On behalf of Kopan Monastery (Pal Ogmin Jangchub Choling) and Khachoe Ghakyil Ling Nunnery, I, Thubten Zopa, would like to express my deepest gratitude to all the members of the different monasteries and nunneries who showed great concern and offered their prayers when they learned that several of the monks at Kopan and the nuns at Khachoe Ghakyil Ling had tested positive for COVID-19. These well-wishers belong to institutions that uphold the precious and sacred teachings of the Buddha and are a source of happiness in the past, present, and future for us weary beings who have been drowning in the great ocean of samsaric suffering since beginningless time.
One hundred and seventy of the 460 monks at Kopan and ninety of the 370 nuns at Khachoe Ghakyil Ling tested positive for the virus. Geshe Lobsang Jinpa, who has been a philosophy teacher at Khachoe Ghakyil Ling for many years, fell ill. Suffering from breathing problems, he was hospitalized. The nuns recited prayers such as the White Umbrella for him, and for one month many captive animals were released once a week in the United States to aid in his speedy recovery. His symptoms eventually subsided, and he was able to return to the nunnery.
Former Kopan disciplinarian, Geshe Tsering Tashi, who completed the great approximation retreat of Yamantaka, also became ill. He had trouble breathing, was taken to the hospital, and has since recovered. A monk from Mongolia and a child monk who similarly suffered from breathing problems had to spend time in hospital but are now back at the monastery.
Animals were freed for the former disciplinarian, for our spiritual teachers, especially His Holiness the Dalai Lama, for all Indians, and so on. In total, six goats were liberated for the monks and nuns at Kopan and Khachoe Ghakyil Ling. The liberation of these animals benefited both the goats and the people who were sick, and just the thought that had the goats not been freed they would have been killed is unbearable.
The monks and nuns who tested positive remained in quarantine for eighteen days. One person who had first tested negative was later found to have contracted the virus.
As soon as people started to get ill, Kopan and Khachoe Ghakyil Ling tightened their rules and restricted the movement of their inhabitants. However, many caught COVID without ever leaving the monastic premises, while others did not become infected, although they had to spend time outside the premises to be of service to the two institutions. For instance, the manager of Kopan, Geshe Jangchub, took the monks and nuns who tested positive to the hospital, ran errands, etc.; the caretaker, Sonam Zangpo, regularly went shopping for food supplies; the doctor, Gen Sangye Tenzin, and his two monk assistants often attended to outside medical matters; Gen Tenpa Choden who is responsible for the advancement of Kopan, Khachoe Ghakyil Ling and their associated organizations, had to travel between the different institutions, and so forth—but none of them contracted the virus.
Unfortunately, Geshe Thubten Sherab, who teaches at the FPMT center in New Mexico, USA, and in several other FPMT centers around the world, fell ill with COVID. But he has now left the hospital and is recovering.
Gen Sangye Tenzin, who is in charge of the medical clinic that belongs to the monastery and the nunnery, and his two monk assistants have been taking care of everyone very well. Kyabje Sengdrag Rinpoche kindly donated his precious khyung nga pills that he had consecrated during a one-year retreat. He gave nine pills to each monk who was hospitalized and five to everyone who was not.
I myself, as well as Ven. Roger Kunsang, the chief executive officer (CEO) of FPMT, and my attendants Ngarampa Tendar, Topgye, and Sherab, who does the computer work, are all well. None of us have become infected.
However, although I have not become ill, I am not sure whether this is desirable or not. For example, the owner of a five-star hotel who is healthy, lives a long life, has numerous customers and earns a lot of money is likely to accumulate the karma of killing every day. If he owns a hotel by the sea, he is responsible for killing thousands of fish and other sea animals when he orders them to be caught to provide seafood for his guests. It is terrifying to think that after he breathes his last breath, he may be born into hellish existences for many eons to come. He similarly accumulates a lot of negative karma with regard to the other nonvirtues.
So, we should rejoice when we suffer. Since we have accumulated the karma to experience disease, although we may not fall ill right now, this does not rule out getting sick in the future. Therefore, the Buddha said:
Do not commit any unwholesome actions.
Engage in perfect, wholesome actions.
Subdue one’s own mind.
This is the teaching of the Buddha.
Whether we study the scriptures extensively or not, we will definitely benefit from subduing our mind. I think this is an extremely comprehensive and profound advice. It is also what the glorious and unequaled Jowo Atisha taught.
In the Excellent Nectar Vase of the Essential Instructions of the Kadampa Volumes it says:
If we ourselves do not recognize it as our refuge,
Not even the strength of the buddhas and bodhisattvas
Will be able to save us from the abyss of the lower realms.
In the meantime, we should not deceive ourselves.
Whatever happiness and suffering exists in this samsaric place
Has all arisen from our karma.
So, we should examine our body, speech and mind at all times
And make an effort to abandon wrongdoing and practice virtue.
These words indicate that although there are countless buddhas and bodhisattvas, there are also countless sentient beings who have been drowning in the great ocean of samsaric suffering from beginningless time. But now we have encountered the teachings of the Mahayana as part of the Buddha’s precious teachings, which is as if the impossible had become possible.
These days, the monks at Kopan and the nuns at Khachoe Ghakyil Ling are reading the Golden Light Sutra and the Arya Dharani Sutra five times and reciting the Great Dharani and others from the Kangyur. They are all cheerful. May the monks and nuns in all the other monastic institutions also be cheerful.
In order to be of some benefit to others in accordance with the teachings of our lord of refuge and bright light, the Buddha, I focus on the entire world in general and on Dharamsala, Nepal, and so forth and perform the following rites: Incense Ritual by the Great Master Padmasambhava, (Nölsang; Wylie: mnol bsang), Purification Rite of the Four Directions (Sangsöl Chog Zhi; Wylie: bsang gsol phyogs bzhi), Cleansing Rite of the Four Directions (Thrü Söl Chog Zhi; Wylie: khrus gsol phyogs bzhi), Cleansing Rite of the Body (Ten Thrü; Wylie: rtren khrus), Cleansing Rite of the Place (Yul Thrü; Wylie: yul khrus), and Burning Food Ritual (Sur; Wylie: gsur).
Written by Thubten Zopa on behalf of Kopan Monastery and Khachoe Ghakyil Ling Nunnery on May 18, 2021.