News from Nalanda                                                                                  October 2018 

In this newsletter:

Introduction
Inter-Sangha meeting
Vinaya teachings at Nalanda Monastery 
Dear Nalanda friend,Intro


This summer was full of interesting events. In September, Nalanda Monastery had the honor to receive the 2nd Inter-Sangha meeting organized by the CBT (Buddhist Community of Toulouse), which allowed the practitioners from different traditions to exchange experiences about their practice.
In addition, the monks at Nalanda Monastery were fortunate to receive two weeks of teachings on Vinaya, or Ethical Discipline by our resident teacher Geshe Gyaltsen; these teachings are very precious, since the training in higher morality is said to be the basis of all good qualities.

Two very inspiring retreats took place at Nalanda. In the first retreat in July, Ven René guided  meditations on shamata, bodhicitta and emptiness; and he also explained how to lead our daily life happily, and to make our daily activities meaningful. In September, Ven Jesus led a Lam-Rim retreat, sharing with us both his experience accumulated through his long term retreats and his 14 years of study at Sera Je Monastery.

Monastery Nalanda's workshop team finished the design of a set of Eight Auspicious Symbols, now available for purchase through the workshop. The first set has been placed to decorate 8 stupas in monastery garden. Finally, you can find at the end of this newsletter a message concerning the end of the 2018 year.
 
Your Nalanda Team 
Article1 Inter-Sangha meeting   
 
On the 16th of September, Nalanda Monastery had the honor to host the 2nd Inter-Sangha meeting organized by the Communauté Bouddhiste de Toulouse (CBT). The CBT is part of the Union Bouddhiste de France and serves different Buddhist traditions, such as the Nyingma, Kagyu, Gelug, Thai, Vietnamese and Japanese schools.

The day began with Pali Sutra chanting that captivated all and set a peaceful and welcoming mood. This was followed by a conference on compassion with different speakers from the various traditions. The participants then came together in groups to discuss their experiences, questions and understandings about compassion. Everyone brought food that was shared in a friendly atmosphere.

In the afternoon a walking meditation was organized, followed by a range of activities that were proposed by the different Buddhist groups, such as an introduction to meditation, a Chenrezig ritual, a meditation on loving kindness and a Zen ritual/meditation. We concluded the day with prayers related to compassion such as the Shantideva prayer and the Metta Sutra in Pali.

The day was filled with joy and a feeling of brotherhood. Nalanda is happy to have hosted the participants to take part in such a beautiful day and we look forward to the next one! By exchanging ideas and experiences we discover we have more in common than meets the eye; at the same time we learn to appreciate the uniqueness of each tradition. All traditions come about from the compassion and wisdom of our unique Master, Shakyamuni Buddha. How beautiful to see his wisdom and compassion having travelled time and now being expressed by the different traditions.

Thanks to all the organizers and participants. We pray that this becomes a cause of harmony and peace.
Article2 Vinaya teachings at Nalanda Monastery

This year the monks at Nalanda Monastery were fortunate to have the precious opportunity of receiving two weeks of teachings on Vinaya, or Ethical Discipline by our resident teacher Geshe Gyaltsen. Since the Vinaya teachings are mainly concerned with the monastic life, they are not part of any FPMT study program. To fit it in with the teaching schedules of our Basic and Masters Programs, it took place during the last two weeks of our summer holiday break.

All the teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha can be divided into three baskets; Vinaya, Sutra and Abhidharma. Vinaya is the corpus of the teachings on ethical conduct, and monastic discipline. Hence it includes the different rules and vows the Buddha formulated for the ordained monks and nuns. Ethical Discipline is the foundation of all the Buddha's teachings. As a practitioner it is crucial to understand what to adopt and what to abandon.

From among the three higher trainings of ethics, concentration and wisdom, the training in higher morality is the bases of all good qualities. It is said in the sutras that the moral code of individual liberation is the essence of the Buddha's teachings and wherever there is a gelong, a holder of the vinaya, there the teachings of the Buddha abide. Knowledge of the Vinaya is therefore very important for the ordained sangha community and it forms an essential part of the studies in the big Tibetan monasteries like Ganden, Sera, Drepung, etc. But here in the West it is a subject very rarely taught.

Finally this summer all the conditions came together to make it possible for the monks at Nalanda to begin the studies of Jetsun Chőkyi Gyaltsen's extensive commentary on "Vinaya Ocean". Our resident teacher Geshe Gyaltsen, an expert on this subject, agreed to teach it to the gelongs, and with Geshe Losel (Graham Woodhouse) we found an excellent translator who not only had studied the Vinaya himself, and therefore was familiar with its difficult terminology, but he was also well versed in the topic and offered his time and experience to answer many questions during our review sessions in the afternoon.

Geshe Gyaltsen kindly took his time to go into the details of the text, explaining many crucial points. This two weeks passed very quickly and this extensive text has much more to offer. We got a taste of it and look forward to continue studying Jetsun Chőkyi Gyaltsen's Vinaya text in the coming years. Nalanda Monastery welcomes any fully ordained monk who is interested to join.

 

I did the retreat this July, lead by the kind Ven. René. Although some time has passed and my memory has faded, I still remember it as a powerful and inspiring period.

When we have retreat the monastery becomes calmer and more silent than usual. The group energy makes the atmosphere very pleasant, very focused on meditation. We took Mahayana precepts almost every day and did various purification and accumulation practices. Ven. René guided some very inspiring meditations on shamata, bodhicitta and emptiness. He skillfully combined placement meditation and analytical meditation, so we usually began a session with about fifteen minutes of calm abiding and then went on with analytical meditation.

As I remember it, the meditation sessions were usually not very verbal, but included various visualization practices that helped to stretch the mind. For example, for a few session we did a visualization practice where we imagined being blessed by a replica of Buddha Shakyamuni, after which our body dissolved, and then gradually expanded our mind until it encompassed the entire universe. I found those kind of meditations new and beneficial for my mind. I don't have the habit of doing them on my own.

He also guided some simple and straightforward analytical meditations on emptiness that I found helpful. For example, he did the classical analysis of a letter (this time "T"). While the meaning appears to the mind to exist from the side of the letter, actually there are only two bars. There's no T from the side of the horizontal bar nor from the side of vertical bar, nor from the two together, yet it appears strongly to an adult mind that there's a "T" from its own side. In this way we can deepen our understanding of emptiness and dependent designation with simple examples.

Ven. René also talked a lot about the importance of considering karma in our daily life, of being mindful of our actions and trying to imbue them with loving-kindness and compassion. He explained that in this way we can lead our daily life happily, make our daily activities meaningful, and for those of us who want to do more retreats and achieve realizations it is also the best preparation for that. Following the end of the retreat in early August, still inspired, I continued with a personal retreat - using some of the techniques ven. René had taught.
 
In September, we had the great chance to be able to do a Lam Rim retreat guided by Venerable Jesus. Venerable Jesus is a spanish monk who studied in Sera Je Monastery for 14 years before engaging in long term retreats based on the Lam Rim.

His guidance was most precious to the monks, nuns and students of the Monastery. During the retreat, everyday at 6 in the morning, we had the opportunity to take the 8 mahayana precepts. During the sessions, we started with prostrations to the 35 Buddhas, then we used the Lama Chopa or the Shakyamuni Buddha sadhana to prepare the mind for the Lam Rim topic to be covered.

Venerable Jesus guided the meditations from his deep experience but at the same time was following the text of the Essential Nectar. The meditations had a strong impact on the participants. This was a very experiential retreat. As Lama Zopa Rinpoche encourages students to combine their studies with Lam Rim experiences, this allowed them to taste this approach that Rinpoche emphasis. Venerable Jesus also gave us much advice on meditation, such as how to balance the analytical approach with stabilization meditation, and how to combine study and practice. This gave us many tools for our future personal retreats as well.

We are very grateful to Venerable Jesus and pray that he can come very often to continue to guide us in our experience of the Lam Rim.

Here is the experience of two participants:

" During the retreat I appreciated venerable Jesus' constant kindness and patience yet perseverance. Fatherly. He seemed to speak from his own realisations. On top of that, I had the feeling of really being cared for - that venerable Jesus would not give up on us. To me, that was a living example of Bodhicitta. Very meaningful. What helped me in this retreat was the visualisation that was part of every session. When my mind wandered off - this helped me a lot coming back to the topic. After the retreat I had a deep sense of belonging and of urgency: if not now work for all sentient beings, then when? And I felt very thankful. To be alive, to be part of a group and to be able to work on becoming a better person."

" After studying the Lamrim in the first part of the year this was great to really integrate what we learned, under the guidance of an experienced meditator. I hope we will do more retreats with Venerable Jesus."


 
Buddhist artist Peter Griffin and system architect Harri Perkio from the Nalanda Monastery workshop team have created new sets of large scale castings, with diameters between 400-450mm, of the Eight Mahayana Auspicious Symbols. The first set has been completed and now decorates the 8 stupas in the monastery garden. Everyone has the possibility to order these beautiful castings as a set of 8 or even as a single piece via the monastery workshop.
 
The Eight Mahayana Auspicious Symbols are good luck emblems used in feng shui applications. They are considered to be bringers of good fortune to the faithful. They adorn most temples and monasteries in Tibet. The symbols draw positive energies of prosperity and harmony into a feng shui design; the Eight Auspicious Symbols can also be placed in one's home or garden.  
 
 
Right-coiled White Conch
The white conch which coils to the right symbolises the deep, far-reaching and melodious sound of the Dharma teachings which, being appropriate to the different natures, predispositions and aspirations of disciples, awakens them from their deep slumber of ignorance and urges them to accomplish their own and others' welfare.
Precious Umbrella
The precious umbrella symbolises the wholesome activity of preserving beings from illness, harmful forces, obstacles and so forth in this life and from all kinds of temporary and enduring sufferings of the three lower realms, and the realms of men and gods in future lives. It also represents the enjoyment of a feast of benefit under its cool shade.
Victory Banner
The victory banner symbolises the victory of the activities of one's own and other's body, speech and mind over obstacles and negativities. It also stands for the complete victory of the Buddhist Doctrine over all harmful and pernicious forces.
Golden Fish 
The golden fish symbolises the auspiciousness of all living beings in a state of fearlessness, without danger of drowning in the ocean of sufferings, and migrating from place to place freely and spontaneously, just as fish swim freely without fear through water.
Dharma Wheel
The golden wheel symbolises the auspiciousness of the turning of the precious wheel of Buddha's doctrine, both in its teachings and realizations, in all realms and at all times, enabling beings to experience the joy of wholesome deeds and liberation.
Auspicious Drawing 
The auspicious drawing symbolises the mutual dependence of religious doctrine and secular affairs. Similarly, it represents the union of wisdom and method, the inseparability of emptiness and dependent arising at the time of path, and finally, at the time of enlightenment, the complete union of wisdom and great compassion.
Lotus Flower 
The lotus flower symbolises the complete purification of the defilements of the body, speech and mind, and the full blossoming of wholesome deeds in blissful liberation.
Vase of Treasure 
The treasure vase symbolises an endless rain of long life, wealth and prosperity and all the benefits of this world and liberation. 
Article6Dear friends of Nalanda,
 

We thank you for your interest in the Monastery. We are very happy that you always feel interested in the Nalanda community. As you can see, our activities are always developing to preserve the Dharma and benefit sentient beings thanks to the kindness of our lamas, His Holiness the Dalaï Lama, Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche, Geshe Jamphel and Geshe Gyaltsen.
 
We now enter the period of the year where we need the most support financially, as you can imagine, we have to pay expensive taxes for this property, and also the heating system will start again in November.

If you can and wish to support us in that, we would be very grateful.
We thank you again for your generosity. The monks of Nalanda make daily dedications for all those who support us.
 
With all our gratitude. 

"Direct your powerful mental energy to benefit all beings together
instead of letting it run about uncontrollably like a mad elephant,
destroying yourself and others"

Lama Yeshe