This is the report for the last half of 2017.
The picture above is our Poya day program (full moon) at ‘Om Shambala’ yoga centre (interesting coincidence with the name). Discussions on Tibetan Buddhism chanting and meditation are all part of the sessions we have there.
Frankly the year has come and gone and I cannot remember all the things that were accomplished let alone, chronologically. I can safely say there have been improvements in that I have several requests to speak about Tibetan Buddhism. From not being free to utter the word “Mahayana” just a few months ago, to now being received in several places including a well known temple in Colombo for our little practice sessions — such changes are very encouraging.
So please enjoy some highlights (the ones I can remember).
Golden Light Sutra Was Published In Sinhala
This is very well received by the local people and recited constantly in many parts of the Island in its native language.
Rinpoche suggested to me that this would be the best purification practice for the many problems —social and environmental— currently besetting this country.
So far we have recited it over 430 times and heard wonderful stories of changes that arose after the recitations. For example, villagers who undertook recitations because their village was under regular attack by local wild elephants, have reported no attacks since; after recitation, a woman got a phone call from her husband who had abandoned her 2 years before – now they are happily back together.
Early next year a group of us will travel to a Tamil village where the last battle of the civil war was fought.
A Tamil lady from that village —who when we first met— said to me “When I hear the word ‘Buddha’ I think ‘enemy'”. Since then we have become good friends and she has requested the Golden Light Sutra to be recited in her Tamil village. She thinks that although people are full of hatred, they would welcome a Sinhala Buddhist reaching out to them.
Medicine Buddha Puja, Tara Praises Becoming More Regular
Medicine Buddha puja (above) is a regular monthly practice in Colombo now. People like the Sinhala translation which is going through its 3rd update and they recite the Sanskrit mantra which comes more easily to them. Next step is to print 25 copies in Sinhala.
The idea of a Female Buddha in Theravadan Sri Lanka is quite challenging and hard to accept. So it is surprising that there are many requests to recite Tara Praises. It’s a reflection of the kind of changes that are happening on the ground. Surely Tara is at work here.
Not Everything Went Well
TaraLanka was going along quite nicely on Facebook, we were running ads for our events and getting good support. We had over a thousand “likes” and getting good interaction until…
In August we got hacked by Indonesians who now use the Page for selling watches. In fact, people have mentioned that I am getting a lot of funding from Indonesia — because they saw the watch activity there on the page and somehow interpreted it as support for me! LOL
The hackers still have the Page after 4 months and I still cannot get in or even delete it. Anyway, it’s a long story; if you are interested, you can read about it here.
So, with no help at all from Facebook, I have had to let the Page go. TaraLanka has no Facebook Page.
The translated version of His Holiness’s book “One Teacher Many Traditions” written with Thubten Chodron is nearly ready to hit the presses.
Its translation has been completed and now it’s with the Sri Lankan publisher being spruced up for printing. I was able to assist in the editing of the Sinhala and also helped communicate between different parties. Ven Thubten Chodron kindly waived her royalties for the Sinhala translation. I am hoping to organise a book launch with Bhante Silarathana — he is the Sinhalese monk who translated this book.
New Text Translations Into Sinhala
Prof Gunathilaka has commenced translating Pearl Garland, a condensed version of the Lam Rim, into Sinhala. Geshe Namdak is assisting by clarifying and explaining meanings via email.
There are four more books ready for publication but they are stalled, requiring funding. If you are able to assist, please let me know.
Local Abuse of Women
I have been concerned about the abuse of girls and women since I was a child in this country. I am now helping a Women’s Development Centre through an association that was formed with my Melbourne friend, Maree Fowler.
For the second time this year, Maree visited Sri Lanka specifically to help the girls in this particular centre. She has raised considerable funds that will be spent to provide skills training and livelihood opportunities for young single mothers who have returned home with their baby. Suitable mothers are being selected by the WDC as we speak. Maree raises funds in Melbourne by selling handloom items made by the girls. The money gives them an income. If you would like to provide some support, here is a link to the products made by the girls and sold by Maree to fund livelihood for them.
Funds were donated by a Sri Lankan Australian family who responded so generously to my request for help to build much needed toilets and a bathroom for pregnant mums. Before that there was only one toilet for 17 girls; a situation that was grossly inadequate. Several other people provided food and other material help.
Due to the large number of women who request private time with me I have initiated safe space — a space for discussion and connection and Muslim, Tamil and Sinhala women have come together to host this on the 30th December.
There are terrible ethnic divisions in Sri Lanka and constant racial tension which requires positive relationship-building between the 3 main ethnic groups. A female religious leaders group was formed to address this. I am told its a first such group in the world and I was fortunate to have Ven. Tsundue to lead a chant at our first public event. Her beautiful voice made a great impression of Tibetan Buddhism on the attendees.
There were two conferences in Sri Lanka and I was very fortunate to be invited. The first was The World Buddhist Summit which was a useful event. The second one, World Buddhist Supreme Conference which was titled -Buddhism for World Peace- was less so. Disappointingly, no other Sri Lankan nuns were invited although there are 2500 female sangha in robes in Sri Lanka.
But, thanks to my friends in Melbourne, who sent me to Sakyaditha Conference, it was an entirely different thing in Hong Kong.
I met many inspiring women there including Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo and I had the opportunity to make my presence in Sri Lanka known. It became very clear that scholars and practitioners need to come together to make sure that the Sakyadhita conference can be more inclusive.
I believe there is a gradual acceptance of my different robes here. I live in hope that soon religious bigotry will be a thing of the past in Sri Lanka.
Non Violent Communication
Multi ethnic/ religious Sri Lanka needs a communication tool that is not affiliated with a particular religion and thus a block to others. Non Violent Communication is such a tool. Our first workshop in Kandy (19 people attended) was very successful and everyone is looking forward to further training in the new year. Making NVC training available in English and Sinhala is very useful as its only available to Tamil speakers at the moment.
New year is full of promise. In the wings, we have the possibility of more frequent study for a smaller group using FPMT material.
I head off to Rinpoche’s retreat in Bendigo en route stopping over in Indonesia to present about Women’s Empowerment With the Blessings of Tara to a group of Buddhist schools who are paying for me to be there and covering about half the cost of coming back. Venerable Drolkar will be there too to present on Mindfulness. This trip resulted from a meeting at Sakyadhita conference.
My housemate Rosalie will bring two lots of people from India/US to do empowerment workshops at the girls home. The girls there have been abused and need every bit of support to break the cycle.
I thank each one of you for helping me this year in so many different ways. It was lovely to have Oi Loon, Maree Fowler and my daughters Anusha and Tara visit me. Big thanks for the very special support of Doc Wight, Peter Guiliano, Oi Loon Lee, Kim Looi, Christine Bohle, Cathy Lilliehook and her mother, Jill and Mark Alloway, Maree Fowler, Wendy Pullan, Rosalie Giffoniello, and Ken and Vishaka Kawasaki.
Thanks to you I managed another year in Sri Lanka, connected a few more hearts with the dharma and the beauty and power of Tibetan Buddhism. Thanks to you a few more are familiar with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Lama Zopa Rinpoche and some of those people are hoping to make a visit to Root Institute next time the Lamas are over in Bodhgaya. Already a handful of Tara Lanka locals have traveled to India to see His Holiness and two went to talk to Rinpoche at Kopan in November.
I feel fortunate to be able to be here in Sri Lanka where I can help people connect with Rinpoche, His Holiness and Tibetan Buddhism in general.
Wishing you all a wonderful 2018.