A Guide for Your Life at Gampo Abbey

An open letter to all future nuns and monks

photo by Scott Munn 2016

photo by Scott Munn

by Trime Chosang

Dear New Virtuous Sangha Member,
You are about to enter a very magical place. The door to this Monastery is the next step on your path to enlightenment. Please honor that by being open to it. On the doorstep, try to leave all that you know about Shrines, all the forms you knew, all the positions you have held, and most of all your ego. Entering, you will become a monastic infant. A newbie. Enjoy that!
Eagerness, impatience, try leaving these behind as well. Bask in the newness. Be open to all. This is not a Dathun, a weekthun, or a retreat. This is a Monastery, a small intimate community, different from anything you have encountered.
You will receive transmissions on a need to know basis. Relax. Your time will come. Follow the schedule. Take your three days to adjust. Let your transmissions unfold. Enjoy. Breathe.
Depending on the time of year you arrive, there are differences. The 9 month monastic program life is different from the Yarne program life, all are different from the 3 month gap life.
The 9 month program is full of monastic transmissions, classes and sitting. The Yarne time has more forms, more sitting, class discussions, talks, more people, more silent days. The gap period is slower, more open, significantly less people. Remember, just follow the schedule and you will do fine.
Oh, one more thing …. everything is subject to change. Yes, just when you thought you had it down, schedule, everything, it will change. Such is life at the Abbey! Go with the flow. Be adaptable, accept change and you will have less stress. Remember? ego was left at the door? Yes, remember that you left your ego outside, on the doorstep. Breathe.
Just a few hints:
Read the postings on the bulletin boards often. All are subject to change. Read the blackboards for immediate changes, directions. During Yarne, look on the shelf in the Shrine room behind the shrine room door, for additional lists your name might be on.
Be mindful. If you are on the list for purified water, then make sure it is ready when needed. Anticipate the needs and refill if necessary. No matter what task you have been assigned, be on time and take it seriously. If you are responsible for Ani Pema’s water during talks, again, be mindful, on time, etc.
If you are here for nine up to twelve months, this is your home. You are building a community. Being mindful helps everyone.
When washing your dishes, please use soap and hot water. Please make sure all food is removed, and rinse all soap off.
If you are ill, please inform your dekyong (sp?) and remain in your room until you are not contagious. They will arrange for food to be delivered to you.
Since everything is subject to change, specifics can not be listed here. Just do your tasks the way you were taught by the Monastic Gekko, or your department heads, until they inform you of other changes. “Yes, Thank you!” is a very helpful phrase to learn and practice here. Generosity is in accepting.
Remember to write notes if you are not attending specific sits in the Shrine room.
There will be little things that don’t make any sense .. like no baking on open days. Just go with it. You can access the kitchen most nights to do some baking if necessary. This is your home while you are here, treat it nicely, be mindful and you will deepen in your practice.
Since you have left your ego on the doorstep, you will not take any corrections personally, right? It’s not you … it’s the Abbey. Follow the schedule. Breathe. Be mindful. Enjoy!
There is a large library here, please take advantage of it. Read everything you can. Lots to learn and process.
Since we are on satellite internet, please be mindful that every time you open a news site, you take up more bandwidth than you think. No youtube videos, no netflix, no major downloads, no major uploads. Check your email, FaceBook, then sign off. This is a good time to loosen your grip on technology, and enjoy the simplicity of less social media.
Under the heading of mindfulness, if you drain the last cup of coffee, or if you are leaving only a cupful of coffee in the pot, either make another or set up the fresh coffee and water for the next person to make a pot. If you use most of the milk or carton of cream and there is only a drop or two left … rinse out the container, put into recycle bin, and make sure there is a fresh one available for the next person. Don’t leave it for the next person and open a fresh one for yourself. Mindfulness.
On open days, cleanup after yourself. Wash your pans, utensils, dishes, emptied tupperware— dry and put away. Maybe pitch in and do the silverware. Sweep and mop the kitchen. Earn extra merit! We can all use some extra merit!
In the laundry room, be respectful of your time. There is usually someone else waiting for the machines. Remove your laundry promptly. You may take someone’s laundry out of the washer or dryer, but do not put anything in the washer or dryer that is not yours. Some people are very fussy about their clothes. Be mindful.
During silent periods or days, be mindful. Is it really necessary to have an answer to your question right now? Chances are it can wait till time to talk. If it can’t then use notes. Or if it’s complicated and a discussion needs to happen .. go behind closed doors. Understand that if someone does not make eye contact with you on silent days, they are just trying to stay within their silence. It’s not a reflection on you. They aren’t snubbing you. It’s not personal. Breathe.
While ordering off the internet is easy to do, receiving packages is not. If it’s not necessary to the quality of your life here at the Abbey, perhaps you don’t really need it right now. Again, perhaps this is a good time to wean yourself off of purchasing “stuff.” Simplicity.
If eating certain foods makes your body suffer pain, then let the kitchen staff know. If you have decided you don’t want to eat certain foods, just because, then the kitchen will not be responsible for eliminating them. But the kitchen staff will strive to label things so you can decide on your own what you are willing to eat. There is usually a variety so you won’t starve, unless you choose to.
In the Shrine room, do not move zabutons with your feet. Do not step on or place items on life monastics maroon zabuton covers. Do a Shambhala bow upon entering/leaving the shrine room, and an anjali bow facing the shrine before entering/exiting your row.
You will receive name tags for your cushions or chairs. Not for zabutons, but for gomdens and zafu’s nor for flat support cushions. Be respectful of cushions with names on them. Return to the correct zabuton if you find them out of order.
Enjoy this wondrous place! It is beautiful here and the weather is quite spectacular. This is very magical land and the drala’s are everywhere. Make contact and listen, they are whispering to you! Every once in a while, by just being, you are removing your parasol, and you can feel the blessings raining down on you.
Be mindful. Breathe. Enjoy!

Trime Chosang began her journey as a Sahmbhala Buddhist nun during the Lion Year program at Gampo Abbey

4 thoughts on “A Guide for Your Life at Gampo Abbey

  1. Trime Chosang,
    What a pleasure to see your face and hear your voice in these written words. Perhaps some day I will also ned these instructions, and will benefit from your experience and guidance.
    All good wishes to you,
    Barbara Egan

  2. Trime – how wonderful to receive your wisdom! I continue to be in awe of your path – all with such seeming swiftness! I truly, deeply want to join the community at Gampo Abbey one day. Perhaps one day. Perhaps I will see you there! I miss you! Continued blessings to you!
    Tharpa Wangmo

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