A Letter from Lama Döndrup
The Autumnal Equinox is upon us just as we are moving into a new season at Sukhasiddhi Foundation. Having had heartfelt gatherings to honor and express our gratitude to Lama Palden and Joanne Molyneaux for their unequalled dedication to Sukhasiddhi Foundation, we are now harvesting the fruit of their efforts, using it to support us in new ways that address the particular challenges we’re collectively facing in these fast-moving times.
We will set forth on this fresh path on Saturday, October 12th with a benefit concert for Sukhasiddhi Foundation. Shofen Lee and I will be presenting a recital of music for two pianos that will include music by Bach, Mozart, Debussy, and Rachmaninoff. All proceeds from the event will be offered to Sukhasiddhi Foundation. The same weekend, I will begin teaching the first 7-week series of the new Sunday morning practice format called Sukhasiddhi Sundays: Profound Wisdom for Profound Challenges.
The format for the Sunday series is designed to provide a more substantial weekly practice opportunity that will support both new and seasoned practitioners. The intention is to create a welcoming practice community where those who are new to Sukhasiddhi can find guidance and support, and where those who are seasoned can strengthen their connection to the wider sangha as they deepen their practice, intentionally exploring the experience of practicing in the context of a vajra mandala.
The Sukhasiddhi Sunday practice series
At the Sukhasiddhi Sunday events, three segments of activity will be offered between 9:00am-1:00pm. In this first series, Segment 1 will be Calm Abiding instructions and meditation, Segment 2 will be a class on the Shangpa Kagyu Lineage; the stream by which the teachings have come to us, and Segment 3 will be the Chagdrukpa Druptab ritual. Both new and experienced practitioners are welcome to participate in Segments 1 and 2, while those who have met the prerequisites for the Druptab practice can also attend Segment 3. There will be an opportunity for those who are new to Sukhasiddhi to meet and get to know longtime sangha members during tea breaks and during Segment 2.
For Sukhasiddhi members, these practice periods will be a new opportunity to intentionally develop a vajra mandala. One of the unique aspects about Sukhasiddhi is that the 3-Year Retreat Curriculum and the teachings and practices that prepare one for that curriculum are delivered in the format of programs that take place in the midst of daily life. This is a vital format that has great benefit for many sangha members, but because of the close connection that develops within a program cohort, the importance of all program and non-program members coming together to practice as an integrated group is often overlooked.
Cultivating the awakened mandala with the practice of pure view
There is an equally valuable practice component at Sukhasiddhi that not explicitly stated in program curriculum. This is the practice of developing a vajra or awakened mandala. Creating a vajra mandala is intentionally engaging as a community within pure view. This is a continuous experience, whether we are engaged in a practice, receiving teachings, or interacting socially. The power of engaging in a vajra mandala together benefits our development exponentially and acts as support for maintaining pure view as we move about our daily lives. This is a crucial step on our path and it is most easily developed when we are attending a practice or teaching with which we already have familiarity.
The Tibetan word gom that is often translated as “meditation” literally means to familiarize or become accustomed to. The experience of vajra mandala cannot develop without already having gained familiarity with a teaching or practice. Though it may seem counterintuitive, having already received a teaching or practice is the reason to come to a class or ritual where that familiar practice or teaching is being offered. Having familiarity allows us the opportunity to relax into the practice and to fully embody and explore that teaching or practice within the context of developing a vajra mandala as opposed to having our attention entirely focused on taking in new information. While individual practice and group practice within each program are important, this practice of creating a vajra mandala is one that is most valuable when done as a whole sangha.
For those who are new to meditation or who are new to Sukhasiddhi, I wholeheartedly welcome you to join us on Sunday mornings to experience the teachings that have so profoundly impacted our lives. Sukhasiddhi members, I invite you to reflect on what you perceive as completion of a practice or teaching and to open to the possibility of an entirely new level of embodiment. Let’s enjoy the exploration of this dimension of practice together!