With the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic, the world has had to face serious challenges and we have all had to face stark changes in our usual ways of life. The Mindrolling International Sangha has been no exception. Despite the many changes and uncertainties of the year, our sangha endeavored to transform and meet these challenges in various ways. Following are some of the reports of the various activities of the past months.
100 Days Retreat – Bringing Difficult Circumstances to the Path of Practice
In February and March, the Coronavirus began to take a fearsome toll and countries around the world began to enforce strict quarantines on their populations. At this time there were over twenty sangha members engaged in strict solitary retreat at Mindrolling Lotus Garden. Despite the spread of the pandemic and travel restrictions and lock-downs being imposed around the world, most of the senior members in retreat remained steadfast and mindful of the samaya of retreat and continued with their retreat without obstacles and interruptions.
With Jetsün Khandro Rinpoche’s guidance and encouragement, almost all of them decided to take the quarantine as an opportunity to continue their retreats and practices and many extended their 100 days retreat to continue indefinitely. We take great inspiration from their example as practitioners who, in the face of great challenges, turned even more strongly to the Dharma for refuge and fearlessly remained steadfast in their commitment to complete the retreat. We hope that following this example, no matter what may happen in the world, Rinpoche will continue to guide the sangha so that more and more sangha members can take on the commitments to long term retreats as a powerful means for true accomplishment of the path of Buddhadharma.
Mindrolling International Pandemic Relief Effort
While the world grappled with the growing pandemic and the many challenges that it brought to countless people, the worldwide Mindrolling International sangha took on the challenge and engaged in making sure that some of the most vulnerable individuals were able to stay safe and cared for during these challenging times. In April, as India continued its strict lockdown, Jetsün Khandro Rinpoche called upon the international sangha to help support thousands of people in the Indian state of Uttarakhand, where Mindrolling Monastery is located. With the many economic difficulties, many people were facing a situation where they could not afford food, shelter, or medical care. Tens of thousands of people in Uttarakhand continue to face such dire situations. Rinpoche worked in partnership with the state and local governments to provide relief to those in the most need.
As Rinpoche sent out the call for donations, the worldwide sangha responded to this urgent need by gathering funds for the relief efforts. Hundreds of families were supplied with food, medicines and cleaning supplies each month. Mindrolling International has been active in distributing face masks, protective equipment, hand sanitizers, disinfection materials, face shields and medical supplies to various communities and groups of health workers. In addition, these funds have allowed for the continued cleaning and disinfecting of areas and ensuring support for the elderly members of the community with food and medical aid.
These efforts are continuing and whoever wishes to contribute towards this project will be making a significant difference in someone’s life. Please visit https://www.lotusgardens.org/office/make-a-donation/ and note “India Pandemic Relief” in the comments box to have your donation directed towards these causes.
Lotus Garden Deleg Meetings – Caring for Our Sangha
Amidst global lockdown due to the pandemic, Minling Jetsün Khandro Rinpoche encouraged the Mindrolling Lotus Garden Deleg team to be responsible for the health and well-being of the worldwide sangha. MLG Deleg organized a series of video conferences inviting groups of sangha members to attend discussions led by the Deleg team.
These meetings were organized regionally over Zoom to discuss mental and health issues and challenges affecting our sangha members. The forum was moderated by Lopöns Barbara Ryan and Helen Berliner, Drupön Roar Vestre and senior sangha members and health care professionals: Michael Rogan, Carl Rosenthal, and Bonnie Charon. These meetings provided an opportunity for members to support each other during this difficult time of turmoil and uncertainty, express their experiences and reach out for help as needed. It was immensely helpful for all involved to simply check in and stay in touch with our fellow sangha members during these difficult and often isolated times.
Jetsün Khandro Rinpoche Prayer Ceremony – Live Online Broadcast and Prayer Ceremonies at Mindrolling
In early April, Jetsün Khandro Rinpoche hosted a prayer ceremony online for the entire sangha. At the height of uncertainty, Rinpoche offered reassurance and solidarity to our sangha members, encouraging everyone to use these difficult circumstances as an opportunity to practice and deepen their commitment to the dharma, and especially to take to heart and work with the central tenets of the Buddha’s teachings: selflessness and impermanence. Broadcast over the Internet from Rinpoche’s residence at Mindrolling Monastery in India, Rinpoche provided an intimate commentary to a series of prayers focussed on healing and inspiring students to find genuine refuge in the words of the Buddha and the great bodhisattvas of the past. Prayers included the Seven Branch offerings, Tara sadhana and praises, Medicine Buddha, Sukhavati, and the King of Aspirations.
Additionally, numerous prayer ceremonies were held at Mindrolling Monastery to dispel obstacles to the entire world. Rinpoche, along with the monks of Mindrolling and the nuns of Samten Tse, performed the Minling Dorsem Sadhana for all those whose lives were lost in the pandemic along with prayers for sangha members’ loved ones lost this past year. Butterlamp ceremonies and prayers were offered for the health care workers and all those serving on the front line of the pandemic. Extensive protector practices were done for a swift end to the pandemic and to avert all obstacles. A three-day Minling Dorsem Sahana was offered at Mindrolling and these prayers were dedicated to all beings. Prayer requests flowed in from sangha members all over the world. The prayers were also dedicated for the living to have protection from obstacles and for all those who have passed away to be guided to good rebirths. Prayers are ongoing and each and every one of these requests have been done during these prayer ceremonies.
Worldwide Sangha Practices and Accumulations
As the length of the pandemic grew with no end in sight, Rinpoche organized an opportunity for sangha to stay connected and engage in meritorious activity on a vast scale. From May 3rd to 7th, 2020, the worldwide sangha accumulated mantras and supplications of Guru Rinpoche. In total, the sangha was able to accumulate five and half million Vajra Guru mantras, over half a million Seven Line supplications and half a million Dusum Sangye supplications. The collective practice was dedicated towards purification and dispelling the incredible obstacles facing beings all over the world.
To commemorate Saga Dawa on June 5th — one of the most sacred months of the year, celebrating the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment, and parinirvana—Rinpoche encouraged the sangha to take the whole month as an opportunity to deepen our own practices. Rinpoche gave a daily prayer schedule to all sangha members who were able to commit to the daily sessions. These prayers focussed on the accumulation of merit and the Guru Yoga of Buddha Shakyamuni. On the full moon day, Rinpoche encouraged all in the sangha to take the one-day lay vows, and to accomplish a feast practice, either as a group (maintaining social distance) or individually. For many, this was an opportunity to engage in the precepts formally for the first time. Following the Buddha’s example, the practice underscored the importance of accumulating merit and wisdom as a means of training our minds.
In this spirit, the sangha continued to practice and accumulate mantras, supplications and feast practices leading up to the Guru Rinpoche Day (10th day) of the 5th lunar (Monkey) month. This 10th day of the 5th month is the day called Treda Tshechu and celebrates the birth of Guru Rinpoche as the Lotus Born. We rejoice in the inconceivable merit produced by the sangha engaging in these virtuous activities dedicated to the benefit of all beings. Words cannot express our sincere gratitude to Jetsün Khandro Rinpoche who continually guides and encourages us to always continue to deepen and strengthen our own practice so that we do not give in to confusion and inertia.
All of us who have been a part of these wonderful practices have seen the sangha unite into a single global sangha with a single purpose of genuine Dharma practice and benefitting beings wherever and whenever possible. This has been possible only through the blessings, encouragement, and guidance of Minling Jetsün Khandro Rinpoche and Jetsünla, who have used the current challenges to make us all more connected and dedicated than ever before.
The First Mindrol Lekshey Online Program – In-Depth Studies for the Worldwide Sangha
Under the guidance and direction of Jetsün Khandro Rinpoche and Jetsün Dechen Paldrön, the Dharmashri Online Portal was launched on July 24th, 2020 as an online resource for students around the world to access teachings, programs and precious dharma resources to guide and support their practice and study. Keeping in mind the wishes of our teachers and the needs of the sangha, the Dharmashri Online Portal will facilitate opportunities for practice and study of the precious dharma throughout the year, in support of more traditional in-person teachings.
In response to circumstances preventing in-person teachings this summer, the Dharmashri Online Portal began by hosting Mindrolling International’s first online program: The Mindrol Lekshey Online Part 1. In 2017, Jetsün Khandro Rinpoche began a cycle of teachings on the Omniscient Longchen Rabjam’s Trilogy of Rest, through his extensive commentary called The Great Chariot. Students studied the recordings of these teachings and Rinpoche provided a daily practice schedule and gave additional teachings during the two-week program. In addition, the participants’ studies were supported by regular review sessions led by 20 Dharma Instructors appointed by Rinpoche.
This program, attended by over 800 students from more than 30 countries, provided a unique opportunity to exert effort in our understanding of these precious teachings. Students showed exemplary engagement and discipline, which has given the sangha great encouragement that studying the Dharma over this new medium can enrich and deepen all our Dharma practices of hearing, contemplating, and meditating.
July 28th, 2020 – Celebration of the 6th Birthday of Minling Dungse Rinpoche
With great joy and enthusiasm, the Mindrolling International sangha celebrated the 6th birthday of Minling Dungse Rinpoche on July 28th, 2020. Dungse Rinpoche, and his elder sister, Jetsün Rinpoche, bring much happiness and hope for the future. Throughout the pandemic the two young Rinpoches have continued all their training and have been able to maintain all their studies uninterruptedly. On July 28th, extensive prayers and mandala offerings were made by the Rinpoches, Tulkus, Khenpos, monks and nuns, and the lay community of Mindrolling at the main shrine room of Mindrolling Monastery. To mark this special occasion, Mindrolling Monasteries in Dehra Dun, Lava, Kalimpong and Sikkim, all celebrated with great joy and vast offerings. The Minling Ladrang offered new robes and supplies to all the monastics and food and medicines were offered to the old and needy within the local community. Extensive prayers and offerings were also made to Dungse Rinpoche and Jetsün Rinpoche by the nuns of Samten Tse in the Kudung Lhakang on behalf of the entire sangha. The day was filled with celebrations and was a great source of happiness for all.
August 19th, 2020 – Worldwide Sangha Offers Tshe Thar for Minling Jetsün Khandro Rinpoche’s Birthday
Under the direct guidance of Jetsün Dechen Paldrön, sangha members around the world offered Tshe Thar (life release) for Her Eminence Minling Jetsün Khandro Rinpoche’s birthday, on August 19th, 2020. These offerings and all the merit accumulated were dedicated to Rinpoche’s long life and vast activities. It was heartwarming and genuinely inspiring to see so many from our sangha undertake this great endeavor. Sangha members from over 20 countries all together released over 90,000 lives. Crabs, lobsters, trout, hundreds of filefishes, octopi, smelt, turtles, and many other types of fish were released into safe waters around the world. Tens of thousands of snails, mussels, worms, crickets, and ladybugs were also freed from their cramped conditions prior to being sold as food or bait and released into their natural habitats. Great care was taken to ensure they were all released into places suitable for their survival, where the likelihood of being caught again was low and where they would not cause any disturbance to local ecosystems.
Hundreds of sangha members with unwavering generosity, deepest gratitude and heartfelt prayers for Rinpoche’s long life donated to animal sanctuaries, shelters, and rescue organizations around the world. Horses, hens, goats, and pigs were sponsored and saved from slaughterhouses and will now be cared for in animal sanctuaries for the rest of their lives. Donations were made to various animal shelters to care for and feed numerous cats, dogs, and wild animals. We pray that these combined efforts of the sangha spread immeasurable benefit for all beings. We hope that this inspires many to undertake one of the greatest practices of all – giving protection from fear to those beings who need it most. We dedicate all this merit to Rinpoche’s long life and vast activities. With deepest gratitude to all the sangha members from around the world and our hearts filled with joy, we thank each one of you for making this possible!
Rejoicing in Continuing to Practice the Dharma in the Face of Difficulties
With all the sadness and suffering that everyone has faced this year, as a sangha, we should rejoice that we have not slackened or been daunted by such incredible suffering. May Jetsün Khandro Rinpoche and Jetsün Dechen Paldrön continue to lead us all on the path of perfecting the accumulations of merit and wisdom. With their blessings and guidance, the sangha has been able to continue to deepen our practice, help to those in need, save the lives of thousands of beings, ensure that the whole sangha is safe and, most of all, maintain courage, discipline, and the view of Dharma in the face of great difficulties. Following their examples, may we all persevere to become sources of kindness, sanity, and courage in this world.
Presenting the Wonderful Mindrolling International Dharmashri Team
This team has been instrumental in coordinating these worldwide efforts among the different sangha groups during this time.