We were honored to receive teachings from Venerable Tenzin Dasel live and via zoom at The Wisdom Seat on April 14-15, 2023.
Watch the public talk here:
Tsunma-la began by sharing some of the seminal events in her early childhood and adult life that led to her becoming a nun in mid-life. First was a fortuitous encounter with the person who became her root lama, HE Kyabje Khensur Rinpoche, and later, an auspicious meeting with one of the most dedicated western nuns of our time, Venerable Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo. Tsunma-la speculated that had you asked her 20 years ago if she would become a nun, she probably would have said “no way.” However, over time she realized there is nothing she’d rather do with her life than serve others through teaching and practicing the dharma.
The weekend’s teachings focused on the Mahayana practices of the Four Immeasurables: Equanimity, Compassion, Loving-kindness, and Sympathetic joy. She spoke about the challenge of putting these teachings into practice on a moment-to-moment, day-to-day basis in today’s world. Though these qualities are inherent in our make-up as human beings, she noted they are often obscured by self-absorption in habitual patterns, social isolation and other obstacles which hinder our capacity to cultivate and demonstrate these qualities.
The best way to recognize these patterns and obscurations in ourselves, she declared, begins with the practice of meditation. Through our practice, we come to understand our interdependence with other living beings and the awareness that everyone naturally longs to be free of suffering. When we see the ways that we separate ourselves from others, our entire perspective of the world changes. When we realize our own yearning for awakening and cultivate the positive qualities inherent to our mind, we naturally are able to more genuinely embody and express these with a sense of natural presence and ease.
Tsunma-la led us through the Four Immeasurables with guided meditations, illustrative stories of some of the great practitioners, and insights from her own life. She also spoke of the importance of cultivating pure and sincere motivation to be of benefit to others. When our motivation to be of benefit to others is pure, she concluded, then the Four Immeasurables will naturally arise in our interactions with others. We can also use our own and others’ unskillful actions to appreciate the benefit of having refuge and practices which create skillful actions. And truth be told, we need difficult situations to help us bring our highest perfections to full fruition. In other words, we use difficult circumstances to grow and come to understand it is our own and others’ habits which are not of benefit that result in suffering. Without passing harsh judgment on ourselves or others, instead we clearly understand which actions result in benefit and which result in harm.
During our time with Tsunma-la, her own pure motivation, as well as passion, wisdom, and humor radiated out to touch and inspire all who attended the retreat. She kindly and generously offered all of us the opportunity to speak with her 1-on-1 the day after the teachings - an offering accepted with great gratitude by every single participant.
Venerable Tenzin Desal is a western Tibetan Buddhist nun ordained by His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama in 2017. Since 2018, she has been serving as the Spiritual Director of Tashi Gatsel Ling in Maine. She also teaches and leads meditation workshops nationally and internationally, and is on the board of directors of the Alliance of Non Himalayan Nuns (ANHN).
Previously she served as assistant to Venerable Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo and her nunnery, Dongyu Gatsal Ling, in northern India for many years.
She has been practicing with her root lama, HE Kyabje Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tsetan, since 2002. She very much enjoyed her time with the Wisdom Seat community and looks forward to practicing together again.