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Online Meditation Retreat

Buddhist meditation retreat take part online from Manchester
Join us from home – online at the Hermitage

JOIN THE FORMLESS MEDITATION RETREAT ONLINE
SATURDAY 30TH JUNE – SATURDAY 7TH JULY

Try a meditation retreat from the comfort of your own home

A one week retreat with talks and guidance by AHS Teacher Five Cram and an introductory talk by Lama Shenphen. You can read more about the teachings on the main page for this retreat.

Participate online, doing the retreat in your own home. The online retreat includes:

– Listen to online to teachings
– Taking part in online meditation sessions
– Discussing the teachings with fellow participants
– Asking a senior mentor questions for advice about your meditation practice

– Receiving Transmission of the Formless Meditation Practice from Lama Shenpen by live online transmission

The retreat has a timetable of several meditation sessions each day, as well as a teaching session on most days and sometimes a discussion session. If you’re doing the retreat from home you don’t have to commit to coming to every session. Instead what you’re asked to undertake during the 8 days of the retreat is to:

– participate with live online sessions for at least 16 hours in total

– do 26 hours in total of live online participation and/or meditation on your own

– listen to all the teachings  given at the retreat either, listening live or by an audio or video recording online

A typical day will include the following sessions broadcast live from the Hermitage retreat centre in Wales:

7.00 am – 8.00 am Meditation

9.00 am – 10:30 am Teaching

11.00 am – 12:30 am Meditation

3.00 pm – 4:30 pm Meditation or discussion

5.00 pm – 6:00 pm Meditation

7:30 pm – 9:00 pm Storytelling & meditation

This retreat begins with an opening talk from Lama Shenpen on Saturday evening, and ends at 10am on the following Saturday morning.

The  Friday timetable will likely feature a Transmission (in the form of a guided meditation) by Lama Shenpen in the morning, and a Feast in the early evening.

We will broadcast all the sessions of the retreat live by Zoom conferencing. It’s very easy to use, from your computer, tablet or phone.

Doing a retreat at home may sound unusual, especially if you have to fit in a busy schedule and a family. But really a retreat is about making a choice. You set the intention that for this period of time you will be focusing on certain things. You set aside certain periods of the day for meditation and study, and perhaps decide that for this period you won’t do some distracting things that normally you do like to get involved with.

This retreat is principally intended for people who are already enrolled on the Discovering the Heart of Buddhism and Living the Awakened Heart training in the Awakened Heart Sangha. However you can also take part in this retreat if you are considering joining the Living the Awakened Heart training and you have some prior meditation experience. In this case please fill in the booking  form and we’ll get back to you if we’re unsure whether the retreat is suitable for you.

The Sangha does not charge participants a set price for retreats but rather, in accordance with Buddhist tradition, depends on the generosity (dana) of students to cover its costs. Therefore participants are invited to make a donation to the Sangha and an offering to Lama Shenpen.

If you have any questions about this online retreat, please email tsulba@ahs.org.uk.

When is a Mountain not a Mountain?

Buddhist teaching on the appearances, the senses and where things begin and end. Teaching for the Manchester Meditation Group.
Where do things begin and end?

A meditation student asks Lama Shenpen for clarification regarding a statement a previous teaching.
A student writes: “I have read the Buddhism Connect teaching e-mail from 24th of March and must confess I am confused. I don’t understand the point being made by the student about the ‘border of a mountain’.

‘There is (evidently) a faculty in myself that makes objects. It delineates, draws contours around parts of being. As in cartography, when I say “this mountain starts here, ends there”. An arbitrary division, in fact the “border of a mountain” cannot be found. This must be, I think, also a part of my being. Distorted and troublesome, if I take its “chunks” to be real and self-originated objects.’

I assume I am missing some subtle point here but surely the mountain exists, albeit impermanently, and the borders are a reality. Could you please give me some guidance here.”

Lama Shenpen: “This is a difficult area I have to admit.
From a certain point of view it is fairly obvious that we make things up from the sense data that is presented to our senses. We see what looks like a mountain (a concept we have already created in our mind from previous experience) and we assume that is what we are seeing.

It might actually simply be a trick of the light, in which case we say ‘Oh it’s not a mountain, it just looked like one’. But in the case where the assumption is correct, that there is a mountain there, that we can approach and climb it and so on.

Is it really the case that there is no mountain there really?

It is true we only have sense data and our interpretation of that data and when we look carefully at that data it is inconclusive.
We never really know directly that the mountain is out there beyond the senses.  We deduce it as a fact based on previous experience.

This is all fairly obvious when we stop to think about it but does it really change anything?  The mere intellectual knowledge that we don’t directly experience objects out there doesn’t change us much.

However, if we really take this on board and contemplate its significance it becomes clear that we act all the time as if we did know directly objects out there when in fact we are creating them with our mind and often we are creating them in a completely false way which leads to a distorted view on life and our relationships and this is what leads to suffering.  In other words we become attached to our ideas about things and try to grasp and own them or try to get rid of them or destroy them, when in fact they are not really there in the way we think they are and we are not really made secure or threatened by them in the way we think we are.

Realising this even on quite a simple level is liberating in a sense. To realise it even more deeply can liberate us from all suffering forever. But it will change us.

As far as the question of the boundary of the mountain is concerned  and “chunks” of real and self-originated objects created by delineating objects – well the person writing the question has introduced a whole series of problems into the discourse.  I didn’t try to address all these problems in my original answer. I tried to just focus on the main thrust of their question.

Personally I find no problem with arbitrarily delineating objects such as a mountain and labelling it a mountain. This is how I communicate with other people about what I am experiencing. The Buddha did the same. He could point to his own begging bowl, his home town, his disciples and so on.  He used concepts and labels to communicate.

Just because you cannot find a boundary between one thing and another doesn’t mean you cannot point to it and communicate about it.  It maybe arbitrary where a mountain is taken to begin and end but that doesn’t affect the reality of the mountain (in a certain sense of the word).

Yet there is something very interesting about the fact that we cannot delineate accurately where anything begins and ends. By believing that it is possible to delineate and define objects and that they are out there, we limit our capacity to truly understand the nature of reality.

To truly understand the nature of reality and to be liberated from suffering we have to realise that reality is not analysable in that way. That opens our minds and hearts to its true way of being.  The mountain is not a mountain in the mundane sense – there is no limit to what it really is!  That is what we are going to discover as we let go of our tendency to grasp at objects as defined and out there.

I hope this helps.”

You can find out more about experiential Buddhist training in the Awakened Heart Sangha at www.ahs.org.uk or by visiting our weekly Buddhist Meditation Group in Chorlton, Manchester.

How can Prayer help the Dead?

Heart connections extend between lifetimes a powerful force in the world, Buddhist teaching for Chorlton Meditation class
Heart Wish – a powerful force in the World

Lama Shenpen Hookham has over fifty years experience in meditation and as a practitioner of Tibetan Buddhism. This week she answers a student’s question on the effect of prayer on people who have died, and in particular with connection to karma and it’s results.

A Meditation Student writes:

“When we die, as we are all compelled by our karma, as the scriptures indicate, to move from life to life according to the imprints of our previous actions of body speech and mind, how is it that the prayers and offerings of those we leave behind can have any effect on our destination?”

Lama Shenpen Hookham:

What does it mean at all to pray for or dedicate punya (merit) to help others along the path? This is a big question.

In general we are taught that the results of actions come to those who perform them so what does it mean that we can ‘give’ the good due to us from our good deeds to others?  What does it mean to pray for them as if somehow the Buddhas wouldn’t protect them anyway just because of their spontaneous compassionate activity?  How can aspirations (pranidhanas) we make on their behalf affect their future?Surely they have to make them for themselves.

There is something dubious in all of this isn’t there?

And yet at another level it feels right that if we hold someone in our hearts that somehow they will be protected and helped by our good-will and good wishes for them.

This is such a universally held sentiment if not belief. Even people with no claim to any spiritual beliefs will feel something genuine about holding someone in their hearts.

I believe this is because it does really mean something at a deep level that we intuitively always know even if we forget it. It means something to say that you hold your dear one in your heart and always will do.  On one level you could question that and say it didn’t make sense but at another level it makes more sense than anything else in life.

So coming back to your question, I am not at all convinced that we can actually pass on our punya to others but I am convinced that when I hold another person in my heart (whatever that means) and connect them (and myself) to all the compassion and love of all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and make strong wishes and aspirations for their benefit, then it helps the adhistana (blessing) of all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and the power of my pranidhanas (wishing prayers) to be effective on their behalf.

I believe that somehow this creates the conditions that help the person I am doing this for find good conditions in which to follow the path of Liberation and Awakening because of the connections and volitions involved from myself and all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.

How quickly this will  be effective depends on all sorts of conditions but I find it convincing to think that none of this goodness will be wasted. It will all help the other person in some way or another.

I even find it convincing that because our hearts are all one what we wish and feel about others can directly affect them. So wishing others well is a powerful force in the world helping people everywhere all the time.

Because I don’t really realise Emptiness I can only believe this because it is what the Buddha taught and I find it intuitively makes sense. I believe that when I realise Emptiness completely I will know for myself that it is true –  and all that implies.

Meditation Student:

“As for the living, if  we are ordinary beings, with aspirational Bodhichitta (Heart/Mind set on Awakening for the sake of all– Ed.) but no real ability at this stage, is it purely for the development of our own mind that we perform these acts  or can we actually influence others even in our limited capacity ?”

Lama Shenpen Hookham:

It benefits ourselves and it benefits the other person and if we then open our hearts completely it benefits all beings.

I really believe that must be true, even if at the level we are at that benefit doesn’t match the power of the benefit of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Nevertheless it links into their power, connecting us all to the mandala of Awakening. It all works by the power of adhistana (spiritual influence, blessing), connection and pranidhanas (aspirations, wishing prayers – ed.).

As for punya (merit, goodness, the power of it that can be “accumulated” and dedicated, “given away” – ed.) in this context I am not sure if it is anything beyond all of that.

A note on the closeness/strength of connections:

The stronger our heart connection with someone the more we can help them directly by our good-heartedness, positive thoughts, words and actions.

Adhistana (Sanskrit: blessing) is a power we all have because it’s the power of the Buddha Nature itself.  When we say to someone we are with them in our hearts it is more literally true than perhaps we realise.

Our hearts are influencing each other and all beings all the time – we are intimately connected not through causes and conditions, but by our very nature. Nothing can ever change that.

Yet there is meaning in saying that we have closer connections with some people than others – it is mandala principle – how we are connected within a particular mandala affects the kind of influence we can have at any particular place and time.

I hope this answer is helpful.

(Ed: “Mandala” is a subtle concept that points to the “structured-ness” of Emptiness itself. It is explored in depth in the Awakened Heart Sangha’s courses Discovering The Heart Of Buddhism. For the purpose of this context it may suffice to give “mandala” a similar range of meaning as found in the concept of “the world”).

Every week Lama Shenpen answers a student’s question. The students are studying her ‘Living the Awakened Heart’ Training distance study courses. Find out more about experiential training in Buddhism and meditation at:www.ahs.org.uk/training ; or join us at one of our weekly meditation and Buddhism classes in Chorlton, Manchester.

Rejoicing Trungpa Rinpoche

Manchester meditation group celebrating Buddhist meditation master Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche
Legendary Buddhist Teacher Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche with H.H Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche

Today marks the anniversary of the passing (Parinirvana) of the great Buddhist Teacher and meditation master – Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche (1939-1987).

Trungpa Rinpoche received a classical monastic education in Tibet before the Chinese invasion. The eleventh Tulku in the Trungpa lineage of incarnations, he was trained in both the Kagyu and Nyingma traditions and was head of the Surmang group of monasteries.

Having left Tibet, he became a pioneer of Tibetan Buddhism in the West. He studied at Oxford before founding Samye Ling monastery in Scotland with Akong Rinpoche. Later, he founded the Shambhala tradition in the USA, which later became a worldwide Buddhist organisation.

A prolific author, artist and discoverer of secret treasure teachings (termas), Trungpa Rinpoche was widely regarded as an awakened master, translator and brilliant orator.

Lama Shenpen Hookham was advised to travel to India by Trungpa Rinpoche. It was on his advice that she met her main teachers and spent many years in meditation retreat. The two remained in correspondence.

Later, Lama Shenpen married Rigdzin Shikpo, one of Trungpa Rinpoche’s early and most senior British students, who had founded the Longchen Foundation under the guidance of Trungpa Rinpoche and Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. Further cementing the lineage connection.

Trungpa Rinpoche’s son, and heir to the Shambhala lineage, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche regards the Awakened Heart Sangha and Shambhala International as being closely related with positive karmic bonds.


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/222732668″>Khyentse Yangsi Rinpoche on Trungpa Rinpoche</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/chogyamtrungpachronicles”>Chronicles of Chogyam Trungpa</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

In this short video Khyentse Yangsi Rinpoche, the tulku (incarnation) of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, one of Trungpa’s most eminent teachers, rejoices in the remarkable and groundbreaking life of the 11th Trungpa Rinpoche.

Find out more about the Kagyu / Nyingma lineage of teachings at the Chorlton, Manchester meditation group, every Wednesday night.

Sangha Celebration

Buddhist community celebration for Chorlton Manchester group
Join us for this wonderful celebration of Buddhism and community

Members of our Manchester AHS Buddhist Meditation group are warmly invited to join the Sangha for our annual celebration at the Hermitage in North Wales.

This weekend event runs from Friday 25th May to Sunday 27th May.

We celebrate our commitment to the Buddha, Dharma and specifically the Awakened Heart Sangha. A weekend of vows, feasting, teachings and entertainment. This is a joyful weekend of connection and fun!

You are invited to join us for all or part of the weekend. Children are very welcome at this event.

Saturday morning will be to celebrate those who are taking refuge or Bodhisattva vows, the afternoon for those who are making commitments to the Sangha, with their Mahayanagana or Mentor vows.

On Sunday we receive teachings from Lama Shenpen (theme to be confirmed). We finish with a wonderful feast, entertainment, singing and dancing.

Please visit the Hermitage website here for more information and booking form.