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October Newsletter

A truly unique Buddhist teacher

The German nun Kelsang Wangmo made history in 2011 by becoming the very first woman to obtain the title of “geshe,” the equivalent of a PhD from the Tibetan Monastic universities in India. On Wednesday 12 November at the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution she will be giving a talk on How Things Exist: A Buddhist View of Reality, looking at how our distorted view of reality is the cause of all our problems.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama with Geshe Kelsang Wangmo and her mother, Dharamsala, India, April 2011. Photo courtesy of Geshe Kelsang Wangmo.

This is a rare chance to see and hear a truly unique teacher. A person can only become a geshe after decades of intense study in one of the great monastic universities within Tibetan Buddhism. Because of the difficulty of the subject matter and having to be fluent in Tibetan, very few non-Tibetans have ever become geshes, and because the institutions are almost wholly male very, very few woman have succeeded and, until Geshe Wangmo, no other non-Tibetan female. Gaining her geshe degree in 2011 signalled a new era in scholastic achievement for women in Tibetan Buddhism.
Her journey is a remarkable one: from a very normal life in Germany to her ordination as a nun in 1991 and her decision to tackle the seemingly impossible goal of learning Tibetan well enough to study in it, followed by two decades as a student at Institute of Buddhist Dialectics in Dharamsala in northern India.
Geshe-ma, as she is called, has said, “Although this [degree] was slightly controversial, a number of Tibetans have told me that it was instrumental in paving the way for nunneries to be able to establish the Geshe degree for nuns. [Now], nuns from the Gelug nunneries in India and Nepal who have completed their study program will have the opportunity to take exams… and upon successful completion, those nuns will become geshes.”
Since 2004 she has been giving Buddhist philosophy classes in India and recently she has started touring the world, teaching Buddhism. Her incredible knowledge and great insight, together with her impeccable English and unique vantage of having a Western upbringing, make her an inspiring and sought-after teacher.
Her talk here will be on the Buddhist view of reality, something she is highly qualified to talk about. Of the method and wisdom that make up our path to full awakening, this is the wisdom that reveals how nothing exists independently, that we and all objects are interdependent. It is bound to be a fascinating talk.

Geshe Tashi - 'Master Chef'

As promised, Geshe Tashi presented us with a real feast of teachings when he visited earlier this month.

On the Friday evening, he gave a very relevant introduction to the subject of our true potential, which resonated with old and new students alike. In particular he focused on how we manifest this potential in daily life, how  we 'walk the walk'.

Over the week-end, he took us on a journey of discovery, using the classic texts ('The Sublime Continuum' and 'Ornament of Clear Realisations') as his basis, but weaving in quotes and insights from other great masters, and also contemporary sources, emphasising always the practical application of the theory to our everyday lives.

Listening to him was a bit like being in the presence of a Master Chef, who has at his fingertips a vast store cupboard of wholesome and tasty ingredients, who chooses a little from here, a taste from there, and a sprinkling of more exotic spices (insights from his studies in social anthropology, in this case), in order to present a delicious meal tailored perfectly to our individual palates.

Whether old friend, or someone relatively new to Buddhist thought, there was something to savour: from the 'basics' of refuge and bodhicitta, to the distinctions in the presentation of the fundamental nature of the mind in the various Buddhist traditions.

And, as ever, in his gentle humour and generosity in sharing his time, he was an inspiration of exactly how to 'walk the walk'.

If you missed this opportunity, we recorded (most of) the weekend teachings to make available - see below, 'Can you help us?'
Also, Geshe la will be teaching in Yeovil at the end of November, and returning to us in Bath at the end of February 2015 - details below.

Making Life Meaningful retreat day: Sun 30th November 11.00 - 4.00

What better way to prepare for the sometimes bruising festive season than to bask in a day of meditation with warm friends and a delicious lunch, all in the beautiful surroundings of Laurel Farm.

Join us as we reflect on what is truly of value in our lives, and how we can make this more manifest in our daily dealings with others.

Suggested donation to cover costs £10, and please bring vegetarian food to share for lunch. Tea and coffee provided. 

More dates for your diary:

Wednesday December 3rd:   Highly respected and very accessible Tibetan teacher  Geshe Sherab talking on 'Compassion' (probably) - perfect in the run-up to Christmas. (Please note, this course has previously been advertised as being on Dec 4th. Please adjust your diaries accordingly, and accept my apologies for any confusion)

Wednesday Jan 14th: Ven Amy Miller (topic to be decided)
Fri - Sun Feb 27th - Mar 1st: Geshe Tashi returns to teach on Karma
Fri - Sun March 13th-15th: Ven Robina Courtin: (topic to be decided)
More details on all of these events to follow - but put them in your diary now so as not to miss out. We will keep you up to date as we approach these and other visits.
Geshe Tashi will be teaching at our sister organisation, Saraswati Buddhist Group on 21st -23rd November 2014 - details on their website. He will be teaching on 'A Buddhist perspective on conflict' on Friday evening, and' The revolution of selflessness' over  the weekend.

Regular classes: 'Making Life Meaningful'

'Let us reflect on what is truly of value in life, what gives meaning to our lives, and set our priorities on the basis of that' HH Dalai Lama
What is truly of value, and are our current priorities reflective of this?
This course continues on Wednesday evenings through to the end of November - details on  the website.
Drop in if you like to challenge and be challenged.

And in preparation for next term, a word from Andy Wistreich

Dear friends

We will be studying the Discovering Buddhism module called The Spiritual Teacher in the New Year. I noticed that one of the recommended reading books is currently on sale at Wisdom Books, so I thought to send you the link in case you would like to order it:
Wise Teacher, Wise Student by Alexander Berzin
Another book that we will refer to is also reduced at Wisdom Books. This is:
Heart of the Path by Lama Zopa Rinpoche

Best wishes

Can you help us? 

As mentioned above, we recorded most of Geshe Tashi's recent teachings, so that we could make them freely available to those who weren't able to attend, or missed some sessions. We have, in fact, recorded most of the teachings by visiting teachers over the last few years.

But we have a problem. We are all technically challenged, and unable to make the leap from recorder/computer to public site (probably YouTube). We have access to some advice, but really need someone who can make sense of all  this, and actually do whatever it takes to upload the files. Could it be you? Or someone you know? And could you hold our collective hand as we struggle with other bits of technology along the way?

If you think it could be you, please contact Sandra to discuss it further:
Tel: 01373 670 985, or, or let us know at one of the classes
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Jamyang Bath Buddhist Group is affiliated to the FPMT
Spiritual Director: Lama Zopa Rinpoche
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