Update on the Siddhartha School

May 6th, 2012

8th May 2012

Dear Sangha members

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

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

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

“For whom it may concern:

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

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

With our very best wishes,

The Board of The Siddhartha School


Posted in The Siddhartha School, Updates

Vajradhara Gompa

April 29th, 2012

What a time it was….

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

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

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

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

Paula Yacoub

Photos Cielo Croci























































The birth of Vajradhara Gonpa

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

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

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

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




Thoughts on Vajradhara Gonpa March 2012

An incomplete work by Cielo Croci

Photos Jerry Epps

The circus is over

this fact

we’ve all known

and now is the time

for us all

to go home

But I feel that inside us

Is a pain

that does burn

That maybe

this time

we may never return.

The fire

that warmed

this place


has gone cold

because this place

that was free

is now

bought and sold

The day

it has come

that we all tried to stall


money and time

has made fools of us all

You’re anxious and stressed


your feeling upset

Because you still

haven’t found

what your looking for yet.

You feel there are

still things

that need to be said,

ideas to be written


words to be read.

You feel distressed

at the fact

that you just can’t hold on


your slipping and falling

till the feeling is gone

You feel

empty and worthless

as thin as a ghost

At the thought

that you’ re losing


may mean the most.

Your fighting

against it

with heavy resistance

the idea

of losing a part

of your very existence.

That no matter

how you think


no matter what you do

you’re letting go

of something

that is precious to you.

Your letting go

of a place

Where you sit on the floor


listen to all

that you heard before

but overlooked

a hundred times or more.

This place

is a signpost

For the life that we’re leading

With the only drug

in the world

To stop our brains

from bleeding.

And whether

you’ve given your heart,

your soul

to this place

Or whether this visit

Is your first


only taste

Its absence

may cut your mind

like a knife


this place is the high

you’ll be chasing

all your life.


you feel in your soul

That you just need a place


they won’t laugh

at your life

or your clothes

or your face.

It reminds you

that the world

Ain’t got you licked


that you can still get up

No matter

how much your kicked.

You need

That place in the sky

That will just help you cope

That spot on the earth

That just gives you hope.

But at the end of the day

Hope is just a word

That maybe they said

and maybe you heard

But you still feel

as if

you need it


And that

if you don’t have it

Then you’re going to be


But these feelings

of hope

And of pleasure

and thrill

Are no more

in this place


In a hundred dollar bill,

Or in a winter’s night chill

Or in an ecstacy pill

Or in the thoughts of we should

Or we won’t or we will

Or a light summer breeze

Or In a firm piece of bread

Or In a person you heard

Or a book that you read

The feeling of joy

of love

and of trust

you just need

to see

lives inside us

So the feelings

you have

When you’re atop this hill

Are now yours to keep

So go

where you will

Fear not the removal

of this book

from your shelf

for you can find

these same feelings

in almost anything else.

Its up to you


To take up your search

You have lost

this temple

but you can find a new church.

There may be those of you

Who feel I’m insane


that drinking champagne

from a mug

Is not

quite the same

But those limitations

They come

from your mind

If you throw them


A new place

you may find.

And don’t worry

about the people

You won’t see

every night

We’ll all meet


on our  journey

to the light.

And besides,

we’re just children

and mothers and fathers

and lovers and fighters

and veterans and martyrs

Law breakers,

Drug takers

Beauty seekers,

Truth finders




and Steiners

So do not feel


Be consumed

not in strife

We’re all


small pieces

of the big picture of life

So go out

and smile

and just sit on the ground

and take in the trees

and the buildings

and sounds

Just be sure to remember

This all doesn’t last


has become


just as now

will soon pass

So pack up your bags

Stitch up your soul

Give back

what you’ve borrowed


replace what you stole

For now is the time

when we all have to leave

But don’t worry,


Be calm,

and breathe.

Posted in Updates

Art Action – Community Creativity and Concern

February 26th, 2012

By Tshewang Dendup

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

Youth Art Camp, Dewathang, 2012

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

Youth Art Camp, Dewathang, 2012

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

Youth Art Camp, Dewathang, 2012

Posted in Updates

What’s up at DPI

February 26th, 2012

By Melitis Kwong

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

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


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

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

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

Rinpoche giving out Refuge names at Way of the Bodhisavtta teaching

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

Deer Park Institute staff with Rinpoche

To view the current upcoming program, please check DPI website at: www.deerpark.in

If you want to be on our mailing list, please send your request to: info@deerpark.in

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


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

Posted in Deer Park, Updates