Melbourne Sakya Centre (Sakya Choekhor Lhunpo)

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Melbourne Sakya Centre (Sakya Choekhor Lhunpo)

Melbourne Sakya Centre (Sakya Choekhor Lhunpo)

Tradition/Linage Tibetan, Sakya
Main School Vajrayana
Founded 1997
Founder(s) Sakya Trizin
Teacher(s) Ven. Lama Konchok Choephel
Contact Infotmation
South Yarra
Victoria 3141
Country Australia
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Phone (03) 9867 7291 ; (03) 9527 4173
Postal Address P.O. Box 183 South Yarra VIC 3141 Australia

Melbourne Sakya Centre (Sakya Choekhor Lhunpo)

The Sakya Choekhor Lhunpo was founded by His Holiness Sakya Trizin during his visit to Melbourne in June, 1997. In founding the organization, His Holiness said that it was important that all four Tibetan Buddhist traditions be available in Melbourne so as to benefit different people with different kinds of karmic connections. It is our aim to develop the practice of the Sakya tradition of Tibetan Buddhism through providing opportunities for meditation, study, translation, publication, teaching and in any other way that makes Sakyapa Buddhist teachings and practice available. At the same time, we have a non-sectarian approach and encourage all forms of genuine Buddhist practice.

Soon after the founding of the centre Sakya Choekhor Lhunpo was incorporated in the state of Victoria as a not for profit organisation and operates according to its constitution. In the early days members met at the free room in the Hawthorn Library and then at the back gompa at the Kagyu Evam Buddhist Institute. A small group of people met weekly to practice the sadhanas of the initiations that His Holiness had given, including Chenrezig, Green Tara, Manjushri and Medicine Buddha. A couple of times a year Khenpo Ngawang Damchoe visited from Sydney and gave further teachings on a range of texts including Sakya Pandita’s "Illuminations of a Sage’s Intent", Aryadeva’s "50 Stanzas of Guru Devotion" and the like. Venerable Dungyud Rinpoche also visited every other year and gave further initiations and teachings.

In 2004, Lama Lekshe of the Sakya Centre in Rajpur, India came and blessed the centre which we had then recenty created in Balaclava. Due to a change in circumstance in 2007 we moved on from the Balaclava building and to date hold regular practice at the Somatic Yoga Centre in Malvern. In April 2008 we welcomed our new resident lama Lama Konchok Choephel. His teachings, guidance at practices and helpful personal advice, have been a significant boost to the centre and its members. In the years since His Holiness's founding visit we have also hosted many special teaching/empowerment tours and centre visits by Sakyapa luminaries including:

Our ongoing teaching, group practice, annual retreat and other activities enable people at al levels to develop and further their connection with Tibetan Buddism. We welcome your participation.

The History of the Sakya Tradition

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Sakya Monastery.jpg

Buddhism became established in Tibet from the early 7th century through the tireless efforts of many Tibetans who had become disciples of the great Indian saint Guru Padmasambhava and the abbot Santaraksita. One of the first seven Tibetans who received complete ordination of a Buddhist monk from the great Indian abbot Santaraksita was Khon Lu'i Wangpo from the Khon family. It was predicted in the Manjushri Tantra that this Holy family's descendants would be manifestations of Mahasiddhas and Bodhisattvas, and that the teachings of the Buddha would flourish due to their activities. Until the 11th century, the Khon family members remained great upholders of the Nyingma tradition and played a significant role in establishing and propagating the teachings in Tibet, the Land of Snows. The name of the Sakya (lit. Pale Earth) tradition derives from the unique grey landscape of Ponpori Hills. Here in 1040 the great Bengali Master Atisa, travelling through Tibet from India, saw a vision of numerous seed syllables of Bodhisattvas on the slopes of these hills. He stopped, prostrated and prophesied that this place would witness many emanations of Bodhisattvas in the future.

Subsequently, Khon Konchog Gyalpo (1034-1102) founded the Sakya Monastery there thirty three years later in 1073. He was a disciple of Drogmi Lotsawa from whom he received many deep teachings - especially the precious Lamdre. Drogue Lotsawa Sakya Yeshi was the first to bring these Lamdre teachings and over 240 other Tantras to Tibet after studying for 12 years in India. It was due to Drogmi's tutorship in Sanskrit and his guidance that many Tibetans became renowned translators, including Marpa and Goe Lotsawa. The Sakyapas are also known as Lamdre-pas since all the Sakya Khon Masters held this precious Lamdre teaching (Gsun-nag-lam-bras) as their main practice. There were five eminent Khon Sakya Masters (Sakya Gongma Nga) who were revered as manifestations of Bodhisattvas, thus fulfilling the prophecies in the Manjushri Tantra and other sources as Atisa predicted. They were:

  1. Sachen Kunga Nyingpo (1092-1158)
  2. Lopon Sonam Tsemo (1142-1182, Son of Sachen Kunga Nyingpo)
  3. Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltshen (1147-1216, Son of Sachen Kunga Nyingpo)
  4. Sakya Pandita Kunga Gyaltsen (1182-1251, Nephew of Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen)
  5. Drogon Choegyal Phagpa (1235-1280, Nephew of Sakya Pandita)

The latter won the heart of the Mongol emperor, Kublai Khan, who honoured him as the "Imperial Preceptor" and made him the Lama to become a King of Tibet. The Khon Sakya Empire ruled Tibet for one hundred years and established the most respectful religious government in Tibetan history. The Sakyapa rulers never abused their political power to convert other traditions to theirs, but attracted and taught many students who either came from other traditions or who later founded new ones.

In Tibet, the great tradition of studying the five major and five minor sciences, and the grading systems of religious and philosophical education were founded by renowned scholars of the Sakyapa School. These were later modified to the Kachupa, Rabjampa and Geshe degrees. While the Sutras, the Tantras and their commentaries were translated from Sanskrit into Tibetan, Sakya Pandita's scholastic work on Pramana (Buddhist Logic) became the first and only scholar's work to be translated from Tibetan to Sanskrit.

Due to the Five Founding Masters, Sakya became not only the political capital of Tibet but also the greatest religious and academic centre of the country.

Presently the Sakya tradition is under the leadership of the 41st throne holder of Sakya, His Holiness Sakya Trizin. As with other traditions of Tibetan Buddhsim, a number of sub-divisions of the main Sakya tradition have emerged and the two main sub-sects are known as Ngorpa and Tsharpa. In addition, the smaller Dzongpa sub-sect is also uniquely identified.

The Ngorpa sub-sect was founded by Ngorchen Kunga Zangpo (1382-1457) with the establishment of the Ngor Evam Moastery in 1430. The current head of Ngorpa sub-sect is His Eminence Ludhing Khen Rinpoche. The Tsharpa sub-sect was founded by Tsarchen Losal Gyatso (1502-1556) with the establishment of the Dar Drongmoche Monastery. The head of Tsharpa sub-sect was His Eminence Chogye Trichen Rinpoche, who passed away in March, 2007. The political relationship between the main Sakya tradition, as headed by His Holiness Sakya Trizin, and that of the subsects can be likened to that of a central government and regional governments. Sakya Choekhor Lhunpo represents the main Sakya tradition in Melbourne.

Overall the Sakyapa tradition adopts a dynamic approach of placing equal emphasis on study and practice - which has produced a great number of both learned scholars and highly realised Masters. Although the Sakyapa tradition remains relatively little known in the West and has the smallest number of monasteries and followers, it is still the tradition that preserves the most accurate Tantric procedures for instance in bestowing empowerment according to the Root Tantras. In the Sakya tradition no high teachings are given publicly in the name of Mahamudra or Dzogchen as these are not allowed to be transmitted without a disciple first being initiated into an appropriate Mandala by a qualified master.

Biography of His Holiness Sakya Trizin

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Holiness Sakya Trizin

The Khon family lineage, to which His Holiness Sakya Trizin belongs, has a long history extending back to pre-Buddhist Tibet, when they were instrumental in the dissemination of Bon. This great lineage traces its descent back to the earliest times when three "Gods of the Realm of Clear Light" (brothers) descended from the heavens to the land which was later to be known as Tibet. The five generations from Yuring, the second of these brothers, to Yapang Kye are referred to as The Divine Line of Clear Light. After engaging in a war with the Rakshas, Yapang Kye married a Raksha princess Yadruk Silima who bore him a son named Khon Bar Kye, meaning "he who is born amid strife". For reason of this ancestral history their descendants came variously to be known as "Lharig", meaning "The Celestial Race"; or as "Khon gyi dung", meaning "The Family of Conquerors". And for reason that they were, in a later epoch, instrumental in establishing the Sakya Order (of Tibetan Buddhism), they are also known as the Sakyapa Lineage. The son of Khon Bar Kye, named Khon Palpoche, was an influential minister of the Tibetan King Tri-song De-tsen in the eighth century. Another Khon, Luyi Wangpo, was one of the first seven Tibetans to receive ordination from the abbot Shantarakshita, a vinaya lineage which has survived within the Nyingma tradition until now. Khon Luyi Wangpo, together with Dorje Rinchen (a grandson of Khon Palpoche) were both disciples of the great master Padmasambhava, and for this reason the lineage of the meditational deity Vajrakilaya continues within the Sakya tradition to the present time.

Following the persecution of Buddhism by the Tibetan King Langdarma, Atisha, a Pandita from Bengal, travelled to Tibet by invitation in the year 1042 after having consulted the goddess Tara. While on his journey he stopped in an empty valley and prostrated many times, experiencing a vision of the syllable Hri, seven Dhi Syllables, and the syllable Hum on the side of the mountain. He prophesied the future existence of Sakya Monastery at this place, and that it would witness one incarnation of Avalokiteshvara, seven of Manjushri, and one of Vajrapani. It was another member of the Khon lineage, Konchog Gyalpo who in the year 1073 founded the Sakya Monastery here in Upper Tibet (known in Tibetan as "Toe"). The monastery was so named on account of the pale tawny colour of the upper landscape at that particular spot. Konchog Gyalpo was thus the first "Sakya Trizin" (Throne-holder of Sakya). It was the latter's illustrious son Sachen Kunga Nyingpo (1102-1158) who inherited the precious Lam Dre (Path and Fruit) teachings from the siddha Zhangton Chobar, since when this core system of sutric and tantric instruction has been handed down through successive generations of gurus within the Sakya Order to modern times. A number of important Masters in the Lam Dre lineage have also been members of the Khon family.

A grandson of Sachen Kunga Nyingpo, named Kunga Gyaltsen Pal Zangpo ("Sakya Pandita":1182-1251) became one of the most outstanding spiritual teachers in the whole history of Tibet, and it was he who became guru to Godan Khan, the Mongol ruler of China at that time. His nephew Chogyal Phakpa in turn became "chaplain" to the court of Kublai Khan, Godan's successor. Thus Chogyal Phakpa, another member of the Khon lineage and an outstanding figure in the Lam Dre lineage besides, became effective ruler of Tibet. The Sakya Trizins governed Tibet in this manner as "tishris" for nearly 100 years. It was the Yuan Dynasty (Kublai Khan and his successors) who conferred on them the title of "Sakya Gongma". As time went on the Sakya dynasty divided into several dynastic "palaces" known as phodrangs. Though there were initially four such phodrangs, in more recent centuries there have been two only: the Drolma Phodrang (so named because this palace was built next to the Turquoise Tara Shrine at Sakya Monastery), and the Phuntsok Phodrang.

His Holiness (the present Sakya Trizin) was born into the Drolma Phodrang in the sixteenth "rabjong" (sixty-year cycle) on the first day of the eighth month of the Wood- Bird year (7th september 1945). His parents were Vajradhara Ngawang Kunga Rinchen, the previous head of the Sakya Drolma Phodrang, and Sonam Drolkar, the sister of a renowned minister of the Tibetan Government. They had four children, the eldest of which was a daughter, Jetsun Kusho Chime Luding, an accomplished practitioner who now lives and teaches in Canada. Two further children died in infancy before the birth of His Holiness in the Sakya Palace at Tsedong. It is related by those who were present that a number of auspicious signs accompanied his coming. and that an aura of rainbow light enveloped the place where he lay. The letter DHIH (the seed syllable of Manjusri, the Bodhisattva of Primordial Wisdom) was traced upon his tongue, and the milk of one hundred dri (female yak) offered to the palace; also an image of Guru Padmasambhava. His childhood name was Ayu Vajra. Then on the occasion of his first initiation (that of the nine-deity mandala of Amitayus), bestowed on him by his father, he was given his full name of Ngawang Kunga Thegchen Palbar Trinley Samphel Wangi Gyalpo. He passed the first year of his life with his parents at Tsedong before he and his family returned to Sakya for extensive celebrations of the anniversary of his birth. Here at Sakya Monastery he was given the major initiation of Vajrakilaya and other profound transmissions by his father.

He lost both of his parents at a very early age and was subsequently cared for by his maternal aunt, Trinley Paljor Zangmo. The latter was herself an outstanding practitioner who from then onwards took a key role in his upbringing. It was she who appointed his first tutor, Genphel Ponlop Kunga Gyaltsen, to teach him the fundamentals of reading, writing and liturgy, and it was she also who arranged his later escape from Tibet. From his junior tutor Kunga Tsewang he additionally learned the ritual of the Sakya heritage, including such subjects as chanting, music, ritual dancing and mudra. On completion of these studies a great celebration was held, in which His Holiness officially entered the Mahayana and Vajrayana Monasteries of Sakya to perform the traditional ceremonies. One of his early childhood responsibilities was to preside over the annual Vajrakilaya puja at Sakya, which he was required to recite in full: an all-day event. Then at the age of five he went to the monastery of Ngor E-wam Choden for further teaching. There he received from the great Ngor abbot Ngawang Lodro Zhenphen Nyingpo, who thus became his main Root Guru, the full Lam Dre transmission of Tsokshey and Lobshey.

Also in 1951 when still under the age of six he was taken on pilgrimage to Lhasa, where he formally received the title of Sakya Trizin (the Throne-holder of Sakya) from the Dalai Lama - thus becoming the forty-first holder of this position . A preliminary enthronement ceremony was held the following year, in which he accepted the official seals of this office. Following the Parinirvana of His Root Guru Ngawang Lodro Zhenpen Nyingpo in 1953, the latter's Regent, Ngawang Tenzin Nyingpo, became another important guru to him. From this lama he received the initiations and reading tranmission (lung) for sGrub-thabs Kun-btus ("The Collection of Sadhanas"). And from Lama Ngawang Lodro Rinpoche he received the initiations and oral instructions relating to the Three Red Deities, the Three Vajrayoginis, and the two main Sakya Protectors.

At the age of eleven he again journeyed to Lhasa where he received teachings from the Dalai Lama at the Potala Palace. Also on this occasion he gave an extensive explanation of the Mandala Offering before the Dalai Lama and a large assembly. This event led to his wisdom being proclaimed throughout Tibet. Another guru to His Holiness was the renowned Lama Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro, from whom he received many Tantric initiations and teachings, both Sakya and Nyingma.

In 1957 he again received the Lam Dre teachings, on this occasion from the great abbot of Sakya, Vajradhara Jampal Zangpo, according to the tradition of the Khon Lineage transmission. In 1959 at the age of fourteen he was formally enthroned as the Sakya Trizin, this three-day ceremony being preceded by a seven-day Mahakala ritual. Representatives of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government were in attendance. But by this time the political and military situation in Tibet had undergone a dangerous deterioration, and his flight to neighbouring Sikkim - a three day journey from Sakya - soon became necessary. He was able to take with him only the barest minimum of possessions and a few attendants. Arriving in India in 1959 at the age of barely 15 he was nonetheless able the following year to found Ghoom Monastery at Darjeeling, and Sa-Ngor Chotsok Monastery at Gangtok in Sikkhim; and also to begin the task of reassembling the Sangha.

Under the oversight of his aunt his studies continued with various of the great Buddhist teachers of the Sakya tradition who had survived the catastrophe in Tibet. From such great scholars as the Abbots Tritso Rinchen and Serjong Appey Rinpoche he received extensive philosophical teachings in Logic, Abhidharma, Madhyamika, the Prajnaparamita, and the "Discrimination of the Three Vows". Particularly from Khenpo Appey he received a thorough and detailed explanation of the Hevajra Root Tantra and other related teachings. And from one of the four Ngor abbots, Phende Khen Rinpoche he received the initiation and explanation of Yamantaka in the Ra Lotsawa Tradition, as well as the collected writings of Ngorchen Konchog Lhundrup. On account of political tensions between India and China during the early 1960s which were giving rise to military activity in the border regions, His Holiness then moved from Darjeeling to the relative safety of Mussourie in the Himalayan foothills near Dehra Dun.

Around this time he taught the Lam Dre Tsokshey at Varanasi. The Tibetan University had recently been established at nearby Sarnath, and this was a time for regrouping and re-establishing of contacts for many Tibetan people who had been scattered and separated by the traumatic events of recent years. His Holiness, His Eminence Chogye Trichen Rinpoche (head of the Tsharpa branch of the Sakya Tradition and of Nalendra Monastery), and H.E. Ngor Luding Khen Rinpoche (75th abbot of Ngor Monastery) were all present. This event was seen by many as a watershed, after which a new blossoming of Dharma activity came about. In 1964 His Holiness undertook the task of re-establishing the main seat of the Sakya Order at Rajpur, near Dehra Dun in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. It was here that he founded The Sakya Centre for the training of young monks in ritual. In 1968, for the benefit of the lay followers of the Sakya Order he additionally established a Tibetan Settlement at Puruwala in Himachal Pradesh. Around this time also the King of Nepal donated some land at Lumbini (the birthplace of the Buddha) where H.E. Chogye Trichen established a monastery and temple.

In 1972, Sakya College, a faculty for the higher education and philosophical training of selected monks, was established at Rajpur by Venerable Khenpo Appey Rinpoche at the request of his Holiness, the former becoming its first Dean. Its function would be to provide high quality training in Tantra, Sutra, and common subjects for monks of the necessary ability, in order to maintain the living transmission of the Sakya teachings and commentaries for posterity. Through this particular initiative His Holiness played a major part in the revitalisation of the sutric and tantric traditions of Tibetan Buddhism and in ensuring the supply of a new generation of well trained teachers. It was here at Rajpur also that in 1971-1972 His Holiness received from Chogye Trichen Rinpoche further extensive transmissions. These included "The Collection of All the Tantras", "The Collected Writings of Ngorchen Kunga Zangpo", The Lam Dre Lob Shey from the Tsharpa Tradition, and "The One Hundred Teachings " of the Jonang Tradition.

In 1974, to maintain the tradition of the Khon Lineage, His Holiness married Dagmo Kusho Tashi Lhakee, the daughter of the Minister of the King of Dege. That same year was highlighted by the auspicious birth of their first son, Ratna Vajra. A second son, Gyana Vajra, was to be born five years later in 1979. In 1978, he received the complete "reading transmission" (lung) of "The Collected Works of the Five Great Founders of Sakya", and "The Collected Tantric Works of the Omniscient Teacher Gorampa", from the Lord of Refuge Dezhung Rinpoche. Then in 1980 he performed the opening ceremony of the main Sakya Monastery, Thupten Namgyal Ling at Puruwala. Later, in January 1988, on the anniversary of the Parinirvana of Sakya Pandita, His Holiness consecrated and inaugurated the monastery and temple of Ngor E-wam Choden at Manduwala, near Dehra Dun. Meanwhile larger permanent premises for Sakya College (referred to earlier) had been built at Rajpur, and by the present time it caters for 130 monks, producing 12 graduates each year.

Thus from the difficult beginnings of exile from his homeland His Holiness has worked ceaselessly for the preservation and successful reconstitution of Sakya's rich and profound Dharma heritage. Apart from these heavy responsibilities he has, in the course of his life so far, undertaken major and minor meditational retreats on twenty deities of the Sakya Lineage, given numerous initiations (including the entire "Collection of Sadhanas" three times), written a large number of texts, and in particular has bestowed the vast Lam Dre teachings on no fewer than eleven occasions. Moreover he has not only been a beacon to his own Tibetan community in their time of crisis, but has taken an extensive part in making the Dharma available world-wide, travelling repeatedly and regularly to teach in many parts of the world. These have included Austria, Canada, Estonia, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nepal, New Zealand, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, United Kingdom, and United States. He is an unfailing source of wisdom and compassion for his fortunate disciples. He lives, when not engaged on his many commitments, at the Dolma Phodrang in Rajpur, Northern India, together with his wife and two sons Ratna Vajra and Gyana Vajra, both of whom have themselves received an extensive education in the Buddha Dharma - this in the interests of preserving unbroken the traditions of the Khon Lineage.

The Resident Lama

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Lama Konchok Choephel

Lama Konchok Choephel was appointed the resident Lama at The Melbourne Sakya Centre after consultation with His Holiness Sakya Trizin and his two sons, their Eminences Ratna Vajra and Gyana Vajra Rinpoche. H.E. Ratna Vajra Rinpoche had the following to say about lama la, as he is known at the centre: "Due to his knowledge of Tibetan Buddhism and his good conduct, he will make a good resident lama for Melbourne. More importantly he is a good person who has a kind heart." Lama la first became a monk at the age of 14 in Tibet. He entered the Lhakhang Chenmo temple in Sakya (the main Sakya monastery) and stayed there for the next 6 years learning the traditional rites and rituals of Tibetan Buddhism.

In 1992, he and a few other fellow-monks made a very difficult and dangerous journey to India via Nepal. He arrived at the Sakya Center in India, and stayed there for the next 7 months. He then enrolled in the well known Sakya College, Dehradun, staying there for the next 7 years, to finally graduate with a Bachelor's Degree in Buddhist Philosophy. Upon his graduation, he spent a year in Nepal where he taught young monks at the Pema Tsa'l School in Kathmandu (now located in Pokhara). In the year 2002, he entered the Sakya Dolma Phodrang as an attendant and secretary to His Holiness Sakya Trizin. Since his time at the Phodrang, he has served His Holiness with sincere dedication. He has travelled extensively as part of His Holiness entourage to countries like Taiwan, Singapore, and France. On 2 April 2008 Lama Konchok Choephel arrived at Melbourne Airport, and since that time as launched himself into the role of being our resident lama and all that this entails.


Melbourne Sakya Centre (Sakya Choekhor Lhunpo)