Aloha

aloha

ALOHA

Thanksgiving 2015

Aloha Dear Friends,

May this find you with a peaceful heart and a joyous spirit.

2015 has been a year of tribulation like no other for our war-weary and over-burdened home, our mother, our Gaia. I think, in the back of all our minds, hidden away as best we can, is the nagging thought, the inescapable question--is it too late? Have we reached the tipping point? What do I do to hold back the deluge?

We do what we can. We keep the faith. And we learn, and we educate. Ohana Maitreya is dedicated to the education and well-being of Tibetan Buddhist nuns living in India.

In 2015, contributions to Ohana Maitreya helped to grow a fund for maintenance of facilities for all nunneries under the auspices of the Tibetan Nuns Project.

We also funded teachers’ salaries at the Gelug Dorjee Zong Nunnery in Zanskar, at the Kagyu nunneries at Chango and Manali, and at the Shugsep Nyingmapa nunnery in Dharamsala.

I have heard...When the mind is obscured it is samsara. When freed of obstruction it is Nirvana. And I have heard...there is no differentiation. Meditation is the key. And while I do my best to practice “meditation in the marketplace”, I am strengthened by the knowledge that there are centers of light and learning on this earth where that vibration goes so deep that maybe, just maybe, it can tip the balance.

Our focus for this appeal is the Sakya College for Nuns at Manduwalla, near Dehra Dun, India. On a campus filled with the light of intellectual and spiritual inquiry, approximately fifty women pursue the traditional thirteen-year course that leads to the highest degree of Buddhist studies.

The different lineages of Tibetan Buddhism share the same roots with unique expressions of the path. Sakya means pale earth, to denote the gray of southern Tibet, near Shigatse. The Sakya are a hereditary lineage in an unbroken succession that goes back almost a thousand years. The essence of their teaching and practice is the “Lamdre”, or “Path and Fruition”. That is, non-differentiation of samsara and nirvana.

For several years Ohana Maitreya has been in discussion with Khenpo Gyatso and Dechen Wangmo from the Sakya College for Nuns exploring the idea of a medical clinic there. They have suggested partitioning off a section of the very large lobby to provide a permanent space for a clinic.

Ohana Maitreya wishes to raise $10,000 to construct and equip the facility, and we are asking each one of you in our beautiful ohana to please contribute.

Key in the formulation of this project has been Tibetan linguist and OmFund supporter Kurt Schwalbe. He has made almost yearly visits to the nuns and has a deep sense of their needs and wishes.

Following are his words:

The Sakya Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism greatly values the worth of its women. Its teachings place a lovely emphasis on the feminine side of the spiritual tradition. While there has been good opportunity for Sakya women to participate in the tradition as nuns, previously they have not had the same opportunity for a solid philosophical education as Sakya men have had.

Honoring a wish that His Holiness the Sakya Trizin expressed a few years ago, Khenpo Gyatso, the retired principal of Sakya College in Mussorie, India organized Sakya College for Nuns in Manduwalla, India on the outskirts of Dehra Dun. The College has been operating for four years now. The student nuns are rigorously trained in the same philosophical curriculum formerly only available to men. They work very hard at their studies and show great promise to become teachers to Sakya practitioners and others around the world.

When they study so diligently, it can be possible to ignore simple health problems that can easily become more serious unless they are taken care of quickly. There is no close by health care facility so it can seem like a major effort to travel to get care for what may seem like a small concern. I would like for the students to be able to get timely, quality care for their simple health problems as well as competent diagnosis for problems which may become more serious.

I feel that a small health care clinic at the College would make life better for the students as well as potentially preventing an illness forcing a student out of her promising career as a teacher.

OM Fund proposes with your help to finance a small medical clinic on the College campus. It will be equipped with basic medical equipment and staffed by professional medical personnel on an ongoing, regular basis. Once a year, an OB/GYN doctor will visit for a few days to see to the needs of the nuns. It is the hope of OM Fund that this effort will contribute to the success of the students as they prepare for their work for the benefit of all beings.

I ask you to contribute as generously as you can to help make this medical clinic come to be.

With kind thoughts,

Kurt

I am tremendously grateful to all the teachers, lineage holders, and nuns and monks of Tibetan Buddhism. It is an anchor for me to know that, in these times of rapid change, there is the vibration of love and prayer and mantra being sent out continually to all the universe.
May all the blessings of the Buddhas be with you,

Algienne Amrita Director, Ohana Maitreya


Donations at all levels of giving are sincerely requested. WIN THIS RUG!

win-rugMr. Kurt Schwalbe has kindly offered the gift of this beautiful carpet for the first person to donate $1000 or more for this appeal! This carpet was made by Tibetan refugees in India approximately 10 years ago. It is three by six feet and is quite heavy.

Please give generously for the benefit of all beings. Ohana Maitreya is a 501(c) (3) tax exempt organization.

Your donation is fully tax deductible.

Please note our new email address: algienne@omfund.org

Ohana Maitreya is dedicated in loving memory to Barbara Jarvis (1943-2005)

 

 

Thanksgiving 2014

Aloha Dear Friends,

Many blessings to each of you as we give thanks for our great good fortune to simply be.

I ask for your help only once a year, and I am asking you today for your continued support for Ohana Maitreya and the nuns of Tibetan Buddhism. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the task before me, and I wonder how to keep it all going and growing. Yet I need not worry. Ohana Maitreya has taken on a life of its own. The importance of our work, and of the nuns’ devotion and practice, carries us through the challenges. In return we experience a great warmheartedness.

It is something very positive in the face of the world’s suffering.

As if conditions could not be worse in Tibet, the communist Chinese government has now established police stations in many of the monasteries. Political education classes replace Dharma studies. If the legacy of Tibetan Buddhism is to survive intact to benefit all beings, it is up to us to step forward with moral and financial support for its stewards, the monks and nuns in exile. Ohana Maitreya’s focus is the nuns of northern India, but our reach goes much further.

Higher consciousness knows no boundaries. This is our effort and our vision: a higher consciousness that is guided by wisdom and compassion. The teachings of Buddha help us to uncover this treasure inherent in each of us. The nuns of Buddhism exemplify the feminine face of Buddha.

It is a powerful force, this feminine face. The nuns are deeply dedicated to their pursuit of enlightenment through their practice. It is imperative that they be offered the opportunity to achieve the highest degree of understanding of the teachings and recitations, the prayers and liturgies and rituals, and the insights of watching the mind.

NEWS FROM THE NUNS

Kagyu

In May of 2014 His Holiness Karmapa gave a teaching at Drubten Pemo Jalpay Gatsal (New Monastery) to the nuns at Tilokpur and a group of international devotees. The subject of the teaching was the Four Thoughts that Turn the Mind. These are: an appreciation of precious human life, the realization of death and impermanence, the defects of samsara, and cause and effect of karma. Karmapa also led a Mahakala Puja to remove obstacles.

The “Old Nunnery” at Tilokpur (Karma Drubgyu Thargay Ling) has been combined with “New Monastery” (Drubten Pemo Jalpay Gatsal). All the younger nuns are now together at the shedra (school) at New Monastery, where they are receiving general education along with a traditional course of Buddhist studies.

We hope everyone enjoyed our video about the Art Class at Tilokpur. Please contact us if you did not receive a copy (ohanamaitreya@earthlink.net). OM Fund supporter Nancy Nahm Kessler led the young nuns in an art and yoga adventure in autumn of 2013. The girls blossomed with the unleashing of their creative spirit.

The senior nuns at Tilokpur have been practicing Buddhist philosophical debate. His Holiness Karmapa is very supportive of the nuns in learning this highly skilled tradition formerly reserved for monks. To balance this intellectual pursuit, 21 nuns from Tilokpur are this month entering their 3 year, 3 month, and 3 day closed retreat at the Kagyu Nuns Retreat Center at Sherab-Ling Monastery in Himachal Pradesh.

Last year we sponsored 6 solar panels for the retreat center. Because of the large number of retreatants expected this year, the nuns have requested 2 additional panels to provide adequate hot water for all their needs.

We are also continuing to fund teachers’ salaries at Kulu and Chango Nunneries, both under the auspices of His Eminence Tai Situ Rinpoche.

Sakya
These wonderful photos taken by Tibetan linguist Kurt Schwalbe show the Sakya nuns in fierce Buddhist philosophical debate. Their beautiful school is in Dehra Dun. Ohana Maitreya is committed to the funding of an English as a Second Language teacher.

We are excited about the vision of establishing a health clinic for the benefit of the nuns at the college. The budget will consist of two components:

a) The initial cost of renovating a room and purchasing basic medical equipment, and b)The ongoing cost of medical staff, medications, and supplies. Women's health issues are a concern and it is important to deal with problems sooner rather than later. We will work with Khenpo Gyatso and the Principal of the college, Dechen Wangmo, to make a new clinic a reality. Nyingmapa This past year we were pleased to provide funding for a general education teacher for a group of young nuns from Nepal who are residing at Shugsep Nunnery in Dharamsala. In one year of intense focus the nuns were brought from virtually no schooling at all to the level of a seventh-grade education. At Shugsep, nuns can participate in a 9-year course of Buddhist academic study, leading to Geshema degree.

The Nyingmapa are the oldest of the major schools of Tibetan Buddhism.

Gelug

Ohana Maitreya is commited to the education of nuns at Dorjee Dzong Nunnery in Zanskar. These delightful photos of nuns in one of the most remote areas of the Himalayas were taken by French photographer Olivier Adam. A strong supporter of their education, Olivier has been meeting and photographing Tibetan Buddhist nuns since 2008. In 2012 and 2014 he and his partner Dominique Butet visited Dorjee Dzong Nunnery in Zanskar. Dominique has written the following report:

The school of Dorjee Dzong stands a hundred meters below the ancestral nunnery, facing the wide valley of Zanskar at an altitude of almost 4000 m.

This school was built two years ago by all the nuns from 25 to 81 years with a full enthusiasm and deep motivation. I can easily remember how they carried sand, stones and clay bricks all the day, doing all this heavy work with a laugh and how they also found time to prepare tea and delicious lunch to all the people who were collaborating. It was a beautiful experience for sharing a few days with them.

The school opened in December 2013 with 17 students. Then came the winter holidays from mid-December to beginning of March. During summer 2014, only eleven students were there when we visited the school. The teacher explained that some had gone to help in the work of the fields of their family and others had not yet returned from Kalachakra which had taken place in Ladakh. The teacher also told us she hoped to have seventeen students before September.

Among the eleven little present nuns in July, eight are quite young (the youngest is seven years old) and three are older (between 11 and 17 years old).

The young teacher, Thupten Zangmo, aged 29 years, is coming from Mulbeck, in Jammu Kashmir, 40 km from Kargil. Before, she was nun at Wakha Nunnery and she decided to become a teacher because she was very interested in education. She was appointed by the CIBS (Central Institute of Buddhist Studies). She is full of motivation and is in charge of four subjects: Tibetan, English, Hindi and Maths. Every day, the little nuns are waking up at 6 am. Then they are attending the puja from 7 to 8am. Breakfast is at 8.30 and school is starting at 10 am up to 4 pm with a lunch break from 1 to 2 pm. Then the nuns can play from 4 to 5 pm and are joining the self-study and the repetition just after, from 5 to 7 pm. Dinner is at 8:30 pm after prayers. A long day for both teacher and students where the education of girls is in the heart of the issue! Fortunately, a cooking woman, Lobsang Tsomo is helping her for the meals. Two nuns originating from Dorjee Dzong and living winter in Dharamsala are also supporting this school project with a huge motivation.

Links are forged gradually between the small nuns and the elderly who are living above. The small sometimes visit the nunnery, attending a puja in the very old temple. They are also sometimes found in the garden next to the school, doing gardening together. We can hope that a real transmission has begun for the future of Dorjee Dzong.

You can see more of Olivier’s photos of Buddhist nuns at www.olivieradam.fr

If you would like to sponsor an individual nun at the nunneries we support, please go to the Tibetan Nuns Project at www.tnp.org.

Gratitude. What a precious feeling to have in one’s heart! We may not save the planet. We may not even save our souls! But we can rest at night knowing we have contributed to the well-being of others and thus ourselves.

Please, give generously this year for our precious Dharma sisters and all that they represent for us.

Have a blessed holiday season.

Warmest regards,

Algienne Amrita

(Thanksgiving2014.pdf)

 

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Thanksgiving 2013

Aloha,

This November, Ohana Maitreya celebrates its fifth anniversary of working with Buddhist nuns in India. With deepest gratitude we honor all who have inspired and supported us along the way. We have found our rhythm and our strength, and we look to the future with clear vision.

I am writing to you today to ask for your support for our projects for the coming year. With many worthy causes competing for our attention and our dollars, each of us must choose wisely where we place our money and our trust. As Director of Ohana Maitreya, I make these promises to you:

▪ All operating and fundraising expenses are paid for privately. 100% of your donation goes to the nuns.

▪ We do not share or rent our mailing list.

▪ I will write a formal “appeal” letter once a year. Any amount you can offer is deeply appreciated and will be used carefully and responsibly.

▪ Ohana Maitreya is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Your gift is fully tax-deductible.

Tibetan Buddhist culture is severely threatened to the point of extinction in its homeland. Ohana Maitreya’s vision is straightforward: We support Tibetan Buddhist nuns in India through housing and education, thereby helping to preserve and perpetuate a legacy that can benefit all beings. Our projects and goals for 2014 include continued funding of teachers’ salaries and maintenance and equipment of facilities.

RetreatBuilding-smWe have received a request from the Karma Kagyu Nuns’ Retreat Center in Himachal Pradesh for six solar panels. This center is the oldest retreat facility for Buddhist nuns in India. Nuns are in closed retreat for 3 years, 3 months and 3 days. They study advanced yogas such as tummo (inner heat) and lucid dreaming and practice techniques such as insight meditation and chanting of pujas.

Hot water is essential to the nuns’ health and well-being, but heating with non-renewable energy sources is cost-prohibitive. The estimated cost for the solar project is $6000.00.

DSC01323-smWe have also received a request from the nuns at New Monastery at Bhatoli Village for dining hall furniture. At present, the nuns are eating on the cement floor. The estimated cost is $1000.00

We continue to be committed to the funding of teachers’ salaries at approximately $1800.00 per year per teacher. Seeds of wisdom planted in young minds bear fruit as nuns either return to the community or take full monastic vows and deepen their practice.

Why would someone become a nun? A family will sometimes offer a daughter to Buddha out of tradition, but the women who stay on the path and take full vows are nuns by their own choice and are totally dedicated.

“Ani-La’s” story:

detchen-sm“From the viewpoint of Samsara, I saw the suffering in families where there was too much attachment to worldly things. Maybe there was not enough money or perhaps someone was drinking heavily. I did not want that kind of life for myself. But mostly, I loved Buddhism. I did the pujas when I was young, even though I did not understand them at the time. I was thirsty. After my first 3-year retreat, I wanted more, so I did a second one. I wanted to know - merit means what? Karma means what? Devotion means…what?

“A nun’s life is very, very difficult. It is very hard work, learning texts, doing pujas, keeping long hours and living simply. We are always looking towards the next life. We know that we will benefit in the next life from merit accumulated in this one. We want to have real understanding of mind so that we may be of benefit to all sentient beings. For this we are willing to sacrifice everything."

statue-smI ask you from the bottom of my heart to please give whatever you can to help these courageous women and girls. Remember – 100% of your donation goes to the nuns.
Sending you the very best this holiday season,

Yours in Dharma,

Algienne Amrita

 

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August 15, 2013

Blessings to one and all. “The First Turning of the Wheel of Dharma” denotes Buddha Shakyamuni’s first teaching on the Four Noble Truths and the Eight-Fold Path, over 2500 years ago in Varanasi, India. It is celebrated on the fourth day of the sixth Tibetan month. In 2013 “Dharmachakra Day” fell on July 11th. Monks and nuns throughout the world observed this most special day with Dharma teachings, prayers, and silent meditation.

The wheel turns, and we are blessed that the glorious path of Tibetan Buddhism continues in the Himalayas and in the world beyond. It has been a pivotal year for nuns. They are taking on roles of responsibility, learning, and leadership heretofore unattainable. They are making history for women and for Buddhism.

2012-2013 marks several significant events for the nuns of the Karma Kagyu lineage. Basic construction at the new shedra at Bhatoli Village has been completed.

Ani Lama Karma Tsultrim, abbess at New Monastery,persevered in her vision to complete the project. Ani-La died on December 13, 2012. She was known for her strong devotion. She died in deep meditation and showed just how powerful the Buddhist practice can be.

Kamstang Yeshe Rabgye Ling is an ambitious new project in Kulu, Himachal Pradesh. It expands on the nunnery at Chango, and the facilities are shared according to the seasons. The nuns are from many different countries. Ohana Maitreya is funding 3 teachers at Kulu and 2 at Chango. The nuns are studying English, Hindi, and Tibetan languages, and Buddhist philosophy.

The Sakya nuns in Dehra Dun are practicing debate, and the atmosphere, I am told, is electric! With minds razorsharp, they expound on the finer points of Buddhist philosophy. Ohana Maitreya is funding an English teacher for the Sakya nuns at the college.

The news from Dorjee Zong nunnery in Zanskar comes when nuns living in Dharamsala have visited the nunnery. Recently the report came that the Dorjee Zong nuns are learning Tibetan language and Buddhist philosophy on a regular basis. The exciting word here is “regular”. Nuns from this remote and extreme area of the Himalayas are often required to put their studies second to survival duties and community obligations.

Ohana Maitreya has funded the Tibetan teacher for the nuns of Dorjee Zong. Inside Tibet the self immolations protesting Chinese rule continue, the toll now reaching over 120. In India, on July 7th nine bomb blasts rocked the temple complex and surrounding area at Bodhgaya. Luckily, neither the Bodhi tree where Buddha became enlightened nor the temple itself was damaged, and no lives were lost. Yet it is hard not to feel disheartened.

“We pray, O Lord of Mercy, In heaven shelter give To those who sacrifice their all, And perish for their faith Fulfill, O Lord, our yearning, Ever cherished and undimmed, That our beloved Land of Snows May yet again be free.” ~ Traditional Tibetan prayer

Take heart. We are making a difference.

Yours in Dharma,

Algienne Amrita

 

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November 22, 2012

Aloha,

I hope and pray this letter finds you in good health. Thank you for caring about the nuns of Tibetan Buddhism. As Ohana Maitreya enters its fifth year, I am writing today to ask for your continuing support.

In Tibet, the Chinese government continues its practice of the forcible closure of Tibetan schools. Schools that teach Tibetan language or Buddhism are raided in a blanket campaign to destroy an entire culture. From private schools to monasteries to orphanages, teachers are arrested and students sent away. What can we do?

At Ohana Maitreya, 2012 has been about educating ourselves, becoming aware of the deeper needs and potential of the girls and women that we assist. A woman who has escaped communist ruled Tibet has a very different context from her counterpart raised in democratic India. Their cultures intersect in the Buddhist nunneries of India.

Ohana Maitreya was very fortunate to have a dear friend, a Buddhist nun from Himachal Pradesh, visit with us for one month. Every day was rich with stories, and each night was filled with intense discussion. There is so much work to do, and time is running out.

Ani-La’s village in the high Himalayas is changing. When she was a little girl, her family would store cabbages in the frozen river in winter to provide fresh vegetables throughout the cold times. Now, because of climate change, the river no longer freezes. The apples are not as sweet and crisp and do not bring the high prices of the past. Food must be trucked in from the south and stored in refrigerators. Now there is electricity and a road, and the outside world has arrived. The survival of her culture depends on educating the children in both the old ways and the new.

On the hill above Ani-La’s village is a nunnery with a class of about 30 young girls. There has been no teacher for academic subjects due to lack of funding. We have learned that lack of money for teachers’ salaries is a problem throughout the region.

We believe that good teachers are a classroom’s most important equipment! This is our next focus, and we urgently need your help. For the year 2013, Ohana Maitreya has committed to the sponsorship of a minimum of 8 teachers at 5 nunneries, including the one at Ani-La’s village and another in remotest Zanskar, at the edge of the Tibetan plateau. The salary for one teacher is approximately $2,000 per year. The most critical need is for teachers for literacy in English language and formal Tibetan.

An OmFund supporter has written, “There is so much need in the world it is mind-boggling. We are fortunate to be able to help in small targeted ways”.

We are also very excited to announce the completion of basic construction of “New Monastery” at Bhatoli village, Himachal Pradesh. The new dormitory wing is up and running! Still needed are funds for painting, plumbing, and furniture.We believe that we have an amazing opportunity to educate many girls and women who will in turn educate others. Since a nunnery is often a Himalayan girl’s only chance to go to school, the scope and vision of this undertaking can only grow. We are excited to turn our attention to this issue.

In the West, we have been blessed with teachings on meditation from many of Tibetan Buddhism’s highest lamas. We have available to us an astonishing array of previously secret texts, all translated into several modern languages. And yet we are missing something integral. It is not enough to understand with the mind. The soul yearns for something ancient and great. We ache for our heart’s home. When an officiant ties a novice’s robes during ordination ceremony, it represents an unbroken lineage since Shakyamuni Buddha. The monastic tradition is charged with keeping the purity and essence of the Buddha’s teachings so that countless sentient beings may benefit.

In the beginning...in 2005 with the nuns of Chango in Kinnaur province. Chango will benefit from teachers’ salaries provided by Ohana Maitreya, along with nuns from Bhatoli Village, Kulu, Zanskar, and other nunneries

Dharma’s children are Dharma’s future. A traditional monastic education paired with modern skills and general knowledge will ensure that this priceless treasure will survive. We help to empower women through adult literacy and computer skills. By also providing opportunities for girls to learn and grow in a secure and safe environment, we play a unique part in the preservation of Buddhist Himalayan culture. Please help, in whatever amount you can, for the benefit of all beings. 100% of your donation goes directly to the nuns.

Wishing you a joyous Holiday Season,
Yours in Dharma,
Algienne Amrita

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Spring 2012

Recent Headlines from Phayul.com-
News & Views on Tibet

- A burning nun illuminates Tibet’s agony- January 4, 2012
- Report says China maintaining “world’s most sophisticated system of authoritarian political control” – January 20, 2012
- Monks jailed for refusing to denounce the Dalai Lama – January 20, 2012
- 5 killed in fresh protests in Serthar – January 24, 2012
- Tibetan prisoner paralyzed after severe torture, released – January 24, 2012
- Tibetans shot to death on Chinese New Year – January 23, 2012
- Tibet: “Silence is complicity”- French Senator- January 25, 2012
- Protest in Lhasa, China tightens security- January 27, 2012
- A young student killed protecting his friend- January 28, 2012
- China demands “its share” of Arunachal Pradesh – January 29, 2012
- Disturbing images of Tibet protests reach exile- February 3, 2012
- Monks fleeing monastery fearing persecution- February 24, 2012
- International media presence in Lhasa worse than Pyongyang, says press freedom group- February 27, 2012
- World Bank says China’s economic growth unsustainable, suggests reforms to avoid social unrest – February 28, 2012
- Exile women’s group calls for multilateral pressure on China- March 5, 2012
- Fire rages on in Tibet: Tibetan School girl dies in self-immolation protest- March 5, 2012
- The Dalai Lama offers prayers for victims of violence in Tibet & Syria- March 8, 2012

Sources:
www.dalailama.com
www.kagyuoffice.org
www.phayul.com
www.savetibet.org

Aloha and Tashi Delek,

I hope and pray this letter finds you in good health and strong spirit. Many thanks to all who support Tibetan Buddhist nuns through Ohana Maitreya.

Sitting with a friend in front of his computer screen, I said, “Google self-immolation.” “What’s that?” he asked. “People setting themselves on fire.” He replied, “I don’t want to see that – it’s going to be horrible stuff.” But he pulled up the images anyway, and we looked. Anger. Overwhelming horror and sadness. Disbelief. We quickly looked away.

On January 6, 2012, His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa spoke in Bodhgaya, India to a group of 8000 newly arrived Tibetans. “The main job of you Tibetans within Tibet is to guard and preserve Tibetan culture and religion”, he said. “It is the job of us Tibetans in India and other free countries to let the world know what is going on within Tibet.”

One month later, on February 7, 2012, His Holiness Karmapa made another statement regarding escalating tensions inside Tibet: “Each new report of a Tibetan death brings me immense pain and sadness; three in a single day is more than the heart can bear.” He urged Tibetans to “Always bear in mind that your lives have great value, as human beings and as Tibetans.”

I am writing to you today because to remain silent is more than my own heart can bear. A few years ago, I was gifted with a fine art print depicting a figure seated in lotus position, engulfed in flames. I perceived the image as a metaphor for the burning away of the ego to reveal one’s eternal nature. I placed it so that it would be the first thing I would see on waking, alongside photos of His Holinesses Dalai Lama and Karmapa. But now, it is a constant reminder of something shockingly real.

Many of you will remember the iconic photograph from 1963 of a monk who sits in flames in a Saigon street, having set himself alight in protest of the Vietnamese government’s treatment of Buddhists. The same is now happening in Tibet. A growing number of Tibetans, both lay and monastic, have “self-immolated”, mostly in the Ngaba area of Kham in eastern Tibet. The Chinese authorities are treating these as terrorist acts. But unlike the suicide bomber who takes the lives of others along with his own, these Tibetans die alone. They wish to draw the world’s attention to the fact that, in parts of Tibet, things really are that bad. They die shouting slogans such as “Tibet will be free” and “Long live the Dalai Lama.” We cannot be unmoved when we see the images of their fiery deaths. Like the mushroom cloud, there is a terrible beauty that can move us to anger, disgust, fear, to shut down our emotions and dismiss these acts as madness...or to look again and try to comprehend the incomprehensible. Can we distinguish, in our own minds, morbid curiosity from the courage to care, to bear witness?

There is a climate of fear and distrust in a large number of the monasteries and nunneries inside Tibet, with Chinese patriotic re-education classes and undercover police and forced denunciations of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. It is this last that Tibetans find most painful, as they regard the Dalai Lama as a living Buddha who embodies the very heart of Tibet.

There is no access to news or information inside Tibet other than the highly censored Chinese state media. There are government controls over mobile phones and the internet, and Tibetans feel increasingly isolated from the world. Although there are areas that remain peaceful, there are regions of East Tibet where people fought against the People’s Liberation Army in the 1950’s. Tourists are now banned from these so-called “rebellious areas.” The Dalai Lama’s recent resignation as temporal head of the Tibetan Government in Exile underscores his wish to promote democratic self-rule for Tibet within a greater China. But for many Tibetans, especially the younger ones, nothing less than full independence will satisfy. That will not come easily.

Events inside Tibet impact the entire world but especially affect all areas of the Himalayas. The nuns in northern India that are assisted by Ohana Maitreya comprise a mix of Tibetans born in exile, nuns recently arrived from Tibet, and girls and women from other regions including Kinnaur, Ladakh, and the disputed border areas between India and China such as Arunachal Pradesh. Some nuns within the Tibetan refugee population are politicized and others not. All strive to acquire a Buddhist education in the face of increasing frustration throughout the exile community.

There are images that will forever haunt me. Photographs from the Nazi death camps. The burning monk of Saigon. More recently, the images are female. On the streets of Tehran, she looks up in bewilderment as she lies dying. In a stadium in Kabul, she awaits her execution. And now, the nun Palden Choetso, in Tawu, East Tibet. You see only her feet, planted firmly, as her body is devoured by flames. These images torment me. I feel a responsibility to bear witness, to remember all those souls who suffer in bondage, be it in a prison in Tibet or a prison of the mind. It would be easier to say that as a meditator and Dharma practitioner, I do not involve myself in politics and negativity. But this is our world on fire, our collective Karma, our One Mind for better or worse. This is our creation.

His Holiness Karmapa, in his February 6, 2012 statement, laments the fact that “As tensions escalate, instead of showing concern and trying to understand the causes of the situation, the Chinese authorities respond with increasing force and oppression...” “I pray that these sacrifices have not been in vain, but will yield a change in policy that will bring our Tibetan brothers and sisters relief.” He concludes with the aspiration, “May the New Year usher in an era of harmony, characterized by love and respect for each other and for the earth that is our common home.”

This is what I ask of us today: Do not turn away from suffering. Keep hope alive, that those who suffer may find the welcoming arms of Tara’s compassion on the other side of hell. Never doubt that a simple act of kindness, a single mantra, a prayer whispered in the night really can change the universe. Bear witness for Tibet. Learn what you can, do what you can, care.

“The more you are motivated by love, the more fearless and free your actions will be.”
-His Holiness 14th Dalai Lama

Om Shanti.
Yours in the Dharma,
Algienne Amrita
Director, Ohana Maitreya

Ohana Maitreya empowers and educates Tibetan Buddhist nuns living in India through the construction, maintenance, and equipment of facilities offering the traditional course of Buddhist monastic studies. To learn more, please go to www.OMFUND.org.

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August 2011

Aloha,

May this letter find each of you in good health and spirit. As the blessings from the recent Washington, D.C. Kalachakra ceremonies with His Holiness Dalai Lama reverberate out into the world, I am reminded of how extremely fortunate we are to live in freedom. In contrast, on July 2, 2011, in East Tibet, three nuns from Kardze Nunnery were given prison sentences of three years each “for carrying out peaceful protest in the Kardze County market. They raised slogans demanding Tibet’s independence and His Holiness Dalai Lama’s return” (Phayul, July 14, 2011). In the face of such courage, we must do whatever we can to help the women of Buddhism.
In our continuing support of the Tibetan Buddhist nuns of northern India, many of whom escaped Tibet and the border regions to freely practice their religion, I am writing to you with some very exciting news: Ohana Maitreya is now an independent non-profit organization and has been granted 501 (c) (3) federal tax-exempt status! We are deeply grateful to the International Campaign for Tibet for giving us a strong beginning. Ohana Maitreya was launched in November 2008 in honor of Barbara Jarvis of Hawaii. Now that we are established, we are ready for the next step.

We are: the same faces with new hats, and a couple of new faces. John Ackerly and Algienne Amrita are the founding Board of Directors. Lucy Jarvis chairs the Advisory Council, aided by Robin Mazor and Michael Carr. Michael is new to our team and brings with him computer savvy, linguistic skills, and life wisdom. Our Secretary, Shelley Draper-Luchini, has been with us from the beginning. There are the many monastic friends who are the very reason for our work and who help with every aspect: the ani-las and lama-las, the Geshes and Rinpoches and Gelongmas, the lineage holders and novices of Tibetan Buddhism. And there is you, Ohana Maitreya’s donor base and support. Please stand with us as we enter the next phase of this important work.

Ohana Maitreya supports the empowerment of women, the Tibetan Buddhist culture of the Himalayas, and the perpetuation of Dharma wisdom. We do this by building housing and educational facilities for Buddhist nuns in northern India. Sakyamuni Buddha himself established the monastic system as a means of preserving and perpetuating his message and methods.

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It is 3 AM at a nuns’ retreat center hidden in a forest in India. My room is just beyond the courtyard wall. All is silent save for a faint tinkling sound and whispered chant that softly intrudes on my fitful sleep. Morning puja is beginning, and consciousness arises with Praise to the 21 Taras. I lie in my bed and listen until daybreak. Years later I still wake before dawn listening to the memories in my mind and feeling the vibration of sacred, primordial sound and mantras in the darkness.

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There are so many worthwhile “causes” calling for our money and our attention. Why this one? Why should we care about these women and girls so far away, murmuring in an ancient language we don’t understand? It is my true belief that the treasure that the nuns of Buddhism are carrying has the potential to affect everything and everyone in our world. All those endless problems and causes and needs, all that suffering, if held up to the light of Dharma wisdom and true compassion, can shift in an instant. Like the beating of the butterfly wings that births the hurricane, a mantra whispered in the night can change the universe.

With focus, flexibility, and deep listening; through the construction and maintenance of facilities, the purchase of books and supplies, and the encouragement of caring people like you and me, Ohana Maitreya assists and supports the nuns of Tibetan Buddhism.

We are just $35,000 from our goal for completion of the new nunnery at Bhatoli Village in Himachal Pradesh. We have recently made a grant to purchase equipment for making incense so that the nuns may have some means of income.

We extend to you a sincere welcome to the new Ohana Maitreya. We ask you to do whatever you can to help with this truly fulfilling work. All operating and fundraising expenses such as the cost of this mailing are paid for privately. 100% of your fully tax deductible donation goes directly to the nuns. Please give generously for the benefit of all beings.

Blessings,
Algienne Amrita
Director, Ohana Maitreya

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Om Fund Appeal Letter Fall 2010

I hope and pray this letter finds each of you in good health and spirit.  As Ohana Maitreya nears the completion of a second year, I grow ever more grateful for your confidence and support.  It has been a very busy year and there is much news to share.

In early summer the Om Fund made a grant of $15,000 to the school for nuns at Bhatoli Village in Himachal Pradesh, India.  The first expenditure was for the purchase of a large capacity water purification filter.  Monsoon’s heavy rains present many sanitation problems in India.  The young nuns at Bhatoli have also begun art classes in addition to their regular studies.  This comes within our mandate of “construction and equipment of shedras” and we hope to be able to offer funding for art supplies in addition to our goal of completion of construction of facilities.

Ohana Maitreya also made a grant to Jamyang Choling Nunnery for the purchase of three computers.  Tenzin Yejung, a senior nun, writes: “...Most of the nuns come from underprivileged, isolated communities in the Himalayan regions of India, Nepal, and Tibet. ...An opportunity to study is a nun’s opportunity to reach her goal of spiritual understanding, and while some nuns may choose to teach or undertake retreat once their studies are complete, some feel more drawn towards administration and service to the nunnery to ensure the community’s continuation for future generations of nuns.  This requires sound computer skills and the ability to understand and communicate with donors and supporters throughout the world.”  (For the complete text of Tenzin’s letter please refer to our website, www.omfund.org).  Her insights highlight a tremendous benefit of our work, that of communication.  By sharing knowledge, culture, and the dharma path, and by simply communicating with the nuns in everyday ways, we are all enriched.

Other recent additions to our website include a very informative article on the Tibetan language by Om Fund supporter Elizabeth Scamahorn.  Liz makes clear the importance of keeping alive this priceless legacy: “A wealth of information is stored in the written Tibetan language.  If this language is not fostered, the opportunity for contemplation of this knowledge will be lost forever.”

Knowledge of written Tibetan is an important part of a nun’s studies.  This fact is more relevant than ever.  A recent edict by the Chinese government that all schools in Tibet must use Chinese as the language of instruction has students on the march.   According to an October 22, 2010 ICT report, “Protests by Tibetan school and college students over plans to restrict the use of their language has spread from several areas of Qinghai to Beijing...The scale of the protest across Tibet at a time of already intense political repression- and now in China’s capital reflect the strength of feeling  about the marginalization and erosion of their language, the bedrock of Tibetan identity, religion and culture.

His Holiness Dalai Lama has responded that Tibetan language is vital for Tibetan Buddhist culture.

With that in mind, I have very exciting news indeed!  KarmaLeela Cards & Prints is our new online store, where 100% of net proceeds benefit nuns through the Om Fund.   Check us out at www.karmaleela.org!  We have over 175 cards for our initial offering, with many more to come. We are very, very pleased with the high quality of our cards and hope you will be too.  Please tell your friends, social network members, and dharma centers.  We need your help to make this venture a success.

In closing I ask that you please consider making a year-end tax deductible donation to the Om Fund.  Our work is extremely important for the nuns, but it is also important for us, the lucky recipients of the treasure of knowledge preserved in the Buddhist culture of the Himalayas.  When we give to the nuns we also give to ourselves.  Please give generously, for the benefit of all beings.

May your holiday season be filled with love and light,

Algienne Amrita

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November 16, 2009

Aloha,

Ohana Maitreya Fund for Buddhist NunsMany, many mahalos to all of you for the confidence you have placed in the Ohana Maitreya Fund for Buddhist Nuns. One year ago November 22nd, our new initiative was launched at Harmony Farms, on the island of Kauai, Hawaii. On a stormy night, safe under the Big Top tent, seventy-five people gathered to begin a wonderful adventure together, that of building schools and housing for Tibetan Buddhist nuns on the other side of the world.

Thanksgiving is a very special time on our farm. When Barbara was with us, there were always get-togethers and pot-luck dinners at her house. Now we are harvesting fruit from trees she planted. In celebration of her life and friendship, the OmFund is dedicated to the memory of Barbara Jarvis.

I am very pleased to report that in its first year Ohana Maitreya has made significant progress. We made two grants totaling $50,000 towards the completion of Drubten Pemo Jalpey Gatsyal, the first Karma Kagyu lineage facility for higher Buddhist studies for nuns. We are also excited to have played a part in the successful drilling of the well at the new Sakya College for nuns at Dehra Dun, with a grant of $6,000. Inauguration of this facility was accomplished in September 2009. A grant of $1,000 was also given to the Tibetan Nuns Project to be used at their discretion for capital improvements at various nunneries that they support.

We are thrilled to offer the enclosed DVD for your enjoyment! “Play One” is a short informational video explaining our goals. “Play Two” is the original footage sent from the nuns, with some added narration and music. It follows them throughout the day as they say morning prayers, attend classes, and work in the gardens. Their video was a total surprise to me and simply arrived one day in our p.o. box. It was the nuns’ idea as a way of saying thanks to all of those who are helping them. That’s us!

Ohana MaitreyaWe are very grateful to all of you for giving and sharing despite the challenges of our economy. I have one special request: please show the video to friends and sangha. If each person on our mailing list will make the commitment to bring in one more donor, our ohana will be twice as strong, and our work will go much more quickly. $100,000 is still needed for the completion of the new dormitory wing you will see under construction in the video. There are many more projects for nuns that need our help.

The young girls at this nunnery come from very poor families from remote areas. Some of their stories are quite harrowing. Yet they are all very dedicated to Dharma and eager to learn. Children take “novice vows” and make their final decision about monastic life when they are much older. These women and girls hold the future of the precious Buddha Dharma in their hands, and they need our help. They are holding a treasure for all of us.

This Thanksgiving, may we open our hearts and minds and with infinite gratitude for the blessings all around us, may we extend our love and aloha to all sentient beings.

Om Shanti,
Algienne Amrita
Ohana Maitreya Director

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June 5, 2009
World Environment Day

Dharamsala, May 16: His Holiness the Dalai Lama on Saturday said Buddhist nuns from Himalayan regions have an important responsibility in preserving Tibetan Buddhist traditions, which he said was facing an uncertain future in its homeland.

“The highly evolved Tibetan Buddhist tradition is facing an uncertain future in Tibet and it is time for the Buddhist nuns from Himalayan regions to also play an important role in preserving this rich and unique spiritual tradition,” the Dalai Lama said.

“So I always emphasize that people in the Himalayan regions now have a special responsibility to safeguard and preserve the ancient and rich Buddhist tradition that is deeply rooted in the Tibetan and Himalayan culture,” His Holiness added.
(www.phayul.com)

Aloha,

I hope and pray this finds all of you in good health and spirit. We are truly living in extraordinary times. Despite the challenges of our economy, our growing ohana now extends from Honolulu to Amsterdam! I am happy to report that the OmFund has made its first grant. $36,000 has gone to Tilokpur Nunnery towards the completion of a second dormitory wing at the new shedra, Drubten Pemo Jalpay Gatsal. An agreement has been made with the builders to work in 3 phases at $50,000 each. We hope to be able to make a second distribution within the next month. Thanks to all of our donors, the OmFund has made a strong beginning in an extremely difficult environment for non-profits. I extend my sincere and heartfelt thanks to all who have shown their confidence in us.

When the idea for the Ohana Maitreya Fund first came to me one year ago, I could not have envisioned the challenges that lay before us. Yet I am more dedicated than ever to our mission. So that as much as possible of your donation can go to the nunneries, I have committed to personally underwriting the expenses of fundraising such as printed materials, mailings, and website development.

The focus for Tibetan issues is shifting. Endless negotiations with the government in Beijing have yielded few tangible results, and the situation inside Tibet is deteriorating. Monastics and lay people continue to leave Tibet, yet increasingly the generation born in exile also aspires to maintain its identity and spiritual heritage. Tibetan Buddhist culture is spread throughout the Himalayas, and the political upheavals in Tibet have a destabilizing effect on the entire region. This is a linchpin situation, where a slight shift can have an enormous impact.

Knowledge is power. The education of Buddhist nuns trains women to be real and effective leaders. An example is climate change. At The U.N. climate talks in Krakow, Poland, H.H. Dalai Lama warned that in the Tibetan plateau area, “warming is higher than global rate” (APF). Visionaries such as His Holiness Dalai Lama and His Holiness Karmapa promote increased awareness of environmental issues in the monasteries and nunneries. This greatly influences the communities they serve. H.H. Karmapa has recently released his “108 Things You Can do for the Environment” (www.kagyuoffice.org). We can truly make a difference here.

The 28 new young nuns at Tilokpur have begun classes, and they all have very sharp minds and are strongly motivated to learn. For many girls in the Himalayas, becoming a nun is the best chance they have for education and a choice in life. After many years of study, novices may take full ordination vows or leave monastic life. Yet for many nuns, the calling to a life devoted to the practice of Dharma comes at a very early age. My friend Dechen tells of announcing her decision to become a nun when she was five years old. The Dalai Lama was making a visit to her village, and being so small, she ran underneath the legs of the guarding policeman and stood before His Holiness to receive His blessings. Now in her forties, she is wise, empowered, and totally dedicated to her work as a senior nun.

His Holiness Dalai Lama was recently interviewed by Fareed Zakaria (CNN, May 10, 2009). In it he stated: “We are very much willing and committed to remain with the people of China…we also have some unique cultural heritage, including our language…I think from a wider perspective, I think a Tibetan cultural heritage is a compassionate cultural heritage, peaceful cultural heritage. It’s something useful on this planet.”

My friend Barbara would patiently counsel me when my heart was troubled that the opposite of love is not hate but fear. May we embody fearless compassion in all our endeavors. With your support, the Ohana Maitreya Fund continues to expand in both scope and vision.
Many Blessings to all of you,

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February 22, 2009
Steamboat Springs, Colorado

Aloha,

I hope and pray this finds each of you in good health and spirit.
Three months ago today, the Ohana Maitreya Fund for Buddhist Nuns launched its campaign at Harmony Farms on Kauai. I truly hope that our ohana will encompass the world, but those first friends that gathered under the tent that rainy night will forever be my "monsoon ohana." Thank you for being there!

I would like to bring you up to date on our progress. Our first mailing of our new and beautiful brochures to the Hawaii members of the International Campaign for Tibet is scheduled for February 25th, the date on which Tibetan New Year falls this year. Foregoing the usual festivities, Tibetans have chosen to observe their favorite holiday in quiet remembrance of those who died last March in the uprising against Chinese rule.

The Om Fund team members continue to spread our message at any opportunity. Lucy Jarvis and her assistant Scott McArthur will be handing out our cards and brochures at a week-long Tibetan film festival in New York City in early March. Lucy's encouragement and enthusiasm and Barbara's guiding spirit give me the courage and confidence that together we can succeed.
The next step in the development of the Om Fund will be to expand our web-site and internet links. I hope to develop a news page. Now that we have Tibetan translators to help us communicate with the nuns, our work should progress more quickly. Yet it is still India, and if India teaches anything it is patience!

It would seem to be a crazy time to fundraise. Yet the need is greater than ever, as all non-profits have had to cut their programs as a result of the economic crunch. I see this as an essential time to fundraise, and feel lucky that Ohana Maitreya was established before the crisis. Our economy is truly global and we are all connected. Even the remote village of Chango, shown in my slideshow as the village where everyone dances, has been affected. Many fruit growers returned from markets with no buyers for this year's harvest.
However, there have been exciting developments at the new Tilokpur Nunnery. Thirty young girls from very poor families have arrived, so now it is truly time to complete the construction of their new home and school. My friend Chonye, has begun classes with the children. The nuns are looking for a full-time teacher.

With the help of our Tibetan translators I will be contacting several more nunneries to let them know of our existence and to see what is needed. Most of them are in various stages of construction. When we can show success at Tilokpur we can inspire hope and confidence. The Om Fund has an interest in seeing projects to completion.

I truly believe that the only way our world will survive will be through individuals coming together in a shared endeavor that touches their hearts. The old approach to fund-raising for non-profits was to rely on a few large donations. I know, I used to be one of those donors. Big money is very hard to find these days. Yet we all have a little, and we all have friends. It's the Obama/Ohana approach! It utilizes the Web, and I am asking for your help to spread the word. If you have e-mail and would like to participate, please send your e-mail address to me c/o: ohanamaitreya@earthlink.net. I will then send you a short e-mail letter describing the Om Fund and how it started, with a request that anyone interested please forward the letter to friends they think might be interested, and on and on… You will be the one to press the initial send, so your privacy and choice will remain intact. It is now possible to donate online from our web-site. To meet the challenges ahead and to fulfill what has become my life's work, to grow the sense of community spirit that Barbara inspired, I need my ohana. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for being a part of it. I will keep you informed of our progress.

Om Shanti,
Algienne Amrita
Founder, Ohana Maitreya