Bill Alexander is a self-described “free-lance storyteller” who leads sobriety workshops at such venues as Union Theological Seminary, the Esalen Institute, and Hazelden Foundation. He is now in the process of moving to Ojai, California, to work with Byron Katie.
“Hi, I’m Bill and I’m Old” is his latest work.
Bill and Lama Losang (David Bole) will be teaching at KTD August 2 – 4: a weekend workshop on “How Buddhism and the Twelve Steps can help in Recovery from Addictions.”
May 7, 2013
For reasons that remain between you and me and Masha and L.A. Peter and a couple of anonymice, I want to remind you of a prayer that the theologian Howard Thurman taught to my mentor, Sam Keen, who taught it to me.
Thank you, thank you, thank you so very much, thank you.
My friend Byron Katie said recently that she’s at the point where her life is entirely about gratitude. She added that she sees little difference between gratitude and humility.
“The only wisdom is humility.”
Let’s talk, quite soon.
Now I’m going to put on that brilliant and perfect buffalo felt Stetson that Win gave me last night and head out into the open, and finally, warm air.
May 8, 2013
Here is a truth it only took me 70 years to learn.
I hope you can see it and adopt it now. It could save a lot of needless suffering. And it could also reframe the suffering you may already have had.
I can say, truthfully, that all of the hard times I have gone through, including the challenging calendar year just past, were gifts.
So here it is:
My life does not happen to me; it happens for me.
May 9, 2013
Today I’m telling you something you already know. So this letter is for the dozen or so people who read these meandering thoughts from time to time.
On Monday, I came to an agreement with a teacher and friend and remarkable visionary named Byron Katie, that I will be working with her, beginning in mid-June.
If there’s a lesson in this astonishing gift, it’s that when I stay out of my way, live in aliveness (my preferred way of saying in the present moment) and pay attention, there are currents deep in my life that will carry me, without my intent or volition, to the unknown waters of my destiny.
I didn’t plan this. All I did was listen and act, without knowing where I was headed.
One place I’m headed is Ojai, California. I will leave Minnesota early in June, probably right after having dinner with you and Julie in a restaurant of your choice, and on your nickel (I envision burgers and fries and iced tea – the three basic food groups) and then, as you have seen me do, us do, in the past, I’ll hop in my beat up Jeep, which will be packed with everything I own, and head first to the Northwest, then south down the pacific coast, on into LA to spend a little time with Masha and then to Ojai, the day before my 71st birthday.
I guess. Katie said to me recently that “guesses work in my world as all is only that.”
Minnesota has been a wonderful gift for me. And, in a sublime way, for Toni, my soul mate who died here not many months ago. She told me, right before her death, that she reckoned I came here so that she would.
And I see, as well, that the hard times I’ve had here were necessary in order to open me to the deeper realities. So I’m grateful to those who pushed me to what I thought were the limits of my tolerance and patience and taught me love in a different way.
Who’d ‘a thunk it.
I repeat – my life doesn’t happen to me, it happens for me.
As is inevitable, I’ve got to quote Leonard Cohen:
“you lose your grip/ and then you slip/ into the masterpiece”.
Love and beauty, Dad
May 10, 2013
My oh my, what a wonderful day
Plenty of sunshine heading my way
Mister bluebird on my shoulder
It’s the truth
Everything is satisfactual
PS – pay attention to what song is playing on your emotional jukebox – more wisdom there than in any of our ponderous figuring it all out minds.
Content reprinted courtesy Bill Alexander, 2013
Traleg Kyabgön Rinpoche once remarked that there is nothing like these accounts of Siddhas of Ga.
Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche strongly encouraged Lama Karma Drodhul to request Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche to tell the stories of accomplished tantric practitioners (siddhas) from Kham, Eastern Tibet. Most of the holy beings whose lives are recounted here began as ordinary people like us, and were not recognized emanations of buddhas or bodhisattvas. This book clearly demonstrates that we can, through diligence, achieve the same result.
Beautifully recorded by Lama Karma Drodhul, these are stories of siddhas that Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche actually knew.
SEE YOU THERE!
SIDDHAS OF GA: Remembered by Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche, written by Lama Karma Drodhul, translated by Lama Yeshe Gyamtso, published by KTD Publications.
BOOK SIGNING: Saturday, May 18, 2013; 1:00 pm (during the Khenpo Gangshar teaching) at Karma Triyana Dharmachakra, Woodstock NY
Photos courtesy Lama Karma Drodhul; from his Facebook page.
EXCERPT FROM PAGES 31-33: Droril the Yogini
Droril was a yogini from Rima.
Through the unchanging faith and devotion in your heart
For the supreme deity, the great treasure of nobility of heart,
And your repetition of his six-syllable heart-essence,
You revealed the heart of everything. Yogini, I bow to you!
This yogini was from Rimar in Kham. She was called Droril because her hair was whiter than a conch, and she usually bundled herself in an outer garment of white felt.
Droril means “wheat-colored and round.” As she worked constantly as a shepherd, she never learned to read. However, she continuously recited the MANI with stable
faith and trust, and eventually recited more than three hundred million. Her brother recited one hundred million and had a good practice.
When Droril herded her sheep in cold weather she would recite MANIs on the mountain slopes and then, imagining a fence surrounding her flock, would blow air in their direction. She would say, “Through the compassion of Arya Avalokita, they’ll be fine.” Then she would sleep through the day, without checking on the sheep even once. The sheep would never stray from the area she had blessed for them as pasture. In the evening she would imagine summoning them to her, and they would follow her home.
When the weather was fine she would circumambulate the mountain’s peak while reciting MANIs. At that time my kind guru was about ten years old, and loved to accompany her when she tended her flocks. He told me that there were several reasons for this. As she was a bodhisattva who had perfected love and compassion she was loving to all beings, including him. In addition, because she blessed her sheep they were protected from all harm, including the predation of wolves. They therefore did not require much actual shepherding, so accompanying her was free of stress. Also, although he had barely enough clothing to survive the weather, she would let him lie down to sleep inside her outer garment.
Because she used her mala so much, its cord was always breaking. He often helped her restring it with yarn. She cured the blindness of both humans and animals simply by blowing on them; her benefit of others was not inconsiderable.
It is said in authoritative sources that those who complete one hundred million MANIs will grow a new tooth even if they are advanced in age; accordingly, she grew three. They were as bright and white as a conch; everyone who saw them was amazed and inspired. I have heard from others that she passed away while sitting up with her palms joined in prayer. It is said that in these times of decadence and short lives it is better to accumulate a spark of merit than a mountain of learning. I have never heard of a source of merit greater than meditating on the single deity Avalokita and reciting the single mantra of six syllables.
Unfortunately, most people are like me; they neglect the accumulation of merit in favor of elevated, empty words about the view, meditation, and conduct while abandoning their bodies, speech, and minds to mediocrity. This is our worst problem, both for this life and for the future. I have not seen this do anyone any real good, only bring about their ruin and that of others.
Through the virtue of writing this may beings in the six states
Rely upon the six syllables, the king of mantras;
Purify the six kleshas that cause rebirth;
And reach the state of Vajradhara, the sixth buddha.
Tara Dance has been blessed and supported by H.E. Tai Situ Rinpoche, the previous Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpche, the previous Kalu Rinpoche, and the previous Bokar Rinpoche. It has been performed for His Holiness Karmapa.
Prema Dasara will teach three Tara dances at KTD in a program running from Saturday evening June 1 through Sunday evening June 2
The dances in these sessions are based in simple movements that require no special training, anyone can do them. What makes them extraordinary and effective are the meditations. The meditations are designed to awaken the innate capacity of the heart. Resting in wisdom, radiating love, a special energy field is generated and a sense of comfort and stability experienced. In this exceptional environment deep insight arises.
Saturday 7:00 – 8:30 PM Dancing Tara, a movement meditation
Sunday 10:30 AM – NOON Dancing White Tara of the Six Shields
Sunday 2:30 – 4:00 PM Dancing the 8 Precious Offerings
Full KTD pricing and lodging information below
About Prema Dasara
Here is an account by Prema Dasara, Dance Master of the Tara Dhatu, of a 1995 interview with H. E. Tai Situ Rinpoche that has guided the work of the Tara Dhatu dancers until now:
“He told us that the dance had become not only a practice that was an accumulation of merit, but also an accumulation of wisdom. He felt that in the dance the women had achieved a level of meditative absorption. After the dance we met and he told me that it was a lineage practice and that I was the Dance Master. He asked me to be very careful about letting the dance out of my hand, very careful about who I allowed to teach. He said that as a lineage practice it was precious, a vehicle of enlightened mind. He asked me not to allow it to degenerate into some form of external worship.”
Prema Dasara has been an international teacher of sacred dance and dharma for over 30 years. She is the creator of the Mandala Dance of the 21 Praises of Tara, a profound practice that is a vehicle of empowerment, calling forth from dancers and audience the highest expression of wisdom and compassion. Her dances have been offered to some of the greatest Tibetan masters; His Holiness the Dalai Lama, His Holiness the 17th Karmapa, His Eminence Tai Situ Rinpoche, His Eminence Jamgon Kongrul, with their blessing and encouragement.
Prema is the Spiritual and Creative Director of Tara Dhatu, a non-profit organization formed to preserve the integrity of sacred dance practice with presently over 90 centers around the globe. Her work is timely and timeless, a bridge between eastern and western expressions of ancient wisdom, revealing the underlying power of unified feminine spiritual energy to heal and transform oneself and the world.
KTD Registration and Lodging Information; call 845-679-5906 ext. 3 to register!
Full Program $70/$58 KTD members
Individual Session $30/$24 KTD members
Room and Board:
Private Room $96 per night /$77 per night KTD members
Shared Room $77 per person per night /$62 per person per night KTD members
Dorm $48 per night/$40 per night KTD members
All room and board options include 3 vegetarian meals a day.
Meals for Those not Staying at KTD
Breakfast $8.00/$6 KTD members
Lunch $10/$8 KTD members
Dinner $8/$6 KTD members
All photos and video from the Tara Dhatu website. May All Beings Benefit!
THIRD in a Series
This story is part of a series leading up to the celebration of Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche’s 90th birthday in September, 2013. At the conclusion of this year’s Ten-Day Teaching, a large shrine dedicated to White Tara, the protectress of health and longevity, will be assembled at KTD as part of a three-day White Tara Puja for the benefit of His Holiness Karmapa and all the teachers of the lineage, especially to celebrate Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche’s 90th birthday, long life and dharma activity. The White Tara Shrine will include beautiful statues consecrated by Khenpo Rinpoche. To find out more, click here.
The extensive journey of a sea of statues set to make their appearance on the shrine at the White Tara Puja this September is now well under way, according to May Lein Ho, coordinator of the Friends of KTD.
“I commissioned a very special statue craftsman in Nepal to start making the statues,” says May Lein, noting that the craftsman began in September of 2012. “It took him and his crew more than five months, working very hard, to make the statues. It was a huge project.”
All 155 statues were shipped to the United States just a few weeks ago, in March, which — given the need to wrap each piece with care and precision — also required quite a bit of manpower.
“We mobilized students (monks) from a nearby dharma school with their lama teacher to go to the shop to help wrap and secure each statue,” she says. “It’s about 2.5 hours of driving along the very challenging mountain ‘snail’ road to come down from their school to the shop. This is the type of help that sometimes money can’t make happen!”
When May Lein visited the Karme Ling Retreat Center in early April, she was surprised to find that Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche had already filled all of the 6” and 8” White Tara statues with mantras, relics, and blessing substances, without any assistance.
“He showed me his ten fingers. They really worked hard and were tired!” she says. “Ani (Rinpoche’s assistant) told me that during those 10 days, Rinpoche’s fingers were black all day long with glue, dust and metal residues on them. His arms were sore because he needed to hit the bottom plates hard to make them even and fit. A lot of hard work went into these auspicious statues.”
And that work represents not only the blessings of longevity for individual teachers and masters provided through the White Tara practice, but the longevity of KTD itself.
“The donations we get from whoever wants to obtain an individual statue (or donate toward the 24” one that will be given to Rinpoche for his birthday) will all be accumulated and go to pay KTD’s remaining mortgage principal,” May Lein said. “This is our hope and commitment!”
According to Lama Karma Drodhul, Rinpoche’s nephew, that commitment is very dear to our beloved teacher’s heart.
“All these White Tara statues are important for three reasons,” says Lama Karma. “First, for dedicating for Rinpoche’s long life, second, for students to show their respect and devotion for Rinpoche and building or making a very special, auspicious connection to him. Lastly is to give big support to KTD, which is Rinpoche’s – you can say that KTD is his heart – because he has nothing to emphasize more than maintaining the Karmapa’s activity here.”
- Tracy Zollinger Turner, Columbus KTC
You can participate in the White Tara Shrine project by “adopting” one of the remaining 6- or 8-inch White Tara statues to take home after the September puja, or donating toward a 24-inch White Tara Statue to be given to Khenpo Rinpoche for his birthday. There are five 6-inch statues and 35 8-inch statues available. Proceeds benefit His Holiness’ activities at Karma Triyana Dharmachakra. Click here for details.
Robyn writes: Spring is well on its way, and with it comes Earth Day. As always, the date is April 22, but this Sunday some of us will also celebrate at KTD with some environmental projects I’m coordinating. I am a volunteer who recently lived at KTD for about 2 months, and in that time, I’ve learned how I might best make a contribution. I look forward to staying involved on Sundays, and my goal is to put my training in sustainability issues and my experience with environmental work to use, supporting His Holiness’s teachings on environmentalism. After starting up a project to increase composting, I was asked to say a few words connecting this and other immediate projects with long-term goals.
Environmental issues relate to every human activity in this world, but I think that in order to understand global issues, it’s important to first appreciate the life occurring close to home. Wherever we live, we have communities of other living things existing nearby. I see connecting to these neighbors as achieving two main goals: increasing our appreciation of interdependence as an all-pervasive phenomenon and deepening our compassion for all sentient beings.
First, the separation of humans from the natural world is ingrained in our very language; the terms “nature” and “environment” each encompass physical phenomena in general, but we use them to just mean whatever is outside human society. However, all human societies throughout history have grown according to their local environments and natural resources, and all of our technologies were developed from initial reactions to these environments. European societies, at least, made great efforts to show the power of the human mind and its ability to control the world around us.
We can see today, though, that this control is limited. Societies have had to change technologies over time to deal with limited resources and harmful waste; studying the natural balances that are inherent in ecosystems have shown us models of how our societies may sustain themselves over time.
This modeling can be seen in something as simple as compost. When we maintain compost in a way that creates soil, we are trying to recreate an environment similar that of a soil surface layer. In order to process a large amount of organic matter, we simply make a much larger surface layer that can house very large numbers of microbes, worms, and insects. This process allows us to appreciate that without decomposers, none of the waste on earth would go away except by using methods that create different wastes. The soil created then provides the foundation for all plants and animals that we see around us.
To my second point, I have always thought it interesting when people identify me as someone who loves nature. What we call “nature” is simply systems of life in its purest form, which I think ties this meaning of the word to what we discuss as human nature and, of course, Buddha nature. Since the human mind is so complex, many people focus on their love of more complex things rather than simply the love of life. However, all people instinctively love life and enjoy seeing other living things; this need may seem obvious, but many psychological studies have been focused on trying to prove the effects of other living things on our well-being.
I personally find human behavior confusing at times (reacting to people who are reacting to other people who are reacting to other people, etc); observing wildlife, then, I appreciate seeing living things that are simply concerned with living. All beings have this simple desire to live, which unites us all, and that is easy to remember when we see other living things going about their lives. When we really watch some little creature, whose existence we normally wouldn’t notice, we can build compassion for this and other beings that are outside of our everyday lives.
I wanted to start the discussion in time to observe Earth Day this Sunday; I hope this will continue throughout the year. If you are interested in helping with compost or landscaping projects this weekend or in the future, you can contact me directly at email@example.com. Thanks for reading!
– Robyn Glenney
Stupas are Buddhist monuments, containing relics, mantras, and blessed substances. They act as a focal point for relating to the sacred in the external world, and symbolize the activity and blessing of the Buddhas in our everyday environment. As such, they are ideal places for pilgrimage – a sacred journey into one’s spiritual life.
During our pilgrimage, we will make offerings, recite aspiration prayers, and circumambulate the stupas, praying for all sentient beings to enjoy happiness, safety, security, and spiritual awakening. We also will learn about stupas and their sacred architecture, and meet Buddhist teachers and receive teachings along the way.
Do you have an interest in accompanying us on the trip, but cannot attend? Do you wish to support the pilgrimage, and create virtue and merit for yourself and all sentient beings?
We have devised a way to take you along – on a “Virtual Pilgrimage” of the Southwest Stupas.
HOW TO PARTICIPATE IN THE VIRTUAL PILGRIMAGE
People who wish to participate can send a photograph of themselves or a loved one, along with an aspiration, via email to the Stupa Pilgrimage organizers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We will print out the photos and aspirations, put them in a binder, and take them along with us on our pilgrimage. At each stupa, we will circumambulate the stupas, carrying your photo and aspiration, and pray for you and your loved ones’ accomplishment of your aspirations.
Photos and aspirations also can be sent via postal mail. You can send them to:
KTD Stupa Pilgrimage
243 English Ave.
Newark, OH 43055
We have extended the deadline for submitting photos and aspirations for our “Virtual Pilgrimage” to Midnight Eastern Time on Sunday, May 26. If you wish for your photo and aspiration to be returned to you, please include a stamped, self-addressed envelope with your photo and request. We will do our best to return them to you.
ANOTHER LEVEL OF PARTICIPATION: PILGRIMAGE SPONSORSHIP
Persons who wish to help sponsor the pilgrimage – to help us defray costs for the pilgrimage, and to make offerings to the stupas we visit along the way – may include donations with their photos and aspirations.
There are two levels of Sponsorship: Friend, and Supporter
Friends donate $1 to $24. In appreciation for their donation, Friends will receive a photo of the Tashi Gomang Stupa for their altar.
Supporters donate $25 and above. In appreciation for their donation, Supporters will receive both the Tashi Gomang Stupa photo and two Buddhist protection cords blessed by the ALL stupas we will visit. These cords can be worn around the neck or wrist, or placed in your home or your car, and provide a spiritual protection and support.
Checks can be made out to KTD Stupa Pilgrimage, and sent (along with photos and aspirations) to the address above.
Unfortunately, donations made this year are not tax-deductible, but each donation will be acknowledged by letter, sent around June 15, after the conclusion of the pilgrimage. Donor Gifts also will be shipped around June 15.
Many thanks to all for considering this Virtual Pilgrimage; it is said that when you rejoice in the merit of others, you yourself reap the same merit. May all beings have the joy of being in the presence of the awakened ones!!!
I love the photo where you can see Rinpoche’s blue “Buddha eye”
peeking through the statue. I also include a close-up of the 8 inch fully gold plated White Tara statue and a photo of Rinpoche holding the statue.
Our beloved Abbot turns 90 this year, and we plan to celebrate in a very special way. These 155 statues – finely crafted, decorated with precious stones, and personally filled by Rinpoche — will be used to build a shrine for a three-day White Tara retreat August 30-Sept. 1. At the end of the retreat, Rinpoche will consecrate the statues. The blessing goes to those who attend the ceremony and the sponsors, who take their statues home with them. (Or of course they can be shipped).
We are also giving Rinpoche a 24-inch statue for his birthday that will be part of the shrine.
There are several ways to participate:
- Sponsor a 6” or 8″ White Tara statue, either partially or fully gold-plated. to take home after the event. Prices range from $1200 (6” partially gold plated) to $2100 (8″ fully gold plated). They were made by craftsmen of Rinpoche choosing.
- Contribute towards the 24-inch gold-plated White Tara statue, a gift to express our deep love and respect for Rinpoche.
- Donate any amount towards the project.
- Recite White Tara mantras whenever you can to pray for our precious guru’s longevity.
For more information, contact May Lein Ho at friendsofktd@gmail, or go to http://www.kkrinternational.org/kkr_projects.html.
May all beings benefit!!
Last week David Kaczynski, Lama Kathy Wesley, Lama Tsultrim Yeshe and Dr. James L. Knoll, a forensic psychiatrist and Buddhist, spoke to the community of Newtown, Ct. in a program called ” Violence, Loss and Emotional Healing: A Buddhist Perspective.” Newtown, Ct., lost 20 small children and 6 adults in a school shooting Dec. 14, 2012, and is really hurting. The talk was sponsored by a group called Sandy Hook Promise, which was formed in response to the tragedy there.
We had no idea how many people would come but there were 165 people in the synagogue — packed to overflowing. People were standing up along the back wall and sitting in chairs beside the pews. Everyone was very quiet during the presentations — one by each person — and very engaged during the Q and A period that followed. Afterward, people came up to say that the program had been personally helpful to them. So we had a feeling it had gone well, and were grateful that we could be of some assistance.
But I asked Scott Wolfman, who knows David and helped organize the event, how it was received by those who attended. What he wrote was so moving that I want to share it with you.
“I knew the four panelists offering the Buddhist perspective — on anger, pain, love, compassion, suffering — were going to be powerful, but the event in Newtown exceeded my expectations. David Kaczynski is a master storyteller, and through his own personal struggle, beautifully illustrates the complex dynamics at work when people grieve and lose loved ones, and the power of forgiveness and compassion to set healing into motion. Lama Kathy, Lama Yeshe and James Knoll were all wonderful too. Each of the four presenters came into our community bearing the gifts of mindfulness, love, compassion and gratitude.
Many of my friends and community members had commented to me after that this program is exactly what Newtown needs to heal. In thinking of the idea that it’s better to light one candle then to curse the dark, many of us feel that this program has helped us to illuminate our own candle, so that we may move throughout our community and allow the light to become even brighter.”
I thought you would want to know about this important way that KTD reached out to help a community in need.
We also invited the community to come for the June 14-16 teaching by Lama Tsultrim Yeshe and Dr. James L. Knoll, “Mindfulness: A Path to Mental Health and Recovery from Trauma,” so I expect we will have more opportunity to serve.
May all beings benefit.