The Birth of the Oddiyana Dharma Sanctuary
The birth of the Oddiyana Dharma Sanctuary has been such a beautiful organic process it is hard to pinpoint an exact birth date.
Choeying Dolma (Spiritual Director of Oddiyana Dharma Sanctuary) was asked many years ago to start a Centre in Hervey Bay, but she chose instead to travel the world and sit at the feet (literally) of her various gurus, attending teachings and retreats to further her own knowledge and practice of the Dharma as a way of understanding her own suffering while traversing her own spiritual path. the way one of her gurus suggested she teach others the Dharma. Reluctant in the beginning she now, very gratefully, enjoys this honour bestowed upon her.
At the time Choeying left her twenty year relationship, with the blessing of her partner and spiritual friend, Mox, to become ordained. Which she recalls: "This was the happiest and most blissful day of my life".
Choeying resigned herself to remaining a travelling nun thinking no one in Hervey Bay would know what to do with a strange bald women who only owned one strange dress.
To her great surprise during her first outing as a nun, in the supermarket, in Hervey Bay she was approached and was asked for spiritual advice. now has community members approach her with varying requests from facilitating funerals to visiting the sick, counseling people in distress or people simply asking if she is a Hare Krishna, recovering from cancer or just something that has landed from another planet. To which Choeying replies, while laughing, "I often wonder about that one myself!" in fact, grew up thinking she came from another planet and was dropped on earth without a map or a guide.
Sometime later due to personal circumstances, she handed back her robes. "This was the saddest day of my life".
Choeying is always pleasantly surprised when she is given the opportunity to meet and share the power of the Buddhist philosophy, psychology and meditation with others knowing she is supporting people find their own inner wisdom and through this giving them the ability to heal themselves.
Still thinking she was destined to be a travelling nun Choeying was preparing to attend a Winter Retreat at Plum Village in France with a teacher she highly respects, the Venerable Thich Nhat Hahn, or Thay as he is affectionately known, when she was asked to facilitate a Calm Abiding Course.
The course turned her life in a whole new, unexpected direction when several attendees asked her to facilitate regular classes. This was the conception of another Buddhist center in Hervey Bay.
It was quickly named The Oddiyana Dharma Sanctuary.
Choeying said, "I chose the name Oddiyana because it appealed to my sense that love and life and everything in between was an intriguing mystery and that if we surrendered to the mystery of love and life there was a certain kind of magic about it.
Oddiyana, it seemed, was also bathed in mystery and magic and so it sparked my curiosity to find out more.Never seeing myself as a feminist, and in fact at times making myself unpopular by not adhering to the concept that the feminist movement needed the pendulum to swing to the extreme in order for it to come back to the middle to achieve liberation. It seemed far wiser to me to see a coming together of men and women through deep understanding of each other.
I love having men and women as well as boys and girls come to my classes in the hope of promoting a coming together in a spiritual environment to add sacredness to their relationships through deep understanding of themselves and each other. I see this is so important in every relationship in whatever form it comes. To me this is a wise approach to true liberation. For this to happen I felt I needed a study and practice which was more connected with the feminine aspect in Buddhism. I had a deep sense that I had at last found what I needed when I read thatOddiyana was also known as "the paradise of the dakinis", reputed for its unique sisterhood of priestesses—ladies dedicated to wisdom and spiritual development. These priestesses were not nuns, and lived in sanctuaries or forest chapels.
It became apparent I needed guidance and deep understanding of myself and the opposite gender in order to be able to embrace my own female energy and come from a more place to develop my skills of teaching both men and women how to better come together in a loving respectful way from a Buddhist perspective.Before becoming a nun I had my own form of robes which were for many, many years "all white".
In the past I have also dreamt and drawn pictures of living in a forest temple near a mountain with a line of huge glass stupas standing majestically alongside a river (or some body of water) so I was amused when I read that Oddiyana Buddhist texts speak of Oddiyana as a beautifully green and fertile kingdom, inhabited by gentle people often clothed in white, who had great respect for wisdom and learning. It was surrounded by high, rugged mountains, and in the broad valleys were towering white stupas and golden temple roofs. It seemed a paradise on earth and so was called "the royal garden" from the Sanskrit; Udyan. still feel more comfortable in white (especially in our climate) and our Sanctuary is surrounded by beautiful tropical gardens that many see as a paradise on earth. So the first part of the name Oddiyana was given life and the rest naturally flowed.
Having a very deep love and devotion of the Dharma it was never a question for me if the word Dharma would be in the name . . it was more a question of where?
Dharma; although commonly known as the teachings of the Buddha (the awakened one, or fully awake) it also has a deeper meaning such as; a phenomenon or constituent factor of human experience. This was gradually expanded into a classification of constituents of the entire material and mental world.
The word Sanctuary has always filled my heart with feelings of refuge, peace and bliss and seemed to succinctly support and complete the rest of the name.
Sanctuary; is also a multi layered concept such as; A sanctuary is the consecrated area of a church or temple around its tabernacle or altar. Its history is deeply imbedded with the scent of sacredness, safety and refuge.
The combination of these three concepts, I felt, was an apt description of what The Oddiyana Dharma Sanctuary would represent; "A safe, sacred refuge or space to find ourselves through meditation and study in order to enjoy a more peaceful life for ourselves and all beings to achieve Enlightenment"As well as my personal commitment to this path with the desire to achieve Enlightenment for myself for the benefit all beings the following links describe why my affection and certainty that the best name has been chosen for this sacred place of learning and contemplation."
In later Tibetan traditions, Oddiyana is either conflated or identified with Shambhala, a land inhabited by dakinis and inaccessible to or by, ordinary mortals being a "Hidden Land".
Dakini female spirits, witches and sometimes deities. The word is commonly translated from the Tibetankhandroma as ‘sky-
"We at the Oddiyana Dharma Sanctuary have been very inspired by one of my precious Guru’s the great master Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche from the Shambhala Tradition. As Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche says in volume 8 of his Collected Works; Creating an Enlightened Society.
In an attempt to appreciate and emulate the ideal of an enlightened society that the Shambhala Vision represents the Oddiyana Dharma Sanctuary is using the Shambhala principals at our centre.
The Shambhala teachings are founded on the premise that there is a basic human wisdom that can help solve the world’s problems. This wisdom does not belong to any one culture or religion, nor does it come from the West or the East. Rather, it is a tradition of human warriorship that has existed in many cultures at many times throughout history.
CTR says, "I have been presenting a series of Shambala teachings" that use the image of the Shambhala kingdom to represent the ideal of a secular enlightenment, that is, the possibility of uplifting our personal existence and that of others without help of any religious outlook.
For although the Shambhala tradition is founded on the sanity and gentleness of the Buddhist tradition, at the same time, it has its own independent basis, which is directly cultivating who and what we are as human beings. With the great problems now facing human society, it seems increasingly important to find simple and non sectarian ways to work with ourselves and to share our understanding with others. The Shambhala teachings or the "Shambhala Vision"," as this approach is more broadly called, is one attempt to encourage wholesome existence for ourselves and others. The current state of world affairs is source of concern to all of us; the threat of nuclear war, widespread poverty and economic instability, social and political chaos, and psychological upheavals of many kinds. The world is in absolute turmoil. The Shambhala teachings are founded on the premise that there is basic human wisdom that can help solve the world’s problems. Not belonging to the East or West rather it is a tradition of human warriorship that has existed in many cultures at many times throughout history. Here the word Warrior does not refer to making wars. Warrior here is taken from the Tibetan word pawo, which literally means "one who is brave," The Shambhala Vision is a tradition human bravery or the tradition of fearlessness. it is a big aim but for the Sanctuary sangha family but we are determined as this appears to be a very sound and wise method of benefiting all beings. So we are going to give it a try and see how it goes with no expectations of success but a determination to give it our authentic presence and effort.
To become a not for profit organisation we have come up with a very clear aim for our physical, mental and emotional welfare of ourselves and all sentient beings". And CT’s Shambhala method seems to fit beautifully with our aim.
With our aim in mind we have agreed to prioritise people who are dedicated to in Dharma related activities such as practicing right livelihood -
Choeying and the sangha members of The Oddiyana Dharma Sanctuary warmly welcome you to apply for volunteer work at the ODS and look forward to meeting you in the future.
For further information please call and ask for Alena at the Sanctuary on 61 743254438 or contact Alena directly on 0422 865 141
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