Tashi Dondup

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Lama Tashi Dondup was born in Lodrak, Tibet in 1952.  His father's family descends from Dagmema, the wife of Marpa the Translator; his mother
from the well-known family of Ratna Lingpa.

From 1970 to 1988 he resided at Rumtek Monastery in Sikkim, India, seat of His Holiness Karmapa, and received teachings on the major texts from the Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, Venerable Thrangu Rinpoche, Salje Rinpoche and Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso. 

He completed the traditional three-year-plus retreat at Rumtek, and then entered a one-year Kalachakra retreat under Bokar Rinpoche's guidance in Mirik in the Darjeeling district of India.

He is especially knowledgeable concerning ritual music, and the details of procedures concerning tormas, mandalas and the construction of stupas.  He manages the great chorten in Colorado.

Beginning in 1988, Lama Tashi served as resident lama for ten years at Kamalashila Institute in Germany.  He now resides in a suburb of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

June 21-24, 2001 at Rigpe Dorje Centre, Montreal, Qc., Canada

Lama Tashi Dondup was living in Scarborough, Ontario, at the time.  He gave teachings on the Amitabha sadhana, and also on Working With Emotions in Everyday Life.  

Interestingly, the father of His Holiness Karmapa is called Dhondup Tashi.   

Lama Tashi, besides following the traditional form of teaching in which an outline is given, then a step-by-step enumeration of the major points and finally, a summary, is especially sensitive to his students' needs and/or level of understanding.  This was very evident during the question period, when the lama took care to elaborate on certain of his answers to ensure that upon the students' later reflection, there would be no room for misunderstanding.

I was there for the concluding session of the teaching on the tantric transformation of the 5 poisons, which began at 2 pm.

The lama presented an overview of the 5 buddhas in their purificatory or Vajrasattva forms; that is, each holding dorje in the right and silent bell in the left hand.  Each one, distinctively coloured and having the symbol of his 'family' atop the dorje-handles, can act to transform a particular negativity.  

Lama Tashi stressed the fact that using tantric methods as in Completion Stage visualization, we do not seek to control these emotions or to suppress them.  We should not stop them or be carried away by them, but rather observe them or rather, observe ourselves experiencing them.  In this way, the Poisons are changed into their corresponding Wisdoms.

1. Vairochana [white] works with Ignorance.

2. Akshobya [blue] works with Hatred.

3. Ratnasambhava [yellow] works with Pride.

4. Amitabha [red] works with Desire.

5. Amoghasiddhi [green] works with Envy.

The technique is not as detailed as the Generation-of-deity visualization done for sadhanas.  We just keep on trying over and over  --  "again and again since we have been experiencing these emotions since beginningless time."  

It is also not easy, since we need to develop the pure perception of these Poisons.  

If we are able to do both Generation and Completion stages, then we will experience the Pure States of these Buddhas.

Referring to Shantideva, Lama Tashi said that once you are used to something, there is nothing easier for you.  But that is not to say that this method is an easy one.

And, this is not the only way of dealing with afflictive emotions.  The first way, is to run away from them, and the third is to solve the problems that lead to them.  But the second way is to recognize the nature of the 5 poisons and transform them into the 5 wisdoms.  In fact, this is a way of solving the problem.

You can consider yourself a good practitioner if the afflictive emotions diminish.  Never mind what others say or think.

Questions followed. 

Q 1.  It is pain that seems to cause anger.  Do we look at the cause or the person who is the cause of that pain? Answer: That kind of approach is a Mahayana [rather than a Tantric] one.

2. Will all the emotions just level off into one?  Are there more than 5?

A:  Meditate and see what you feel. [laughter.]  You have to experience this for yourself.

3. In visualizing the 5 Buddhas, can we just use their colours?

A: Yes, think of it as their light if you cannot do the details.

4. Q/A (in ref. to 2) If we have worked with the conflictive [afflictive?] emotions, we will not necessarily feel flat, we will feel joy and compassion towards others without any conflict.  We can have more compassion for our enemies who risk incarnation in the inferior realms.  We will feel gratitude and devotion towards the buddhas and bodhisattvas.

Q 5 a.  I work as a therapist, [for  my clients who are not Buddhist] can other figures replace the Buddhas in this transformative method?

A.  I am not sure, but there are certainly people who are not Buddhist who are much better.  Also, there are much worse.

Also, once you become Buddhist, you ought to do much better than before, otherwise why do it

"And I have seen people develop more Pride than formerly once they become Buddhist."

Q 5b. Can I help people by telling them to work with the lights?

A.  You can help them by reciting mantras for them and your dedication will be fulfilled -- maybe not in this lifetime.

Dharma practice is an antidote for conflictive emotions.

[Lama Tashi made an important point here, I think.  Relative newcomers, in their enthusiasm, confidence and wonder, would like to share tantric methods with others.  But these practices cannot be taken out of context since certain essential aspects would be missing.  The Mahayana practice, on the other hand, is inclusive by its very nature; the benefits we receive from that can be shared.] 

Q 6. What is the difference between the Mahayana and the Tantrayana approach?  Please review the Mahayana ways.

A.  Mahayana looks to the causes, eg. perhaps in one's former negative actions.  So I can pray that someone not be reborn in the inferior realms because of his actions towards me.  [The English -to -French translator used the expression pauvre lui -- poor him!]

Q. 7  I see the cause of anger as pain; how do we regard that pain from a Mahayana perspective?

A. The person needs to diminish it by not clinging to the Self.

Lama Tashi Dondrup accomplished several different  kinds of teaching while he was here.  Though I was not present for much of his time in Montreal, under the circumstances of the rather cramped quarters, the hot, humid weather, and a relatively inexperienced but eager and highly motivated group, he was calm and smooth in his attention to everyone.  

He responded thoughtfully and inclusively, and taught not only through word and gesture, but also by his patient example. 

Later in the afternoon of June 24, he helped us perform the offering to HH the17th Gyalwa Karmapa on the occasion of his 16th birthday, which was preceded by a Sang or smoke offering that took place in the yard outside the Centre. A wok filled with cedar branches and other herbs was set alight on the paved surface while we chanted to the rhythm of the hanging drum that the lama, standing above us on the balcony, beat.

After 5 stately women presented the symbolic offerings: stupa, scripture, rupa, vishva-dorje and mandala to the throne of His Holiness, the rest of us presented kathas.

A rainbow-decorated birthday cake was offered and served, and shortly thereafter, the video of HH's pilgrimage was shown which, unfortunately, I could not stay to see.

Feb. 4, 2001

Visiting Rigpe Dorje for 4 days from his residence in Scarborough, Ontario, Lama Tashi taught on the details of Green Tara practice and on The Nature of the Mind.

Lama Tashi is an elegant and fine-featured monk in his 30's.  His style is economical, concise and clear ,and he searches introspectively for just the right phrase to express the concepts related to the practice of meditation.  

He has good comprehension of English, though he relied on a young Tibetan acharya to translate for him this weekend. Therese St-Pierre was kind enough to do the French.

Using his hands very expressively,  and with traditional and apt metaphors, I had rarely heard anyone convey the simplicity of the Kagyu meditation technique -- resting in naturalness -- so well.

He said that it's the main point that is essential -- the clarity between thoughts is the true nature of the mind.  He explain that the idea is to let thought after thought arise and try and notice the space in between.  Then he said, "let's try it," and struck the singing bowl once.

People carefully shifted their postures and adjusted their spines, settled their legs, placed their hands just so and not 10 seconds passed when . . . 


Lama Tashi struck the bowl again.  It was obvious I was not alone in thinking that he had forgotten to tell us something, or even that he perhaps had intended to sound it 3 times.  So just when I was expecting another chime, he said,  "Did you get anything?"

[Chuckling and cries of 'No/non'.]

That's how simple it is (referring to the space between the chime and the beginning to really 'meditate') "It's like one eye trying to see the other, as we say in Tibetan.  They can't; they're too close. "

People often say that it can't be just that -- it's way too easy.

He did give further tips:  "Don't try and stop a thought; just watch it."

When some stability is achieve, you can just settle your mind in that clarity between thoughts. Don't analyze. "It's like babysitting" you just watch the baby; there's [usually] no need to intervene.

You can 1. See where a thought comes from 2. what it's doing 3. where it's going.

Like waves in the ocean - they are the ocean; not something separate.  (A famous analogy evocative of the 16th Karmapa's yellow and blue two-wave standard.)

And "Thoughts are like pictures hanging on a wall.  You look at them; not behind them."

"These instructions are simple, but of course, it depends on your own circumstances."

"You can use any sense object to place your attention on; there is no need to evaluate or judge it."  You can use a sound, for example, if you don't get into 'it's too loud,' etc. 

The few questions that followed had to do with the difference between vipashyana [Emptiness meditation] and shamata which we had been discussing. 

Lama Tashi was very clear on the fact that that Emptiness meditation is another form of restful meditation, really.  Many people can combine the two.  

[Usually, though, there has to be some stability - "shamatha has to be well-established".  That is,  one must have gotten the habit of not getting distracted by thoughts, before one can remind oneself of the Emptiness from which a thought emerges.]

" Is it possible to use physical pain as a sense object upon which to focus in meditation?" Yes.

"Can one place the attention on a form?"  (I got the impression, which may have been incorrect, that the question concerned a person's body.)  Depends upon the experience of the meditator.

"How do we manage to do this with a loud sound?" You can look at its Empty nature.

"What does Rigpe Dorje mean?" Rigpe means 'seeing the true nature' and Dorje means 'unchanging.'

"What do you mean when you say 'seeing'?"  The Seeing = The Mind.

Very excellent, as they say !


More Biographical Details

In 1959 the family moved to Bhutan where Lama studied with his father before receiving novice vows from His Holiness the 16th Karmapa in 1965. He received empowerments and teachings from masters such as Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Dudjom Rinpoche and Kalu Rinpoche.  On the advice of His Holiness, Lama stayed at Rumtek, the main Karmapa Seat located in Sikkim, India, for 18 years. Not only did he study with His Holiness during that time, but also with others including Thrangu Rinpoche, Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche and the third Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche (founder of Rigpe Dorje Centre).

After teaching at the Rumtek Shedra (monastic college) for three years, Lama Tashi did a three-year retreat in 1982, followed by a one-year Kalachakra retreat, both under the guidance of Bokar Rinpoche.  He also studied the building of stupas and, having received all the necessary transmissions, in eastern North America he is one of the few experts.

It was in 1988 that Lama went to Kamalashila in Germany to become resident lama for ten years. He accompanied His Eminence the Third Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche to Toronto in 1990 to perform the Kalachakra empowerment at Lama Namse Rinpoche’s Centre. Currently, although he frequently travels to Europe, the USA and in Canada, Lama is resident teacher at Toronto’s Karma Tekchen Zabsal Ling, named by the 17th Karmapa.

Lama’s recent accomplishments are many including 108 consecutive Nyungnes in 2001 along with some of his students; leading a delegation in 1996 to do a Monlam in Bodghaya, India – since then, the Monlam has become an annual event; reciting 100 million Dorje Sempa mantras at the Thrangu Monastery in Nepal with his students in 2000.


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