Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche welcomes Sogyal Rinpoche to NalandaWest

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On a wet wintry Seattle evening, December 11, Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche welcomed Sogyal Rinpoche to NalandaWest with a traditional tea and rice ceremony. The two Tibetan teachers lit up the room with their presence and warm humor, sharing stories about their connection through Dzogchen Monastery. Sogyal Rinpoche, author of the “Tibetan Book of Living and Dying” then gave a weekend of teachings on the natural freedom of mind.

Over 120 people attended the two-day talks on understanding the nature of mind and the wisdom of meditation. Two senior students introduced Sogyal Rinpoche, describing his background as a student of several Nyingma masters of the 20th century and as a master of the Dzogchen tradition. They said Sogyal Rinpoche, who is known for his spontaneous and lively teaching style, focuses on pith instructions from Dzogchen and the wisdom that transcends conceptual mind.

Sogyal Rinpoche began his talks by elucidating the idea of finding inner peace and contentment. He emphasized the importance of working with one’s ego mind to purify perceptions and ultimately to realize the true nature of mind. If you transform your ego mind, he said, then you transform your perceptions, and you will experience life differently. Mind is the root of everything, he said, our happiness and our suffering. If we fall prey to negative emotions, then our mind becomes our nightmare. On the other hand, if we overcome negative thinking, then our mind becomes our best friend.

The tools to tame the mind were listed as being mindful, present and aware, meditation, devotion and prayer, loving-kindness and compassion. His two senior students led the group in meditation, followed by a special session of meditation with Sogyal Rinpoche.

On day two, Sogyal Rinpoche read and discussed questions and comments he received from his audience. He then gave a teaching on Guru Rinpoche, who introduced Buddhism to Tibet, and emphasized the importance of staying aware of the present moment, not lost in past memories or speculations about the future.

“When we leave our mind in its natural state,” Sogyal Rinpoche said,  “and do not alter it with thinking or grasping, then we can experience profound peace.”

Join NalandaWest January 8,9 and 10 for a weekend teaching on the Progressive Stages of Meditation on Emptiness with Acharya Lama Tenpa Gyaltsen. Lama Tenpa has been one of the main teachers at Nitartha Institute and is a professor of Buddhist studies and Tibetan language at Naropa University in Boulder.

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Rooted in compassion

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NalandaWest volunteers are deepening their roots of compassion by continuing to help prepare and serve Friday Feast, a restaurant-quality meal offered every Friday night to Seattle’s homeless youth at ROOTS Young Adult Shelter. Answering the call to compassionate action made by the 17th Karmapa in his May visit to Seattle, the volunteers first worked on Friday Feast with Venerable Pannavati, who was teaching a weekend workshop at NalandaWest. The enthusiastic volunteers returned to ROOTS on Oct. 16. Once again, they found the evening to be lively, fun and insightful — an experience that filled their own hearts as they were helping others.

Putting into practice lessons learned through meditation and mindful activity, the volunteers peeled, chopped and stirred ingredients for vegetable beef curry, a green salad, corn mixed with avocados and tomatoes plus a fruit salad for dessert. Before the event, each volunteer was asked to reflect upon their motivations and expectations and were encouraged to find an aspiration for the evening’s activity. One volunteer, originally inspired by the actions of Venerable Pannavati, vowed to spend more time talking with the homeless youth at the shelter. Another intended to focus on the youth but found her attention drawn to the grace and compassion shown to the patrons by the ROOTS staff. Others recalled the words spoken by the Karmapa to Silas Follendorf, an advocate for homeless youth, during his public talk in May. Answering a question asked by Follendorf, His Holiness said:

“The work you are doing is very meaningful work that’s bringing direct benefit and really directly sparking an experience of happiness for these people.”

There will be another opportunity to volunteer at ROOTS Friday Feast in November. NalandaWest welcomes anyone who would like to participate. For more information, please send an email to or call 206-529-8258.

NalandaWest is located at 3902 Woodland Park Avenue North, Seattle 98103.


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Volunteers put compassion to work

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Venerable Pannavati, left, and Nalanda West volunteers worked at ROOTS Young Adult Shelter to help prepare a meal.

With mixing bowls, spoons and spatulas in hand, a group of volunteers from Nalanda West and Venerable Pannavati, who was teaching a workshop at the center, recently put their compassion to work helping prepare ‘Friday Feast,’ a restaurant-quality meal served every Friday night at ROOTS Young Adult Shelter.

Inspired by the call to compassionate action teachings given in Seattle earlier this year by His Holiness the 17th Karmapa, the volunteers worked side by side with experienced, dedicated staff members of ROOTS. The menu for the evening included a green salad, baked chicken, sweet potatoes and peach cobbler for dessert.

Friday Feast began in 1996, by former ROOTS Executive Director Sinan Demirel as a way to honor the memory of his mother, a woman dedicated to service and hospitality. Since its inception, Friday Feast has served over 100,000 meals to the homeless in Seattle. Real Change has called it, “The best of all soup kitchens.”

Nalanda West volunteers said the experience was both eye-opening and satisfying. One volunteer remarked, “It was a pleasure to work with so many helpful, open, diligent people. As the saying goes, ‘Many hands makes light work.’ It was a great way to spend a Friday night.” Her enthusiasm was echoed by other volunteers and garnered so much interest that Nalanda West is planning a follow-up volunteer event in October. Check our website for details.


Book Event at Nalanda WestAnd speaking of upcoming events in October! Be sure to join us for a special program with acclaimed local authors Dr. Charles Johnson and David Guterson and poet Samar Abulhassan. The topic for the workshop will focus on Buddhist practice in the Creative Arts. The event will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, October 3 at Nalanda West.

During the daylong workshop, we’ll hear readings and contemplations by the authors on how Buddhist practice informs artistic work and how that work in turn informs practice. Participants will also have the chance for writing and Q&A.

For more details or to register go to our events page!





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Compassion in playful action: game on!


Over 1600 people filled the Exhibition Hall at Seattle Center for the Karmapa's teaching on compassion in action.

Over 1600 people — including a number of compassionate action organizations — filled Seattle Center’s Exhibition Hall for the 17th Karmapa’s teaching on compassion in action.

During His Holiness the 17th Karmapa’s public teaching, “A Call to Compassionate Action,” hosted by Nalanda West last May and held at Seattle Center’s Exhibition Hall, compassionate action organizations sponsored Call to Action tables during the event. The nonprofits shared their missions of kindness and encouraged attendees to act on His Holiness’ clear and heartfelt message to put love into action right now.

One of the organizations, Compassion Games International, has been working to create a culture of compassion since 2012, and will hold its annual Compassion Games Coopetition: Survival of the Kindest next month from 9/11 to 9/21 in communities and cities — including Seattle — around the globe.

Following the Karmapa’s teaching on compassion, John Ramer of Compassion Games said, “The truth is we don’t need to learn compassion; we just need to remind ourselves that we are all connected and this illusion of being separate is destroying our planet, destroying our lives. I thought the Karmapa spoke to that beautifully. Empathy into action is the best way to describe compassion to me. You can feel what another person is feeling. Then we have to take it into action.”

The other compassionate action organizations present at the public event included: Bodhi SeedsNitartha InstituteSeeds of CompassionYouth CareRoots of Empathy and Love City Love.

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Remembering the Call to Compassion: HH 17th Karmapa in Seattle

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In May of this year, Nalanda West had the good fortune to host a visit to Seattle, Washington, by His Holiness the 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje.

Our friends at Northwest Dharma News recently published a beautiful article, with great photos, about HH Karmapa’s second visit to Seattle, dubbed “Karmapa in Seattle 2015.” The article looks at the ways that Karmapa reached out to youth in our community, encouraging young people to actively engage in compassionate action wherever they are, in whatever ways they are able, while remembering to be compassionate to themselves as well.

In a large public program entitled “A Call to Compassionate Action” the Karmapa taught with love and humor on the natural wisdom of compassion, and engaged in dialogue with some of Seattle’s leading social activists about the challenges and rewards of their work.

Pre-Program Video: The Karmapa and Seattle Compassionate Action Organizations

As a prelude to the Karmapa in Seattle 2015 program, we showed this video representing both His Holiness’ teachings on compassion, and the many local organizations that came together to offer program participants a wide variety of opportunities to engage in compassionate action in our Seattle community and around the world. We love remembering this special day, and are happy to share the pre-program video here on the blog.

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You can see more videos on the “Karmapa in Seattle 2015″ playlist in our Nalanda West video channel.

At Nalanda West we continue to host events with world renowned teachers who share their valuable guidance on compassionate action and their wisdom in navigating the challenges of a contemplative life in these busy, often crazy times. We hope to see you very soon!

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Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche talks with compassionate activist Erika Berg

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Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche and Erika Berg met at Nalanda West to talk about Berg’s new book “Forced to Flee: Visual Stories by Refugee Youth from Burma.”

Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche spoke with Erika Berg, compassionate activist and author of Forced to Flee: Visual Stories by Refugee Youth from Burma, at Nalanda West following His Holiness the 17th Karmapa’s “A Call to Compassionate Action” event in Seattle.

Berg, who facilitates visual storytelling workshops with refugee youth along the borders of Burma and in the U.S, hosted a Call to Action table at Seattle Center’s Exhibition Hall during the public teachings His Holiness gave on Saturday, May 9. Seven other organizations dedicated to social justice and compassionate action — Bodhi Seeds,  LoveCityLove, YouthCare, Backbone Campaign, Compassion Games, Roots of Empathy and Compassionate Seattle — also hosted tables, providing information and ways for volunteers to put compassion into action.

Erika Berg_Forced to Flee_HHK_Seattle_Call2Compassion_2015Berg’s new book Forced to Flee: Visual Stories by Refugee Youth from Burma illustrates Burma’s ongoing struggle for democracy as told through artwork created by refugee youth forced to flee their home country due to ethnic violence and persecution.

Ta Kwe Say, a Burmese youth refugee and one of the artists whose work is featured in Berg’s book, joined five local youth leaders working in social justice on a panel with His Holiness Karmapa during “A Call to Compassionate Action.”

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HH Karmapa teaching on compassionate action, in Seattle


Youth leaders from organizations dedicated to social justice and compassionate action joined His Holiness on stage at Seattle Center’s Exhibition Hall.

On the unseasonably warm Saturday afternoon of May 9, over 1600 people stood in line at Seattle Center’s Exhibition Hall in anticipation of His Holiness the 17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje’s final public teaching on his two-month trip to the United States. Titled “A Call to Compassionate Action,” the event was a two-part program.

Mitra Mark Power, a senior teacher at Nalandabodhi, welcomed the large crowd.  Senior Nalandabodhi teacher and translator Mitra Tyler Dewar introduced His Holiness, remarking on three important qualities of the Karmapa — the authenticity of his lineage, his heart of innovation and his profound inspiration. Seated in front of a vivid photograph of Mt. Rainier, His Holiness spoke of the need for compassion to go beyond philosophy and to be responsibly translated into action. He gave examples of methods for actively cultivating compassion, adding that with true compassion there is no distance between oneself and others. Realizing there is no separation, then compassion and love will naturally arise.

With Mitra Mark moderating, a panel of six youth leaders from organizations dedicated to social justice and compassionate action joined His Holiness on stage. A short video introduced each leader: Silas Follendorf with YouthCare, Jennifer Hotes with Love City Love, Rekeda Roundtree who teaches Roots of Empathy, Burmese refugee Ta Kwe Say plus two youth ambassadors for Seeds of Compassion, Olivia Smith and Habib Behjatnia.

Watch the first part of “The Call to Compassionate Action” here:

In the evening, HHK gave an eloquent yet accessible teaching on how to practice and develop compassion through understanding its source and the way everything connects to everything else. Benefitting others starts on the inside, he said, and we need to transform ourselves so that we become the nature of benefitting others. Extending love to others, His Holiness said, is part of human life.

Watch the entire teaching here:

Compassionate action organizations and program collaborators hosted Calls to Action at tables throughout the event space, encouraging attendees to act on His Holiness’ and other leaders’ calls to grow our compassion, to make it real and immediate and to put our love into action now. Organizations included: Compassion Games, Bodhi Seeds, Nitartha Institute, Seeds of Compassion, Youth Care, Roots of Empathy and Love City Love.

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Public Teachings by His Holiness to be Webcast Live from Seattle

HHK-Karmapa-BRANDING-NEW-FINAL per DBG_04.08.15_web lo-resWe are delighted to announce that the last public teachings of His Holiness the Karmapa’s two-month trip to the United States will be webcast live from Seattle Saturday, May 9th.

There will be two sessions: from 2 pm to 4 pm and from 7 pm to 9 pm, Pacific Coast time. His Holiness will offer a teaching entitled “A Call to Compassionate Action” and will engage in a panel discussion with area youth leaders working for social justice. Further details about this event can be found by clicking here.

Both sessions will be livestreaming

We hope you all can join!

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The Significance of the Karmapas, a talk by Mitra Karl Brunnhölzl


In his talk “The Significance of the Karmapas,” given at NalandaWest on Friday, May 1, Mitra Karl Brunnhölzl spoke about the 900 year-old lineage of compassion and awakening embodied by the Karmapa.

Mitra Karl opened the evening by saying that talking about the Karmapa is like a firefly talking about the light of the sun. His Holiness the 17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje is the 17th appearance of the form of the Karmapa and is the most diverse in his appearance of all the Karmapa’s, which Mitra Karl said fits with our age of diversity. The 17th Karmapa is seen as a world leader, environmentalist, poet, visual artist, computer nerd, vegetarian, youth leader, great vajra master, head of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism and living Buddha. As a bodhisattva, His Holiness works for the benefit of others, Mitra Karl said, and his main job is to help us see beyond our mental restrictions, to relax and laugh. Great masters laugh a lot, he said, and humor is an essential element of a bodhisattva.

Mitra Karl’s talk included a brief history of each of the Karmapas, who all composed numerous texts on medicine, poetry, astronomy, arts and crafts, logic and debate, in addition to significant Buddhist teachings and texts.

Before questions and answers began, Mitra Karl concluded his talk by citing some of his own experiences with the 17th Karmapa. He encouraged audience members to maintain an open mind when they attend His Holiness’ public teaching on May 9 and/or if they should have the great good fortune of meeting His Holiness the 17th Karmapa.

Mitra Karl Brunnhölzl was trained as a physician and presently works as a Tibetan translator and Buddhist teacher. He studied Tibetology, Buddhology, and Sanskrit at Hamburg University and Tibetan language and Buddhist philosophy and practice at the Marpa Institute for Translators in Kathmandu. Currently he works as a translator and interpreter for the Tsadra Foundation, Nalandabodhi, and the Nitartha Institute. In 2009 he was appointed as the first Western khenpo (abbot in the Kagyu and Nyingma lineages) by Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche.
Mitra Karl is the author of several books on Buddhism: The Center of the Sunlight Sky, Straight from the Heart, In Praise of Dharmadhātu, Luminous Heart, Gone Beyond, Groundless Paths, The Heart Attack Sutra, Mining for Wisdom within Delusion, and When The Clouds Part.

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HH Karmapa returns to his North American seat


His Holiness Karmapa recently returned to Karma Triyana Dharmachakra, his North American seat established by the 16th Karmapa over three decades ago. On April 17th, HH Karmapa arrived at KTD Monastery in Woodstock, New York. The following day His Holiness gave a teaching on taking refuge, which he decribed as the essence of Dharma. Later that afternoon, HH Karmapa conferred the refuge vow in Sanskrit to over 1,500 participants in Kingston, New York. The following days His Holiness gave the Karma Pakshi empowerment and later taught on the foundational Buddhist principles. His Holiness also visited a local Christian Orthodox church and gave a teaching to the Woodstock community in honor of Earth Day.

Here is HH Karmapa teaching on the meaning of refuge in Kingston:

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