Jetsun Sakya Center in New York City

The following article is from the Autumn, 1988 issue of the Snow Lion Newsletter and is for historical reference only. You can see this in context of the original newsletter here.

Highlighted by the recent teaching visits by H.E. Jetsun Kushola and H.E. Luding Khen Rinpoche, Jetsun Sakya Center continues to offer the New York City community the opportunity to study Buddhism in the pure unbroken Sakya Tradition. The remarkable tradition of Sakya teachers has won respect for the school as a tradition not only of learned scholars, but also of enlightened sages.

Another characteristic feature is the dual guardianship of the school by the lay and monastic heads. The Sakyapa's spiritual lineage lists the royal line of the ancient Khon family, who are the official protectors and propagators of the teachings of the Sakya school of Tibetan Buddhism.

The foundation of the Sakya lineage descends directly from the activities of the Khon family. In the middle of the eleventh century, the Khon patriarch sent his younger brother Konchog Gyalpo (1034-1102) to seek out the new tantras arriving in Tibet from India. Konchog Gyalpo soon became a master of many deep teachings, most notably those of the Path and Result (Lam Dre) system which had originated with the Indian Mahasiddha Birwapa. In 1073, he built a monastery beneath an auspicious circle of white clay on the slopes of Mount Ponpori and gave it the name Sakya, which means White Earth.

Konchog Gyalpo's son was Sachen Kunga Nyingpo (1092-1158), who secured hundreds of tantras from Indian masters which became the basis of the Sakya canon. The next two lineage holders of Sakya, Sonam Tsemo (1142-1182) and Jetsun Dagpa Gyaltsen (1147-1216) were sons of Sachen, and were famed for their scholarship and meditative accomplishment. Sakya Pandita (1182-1251), the grandson of Sachen Kunga Nyingpo, followed them. He was revered as the emanation of Manjushri and was honored by practitioners in China, Mongolia and Tibet as the Second Buddha. His nephew, Chogyal Phagpa (1235-1280), asumed the leadership of the lineage at a young age and performed great feats in spreading the Dharma, even winning the favor of the Mongol emperor, Kublai Khan.

The philosophical view of the Sakya school is called the Non-differentiation of Samsara and Nirvana and posits a theory of ultimate rality in complete accord with the Madhyamika school of Nagarjuna. The current lineage holder of the Sakya throne is His Holiness Sakya Trizin.

Following the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1959, the great Sakya teachers settled in many countries around the globe. In the early sixties, the Ven. Dezhung Rinpoche, renowned for his scholarly and meditative accomplishment, came to Seattle at the invitation of the University of Washington to participate in research on Tibetan religion and culture. In the mid-1970's, Rinpoche was invited to New York by the Institute for Advanced studies of World Religions to work on translation projects.

In New York a group of students quickly collected around Rinpoche, and in the winter of 1977, Jetsun Sakya Center was founded. The center was the first representative of the Sakya Order on the East Coast and for many years served as the seat of Dezhung Rinpoche. Rinpoche was also a representative of the famed Rimed or nonsectarian movement entrusted to him directly by the great Gaton Rinpoche, Jamyang Khentse Chokyi Lodro.

At the end of 1986, the Center moved to a new location on the Upper West Side of Manhattan where today it offers a full schedule of teachings and meditations under the guidance of the resident teacher, Lama Pema Wangdak. Lama Pfema studied at the Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies in Benares where he received an acharya degree and studied under H.H. Sakya Trizin, H.E. Chogye Trichen, H.E. Luding Khen Rinpoche and H.E. Dezhung Rinpoche. Lama Pfema has been teaching in New York and Boston since 1982.

At the new center, Lama Pema leads a wide offering of activities, including classes in philosophy, Ngondro practices, Tibetan language classes, weekly meditational practices and pujas, and guided retreats. Included in the schedule of meditations is an ongoing Chenrezig practice established by Dezhung Rinpoche who was regarded as an embodiment of the Boddhisattva of Great Compassion. This fell he will be leading a Vajrayogini retreat from Oct. 15-23.

Jetsun Sakya continues to sponsor visits and teachings by the great teachers of the Sakya lineage. The Center looks forward to visits from other great Sakya teachers in upcoming months. Later this year H.E. Chogye Trichen Rinpoche, head of the Tsarpa Sect of the Sakya School, is planning his first visit to the United States which will include extensive teachings on the Kalachakra Tantra. Next summer, H.H. Sakya Trizin, patriarch of the Sakya School, will begin an extensive U.S. teaching tour.

For more information about the Center's activities and upcoming events, please write or phone: Jetsun Sakya Center, P.O. Box 1603 Cathedral Station, New York, NY 10025 (212)459-4112.

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