Frequently Asked Questions
Who is Tara?
Tara is a Buddha of
compassion and protection. A female meditational deity embodying fully
enlightened, active compassion, she was born from the tears of Avalokitesvara,
the male Buddha of compassion, and she manifests in many forms of many
colors. "Golden Blue Tara" is beautiful and shining, with one face and
ten arms; she embodies the perfection of wisdom as well as the other five
perfections of generosity, patience, moral discipline, enthusiastic effort
and concentration, and she calms our afflictions.
Who is Rinpoche?
literally "Precious One." It is a title that is given mainly in two situations:
- when someone is recognize as the reincarnation of a known Lama,
from the previous life, or
- to someone who is Abbot of a big monastery.
Often a Rinpoche is also a "Tulku". This last title is given to someone
who was already a Dharma practitioner in his past life. Literally, it means
"Truth Body", and means that the Being has obtained some high Realization
(like "Emptiness" or Nirvana) and has conquered the death process; therefore,
he has escaped the cycle of existence (Samsara) and is no longer influenced
by the law of cause-and-effect (Karma), and chose to come back out of great
compassion, in order to help other living beings.
Zasep Tulku Rinpoche was born in the Kham Province of Tibet on July
1, 1948. Soon afterward, he was recognized as the 13th incarnation of the
Zasep lineage. He was installed as Abbot of the Zuru Gompa at the age of
Rinpoche left the Zuru Gompa in the spring of 1957 due to the bad conditions
existing in the Kham province following the communist invasion of that
He then went to Lhasa, where he met his two senior tutors, H.H. Yongzin Ling Rinpoche and H.H. Yongzin
Trijang Rinpoche. At the age of 10, he entered the Sera Monastery, the
largest monastery in Tibet, where his studies included Buddhist philosophy
When the Chinese invaded Lhasa, Zasep Tulku Rinpoche escaped from Tibet
and in 1961 went to Dharamsala India where he rejoined H.H. Trijang Rinpoche,
H.H. the Dalai Lama, and H.H. Ling Rinpoche. He studied and did retreats
in India for many years. It was during this time that he received a Masters
degree in Buddhist philosophy and psychology. He also spent two years in
Thailand where he studied Vipassana meditation.
Rinpoche began teaching westerners in Australia over 20 years ago. He
is fluent in English and has a complete understanding of the western lifestyle.
Currently, he is the spiritual director of more than 12 centers in Canada,
Australia and the United States. He now lives part time in both Toronto,
Ontario and Nelson, British Columbia, Canada.
Rinpoche's students love him, not only for his extensive knowledge and
embodiment of the Dharma, but also for his kindness and highly evolved
sense of humor. For a more thorough biography of Rinpoche, click
What is Buddhism?
Buddhism is founded
on the teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha. (Buddha means literally "Awakened
One" or "Enlightened One.")
At the core of the Buddha's enlightenment was his realization of the
Four Noble Truths: 1.) Life is suffering; 2.) All suffering is caused by
ignorance of the nature of reality, and the craving and attachment that
result from such ignorance; 3.) Suffering can be ended by overcoming ignorance
and attachment; 4.) The path to the cessation of suffering is the Noble
Eightfold Path of right views, right intention, right speech, right action,
right livelihood, right effort, right-mindedness and right contemplation.
Buddhists believe that human existence is subject to continual change,
and there is no permanent, independently existing self or soul. Belief
in a self results in egoism, craving and attachment, and hence in the suffering
of the continual cycle of birth and death. Only attaining enlightenment,
the realization of the true nature of self and reality, allows one to escape
A Buddhist takes refuge in the Three Jewels: the Buddha, the truth of
his teachings (the Dharma) and the community of those following the path
to enlightenment (the Sangha). Renouncing the sufferings of cyclic existence,
a Buddhist believes that the Three Jewels have the power to lead him or
her out of suffering, to happiness, liberation, and enlightenment.
What is Tibetan Buddhism?
religion of Tibet and Mongolia, Tibetan Buddhism is of the Mahayana school
whose teachings are directed toward the achievement of enlightenment for
the benefit of all living beings.
In 747 CE the Buddhist monk and scholar Padmasambhava journeyed from
India to Tibet where he established the first order of lamas or teachers,
and monks. Thereafter the religion spread rapidly and has been essentially
preserved in isolated Tibet. Since the communist takeover of Tibet in 1950,
Tibetan Buddhism is now spreading throughout the west.
Tibetan Buddhist worship involves chanting and reciting prayers and
mantras and sacred texts, prostration and other physical signs of respect
for the Buddhas, Dharma and spiritual leaders, and beautiful religious
ceremonies with the pageantry of horns, drums and religious dance.
Tibetan Buddhism has four main branches:
Gelug: the "Virtuous Order". The order of Tibetan Buddhism founded
by Lama Tsong Khapa (1357-1419 CE) and his disciples in the early fifteenth
Nyingma: the "ancient" order of Tibetan Buddhism, which traces
its teachings back to the time of Padmasambhava, the eighth century CE
Indian scholar invited to Tibet by King Trisong Detsen to clear away the
influences obstructing the establishment of Buddhism. This school includes
in its canon works and translations dating from the early period of the
dissemination of Buddhism in Tibet.
Kagyu: the order of Tibetan Buddhism founded in the eleventh
century by Marpa, Milarepa, and their followers.
Sakya: one of the four main lineages of Tibetan Buddhism, founded
by Khon Konchok Gyalpo.
Kadam: The influence of the Kadam tradition is pervasive in
all schools of Tibetan Buddhism, and is especially associated with the
Gelug lineage, which is sometimes referred to as New Kadam. The Kadam tradition
derived from the teachings of the Indian scholar Atisha (982-1054 CE) and
it emphasizes monastic discipline, study, and the practice of compassion.
- Triple Gem (or Three Jewels): The
Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.
- Buddha: A fully enlightened being.
One who has removed all obscurations veiling the mind and has developed
all good qualities to perfection. The first of the Three Jewels of refuge.
- Dharma: Spiritual teachings, particularly
those of the Buddha. Literally, that which holds one back from suffering.
The Dharma of transmission are the teachings actually given by the Buddha,
and the Dharma of realization are the states of mind attained through application
of the teachings. The second of the Three Jewels of refuge.
- Sangha: Spiritual community; the
third of the Three Jewels of refuge. Absolute Sangha are those who have
directly realized emptiness; relative Sangha are ordained monks and nuns.
- Guru: A spiritual guide or teacher.
One who shows a disciple the path to liberation and enlightenment. In tantra,
one's teacher is seen as inseparable from the meditational deity and the
Three Jewels of refuge. Root guru: The teacher who has had the greatest
influence upon a particular disciple's entering or following the spiritual
- Sutra: A discourse of Shakyamuni
Buddha; the pre-tantric division of Buddhist teachings stressing the cultivation
of bodhicitta and the practice of the six perfections.
- Tantra: Literally, "thread" or "continuity".
The secret mantra teachings of Buddhism. To practice tantra one must receive
the initiation from a qualified tantric master.
- Lam Rim: A presentation of Shakyamuni
Buddha's teachings in a form suitable for the step-by-step training of
a disciple. The lam-rim was first formulated by the great Indian teacher
Atisha (982-1054) when he came to Tibet in 1042.
- Arhat: Literally, "foe destroyer."
A person who has destroyed his or her delusions and attained liberation
from cyclic existence.
- Bodhisattva: Someone whose spiritual
practice is directed toward the achievement of enlightenment for the benefit
of all living beings. One who possesses the compassionate motivation of
- Bodhicitta: the mind of enlightenment.
The altruistic determination to reach enlightenment for the sole purpose
of enlightening all living beings. The direct insight into the ultimate
nature of self and phenomena.
- Offerings: It is a tradition to
make offerings to the Gurus and Buddhas out of gratitude and to purify
oneself and increase one's merit.
- To the teacher: after an initiation or teaching it is customary to
make an offering to the teacher. One may present the offering with a kata
Mandala: A circular diagram symbolic of the entire universe. The residence
and perfected attributes of a meditational deity.
On the altar: The eight traditional outer offerings on the altar are:
ambrosia for drinking, water for bathing, flowers, incense, light, perfumed
water for sprinkling on the body, fine food, and music. Other outer
offerings are: various types of wealth and good fortune, things owned by
oneself and others, and ownerless things (forests, oceans, beautiful views,
etc.) Inner offerings include all of one's virtues, and so on.
Actually present whatever offerings you can and visualize the rest—through
visualization increase them in quality and number to pervade all of space.
Samantabhadra: a great Bodhisattva within the Nyingma tradition, renowned
for his spiritual practice of making vast and beautiful offerings to the
- Mantras: Literally, "protection of
the mind." Mantras are Sanskrit syllables recited in conjunction with the
practice of a particular meditational deity that embody the qualities of
- Meditation: The method whereby Buddhists
follow the third of the Buddha's charges: "Do good to others, refrain from
doing wrong as much as possible, and tame the mind."
Samatha breathing—a form of Vipassana (also insight) meditation:
The principal meditation taught in the Theravada tradition and is based
on the Buddha's teachings on the four foundations of mindfulness. It is
sometimes called mindfulness meditation. In the Mahayana, Vipassana has
a different connotation, where it means investigation of and familiarization
with the actual way in which things exist and is used to develop the wisdom
Samadhi or single-pointed concentration meditation: A state of deep
meditative absorption; single-pointed concentration focuses on the actual
nature of things, free from discursive thought and dualistic conceptions.
Mahamudra: literally "great seal." A profound system of meditation
upon the mind and the ultimate nature of reality: the luminous and empty
nature of mind and phenomena.
- Karma: Action; the working of cause
and effect. According to the Buddha's teachings, all actions, whether of
thought, word, or deed, are like seeds that will eventually bear fruit
in experience, whether in this or future lives. Positive actions will produce
happiness and negative actions will produce suffering.
- Samsara (or cyclic existence): The
state of being unenlightened, in which the mind, enslaved by the three
poisons of attachment, aversion and ignorance, passes through the recurring
cycle of death and rebirth and suffering.
- Three vehicles: spiritual paths
within all of Buddhism that take you from where you are to where you want
Hinayana: Literally, the "Small Vehicle." It is one of the two
general divisions of Buddhism. Hinayana practitioners' motivation for following
the Dharma path is principally their intense wish for personal liberation
from conditioned existence, or samsara.
Theravada: The Doctrine of the Elders; one of the eighteen schools
into which the Hinayana split not long after Shakyamuni Buddha's death;
the dominant school today, prevalent in Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Burma,
and well represented in the West.
Mahayana: Literally, the "Great Vehicle." It is one of the two
general divisions of Buddhism. Mahayana practitioners' motivation for following
the Dharma path is principally their intense wish for all mother sentient
beings to be liberated from conditioned existence, or samsara, and to attain
the full enlightenment of Buddhahood. The Mahayana has two divisions: Paramitayana
or Sutrayana, and Vajrayana.
Paramitayana: The "Perfection Vehicle"; one of the two divisions
of the Mahayana. This is the gradual path to enlightenment traversed by
Bodhisattvas practicing the six perfections of generosity, morality, patience,
effort, concentration, and wisdom, through the ten bodhisattva levels over
countless eons of rebirths in samsara for the benefit of all sentient beings.
It is also called Sutrayana.
Vajrayana: the "Diamond Vehicle"; the second of the two Mahayana
paths. It is also called Tantrayana or Mantrayana. This is the quickest
vehicle of Buddhism, as it allows practitioners to attain enlightenment
within one lifetime.
- Precepts: vows taken on the basis of
refuge at all levels of Buddhist practice—pratimoksha precepts (vows
of individual liberation) are the main vows in the Hinayana tradition and
are taken by monks, nuns, and lay people; they are the basis of all other
vows. Bodhisattva and tantric precepts are the main vows in the Mahayana
Gurus and Deities
- Shakyamuni Buddha (563-483 BCE):
Born a prince of the Shakya clan in North India, he taught the sutra and
tantra paths to liberation and full enlightenment; founder of what came
to be known as Buddhism.
- Lama Tsongkhapa (also Losang Dragpa):
Founder of the Gelug tradition of Tibetan Buddhism and revitalizer of many
sutra and tantra lineages and the monastic tradition in Tibet. Golden Blue
Lotus Tara Center is in the Gelug tradition of Tibetan Buddhism.
- Avalokitesvara (Tib. Chenrezig):
The Buddha of compassion. A male meditational deity embodying fully enlightened
- Manjushri: The Buddha of wisdom.
A male meditational deity embodying fully enlightened wisdom.
- Prajnaparamita: The Mother of the
Buddhas. A female meditational deity embodying the Buddhas' wisdom of emptiness.
Literally the "perfection of wisdom"; the Prajnaparamita sutras are the
teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha in which the wisdom of emptiness and the
path of the Bodhisattva are set forth.
- Tara: A Buddha of protection and
compassion. A female meditational deity embodying fully enlightened, active
compassion, she was born from the tears of Avalokitesvara and manifests
in many forms.
- Vajrapani: the Buddha of power.
A male meditational deity embodying the power of all enlightened beings
to accomplish their goals.
- Vajrasattva: Male meditational deity
symbolizing the inherent purity of all Buddhas. A major tantric purification
practice for removing obstacles created by negative karma and the breaking
- Vajradhara: male meditational deity;
the form through which Shakyamuni Buddha revealed the tantric teachings.
Here are some elements of respect and etiquette to use when receiving
teachings from a Lama (Teacher) in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition.
Teacher's entrance: Stand and bow slightly when the Lama enters
the room. Remain standing while s/he prostrates to the Buddhas and
his/her own Teachers (visualized on the throne) and takes his/her seat.
Prostration: After the Lama is seated, practicing Buddhists
will perform three formal prostrations as a sign of respect to the Lama
and teachings. Others may join in or stand quietly. For those
wishing to participate, the form is: with palms together touch crown of
head, forehead, throat, and heart; kneel on hands and knees, touching forehead
to ground very briefly and rising quickly. Perform the entire act
three times altogether. At the conclusion, once more touch hands
to crown, forehead, throat, and heart, pausing briefly at the end for contemplation.
Then take your seat.
Opening prayers and chants: These are good to mark a break
from ordinary activities and engender in ourselves good motivation to receive
the teaching. Prayers will be recited from the booklets available
in the room. Please share if there aren't enough. Students
and visitors may join aloud, or contemplate silently.
General etiquette: Other than the usual respectful behavior,
such as sitting quietly and alertly during the teaching, there are some
points of etiquette specific to Eastern traditions and Buddhism.
Avoid stretching your legs toward the Lama or altar, as pointing the soles
of one's feet is considered disrespectful. Do not place spiritual
texts on the floor or rug (they are ok on a folder, pack, pillow, handbag,
etc. which is on the floor.) When moving about, try not to step directly
over such texts or over other people's cushions. Do not interrupt
the formal teaching, but reserve your questions for later, when the Teacher
indicates it is appropriate.
Dedication: The teaching ends with prayers that dedicate,
to the benefit of others, any improvements and insights we may have gained
during the teaching. Again, one may join in or contemplate silently.
Teacher's exit: As the Teacher stands to leave, stand and
bow slightly, until s/he is out of the room. Students will again
perform three prostrations, except at the last teaching session, where
the omission conveys our wish for the Teacher to return.
Addressing the Teacher: Our center's Spiritual Head is Ven.
Zasep Tulku Rinpoche (pronounce ZA-sep TUL-ku RIN-po-shay).
In face-to-face discourse, as when asking questions during a teaching,
address him as "Rinpoche", a term of respect for teachers who are incarnate
lamas. In the third person, it is customary to always include the
honorific, referring to him as "Zasep Rinpoche", "Zasep Tulku Rinpoche", or "Rinpoche". The term "Tulku" refers also to an incarnate lama,
but is not used in addressing the lama.
Dharma Etiquette from Gaden Choling Centre
Compiled mostly from a glossary at the web site of the
for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition. From The Tantric
Path of Purification by Lama Yeshe, edited by Nicholas Ribush, Wisdom
Also, A Flash of Lightning in the Dark of Night
by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Shambala
The Essence of Nectar by Geshe Lobsang Tharchin,
of Tibetan Works and Archives, Dharamsala.
And Microsoft Encarta 97, 1993-1996 Microsoft Corporation.