Archive | Updates

Update on the Siddhartha School


8th May 2012

Dear Sangha members

Sincere thanks to all of you who have provided ongoing support and interest in The Siddhartha School (TSS) project and a special big thank you to all those who over the past seven years have donated funds and working hours. It has been a long journey with much enthusiasm, learning, creativity and hard work from the numerous and generous contributors.

As many of you are aware, we have been seeking to establish the school on a beautiful rural property in Lindendale near Lismore. This property had originally been built as a health centre in the 1980’s and the building modifications required to transform it into a small school did not appear to be substantial. However we recently received from Lismore Council the response to our Development Application (DA) to operate a school on this site. There are 48 conditions of consent for our DA. Unfortunately, Council’s requirements are beyond what we had expected and are extremely prohibitive, with estimated costs for road works alone in the vicinity of $400,000.  This would bring the total spend to open the school at this site to approximately $800,000. Consequently the Board has made the reluctant decision not to continue with this site.

Since this decision we have been considering other options and have finally decided not to proceed at this time with the school. Below is a statement from Dzongasr Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche.

“For whom it may concern:

As a Buddhist we emphasise so much on motivation practice, “it is the thought that counts” as it is said. Many of you with best of your motivation tried to establish this school over the past few years. Some of you have put in money, time and energy but there are times in our lives we have to accept certain things are not meant to be – at least for now. And I think our school seems to be one of those. So I here regretfully have to express that it is much more prudent to not tangle ourselves with this project anymore. But I am also very happy to say and remind all of us that everything that we have done is not wasted and not only on the motivational level. We have learned a lot and we have produced so many ideas, which can be useful another time and another place, and I am very sure they will be put into use.”
March 2012

The Board of TSS offers sincere gratitude for the patience and generosity of all the people who have donated funds and energy to the school project. Funds remaining will be forwarded to Khyentse Foundation educational projects, as requested by Rinpoche. Any enquiries should be directed to Simon Thomas at

With our very best wishes,

The Board of The Siddhartha School


Vajradhara Gompa


What a time it was….

Amid inclement weather and the prospect of sloshing around in gum boots, some 200 students gathered within Vajradhara Gonpa’s misty surrounds, to mark the end of the second three year retreat.

Under Rinpoche’s guidance, the retreatants offered a Tsok Bum. For those unfamiliar with Tibetan terms, this means the offering of 100,000 feast offerings. The Tsok Bum, was a perfect example of the power of the Vajrayana. With Rinpoche’s presence and teaching, and with the retreatants elegantly engaging in the ritual we slip-streamed, into a world that is indeed sacred. The warmth and cooperation amongst participants, happily engaging in karma yoga, before, during and after the retreat, a delight. Inspired no doubt, by the tireless staff and volunteers who have held the retreat together. This is what Sangha can be.

This time together concluded on the 17 March 2012 when the retreat boundary was officially opened to applause and cheers. As swiftly as we gathered we dispersed. In the following weeks, the retreatants too, travelled back to their homes in Germany, Hong Kong, USA and UK, whilst the Australians are considering, can they leave the beautiful Northern Rivers or is Canberra, Sydney or Melbourne beckoning? Now back in our ‘normal lives’ a memory and taste of something profound lingers……

It was a very poignant time for many of us, as it was the last event to be held at the Gonpa. Yes, the Gonpa is to be sold.

Paula Yacoub

Photos Cielo Croci























































The birth of Vajradhara Gonpa

There were six great pillars enclosing the sky
in the auspicious place below the mountain peak
above the valley,
near the source of the spring.

It had rained for days,
it was muddy,
and a hard walk up the mountain.

The clouds moved through the pillars
and the lama performed a smoke offering –
gathering green medicinal leaves –
requesting the use of the space
from the invisible beings who live here.

And the smoke merged with the clouds
and coloured the space between the pillars
and the temple was created.
Di Cousens




Thoughts on Vajradhara Gonpa March 2012

An incomplete work by Cielo Croci

Photos Jerry Epps

The circus is over

this fact

we’ve all known

and now is the time

for us all

to go home

But I feel that inside us

Is a pain

that does burn

That maybe

this time

we may never return.

The fire

that warmed

this place


has gone cold

because this place

that was free

is now

bought and sold

The day

it has come

that we all tried to stall


money and time

has made fools of us all

You’re anxious and stressed


your feeling upset

Because you still

haven’t found

what your looking for yet.

You feel there are

still things

that need to be said,

ideas to be written


words to be read.

You feel distressed

at the fact

that you just can’t hold on


your slipping and falling

till the feeling is gone

You feel

empty and worthless

as thin as a ghost

At the thought

that you’ re losing


may mean the most.

Your fighting

against it

with heavy resistance

the idea

of losing a part

of your very existence.

That no matter

how you think


no matter what you do

you’re letting go

of something

that is precious to you.

Your letting go

of a place

Where you sit on the floor


listen to all

that you heard before

but overlooked

a hundred times or more.

This place

is a signpost

For the life that we’re leading

With the only drug

in the world

To stop our brains

from bleeding.

And whether

you’ve given your heart,

your soul

to this place

Or whether this visit

Is your first


only taste

Its absence

may cut your mind

like a knife


this place is the high

you’ll be chasing

all your life.


you feel in your soul

That you just need a place


they won’t laugh

at your life

or your clothes

or your face.

It reminds you

that the world

Ain’t got you licked


that you can still get up

No matter

how much your kicked.

You need

That place in the sky

That will just help you cope

That spot on the earth

That just gives you hope.

But at the end of the day

Hope is just a word

That maybe they said

and maybe you heard

But you still feel

as if

you need it


And that

if you don’t have it

Then you’re going to be


But these feelings

of hope

And of pleasure

and thrill

Are no more

in this place


In a hundred dollar bill,

Or in a winter’s night chill

Or in an ecstacy pill

Or in the thoughts of we should

Or we won’t or we will

Or a light summer breeze

Or In a firm piece of bread

Or In a person you heard

Or a book that you read

The feeling of joy

of love

and of trust

you just need

to see

lives inside us

So the feelings

you have

When you’re atop this hill

Are now yours to keep

So go

where you will

Fear not the removal

of this book

from your shelf

for you can find

these same feelings

in almost anything else.

Its up to you


To take up your search

You have lost

this temple

but you can find a new church.

There may be those of you

Who feel I’m insane


that drinking champagne

from a mug

Is not

quite the same

But those limitations

They come

from your mind

If you throw them


A new place

you may find.

And don’t worry

about the people

You won’t see

every night

We’ll all meet


on our  journey

to the light.

And besides,

we’re just children

and mothers and fathers

and lovers and fighters

and veterans and martyrs

Law breakers,

Drug takers

Beauty seekers,

Truth finders




and Steiners

So do not feel


Be consumed

not in strife

We’re all


small pieces

of the big picture of life

So go out

and smile

and just sit on the ground

and take in the trees

and the buildings

and sounds

Just be sure to remember

This all doesn’t last


has become


just as now

will soon pass

So pack up your bags

Stitch up your soul

Give back

what you’ve borrowed


replace what you stole

For now is the time

when we all have to leave

But don’t worry,


Be calm,

and breathe.

Art Action – Community Creativity and Concern

leaves on my hand B

By Tshewang Dendup

The future of Bhutan is bright….. The future of Bhutan is full of promise…..
The future of Bhutan is a beautiful …..
These are the thoughts that overwhelmed us, the Samdrupjongkhar Initiative (SJI) and the Voluntary Artists Studio of Thimphu (VAST), during an art camp held in Dewathang, Samdrupjongkhar , January 2012.
Dressed in their ghos and kiras, sixty three youth from Dewathang and nearby areas descended with diligence on the campus of the Dewathang Primary School to absorb the offerings of the Art Camp. Moving with the ease of a seasoned instructor, Azha Kama, the founder of VAST was an instant hit with the youngsters, producing bursts of laughter with his endearing personality and gushes of sighs with the flourish of his master strokes.

Youth Art Camp, Dewathang, 2012

On the first day, Azha Kama and his team from VAST Thimphu steered the youth of Dewathang to produce installation art from garbage collected from the surrounding areas. When the mayor of Samdrupjongkhar arrived to join us for lunch, he couldn’t miss the display of the students’ work. There was a chair made from scraps, a dust bin fashioned from abandoned waste and robotic creatures created from pet bottles that had earlier scarred and trashed the otherwise scenic land of Dewathang.
The students were taught using a wide array of art materials that included the humble pencil on paper to the lush and luxurious marriage of acrylic on canvas. Along with ten young VAST members, Azha Kama was able to rope in veteran artist Sukhbir Biswa from Thimphu. As Mr. Sukhbir displayed his prowess in recreating the natural grandeur of Bhutan on canvas, the students sat enraptured, watching a new world unfolding in front of them. A world of colours with names like Antwerp Blue and Burnt Sienna, a world awaiting to be explored in charcoal or water colour, a world of creativity.
Thanks to Maiyesh Tamang, a VAST member who is studying at Kala Bhavan in Visva Bharati University in Shantiniketan, we were able to bring three talented artists from the reputed academy which is home to the vision and spiritual legacy of the great Rabindranath Tagore. Tre from Meghalaya, Sajji from Kerala and Tshering from Himachal admired the rugged beauty of our land. During classes, they glided from table to table guiding the students, throwing in words of encouragement, thumbs ups for a jobs well done and rounds of applause for tasks completed on time. In a fitting conclusion to the art classes, Maiyesh, Tre, Sajji and Tshering supervised the production of more than a hundred elephants which were sculpted by the students from locally available clay.

Youth Art Camp, Dewathang, 2012

Right from the moment we decided to hold the art camp, we at SJI wanted waste control and the philosophy of zero waste living to be the theme underpinning the art camp. As development reaches the nooks and corners of Bhutan, waste control is now a very visible issue of concern. We knew that in VAST, we had a partner that shared our concern in forming a sustainable waste control initiative in the kingdom. While we provided vegetarian meals with as much local produce as our resources allowed, we asked students and instructors alike to bring their own plates and mugs. We also served tea in locally made bamboo mugs thus we generated as little waste as possible. With the little waste we did create, we made sure that it was segregated into paper, plastic etc.
The students who took part in the camp are eager to continue with their new found zeal of creativity and concern to keep their community litter free. For a start, they have started collecting the plastic waste at home. SJI will be welcoming them once a month and the venue will be the campus of Rinpoche’s Shedra, the Chokyi Gyatso Institute. Armed with scissors, the students will shred the plastics and confine them into the wombs of sacks made from left over textiles from tailor shops. These handmade cushions will be one of their solutions to tackle the widespread menace of plastic and become an offering, a zero waste offering, to the shedra.

Youth Art Camp, Dewathang, 2012

What’s up at DPI

Deer Park Temple

By Melitis Kwong

It’s December, the sun is bright but there’s a chill in the air.  The local Indians have finished collecting grass for their cows and fire wood for their home.  Many young local Tibetans have gone for winter trading, leaving the old folks sitting in the sun continuing to swing their Mani wheels.  The Para gliders have packed up their gear for the season.  Nearby Chokling monastery has finished their 10 day drupchen and today, all the Tibetan shops are closed because the shopkeepers have all gone for the Lama dance at Sherab ling Monastery.  Here at DPI, we’re preparing for our 6 week winter closure and the renovation of the temples, laying new tile floors on the top two levels and a wooden floor in the  Buddha Hall located in the ground floor.

We’re also busy planning our Spring program 2012.  We’re happy that two of our regular faculty members, Kurt and Janet both from Friday Harbor, USA, are returning to lead programs at DPI.  Kurt will offer 4 week intensive classical Tibetan language courses and Janet will offer 3 creative writing workshops.  We also have the honor of hosting a few women teachers next Spring, Bhikkinus Dhammanada from Thailand, nun Samani Aagam from the Jain tradition and Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo.  Khenpo Choyin Dorjee, one of the leading khenpos from Dzongsar Institute, will also offer 3 series of study on the philosophy of the middle way.


Looking back on 2011, DPI has hosted more than 20 programs.  In the Buddhist tradition, we received teachings from Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, OT Rinpoche, Dzigsar Kongtrul Rinpoche, Drupgyud Tenzin Rinpoche and Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo.

Participants from Dr. Bettina Baumer’s program on the Hindu Tantra of Kashmir Saivism.

From the Hindu tradition, we had a program offered by Professor Bettina Baumeron a Hindu Tantra and Kristna Chaitanya offered a 5 day Intensive Yoga retreat.  On the creative side, we had a few writing workshops, a photography workshop and, for the first time at DPI, we hosted a film workshop where some short length films (3 mins) were made by the students.

Rinpoche giving out Refuge names at Way of the Bodhisavtta teaching

The highlight of all the programs was DJK Rinpoche’s teaching in May where more than 270 people attended this third series of Way of the Bodhisavtta and at least 100 people took refuge with Rinpoche. A group of young Chinese from China was moved to tears when Rinpoche gave the Bodhisavtta vows.  As a gesture of celebration, different nationalities from the audience offered music and songs at the end of the teaching.  It was a very joyful experience.



DPI also hosted two very interesting conferences on education this year; the Learning societies conference in April and the conference on Indian perspectives on Shiksha (Education) in September.

The Learning societies conference was organized by DPI along with a few India NGOs.  About 250 people from across India attended and the atmosphere was very informal and invocative.  A majority of the participants were University students and from different youth groups.  Movies were shown in the evenings and meals were prepared collectively with other youth groups.  A large tent was set up in the front gardens to accommodate this large gathering and the atmosphere was very mush like a festival.

The Shiksha Conference, on the other hand, was rather different.  This four day conference on Indian perspectives on Education was organized by Deer Park Institute and SIDH (Society for Integrated Development of Himalayas) under the patronage of Samdhong Rinpoche. There were 20 invited educationists and philosophers from different Indian traditions to present their thought and belief systems.  There were also 20 observers who participated in the discussion sessions.  Many invited speakers were highly educated scholars and distinguished  philosophers.

The speaker is the representative from Krishnamurti school, Center is Samdhong Rinpoche, to his left HH Ratna Vajra Rinpoche and Gyana Vajra Rinpoche, Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche to the left and facing is Geshe Garwang Samten and Geshe Dorji Damdul.

Among the speakers was the vice chancellor from Jain Vishva Bharati University.  Jain philosophy has a strong emphasis on non-violence to such a degree that we noticed the Jain nuns will always choose to walk on pavement instead of grassy areas so they do not accidentally step on insects.  In Rinpoche’s previous teaching, he often talks favorably about the Jain tradition which is one of the oldest philosophical and religious systems in India though is not very widespread in the modern age.  We were glad to have a chance to meet these Jain nuns and, with Rinpoche’s encouragement, we invited them to come back next year to present Jainism at DPI.
The main purpose of the Shiksha conference was to put together the traditional views on education of the various great Indian traditions as well as current efforts being made by individuals and groups.  The second aim was to find the similarities and dissimilarities among these traditions and, more importantly, which of these are relevant today and how they can  be utilized in the present day education process.
There were many discussions on the concept of Kalayan-mitra or Guru-Chela, the student/teacher relationship which many Indian traditions uphold as valuable.  The concept behind this, as I understood, is the mutual responsibility of the teacher and students where they both need to have certain qualities and qualifications.
The qualities of the teacher are that he or she should come from an authentic source, an unbroken lineage and be verifiable by logic or reason.  Also the teacher must possess the ability to remove fear and help student to overcome obstacles.  And of course having wisdom, compassion and diligence is essential. The student should have faith in the teacher and the teachings, an aspiration and determination to learn and to cultivate purity of mind, concentration and the ability to see phenomenon as it is.  The qualities of wisdom, intelligence, enquiry , without bias , are also mentioned as important.

I think I have found ‘my perfect teacher’ but it might take me many lifetimes of accumulation of merit to become his perfect student.

Deer Park Institute staff with Rinpoche

To view the current upcoming program, please check DPI website at:

If you want to be on our mailing list, please send your request to:

We look forward to seeing you in the next season of program.


Saraswati statue in front of the Buddha Hall Temple at Deer Park, Bir.

LIVE TOUR of 84000 Reading Room


84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha is a non profit global initiative to translate the Tibetan Buddhist Canon (Kangyur and Tengyur) into modern languages, and to make them available to everyone.

Headed in the interim by Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche, 84000 is endorsed and supported by the lineage holders of all four schools of Tibetan Buddhism, as well as academics from eminent Universities.

As 84000 moves into the third year of our existence, we are pleased to report that we are now funding more than 60 translators worldwide to translate more than 10% of the Kangyur – approximately 8,000 pages of the Words of the Buddha.

The first live tour of the 84000 Reading Room is open now, with the online publication of the first batch of completed English language translations in a free online reading environment. Contact us at  if you would like to be notified of timing of the live tour.

Sign up on our quarterly electronic newsletter at, and join us on Facebook to be updated on our exciting progress and developments!
For more information, Please visit our website at

The Siddhartha School update

Dear Friends of The Siddhartha School

Thank you sincerely for your ongoing support and interest in The Siddhartha School project and a special big thank you to all those who over the past seven years have donated funds and working hours. It has been a long journey with much enthusiasm, learning, creativity and hard work from the numerous and generous contributors.

As many of you are aware, we have been seeking to establish the school on a beautiful rural property in Lindendale near Lismore. This property had originally been built as a health centre in the 1980’s and the building modifications required to transform it into a small school did not appear to be substantial. However we recently received from Lismore Council the response to our Development Application (DA) to operate a school on this site. There are 48 conditions of consent for our DA. Unfortunately, Council’s requirements are beyond what we had expected and are extremely prohibitive, with estimated costs for road works alone in the vicinity of $400,000. This would bring the total spend to open the school at this site to approximately $800,000. Consequently the Board has made the reluctant decision not to continue with this site.

We are now considering other options and will certainly advise you of progress.

Thank you for the patience and generosity of all the people who have donated funds and energy to the school project to date.

With our best wishes and regards,

The Board of The Siddhartha School

Deer Park Outreach – A day at a sacred site

Deer Park Outreach

By Shenphen Zangpo – resident monk at Deer Park Thimphu

Sonam serving tea Photo Shenphen Zangpo

The recovering addicts staying at the Thimphu drug rehab centre requested a trip to a sacred site. As it was the middle of the monsoon and many of the guys were not in good physical shape, there was a certain apprehension about the trip. However, the risk seemed worth taking and Taktsang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest) was chosen as the destination and dakinis’ day as the date.

As always, the Royal Grandmother kindly placed the royal family’s private bus at our disposal, and after an early start we alighted at 10AM at the foot of Taktsang Mountain.

After three days of torrential rain the clouds had parted and the sun shone brightly. We were bathed in a serene dappled light. It was an auspicious start.

Despite living less than a two hour drive from the sacred mountain, many of the recovering addicts had never visited Taktsang before. Days lost in the shadows of the capital had given them little opportunity to explore Bhutan’s stunning heritage and sacred sites.

They were enthusiastic and symbolically the pilgrimage would act as a new beginning.

Depending on the level of fitness, the climb to the monastery takes between one to two hours. The younger guys bounded up the slopes like mountain goats, while the older and physically weak followed at a slow but steady pace. A few drifting clouds brushed the mountain peak, but fortunately the darker monsoon clouds swirled above harmlessly.

Soon we were standing across from the great monastery itself. It is said that in the 8th century Guru Rinpoche flew to this site on the back of his disciple in the form of a pregnant tigress. Ever since, the spot has been revered as one of the most sacred of the sites associated with Guru Rinpoche.

After a pause for photographs, we traversed the final ravine and entered the monastery.  Already inspired by the journey through alpine forests, the recovering addicts were in the mood to open their minds further. They listened eagerly to tales of Guru Rinpoche and of the secret Mahamudra text discovered here by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche in 1968.

A short meditation symbolically connected us to the sacred site and offered us an opportunity to rest in the present moment – to be fully at Taktsang. There are four main shrines at the monastery, and each served as a place for the recovering addicts to make earnest aspirations for a clean and drug-free future.

Near the final shrine, butter lamps were lit and everyone offered prayers for the benefit of all sentient beings – in particular, merit was dedicated to those suffering with the pain of addiction. In a closing prayer everyone vowed to remain clean in order to lead others from the darkness of ignorance to the light of wisdom. The pain in their own lives infused the prayer with a sense of urgency, and their heartfelt aspirations reminded me of a well-known verse in Shantideva’s prayer:

For as long as space remains,
For as long as sentient beings remain,
Until then may I too remain
To dispel the miseries of the world.

Bodies were heavy but hearts were light and the journey down the mountain took less than one hour. At the foot of the mountain we rested over tea and homemade snacks at a house owned by a Deer Park volunteer. It proved a wonderful end to a memorable day.

Shenphen and outreach group at Taksang Photo Shenphen Zangpo

Perhaps it would be appropriate if the final words on the event were expressed by one of the recovering addicts himself.

A visit to Taktsang
My heart deeply touched
What a memorable day!

–       Uday

Deer Park Thimphu operates a regular drug outreach programme in Bhutan. This includes nightly outreach in the bars and clubs of the capital, regular talks on the danger of drugs at schools and colleges and a three times weekly meditation class at the detox centre and rehab facilities. Pilgrimages to sacred sites are organized on average about once every two months.

This pilgrimage was undertaken on 25 July 2011

The Other Three Year Retreat

Gonpa main entrance- by Janine Schulz

By Kate Miller

When we think of the traditional Tibetan Buddhist three year retreat, we naturally bring to mind courageous individuals practicing intensively and relentlessly day in and day out. But just as the visible mass of an iceberg is supported by an even greater mass invisible below the surface, so are long term retreatants dependent on an extensive team of supporters who are equally committed to this long-term journey.

The 16 retreatants in Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche’s second three year retreat at Vajradhara Gonpa in Australia are now in their final year. Participants in the current retreat include five men and eleven women, ranging in age from their early thirties to late sixties and they’ve come from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany and Hong Kong, as well as Australia.

Traditionally not much is said about the retreatants and what they are doing while their retreat is still in progress, but this is a very appropriate time to say a little about what it takes to support such a program.

Rinpoche’s three year retreat program in Australia is supported by three full-time core staff members appointed by Rinpoche and some 25 part-time volunteers who have committed themselves in their various capacities to serving the retreat – many of them through both of the three year retreats that have been held at Vajradhara Gonpa. The part-time volunteers provide their support all in the midst of their own busy lives with family, work and other commitments, including their own meditation practices. Beyond these regular helpers are many others in the broader community that also extend themselves in support of the retreat.

A Sprawling Three Year Retreat Campus

Joe Shields, Nishkam Pomeroy and Dave McCarthey raising prayer flags

Vajradhara Gonpa as a retreat venue encompasses a sprawling complex of buildings over many acres of grounds, all requiring continuous upkeep. Due to its remote location, the Gonpa is on solar power backed up by diesel generator. Water is pumped from a natural spring, and stoves, refrigerators and hot water heaters are fuelled by propane gas. Rinpoche appointed Jerry Epps to the role of full-time Facility Caretaker with responsibility for the routine daily support of the physical facilities. Jerry, a member of the nearby Gesar Community affiliated with the Gonpa, has over twenty years of experience at Vajradhara Gonpa and his extensive knowledge of the property has proven invaluable in the smooth day to day operation of the retreat.

Andrew giving Indigenous Gallibal Welcome to Country

Jerry is assisted by Joe Shields, Nishkam Pomeroy and Dave McCarthey who spend a day each week ensuring that longer term tasks such as maintenance of grounds, fire roads and minor repairs to buildings receive their due care. They are further supported by Simon Thomas and Andrew Johnson, and in the wider community, by members of the Northern Rivers Regional Rural Fire Service. Joe says, “Events such as three year retreats are such a rare occurrence. The merit generated from such practice (seen and unseen) benefit countless beings for infinite lifetimes. It is an unquestioned privilege and honour to be part of the retreatants’ journey and responding to the needs of our sangha brothers and sisters.”

Fire and Rain!

The rugged Australian sub-tropical bush of northern New South Wales, where Vajradhara Gonpa is located, is subject to periodic bush fires in summer and the possibility of floods during the wet months of the year. The facility team is therefore critical in maintaining a safe container for the retreatants in a manner that is non-intrusive and harmonious with their program of practice.

Jerry Epps (right) & Rural Fire Service volunteers

How real are these threats? Locals say that on average a major bush fire will come through about every seven years. We had one that surrounded the Gonpa property in 2004 just before our first three year retreat and then again during the first year of this current retreat. Thankfully it didn’t require evacuation of retreatants. However Jerry, as our staff fire warden, and our maintenance crew were on hand to fight the fire for over a week. At that time Joe Shields, one of the original founders of Vajradhara Gonpa some 30 years ago, was on site day and night. Vajradhara Gonpa is important as a forward fire fighting base for protection of the nearby Border Ranges National Forest and the fire was monitored and fought under the guidance of the very experienced Rural Fire Service which is comprised mostly of volunteers from the local community. As emergency workers all of these workers have blanket permission to enter our otherwise strict retreat boundary.

The only road to town gets flooded

Earlier this year Dave McCarthey liaised with a crew of Rural Fire Service volunteers which undertook fire prevention activities in preparation for this current season to deal with what Nishkam refers to as our ‘radical areas’. To ensure continued efficacy in fire fighting Jerry and Joe have put their knowledge to paper and completely mapped our property to identify regions of significant risk and prioritise annual preparations for the bush fire season. Even though the likelihood of fire is low this season we need to be prepared not only to comply with our stringent OH&S regulations, but also to ensure that our retreatants can feel at ease in their retreat!

Low bushfire threat sometimes means we can look forward to short term flooding. This last year in particular saw massive flooding in much of the State of Queensland and its capital city Brisbane, just north of the retreat. While Vajradhara Gonpa itself does not flood – it’s located on a mountain shoulder, the retreat can be temporarily isolated due to swollen streams preventing access. During such periods volunteers work extra hard to ensure all necessary support, often in unscheduled hours – all the more challenging when phone lines go down since our remote location is a mobile phone dead zone.

Is There a Doctor in the House?

While the purpose of three year retreat is not to improve or restore one’s health, retreatants must receive timely medical support that will ensure that they are able to carry on with their practice. This can be a sensitive area as the intensive, relentless practice of retreat can provoke all manner of health issues as part of a process of purification. It takes much patience and skill to appropriately respond to retreatants who may develop complex physical manifestations relating to their health. Our health team must be sensitive to strike the right balance of encouragement and reassurance that this can be part of the “normal” retreat process while also being vigilant not to miss those health issues that require intervention.

Julie St. Aubyn, with a background in herbalism, homeopathy and health services administration, is the retreat’s Health Care Coordinator. Julie’s reassuring capacity for equanimity and practicality in varied health circumstances has supported practitioners through both retreats.

Julie St Aubyn & Dr Oscar

Julie oversees a team of licensed health care professionals that have permission to periodically enter the retreat boundary thereby minimizing occasions that might require retreatants to cross out of the boundary. Julie says, “Being a support for the retreat is a fantastic experience. There is something truly wonderful about driving up the hill and entering the sacred space of the retreat. I try to slow down and be mindful in my thoughts and actions as I know that I will be interacting with people who are living outside of the everyday world. The retreatants make me feel very welcome. It’s like visiting with really joyful friends. Their feedback is so positive that I feel like what I do really makes a difference in their lives. Watching the retreat participants as they go through this unique program is amazing. I gain insight into the process of the retreat without having to do one myself!!!”

Lead physicians Oscar Serralach and Jacquie Boustany of the Nimbin Medical Clinic are complemented by Libbie Nelson (physiotherapy, acupuncture & yoga therapy), Michele Alberth (acupuncture & Chinese herbs), Chime Leschly (naturopathy), and visiting pathology nurses. These medical practitioners enter the retreat every three months or so to provide care. Dr. Oscar, heading the health team, while also tending to a young family and busy medical practice, says that for him, “coming into the retreat and working with the retreatants is an absolute joy which also nourishes him.” Oscar takes a multidisciplinary team approach, having a keen interest in holistic medicine as an adjunct to traditional medicine.

Libbie Nelson teaching yoga therapy

Libbie Nelson, is another volunteer who has served on both retreats. Her stabilising and gentle way of being, combined with her lifetime of expertise in her field of health care has been sustaining for staff as well as retreatants over the years. Libbie says, “My experiences have only been positive – even when the retreatants felt low, which was often the case if they needed me to see them, their strength has been a source of delight and inspiration. The exquisite pleasure of being there is greater than the sum of the parts constituted. To sit on the veranda of the Gonpa while waiting for the acupuncture needles to do their bit, I feel I am truly blessed to be able to be there and I recognise that this is a very special experience for us all. It has enabled us all to grow.”

On those rare occasions when it is truly necessary for retreatants to visit external health appointments, Northern Rivers Community Transport volunteer dispatchers and drivers often provide transportation to those participants that are within their age and health criteria.

What’s to Eat?

Ensuring a range of quality food for retreat, especially in a remote location while adhering to a budget prepared years in advance requires tremendous logistical planning. Regina Zenz, the retreat’s Catering Coordinator, has primary responsibility for the two month bulk shop of dry stores, and ensures that retreatants have nutritious food which addresses the changing health needs that can arise for long term meditators. Regina is a great nurturer of others with a reliable and practical nature which has held her in good stead during her support of both retreats – all while managing to juggle responsibilities of family and full time work. Regina says, “I’ve always regarded it as a precious lineage blessing and an immense privilege to be able to work helping to fulfil Rinpoches’ vision and to support such dedicated practitioners through this mundane activity of ‘shopping’. A bit of shopping is nothing compared to what the retreatants are doing, but it’s good to know it’s making their retreat possible! Hey! – what more could a shop-aholic’s heart desire?!”

Core Staff

Kate Miller and Regina Zenz in the supermarket

The Retreat Administrator is appointed by Rinpoche as the person responsible for coordinating all volunteer efforts as well as the 24/7 day-in, day-out operation of the retreat. This position has been shared in turn by Kate Miller, Charlotte Davis and Ani Gosha Gray (Charlotte and Ani Gosha, themselves three year retreat graduates).

The appointed role of Retreat Master is responsible for presenting the detailed curriculum of the retreat and coaching retreatants through the course of the program.This position has been shared by Steve Cline and Jangchub Haubner, both graduates of the Chanteloube three year retreats in the Dordogne (France).


About once a year Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche visits the retreat to give individual interviews, empowerments and instructions. This year Rinpoche spent about a month with the retreatants while doing his own retreat. Other times, Rinpoche’s visit has been scarcely more than a day!

From time to time the retreatants have also been fortunate in having instruction and advice from visiting lineage holders and guest teachers such as His Holiness Sakya Trizin, Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche, Khyentse Jigme Rinpoche, Khenpo Sonam Tashi, Lama Rigzin Samdrup, Ven. Tenzin Dorje, and Tara Frances (MacLachlan) of the Blue Mountains Insight Meditation Centre. Visiting teachers are in turn often supported by individuals such as Jakob Leschly (translator), Ela Pedma (cook & shrine implements) and Jittima (Ou) Promindr (cook & seamstress).

So Many Others

Eva Thomas, Gael Wallace and Judy Arpana have loyally provided general assistance and emergency support through both of the two retreats. Eva says, “Being a support person for a long retreat makes one appreciate the preciousness of the practice, I’m always so grateful to all the people doing the hard work day-in and day-out and having some contact with them is a constant reminder – the atmosphere rubs off a bit.” Tara Thomas and Dawn Johnson have helped out as general shoppers in addition to the individual personal shoppers that assist each retreatant with personal needs.

Steve Cline turns his hand to sword sun moon ornaments for flag poles

Major support is also provided by members of the Board of Directors of Siddhartha’s Intent Australia such as Paula Yacoub-Raymond (Vajradhara Gonpa Facility Coordinator), Hugo Croci (Treasurer & Budgetary Management), Nikki Keefe (Health Consultant) and Christina Peebles (OH&S Officer).

Cangioli Che, Florence Koh, Su-yin Lee and Marco Noailles of the Khyentse Foundation have facilitated need-based scholarship support for qualified retreatants.

It is not possible to do justice to the contribution of all these people with a few words. All-in-all it is the respect and regard for the work of supporting the retreatants as they go through their journey of intense practice which motivates volunteers to serve Rinpoche and the dharma in this way. What sustains them is the knowledge that their service is dedicated to providing a special opportunity for others to practice deeply, so rare in our times.

The current three year retreat will conclude in May 2012. In April 2009 Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche formally announced that the current retreat will be the final three year retreat at Vajradhara Gonpa. At present Rinpoche has not indicated any plans for future three year retreats at other locations, either in Australia or overseas. Any future three year retreat program will be announced through the Siddhartha’s Intent website. In the mean time, those interested in engaging some of the contemplative practices typically included in three year retreat may wish to look to the Dharma Gar programs currently being administered in Germany and the United States, and soon to be available for Asia and Australia. Dharma Gar is designed for those who wish to combine a commitment to disciplined contemplative practice with worldly commitments such as career and family.

Main entrance to the Gonpa Photo Janine Schulz

Lotus Outreach

Lotus Outreach

A Heartfelt Partnership

By Glenn Fawcett

Pammy Croci asked Lotus Outreach for a short update to publish in the Gentle Voice and I thought it would be nice to tell you more about Lotus Outreaches growing relationship with a relatively new organisation, Buddhist Global Relief (BGR). BGR is also dedicated to alleviating the suffering of the poor and disadvantaged in the developing world.

BGR was founded by a Buddhist scholar-monk, Ven.Bhikkhu Bodhi, as a response to his views that, “the narrowly inward focus of American Buddhism, had been pursued to the neglect of the active dimension of Buddhist compassion expressed through programs of social engagement.” This view is precisely the basis on which Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche founded what was originally, White Lotus, out of which Lotus Outreach was eventually born.

We of course loved the idea of working with BGR from the outset and quickly found common ground for their funding support in our Girls Access To Education (GATE) scholarship programs across Cambodia. This work is through the medium of rice support for the poorest families whose girls are vulnerable to dropping out of school and therefore to the real and present danger of being trafficked, due to the most extreme poverty. Our relationship deepens as we continue to find other areas of common interest. BGR is now supporting small business training and startup funds for Peer educators from our Safe Migration and Reduction of Trafficking program at Poipet on the Thai Cambodian border.

Altogether, BGR is partnering LO to deliver food security elements through several LO programs including provision of agricultural tools, seeds for crops and profitable home gardens in rural Pursat. Other programs are nutrition education and food preparation training programs for sex workers, vulnerable children such as the orphaned, from single parents and those living with HIV AIDS.

As secular organisations which have grown from the same ideal we obviously have a lot in common, so it’s sure this ‘heartfelt partnership’ will be a long and happy one.

Growing, Selling and Sharing under the guidance of Lotus Outreach and Buddhist Global Relief projects

Deer Park Institute


The Spirit of Nalanda continues…

By Melitis Kwong

Deer Park Institute is a centre for study of classical Indian wisdom traditions. The Institute’s core vision is to re-create the spirit of Nalanda, a great university of ancient India where all traditions of Buddhism were studied and practiced, alongside other schools of classical Indian philosophy, arts and science.

Interfaith Meetings with His Holiness Dalai Lama photo Jennifer Yo

Deer Park Institute’s campus is situated on the former site of Dzongsar Institute, a well respected Tibetan Buddhist college. When Dzongsar Institute moved to its new site in Chauntra, Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche transformed the campus into a centre with a new vision.

In remembrance of the Buddha’s first teachings at the historical Deer Park (Mriga Dava) in Sarnath, where the Buddha displayed a spirit of open inquiry into the nature of mind, existence and suffering without any bias, Dzongsar  Khyentse Rinpoche named the new (centre) institute “Deer Park”.

Since opening in March 2006, the Institute has hosted teachings by great masters of all lineages of Tibetan Buddhism including Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, Sakya Trizin Rinpoche, Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche, Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo, Geshe Lakdor ….  Deer Park in the spirit of inclusiveness also runs courses and retreats in the Zen and Theravada traditions within Buddhism and courses on other classical Indian philosophy such as Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras and Kashmiri Shaivism, which have recently been integrated into the program.  This year (2011) Deer Park launched a series of Tibetan language courses and translation workshops, providing an exciting new dimension to the Institute’s academic curriculum.

The principal vision of Deer Park is to create a welcoming, safe and open-minded place of learning. Students from all over the world visit and attend programs, sharing their knowledge and experience. The atmosphere is intimate and friendly. A youthful kitchen staff prepares simple, healthy, delicious vegetarian food. The office staff includes young interns from different Asian countries.

Clowning in the Himalayas photo Jennifer Yo

Deer Park welcomes students, laypeople and wisdom seekers to attend their programs. Most of the programs are free of charge and the language of instruction is English.The Institute’s programs are not advertised extensively, relying instead on ‘word of mouth’. People, who have come to know about its existence, appreciate its non-sectarian approach as upheld by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche. The dining area often becomes the centre for activities with lively discussions and exchanges. The campus has a number of meditation halls that are the venues for different activities, from meditation and ecology workshops to film screenings. The Institute can accommodate up to 65 or 70 people in single rooms with attached bathrooms; double rooms with shared bathrooms and the dormitory.

Communities bond on the steps of Deer Park photo Jennifer Yo

One feature of the Institute’s activities is its commitment to ecological sustainability. Deer Park has organized workshops and conferences on environmental issues, preserving local culture and sustainable livelihoods with courses held in the Institute as well as in local schools. To disseminate awareness of these issues, informative documentaries and printed materials have also been produced. Since 2009, Deer Park Institute has been invited by the Himachal Pradesh (HP) Government (the local state government) to advise on zero waste and has received an Appreciation Award.

Deer Park is located in Himachal Pradesh , within the Bir Tibetan colony at the foothill of the Himalayas.  Set in an idyllic landscape, Deer Park is surrounded by hills, namely the Dhauladhar range, and rice fields. On a sunny day, students and guests can take an hour’s walk to visit Dzongsar Institute in the nearby town of Chauntra, or walk through the rice fields to Sherabling Monastery (Situ Rinpoche’s monastery). In Bir village itself you can visit four other monasteries, all within ten minute’s walk. There are other holy places of the Hindu and Buddhist traditions nearby such as Tso Pema where Guru Rinpoche displayed miracles and practiced in the caves or the ancient temple of Baijnath.  For students keen on outdoor adventure, one can hike up the hill from Deer Park to a waterfall or simply take a thirty-minute stroll to the Upper Bir village.

Lunchtime with Rinpoche at Deer Park Institute photo Jennifer Yo

With Dharamsala becoming more crowded as tourists flock to this famous Tibetan settlement, home of H.H. Dalai Lama, many long-term Dharma students are attracted to the spaciousness and tranquillity of Deer Park and its surroundings.  Although, over the past ten years more hotels and restaurants have been established in Bir, it still retains its charm as a small village with its monasteries against the backdrop of the magnificent Dhauladhar range.

You can travel to Deer Park by air, train or bus from Delhi. It’s a long journey but once you arrive you’ll appreciate the fresh air and the serene countryside. As you walk up the hill towards the Institute, the friendly staff or our friendly dogs, the majestic temple and the clean surroundings of the campus will welcome you. You can then sip a cup of “Chai”, taste homemade cookies from the Deer Park café, visit the temples, browse through the expansive library and sit back and enjoy your stay at Deer Park.

It is through Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche’s vast vision, and the dedication of the staff and volunteers, that Deer Park Institute came into being. May this endeavour be auspicious and enable the precious Dharma to spread and benefit all beings.

For detailed information on Deer Park programs and other related information, please check the web site

For further inquires on program registration and room booking, please write to:

Welcome to Bir photo Pawo Choyning Dorji

84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha



On this auspicious new year, we’re happy to share with you our new name

84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha

and our new web address

We look forward to your continued support, and may you have a fulfilling year ahead!

Sincerely from 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha

(formerly known as Buddhist Literary Heritage Project, BLHP)

84000 Translating the Words of the Buddha new web site

Peace Vase Project


Interview with Pema Biddha

By Pamela Croci

Recently while passing through Delhi I recorded an interview with Pema Biddha, the coordinator for the Peace Vase Project. Pema told me that the response from the call out for volunteers was fantastic.

“ So many people emailed us, with lots of enthusiasm but because we couldn’t have immediate action they vanished. However there were some that really helped. One of them is Tineke Adolphus. Tineke! Wow! I think if we were to give out a medal she would be the one who gets it. She planted many vases and is going to complete the Swedish allocation.”

Pema went on to tell me that we still need volunteers to come back to help.

“ Africa is a country where we need people. We have a volunteer there Robyn Sheldon and it looks like she has a team but some vases are stuck in other places. Also we need vases planted in North East India, in places like Assam, Nagaland, Punjab and Kolkata, a few in South India, some in Iraq, Iran, Israel. Plus we need people to carry vases to different places within countries and other countries”

If anyone has connections in any of these places please get in touch with Pema and she will put you in touch with other volunteers in the relevant area.

Email :

Pema acknowledges that some planting of vases have not been registered on the website . Pema would like to apologise, to those whose kindness in placing vases,  often in  remote and challanging parts of the world, has not been registered on the website. Pema told me that a new website was being constructed and that these omissions will be corrected.

NB If you have been involved in planting a vase, and it is not registered on the current website please email her with details e.g. Many vases were planted in France, in fact they were the first to be planted, but information has been mislaid.

Please check the website and see if you can help. 2011 is the 20th year of this project and it would be very beneficial to have the Peace Vase Project completed.

Click here to go to the Peace Vase Project

A 2636 km whirlwind went through Sweden and found homes for 12 Peace Vases credit Tineke Adolphus

The Peace Vase Project Needs You

Peace Vase, Northern Davis Strait, Nunavut Canada (Arctic)

As we approach the 20-year anniversary of Siddhartha’s Intent involvement in the project, about 2,000 peace vases remain to be buried.

By Noa Jones

Toward the end of his life, His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche initiated The Peace Vase Project , a global effort to increase peace, harmony, and well-being by placing 6,200 treasure vases, or terbüm, in carefully selected locations around the planet. Terbüm are containers filled with medicines, precious substances, and mantras that have traditionally been used by Tibetans to protect important places against misfortune and to promote positive, healing energies. Similar sacred vases are used by some North American Indian tribes to heal the land and to restore peace.

In 1991, Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche agreed to take over responsibility for the project. Tibetan Buddhist astrology and other ancient methods are used to select burial sites for the vases—oceans, lakes and rivers, holy places, places of war and strife, and ecologically degraded or endangered natural sites.

So far, about 4,000 vases have been buried or submerged in many extraordinarily remote locations, from the South Pole to the Pamir region of Tajikistan, but about 2,000 remain. As we approach the 20-year anniversary of consecration of these vases, we encourage the international dharma community to band together to finish what has been started. A network of individuals and coordinators is available to assist.

Some of the remaining vases are in storage in India awaiting transfer to their destinations, and some were taken to other continents but not buried. We need people to help transport the vases from India to a place where they are more easily accessible.  Due to Indian regulations, the vases can no longer be sent by courier or post. We rely entirely on people offering space in their luggage.

What you can do:

  • If you have a vase that has not been buried, please carry out the task or ask someone else to do it.If you have several vases in storage, please contact Pema Bidha and let her know. The vases are not meant to remain as shrine objects. They must be buried.
  • Visit the Peace Vase Project web site to read inspiring stories of burials.
  • Volunteer to work on the project as a coordinator, facilitator, technical advisor, or strategic planner.
  • Carry vases from India when you leave the country.

For more information, contact international coordinator Pema Bidha

Peace Vase, Northern Davis Strait, Nunavut Canada (Arctic) Photo by Chris Atkinson

Deer Park Thimphu

Changjiji Classsm

A centre for art and contemplation….

By Shenphen Zangpo
Prior to moving from Taipei to Thimphu to establish a new Deer Park centre, I had little knowledge about Bhutan. While I understood, that the needs of people who live in a small city hidden in the folds of the Himalayas, would obviously be far different from those who live under the gaze of skyscrapers and neon, it was far from clear what those needs would be. As an indication, Rinpoche had merely said that we should reach out to the youth and that our activities should be low key.

Meditation at Deer Park Thimphu

As a firm believer in the allegory of Dharma being like gold – the essence remaining, while the form adapts to circumstances – I felt sure that with Rinpoche’s blessings Deer Park would find a niche in Bhutan’s society. After two years of twists and turns, we currently have a small centre that is conveniently located in a youth complex near the centre of town. Here, we hold weekly meditation and discussion gatherings as well as mindfulness classes for children and screenings of indie movies. Since the inauguration of the centre in 2008, the classes have continued to expand, and in particular the meditation meetings and movie nights have gained a strong following.
Outside the centre, we organise a nightly drug outreach program, meditation classes at two colleges and a drug rehab centre and engage in social activities, such as cleaning the city dog pound and reforestation.
In the future, I would like to offer more activities based on the contemplative disciplines and also increase the number of treks to sacred sites for recovering drug addicts. Along with meditation, I hope such activities can provide the means for the youth of Bhutan to fully embrace the opportunities of the modern world, while at the same time giving them the skills to remain firmly rooted in the wisdom traditions of the kingdom.

Meditation Class In Changjiji, Thimpu. Between 90 -100 kids attend twice weekly

As I once told someone, I would like the youth who attend our sessions to be outwardly like any other kid – going to discos or playing basketball. However, through their knowledge of Dharma and practice of meditation, they would perceive these activities differently. Rather than being caught up in all the expectations and attachments that usually destroy the enjoyment of such recreations, they could participate purely for the pleasure of doing so. Then, once the activity is over, they let it go.

Shenphen Zangpo

Read Sangay Tenzin’s poem on our Arts & Media page by clicking here.
He is recovering addict who is learning meditation and haiku through the Deer Park programme.

Buddhist Heritage Literary Project



by Huang Jing Rui
“If you ask the Buddha which one is more important–the Buddha’s form, speech, mind, quality and activity? I think it is the Buddha’s speech. Because, even from a very mundane point of view, if you think of Shakyamuni Buddha as a form, that he has come and gone, and that it’s been almost 2,500 years and something, we can’t really see him. The mind of the Buddha is beyond our reach. The speech of the Buddha, what he taught, is actually readable.”

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, Chair, BLHP

The vision of the Buddhist Literary Heritage Project (BLHP) is to make the precious teachings of the Buddha universally available through translation.

History has shown us that in order for the Dharma to take root in a society, it is imperative that the Dharma be made available in languages that its people could comprehend. The various movements to translate the Buddha’s teachings into world languages, which subsequently formed the Pali Canon, the Chinese Mahayana Tripitaka, the Tibetan Kangyur and Tengyur, and the many non-canonical collections, all led to the revival and growth of Buddhism in different parts of the world. In particular, the Tibetan Kangyur and Tengyur form the largest surviving collection of Buddhist texts, after the massive destruction of Buddhist texts in Sanskrit and other Indic languages in India in the 11th and 12th centuries. While Buddhism was almost wiped out in India, that it flourished in Tibet was in large part due to the availability of translations in Tibetan.

Over the past few decades, the Tibetan Buddhist community has sadly seen the loss of many of the most learned and accomplished Buddhist masters, and most of those who remain are in their old age. Their knowledge of the texts, handed down over the generations in a living tradition going back to the great masters of the past and to the Buddha himself, is an essential part of every Dharma translator’s work. With only less than 5% of the Indo-Tibetan Buddhist literary heritage translated into modern languages, the world faces the imminent risk of losing access to the profound messages and meaning contained within this precious heritage.

At the same time, there is growing curiosity towards and demand for the teachings of the Buddha in Western societies today, as well as a revival of interest among English-reading Asians. However, the lack of material available in modern languages has set considerable limits on what is possible in terms of study, research, and personal advancement.

It was with these perspectives in mind that the BLHP was subsequently formed in January 2010, and has since worked progressively towards the establishment of an organizational framework and infrastructure to support its long-term vision. Six months since its inception, the Buddhist Literary Heritage Project (BLHP) has already funded 27 pilot translations, and will soon be providing more translation grants to support translators in their important mission to translate texts of the Kangyur.

Dzongsar Khyenste Rinpoche addressing BHLP 2010 Photo from Huang Jing Rui

We hope you will be part of this huge endeavour to offer the Buddha’s heritage of ancient wisdom to the future generations of the world. You can:
• Subscribe to our mailing list:
• Donate to our cause:
• Recommend our website to others:

“So, yes, it is a daunting task, but as followers of the Buddha, it is our practice, it is our path, and, if you are a Mahayana practitioner, it is also our act of benefiting sentient beings. It is serving the Buddha, therefore, it is also serving all sentient beings. So we do realise that this is quite an important task that we can’t afford to ignore.”

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche