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?

Rinpoche means literally "Precious One." It is a title that is given mainly in two situations:

  1. when someone is recognize as the reincarnation of a known Lama, from the previous life, or
  2. 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 five.

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 year.

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 and meditation.

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 here.

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 suffering.

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?

The predominant 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:

Some terms:

Gurus and Deities

Dharma Etiquette

Here are some elements of respect and etiquette to use when receiving teachings from a Lama (Teacher) in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition.

Dharma Etiquette from Gaden Choling Centre
September 1990

Compiled mostly from a glossary at the web site of the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition.  From The Tantric Path of Purification by Lama Yeshe, edited by Nicholas Ribush, Wisdom Publications, Boston.

Also, A Flash of Lightning in the Dark of Night by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Shambala Publications, Boston.

The Essence of Nectar by Geshe Lobsang Tharchin, Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, Dharamsala.

And Microsoft Encarta 97, 1993-1996 Microsoft Corporation.