Where do I start?
You have come this far. And now, what is the next step?
In Tibetan Buddhism, the first step is to start listening to teachings. It is through oral transmission that Buddhist wisdom is transmitted from master to student, reaching down to our days in an unbroken lineage.
Where are the teachings offered?
At the Odsal Ling Temple in Cotia (SP) - directed by Lama Tsering Everest, Lama ordained by Chagdud Rinpoche and his interpreter for eleven years. Lama Tsering eventually also offers cycles of teachings in the city of São Paulo. In the context of the health crisis, the teachings have been transmitted through Odsal Ling's YouTube channel and retreats can also be offered online.
What is a Lama?
In Vajrayana Buddhism, there are some titles to designate teachers.
Lama is one of the titles that can be given to teachers in Vajrayana Buddhism. This word is similar to the Sanskrit term "guru". In Vajrayana Buddhism, the Lama is often a Tantric spiritual guide, the guru. He represents the Three Jewels – Buddha, Dharma, Sangha.
The Tibetan word "Lama" means "great mother". The lama has the compassion like a mother, but not only towards her children, but also towards all beings. A lama is dedicated to giving teachings and guiding the students so that they may attain enlightenment. He/she also dedicates his/her practice to the benefit of all beings. A lama may have monastic vows or not. In Tibetan Buddhism, many lamas are not monks, they have long hair and are married, for example.
Rinpoche is a term used in the Tibetan language and literally means "precious" and can be used to refer to a person, place or thing. In the context of Tibetan Buddhism, this title is used as a way of showing respect when referring to Dharma teachers recognized for their qualities.
Khenpo is a title given to a practitioner considered as a scholar. Generally, this title is awarded after a period of 13 years of intensive study, a period similar to the time required to obtain a doctoral degree at a western university. The degree is awarded to students who can publicly defend their scholarship and mastery in at least five subjects of Tibetan Indo-Buddhism, namely Prajñāpāramitā, Madhyamaka, Pramana, Abhidharma and Vinaya.
When do the teachings take place?
Before coming to the Temple, it is recommended to check if the schedule was not changed for any reason. At this time of pandemic, we are closed to the public. However, traditionally on Sundays, at 10am, Lama Tsering offers free and open teachings in the Temple. During this health crisis, the teachings have been transmitted live on YouTube channel of Odsal Ling.
Lama Tsering also usually gives teachings and retreats on many other days. Access the site regularly or sign up for our WhatsApp channel to receive our updated schedule.
What kind of Buddhism is practiced at Odsal Ling?
We practice Vajrayana Buddhism, from Nyingma school (which is the oldest Tibetan school). Among other Vajrayana meditation practices performed at Odsal Ling, there is the practice of Red Tara.
What is the practice of Tara? Can I participate, even being a beginner?
The practice of Red Tara is an elevated Vajrayana meditation practice, done under the guidance of the Lama, through teachings and training over the years. However, even as a beginner you can do the concise practice of Red Tara.
What is a puja?
Daily meditation practices are called puja. At Odsal Ling two pujas are performed daily, dedicated to specific meditation practices. These meditation practices involve reading a sadhana (sacred text that presents the means to realize our Buddha Nature), recitation of the mantras and/or prayers, visualization and the use of instruments and objects. For some practices it is necessary to have initiation and to have received teachings from a teacher.
Can I participate in the daily practices (pujas)?
At the beginning, we recommend participating in the concise Tara practice. When you are more familiar with it and have heard more teachings, you can find out how to participate in the other meditation practices.
What is the next step?
After listening to the teachings and having contact with the practice of Red Tara, you can begin to deepen yourself. The best way to do this is to receive guidance from the Lama.
How do I receive guidance from the Lama?
Listening to the teachings and participating in retreats is the best way to approach the lama and the teachings. We have audio (→SoundCloud), texts (→For Reading), and videos (→YouTube) teachings. In addition, we also have the Media Library with numerous teachings and an online course called "Embarking on the Buddhist Path". In time, you will also be able to arrange a personal interview with Lama Tsering for guidance.
Is there a protocol for entering the meditation room?
When you visit the Temple, you will notice that many students do prostrations (bows) when entering the meditation room or when the lama enters the room. It is a way of paying homage and respect. It is traditional to do three prostrations, but you don't have to do them if you don't feel comfortable.
Is there a recommendation for when you are inside the meditation room?
Try to sit with your back straight. Don't point your feet to the altar, neither to the Lama nor to other practitioners. Do not place the sacred texts directly on the floor (use the countertop, or a pillow, when available) or pass over the stools or sacred texts and objects. Turn off the cell phone and avoid talking unnecessarily.
Do I need to wear Buddhist clothing and special objects?
Traditional clothes (tchuba and zen) are used in more elaborate ceremonies. To listen to teachings, you do not need to wear them. When you are more familiar with them, you can use tchuba and zen to do your meditation practice.
Objects such as bell, dorje and drum, which are traditional musical instruments in Tibet and are used during some ceremonies, are also common. However, their use is not mandatory.
Another very common object in practice is the mala, which is a string of beads used to count the recitation of mantras.
More important than any external object while doing meditation practice, however, is pure motivation - the intention that, by engaging in one's practice, one can help bring both temporary benefit and ultimate benefit to all beings.
May your practice flourish. May all beings be benefit!
This post is also available in: Português (Portuguese (Brazil))