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On the Importance of Relating to Unseen Beings


This short but well rounded article is a great read for everyone, whether you are new or have been exposed to Buddhism for a long time. It sums up the core concepts of Tibetan Buddhism succinctly enough for the beginner Buddhist to grasp, yet is deep enough to hint at the wisdom required to fully understand the true meaning of non-duality.

While the article primarily refers to a western audience, it is excellent reading for people who come from environments where Dharma is scarce or weak.

From my years of teaching, I have found that it is highly possible for communities to label themselves Buddhist and yet have little to no knowledge of the Buddhadharma. This leads to superficial practices amounting to mechanical offerings of incense, water, tea or candles. This is very unfortunate as such practitioners have sufficient faith and trust to make the effort to “practice” but lack the knowledge and guidance to take it to the next level in order to reap the full benefits of true spiritual practice.

The author has carefully highlighted various aspects of Tibetan Buddhism, from philosophical to spiritual and ritual. I encourage everyone to read this article a few times and understand it well. By understanding the value of Buddha’s teachings, you will find the inspiration to revisit topics such as Karma, the Twelve Links of Dependent Origination, the Power of Prayer and Ritual, etc. with much vigor and enthusiasm.

I would like to thank Professor Reginald Ray for writing such a powerful article and I wish everyone great success in your spiritual endeavors.

Tsem Rinpoche



On the Importance of Relating to Unseen Beings


While Westerners have tended to view unseen beings as superstition or mere symbolism, Reginald Ray argues that communication with unseen beings through ritual is at the very heart of tantric Buddhist practice.

Tshechu, a religious festival in Bhutan. Photo by Arian Zwegers.

Truth makes little sense and has no real impact if it is merely a collection of abstract ideas. Truth that is living experience, on the other hand, is challenging, threatening, and transforming.

Tibetan Buddhism is a way of experiencing the world. In many ways, it is quite different from the dominant trends not only in the West, but in the “modern, technological culture” that is now rapidly encircling the globe. There are many parts of the traditional, conservative, medieval culture of Tibet that we will never be able to appreciate or understand. But there are other parts, particularly its Buddhist heritage, that can help us see with new eyes the limitations and possibilities of our own contemporary situation.

Buddhism is a particularly interesting tradition because it has one foot in the past and one in the present. On the one hand, it arose at a time when India was undergoing transformation from a more primitive to a “high” civilization. Buddhism has the same literacy, scholasticism, professional elites, institutionalization, hierarchies, political involvements, and monetary concerns as do the other “high religions” that evolved after the invention of agriculture and that we now largely identify as our own ways of being religious.

At the same time, the Buddha claimed, “I follow the ancient path,” and by this he meant to show a “way back” to a more fundamental experience of human life than the one evolving in his day. Tibetan Buddhism, perhaps more than any other form of Buddhism, has retained the raw and rugged experience of this “primordiality” as the basis of its spirituality. In this sense, it is concerned not with truth that is fixed and dead, but with truth that is alive and constantly emerging.

Traditional Tibetans lived in a world that is, in many respects, quite different from the one assumed in modern Western culture. It is not so much that the classical Tibetan worldview contradicts the findings of modern science, but rather that it emphasizes different things and has a different overall shape and configuration.

Most importantly, in the classical Buddhist view, the world is defined not only by what we can perceive with our physical senses and think about rationally. It is equally made up of what cannot be seen, but is available through intuition, dreams, visions, divination, and the like. The senses and rational mind provide access to the immediate physical world, but it is only through the other ways of knowing that can one gain access to the much larger context in which this physical realm is set. Can modern people have experience of this traditional Tibetan cosmology? Tibetans will tell you that their experience of the universe is accessible to anyone who cares to know it. If you know where to look and how to look, they say, you will see for yourself what we are talking about.

The Tibetan cosmos is a vast one, beginningless and endless in terms of time, and limitless in extent. Worlds, each inhabited by sentient beings, extend on and on throughout space, with no end. This context of infinite space and time, with innumerable worlds, provides the arena for samsara, cyclic existence. Samsara refers to the condition of beings who have not yet attained liberation, whose existence is still governed by belief in a “self” or “ego.” Those still within samsara are thus blindly driven, through the root defilements of passion, aggression, and delusion, to defend and aggrandize the “selves” that they think they possess. This action produces results or karma, that become part of who they are. When samsaric beings die, they are subsequently reborn in the same or another realm, in accordance with their karma. Normally this process, and the cycles of pain and pleasure that it entails, goes on without end. The various samsaric worlds are known as “impure realms,” that is, places where the condition of samsara prevails among the inhabitants.

The situation is not hopeless, however, for there are other realms of being that stand outside of samsara. These are the “pure realms,” characterized by enlightenment, the abode of the “realized ones,” those who have attained liberation from samsara and who dwell in various pure lands. These beings are: the celestial buddhas with their various manifestations; the yidams (personal deities), male and female, also called wisdom dakinis and herukas; the great bodhisattvas such as Avalokiteshvara and Tara, who will come to the aid of beings; the dharmapalas (dharma protectors), who watch over and guard the dharma itself and those on the path; the enlightened men and women who have passed beyond this world, and others. These various enlightened ones represent a state of realization that is available to suffering sentient beings. In fact, according to the type of Buddhism followed in Tibet—Mahayana Buddhism—the state that they embody is the ultimate and final destiny of all humans and other sentient beings. All sentient beings are on the path that will one day lead to the attainment of the complete and perfect enlightenment of a fully realized buddha.

Although the “home” of the buddhas and high-level bodhisattvas is outside of samsara, they appear in our world to help us enter the path of liberation and follow it to its conclusion. The human Buddha Shakyamuni thus appeared twenty-five hundred years ago, bringing the dharma to this world for the first time and founding a lineage of the study and practice of the teachings. Likewise, the celestial buddhas, bodhisattvas, protectors, dakinis and departed teachers appear in our world in various ways, bringing blessings, protection, and guidance on the path.

The Tibetan cosmology, then, is not meant to present a disembodied, abstract “scientific” picture. It rather shows us the realms of potential experience that make up this cosmos. It describes the various realms of being—only one of which is human—that are possible and exist within the totality of being. Some of these modes of being are defined by the suffering of samsara, while others represent liberation from samsara. Traditional Tibetan cosmology, then, contrasts with modern conceptions of the universe that are essentially rationalistic, gained by ignoring all experiential data except ones that conform to limited physical criteria such as matter, extension and motion, and that can be proven to any observer through logical demonstration. The Tibetan picture has been gained through different means and includes different “data.”

There are now many Tibetan teachers who understand very well the kind of universe that is described by modern science. Their response to our ideas is, “Yes, but all of this is just the human world. There are other realms, and these are outside of and beyond this human realm. You cannot see them by using scientific instruments.”

Moreover, even this realm has more dimensions and subtleties than modern people usually ascribe to their world. In the traditional Tibetan view, the animate and inanimate phenomena of this world are charged with being, life and spiritual vitality. These are conceived in terms of various spirits, ancestors, demigods, demons, and so on. Every river and mountain has its spirit embodiment or inhabitants. Each human habitation has a spiritual presence as part of its own being. As this variety suggests, spirits appear with various levels of development and motivation. Some are malevolent; some are neutral, and others are generally beneficent.

These traditional cosmological perspectives create a uniquely powerful environment for the practice of Tibetan Buddhism. The boundless temporal and spatial vistas reveal the fragility, brevity and ultimate futility of human life, taken on its own terms. The view of the phenomena of this world as spiritually charged allows intimacy, relationship and mutuality with the relative world. The understanding of samsara as the endless repetition of life followed by death followed by life, all governed by karma, suggests that lasting happiness in the ordinary sense is not attainable. The introduction of buddhahood as standing outside of samsara provides an alternative to this daunting and frightening prospect. The fact that buddhahood is not only available but is the ultimate and final destiny of all instills fundamental optimism and a sense of the value of life. And the limitless time frame in which this can be achieved enables people to relax and to take their spiritual journey at its own pace. In this way, Tibetan Buddhism has achieved the seemingly contradictory goals of revealing the radical inadequacy of samsara, leaving its adherents little option but to look to a spiritual path, while at the same time rousing them to a sense of confidence, joy and well-being at their human condition and its literally infinite possibilities.

To what extent can the contemporary Western Tibetan Buddhist practitioner dispense with some or all of these unseen, nonhuman beings? From the Tibetan point of view, relationships with the unseen world are essential to a full and successful human life. Ignoring one’s relationships with the whole world of unseen spirits and spiritual beings is, in fact, as senseless and counterproductive as ignoring the people and conventions of one’s own immediate human society. It is simply not possible to live in such a way.

Buddhism is normally thought of as a nontheistic tradition, and this raises the question of how such spirits, gods, and deities are to be understood within the Tibetan Buddhist framework. Certainly in Tibetan life, whether it is a question of the malevolent mamos, the potentially beneficent hearth god, the deities of the god realms, or the dharma protectors or tantric yidams, the nonhuman beings are understood at least on one level as more or less independent, objective entities. They are beings with whom one must be in constant relation, even though they are nonhuman and usually not visible.

At the same time, however, from the point of view of the philosophical and meditative tradition, all such nonhuman beings are ultimately seen as aspects of one’s own mind and not separate from it. But what does this actually mean? Frequently, particularly in the West, this standard Buddhist assertion is taken to indicate that such spirits and deities, taken as external beings by ordinary Tibetans, are not really external at all; that in fact they are mistaken projections of psychological states. This, then, becomes a justification for treating them as nonexistent and provides a rationale for jettisoning them from Western adaptations of the tradition. The problem with this approach is that it reflects a misunderstanding of what is meant by the statement that such entities are aspects of mind and inseparable from mind.

The deities are more properly said to be aspects of one’s own innate mind, or reflexes of one’s awareness. For example, the buddhas, although apparently objectively existing beings, are fundamentally nothing other than our own enlightened nature. The protectors are representations of the wrathful and uncompromising energy of our own awareness. And the gurus are objectifications of the teaching and guiding principle as it exists within each of us. In a similar manner, the various samsaric spirits and demons may be seen as embodiments of peripheral states of one’s own mind. These apparently externally existent beings, then, are false bifurcations of the primordial nondual awareness that lies at the basis of all experience.

So far, so good; but here is the really critical point: it is not only the beings of the unseen world that have this status, but all of the phenomena of duality. In the Tibetan view, ourselves, other people, trees, mountains and clouds—indeed all of the phenomena of the entire so-called internal and external universe—are nothing other than false objectifications and solidifications of nondual awareness.

To say this is not, however, to discount their external and “objective” existence within the relative world of apparent duality. The samsaric beings of the six realms, as well as the Buddhist deities existing in the state of nirvana, initially make themselves known to us ordinary, unenlightened people as external, objectively existing beings. In fact, on this level, they can appear as significantly more real, vivid and powerful than the ordinary physical universe that surrounds us. On one level, then, such beings certainly do exist and are important co-inhabitants of our cosmos. Thus to say that they are aspects of mind is not to deny their existence on the relative level. Nor does it obviate our responsibility to deal with them and relate to them on their own level and as they present themselves to us.

What, then, does it mean to say that these unseen beings are all aspects of mind? It means simply that the way we experience and conceive of them has to do with our own psychology and level of awareness. Ultimately, the apparent duality of subject and object is not given in reality. It is a structure that we, out of fear and ignorance, impose on the world. When we see the phenomenal world truly as it is, we realize a level of being that precedes the subject-object split. This is the true nature of “experience,” “awareness,” or “nondual mind,” understood at this point as interchangeable categories. When Tibetans say that the spirits, gods and deities are aspects of mind and nothing other than mind, they mean it in this sense, that their fundamental nature—as indeed the nature of all phenomena—is nondual awareness.

We humans, then, are just one part of a vast, interconnected web of relationships with all other inhabitants of the cosmos, both those still living within delusion and those who are awakened. An awareness of these relationships is critical because, to a very large extent, who we are as humans is defined by this network of relations. From the Tibetan perspective, to live a genuinely human and fruitful life, we need to discover our relation with all these various beings of samsara and beyond, and to act in ways appropriate to our connection. The way we do this is through ritual.

Ritual is action that expresses a relationship. It is the vehicle of communication with another and is itself that communication. In Tibetan Buddhism, ritual is used in relation both to the seen and the unseen worlds, and the essence of Tibetan Buddhism is communication with the awakened ones—departed masters, bodhisattvas, buddhas, and so on. We call them to mind, open our hearts to them, and receive their blessings.

In revered teachers, a state of realization is embodied in human form. In the celestial buddhas and high-level bodhisattvas, however, the embodiment is more ethereal and not within the human realm. Nevertheless it is not only possible but essential that, as we go along the path, we also discover and deepen our sense of communication with these nonmaterial, awakened ones. According to Tibetan tradition, in fact, as we mature, the “sky draws closer to the earth,” so to speak, and the celestial buddhas and bodhisattvas seem more and more our ever-present protectors, mentors, and guides.

One of the most common ritual means for communicating with the realized ones is the sevenfold offering of mahayana Buddhism: one visualizes the being or beings in question, then [1] offers salutation, [2] makes real and imagined good offerings, [3] confesses one’s shortcomings and harm of others, [4] rejoices at the existence of the awakened being or beings who are the beloved object(s) of devotion, [5] requests them to teach, thus expressing one’s openness and longing for instruction, [6] asks them to remain in connection with suffering samsaric beings and not disappear into nirvana, and [7] dedicates whatever merit or goodness one has accumulated to the welfare of all beings. In this simple, brief rite, one makes a link with the transcendent ones, affirming and actualizing a specific kind of relationship with them.

The reason that we can do this in the first place is that the buddhas, bodhisattvas, and departed masters already represent who we most essentially are and must in fact become. This is why, in Tibetan Buddhism, even the most devotional supplication to the most seemingly external being is not finally theistic. For, in truth, we are longing to meet our deepest selves face-to-face, and we are supplicating our own hidden being. The path to this goal is first, to discover our innermost being in the other, the awakened one, and then, through relationship with him or her, gradually to come to awareness of that transcendent nature within ourselves.

In Tibetan Buddhism, there are many ritual stages along this path to awakening. What they share is visualization. We create a mental picture of a departed teacher, a high-level bodhisattva, or a buddha. Then we carry out a ritual in which we open ourselves and communicate with this being in various ways, ritually participating in his or her awakening. In this way, we cultivate our own awakened state.

This process of visualization is a powerful one. For example, in our ordinary life, what we do not visualize as existing does not exist for us. If we do not see another person as human, then for us their humanity does not exist. The same is that much more true for beings who live in nonmaterial forms outside of samsara. We may be surrounded by buddhas and bodhisattvas all the time, but until they have a shape and a name, we do not see them or have access to a relationship with them. For us they might as well not exist. But the moment we give them a form in our mind and begin to communicate with them, they exist, and their wisdom, compassion, and power can enter into our own systems.

It is the many ritual forms of Tibetan Buddhism that enable us to do this, and within traditional Tibet, the reality of ritual is simply accepted as a matter of course. It is assumed that just as there are forms by which to relate to other human beings, so there are other forms that are used to communicate with the nonhuman and nonmaterial realms.

The status of ritual among Western followers of Tibetan Buddhism is, however, more in question. Many have felt unable to entertain the ideas of reincarnation or of the six realms. For them, many of the traditional Tibetan rituals dealing with other beings and other realms do not make sense. Sometimes this extends to thinking that even talk of nonmaterial buddhas, bodhisattvas and protectors is “symbolic,” and that there is nothing that really corresponds to these designations. In that case, many of the Tibetan liturgies are seen as directed to no real object, but are rather understood as psychological ploys to bring about certain effects.

Even if we Westerners do pay lip service to the traditional Tibetan cosmological ideas, often, as Jeremy Hayward has argued, we remain at heart what he calls “scientific materialists.” In other words, while we may accept the idea of other realms and other beings within and outside of samsara, we do not actually believe in them. Instead, we live as if the world were dead and this reality the only one that exists.

This attitude is reflected in many Westerners’ difficulties with Tibetan ritual. Among Western practitioners, there is frequently a kind of dead feeling in ritual, and many of us fall back on the idea that rote repetition, without any particular engagement or feeling, is sufficient. We fall back, in other words, on attitudes to ritual learned in our upbringing, where simply to be physically present was all that was required. In order to survive the many meaningless rituals we may have been subjected to, we also learned to disengage ourselves psychologically and to occupy our time with thinking about other things. What is missing here is the understanding that ritual is a way of communicating with beings who, on the relative plane, really are there and really are important to us. This lively and compelling sense of ritual is, at present, sometimes hard to come by in Western adaptations of Tibetan Buddhism.

Through ritual, genuinely undertaken, one is led to take a larger view of one’s life and one’s world; one experiences a shift in perspective—sometimes subtle, sometimes dramatic. This shift feels like a diminishing of one’s sense of isolated individuality and an increase in one’s sense of connectedness with other people, with the nonhuman presences of our realm, and with purposes that transcend one’s usual self-serving motivations.

Ritual is a way of reconnecting with the larger and deeper purposes of life, ones that are oriented toward the general good conceived in the largest sense. Ironically, through coming to such a larger and more inclusive sense of connection and purpose, through rediscovering oneself as a member of a much bigger and more inclusive enterprise, one feels that much more oneself and grounded in one’s own personhood. Through ritual, one’s energy and motivation are roused and mobilized so that one can better fulfill the responsibilities, challenges and demands that life presents.


Reginald A. Ray, Ph.D., was Professor of Buddhist Studies at Naropa University and a teacher-in-residence at the Rocky Mountain Shambhala Center. He is the spiritual director of the Dharma Ocean Foundation and author of Secret of the Vajra World: The Tantric Buddhism of Tibet.


Why aren’t the monasteries helping the drought?



When Tibetans first arrived in India in 1959, the Indian government under the leadership of Jawaharlal Nehru assigned to the Tibetans 24 tracts of land throughout India. On these empty spaces, Tibetans would have the freedom to rebuild their lives. This meant building their homes, constructing roads, establishing shops and businesses, re-establishing their monasteries and providing social services to their own people – hospitals, schools, retirement homes. All of this was left up to the Tibetan leadership and people to do as they wished. To guide their people, the Tibetan leadership (His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the CTA) assigned each settlement with a donjo, or representative of the Dalai Lama. The donjos are responsible for overseeing the welfare and affairs of the people. The donjos give updates to the Dalai Lama and in this way, his instructions are passed to all 24 settlements which includes over 160,000 Tibetan refugees.

Today, the 24 tracts of land granted by Nehru can be broken down in major and minor settlements, and those with monasteries have the largest and most thriving populations. This makes sense for a society where religion plays a central role to the culture and way of life. Anyway, these large and thriving settlements include Bylakuppe, Hunsur, Kollegal and Mundgod which are the locations of Sera, Gaden and Drepung Monasteries. These monasteries are the three main monasteries of Tibetan Buddhism and they are full of high lamas and accomplished masters, and have over 10,000 monks in residence today.


So I was saddened when I came across an article today explaining that these Tibetan settlements in South India have been severely affected by a regional drought. I was sad not only because the people are suffering but how come it seems nothing has been done about it, and the people have been allowed to suffer? During my time in Gaden, I saw with my own eyes how accomplished masters could influence the weather. It didn’t matter if they were high lamas or simple monks, or what rank they held. As long as they were accomplished in their practices, they had guru devotion and pure samaya with their teachers, and if they had developed bodhicitta, they could influence the weather. Tibetan Buddhism has many special rituals to affect and effect the weather. If it was too dry, I saw with my own eyes these accomplished meditators making it rain and save the harvest. If it was too wet and the villagers’ crops were in danger of being drowned, the masters could stop the rains. I saw this with my own eyes OVER AND OVER AGAIN. It happened every time they did rituals to influence the weather so I know it wasn’t a fluke or by chance.

For example, one grand master who I would frequently visit was Gen Nyima. Gen Nyima was a great monk of Gaden Jangtse Monastery from Gowo Khangtsen (administrative house) who resided in the deep Bhutanese forests for over 15 years before returning to Gaden. During his retreats, he focused on Lord Yamantaka’s practice with just a small thangka of Lama Tsongkhapa in his tiny room in the forest. As word grew of this holy monk meditating in the forest, many people came to seek his divine help. Gen Nyima was extremely accurate in his divinations and foretelling of the future, and he was renowned for influencing the weather and healing various illnesses if caught early. Even members of the Bhutanese Royal family used to visit him and they built roads through the dense jungles so it would be easier for people to travel to see the holy lama.

His Holiness Kyabje Zong Rinpoche of Gaden Monastery was famous for his knowledge of Sutra and profound mastery of Tantra. Rinpoche by the monastery and the laity to perform many well-known as well as obscure rituals, as he had proven the effects of his rituals. He was well-known to bring rain to drought-stricken areas and was famous for this among his other brilliant accomplishments.

Later, Gen Nyima was requested to move back to Gaden Jangtse Monastery. When he was living there, I had the great fortune to live next door to this attained master so I used to visit him a lot. I would sit by his feet and all day long, villagers came to see him and request for divination, or to heal certain parts of their bodies or diseases and illnesses. He had a long pipe and he would recite some mantras then use the pipe to blow the mantras onto the affected body parts and they would be healed. One time, I asked this accomplished practitioner about Tara pujas and he told me he didn’t know how to do them. He in fact said he does not know how to do any pujas except Yamantaka! I was quite surprised because he was such a senior and grand master and Tara pujas are very common in the monastery. So I asked him what mantras he did for healing and he told me, “Yamantaka!” Then I asked him what mantras he did for dispelling spirits and he told me, “Yamantaka!” Gen Nyima only relied upon Yamantaka. I asked him what mantras he used to affect the weather to stop or bring rain and he replied again “Yamantaka”. From just focusing on Yamantaka, he could do everything and benefit so many beings. I realised that we don’t need a lot of deities to gain attainments. All we need is one deity and if we focus on them and fully rely on them, with faith, we can gain attainments too. I learned a great lesson that day from a holy and simple monk of ‘no rank’.

Gen Nyima was also famous for influencing the weather. When it was raining heavily for many days which happens in South India, the villagers would come and request Gen Nyima to save their crops from drowning. You have to understand, they were so worried. These villagers were dirt poor and the crops were their only food and income. If the harvest was gone, they would literally starve. So Gen Nyima would take his long plastic pipe and walk outside his room, recite some mantras and then point the pipe into the sky and blow. Within half an hour, the rains would stop. He was famous for this. The villagers would also come to him if there was a drought and he would do the same thing if there had not been any rain for many weeks. Within half an hour, it would start raining. Like I said, I saw this over and over again with my own eyes and Gen Nyima was not the only one whom I saw doing this. He is just one holy example. His Holiness Kyabje Zong Rinpoche was also a very powerful, holy master of influencing the weather. Kyabje Zong Rinpoche was a master of the highest calibre and the guru of tens of thousands of monks and students around the world. While he was alive, he would often be requested to do rain rituals in many Tibetan settlements throughout India.

When I lived in Gaden, I sponsored many projects to help the laypeople so I know firsthand how poor the Tibetan community are, and how much they will suffer from this drought. This is myself with some Malaysians visiting one of the schools I helped to sponsor.

Gen Nyima was not a lama of high rank or from a famous Ladrang with riches and thousands of disciples, but he was a holy practitioner who had developed bodhicitta. And through his practice, one of the peripheral powers he had accomplished was the power to influence the weather. So this article below from which is the Central Tibetan Administration’s official website really surprised and saddened me. As I mentioned, Bylakuppe, Hunsur and Mundgod are the locations of the three main monasteries of Tibetan Buddhism which are Gaden, Sera and Drepung Monasteries. Also, Tashi Lhunpo Monastery is in Bylakuppe. These have over 10,000 monks! Hence by right, with so many great monasteries in close proximity, such a terrible drought should not have been allowed to continue. I am sure these monasteries have practising monks and meditators so how come it appears they have not been able to stop the drought? I am sure someone can request His Holiness the Dalai Lama to travel to these badly-affected areas to do rituals?

Therefore what I am about to say here may not be a popular opinion but we have to consider if samaya has been broken between the teachers, disciples and the Protectors, specifically Dorje Shugden. Samaya is the sacred relationship between a student and teacher which is formed when a commitment is made, whether it is through taking vows, receiving practices, or accepting and completing assignments. When this samaya is broken, it is impossible for the blessings of the lineage lamas to come down to the practitioner. Think of it like a pipe; when there is a break anywhere along the pipe, everyone downstream won’t receive water. So samaya is like the pipe which channels the blessings of the lineage lamas down to present-day practitioners, to empower and boost the potency of their practices and prayers.


In this case, the monasteries giving up their commitments to their lineage lamas, specifically related to their Dorje Shugden practice, might be why the prayers and rituals have been ineffective. It is not in giving up Dorje Shugden that makes the rituals perhaps done already ineffective but the broken samaya of losing faith in great master and gurus because they practise Dorje Shugden. Plus the samaya of the monasteries are broken when hundreds of great masters, practitioners and monks are expelled from the monastery just because they practise Dorje Shugden. Monks from Gaden, Sera and Drepung Monasteries were expelled solely on that basis. This creates very heavy negative karma. If we can make offerings to the sangha and collect so much positive karma then by right, by splitting them up, the opposite effect comes. Sorry to say this but otherwise what other possible reason is there for the continued suffering of the Tibetan people and why have the rituals by these monasteries to alleviate the drought not been effective? Is it because there are no monks or sincere practitioners in the monastery? This cannot be when these settlements have over 38,000 people between them and within them, there are 10,000 monks. Is it because none of the monks know how to do a weather-influencing pujas, or to request the nagas to bring the rains? Also not possible. There are many ritual experts in the Sangha who know how to perform very complex pujas, meditations and visualisations that have elaborate altars and set-ups. I am not bringing up this point to accuse, defame or criticise but out of concern, to ask the monasteries, lamas and Tibetan government to repair the broken samaya created by defaming Dorje Shugden high lamas, tulkus, geshes and sangha. That samaya must be repaired soon. The sanghas must all unite again and not discriminate other sangha due to their Dorje Shugden practice.

So humbly, for the sake of the people who are greatly suffering from this horrendous drought, I would like to respectfully suggest that the Gaden, Sera and Drepung Monasteries’ sangha and Tibetan people consider repairing their samayas. The Tibetan government should repair this samaya. And also the populace and monasteries can start invoking and propitiating Dorje Shugden for the rains to come. Perhaps the control form of Dorje Shugden which is Wangze, who rides on a turquoise dragon. I have lived in the Tibetan settlements myself and know firsthand how poor the people are. In fact I organised and sponsored many charity projects because the people there are so, so poor and a drought like this will really affect them. I KNOW Dorje Shugden can help. As an enlightened being, Dorje Shugden will be able to assist them if they make sincere supplications and as long as the samaya is mended. Even His Holiness the great 16th Karmapa himself prophesied that one day, we will need Dorje Shugden’s help. So I hope the Tibetan leadership will sincerely consider my request, for the benefit of the people who are desperately looking to them for help.

Forgive me if my words do not please some of you as I have written this with good motivation. May the droughts end and may everyone have abundance again. May the samayas of the monasteries and lay people be repaired soon.

Tsem Rinpoche


All Steps to be Taken to Compensate Tibetan Farmers Affected by Drought in South India: Department of Home


DHARAMSHALA: The five major Tibetan settlements in South India have recently been hit by an unprecedented drought in the region, ravaging over 5,900 acres of standing crops in the five largest Tibetan communities.

Tibetan farmers in Bylakuppe, Hunsur, Kollegal and Mundgod settlements have been gripped by an extensive drought which caused a near-total loss of crops and brought hundreds of Tibetans families to the brink of an urgent economic crisis.

In an interview with, Acting Secretary, Mr Chemi Rigzin, Department of Home, lamented the severity of the crisis and assured that the department would take all necessary steps to provide compensation for the affected farmers and their family members.

“We are faced with the most severe case of crop failure ever recorded in Tibetan exile history. All the five major Tibetan settlements have been gripped by an unfortunate and severe drought this season. However, we have started issuing appeals to our foreign supporters, Offices of Tibet around the world and Tibetan settlements in India, Nepal and Bhutan for immediate relief assistance. We assure all the affected farmers that the department will do its best and all necessary steps would be taken to ensure compensation for the losses,” Mr Chemi Rigzin said.

The department is focussed on gathering relief and evolving a mechanism to disburse the compensations at the earliest, he added.

Farmers who have incurred losses of 50 per cent of crops or more would be compensated and eligible farmers would be compensated as per rules and regulations of the Disaster Relief Fund.

Mr Tsering Dorjee, Joint Secretary of Home department had earlier led a detailed survey to assess the gravity of loss in Kollegal, Bylakuppe and Hunsur settlements from 4 – 12 October 2016. A detailed survey in Mundgod Tibetan settlement was conducted by a local official.

The survey led by Mr Tsering Dorjee ascertained a complete report of losses incurred by each farmer in all the five affected settlements.

Kollegal Tibetan settlement, with the largest agricultural community, has suffered the biggest loss this season. Farmers in the region have incurred a combined crop loss to the tune of Rs 30,032,233.57, resulting in total crop loss for some.

Families in Mundgod Tibetan settlement has suffered 50 – 80 per cent loss, while Hunsur Tibetan farmers suffered 50 – 70 per cent loss, costing an approximate Rs 2,280,245.72

The near-total crop loss have resulted in a debilitating impact on the income and consumption of a large number of Tibetan families in these settlements. Many of them have taken huge loans from banks to cover their investments.

No Settlement Acres of cultivated land Losses incurred
1. Kollegal Tibetan Settlement 2157.1 Rs 30,032,233.57
2. Hunsur Tibetan Settlement 229.6 Rs 2,280,245.72
3. Bylakuppe Tibetan Settlement 424 Rs 2,397,819.60
4. Mundgod Tibetan Settlement 335.12 Rs 3,003,126.00







Update November 14, 2016

Any refugee community which has been in a free country for more than 50 years should already be able to stand on their own two feet and stop making appeals. The very fact the CTA continues to ask for donations and, on top of that, uses the Dalai Lama’s name tells you how ineffective their work has been. This is not meant as a criticism but as a description of reality.


So on a secular level, they are still begging for money and relying on handouts after 50 years of exile in a free country like India where all opportunities for success have been afforded to them. And yet, they are still begging for money. Thus on a secular level as well as a spiritual level, the Central Tibetan Administration have not fulfilled their namesake.

India is free, everyone can do what they want. The Tibetan leadership were given land, opportunities, education and aid, and so many Western charities help them. This is much, much more than any other refugee community in the world has received and yet, they still can’t make it. Instead, they have spent millions on campaigns, websites, pamphlets and books against Dorje Shugden, instead of putting these donations towards their people.


Ancient Chinese 2,000-Year-Old Earthquake Detector


2,000-Year-Old Earthquake Detector Worked With Accuracy in China

By Tara MacIsaac, Epoch Times
July 20, 2014 AT 5:50 AM
Last Updated: September 3, 2015 5:26 pm

In 132 A.D., Zhang Heng presented the Han court with the world’s first seismoscope. A 2005 replica was even said to detect earthquakes with the same precision as modern instruments.

Historical accounts tell of its great accuracy, though its precise design remains a mystery. The outer appearance and functioning is known for certain, but its inner workings remain open to speculation. The replicas have been built on the best guesses from such speculation.

The most common theory states that a pendulum inside the copper urn would move when an earthquake occurred, even if the quake was hundreds of miles away. The pendulum would hit a system of levers to open the mouth of one of the eight dragons on the outside of the urn. Each dragon’s mouth contained a bronze ball. This ball would roll out, landing in the mouth of a toad figurine below, making a loud clang.

A historical account described the ringing in the toad’s mouth to be so loud it could rouse the whole court from sleep, wrote Dr. Jan Pajak of the Wellington Institute of Technology in a paper prepared for the 2005 International Conference on Sensing Technology.

The dragon that had its mouth opened would be the one pointing in the direction of the earthquake. The eight dragons pointed east, west, north, south, northeast, northwest, southeast, and southwest respectively.

The invention was initially met with skepticism in its day, though Zhang was already a renowned scientist, selected to be the court’s chief astronomer. In 138 A.D., a bronze ball sounded the first alarm.

It indicated that the earthquake happened west of Luoyang, the capital city. No one had felt a quake in Luoyang, so the alarm was ignored, but a few days later, a messenger from west of Luoyang arrived in the city to report that his region had experienced an earthquake. The earthquake had occurred at the same time Zhang’s machine sounded the alarm. This city of Longxi, some 300 miles away, lay in ruins.

Feng Rui and Yu Yan-Xiang of the Institute of Geophysics, China Earthquake Administration, deduced in 2006 that this first earthquake detected by Zhang’s machine was magnitude 7 in Longxi, with an epicenter at Tianshui on Dec. 13, 134 A.D.

The machine’s purpose was to detect earthquakes in distant regions so aid could be deployed. It worked until the death of its inventor, but apparently the device was so complex only Zhang could keep up with its maintenance effectively.

The seismoscope was called Houfeng didong yi, the “instrument for measuring the seasonal winds and the movements of the Earth.” Modern attempts at replication have met with varying success, and all were built on the use of inertia, a principle integral to modern seismographs.

Dr. Pajak explains this use of intertia: “In this principle an earthquake shakes a frame of an instrument, so that this frame is displaced in relation to an inertial pendulum, while this displacement is registered as the indication of an earthquake.”

Attempts to Replicate

In 1939, Japanese scientist Akitsune Imamura built a replica showing the device to be effective, according to Hong-Sen Yan in the book “Reconstruction Designs of Lost Ancient Chinese Machinery.”

However, wrote Hong-Sen, “in some circumstances the direction of an earthquake’s epicenter was found to be at right angles to the dropped ball.”

In 2005, several scientists from various disciplines at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the National Museum, and China Earthquake Administration declared a new replica to be the best yet.

“It represents our current utmost understanding of the ancient Didong instrument,” said Teng Jiwen, a research fellow at the Institute of Geology and Geophysics, according to a report from that time by state-run media People’s Daily.

The replica reportedly responded to the reproduced waves of four actual earthquake events in Tangshan, Yunnan, the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, and Vietnam. Tested against modern earthquake graphs, the replica was shown to be accurate and its shape fit that described in historical texts.

The Inner Workings

Hong-Sen cited a passage from a contemporary biography of Zhang, the first design specification left to us in historical texts: “There is one pillar (du zhu) in the center of the interior and eight transmitting rods near the pillar.”

Transmitting rods would refer to channels through which some object would be transported, explained Hong-Sen, but nothing more specific is written about the rods.

Dr. Pajak has another theory. He wrote that the machine has been described in historical texts as containing water, as having water flow out of the dragons’ mouths like a fountain.

He hypothesized that the water flowed smoothly (as opposed to turbulently), a characteristic known as laminar flow. The shape of the chamber (parabolic) was designed to deflect vibrations coming from the earthquake zone. The deflected vibrations would focus on the inlet of the pipe in the appropriate direction, causing the water that had been washing around the metal ball to push the ball out of the dragon’s mouth.

Robert Reitherman, executive director of the Consortium of Universities for Research in Earthquake Engineering, expressed skepticism concerning the historical accounts of the machine’s accuracy in his book, “Earthquakes and Engineers: An International History.”

He wrote: “At a close distance, the whole instrument would be so severely shaken that the balls on multiple perches would have jostled loose. … At a [far] distance, ground motion from an earthquake does not leave clear footprints indicating the direction from whence those vibrations came, because the ground shakes in various directions rather chaotically by the time it reaches the instrument.”

If this machine worked as well as historical accounts describe, and if the successes of some modern replicas hint that the machine could work with such precision, it seems Zhang’s genius remains out of our grasp for now.

Some of Zhang’s other accomplishments include calculating pi (π) as being between 3.1466 and 3.1622, refining a time-keeping device know as an “inflow clepsydra,” and applying hydraulic motive power to rotate an astronomical instrument known as an armillary sphere.



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In the footsetps of Joseph Rock

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Is there anything wrong with dogma?

The danger of reading something and literally sticking to it dogmatically.

Here is something I read in the book The Awakened One – A Life of the Buddha where the Buddha replied to Upaka who was asking who his teacher was.

“I have transcended all existence and become omniscient. My insight is unobstructed, and I am liberated from all desire. I have achieved this on my own, without a teacher. Because I alone in the world am completely enlightened, I myself am the worlds teacher…”

As I come upon this paragraph, I remembered some people in some dharma groups quoting and citing that the Buddha did not have a guru, and so they also do not need one. At this point I felt they are hugely egotistical to compare the self to the Universal Sage.

Please don’t get me wrong. It is noble to emulate the Buddha but ignoble to behave like one is already.

There is no substitute for a good and qualified dharma teacher who has learned from teachers before him tracing back the the Universal Sage.

As indeed the Buddha said, “I myself am the world’s teacher.” We are now 2600 years later from Buddha’s statement. Why do some think they don’t need a teacher because the Buddha did not have one?

Did the Buddha not say he is our teacher. So how do we learn from the Buddha if not from a qualified guru? Some will say, from books – but who wrote those books? Who can give us a better insight into the Buddha’s words?


But we must know how to find one and follow steadfastedly.…

Keng Tan's photo.
Keng Tan's photo.

The Many Faces of Anger


Here is a rather long passage that my Guru shared with his students some 10 odd years ago. It was extracted from a book “Good Life Good Death by Gelek Rinpoche”. It is very powerful and merit a good read and contemplation.

Anger takes different forms. It sneaks up upon us. First comes impatience, then irritation, a tantrum, anger, and finally hatred. There is anger that seethes, anger that freezes, anger that shakes you, and anger that bursts into rage. And then there is anger at ourselves – what we call self-hatred.

Self-hatred takes time to develop. It doesn’t just pop up. At first, it’s a dissatisfaction. Often it starts because someone planted the idea in our minds at an early age or because some desire was not fulfilled-whatever that desire may be, involving pleasure or money or a goal, however unrealistic. We work ourselves as hard as we can to fulfill that demand or reach that goal. People take two jobs. three jobs, do all kind of things. They work more, eat and sleep less, there’s no rest for body or mind, all because of a desire we impose on ourselves. We often aren’t even sure where it came from or why we’re pursuing it.

When we work hard and still cannot fulfill our dreams, we begin to develop a dislike for ourselves. We see nothing but faults. We view the fact that we could not fulfill our desires as a failure. Then we say, “That’s me, a failure.” The unfulfilled desire becomes stronger, and the sense of failure becomes stronger, so we see ourselves as incapable. We don’t like to see ourselves as a failure, so the dislike becomes stronger until it turns into anger. The anger grows until it becomes hatred. We actually begin harming ourselves.

If you are angry at yourself, that anger can surface as a dissatisfaction with life in general. Then someone begin to latch onto the spiritual to justify their sense of failure. You tell yourself you don’t care about material success. But deep down, anger and self-hatred make you think you’re spiritually well off even though you’re not. You say that material things aren’t important when the reality is you failed at material life and don’t want to admit it. So you act as though you don’t need anything, pretend to be happy about things, and pretend to be a saint. That is another typical face of anger that people don’t recognize. It will only trap you further into negativity. It will give you an excuse to drop out of life, provide a cocoon to hide in, instead of facing your problems.

“Never mind” plays the same trick. When you are talking to someone and hit a sensitive subject, they try to hide if you get too close to home. They get upset, they don’t want to show their anger, or they don’t realize they’re angry, so they say “never mind”, and try to avoid talking about it. Whether you realize it or not, it’s a symptom of anger.

Some people hide the rough edge of anger: They put on a smooth face, maybe even showing a caring and loving face, hiding their real feelings any way they can so as not to think they are giving another person pain. But really, it’s a kind of violence. For example; “I didn’t lose my temper. I kept my cool, and he got angry.” Then they take pleasure in the fact that the other person is getting angrier. That’s a case of strong anger, only wearing another face.

Repression may not look like anger, because you can’t see the desire to harm so easily, but it may harm the individual more because it’s hiding in storage. When you repress anger, you hold back and don’t explode, but you internalize your anger. You eat or you don’t eat. You start taking out your frustration on anyone – a clerk in a store, a cashier at the gas station – instead of the person you’re really angry at. Sometimes, repression can take the form of self-affirmation. You may think, “Okay, I’m going to work hard, teach him a lesson, and be the most famous person in the world.” That is also anger. It may look positive but, from a karmic point of view, it might not be.

A lot of traditions encourage repression but it can create may problems. It only buys time, delay wrong action. It may in fact contribute to building anger, and make for even greater repercussions. Rebellion is often the result of repression…\to be continued…

Perhaps one of the most important aspects in Buddhist – IMPERMANENCE





A lay disciple asked Geshe Potawa which Dharma Practice was the most important if one had to choose only one. The Geshe replied:

If you want to use a single Dharma practice, to meditate on impermanence is the most important.

At first meditation on death and impermanence makes you take up the Dharma; in the middle it conduces to positive practice; in the end it helps you realise the sameness of all phenomena.

At first meditation on impermanence makes you cut your ties with things with the things of this life; in the middle it conduces to your casting off all clinging to samsara; in the end it helps you take up the path of nirvana.

At first meditation on impermanence makes you develop faith; in the middle it conduces to diligence in your practice; in the end it helps you give birth to wisdom.

At first meditation on impermanence, until you are fully convinced, makes you search for the Dharma; in the middle it conduces to practice; in the end it helps you attain the ultimate goal.

At first meditation on impermanence, until you are fully convinced, makes you practise with a diligence which protects you like armour; in the middle it conduces to your practising with diligence in action; in the end it helps you practise with a diligence that is insatiable.

And Padampa Sangye (a famous Indian siddha 11th-12th century) says:

At first, to be fully convinced of impermanence makes you take up the Dharma; in the middle it whips up your intelligence; in the end it brings you to the radiant dharmakaya.

Unless you feel this sincere conviction in the principle of impermanence, any teaching you might think you have received and put into practice will just make you more and more impervious to the Dharma. He also said:

I never see a single Tibetan practitioner who thinks about dying;
Nor have I seen anyone live forever!
Judging by their relish for amassing wealth once they don the yellow robe, I wonder-
Are they going to pay off Death in food and money?
Seeing the way they collect the best of valuables, I wonder-
Are they going to hand out bribes in hell?
Ha-ha! To see those Tibetan practitioners makes me laugh!
The most learned are the proudest,
The best meditators pile up provisions and riches,
The solitary hermits engross themselves in trivial pursuits,
The renunciates of home and country know no shame.
Those people are immune to the Dharma!
They revel in wrong-doing.
The can see others dying but have not understood that they themselves are also going to die.
That is their first mistake.

Meditation on impermanence is therefore the prelude that opens the way to all practices of Dharma.

(Extracted from Words of my Perfect Teacher)

Man-Made Social Rules

thinkWhen is it right to go to the lavatory but not the toilet or when it is right to sit on the sofa in the drawing room but not to sit on the settee in the lounge…These are some of the man-made social rules that are ‘drawn-up’ to divide people – Disgusting…Oops, watch what you wear too – you can be easily judged by what you wear….brown shoes? suits? whatever – mind boggling indeed…

I see no difference at all – only one with a deluded mind would have you believe everthing they believe. In the same way, I see no social difference in the 3 yanas of dharma training but many would disagree with me…


the-betrayalWhen I came across an article like Judas’ betrayal of his master,  I was curious why he did that to his master who is deemed the Messiah?

There are a couple of views on this matter: firstly, he was not a firm believer that his master was the Messiah and secondly, he was a greedy opportunist, who took advantage of his master’s ‘fame’ to loot from the goodwill of his masters followers.

It seems that his master already fore saw his disciple’s betrayal and in the end, he was forgiven together with everyone else – “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

I also wonder sometimes why certain types of people go to houses of worship when in all honesty, they are not there to for self improvement.  But, there are those that genuinely want to change but due to strong attachment to worldly matters, in the end, were unable to change permanently and revert to their ‘old’ selves..

I also always wonder why highly attained teachers with their powers of clairvoyance and able to see what is coming with certain students, would still take them in knowing that the teacher-student relation is sealed for ‘life’. I guess it must be the teachers’ great compassion which seem to be able to override the ‘rule book DON’Ts”, thereby allowing the students the ability to collect some form of merits which they would not otherwise receive based on their inherent ‘bad’ behaviour.

Most ‘back sliders’ would support their actions based on worldly intelligence but there is clearly a difference between  worldly ‘intelligence and wisdom as the proverbial saying which holds true all the time – “knowledge comes from learning and wisdom comes from living”.

In Buddhism, we say our minds are filled with delusions that focus much on the self, and it’s close relation, the ego.

To end this note, I would like to share a parable I read years ago from the Bible, known as the parables of the two sons. It goes like this:

“There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’ ” ‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.

“Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.

Which of the two did what his father wanted?” Jesus asked his disciples.

“The first,” they answered and Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.”

Isn’t this a great parable that makes the reader guessing.  Just imagine yourself as the father – what do you think?