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Posts Tagged "ven. robina courtin"
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April 21, 2014, was a big day for Dechen Bloom, age six. Lama Zopa Rinpoche was visiting Dechen’s hometown of Portland, Oregon, and Dechen had something special to offer Rinpoche. Leading up to Rinpoche’s visit, Dechen had been working very hard to both memorize the Heart Sutra and to write it out, dedicated to Rinpoche’s long life.
Dechen bounced with excitement as he waited for Rinpoche to arrive at FPMT International Office. When Rinpoche’s car pulled up, Dechen was out on the sidewalk with his copy of the Heart Sutra. He offered it, smiling, to Rinpoche, who was very pleased. He also recited it on video for Rinpoche the previous day.
This offering to Rinpoche had been a couple of years in the making. As Dechen grew from a toddler into a young boy, his mother, Carina Rumrill, had noticed that while Dechen was able to read, count and learn shapes and colors much more quickly than other children his age, his behavior seemed to her to be a lot more difficult. As he reached school age, she took him to be tested by the local school district to see what they thought was going on. They identified him as having ASD (autism spectrum disorder), specifically they told Carina he had Asperger syndrome and sensory processing disorder.
Ven. Robina Courtin was visiting Portland during this period and spending time with Dechen. (She has known him since his birth.) She encouraged Carina, who is the former managing editor of Mandala and now editorial support for FPMT International Office, to not label him with any disorder and to try and view his behavior in the context of Dharma teachings. She wrote about this in one of her “Postcard” blogs posts:
Dechen’s a powerhouse! Very much his own boss! As bright as a button, showing multiple talents. Children like him are often considered by contemporary psychologists as tending towards Asperger’s Syndrome. For me, that’s dangerous. Because there is no factoring in of past karma, a bright, fierce, super-intelligent, super-focused, stubborn child who is also quite mature emotionally — that is, doesn’t show signs of much neediness or jealousy, and is quite independent — can easily be misdiagnosed as having “psychological problems.” After all, “stubbornness,” when it’s used for the practice of morality, etc., is called “enthusiastic perseverance”: We all need that! As Lama Yeshe puts it, “if there’s no energy, there’s nothing to transform!” Give me a wild, stubborn, brilliant person any day!
Soon after this, Carina wrote to Lama Zopa Rinpoche, asking for advice about Dechen.
In addition to many pujas and practices that needed to be done for Dechen, Rinpoche recommended that Dechen memorize mantras and texts, and suggested starting with the Heart Sutra. Dechen started learning mantras and memorized them very quickly. Carina then thought Dechen could start memorizing the Heart Sutra. “His ability to memorize easily was evident even when he was very young. We were shocked to realize, when he was one-and-a-half years old, that he had memorized all the letters of the alphabet and numbers up to 100. He could barely talk at all, but if you asked him to point out any letter or number, he could. Many times we were surprised like this. When he was two, we discovered he could spell many words and count backwards from 100. He was reading by two-and-a-half, at age three, from watching YouTube videos, he had taught himself the alphabet and numbers to 100 in American Sign Language, when he was four he became interested in the alphabets and numbers of other languages, many examples like this.”
“Ven. Robina Courtin was due for another visit a few months after I received Rinpoche’s advice so I thought he could at least have the first paragraph of the Heart Sutra memorized by then. In order to help Dechen memorize it, I asked if he would like to type it out on the computer, then print it, then trace it. He said he’d like to try that,” Carina recalled. Dechen got to work and completed this in time to offer a copy to Ven. Robina. “During Ven. Robina’s visit we also read the sutra with her, and she gave some commentary on the sutra. At this point, Dechen became very interested in it.”
After the visit, Dechen exchanged emails with Ven. Robina about the sutra, with Carina serving as messenger. He was five years old at the time.
On 5 May 2013, at 05:55, Carina Rumrill wrote:
Hi Ven. Robina
… I told Dechen I was going to tell you he is typing out his second copy of the Heart Sutra for Lama Zopa Rinpoche because you’d be happy to hear that and he wants me to ask you one question.
He wants to know: “Why does Shariputra repeat his question to Avalokiteshvara?” Specifically he is really focused on understanding the line about “holding those five aggregates also as empty of inherent nature.” (He is looking at this while I type and has corrected the way I have phrased this question twice. I hope it makes sense!)
We look forward to your answer!
On Sun, May 5, 2013 at 3:01 AM, Robina Courtin wrote:
I am happy to hear from you and thrilled to bits that you are typing out for the second time the Heart Sutra.
As for your question: as far as I can see, Shariputra asks his question once, not twice. Please point out to me where he asks twice.
And remember, his speech is actually the words of the Buddha who is sitting there absorbed in meditation on emptiness and is inspiring the conversation between Shariputra and Avalokiteshvara.
As far as “holding those five aggregates also as empty of inherent existence” is concerned, in His Holiness’s commentary on the Heart Sutra the translator has “even” not “also.” His Holiness says that that “implies that a comprehensive list of phenomena will be included in this presentation of emptiness.” And that is what follows: Avalokiteshvara — inspired, remember by Lord Buddha — proceeds to list all the phenomena in the universe divided into the various categories: the six sense powers, etc., the twelve, links, the four noble truths, etc., etc., and that they are all empty of inherent existence.
That’s all I can say!
On May 6, 2013, at 1:44 AM, Carina Rumrill wrote:
Hi Ven. Robina,
Here’s what Dechen says:
At the beginning of the Heart Sutra, Avalokiteshvara “beheld those five aggregates also as empty of inherent nature.” So why would Shariputra have to ask him about that again when Avalokiteshvara already told him and the other monks and bodhisattvas about that? If Shariputra was sitting with him, didn’t he already hear him answer that? I didn’t know that the Buddha was having them talk to each other! Why did the Buddha want them to talk to each other about that? Why didn’t the Buddha say it all himself instead? Are Shariputra and Avalokiteshvara both the Buddha!? I think that they are both the Buddha because how else could the Buddha make them talk!?
Carina (for Dechen)
On Sun, May 5, 2013 at 6:25 PM, Robina Courtin wrote:
Avalokiteshvara is “beholding” — that is, being aware of — the fact that the five aggregates are empty. He doesn’t actually say this to Shariputra.
Shariputra doesn’t ask the question “Are the five aggregates empty?” He asks what should a person do in order to understand “the perfection of wisdom” — that is, understand emptiness.
According to His Holiness’s commentary, there are “three principal kinds of scriptures attributed to the Buddha: those words that are actually spoken by the Buddha himself; those words spoken by a bodhisattva or a disciple on behalf of the Buddha; and those words spoken by disciples or bodhisattvas that were directly inspired by the Buddha.” Most of the Heart Sutra is the third kind.
So you can visualize Lord Buddha sitting in meditation, absorbed in emptiness, on Vulture’s Peak, surrounded by a ”great community of monks and great community of bodhisattvas.” When I went there I noticed how small it is, so I wondered how they all fit there. When I asked Geshe Dakpa in San Francisco this question, he said, “They sat in the sky!”
Shariputra and Avalokiteshvara are both there too being inspired by the Buddha to say the words they say. According to His Holiness, Avalokiteshvara “appears in the form of a bodhisattva on the tenth bodhisattva level.” Shariputra is one of Buddha’s two principal disciples “and the one among all Buddha’s disciples said to have the clearest understanding of emptiness.” So, he’s not actually a buddha yet, but pretty close.
Basically, Buddha is giving this teaching to the all the people but Shariputra and Avalokiteshvara are saying the words.
On 6 May 2013, at 15:42, Carina Rumrill wrote:
Thank you! Dechen is very happy with this answer!
Oh! Okay, okay!
Ven. Robina, how did they sit in the sky!? Did Geshe Dakpa tell you how they were sitting in the sky!?
On Mon, May 6, 2013 at 3:55 PM, Robina Courtin wrote:
Oh, that’s easy! As you develop power over the mind you also develop power over the physical world, including the body. The great yogis can not only fly in the sky they can also manifest their minds in different bodies, they can turn themselves into more than one person — a dog here, a human being there — in order to benefit sentient beings. By the time you’re a Buddha you can turn yourself into countless beings all the time. That’s the Buddha’s job. To benefit as many sentient beings as possible.
You can find links to the text of the Heart Sutra and other resources on FPMT Education Services’ page “Heart Sutra.”
To find Ven. Robina Courtin online, visit robinacourtin.com.
You can read more about Dechen offering his hand-traced copy of the Heart Sutra to Lama Zopa Rinpoche in the print edition of Mandala July-September 2014.
During March 14-16, Maitripa College welcomed special guest teacher Ven. Robina Courtin. Over the weekend, Ven. Robina taught on karma and emptiness to a devoted and enthusiastic crowd. Student and lead volunteer Anita Bermont sent Mandala this reflection from the event:
The word “reflection” has taken on new meaning since becoming a student at Maitripa College. We write reflection papers and reflective questions based on our readings for each class. These reflections allow for deep integration of what was studied, help set clear motivation, as well as reveal where obstacles may have been elusive.
Reflecting on Venerable Robina’s visit this year brings the added dimension of having served as lead volunteer. Little could I have known the impact this would have had on how the teacher and teachings would be received. The content of her teachings this visit was entitled ”Understanding Karma: A Perfect Example of Dependent Arising to Prove Emptiness.” She spoke strongly to how delusions exaggerate the aspects of the object, to include both positive and negative aspects. Surely, I was suffering from just this very thing!
I had quite the large construction project built up in my mind as to how specifically Ven. Robina was going to want things to go over the weekend. I showed up in complete surrender to her wishes. What I had not expected was her simple faith and trust that the volunteers knew what would be best for this situation and her complete surrender to our wishes. We met somewhere in the middle, in a place best described as mutual care and respect. With the excellent support of her attendants, everyone was able to enjoy a weekend full of rich teachings, much laughter and the deepening of community.
Maitripa College offers regular public programs and degree programs for students at the graduate level.
Mandala brings you news of Lama Zopa Rinpoche and of activities, teachings and events from over 160 FPMT centers, projects and services around the globe. If you like what you read on Mandala, consider becoming a Friend of FPMT, which supports our work.
RELATIONSHIP WITH THE TEACHER
By Ven. Robina Courtin
Every single thing we do in life has to be learned from someone else. How grateful we should be to our parents, friends and teachers! But instead, we take it all for granted, assuming arrogantly that it’s their job to show us what to do. The process of learning how to become a Buddha is the same as learning anything. The steps are the same.
Wanting to learn: I remember the day, the time, the place, when I learned how to make a cake from my mother. It’s vivid in my mind. I was 28 at the time, and a hippie. I’d been living in England and went home to Melbourne, Australia and decided that I wanted to make something like a carrot cake.
The crucial first step was that I was ready to learn. This is so important. When we’re kids we feel that we’ve been dragged into learning, that we haven’t chosen it, so our hearts are closed. And because we’re not doing it willingly, we happily find fault with the teachers, whom we see as forcing information down our throats.
Checking the teacher: So, whom to ask? Clearly my mum was the person. I’d eaten her cakes for years and knew they were good. I’d checked other cake-makers and was confident she could hold her own. My sisters were excellent cake-makers, and they had learned from her. And according to my mother’s peers she was a professional.
And she was a skillful teacher. I knew she had the knowledge, yet during all those preceding years she hadn’t forced me to learn. She waited for me to be ready. She had my best interests at heart and knew how to explain the process. Everything was in place. I was ready to learn, I’d checked the teacher and checked the product. And clearly I had a strong connection with her. So I was completely confident. I went to my mother and requested: “Mum, please show me how to make a cake.” How delighted she was! …
Shen Phen Ling Study Group, based in Albury/Wodonga, Victoria, Australia, hosted Ven. Robina Courtin in late June. Ven. Robina gave a weekend teaching on “Courageous Compassion” in the small rural town of Yackandandah, located in northeastern Victoria, not far from Albury/Wodonga. For the teaching event, study group members transformed an old courthouse into a beautiful gompa.
An “eclectic assortment of people” turned up for the teaching. In addition to more experience students, a few people with no prior experience with Buddhism attended. “Taking it all in her stride, Ven. Robina presented an engaging discussion that weaved in humor, personal experience and audience participation,” study group coordinator Julie Klose shared with Mandala. The audience was inquisitive and participated in energetic and topical debate Julie reported.
“After covering the fundamentals of wisdom on Saturday, Sunday’s teaching focused more on compassion and great compassion. Not only did we get valuable individual advice and guidance over the weekend, but we also gratefully received instruction and guidance for our small bur keen study group,” Julie wrote.
Mandala brings you news of Lama Zopa Rinpoche and FPMT activities, teachers and events from over 160 FPMT centers, projects and services around the globe. If you have news you would like to share, please let us know.
By Lisbeth Elvery
Many of us had never met Ven. Robina Courtin before, much less traveled under her tutelage throughout strange lands. However, any vague sense of trepidation was – certainly for me – washed away on that first night the “Chasing Buddha” pilgrims met in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Ven. Robina, an ordained Buddhist nun with over 20 years’ experience integrating Tibetan Buddhist practice with the Western way of life, has been leading these pilgrimages throughout Nepal and India since 2001. Her main project and the key beneficiary of the funds raised from the pilgrimage is the Liberation Prison Project.
… Twenty-three budding pilgrims from throughout the United States and Australia came together for four weeks in late October/early November 2003. It was a journey that was to take us to the sacred Buddhist sites of Nepal and India. On a spiritual level, we would travel much further …
Geshe Lama Konchog came to Kopan Monastery in 1984, where he spent nearly 18 years devoting himself to teaching the monks and nuns there. Before arriving at Kopan, Geshe Lama Konchog had spent twenty-five years meditating in caves in the Tsum region of Nepal. Geshe Lama Konchog was born in Tibet in 1927 and educated as Sera Monastery. He was known then for his profound commitment to Dharma practice. But it was only after his death in 2001 that his extraordinary qualities were revealed to a wider circle of Dharma practitioners and students. His disciple Geshe Tenzin Zopa detailed the accomplishments of this modern-day Milarepa and shared them with Ven. Robina Courtin for this story published in Mandala March-April 2002.
A new Postcard from Robina, Ven. Robina Courtin’s blog about her travels and teachings around the world. “A month has passed since I was at Maitripa in Portland. It’s Tuesday March 6 and I’m in tropical Queensland, settling in for a month’s editing retreat. Kathleen Surawski has kindly offered me her house: a raised wooden structure with a deck, on a cliff overlooking the ocean at Point Lookout, on the tip of Stradbroke Island, just off the main coast, 20 miles east of Brisbane.”
The latest Postcard from Ven. Robina is released. Covering teachings and travels in the USA from Soquel to Santa Fe to Portland and Seattle. This post includes a photo of Ven. Robina, former editor of Mandala, with managing editor Laura Miller, and editor Carina Rumrill.
The latest addition to Postcards from Robina, Ven. Robina Courtin’s blog from travels and teachings around the world, details her recent visits to Boston, New York, Maine and California.
The producers of Chasing Buddha, a documentary film about Ven. Robina Courtin, shown in January at the Sundance Film Festival, have offered it to the Milarepa Prison Project for Buddhist Practitioners (a project of Mandala) which she coordinates. “We are happy that the project use it in any way they wish to raise funds for their work,” said the film”s director and co-producer, Australian Amiel Courtin-Wilson, a nephew of Ven. Robina.
The film is scheduled for showing on SBS television in Australia this year, and will show at other film festivals in the US, Europe and Australia.
Having already won an award for his film work in Australia, Amiel was delighted that Chasing Buddha was accepted at Sundance. “Documentary work is generally swept under the carpet, so it was even more exciting to have Chasing Buddha placed in the World Cinema section along with other dramatic feature films,” said Amiel.
The film is an exploration of an aunt “who has always occupied a mythological position in the family landscape.”
Amiel and his cameraman Vincent Heimann traveled with Ven. Robina throughout the United States for three months in early 1998, and filmed her at Kentucky State Prison in Eddyville, interviewing some of the men, including several on death row.
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