El·e·na [el-uh-nuh, uh-ley-nuh; It. e-le-nah] /ˈɛlənə, əˈleɪnə; It. ɛˈlɛnɑ/ –noun a female given name, form of Helen // A proud student of His Eminence Tsem Rinpoche // Personal assistant with a BSc (Hons) Psych from Uni of Warwick // These are snapshots of my life, in words and pictures

A Canadian celebration!

August 19, 2015 4

On August 15-16, 2015 a group of us had the great fortune to represent H.E. Tsem Tulku Rinpoche at the opening of Centre De Méditation Tsongkhapa (CMT) in Ste-Sophie, Quebec (Canada).

The first incarnation (so to speak!) of CMT was opened by the Venerable Geshe Khenrab in Montreal, Canada before a sister centre was opened in Moncton, New Brunswick. After Geshe-la’s passing, care of the organization passed on to his devoted student Venerable Zawa Rinpoche.

When we spoke to Zawa Rinpoche this past weekend, he told us that the last location in Moncton was not entirely conducive to the expansion of activities that Zawa Rinpoche envisioned. Located on a main road with commercial properties, it was difficult to host sangha, hold events, perform pujas and engage in retreats and meditations. Thus Rinpoche started to look for a more serene environment. Upon locating a few properties, Rinpoche consulted His Holiness Kyabje Trijang Chocktrul Rinpoche who then advised that this location in Ste-Sophie would be very good.

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One last picture before we go! We had a fantastic weekend in Canada witnessing the growth of Lama Tsongkhapa’s tradition in Quebec!

For those who follow news about the Dorje Shugden ban, Zawa Rinpoche will be a familiar face to you. Over the last decade, Rinpoche has been an instrumental member of the movement to lift the ban on Dorje Shugden practice. Not only was Rinpoche one of the first people to speak up against its unjust nature, but Zawa Rinpoche himself traveled tirelessly to raise awareness about the ban.

Rinpoche has also visited Kechara several times to teach us pujas and to perform them for us. In fact, Rinpoche was present on the very night we received our 24ft Dorje Shugden statue in our then-unfinished Wisdom Hall. Along with Tsem Rinpoche, Zawa Rinpoche performed a puja to properly unveil the Dharma Protector into our hall.

With Kechara having had such a close relationship with Zawa Rinpoche, Tsem Rinpoche wanted us to attend the opening to express our gratitude and support for Zawa Rinpoche’s hard work. This was not just for his new center (where he had done a lot of the work with his own hands) but also for his work in protecting Lama Tsongkhapa’s lineage. Tsem Rinpoche expressly instructed us to arrive before the event so that we might be able to help with whatever last-minute preparations there may be (but everything was so well-organized, there was nothing left for us to do!).

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The opening was officiated by His Holiness Kyabje Trijang Chocktrul Rinpoche, seen here being greeted at the center by the sangha who were in attendance

We arrived at the center the day before the opening. We were already excited because for days before we arrived, Zawa Rinpoche had sent us photos to update us on the latest happenings. For four days, rainbows appeared above the center. Then five-colored lights shone from the Dharma wheel as Rinpoche installed it on the roof of the temple himself. Completely white flowers sprouted spontaneously on the land, with not a single shade of green to mark it. Then two Shetland ponies wandered onto the property – Rinpoche fed them before they wandered away, not to be seen again.

So we knew the place was going to be pretty special because obviously the deities in the area were pleased with its presence. On our arrival, Zawa Rinpoche warmly greeted us and took us on a tour of CMT which, as the pictures will show, is very nicely laid out.

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Click to enlarge!

Can I just say at this point that it is always very nice to meet Zawa Rinpoche, and for me to be able to express how nice it is, at this point I will have to dispense with the formalities.

Seeing Zawa Rinpoche each time is like meeting an old friend because Rinpoche has been a big help to us in navigating the Tibetan monastic world, and educating us on the system. If people only took the time to get to know Rinpoche, they would understand that the things which they criticize Rinpoche for, are not the only qualities they should use to identify him. By this, I refer to the protests and his work in the Dorje Shugden movement to lift the ban.

So what if Zawa Rinpoche practices Dorje Shugden? Look beyond his actions and see what drives them – Rinpoche is a brave, kind, helpful lama who has stuck his neck out for the preservation of Lama Tsongkhapa’s lineage. For his bravery, he has been attacked, insulted and has been identified as an enemy to the Tibetan cause, whatever that may be. All because he wants to practice Dorje Shugden without his teachers and himself being abused for it.

Incredible.

Anyway, after touring the center, Rinpoche hosted us in his simple home. He introduced us to a few other guests before leaving us to explore the property whilst he made final arrangements for the opening ceremony. More dignitaries from the Dorje Shugden world were due to arrive and Rinpoche was preparing for them. In fact, Rinpoche had moved out of his own bedroom and was sleeping on a simple pull-out in the living room, because he had offered his room to his teacher, Venerable Geshe Tsultrim*.

We spent the day getting to know the other Tibetans there, and reconnecting with those we had met before. Most of the lamas had already arrived, including Venerable Trote Rinpoche from New York, Venerable Kalden Rinpoche from Brazil, Geshe Phende from Austria, Gen Youten from Canada, and Geshe Sopa, Geshe Cheme and Gen Jamyang from Vermont. Venerable Rabten Rinpoche was also scheduled to arrive from Switzerland, whilst the remainder of the guests would be there the following day.

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Ven. Geshe Tsultrim, Ven. Kalden Rinpoche, Ven. Rabten Rinpoche, Ven. Trote Rinpoche and Ven. Zawa Rinpoche during the commentary and oral transmission of Gaden Lhagyama according to the Segyud tradition.

The morning of the event started very early for us because we had the honor to be part of the entourage escorting H.H. Kyabje Trijang Chocktrul Rinpoche from the hotel. I may have looked calm on the outside but on the inside I was a giggling buffoon. As I have said before and as I maintain now, there is no vocabulary that exists that adequately describes the perfect being that is Kyabje Rinpoche. Everything about Kyabje Rinpoche inspires faith, and any news about him just tells you that as the years go by, the qualities of Kyabje Rinpoche’s previous life become more and more obvious to all, and the activities manifest so strongly.

Kyabje Rinpoche arrived and was escorted in the traditional manner, with a golden parasol, incense and flowers scattered at his feet. Rinpoche then recited prayers and cut the ribbon into the gompa, before performing a consecration ritual with the sangha. After a short break, Kyabje Rinpoche proceeded to give a short commentary and oral transmission of the Gaden Lhagyama which he received from His Eminence Lati Rinpoche according to the Segyud tradition. It was concise yet profound, clear yet complex, and definitely witty – Rinpoche joked that he could give a longer, more detailed commentary but it would take a few hours, and it would clash with a picnic scheduled after the teaching. If he gave the longer one, people would wonder why the lama is still teaching and what was going to happen with the picnic 😀

Everyone had the opportunity to make offerings and receive blessings from Kyabje Rinpoche after the teaching. Kyabje Rinpoche left soon after, and we again had the merits to escort Rinpoche back to the hotel.

The following days were filled with audiences with the various lamas who were there, to make a connection with them and to update them on our works. They were also spent getting to know our Dorje Shugden brothers and sisters, many of whom we had connected with on Facebook but never actually met before.

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Geshe Sopa is awesome! Straightforward, direct, loyal and very devoted to his gurus and the lineage of Lama Tsongkhapa.

To say I had a fantastic time was an understatement. Watching Lama Tsongkhapa’s tradition grow in Canada was the biggest blessing of all, and it is thanks to hardworking lamas like Zawa Rinpoche and the loyal students who stand by him that such auspicious events are possible. During this time when we have so many internal and external obstacles, harmony and support for one another is important. As our Tsem Rinpoche often teaches, now is the time to put our differences aside and to focus on the bigger picture – the preservation and promotion of Je Tsongkhapa’s lineage, which includes the practice of Dorje Shugden.

It’s also always nice to be part of a gathering of like-minded people, and to feel safe in the knowledge that all of you share the same faith, lineage and beliefs. We met some amazing people there who, despite the obstacles they have been through for just one aspect of their practice, remain kind, smiling and forgiving, yet firm in their beliefs. To my new friends, it was great meeting you! And to my old friends who have watched us over the last year, this was a really nice opportunity to catch up. I just feel it’s such a shame all of us live so far apart…thank Buddha for WeChat! :)

And congratulations once again to Venerable Zawa Rinpoche for the auspicious opening of his new center. May this center become an institution for Lama Tsongkhapa’s learning and traditions to spread in to the ten directions, and may all of Zawa Rinpoche’s works come to fruition swiftly, free from obstacles!

 

For more information about Centre De Méditation Tsongkhapa, please go to their website.

*Geshe Tsultrim is a monk of Gaden Jangtse who had many students. During the height of the ban, his ‘students’ came to attack Geshe-la’s simple home, throwing stones and rocks at it. The harassment became so bad, Geshe-la had to escape India in the middle of the night. He travelled with Switzerland where Venerable Gonsar Rinpoche gave him refuge. Later Geshe-la moved to Austria where he now lives.

 


 

Pictures!

I know y’all want to see pictures! :)

 

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Preparing gifts before going to meet Zawa Rinpoche in his new center for the first time.

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Paying our respects to Venerable Geshe Tsultrim who suffered a lot as a result of the ban on Dorje Shugden. Geshe-la was chased out of his home in Gaden Jangtse by his own students. He escaped to Switzerland where he was given refuge by Venerable Gonsar Rinpoche.

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Getting reacquainted with one of Zawa Rinpoche’s super cute dogs Charlotte.

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Going for a walk in the woods…can’t keep a Kecharian out of the jungle, whether it’s in Kechara Forest Retreat or in Canada!

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Su Ming and Zawa Rinpoche with the neighbour’s very friendly dog.

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Making offerings on behalf of H.E. Tsem Tulku Rinpoche to Venerable Geshe Tsultrim. Rinpoche always encourages us to make offerings to senior monks who, by virtue of holding their vows for decades, are very powerful objects of refuge.

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Mireille, the President of the Tsongkhapa Meditation Center, accepted H.E. Tsem Tulku Rinpoche’s offering on behalf of the center. Rinpoche offered thangkas of the Three Drakpas – Duldzin Drakpa Gyaltsen, Panchen Sonam Drakpa and Tulku Drakpa Gyaltsen.

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On the morning of the celebration, it was slightly foggy but things soon cleared up quickly.

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His Holiness Kyabje Trijang Chocktrul Rinpoche’s throne

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Zawa Rinpoche and Geshe Phende sealing the doors of the gompa with five-colored ribbons, to be cut by His Holiness Kyabje Trijang Chocktrul Rinpoche.

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Early in the morning, the monks were up to do the finishing touches to the preparations.

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With Lobsang Tashi, Zawa Rinpoche’s assistant just before we left to escort His Holiness Kyabje Trijang Chocktrul Rinpoche from the hotel.

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On our way to escort His Holiness Kyabje Trijang Chocktrul Rinpoche to the centre.

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Zawa Rinpoche respectfully offers a khata to Kyabje Rinpoche to invite him to the temple.

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Meanwhile, back at the centre, Venerable Rabten Rinpoche (the reincarnation of Geshe Rabten) arrived. As Gonsar Rinpoche had prior engagements, Rabten Rinpoche came to represent Rabten Choling, Switzerland.

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Just like how it’s done in the monastery, everyone lines up at the entrance to receive Kyabje Rinpoche.

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His Holiness Kyabje Trijang Chocktrul Rinpoche arrives! I’m still buzzing from just thinking about it!

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Kyabje Rinpoche greets the lamas one by one as they line up to offer khatas to him, and escort him into the gompa in the traditional manner.

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Kyabje Rinpoche does the ribbon-cutting ceremony before entering the gompa.

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After Kyabje Rinpoche and the sangha enter the gompa, everyone else makes their way in.

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Kyabje Rinpoche performs a short consecration ceremony.

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View from behind the lens! I got to film the whole event! :)

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Catching up with Ann Ogburn, one of His Eminence Domo Geshe Rinpoche’s devoted students who lives in Rinpoche’s centre Gangjong Namgyal in upstate New York. Ann is one of two permanent residents at the centre. She’s wearing the pendant Tsem Rinpoche gifted her!

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With Maria Montenegro and Mary Donnelly of Trijang Buddhist Institute! I wish we’d had more time to catch up but it was really nice to see them again!

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With Gen Younten of Serpom, who currently resides in Canada. Gen-la frequently assists His Eminence the 7th Panglung Kuten when he takes trance. The video of Gen-la assisting the Panglung Kuten at the Serpom opening was crucial in training Kecharians on how to assist Kuten-la in trance when he was in Malaysia.

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With Gen Jamyang Tashi who served the previous incarnation of Trijang Rinpoche, and continues to serve the current incarnation today. I’m sorry but how can anyone in their right mind say that an old gentle monk like him is evil for practicing Dorje Shugden? -_- it boggles the mind!

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A Facebook connection comes to life! Good to meet you Lobten-la :)

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Another Facebook connection comes to life! An articulate, intelligent person who was a real pleasure to meet!

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After a short break, Kyabje Rinpoche arrives back in the gompa to give a commentary and oral transmission on Gaden Lhagyama according to the Segyud tradition.

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Geshe Tsultrim offers mendel tensum to Kyabje Rinpoche to properly request for the teachings

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Listening to Kyabje Rinpoche’s concise commentary on the Segyud tradition of Gaden Lhagyama.

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Rabten Rinpoche offering mendel tensum to Kyabje Rinpoche.

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Kyabje Rinpoche and Venerable Rabten Rinpoche share a very close relationship.

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Kyabje Rinpoche offers a thangka to Zawa Rinpoche for the centre.

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Receiving blessing from Kyabje Rinpoche, a very precious moment!

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Receiving blessing from Kyabje Rinpoche, a very precious moment!

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With Geshe Cheme Tsering, translator and devoted Dorje Shugden practitioner. Due to Geshe Cheme-la being outspoken against the ban on Dorje Shugden, he has suffered threats to his life. Geshe-la now resides in Trijang Buddhist Institute in Vermont.

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Did I mention how much I like Geshe Sopa-la? 😀 I was teasing Geshe Sopa-la. I asked to take another photo and Geshe-la exclaimed, “Another one?!” I said yes because I wasn’t wearing my robes the previous day. He gamely said we should show our better angles so this was the result hehehe

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Ani Thupten (aka Heidi Chan), a very devoted student of Kyabje Yongyal Rinpoche and a good friend of Zawa Rinpoche, who came early to Canada to help Zawa Rinpoche set up for the opening ceremony.

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First selfie of the weekend!

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With His Holiness Kyabje Trijang Chocktrul Rinpoche’s brother Namden-la. Taken after we had escorted Kyabje Rinpoche back to the hotel.

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Namden-la with Gen Yeshe (center) and Sonam. Gen Yeshe is the former President of the Delhi Dorje Shugden Society. He was also the very first person to greet our Rinpoche when Rinpoche arrived in India from Los Angeles for the very first time. Gen Yeshe went to the airport to pick Rinpoche up, and carried a sign that said “Chatreng Yeshe”.

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With Sonam a.k.a. Max Cee. It was a pleasure being able to meet him and the other Dorje Shugden Tibetan youth practitioners, and to speak with them and learn more about what the younger generation going through.

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We had the honour of an audience with Venerable Rabten Rinpoche to update him on Tsem Rinpoche’s works and activities. This is our first audience with Rinpoche and we were fortunate to be able to make a connection with him.

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We requested to take a group picture with Rinpoche, who chose this spot in front of the Dorje Shugden statue in the gompa. This statue was offered by H.E. Tsem Tulku Rinpoche to Zawa Rinpoche for his centre.

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I only wanted one photo…

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All I asked for was just one photo…one normal photo…

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Was that too much to ask for?!

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Where do they get the energy?!

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With Sonam’s sister, Jangchup.

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The deputy mayor of Ste-Sophie makes her opening remarks at the opening ceremony of the center. This was on the second day of the auspicious event.

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Tsering Lhamo, the Secretary of the Canadian Gelugpa Society (Kalsang Mejung Phuntsok), gives an opening speech.

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After a First Nations native ceremony to honor the ancestors and bless the land, the Tibetan monks recited Tibetan chants. It was a very nice afternoon of interfaith harmony.

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A group photo of dignitaries and community leaders who attended the opening ceremony on the second day.

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Catching up with friends from Vermont…so good to see you again Dickey-la! I first met Dickey-la a year ago in Boston, when she helped to translate a phone call from Rinpoche to a group of Tibetan men and women.

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On the second afternoon, everyone went to a nearby football pitch for a game of football. After the men were done with their game, the women made use of the pitch for game of volleyball.

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With Rongpa Lobsang who made offerings to H.E. Tsem Tulku Rinpoche​ on behalf of the Canadian Gelugpa Society (Kalsang Mejung Phuntsok).

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Karen (left) and Beng Kooi (center) make offerings to Ven. Trote Rinpoche on behalf of Tsem Rinpoche. Trote Rinpoche was very impressed by the quality and craftsmenship of the gifts we presented to him.

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With Tsering “Did you see my talent?” Wangchuk…chef, comedian, public speaker extraordinaire!

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Geshe Phende doing his sadhana in the gompa. Whenever I walked by the gompa, most of the time Geshe-la would be in there doing practices.

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The day after the opening, Zawa Rinpoche took us to Tam Bao Son, a Vietnamese temple nearby. We went with Geshe Cheme and Geshe Phende, Mireille and her daughter, and Dorjee (Gen Yeshe’s son).

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The 16.9m Kuan Yin statue at the top of the Tam Bao Son hill. Made of 27 pieces, it took 9 days to assemble upon its arrival in Canada.

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At the gompa of the Tam Bao Son Temple

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Zawa Rinpoche going through the photos of the event on his laptop

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Geshe Phende doing prostrations inside the gompa of Centre De Méditation Tsongkhapa

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A group photo with Geshe Cheme, Geshe Tsultrim and Geshe Phende.

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We were so fortunate to meet Geshe Tsultrim. As time passes, there are fewer and fewer monks of his generation, calibre, knowledge and attainments. It was a real blessing to meet Geshe-la.

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It wasn’t until the last day that we got our group picture with Zawa Rinpoche!

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With Venerable Zawa Rinpoche in front of the Dorje Shugden statue that H.E. Tsem Tulku Rinpoche offered to their centre.

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Travel, Buddhist News

4 Comments → “A Canadian celebration!”

  1. Tes Ring 1 year ago   Reply

    Beautiful blessings in word and pictures–thank you for sharing!

  2. wisdomoftheday 1 year ago   Reply

    Beautiful visit, thank you very much for sharing these precious moments with us, Ani Lobsang Pema!

  3. yikming 11 months ago   Reply

    Hi Pastor Jean-Ai, Stumble upon your site and really like the write up and the pictures of the opening. Thanks for sharing. Cool that you get to meet up with Zawa Rinpoche, Geshe Cheme, Geshe Tsultrim and Geshe Phende. Blessed :)

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