quick chant as part of their regular foundation practice, but the idea here was to approach it with proper melodies, drums, bells and kangling (“leg-trumpet”). And possibly with a bit of dance, too!
One might be tempted to think that this is simple, and in one sense it is, but getting it right is truly quite an art.

The teacher was Dr Tenzin Yangdon, who was not only patient enough to take us through our first steps in the details we were trying to learn, but, as a person, was also a wonderful example. The sense of genuine compassion and devotion that shone from her was almost palpable. I had not myself previously received the “lung” (reading transmission) for these preliminaries, and was very happy that Tenzin was able to give me that. The ceremony was simple, but powerful, and I’m very happy to be able to say that she is now one of my lamas.

Learning the chöd from the Yuthok Nyingtig with Dr Tenzin Yangdon and dog


Smile with Dr Tenzin
Smile with Dr Tenzin

Cultural baggage

(To whom it may concern:)

So you took this ancient Buddhist tradition, and made it accessible by stripping out the cultural baggage, throwing away the encrustation of mystical, oriental trappings. Well done!

And now you present to us its pure and beating heart, its true essence, free from those trappings, beating in the middle of a fresh, clean, white plate. How kind!

You what? It stopped beating? Do what?

New Lhakhang

Once upon a time, centuries ago, it was an animal pen. It has also been a cellar, and more recently a bedroom. Now it is a lhakhang. A close translation for this would be “god-house”, so possible English equivalents would be shrine room, chapel or oratory. In any event, it’s the place where you have your most meaningful images, make offerings, do your daily chance and perform some of your meditation practice.

It is almost as quiet as the grave, although I do sometimes hear the neighbour going past up and down to his chicken shed. It is isolated enough to use some traditional “musical” instruments without disturbing the neighbourhood or attracting too much of the wrong kind of attention.

It is, of course, the same idea as the little quiet corner of the bedroom that we might have reserved for meditation practice, but it is a wonderful thing to have.

New lhakhang (outside)
New lhakhang (outside)
New lhakhang (clean inside)
New lhakhang (clean inside)
New lhakhang (not far from ready - 1)
New lhakhang (not far from ready – 1)
New lhakhang (not far from ready - 2)
New lhakhang (not far from ready – 2)

Karmapa now allowed to visit Sikkim

Rumtek Monastery

HH Karmapa XVII is now at last going to be able to visit Sikkim, though not Rumtek. The problem will not be over until he is allowed to go there, but if he can at least see his followers in Sikkim a lot of people will be very happy.

17th Karmapa
17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje

Read about it here, though they all say much the same:

The Statesman: https://www.thestatesman.com/cities/mla … 14179.html

News18: https://www.news18.com/news/india/karma … 03391.html

Tribune India: http://www.tribuneindia.com/news/himach … 66296.html

Phayul: http://www.phayul.com/news/article.aspx?id=40306&t=1

Tibet Sun: https://www.tibetsun.com/news/2018/04/0 … sit-sikkim

The Northeast Today: https://thenortheasttoday.com/india-fin … ot-rumtek/

Disease is karmic – or not?

Jamgon Kongtrul

I’ve touched on this before, but just came across Jamgon Kongtrul’s list of four main types of disease:

  1. Imaginary, like demonic posession
  2. Suddenly occurring diseases (no long run-up)
  3. Serious diseases that shorten life
  4. Diseases dependent on past actions

Once again, karma is seen as one possible cause of disease, but there are plenty of other reasons for getting sick.

(See Jamgon Kongtrul’s “Treasury of Knowledge”, Book 6 Parts 1 & 2, p. 328