Summer Camp: Portugal



This was my first Summer camp with Ringu Tulku and I chose to attend for two reasons. The first was the wish to learn how to practice the Ngondro properly and the second because Ringu Tulku has proven to be a good teacher on other Dharma topics. The experience was amazing. The clarity of Rinpoche’s teaching from the powers of the Refuge Prayer to the line by line explanation of Guru Yoga has certainly given me a good understanding and I have confidence to continue the practice that my own teacher has asked me to practice. As part of the Retreat the aim was to reach 100,000 of each of the four parts of the Ngondro and I can still hear the sound of rice as it formed many Mandalas and as a group we achieved our blessings. The empowerment that drew the teaching to a close was exactly that – very powerful and ended with us all joining katas while holding candles as brothers and sisters in the Dharma. Add to that the beautiful Portuguese sunshine and the opportunity to practice in the sun, something those of us from Scotland have seen little of this year, a very busy and deeply meaningful retreat.                                                                                         Jenni Campbell


Ten days after the event my response to this year’s summercamp is mainly one of gratitude. Immense gratitude to Rinpoche, to Tsering and to Lama Tsultrim for facilitating a complete short Ngondro practice in one week and also indebtedness to the young, strong and energetic members of the group who managed to carry along with them those of us who are somewhat older and could only do our best. Back in London my wish is to stabilise all that I have received, integrate it into my practice, but first to learn off by heart the 100 syllable mantra that I had not come across before.                                                                            

Thus, I am to be seen on tubes and buses muttering mantras to myself, hoping other people think I am talking into an invisible mobile phone. This task seems to me to be of the utmost importance and serves to help me to stay in touch with the benefits of the Ngondro practices for all of Rinpoche’s sangha, both those who were at summer camp and everyone else too. Lynda Miller



You couldn’t say there was a best part of the Ngondro because the practice was so well delivered by Rinpoche La and so well paced and every part complemented the whole experience: a valuable practice of the interconnectedness of  Buddhist philosophy. Wandering through and around the grapevines reciting the vajrasattva 100-syllable mantra, the mandala offering, the prostrations and doing Guru Yoga all contributed to this unique experience.  On the last evening, the sangha consolidated the experience by joining katas and lighting candles.  

Thank you to Ringu Tulku Rinpoche, Lama Tsultrim and Tsering Paldron for planning and facilitating this event.


My Experience of the Summer Camp

About the People…

I thought a week of closer proximity to Ringu Tulku might help me understand why he calls himself ‘the lazy lama’. It didn’t. Relaxed, yes, but lazy? Most important to me, he seemed congruent: what he taught, he embodied. His teaching was clear and accessible, presented with both strength and modesty. He revealed glimpses of his profound knowledge and awareness, and more than once I thought how tolerant he must be of the comparative ignorance of the rest of us. It was of enormous help to me that Rinpoche gave Ngondro teachings in a way that they were practical and relevant to our lives and our concerns. His humour helped: I found it healing to laugh with him and everyone else.

The ‘everyone else’ is significant, too. Not surprising, the robed and lay people who cherish Ringu Tulku seem refreshingly balanced. While the wide-ranging conversations I enjoyed with the ones I met were distracting because they evoked in me much reflection, they mostly were heart-warming and inspiring.

About the Practice…

For years I have found reasons and excuses to evade Ngondro practice – despite having attended teachings on Ngondro given by HE Tai Situpa at Samye Ling who taught that Ngondro practice is the portal to Mahamudra and despite knowing that positive repetition engenders positive change in the mind.

I registered for the 2015 summer camp with now-or-never resolve and with considerable trepidation. As the result of an ongoing family ordeal, I arrived at the camp too tired to ‘struggle’. “Don’t think about it, just do it,” I told myself. For the first couple of days, I could barely keep awake during the teachings and was glad for the helpful physical component of the practices. Being new among a diverse collection of people gave my sleepy mind abundant material for judgement, analysis, fantasy; and I observed it sluggishly moving in habitual ways, attempting to organise the sensory information I encountered in order to help me feel comfortable.

Gradually, I woke up a little and settled into the practice with genuine appreciation. I was able to notice the care with which the organisers had worked with Rinpoche in arranging for the texts, the translations, the structure. I felt the strong support of the practice of the ‘everyone else’. The mantra music in my head greeted me when I woke each morning and stayed with me throughout the day, and I welcomed stirrings of devotion. I felt an inner release when Ringu Tullku included the name of Akong Rinpoche, whom I had followed since the 1980’s, when he led us in singing the hauntingly lovely ‘Calling the Guru from Afar’ prayer.

I returned home less weary, and with the realisation that while a part of my mind had focused on the practice of Ngondro, something more subtle had taken place of which I had been unaware at the time. For example, I was astonished that the anxiety I had felt about a particular distressing situation somehow had evaporated. This reminded me that a most effective inspiration for more Dharma practice is practice!

See also Remembering Harry.



Haiku Book Review and Author Interview

Outside my window is a sweet pea plant.  Today, suddenly it seems, there are only seven flowers, the rest having turned into pods.  Maeve expresses this process of change in one of her Summer haiku:

cloudy afternoon

my sweet pea flowers

becoming peas

In these few lines there is a dynamism that paradoxically captures a frozen moment, a reciprocal dance of time and motion.  Maeve explains it concisely in her blog:

Many haiku practitioners say that writing haiku helps to keep them anchored in the present moment…

In her latest edition of poetry, A Train Hurtles West, Maeve has captured moments in her life and with imagery invested with tenderness, painted a world consisting of the memories of her mother and father, the seasons and the power of inevitable change, intimate moments in her life and contrasting settings.

Maeve’s mastery of the Haiku form is evident in this collection of verse. Read the words slowly and mindfully; they are a gentle reminder that we are all on that train.

Q1:      What’s the significance of the title of your latest collection of poetry?

A1:       A Train Hurtles West comes from the title haiku which is also part of the title sequence of the book. The full haiku is a short one-liner: ‘mother dying   a train hurtles west’, and the sequence contains haiku I wrote in the few months before and after her death in October 2014. I live in Dublin, in an apartment over the train line heading south and west towards Cork, Limerick and Galway, so I can literally see and hear all the trains as they go by.

I also like the open-ness of the idea of heading west which could have as many interpretations as readers. Traditionally it means dying or being destroyed or lost, which chimes with my mother’s passing away, but in Ireland everyone loves heading west of the Shannon, so it’s probably got more positive connotations here, as I’m sure it has in other countries also. Of course the gold rush in the US also involved people heading west.

Q2:      How does “death” affect your writing?

I guess bereavement is an experience to draw from in relation to poems and haiku. Of course it is more intense (at times) than other experiences, so possibly more dramatic and more ‘inspirational’. I’ve heard quite a few stories about poets who only started to write after the death of a parent. I had been writing for fifteen years before the death of my father, the first person I lost who was very close to me. There is a sequence called Father’s Death Day in my first collection of haiku, Initial Response (2011, Alba Publishing) which has haiku written around the time of my Dad’s death in 2010. That book is out of print but now available to read or download free in the Haiku Foundation’s Digital Library.

 Q3:      What brought you to Buddhism?

I had an interest in Buddhism as a young woman, but it was many more years before I became one. I suppose, like lots of others, I was searching for answers. I liked the fact that Buddhism was a non-theistic faith, also the notion of Buddha-nature, which is pretty much the opposite of the Catholic doctrine of original sin (I was raised a Catholic).

I took refuge five years ago, in the Kagyu tradition. It coincided with my mother’s dementia diagnosis, and I found my dharma very helpful in dealing with that process, with its emphasis on impermanence and acceptance. I also like its stress on pacifism and welcome having an ethical code by which to live my life, one which values compassion above success or materialism.

I’ve aimed to explore the dharma gradually, at my own pace, and that has worked for me so far. I enjoy attending talks and pujas, and am a member of a dharma book club. I’m lucky enough to live near the Kagyu centre in Dublin. I’ve also attended Ringu Tulku’s Summercamp in Portugal for the last three summers, and love connecting with teachings, practices and other sangha members in that way. He is a very wise and inspiring teacher, with a great sense of humour.

Q4:      In your sequence Portugal and Galicia, as elsewhere, you have captured the essence of an experience.  Does meditation help you formulate ideas about experiences?

A2:       I would say that meditation and mindfulness practices help to keep me in the moment (or yank me back there). Haiku are more about sensations than ideas, so being in the moment helps you to increase awareness and concentrate on the senses, resulting in what we call ‘haiku moments’, some of which result in haiku. It’s no accident that the tradition of haiku poetry is partly rooted in Zen Buddhism, or that many of the old Japanese haiku masters were also Buddhist monks and nuns, or practitioners at least.

Q5:      Your haiku is not in the traditional 5-7-5 syllabic structure.  Does it matter?

Since English is a very different language to Japanese, the 5-7-5 structure does not have to be adhered to. I’m told the English syllable packs more in than the Japanese onji, or word section, so 10-14 syllables are considered the equivalent in English-language haiku to the Japanese 17.

Q6:      Does the Irish tradition of poetry – Yeats, Heaney, Colum – influence you at all?

It probably influences my longer-form poetry more than my shorter-form poetry (O’Sullivan’s first longer-form poetry collection, Vocal Chords, was published by Alba Publishing in 2014). No Irish poet can avoid the shadows of Yeats, Kavanagh, Hartnett, Heaney et al, or the influences of the living greats such as Longley, Mahon, Boland, Kinsella, Montague, Ní Dhomhnaill and others. We’re a nation of poets who have to find our own individual voices while embracing those wonderful influences.


Maeve O’Sullivan’s new collection of haiku poetry, A Train Hurtles West, is available from the publisher, Alba Publishing ( 30% of profits go to Ringu Tulku Rinpoche’s charity Rigul Trust ( You can find Maeve on Twitter (@maeveos). Her blog post Why Haiku? is available here: bogmanscannon







Bodhicharya Summer Camp

Bodhicharya Summer Camp

14-20 July 2014

Casa da Torre, Braga, Portugal



The Camp was hosted for the third year running by Bodhicharya Portugal at Casa da Torre, near Braga, from 14 to 21 July. With around 110 participants from 20 different countries, mainly European, the atmosphere was lively, the discussion animated, a chance to renew old friendships and make new ones.

Ringu Tulku’s teachings continued and concluded the study of Dakpo Tashi Namgyal’s magisterial text, Mahᾱmudrᾱ, The Moonlight: Quintessence of Mind and Meditation, which he had started four years previously in Lusse, France. He made it clear from the outset, however, that study of a text is only the beginning: we must use this study to work on ourselves, which is the main meditation. Ultimately it is our practice and we must integrate the teaching at the level on which we find ourselves. Throughout the week’s teachings, he stressed the Dharma as a living reality, and this somewhat forbidding text was made accessible to us by our knowledge that our teacher had been there himself and was reporting back from the land of realisation for samsaric beings at an earlier stage on the Path. And yet he managed, consistently, but without any diminution of the text’s austere wisdom, to open it up to our understanding.

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Annie photo 1

Audience for the Karma Kagyu organisation heads at Kamalashila.

Photo: Francois Henrard


For many years Ringu Tulku Rinpoche has worked increasingly  closely with His Holiness the 17th Karmapa and the Indian Government to make way for a visit of His Holiness to Europe to give teachings. Four separate applications were made in the past 10 years, but only the last was successful, and only after all hope for success had been given up. No-one could have envisaged either the scale at which it finally took place, or the magnitude of the impact that the visit would have, from start to finish.

It was clear however when Ringu Tulku Rinpoche gave his ecstatic thanks after the Karma Pakshi  empowerment on the final day, that he was indebted to not only the tireless teams of the German Karma Kagyu Trust, Bodhicharya Berlin, Rigpa and all the international volunteers who worked on the ground; but also the German and Indian Governments who cleared the way for His Holiness to travel to Europe.   It was a massive undertaking, an achievement that will doubtless benefit countless beings way beyond our imaginings.

The 17th Karmapa arrived in Frankfurt on Sunday 25th May, and was brought to a private location for several days to acclimatise, before he was swiftly moved into an almost too busy schedule for the ten days that followed. When His Holiness arrived at Langenfeld he got out of his car and slowly walked the incline to the Kamalashila Centre nodding and waving to those en route.  The road was lined with members of Buddhist communities from all over the world as well as local residents who joined us on the road to cheer and wave, they also had the privilege of homes that bordered the street, and upstairs windows giving great views.


Lama Shenga hanging flags at Kamalashila Stupa

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Taming the Tiger by Akong Tulku Rinpoche


By taking these teachings to heart, we may re-educate ourselves to develop more compassion and understanding. Thus the value and usefulness of our lives will increase. (pp.84-5)


The first thing you see when you pick up a copy of Taming the Tiger is the cover. On the cover – as you might expect – is a tiger. And this is a very special tiger: not only is he a beautiful line drawing by Tai Situpa Rinpoche, he is also a very contented tiger, sitting calmly and with gentle dignity under a tree. He even seems to smile a bit in that way cats have. Continue reading


The three hands on the Bodhicharya Logo represent the three main activities of Healing, Helping, and Harmony.


Healing : Buddha Dharma is regarded to be the Science of Mind. There are facilities for the study and practise of Dharma and other ancient wisdoms originating from both Eastern and Western traditions, which provide a basis for healing body and mind.


Helping : Life is meaningless if we do not do something useful to benefit society and the world we live in. Bodhicharya has already funded schools, clinics, and hospices, and plans to generate similar projects in the future for the benefit of those in need.


Harmony : Peace and progress in the world is dependent upon the harmony of its people. Inter-religious, inter-cultural and interdisciplinary dialogue and study are initiated to help bring better understanding and more harmony amongst communities worldwide.


Blue Poppy from Sitar Rose on Vimeo.


Sitar specialises in health, education and the arts and frequently works with sensitive and difficult issues.

 After training in Social Anthropology at Edinburgh University, she started making documentaries in 1980. Since then she has  researched, directed. filmed and edited her own productions . Fulfilling the Vision is one of a number of films she made for Akong Rinpoche at Samye Ling since 1988. To see recent films visit or

– See more at:


SAMYE LING Fulfilling the Vision from Sitar Rose on Vimeo.

Sitar Rose

Sitar specialises in health, education and the arts and frequently works with sensitive and difficult issues.
After training in Social Anthropology at Edinburgh University, she started making documentaries in 1980. Since then she has  researched, directed. filmed and edited her own productions . Fulfilling the Vision is one of a number of films she made for Akong Rinpoche at Samye Ling since 1988. To see recent films visit or



night boat 1

Night Boat is the story of Ekaku Hakuin, one of the most influential monks in the history of Zen Buddhism. It recreates his life from early childhood in a small Japanese village through a lifetime of adventures, both physical and spiritual. And Spence spends as much time in the beautiful landscape of Japan – using Mt Fuji as a touchstone throughout – as he does in the landscape of the mind.

The historical Ekaku revived the practice of Zen from a period of lethargy and stagnation, and in Night Boat, Spence recreates not just a questing monk and later, charismatic abbot, but also a man determined to pursue his true calling despite the obstacles that Zen’s debased reputation presents. Ekaku struggles against nature, his mind, the failings of his own body, and even the sarcasm of his best teachers who believe Zen has been ruined for good, but the adventure carries on because Ekaku is steadfast in his belief that there is more to learn, and more to conquer – more to put right. Ekaku shares many of his adventures with other characters in Night Boat: first and throughout there is his family, and there are plenty of great sages, fellow monks and, later, students (male and female), along with friends and neighbours, and even a brief flirtation with romance – all vividly drawn and relatable (if not necessarily likeable!). Continue reading





I first met Elisabeth Fraser at a meeting in the Theosophical Society in great King Street in Edinburgh. What the meeting was about and who the speaker was I can’t recall clearly.  Perhaps what was said was uninteresting but more likely unintelligible.  But what I do remember clearly is that I was seated next to a tall, brown bookcase full of esoteric writings about religion and folklore, the latter mainly about fairies and the supernatural; and as the talk was droning on I noticed a set of books on a shelf. Having read many of his works in the past, the books were by Krishnamurti, I pulled one from the shelf. Immediately, Elisabeth turned to me and whispered, “I’m a follower of Krishnamurti. We used to go down to Brockwood Park to hear his talks every year.” 

What impressed me about Elisabeth Continue reading

Tulku : A Film by Gesar Mukpo. Reviewed by Vicki McKenna

 Tulku by Gesar Mukpo is a documentary about his own journey and that of other young western Tulkus who have all been recognised, when children, as reincarnations of Tibetan Lamas. The recognition of western children as Tulkus first started in the mid-1970s and the film explains how this practice has created stability politically and spiritually in Tibetan society for 800 years but has not transferred easily into western culture. For most of these young men there has been a conflict between the modern western culture that they have been raised in and the traditional Tibetan culture of their past lives.

Gesar was the son of  Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche  Continue reading