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 - In Nepal and India with Lama Puntso

See the original in French

December 7, 2017

A Place of Great Purity

As I explained earlier, behind Sharminub Monastery, there is a retreat center where a dozen fully-ordained (guelong) monks hand-picked by Shamar Rinpoche live. They spent ten years in retreat dedicating themselves to Mahamudra meditations from the sutra tradition. Currently, they live in the monastery, of course, but without the strict rhythm of retreat, as they concluded their retreat last year. They explain that their activity consists essentially in preserving the 253 monks’ vows to which they have committed. The term guelong in Tibetan can be literally translated as “one who delights in virtue.”

The Temple of the Nerajana Retreat Center at Night

But Why Such Discipline ?

Nagarjuna explains in his Letter to a Friend, “Discipline is like the earth that supports all beings and all things. It is, we are taught, the foundation of all virtues.” And Gampopa adds, in The Jewel Ornament of Liberation, “Discipline can be compared to a fertile field where all the qualities, like seeds, can grow.” With or without vows, discipline or ethics are one of the essential elements of the path. Here, it manifests with vows.

Shamar Rinpoche’s wish was to create a place where the most complete ethic could be preserved in the most authentic way possible. This is Nerajana Center, a place of great purity that is beneficial for all beings.

A Transmission to Rejoice In

Four Western practitioners made the request to receive novice vows from Nerajana’s monks. Jigme Rinpoche encouraged them and the guelong agreed to carry out this transmission, which took place on December 2nd, early in the morning.

Discipline possesses four particularities as it is described in The Bodhisattva Bhumis, “Know that discipline is characterized by the four following traits: we receive it from someone in the correct way, it is accompanied by a perfectly pure intention, we restore it when we allow it to degrade in order to avoid it from degenerating, and we keep it respectfully in mind.”
These four characteristics can be summed up in two words: “adopt” for the first, and “preserve” for the other three

The Four Novices Just After the Official Photo with Jigme Rinpoche and Khenpo Gyaltsen

Drakpa and Ouangtchouk from Kundreul Ling, Loïc from Dhagpo, and Rashid, former resident of DKL who currently resides at Sharminub; all four together have “adopted” novice vows (guetsul, which literally means “one who acts virtuously”).

Here, I share with you their impressions in the raw. It seems unnecessary to me to say who said what as, overall, their sentiments overlap.

They agree on the meaning of vows; it is a commitment! For one, “a commitment to cultivate a disposition toward vigilance to avoid harming others,” for another, “a commitment to maintaining an ethic from day to day, whether I am alone or with others.” And, more precisely, “Vows are a protection that allow us to take care of our thoughts so that we can know what to adopt and what to avoid.” In other words, “a tool for becoming enlightened.”

Another dimension came up for all of them; vows are a foundation for accumulating even greater merit (the mind’s life force, as Gyalwa Karmapa calls it).

In any case, the hermitage’s monks rejoiced.

The Ceremony

And then there is the ceremony; four monks give the vows. “We were touched by Lama Nyigyam’s confidence and that of the other monks who gave us the vows. Their example shows me that I am responsible for what I receive and inspires me not to damage my commitments.”

“During the vows, I felt like I was carrying out the same gestures that people carried out in the time of the Buddha. Committing this act in 2017 is like putting something in place for the future.”

For every monk, there are five traditional objects that have supported the vows for 2,500 years now: the alms bowl, the monastic robe, the zen (a shawl that covers the upper body), the dingwa (a square cloth to sit on), and a the sieve (to collect water at the well without killing insects). Each man came equipped with his “novice kit” to receive the transmission.

The dingwa is a square of cloth on which the monk sits.

“The robe is a reminder. In the morning when I get dressed, it’s not like putting pants on. I am wearing the same item of clothing that the Buddha wore. This is part of a tradition. Therein lies the reminder.”

Adopting and Preserving

Now that they have taken their vows, they have to keep them. In addition to the commitments to maintain, there are daily and twice monthly practices. Along with the retreat center’s monks, our four novices participate in the daily confessions and sutra reading that that take place from five-thirty to seven each morning. In addition, Lama Nyigyam explains the meaning of the texts they will use in the future as a support to preserve their commitments. The next step for three of them is the return to France with a new perspective: unite favorable conditions to fully live with monks’ vows.

Further rejoicing: this morning two women, one Greek and one French, are likewise taking novice vows.

Transmission of Practice Instructions with Lama Nyigyam


Lama Puntso

Dhagpo Kagyu Ling - Landrevie - 24290 Saint-Léon sur Vézère - France - 0033 5 53 50 70 75 - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.