17th Gyalwa Karmapa"Buddhism is a way of life through which we develop the qualities of our mind.
This way of life is very unusual, as it is a means to attain happiness without harming others.



Travel Log—Commemorating Shamarpa's Parinirvana with Karmapa in Kalimpong

See the original in French

Friday, June 2, 2017

In Between Times (Stories)

Today is a kind of limbo (another bardo!): we are in between Karmapa's arrival yesterday and the beginning of the ceremonies tomorrow. Obviously, the final preparations are becoming clearer: the temple was re-organized, a tent (metal and not bamboo structure; plastic and not fabric walls) went up, the flowers arrived, etc. Nonetheless, the gentle pressure one could feel yesterday has dissipated. As with all in-betweens, things are ever-shifting. Even the hours are not yet definitive. The only thing we know for more-or-less certain: it starts tomorrow at 7 am. (They don't publish a schedule on the internet a few days ahead with all the hours and locations of events; that's another difference between us. Both have their charm).

Tent Set-up Flower Set-up In Process (I'll show the result tomorrow)

When the Roman Calendar Comes to the Himalaya

When I arrived, one of the senior khenpos came up to me and asked me this: in his research linked with the Vinaya (the texts on discipline and ethics), he finds himself comparing the ways of calculating time in different cultures and traditions. So he has a question about the way we organize our time: in our solar calendar, every four years, there is a twenty-four hour discrepancy that we resolve by adding a day (in February each leap year). This khenpo claims that before there was another system to resolve this issue. He asks me what system it was. I admit I was a bit, let's say, contemplative and perplexed. I was ready for a lot of things, but not for a question about the transition from the Roman calendar to the Julian calendar, considering we're in the foothills of the Himalaya. Truthfully, I haven't the faintest idea of the answer (can I phone a friend?) I assure him without batting an eyelid that I will carry out a bit of research to find him a reliable answer and get back to him before the end of my stay. He continues on, satisfied. I'm not going to phone a friend, but throw in a wild card: drupon Tenzin (the retreat master of Kundreul Ling in Auvergne). I was in luck, he got back to me in the same day...sending me twenty-five pages of documents on the evolution of calendars beginning with the foundation of Rome in 735 BCE (Did you know that a year is 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 45.198 second? So!) All I have left to do is study the documents, write up a summary, and present it to our dear khenpo, keeping in mind that I've learned he particularly appreciates historical detail...

When Generosity is Reciprocal

When Shamar Rinpoche organized the shedra here at Kalimpong, he explained that it was normal for the professors to have a salary and that he was going to find resources that would allow each professor to receive the remuneration he deserved. Following this announcement, the teachers had a meeting to discuss it. Afterwards, they went to see Shamarpa to share their decision: since he, Shamarpa, had given them all the teachings for years without ever asking for anything in exchange, they didn't see why they should be paid for the courses they gave. They added, ever thoughtful, that this was the case for them but they couldn't speak for those who would come after. When Kalzang Puntso told me this story, I told him that we call this reciprocal generosity. He laughed, “Two simple words, but that contain many things!”

It is rare to see so many little young monks at the shedra.

When Visiting a Monastery Hastily

I met up with ani Pema Zangmo here at the shedra. She has a room in one of houses adjoining the main buildings. Ever herself, as soon as we have exchanged the usual polite greetings, she begins telling me about the monastery that she (at eighty years old and walking with a cane) is currently constructing. They're out of water and there is still a lot of work to finish it. She offers me to go and take a visit tomorrow morning—Lama Orgyen will drive us, it's fifteen minutes away, we leave at 8 am, don't be late, and don't argue. So of course I show up as prescribed the next day. The Lama Orgyen in question tells us that he is busy and can't wait. I don't fully grasp the situation—no time to think about it—I hop in the car and off we go. I realize that, in fact, ani Pema is staying to work on the monastery; I realize that it's in the middle of nowhere, where not a single taxi passes, and when we get there, Orgyen tells us, “I'm in a hurry; you have two minutes.” Just enough time to take two photos and I jump back in the car, which takes me back to the shedra. Express visit! I promise to return later on during my stay. Ani Pema is well-known by many: for years now, come summer, she sets up shop in front of Dhagpo's temple and accosts anyone willing to listen to ask them for funds toward the construction of her monasteries. She has built four so far and not little ones. When I say “built,” it means she's out on the construction site leading the job. I don't think she can stop; it's like a destiny, a karma, a life story.

And It's Not a Little Monastery...

Ani Pema Zangmo

Out for a Stroll


Lama Puntso


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