The Practice of Pilgrimage

What exactly is a pilgrimage?
Within Buddhism, a pilgrimage is a spiritual journey, usually to a spiritually significant destination. Here, the travel itself is seen as most significant, rather than the arrival at one’s destination. During a pilgrimage, practitioners, while focusing on the Buddha’s teachings and tenets, travel mindfully with the aim of reducing worldly attachment. The goal of the practice is to gain insight and understanding into oneself and one’s life while at the same time generating and accumulating virtuous merit. Pilgrimages can be used to mark a significant point or change in one’s life, e.g., the loss of a loved one, the birth of the “new you”, or to find clarity and answers against uncertainty in one’s life. A common practice when undertaking a pilgrimage is to choose something to renounce. This could be any unwholesome or problematic habit, behavior, view, attitude, or intention. Conversely, one may also set out to attain something on their pilgrimage, possibly the adoption of wholesome or beneficial habits and behaviors; or to habituate new views, attitudes, or intentions.

The way a pilgrimage works
While on pilgrimage, one’s daily concerns and responsibilities are suspended, while at the same time, the travel and changing environment wards off boredom and complacency. Here, one gets the space and time to view their life from a different vantage point, away from the constraining walls of one’s home and the criticism and influence of one’s community. However, the true validity of a pilgrimage (including any benefits gained) lies in the fervor and fidelity that the practitioner brings to it. For a true pilgrimage is not an external journey but an internal one. With that said, my pilgrimage, because of the unique situation I’m in, is different. For the first time in ten years, I’m leaving the safety of my monastery without plans of returning or a clear destination or fixed end in mind. In Buddhist traditions, this type of practice is referred to as being a wandering monk.

Pilgrimage vs. wandering monastic
Where pilgrimages are usually focused more on oneself, one’s practice, and one’s accumulation of insight and merit; a wandering monastic’s intentions are directed outward towards others, focused on how best they can benefit those they meet. Usually, this takes the form of teaching, or performing requested ceremonies, but can also include volunteering with charities and working with local communities. On a deeper level, the practice of a wandering monastic is aimed at uprooting one’s self-cherishing by losing oneself in the benefiting and cherishing of others, through which one may awaken from ignorance and self-delusion.

Revised Debate Text 4th Edition

A revised version of my debate text:
Debate Text-1 / Foundations of Debate
Collected Topics (for English speakers)
is now available for free download from the download library

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This revision includes additional maps on the debate subjects of:
Tenets
Asserting Objects
Asserting Object Possessors
Mind and Mental Factors
Hearer’s Grounds and Paths
Solitary Realizer’s Grounds and Paths
Bodhisattva’s Grounds and Paths

Spoken Tibetan Basics

For those looking for an easily accessible no-nonsense beginner’s guide to the spoken Tibetan language, look no further. This unique text shares a presentation of the Tibetan language that is currently being spoken by Tibetans throughout India and the world.
1st edition 2013 – Download free from the download library

 

Spoken Tibetan Basics
a Tibetan Language Primer  (for English speakers)
Free Download: Tib-Spoken-Basics.PDF

 

 

 

 

 

Sera Je Monastery, South India

Sera Jey Ngari Khangtsen – My house group and home

Ngari Khangtsen at Sera Jey Monastery, South India
At Sera Jey there are sixteen house groups called ‘Khangtsens’. My Khangtsen is the Ngari Khangtsen. Each khangtsen is linked to a province in Tibet and has to accommodate the monks that hail from these areas. These house groups function independently from the main monastery with each house group having the responsibility to provide the living necessities for their own monks, which includes housing, medical care, and educational material. Ngari Khangtsen was originally founded in western Tibet. Then in 1970 reestablished at Sera Jey Monastery in South India. Currently, Ngari Khangtsen has over 140 monks, which are mostly ethnic Tibetans from the Indian Himalayan regions and other Himalayan countries, including Nepal and Bhutan.

Monastic ordination 2010


 

Waking Aspiration

Beginning the day properly by setting one’s intention
Upon awakening, even before getting out of bed, set your day’s intention and aims by reciting this morning aspiration.

Waking aspiration

Today I am fortunate to be alive,
To have a precious human life,
I will not waste it.
I will use all my energies to develop myself,
To expand my heart out to others,
To achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings.
Today I am going to have kind thoughts towards others,
I am not going to get angry or think badly about others,
Today I’m going to benefit others as much as I can.

     ~ His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama

Click here to download this aspiration:
Morning Aspiration.PDF

Meal Dedication

Meal dedication
To the supreme teacher, the precious Buddha,
To the supreme path, the precious Dharma,
To the supreme guide, the precious Sangha,
To these three jewels, the supreme refuge, I dedicate this meal.
~ Traditional Buddhist meal prayer

This prayer can be used for other offerings as well by substituting the last line with:
To these three jewels, the supreme refuge, I make this/these offering(s).

Short addition to the meal dedication
While enjoying this meal let us eat mindfully, being present and aware.
Let us eat in moderation and balance, to nourish and fuel our hearts, minds, and bodies.
Let us eat joyfully with appreciation, enjoying the company of our friends, families, and community.
Let us eat so we can be productive on our path and in our commitment to benefit others.
~ Venerable Tenzin Tharpa

Long addition to the meal dedication
This meal before us symbolizes abundance and prosperity, health and wellness, and also friendship, family, and community. Within it, we find:
Great love and care in its preparation,
Great joy and happiness in its sharing,
Great delight and pleasure in its many tastes and textures,
As well as the anticipation of a full and contentment stomach at the meals end.

Conversely, at the same time, we must maturely recognize that this meal also represents life’s suffering. For within it we find:
Vast hours of backbreaking labor in its cultivation,
Great sorrow in the loss of small innocent life in its harvest,
Great greed and unfairness in its commerce,
And of course, our inevitable dissatisfaction in its many imperfections.

It is through reflecting on both of these truths, that we generate deep appreciation. So, as we reflect on these truths,
Let us eat mindfully, being present and aware.
Let us eat in moderation and balance, to nourish and fuel our hearts, minds, and bodies.
Let us eat joyfully with appreciation, enjoying the company of our friends, families, and community.
Let us eat so we can be productive on our path and in our commitment to benefit others.
~ Venerable Tenzin Tharpa

Click here to download this meal dedication: 
Meal Dedication.PDF

My True Nature

A daily affirmation recited each morning

Affirmation of my own true nature
I exist as a conceptual identity, an idea; imputed upon collections labeled mind, collections labeled body, and collections labeled experiences. I am an ethereal and wondrous entity, blessed with infinite potential, and an unlimited capacity for good. These collections and identity are not static elements but instead are dynamic processes, existing interdependently in a state of constant and infinite change. My reality is a subjective interpretation of an objective world, perceived through limited sense perception and understood by way of a collective conceptual construct, which serves as a beneficial interface with my environment. My liberation is contingent on my ever-deepening understanding of this truth. Therefore, my practice is the daily cultivation and embodiment of this truth, leading to its direct experiential realization, which is enlightenment.

~ Venerable Tenzin Tharpa

Click here to download this affirmation: 
My-True-Nature.PDF


The Nature of Suffering

A daily affirmation recited each morning

Affirmation of the nature of suffering
Through reifying my identity, I reify my vulnerability.
Through reifying my vulnerability, I reify my problems.
Through reifying my problems, I reify my suffering.
Conversely…
Through realizing the ethereal nature of my identity, I realize the ethereal nature of my vulnerability
Through realizing the ethereal nature of my vulnerability, I realize the ethereal nature of my problems.
Through realizing the ethereal nature of my problems, I realize the ethereal nature of my suffering.

~ Venerable Tenzin Tharpa

Click here to download this affirmation: 
Nature-of-Suffering.PDF

Ode to Mental Discipline

The Buddhist path begins with the development of a disciplined mind. This includes gaining control over views, intentions, emotions, thoughts, choices, speech, and actions. No progress begins and no attainments are gained without mental/emotional discipline. The cultivation of mental discipline, which leads to all positive mental states, is the true path, and to be deeply rooted in the stability of that discipline, the true goal.

Mental discipline equals happiness. This is a truth that is often counterintuitive and hard for some to accept. Many associate mental discipline with repression or denial of joy, spontaneity, fun, or just being silly. However, rightly understood, mental discipline is about clarity and not merely constraint. It’s about knowing and holding rationally accepted boundaries of both our internal and external environments. It’s about being skillful in adapting and cultivating behaviors that bring us closer to our goals (happiness). Conversely, the lack of mental discipline is like living in a clouded reality where we lazily are oblivious to the importance of our choices and actions. This is a numb, careless, and often childish state of mind where we simply coast through life being carried about by our impulses and desires. A delusional state, similar to being drugged, in which we remain detached from reality and our true potential.

All things are mind. Our reality, both internal and external, is an interpretation created by our minds. Even our physical world, although empirically real, is known merely through sense information delivered to and interpreted by the mind. Meaning, the mind is the most significant aspect of our lives. Therefore, the development of the mind and cultivation of mental discipline is clearly the most important work at hand. 

The cultivation of mental discipline is the cultivation of free will. It is to develop a stable free will that is not under the control of one’s desires, emotions, fears, hormones, animal nature, ego, or the will/actions of others. To cultivate a stable and mature mind that is not vulnerable to manipulation, exploitation, deception, or maltreatment by others or by oneself. 

How to cultivate mental discipline. Practices of mindfulness, meditation, contemplation, noting/labeling, and/or holding vows are powerful tools for developing mental discipline.

Ode to Mental Discipline
An important daily aspiration

I will no longer allow my emotions to dictate my state of mind.
I will no longer allow my desires and impulses to covertly shape my life.
I will no longer allow my habits to blindly direct my life’s course.
I will no longer allow my fears to rob me of opportunity and happiness.
I will no longer allow others to manipulate my emotions and self-worth.
~
I will be strong, energetic, and confident.
I will cultivate clarity and remain truthful with myself.
I will develop diligence and an unwavering resolve for improvement.
I will make conscious mature choices, and hold myself to those choices.
I will become wholly responsible and in full control of my life from this day forward.

~ Venerable Tenzin Tharpa

Click here to download this aspiration:
Mental-Discipline.PDF

Blessing

Although it’s not possible to transfer my merit to others, I hope that I can inspire you to seek out your full potential and inherent goodness.

Blessing
May you be healthy; may you be prosperous; may you be well.
May you be present–free from the torments of past regret and future apprehension.
May you abide in constant appreciation–which is the source of great joy and contentment.
May you realize your true nature and the true nature of reality–which is enlightenment.

Tenzin Tharpa