History Of SFOT
Click the links below to jump to the year of interest.
A local man wanted to do more for Tibet and the Tibetan people. He had started a radio program devoted exclusively to Tibet, the Tibetan people and all issues related to Tibet on KVMR-FM in 1991. He asked some friends to help increase awareness of the issues in Nevada County. They agreed and slowly started putting on events to accomplish this goal. All events took place at St. Joseph’s Cultural Center at 410 South Church Street in Grass Valley, California unless otherwise noted.
October 5, 1997
The Local Friends of Tibet presented the Drepung Loseling Monks offering Buddhist teachings and the Mystical Arts of Tibet. www.drepung.org
Drepung Loseling Monastery was one of .Tibet's largest monastic universities. Located in the hills on the northern outskirts of Lhasa, it was established in 1416 as an institute of higher Buddhist education by Khenpo Lekden, a direct disciple of Lama Tsongkhapa (1357-1419), founder of the eclectic Geluk School. The First Dalai Lama was also a disciple of Lama Tsongkhapa, and the Second Dalai Lama built a residence in Drepung, called the Ganden Potrang, which remained a hereditary seat of all subsequent Dalai Lamas.
At its zenith Drepung Loseling housed some ten thousand monk students. These were drawn not only from Tibet, but also from China, Himalayan India, Mongolia, and the Mongol regions of Eastern Russia.
February 16, 1998
The Local Friends of Tibet hosted Venerable Tibetan Buddhist Monk Lobsang Samtem. Lobsang presented a slide show and talk on the making of the film Kundun.
Venerable Lama Losang Samten has been sharing teachings of loving-kindness, joy and compassion, as well as the path to enlightenment for almost 30 years. Losang lived and studied over 20 years in the Namgyal Monastery (the monastery of His Holiness the Dalai Lama) earning the highest degree attainable at the monastery, equivalent to a doctoral degree in the West. He also became a Master of Ritual Dance and Sand Mandalas and was the Personal Attendant to His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama prior to moving to the United States in 1988. Ven. Losang Samten is one of the Mandala Masters who created the first public sand mandala in the West in 1988. He is the spiritual director of several Buddhist Centers in North America, with a home base currently in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – the City of Brotherly Love. www.losangsamten.com
In the Spring of 1998
A series of meetings were held to determine if an organization to support the Tibet cause was needed. The names of most of the people at these meetings are lost to history. It was decided a name and a mission statement would be the first step. The first name that came up was Gold Country Friends of Tibet. GCFOT had a table with information on Tibet when the film Kundun screened for two weeks at the Nevada Theater in Nevada City. We also had a display in the display windows of the Helling Library in Nevada City for a month.
After a few more meetings the name Sierra Friends of Tibet was adopted. A Mission Statement was also agreed upon.
Sierra Friends of Tibet's mission is to raise awareness of Tibet, to advocate self-determination for the Tibetan people; to end the illegal occupation, the destruction of the natural environment, the eradication of the Tibetan culture, and the continuing genocide of the Tibetan people by the Chinese Communist government. We promote a peaceful resolution to these issues. www.sierrafreindsoftibet.org
SFOT presented A Way Home: A Child’s View of Tibet. This was a slide show and lecture on the creation of the Tibetan Children’s Art Project of the Tibetan Homes Foundation that was instituted in Tibetan Refugee Schools in India. Sarah Lukas, founder and President of the Friends of the Tibetan Women’s Association and the creator with Kitty Leaken of the Painting Clubs in the schools were the featured guests. www.fotwa.org
SFOT joined the International Tibet Support Network. SFOT pays its membership dues every year.
The International Tibet Support Network is a global coalition of Tibet-related non-governmental organizations. Its purpose is to maximize the effectiveness of the worldwide Tibet movement. The Network works to increase the capacity of individual organizations, develops coordinated strategic campaigns, and encourages increased cooperation among organizations, thereby strengthening the Tibet movement as a whole.
Network members are committed to non-violence as a fundamental principle of the Tibetan struggle. They regard Tibet as an occupied country and recognize the Tibetan Government in Exile as the sole legitimate government of the Tibetan people. Beyond these principles, the International Tibet Support Network respects the variety of views and opinion of its member organizations, for example concerning Tibet’s future political status, and believes that diversity strengthens our movement. www.tibetnetwork.org
SFOT hosted a visit by Tibetan Buddhist Nuns from Khachoe Gyakhil Ling nunnery in Kathmandu, Nepal. The Nuns’ three-week visit included creating the Medicine Buddha sand mandala, lectures, and visits to schools, churches and private residences. This tour was the first ever tour of a group of Tibetan Nuns in the United States.
In 1982 Lama Yeshe invited the first nuns to join Kopan monastery and study with the monks, quite a revolutionary proposal at that time. The nunnery was officially founded in 1986 under the direction of Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche, and in 1994, 80 nuns moved into their own premises. The nunnery is now home to some 390 Tibetan Buddhist nuns from Nepal, India and Tibet.
The nuns of Khachoe Ghakyil Ling Nunnery have had the doors of the classical Buddhist education opened to them. They are provided with highly trained scholars to teach them, and are now instructed in classical Tibetan debate, the performance of ritual music, the creation of sand mandalas, and other ritual arts.
Not surprisingly, once given access to scholastic training, the nuns have shown an intense determination to excel in their studies. They take part in the complete study program alongside their brother monks from Kopan. Their studies include Tibetan and English language, mathematics, philosophy, meditation, debate, rituals, chanting and art, along with other teachings and practice of the Buddha. Their goal is to become qualified Dharma teachers so that they may teach others, and to become economically self-sufficient.
The nunnery is funded mainly by donations from kind benefactors, and offerings received for prayers performed. A permanent food fund has been set up to secure the future of the nunnery and its residents. An additional source of income is the incense factory that was established in 1997.
What does Khachoe Ghakyil Ling mean?
Khachoe is the name of the Pure Land of the Dakinis. A dakini is a "Sky-Dancer", a dynamic, dancing, female emanation of enlightened mind.
Ghakyil means joy-swirl or bliss-swirl, a Tibetan Buddhist symbol which resembles the yin-yang symbol of east Asia.
Ling simply means "place" or "[Dharma] centre".
June 4, 1999
SFOT hosted venerable Tibetan Buddhist Monk Lobsang Samtem in an evening teaching on love and compassion featuring a guided meditation on Chenrezig, the Buddha of Compassion.
Ven. Losang Samten has led an illustrious career creating sacred sand mandalas that follow the ancient Buddhist tradition. These have been created in museums, universities, schools, community centers, and galleries throughout the USA, Canada, Mexico, and Europe. Losang has received the National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, a PEW Fellowship, and two honorary doctoral degrees from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, and the Maine College of Art. Losang played the role of the attendant to the young Dalai Lama in Martin Scorsese's film Kundun, where he also served as the religious technical advisor and sand mandala supervisor. Losang has written two books, one in Tibetan on the history of the Monastery of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and one in English, Ancient Teachings in Modern Times: Buddhism in the 21st Century. www.losangsamten.com
October 20, 1999
The Venerable Choeding Rinpoche, Abbott of Shang Gaden Ling monastery in Pokhara, Nepal, spoke about life in a Tibetan Refugee Camp in Nepal. Also speaking was Lama Tenzin Jampa and Tibetan Political Activist Pema Jordhen.
Choeding Rinpoche is the eighth emanation of Geshe Ben Kunkyen at the Shang Ganden Choekor monastery which was founded in the year 1604 by the great Fifth Dalai Lama. He was recognized as a Tulku by Phurchok Jamgon Rinpoche, one of the tutors of the 13th Dalai Lama. Born in 1936, Choeding Rinpoche entered the Ganden Choekor Monastery at the age of seven. After several years spent in study, memorizing texts and passing Buddhist examinations he entered Sera Je Monastery at the age of 14 to study Buddhist Dialectics. In 1958 he escaped the Chinese invasion of Tibet and fled to exile in India. He founded the new Ganden Choekar monastery in Pokhara, Nepal. In 1991 he received a Geshe degree at Sera Je in south India.
November 22, 1999
Lobsang Samten returned and SFOT hosted an evening teaching on the Luminous Nature of the Mind based on His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s book Kindness, Clarity and Insight.
February 24, 2000
His Holiness Orgyen Kusum Lingpa, one of the great Tertons (treasure revealers) in the world today came to Grass Valley. He is a pre-eminent Dzogchen teacher and Nyingma lineage holder. He offered a Vajarpani empowerment in the Hall.
His Holiness Orgyen Kusum Lingpa was a pre-eminent Dzogchen teacher and Nyingma lineage holder. During his life, he was known as one of the greatest living tertons (treasure revealers) in the world, having revealed the 3 classes of terma; those received directly from the mind, "crazy" termas which can manifest in the yogi as unconventional behavior, and secret termas which can only be revealed by one who is the owner of all 18 families of terma. His Holiness had been recognized as the incarnation of the Mahasiddha Drilbupa and of Lha-lung Pelgyi Dorje. His title, Kusum Lingpa means "Treasure Revealer of the Three Kayas."
Concerning his life work, His Holiness said: "Much earlier in my life, I made a pilgrimage to Samye. There, due to the good karma and auspicious coincidence in conjunction with the needs of these times, I saw all my past and future lives. I recalled all the teachings I had received directly from Guru Rinpoche when I was his disciple, and I saw all the hardships and difficulties of the time in which I am now living. This made it possible for me to reveal those teachings which are of particular benefit now, in this time of terrible suffering."
April 8, 2000
His Holiness Orgyen Kusum Lingpa returned and offered the Orgyen Jambhala Empowerment.
His Holiness Orgyen Kusum Lingpa of the Nyingma lineage died on February 26, 2009 at the age of 76; he was known as Lama Tsang (or Lamasang) to his close students. He had apparently been in ill health for several months. According to son Dorje Trangpo, “When Lamasang passed from this world, he was in no pain, he had no fear, he was not sick, he was totally peaceful. Just as in life he always said ‘I am not sick, there is nothing wrong’ [...] at the moment of death.” Son Hung Kar Dorje writes, “Even while facing the dangers of approaching death and while remaining ill for an extended period of time, without any real prospect for recovery, his speech at all times remained warm and full of good humor… We must be able to see the living example of our Lama Rinpoche passing into the state of peace as a profound, personal instruction that symbolically points us toward an understanding of the true condition of impermanence.”
July 22, 2000
The film Tibet’s Stolen Child was screened in Grass Valley. The film is about what was then the world’s youngest political prisoner: Gendhun Choekyi Nyima, the Panchen Lama of Tibet. Filmmakers Robin Garthwait and Dan Griffin were in attendance.
The greatest peacemakers of our time search for the truth about Tibet’s Panchen Lama, a boy whose fate could affect the destiny of a country struggling to avoid the destruction of its spiritual traditions. A young boy, the Panchen Lama, is the center of a swirling storm of international controversy. Identified by the Dalai Lama as Tibet’s second highest spiritual leader, this child was kidnapped by the Chinese government just days after the Dalai Lama’s announcement. Compelling personal accounts by the Dalai Lama and five Nobel Peace Laureates and others show how this is not only a story of Tibet and a small boy … it is a story of the world.
This was the first visit of Tibetan Buddhist Monks from Gaden Shartse Norling Monastery in exile in southern India. This was to be the start of a long and continuing relationship between SFOT and the Gaden Shartse Monastery. The Monks created a Dukar (White Parisol) sand mandala in the Hall. The Monks also performed sacred dance, offered teachings, visited schools and private residences. This was the time of great tragedy in Nevada County. There were disturbances of the worst kind at the Behavioral Health Building and at a local fast food restaurant. Lives were lost and some lives were shattered. The Monks did their good work and helped to heal the community. Geshe Yeshi Phuntso was the teacher on the tour. Phuntso was the translator and Lobsang Tsultrim the mandala master. SFOT contacted local doctors, dentists and eye doctors to see if they would donate their services to the Monks. We did find donors and every year the Monks receive the necessary medical assistance.
Gaden Monastery is one of the three most renowned monasteries of Tibet. It was actually prophesized by the Buddha himself 2500 years before is founding date in 1409. It was magnificently built on a large hillside of Drigri mountain, which was calm, peaceful and a highly suitable place for spiritual development. The monastery is located at approximately 50 kilometers east of Tibet’s capital city Lhasa and was established in 1409 by Je Tsongkhapa. Je Tsongkhapa was identified as an emananiation of Manjushri (embodiment of Buddha's wisdom), as Avalokiteshvara (embodiment of Buddha's compassion), and as a Vajrapani (embodiment of Buddha's ability). There were two colleges within Gaden monastery named Shartse and Jangtse.
Reputed to have had more then 3,300 monks during early years of its existence, it then grew to 5,000 monks by the time of the Chinese invasion in 1950.
Gaden quickly became well-known for it’s strong educational studies combined with moral discipline. Monks soon came to study from every part of Tibet. Though monks came from all ages, the youngest monks started at age seven. Regardless of their focus of study, all the monks engaged in Gaden’s rigorous study programs for many years. In addition to vast philosophical study, there was also training in different vocations, religious music, arts, sculpture, and administrative work.
In both Gaden Shartse and Gaden Jangtse, Buddhist sutra and tantra are taught and practiced in a combined program. This contrasts with the many other Gelug monasteries in which the study of sutra and tantra are kept separate. Thus the monks who have completed their studies at Gaden have gained knowledge in both the sutra and tantra practices. www.gadenshartse.net
June 1, 2001
SFOT hosted a talk by Jigme Jungney, General Secretary for Home Affairs for the Tibetan Government in Exile. He spoke about the Tibetan refugee situation in India and Nepal.
The Department of Home is responsible for all rehabilitation schemes for Tibetan exiles. It looks after 21 agricultural settlements, 11 cluster units, eight agro-industries and four carpet-weaving cooperatives in India. In addition, the department looks after 20 Tibetan settlements and handicraft societies in Nepal and Bhutan.
The department works in close cooperation with the Government of India and international organizations involved in helping Tibetans to improve their lot. Employment generation and promoting self-reliance among the Tibetan populace has been the chief task of the Department since it came into being. People at the grassroots level have the right to either elect their own settlement/welfare officers or request appointees from the Home Department. Thus far, most of the settlements have decided in favor of appointees from the department. However, the CTA is making concerted efforts to encourage people to elect their own grassroots level heads, as this is seen to be an essential milestone on the way to Tibetan political maturity.
The Home Department is also working on a detailed plan to streamline the cooperative societies to make them completely self-reliant. Responsible for buying inputs and marketing the outputs of respective settlements, the cooperatives presently depend on the Home Department for managerial personnel and financial assistance whenever they face the prospect of bankruptcy. In tandem with other projects, the department plans to replace the existing chemical-oriented farming practice with organic and natural farming.
Vision: Achieve freedom for Tibetans to preserve and perpetuate their unique culture and social values while creating conditions for sustainable economic progress
Development Goal: Making Tibetan settlement-in-exile viable and sustainable
Development Strategies for Tibetans-in-exile:
Sustainable form of cultivation
Democratic local governance for greater participation in decision making
Improving social and economic infrastructures in settlement
Reforming and strengthening of cooperative Institution
Creating employment opportunities for the youth
November 23, 2001
SFOT donated $1,040.00 to the Department of Home Affairs of the Tibetan Government in Exile to take care of ten Tibetan elders in a remote village along the India/Nepal/Tibet borders. The elders were the only people in the village and had no means with which to sustain themselves.
This was the second annual visit of Tibetan Buddhist Monks from Gaden Shartse Norling Monastery. Yamantaka was the sand mandala this year.
July 20, 2002
SFOT presented Semshug Pundha (Brothers in Courage) a group based in the San Francisco Bay Area that preserves and performs traditional Tibet Music and Dance.
August 20, 2002
SFOT donated $1,000.00 for Tibetan kids from Pajorling Refugee Camp in Pokhara, Nepal to go to boarding school in Northern California. Several members of SFOT took care of the kids during holidays from school and in the summer with food, clothing and shelter.
This was the third annual visit of Tibetan Buddhist Monks from Gaden Shartse Norling Monastery. This was the tour of Gaden Shartse Lhopa Kangsten. The mandala was the Wheel of Life. There were two Geshes on this tour Geshe Lungtok and Geshe Sangye. SFOT also brought the Monks to Placerville for a day. This was the first time Tibetan Buddhist Monks visited Placerville.
May 9th, 10th and 11th 2003
SFOT hosted Venerable Geshe Gyeltsen in Grass Valley and offered teachings to the public. On Friday, Geshela spoke on “A Meaningful Life”. On Saturday, May 10th Geshela taught Refuge, Compassion, Bodhicitta, and Karma. On Sunday, May 11, 2003 Geshela offered the White Tara long life Empowerment.
Ven. Geshe Tsultim Gyeltsen was the founder and spiritual director of Thubten Dhargye Ling in Long Beach, California. He was born in 1924 in the Kham province of eastern Tibet. His parents named him Jamphel Yeshe and at a young age he was inspired by the example of his uncle who was a monk at the local monastery. When the boy was only seven, he and his family decided that he would enter monastic life. For nine years he studied sutra and tantra and received teachings on dialectics under the tutelgae of Geshe Jampa Thaye, a highly respected teacher from Sera Monastery.
When he was sixteen, Geshe Gyeltsen decided to continue his studies and left for Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, to study for his Geshe degree at Sera Monastery. The Geshe degree in the Gelug school is comparable to a western doctorate in Buddhist philosophy. The difference is that it usually takes more than twenty years to complete.
Geshe-la set out on the thirty-three day trek across twenty-five mountain passes, the only monk in a party of fifteen merchants and pilgrims. Near Lhasa, they stopped near Gaden Monastery where some monks invited Geshe-la for tea the following day. The next morning as he climbed the hill toward Gaden, he saw the great monastery for the first time looking as though it would touch the sky. He wept tears of joy and knew without question that it was here, and not Sera, where he would continue his studies. That day was the anniversary of Lama Tsong Khapa's enlightenment. In the evening the light offerings of butter lamps and the sound of chanting filled every room in the monastery and Geshe-la felt deeply moved by its spiritual atmosphere.
He joined Shartse College, one of Gaden's two main colleges. The abbot at that time was the late Kyabje Zong Rinpoche who took a special interest in the young monk's progress. Geshe Gyeltsen studied logic, wisdom, compassion, ethics, phenomenology and mind training at Gaden for twenty years and later became a teacher of junior monks.
After the Tibetan Uprising of March 10th, 1959, word reached Gaden that the Dalai Lama had left Tibet. Geshe-la and a group of six other monks left the monastery after evening prayers and made their way to India across the Himalayas; members of a mass exodus fleeing the oppression of the Chinese Communist occupation. Geshe-la was one of the few senior monks who managed to escape out of the twenty thousand monks that had lived at Gaden, Sera and Drepung, Tibet's three largest monasteries.
Geshe Gyeltsen, with fifty of the most highly regarded monks from each monastery, resettled at Dalhousie in northern India where he studied for two more years before taking his final Geshe examinations. These were attended by masters from all schools of Tibetan Buddhism. The last week of his exams took place in Dharamsala where Geshe-la engaged in rigorous debates under the scrutiny of the Dalai Lama and his two senior tutors, the late Ling Rinpoche and the late Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche. He passed with honors and was awarded the highest degree of Lharampa Geshe.
In 1963 Geshe-la traveled to Sussex, England to teach at the Pestalozzi International Children's Village. He arrived with twenty-two Tibetan children who were mostly orphans or the children of parents still living in Tibet. For seven years Geshe-la instructed these children in Tibetan writing, grammar, culture and Buddhist philosophy.
Geshe Gyeltsen came to the United States in 1976 and briefly held positions at USC, UC Santa Barbara, and at UCLA where he taught meditation and Tibetan language. His university students requested that he start a teaching center and in 1978 Geshe-la founded a center for the study of Buddhism in Los Angeles.
Geshe-la requested His Holiness the Dalai Lama to name the center and His Holiness gave the name of Thubten Dhargye Ling, which means Land of Flourishing Dharma. Thubten Dhargye Ling is now based in Long Beach, where Geshe Gyeltsen's teaching tradition continues through classes in meditation, retreats, celebrations of religious holidays and the regular weekly teachings of traditional Buddhist texts.
Geshe Gyeltsen was the author of "Compassion: The Key to Great Awakening," a commentary on the Eight Verses of Mind Training and the Thirty-seven Practices of a Bodhisattva, and a free book on emptiness "Mirror of Wisdom." He founded centers in both Colorado and Texas and has students based in Mexico, Alaska, Omaha and England. Geshe-la was involved in the Buddhist Sangha Council of Southern California, a group of representatives from various Buddhist countries dedicated to further understanding between Buddhist cultures. He actively worked for human rights and true autonomy for the Tibetan people. One of his goals was to further education and religious study in Tibetan communities throughout India. www.tdling.org
June 12, 2003
SFOT again donated $1,000.00 for Tibetan kids’s boarding school tuition in Northern California.
November 1, 2003
SFOT once again presented Semshug Pundha (Brothers in Courage). They performed traditional Tibet Music and Dance.
This was the fourth annual visit of Tibetan Buddhist Monks from Gaden Shartse Norling Monastery. This was the second visit of Gaden Shartse Lhopa Kangsten. The sand mandala was the Amitayus, Buddha of Long Life.
The Monks went to Placerville for three days this year.
The beginning of Gaden Monastery in India was very difficult due to the dramatic climate differences from Tibet and severe heat. In spite of this, in 1969 Gaden Shartse was formed by 85 refugee monks in a remote village in the state of Karnataka, South India. The first members of Shartse settled in the refuge colony of Mundgod, one night's drive from Bangalore. Army tents were provided through donations and the monks put together a bamboo and thatch building to serve as a common hall. In this humble structure they slept, ate, prayed, debated and studied. Many monks died of sickness and exhaustion. With trial and error, they learned to adjust to their new environment and were able to make a modest living by farming on the land provided by the state government of Karnataka.
Over time the population of Shartse increased to more than 1,500 monks, including resident scholars, writers, administrators and students from different parts of the world including Tibet, India, Bhutan, Nepal, Mongolia, Taiwan, Europe and U.S.A. Gradually, educational programs began to demonstrate sustained growth and success and so admission, instruction and accommodations were provided free of cost. Preference was given to children who were either orphans or from very poor families. However, being a refugee community located in an under-developed nation and with growing numbers of students at Shartse, still more is needed to do much more to provide a basic living, healthcare and other essential necessities for our students and teachers.
March 19 – 21, 2004
Tibetan Buddhist Monks from Drepung Gomang Monastery came to Grass Valley and offered two talks, a cultural pageant, and a White Tara long life Blessing. www.gomang.org
Drepung Gomang Monastic University is one of the most reputed centers (the three great seats: Drepung, Gaden and Sera) for learning, contemplating and practicing Tibetan Buddhist thoughts and science notably known as the second Nalanda University in Tibet. As prophesied in Langsheg Sutra by Lord Buddha: When once Nagaraja Madhopa pledged Lord Buddha with a white conch, Lord Buddha handed it over to Maugalayana, one of his two closest attendants who possessed transcendental miracle-power, with blessed and instructive decree to take it to Gogpa Ri (Garlic Hill) at Gaden in Tibet and hide it there in the hill. It adds that in the future the Bhiksu of Lotus-purity in nature would unearth it and it would thereafter be used as Tsogdhung, to be blown as the signaling medium for gathering to spiritual congregation.
May 1, 2004
Geshe Gyeltsen returned and gave a pubic talk in the Hall on Sunday.
SFOT sent money to the Mother of one of the Tibetan kids who were in Boarding School in Northern California. All the kids were from Paljorling Refugee Camp in Pokhara, Nepal. The Mother was under pressure from a loan shark.
Venerable Geshe Jangchub Choeden and Venerable Lobsang visited Sacramento, Auburn, Nevada City, South Lake Tahoe, Placerville and Grass Valley. They were in Grass Valley a week and SFOT organized public talks and house blessings, On Saturday, June 26th at Windhorse Rugs in Grass Valley they gave an Art Talk and Painting
Demonstration. The talk and demonstration pertained to the Sacred Art and Ritual Implementation of the Thangka.
August 1, 2004
A Lecture and Slide Presentation on the biography The Secret Lives of Alexandra David-Neel by Barbara Foster, Woman’s Historian, Professor, and Author of the Biography was hosted by SFOT. Ms. Foster did the same presentation in Placerville the night before.
This was the fifth annual visit of the Tibetan Buddhist Monks of Gaden Shartse Norling Monastery. Chuni Lobsang Jinpa Rinpoche was the tour leader. The sand mandala was the Green Tara Mandala.
May 16, 2005
SFOT paid a lawyer’s fee to help Pema Jordhen, a Tibetan Refugee and teacher from Pokhara, Nepal, with getting asylum in the United States.
This was the sixth annual visit of Tibetan Buddhist Monks from Gaden Shartse Norling Monastery. It was the second time of the Chuni Lobsang Jinpa Rinpoche tour. The sand mandala was White Tara.
April 15, 2006
Arnaud Maitland, Author of the book Living Without Regret, Growing Old in Light of Tibetan Buddhism gave a lecture and showed a film SFOT, Dharma Publishing, and the Bookseller sponsored this event.
Coming to terms with the loss of a loved one is a major life challenge. In this moving book the author, a longtime practitioner and teacher of Tibetan Buddhism, reveals how his grief over his mother's death, who had been an Alzheimer's patient for many years, deepened his ability to apply the Buddhism and Skillful Means teachings in his own life. www.dharmapublishing.com
May 21, 2006
Venerable Geshe Gyeltsen returned to Grass Valley and offered a talk on “Taking Care of Ourselves through Spirituality” on Sunday.
July 6, 2006
Lobsang taught a Thangka painting workshop at Menlo Macfarlane’s art studio in St. Joseph’s Cultural Center in Grass Valley.
Lobsang was born July 7, 1966, in Upper Ngawa in the Amdo region of Eastern Tibet. He entered Gaden Shartse Monastery at 18. Lobsang always had a strong interest in painting, even when he was a young child. He learned some painting from a teacher for a short time and then he went on to teach himself. In the monastery Lobsang also learned sand painting in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. He has taught sand painting to many young monks in the monastery who have gone on to create sand mandalas around the world.
Lobsang arrived in the United States in 2000. He was granted asylum in 2002 and since has traveled throughout the United States giving talks, creating sand mandalas, painting thangkas, and giving thangka painting workshops.He received the Geshe degree in 2011 and is currently studying in India
January – February 2007
A SFOT volunteer traveled to Gaden Shartse Monastery in southern India with computers and technology, installed one computer in Shartse Monastery and one in Jangchub Choeling Nunnery and one in the Shartse School for young Monks. The SFOT volunteer also taught English to the young Monks.
This was the seventh annual tour of Tibetan Buddhist Monks of Gaden Shartse Norling Monastery. This was the tour that came from Mexico and Costa Rica before arriving in Grass Valley. Geshe Lobsang Sonam was the teacher on the tour. Tenzin was the translator. The sand mandala was the Manjushri.
April 26, 2007
Venerable Lobsang facilitated a slide show and discussion on recent events in Tibet and around the world. Lobsang also did this in Roseville and in South Lake Tahoe.
May 6, 2007
SFOT makes a donation to the Tibetan Community Center of Northern California for their purchase of a cultural and community center. www.tanc.org
May 6, 2007
SFOT makes a donation to a Tibetan Nun for treatment of Malaria in Switzerland.
May 24, 2007
SFOT purchases a plane ticket to Belgium for its founder to attend the ITSN world conference. SFOT’s founder did attend the conference and made many new friends for the organization.
July 6, 2007
In Honor of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s 72nd birthday, SFOT hosted an evening of prayers for the long life of His Holiness, a potluck diner and two slide shows. One of slide shows was of Gaden Shartse Norling Monastery and the other of the ITSN conference in Belgium earlier in the year.
This was the eighth annual tour of Tibetan Buddhist Monks of Gaden Shartse Norling Monastery. This tour was from Gaden Shartse Ngari Khangtsen. The tour included Geshe Kunchok Tenzin, Geshe Thupten Tendar and Geshe Lobsang Jigme. The translator was Tsering. The sand mandala was White Tara. This tour started a new tradition by sharing music, dance, and chant with the Indigenous People of our community. This tour also spent 12 days in Placerville and for the first time ten days in Roseville.
May 16, 17, and 18, 2008
Venerable Geshe Tsultrim Gyeltsen offered three days of teachings on Atisha’s Garland of Jewels.
The Bodhisattva’s Jewel Garland (Tib. Jangchub Sempey Norbu Trengwa) is a twenty-seven-verse text composed by the Indian Mahayana spiritual master Dipamkara Shrijñana (972–1054). Known more popularly as Lord Atisha, this holy teacher travelled to Tibet at a somewhat advanced age and taught there for the remainder of his life, a period of some thirteen years.
The Jewel Garland presents his personal instruction on the key elements that are essential for Mahayana dharma practitioners to develop and complete their spiritual training. These verses are the root text to a twenty-six chapter work called The Jewel Garland of Responses to Questions (Tib. Shülen Norbu Trengwa), which forms part of the two-volume collection known as The Precious Kadampa Scripture (Tib. Kadam Rinpoche Lekbam). This material is also referred to as the Father’s Teachings (Tib. Pa Chö) in that the instructions were given by Lord Atisha in response to questions posed by his principal Tibetan disciple Dromtön Gyelwey Jungne. Dromtönba is recognized as the spiritual father of the Tibetan lineage whose followers were known as “Kadampas,” which literally means “those who regard all the Buddha’s word as personal spiritual instruction.”
September 11, 2008
SFOT hosted an affirmation of world peace, unity, and a friendship dinner with Venerable Lama Phuntso at Daju Bhai Restaurant. www.lamaphountso.org
Venerable Lama Phuntsho, teacher and translator, was born in 1966 in Thimphu, Bhutan At the age of 20, he entered the monastic life at Tashi Cho Dzong (Central Monastery of Bhutan) and was ordained by the great Master H.H. Je Khen Rinpoche Tenzin Lhendup of the Drukpa Kagyu Tradition. From there, Venerable Phuntsho went to Dodedra Shedra, a Buddhist Learning Institute to begin his basic Buddhist philosophical and religious studies under guidance of the Great Master Lopon Samten Dorjee.
In 1990, Lama Phunstho joined the re-established Gaden Shartse Monastery in South India where he studied subjects on logic and debate under the guidance of H.E. Khensur Rinpoche Jampa Yeshe. During 23 years of study in Gaden Shartse Monastery, Lama Phuntsho actively served the Ganden Monastery in many capacities including cultural preservation in Library projects and the construction of the main prayer hall of Phukhang Khangsten (one of the 11 houses or dormitories of Gaden Shartse). He also traveled with H.E. Khensur Rinpoche Jampa Yeshe serving as a translator to many countries including Switzerland, Malaysia and Singapore.
Lama Phuntsho has worked tirelessly serving the Monastery as a main organizer, translator, teacher, healer and administrator in leading the team from Gaden Shartse Monastery in promoting the “Sacred Earth and Healing Arts of Tibet Tours” in America. In 2000, 2004 and 2005 he traveled to more than 80 cities in America to promote this cultural tour. Lama Phuntso attained the title of Geshe in 2012.
September 20, 2008
SFOT co-sponsored a Benefit Concert for Tibet with singer Yungchen Lhamo. www.yungchenlhamo.com
Yungchen Lhamo is a Tibetan singer-songwriter living in exile in New York City. She has won an Australian Record Industry Association award (ARIA) for best Folk/World/Traditional album, and was then signed by Peter Gabriel's Realworld Record label. Lhamo's name means "Goddess of Song" - a name given to her by a Lama soon after she was born near Lhasa. Yungchen fled Tibet in 1989. She has made pilgrimage to Dharamsala, to receive the blessings of the Dalai Lama. She was inspired to reach out to the world through her music; to share the great beauty of her culture and spread understanding about the situation in Tibet. She moved to Australia in 1993, then to New York City in 2000.
October 4, 2008
SFOT started a film series with “Dancing In Amdo” directed by Carl Cimini on Saturday.
The film is a documentary that explores the Tibet-issue from both sides. It includes interviews with officials of both the Peoples Republic of China and the Tibetan government-in-exile.
Two SFOT volunteers travelled to Gaden Shartse Monastery in southern India and volunteered in the monastery clinic.
October 20, 2008
SFOT hosted a public talk by Venerable Geshe Phelgye.
Venerable Professor Geshe Phelgye, former Member of Tibetan Parliament in Exile was born in 1956. He then joined Serajey Monastic University at the age of 17 and received the novice ordination from the senior tutor to H.H. the Dalai lama (Kyabje Ling Rinpoche) in 1974. In 1977, He received the Bichu ordination from H.H. the Dalai Lama.
In 1979, he was appointed the head teacher of the monastic school, where he brought the school in to a new era. With yet another request from the abbot concerning monks suffering from tuberculosis, he was trained as a health worker and ran a Monastic Clinic from 1981 to 1986 and saved many lives. In 1984, he began to campaign for vegetarianism, when he saw the cruelty of a slaughter house and in 1989 he convinced the abbot to stop the meat-food in the temple premises of Serajey as his first success in his mission. In 1986, H.H. the Dalai Lama appointed him as guardian-tutor to Canadian Tulku Tenzin Sherab (Elijah Ary) who studied and lived with him 6 years and became one of the best student in the class.
In 1991 He obtained the Geshe degree from Sera-Jey Monastic University In 1998, he founded the Universal Compassion Movement after receiving support and blessings from H.H. the Dalai Lama and openly campaigned for vegetarianism and Universal Compassion around the world.
In 1999, he was elected as the first President of International Gelug Society (IGS), which he started in Dharamsala, published a Journal called “Kadam News” and sponsored Resolutions on promoting vegetarian diet in Gelugpa Monasteries and Nunneries among other important resolutions. In 2000, at the National Religious Conference in Dharamsala, he brought up a proposal to ban meat diet in all the monasteries and nunneries of all sects of Tibetan Buddhism and a resolution was passed successfully. In 2001, he was elected to the Tibetan Parliament in Exile without his knowledge, which he accepted and worked hard selflessly, he traveled weeks by foot around the mountains of India-China border to visit and provide help to poor Tibetan people. He brought up a historic bill in the Parliament to encourage vegetarianism in Tibetan community for compassionate living and for the long life of H.H. the Dalai Lama.
Apart from his parliamentary works, he has been tirelessly traveling giving talks and teachings around the world promoting Peace and Universal Compassion, vegetarianism as a way of compassionate living, human values, diversity and interfaith dialogues as the mission of the Universal Compassion Foundation. He has spoken at over a hundred colleges and Schools across North America and India including Harvard University. He has taught Buddhist centers of all lineages and many churches including Catholics. He currently teaches at Gonzaga University as the Global Scholar at Residence and an adjunct Professor at Eastern Washington University, Washington.
November 15, 2008
SFOT continued its film series with two films “Leaving Fear Behind” by Dhondup Wangchen and “I Am Tibet” by Eric Wils on Saturday.
January 17, 2009
SFOT continued its film series with “What Remains of Us” directed by François Prévost and Hugo Latulippe on Saturday. A Tibetan-Canadian returns to her homeland to smuggle a secret message from the Dalai Lama and to document the occupation and cultural genocide of Tibet by China.
February 13, 2009
Our venerable teacher Geshe Tsultrim Gyeltsen passed away.
Geshe Gyeltsen was known for his great compassion and personal warmth; yet he retained a very traditional and uncompromising approach to teaching the Dharma. His strength of vision and devotion to his practice transcended time and culture, and he continues to inspire his students with the legacy he brought from Tibet.
Geshela passed away on February 13, 2009 and is greatly missed by all his students and friends.
Monday, March 2, 2009
Members of SFOT went to the state capitol in Sacramento to take part in A Day Commemorating Tibet sponsored by Assemblyman Blakeslee.
March 14, 2009
SFOT continued its film series with “Gyalyum Chemo, The Great Mother” directed by Rosemary Rawcliffe on Saturday.
Women of Tibet: Gyalyum Chemo - The Great Mother recounts the compelling story of Dekyi Tsering, the mother of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. Dekyi Tsering, known by Tibetans as 'Gyalyum Chemo' or 'Great Mother,' gave birth to 16 children, three of whom were recognized as incarnate lamas. Weaving anecdotal threads and personal reflections from her children, grandchildren, and friends, with never before seen photographs from their family collections and rare footage of Tibet, the film offers an intimate glimpse into Tibet's first family and the woman who inspired them. His Holiness talks about how his mother helped shape the man he is today and the relationship between healthy family and healthy humanity, and how it all begins with a mothers love. Dr. Marion Woodman (Addiction to Perfection), Alice Walker (The Color Purple), and Angeles Arrien (The Second Half of Life) link this uniquely Tibetan story to a much broader perspective of motherhood and how the Great Mother lives within each of us.
SFOT gave a donation to the Tsi-Akim Maidu of Nevada County in loving memory of Adele Bloom. Adele was the Mother of a long time SFOT volunteer.
May 14, 2009
The foremost Tibetan folk singer and songwriter in exile, Techung, and his band Lhasa Spirits, performed Tibetan Folk and Freedom songs. The first set was acoustic and the second set was electric. www.techung.com
Techung is a Tibetan folk and freedom singer/songwriter living in exile in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is best known for his performances of traditional Tibetan music, dance, and opera under the name Tashi Dhondup Sharzur. He uses his childhood nickname, Techung, when performing as a solo artist. Whether performing in traditional or contemporary styles, Techung's dual goals are to revive Tibetan music in the Tibetan community and to expose the rich performing cultural tradition of his homeland to the world community.
May 28, 2009
SFOT purchased glasses for Geshe Phelgye.
This was the ninth annual visit of Tibetan Buddhist Monks of Gaden Shartse Norling Monastery. This was the first time a Gaden Shartse tour came to Grass Valley in summer. The teacher was Geshe Kelsang Gyatso (Uzur). The translator was the monk Tenzin Lobsang. The sand mandala was the Medicine Buddha. On Saturday, June 6th during the evening of traditional music, song and chant with the Indigenous People, SFOT officially recognized the Tsi-Akim Maidu in a framed written resolution. The Monks offered a smoke ceremony at the Tsi Akim Maidu Cultural Center in Nevada City
September 10, 2009
Nechung Kuten, the Medium of the State Oracle of Tibet visited Grass Valley for the first time. The film, “State Oracle of Tibet” was shown and followed by a talk and questions and answers.
Like many ancient civilizations of the world, the phenomenon of oracles remains an important part of the Tibetan way of life. Tibetans rely on oracles for various reasons. The purpose of the oracles is not just to foretell the future. They are called upon as protectors and sometimes used as healers. Their primary function is to protect the Buddha Dharma and its practitioners.
In the Tibetan tradition, the word oracle is used for a spirit which enters those men and women who act as mediums between the natural and the spiritual realms. The mediums are, therefore, known as kuten, which literally means, "the physical basis."
In early times it is believed that there were hundreds of oracles throughout Tibet. Today, only a few survive, including those consulted by the Tibetan government. Of these, the principal one is the Nechung oracle. Through him manifests Dorje Drak-den (Nechung), the principal protector divinity of the Tibetan government and the Dalai Lama. It is because of this that Nechung Kuten is given the rank of a deputy minister in the exiled Tibetan government hierarchy.
SFOT donated funds to help purchase a new computer for the administration of Gaden Shartse Norling Monastery; to Jangchub Choeling Nunnery for a generator, and to Tashi of Ngari Kangsten at Gaden Shartse for medical bills.
Friday, February 5, 2010
SFOT continued its film series with a second screening of Leaving Fear Behind by Dhondup Wangchen. He was arrested in March 2008 after completing the film inside Tibet. He was able to smuggle out his footage before his arrest. Donations from this screening were sent to his family for legal support.
February 20 – 27, 2010
This was the tenth anniversary visit of Tibetan Buddhist Monks from Gaden Shartse. Instead of a sand mandala Geshe Lobang Tsultrim created a sand painting of Shakyamuni Buddha.
March 20 – 24, 2010
SFOT hosted the Abbott of Gaden Shartse Norling Monastery Khen Rinpoche, and Geshe Lobsang Tsultrim, sponsoring talks in Placerville, Auburn, Grass Valley and Nevada City. SFOT paid for Rinpoche’s and Geshe’s plane tickets.
Khen Rinpoche was born in the north Indian State of Himachal Pradesh. In 1979 he joined the prestigious Gaden Shartse Norling College in Mundgod, Karnataka, India and embarked on an extended course of Buddhist studies. From 1979 to 1988 he continued his studies and in 1997 he topped the Lharam Examination and so was awarded the prestigious degree of Geshe Lharampa. He subsequently joined the famed Gyuto Tantric University and received intensive training in the field of Buddhist Tantra.
He also served the monastery and local community in various ways. He was elected to serve as Office Secretary of the monastery for many terms. Finally, in the year 1998, the governing board of the monastery unanimously selected him to be the General Secretary of the Education Development Project, an administrative section of the monastery, a post he held until he was assigned to supervise missionary activities of the monastery in Taipei, Taiwan.
In 2000 he traveled to the U.S., Singapore, Taiwan, Indonesia and Malaysia as chief-interpreter and personal secretary to His Eminence Kyabje Lati Rinpoche. From the beginning of 2001 until early 2003 he taught and administered at Gaden Shartse Buddhist Institute in Taipei and learned Mandarin at Normal University, Taiwan. While in Taiwan he frequently visited Singapore to teach Buddhism to Singaporean students.
At the end of 2003, he volunteered to serve as translator once again for His Eminence Kyabje Lati Rinpoche, while Rinpoche was on a teaching tour in California. After Rinpoche's return back to India, he along with Ven. Lobsang Tsultrim traveled to many parts of the USA to teach Buddhism and to do cultural exchange programs with American communities. It was a very good and enriching experience to do the cultural exchange programs.
In the year 2009, he was surprised to receive the news of being appointed the new Abbot of the Gaden Shartse Monastery. He then prepared to take up the major responsibility of the overall administration and development of the huge organization. After returning back to India from Singapore, he first went to seek blessings and advices from His Holiness Dalai Lama on the special appointment. After that he returned to the monastery for the formal enthronement on 26th July 2009. www.jangchupchoeden.org
SFOT made a donation to the book The History of Tibetan Buddhism. Geshe Sangye’s is one of the Monks chosen to write the book by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
September 30, 2010
SFOT hosted author Jeanne Peterson at Summer Thymes Café in Grass Valley. Ms. Peterson spoke about, and read from, her book “Falling to Heaven”. The book is a historical novel that takes place in Tibet in 1954 and 1955.
Jeanne Peterson’s debut novel, Falling to Heaven, is the story of two American Quakers who trek over the Himalayas into Tibet just as the Chinese are invading. Once there, the American couple forms warm bonds with a Tibetan family. Through the tapestry of these characters, the novel illuminates the journey of Tibet itself, wrenched from its Buddhist heritage and thrust into the twentieth century by a godless Chairman Mao. Told in three distinct voices rich in their respective spiritual traditions, Falling to Heaven is ultimately a novel about faith: losing it and rediscovering it in places you’d never expect.
Jeanne M. Peterson works as a psychologist in San Diego. Her work with survivors of communist re-education camps helped her to put a human face on a story shared by so many Asians affected by China’s great push to bring communism to the masses.www.jeannepetersonwriter.com
SFOT made donations to Tibetech, a Tibetan Refugee girl for her education, Tashi’s of Ngari Khangtsen medical bills, and to the Tibetan Association of Northern California’s building fund.
January 14 – 30, 2011
This was the eleventh visit of Tibetan Buddhist Monks from Gaden Shartse. Lharampa Geshe Kunchok was the teacher, the sand mandala Amitabha Buddha
April 25, 2011
SFOT donated $400.00 to Jangchub Choeling Nunnery to sponsor the debate competition during the annual Nuns’ examinations. www.jangchubchoelingnunnery.org
June 2 - 12, 2011
SFOT hosted the Abbott of Gaden Shartse Norling Monastery Khen Rinpoche, and Geshe Lobsang, sponsoring talks in Placerville, Auburn, Grass Valley and Nevada City. SFOT paid for Rinpoche’s and Geshe’s plane tickets.
July 2, 2011
Nechung Kuten, the Medium of the State Oracle of Tibet visited Grass Valley for the second time offering a public talk and Vajrakilaya Blessing
Thupten Ngodrup, who later became the Nechung Oracle, was born on July 13, 1958, in Pari, Tibet. As a child he was artistically gifted, and had great compassion for others. In 1966, he and his family escaped Tibet by way of Bhutan to arrive in Dharamsala, India. In Dharamsala, he took ordination as a monk at Nechung Dorje Drayang Ling Monastery in 1970 at the age of 12. Nechung monastery is an institution that has been closely affiliated with the Tibetan Government and the succession of Dalai Lamas for centuries. It was just beginning to get reestablished, and Thupten Ngodrup was one of the first wave of new monks. Due to his qualities and artistic abilities, he quickly rose to the position of the Chief Ritual Assistant to the Nechung Protector while in trance.
After the passing of Lobzang Jigme, the previous Medium in April 1984, there was a gap of three years when there was no presence of a Medium for the Nechung Oracle. The Nechung monks and the Tibetan community requested for the rapid appearance of a new Kuten in daily prayers. On March 31, 1987, the Venerable Thupten Ngodrup entered into his first spontaneous trance, during Drepung Monastery’s annual offering ceremony to the Protector at Nechung Monastery in Dharamsala. He displayed signs that he may indeed by the next Nechung Kuten.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama advised that he conduct an extended retreat and engage in special meditations and rituals and ripen and stabilize his abilities. On September 4, 1987, he was fully recognized to be the Medium of Nechung the Tibetan Oracle. The Nechung Kuten is an important figure for the Tibetan people and Tibetan Buddhism, and holds a position of great responsibility in the Tibetan government.
Five SFOT volunteers served as media liaisons for His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Kalachakra for World Peace in Washington D.C. They served the same role for the historic Dalai Lama talk on World Peace on the Capitol steps.
January 16th – 21st, 2012
The 12th annual visit of Tibetan Buddhist Monks from Gaden Shartse Monastery and Thubten Dhargye Ling. The spiritual Master of the tour was Geshe Phuntsok Gyaltsen. The sand painting was of the Four Armed Chenrezig was created by Lobsang Tsultrim.
April 10th, 11th, and 12th 2012
SFOT hosted Lhamo Tso wife of imprisoned filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen. Lhamo Tso spoke about her husband and all Tibetan political prisoners and screened her husband’s
film “Leaving Fear Behind in Auburn, Placerville and Grass Valley.
Dhondup Wangchen and Tibetan Monk Jigme Gyatso were arrested in Tibet in March 2008, after smuggling “Leaving Fear Behind” out of Tibet just before the Beijing Olympics. The film interviews ordinary Tibetans in Tibet about their views on life in Tibet. In 2009Dhundup was sentenced to six years in prison for “subversion”. His Health is declining and Amnesty International, Human Rigths Watch, Reporters Without Borders and others are advocating for his release.
April 24th – 28th 2012
Khen Rinpoche of Gaden Shartse Monastery returned and offered teachings on a Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life. This is a famous Mahayana Buddhist text written in c. 700 AD in Sanskrit verse by Shatideva.
May 31st – June 3rd 2012
SFOT hosted Venerable Khen Rinpoche of Tashi Lhunpo Monastery for public talks, teachings and the screenings of the film “O Bless Us, Gedun Drup” in Nevada City, Auburn and at the Tibetan Association of Northern California’s Community Center in Richmond,
The film details the history of Tashi Lhunpo Monastic University from the 15th Century to the present, and the relationship of the Dalia Lamas and the Panchen Lamas. The film is titled after Gedun Drup who is considered retrospectively to be the first of the Dalai Lama’s of Tibet. The film also depicts some of the exiled Tibetan community’s efforts to keep the Dharma teachings alive and the importance of preserving the traditions of Tashi Lhunpo in exile which is the home to the current missing Panchen Lama.
July 7, 2012
Two SFOT members were guests at the Tibetan Association of Northern California’s celebration of the birthday of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Berkeley.
October 30th – November 4th, 2012
Venerable Geshe Lobsang returned and gave a series of public talks in Placerville, Auburn and Grass Valley. Geshela also did an art talk in Grass Valley that was followed by a short film about the self immolations in Tibet and a long life prayer for His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
December 8, 2012
SFOT hosted a table at the 27th Tibet Day Celebration in Berkeley.
February 13, 2013
SFOT’s founder spoke a Tibet Rally on the steps of the State Capitol. The rally commemorated the day of the Proclamation of the 13th Dalai Lama on the independence of Tibet.
March 10, 2013
Several SFOT volunteers marched in solidarity with the Tibetan people on National Tibet Uprising Day in San Francisco. SFOT’s founder spoke at a rally in front of the Chinese Consulate on Geary Street.
March 13, 2013
SFOT screened the film “Little Tibet” at the Madelyn Helling Library in Nevada City. It is a documentary on one man’s journey into Ladakh in search of his culture. 'Little Tibet' is a documentary by Nawang N. Anja-Tsang & Joseph Brett. As a Tibetan who can no longer return to his own country, Sonam is in search of Tibet outside of Tibet. Could Ladakh be that place?
Ladakh, in the northern most part of India, is often known as Little Tibet. It borders Tibet and shares much of its culture, language and landscape. Here, in this remote, high altitude land, Sonam finds the beauty of his culture both preserved and living. During his journey across the breathtaking landscape of the Himalayas, through rain, snow and desert, Sonam discovers ancient Tibetan monasteries and talks with nomads in Chang Thang, the pasturelands that once stretched over the Indo-Tibetan border. He sees His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama give teachings to an audience of thousands, joins in the celebrations of a Tibetan wedding and encounters marmots.
In this land still rich in Tibetan culture, he finds the gems of his lost homeland, but he cannot cross the tantalizingly close border and return to Tibet.
March 23, 2013
The Tibetan Association of Northern California and SFOT presented an Evening of Traditional Tibetan Food, Music, and Dance. The evening was a fundraiser for the Tibetan Community and Cultural Center Building Improvement Project. The Center is located in Richmond California. There were performances from children of the Tibetan School, offering traditional Tibetan dances and singing in traditional dress; Shemshug Pundha also performed. The dinner featured Tibetan Momos (meat or vegetarian) a vegetable and salad.
The Tibetan Association of Northern California formed in 1990 to bring together the Tibetans in the San Francisco Bay Area to preserve their precious culture and educate the generations of children born in exile about their language, culture and customs.
April 19th – 21st, 2013
Khen Rinpoche, Abbot of Tashi Lhunpo returned and offered a series of public talks in Nevada City, Auburn and Placerville.
Geshe Kachen Lobzang Tsetan was appointed Abbot of Tashi Lhupo Monastery by His Holiness the Dalai Lama in 2005. He currently holds the seat for the missing Panchen Lama. His role is to increase the number of Monks at Tashi Lhunpo, one of the poorest and most important of the Gelupa monasteries in exile. Khen Rinpoche’s visit is to raise funds for the Panchen Lama-Tashi Lhunpo Project; dedicated to helping Tashi Lhunpo Monastery to strive in exile in Southern India. A Prayer Hall and more dormitories for Monks are the most urgent needs.
October 16th, 17th and 18th, 2013
Geshe Lobsang Tsultrim gave three public talks in Placerville, Auburn and Nevada City. This will be his last visit until 2015 as he will be studying in Tantric College in India.
October 27, 2013
SFOT and Tibet House California presented a special screening of the film “Journey of the Heart” in Nevada City.
This documentary is produced and directed by Ravi Verma, who lives in the Sacramento area. This film has two major points of focus: the Buddhist text, the Heart Sutra, which is part of the Ultimate Wisdom Text of Buddhism, and the travel diary of the 7th Chinese monk Xuanzang, who undertook a 10,000-mile and 16-year-long journey to India to Vulture’s Peak, where the Heart Sutra is supposed to have been delivered.
The Heart Sutra is a dialog between two prominent figures in Buddhism: Arya Avalokiteshvara and Arya Shariputra. This dialog is supposed to have happened in the presence of the Lord Buddha at the top of a hill called Griddhra Kut, or Vulture's Peak, in Rajgir, Bihar, India. The place still exists today.
This film has interviews with the following scholars and thinkers: His Holiness the Dalai Lama, B. Alan Wallace, Barbara Du Bois, Beate Stolte-Overtheil, Bernie Glassman, Dean Brian Baker, Geshe Dorji Damdul, Geshe Ngawang Samten, Joan Halifax, Lama Zopa Rinpoche, Matthieu Ricard, Natalie Goldberg, Paul Ekman, Ravindra Panth, Robert Thurman, Tanahashi Kaz, Thupten Jinpa, and Tsultrim Allione.
This film has been shot at the following locations in India and Nepal: Ayodhya, Mathura, Lumbini, Kapilvastu, Kushinagara, Vaishali, Vikramshila, Bodhgaya, Nalanda, Patna, and Katihar.
January 17th – February 2nd 2014
This is the 13th visit of Tibetan Buddhist Monks from Gaden Shartse Monastery in exile in Southern India. Venerable Geshe Lharampa Jampa Phelgya is the teacher and the sand mandala was Medicine Buddha.
May 24th, 25th and 26th 2014
In association with the Maitreya Loving Kindness Tour and Mountain Stream Medication Center, Sierra Friends of Tibet hosted an exhibition of relics from the historical Buddha and many other Buddhist masters from India, Tibet, Korea and Asia at St. Joseph’s Cultural Center in Grass Valley.
May 30th through June 14, 2014
SFOT created the following schedule for film director Ngawang (Sonam) Anjatsang’s film Little Tibet 2
May 30th in Richmond with the Tibetan Association of Northern California
June 3rd in San Francisco with the Bay Area Friends of Tibet
June 6th in Sacramento with Tibet House Sacramento
June 7th in Placerville with Placerville Friends of Tibet
June 8th in Nevada City with Community Asian Theater of the Sierra
June 12th in South Lake Tahoe with the Tahoe Tibetan Cultural Exchange
June 13th in Mt. Shasta with Mt. Shasta Friends of Tibetan Culture
June 14th in Auburn with Sierra/Auburn Friends of Tibet
Little Tibet 2 is a moving follow up to Sonam’s original film Little Tibet. In the second film Sonam traces his father’s footsteps through Nepal to Mustang, where the traditional culture of Tibetan remains. Sonam encounters a Yogi, has an audience with the King of Mustang, meets western trekkers and investigates a fascinating restoration project training local women in traditional arts and crafts enabling them to conserve temple wall paintings that are widely regarded as masterpieces of the 15th century. The film’s climax is an encounter with a veteran of the Tibetan guerilla army that operated from Mustang during the 1960’s and 1970’s.
December 12, 2014
SFOT kicked off its winter film series with Fire Under the Snow at the Nevada County Library. Fire Under the Snow is a documentary that tells the story of Palden Gyatso, A Tibetan Buddhist Monk who was imprisoned and tortured by the Chinese Communist Government for 33 years. In this emotional and edifying film, Palden recounts the brutal torture, interrogations, and starvation he suffered during his confinement. Palden was finally released in 1992. He escaped over treacherous, snow-covered mountainsto Dharamsala, India where he lives today with thousands of other exiled Tibetans.
December 13, 2014
SFOT continued its film series with Little Tibet 1 at the Placer County Library in Auburn.
January 10, 2015
SFOT continues its film series with What Remains of Us at the Placer County Library in Auburn.
January 11, 2015
The final film in SFOT’s winter film series is Meltdown in Tibet at the Nevada County Library. Using undercover footage and stills Meltdown in Tibet blows the lid of China’s huge and potentially catastrophic dam building projects in Tibet. The mighty rivers sourced in Tibet are lifelines to the people of India and Southeast Asia. These rivers are at great risk from rapidly receding glaciers – a meltdown accelerated by climate change – and from large-scale damming and diversion, due to massive Chinese engineering projects.
January 16th to February 1st 2015
The 14th annual visit of Tibetan Buddhist Monks from Gaden Shartse Dokhang Khangtsen Monastery included our old friend Geshe Dhonyo (who was part of the first Gaden Shartse tour to Grass Valley in 2001). This was a Dokhang House tour. The sand mandala was Vajrapani.
April 25th and 26th 2015
SFOT welcomed back Tibetan filmmaker Sonam with his new film Drensol (Memory). The film captures the fascinating oral history of Tibetans who lived through the 1959 uprising as the illegal occupation of Tibetan by China intensified. Drensol also includes archival footage. On April 25th the film screened in Auburn and on April 26th in Nevada City.
June 7th 2015
Sierra Friends of Tibet sponsored a social event for its volunteers. It was at the home of two volunteers. The two volunteers presented a slide show of their trip to Tibet. Afterwards everyone enjoyed a potluck dinner.
August 16th and 17th 2015
SFOT welcomed the Nechung Monks to Northern California. On August 16th the Monks performed the Dorje Namjom Puja; a healing for the environment especially to remove the obstacles and relieve drought in Grass Valley. In Auburn on August 17th the Monks performed the Medicine Buddha Puja. The two events were a benefit for the Nechung Buddhist Center in El Cerrito, California. The Nechung Monks also met with local Maidu people and were shown examples of Maidu life hundreds of years ago.
October 18, 2015
SFOT continued its winter film series with a screening of The American Rinpoche by Nikki Appino. The film chronicles the life of a Tibetan Lama born in Old Tibet and then forced to flee when the Chinese invaded. Rinpoche recounts his childhood in Tibet with archival photographs never seen before. He also explains his exile in India and move to the United States. Because of technical difficulties the film Heart of Tibet was screened instead.
November 15, 2015
Continuing the 2015 winter film series SFOT screened The Unwinking Gaze, and inside look into the life of the Dalai Lama and the struggle for Tibet.
December 5, 2015
SFOT screened The American Rinpoche film a second time because of technical difficulties the first time.
January 11, 2016
SFOT screened the film Meltdown in Tibet about China’s huge and potentially catastrophic damaging dam building projects in Tibet.
January 15th to February 1st 2016
Sierra Friends of Tibet welcomed the Monks of Gaden Shartse Phukhang Monastery for the 15th straight year. Returning with this tour was Geshe Phuntso and Lobsang Wangchuk both of whom were on the first Gaden Shartse tour to Grass Valley in 2001. This was the Phukhang House tour to raise funds for new buildings. The sand mandala was the Eight Auspicious Symbols. This year also marked the first time SFOT offered the public Family Events two Saturday mornings.
March 4, 2016
SFOT hosted Geshe Pema Dorjee for slide shows and talks on Compassion in Action. Geshe la is a well known spiritual teacher, and former head of the Tibet Children’s Village in Dharamsala. He teaches and travels throughout the world solely to raise funds for his humanitarian projects, which include orphanages, schools, medical facilities and community centers for the poor of Tibet, Nepal and India. www.buddhistcharity.org
November 27, 2016
SFOT screened Nawang Anga-Tsang (Sonam) new film A Mother’s Son. The Director was present and participated in a Question and Answer session after the screening. The film is the latest documentary from the Director and examines the March, 2016 self-immolation death of 16 year old Dorjee Tsering in India. Why are Tibetans self-immolating and who are the people that they leave behind? Anja-Tsang said that he made the film in order to discourage Tibetans from considering self-immolation as a form of protest and for the Tibetan national cause.
February 2nd – 4th 2017
Geshe Khunchok Tenzin visited the Nevada City and Auburn areas on Northern California upon receiving a request from SFOT. For two day in Nevada City Geshe la taught the Three Principal Aspects of the Patch and in Auburn Geshe la explained and then transmitted Prayers for the Dying and the Dead.
Geshe Kunchok Tenzin is a monk scholar of the Gyuto Tantric Monastery and he is currently serving as the resident teacher (Geshe) at the Gyuto Foundation in Richmond, CA. He was born on July 1, 1960 in the hills of Darjeeling, in north eastern India. He attended the Tibetan Children’s School in Darjeeling during childhood and was advised by the school's Buddhism teacher to consider joining monkhood. He went to Gaden Shartse Monastery in Dharamsala, and was entrusted in the care of Khen Rinpoche Jetsun Kunchok Gyatso, the 76th Khenpo of Gaden Shartse.
In 1989, he was assigned to head an outreach program to promote Tibetan religion and culture to the outside world; extensively touring the US and Europe for three years promoting peace, harmony, compassion, and tolerance through cultural exchange, and interfaith dialog. In 1992, he returned to the monastery and completed his studies with distinguished results. In 1997, he was bestowed with the title of Geshe Lharampa (equivalent to the Doctoral title in Buddhist Philosophy). He then enrolled in Gyuto Tantric University (Monastery), received tantric education and his doctorate degree in mysticism (Ngagrampa) at which time he also received his Tantric vows.
Among his many responsibilities, Geshe Kunchok Tenzin worked as the Discipline Master and the Director of Gaden Shartse Library, as well as the Principal for Gaden Shartse Monastic University, and later as the Education Director. Later, acting on the request of his monastic house and the monastery, he headed the monastery outreach program again and travelled to the US and to Northern California in 2008 and 2010 teaching Buddhism, and performing religious rituals to benefit Buddhist devotees.
August 11th and 12th, 2017
The Tibetan Monks of Nechung Monastery and Khen Rinpoche visited Grass Valley and Auburn and offered a Medicine Buddha Puja for those attending and the regional environment.
Medicine Buddha is the healing Buddha. It is said that just to see an image of him or to hear his name can bring about unimaginable benefits. Viewing illness as a result of the three poisons-ignorance, desire, and anger-Medicine Buddha has the power to see the root cause of disease and then, with compassion and wisdom, to treat the underlying condition. It is believed that by doing the practices of Medicine Buddha, we will benefit ourselves and all sentient beings through awakening of healing energy. Medicine Buddha brings about the healing of body and mind for all sentient beings.
The Nechung Monastery
Nechung Monastery has an important place in Tibetan history as the seat of Nechung, the State Oracle of Tibet. The original Nechung Monastery, is located four miles west of Lhasa, the nation's capital.
Since the construction was completed in 1683, the monastery was institute as the official residence of the State Oracle of Tibet. Moreover, when Great Fifth Dalai Lama became both the spiritual and temporal ruler of Tibet in 1642, the Dalai Lama designated the Nechung Oracle as the chief protector of the Tibetan Government, responsible for peace and harmony on earth.
Unfortunately, the monastery was destroyed by the communist Chinese during disastrous "Cultural Revolution" (1966-1976). H.H. the 14Th Dalai Lama, was forced to flee his country in 1959 and by the mid 1960's 100,000 Tibetans had followed him into exile in India, Nepal and Bhutan. Led by the previous Nechung Kuten(the medium), five senior Nechung monks were able to escape from Tibet and resettled temporarily at Buxa in West Bengal, then Dalhousie and eventually established a modest monastery in an old colonial bungalow in Dharamsala, North India.
Under the guidance of H.H.The Dalai Lama, and with support from friends and well wishers worldwide, various monasteries have been re-established in exile. The exiled Tibetan Administration gave land for the Nechung monks to reconstruct their monastery. The monks began their building work in 1977 and the new monastery was completed in 1984. The monastery was officially inaugurated and consecrated by the Fourteenth Dalai Lama on March 31, 1985.
Current the monastery has about 93 monks headed by Ven. Nechung Kuten Thupten Ngodup and Ven. Nechung Choktrul Rinpoche Tenzin Losel. The monks study various subjects: Buddhist philosophy, psychology, the sutra and tantra texts of Tibetan Buddhism as well as traditional rituals, creation of sand mandalas, English and computer.
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and the Nechung Oracle mutually recognized the reincarnation of the present Nechung Rinpoche in 1993. He was born in Lhasa on May 20, 1985. He went to school in Tibet for some years, and in September 1993 was literally smuggled to India with the help of his students. After reaching Dharamsala, he began his formal studies in earnest at the monastery in Dharamsala.
On March 15, 1995 he was officially enthroned. He successfully completed the study of the traditional ritual texts unique to Nechung, and also to the Nechung Rinpoche and went onto his first seven years of higher Buddhist studies at the monastery completing successfully the class of Prajnaparamita. Rinpoche is known to be endowed with all the qualities of a Tulku and has completed and graduated from all sutra and tantra studies. Rinpoche finished his nine year study course at the Mindrolling Shedra (College) last year.
August 11th and 12, 2017
The Tibetan Buddhist Monks of Nechung Monastery led by Nechung Rinpoche based in Dharamsala in North India visited Auburn and Grass Valley and offered Medicine Buddha Healing ceremonies in both Northern California locations. The practice of Medicine Buddha (Menla in Tibetan) in not only a powerful for healing and increasing healing powers both for oneself and others but for overcoming the sickness of attachment, hatred and ignorance, thus to meditate on Medicine Buddha can help decrease mental and physical illness and suffering. The Medicine Buddha mantra is held to be extremely powerful for healing of physical illnesses and purification of negative karma.
November 12, 2017
Sierra Friends of Tibet continued its film series at the Nevada County Library Community Room with two archival films about Tibet. In the first film, a three man British film team traveled with Khampa guerillas over a 20,000 foot pass into Tibet and captured dramatic footage of the subsequent attack on a Chinese military convoy. The second film documents the history of political struggle between Tibet and China through archival film shot by western travelers in the early part of the century.
February 16th to March 4th, 2018
The Tibetan Buddhist Monks of Gaden Shartse Monastery return for the 16th time in the last 18 years as part of their Sacred Arts of Tibet tour. This was the first time in the United States for this group of Monks. The Monks created a Vajrasattva Sand Mandala; Vajrasattva is the Buddha of Purification and a Karma protector. The subject for four teachings during the visit was Karma. This tour continues Gaden Shartse focus on keeping alive Tibetan culture and raising funds for the Monastery
Sierra Friends of Tibet with the help of a 20 year old techie created a new website.
September 30th, 2018
Sierra Friends of Tibet continued its film series with Good Blood Media and presented the film Sacred Medicine at the Nevada County Library Community Room. The documentary follows the journey of award winning filmmakers and partners Ryan and Katie McPherson on separate but parallel journeys, as they depart increasingly complicated lives in America and are welcomed into what the H.H. the Dalai Lama calls “the Last Authentic Tibetan Buddhist Culture.” In only a matter of a few short years, the last vestiges of this timeless and wise culture are doomed to be forever lost to climate change, modernization and the inescapable onslaught of the 21st century.
February 22nd to March 9th, 2019
The Tibetan Buddhist Monks of Gaden Shartse Monastery returned to Grass Valley and neighboring cities for the 17th time in the last 19 years. It was the same group of Monks as the 2018 visit. Medicine Buddha was chosen as the sand mandala because of the suffering caused by the Camp Fire in Paradise, CA, the Woosley Fire in southern California and all the suffering caused by natural and man-made catastrophes. The teaching chosen was also timely: Climate Change and the Six Root Delusions.