UK Dharma teachers

A number of Order of Interbeing members in the the UK have been recognised by Thich Nhat Hanh as Dharmacharyas or dharma teachers, receiving the ‘lamp transmission’ in a formal ceremony in which gathas (insight poems) are exchanged between student and teacher.

In March 2016, five new dharma teachers were ordained.

Rejoicing in our new lay Dharmacharyas

lamp 2016

Five UK Sangha members became Dharmacharyas (Dharma Teachers) by receiving the Lamp at the Great Ordination Ceremony of Love and Gratitude which took place at Plum Village from 22nd to 27th March. They were:

  • Lesley Collington, True Lotus of Joy,
  • Dene Donalds, True Ever-present Peace,
  • Barbara Hickling, True Wonderful Land,
  • Susanne Olbrich, True Ever-present Stability
  • Teri West, True Door of Virtue.

Those giving the transmissions on Thay’s behalf were: Sister Chan Khong, Sister Annabel and Chan Phap Dang. A number of senior venerable monks and nuns who had known Thay for many years came over from Vietnam specially to bring their energy and presence to the ceremonies.

Thay came each day during the transmissions, and his presence was joyfully and powerfully felt. On one day, Thay led a short walking meditation at New Hamlet with the help of his devoted attendants who supported him bodily and moved his right leg and foot for him. It was a very tender sight of humility and determination.

The week was very spacious and joyful, with the normal Plum Village schedule suspended. The only scheduled events were the ceremonies, which took place each day for six days.  On each of three afternoons a venerable monk and nun would share with the sangha their memories of their connection with Thay and their own practice.

In total 50 Dharma teachers received lamp transmissions, most of them monastics, some from as far afield as China, Indonesia and Vietnam. Sister Natasha and Brother Dillon also received the lamp transmission so the UK sangha was very well represented by the fourfold sangha.

Each Lamp Transmission involves an exchange of poetry. The “candidate” offers an insight poem they have written to the patriarchs and matriarchs of our lineage (the Lieu Quan Dharma Line in the Linji Dhyana School). This poem is formally accepted, and a four-line poem is offered in return, on behalf of the patriarchs and matriarchs, identifying spiritual qualities for the new Dharma Teacher to cultivate on the path ahead. After the exchange of poetry, the lamp is transmitted, in the name of the lineage and of Thay.

Prior to this ceremony, our dharma teachers were:

Martin Pitt (Chan Hoc – True Learning)

Martin received the Fourteen Mindfulness trainings in 1990, and the lamp transmission in August 1994.

Martin’s Initiation Gatha:martin

A spider’s web catches the morning sun,
Behold – the whole universe in a single dewdrop,
How wonderful that I am here to see it.

Thay’s Gatha:

The true dharma can only be touched by direct experience
In order to practice the Way, onemindedness should be there
There are ten thousand birds singing in the Dharma Forest.
Behold: our true person appears every time one flower blooms.

Murray Corke (Chan Dai Tap – True Great Practice)

Murray received the Fourteen Mindfulness trainings in 1994, and the lamp transmission in November 2004.

Murray’s Initiation Gatha:murray

Mind burdened by generations of errors,
A shower of rain slows my steps
The call of a bird cracks open my heart
Smiling, I walk on in freedom.

Thay’s Gatha:

The Mahayana has just set the Dharma Wheel in motion
Five continents come together, praising from near and far
The song of Zen is striking up with joyful sounds
The Earth trembles, the devas congratulate you.

Jane Coatesworth (True Flower of Awakening)

Jane received the Fourteen Mindfulness trainings in 1995, and the lamp transmission in November 2004.

Jane’s Initiation Gatha:profilejc

I sing to the tree
The silence between phrases is vast and arresting.
The tree, graceful and steady,
does her best with what she has.
Grateful, my heart is refreshed.

Thay’s Gatha:

The flowers of enlightenment are blooming everywhere,
The breeze floats the perfume of Zen far and wide.
So many members of the Sangha are gathered together.
The Buddha mind whether in the North or South,
past or present, is the same.

Vari McLuskie (True Action of Loving Kindness)

Vari received the Fourteen Mindfulness trainings in 1995, and the lamp transmission in February 2012.

Vari’s Initiation Gatha:vari

Past the gates of longing,
The raindrop meets the sea

Thay’s Gatha:

With the eyes of compassion and loving kindness we look at the world,
Listen deeply to the vow of action that comes from our radiant heart,
Today we can turn over a new leaf of the book,
And the path of serving others widens to become vast

Michael Schwammberger (Chan Phap Son – True Dharma Mountain)

michael-schMichael arrived in Plum Village in 1996 inspired by Thay’s book Peace is Every Step. He stayed on and ordained as a novice monk in February 1997, receiving his full ordination and the 14 mindfulness trainings in 1998. In January 2003 he received the lamp transmission. He lived in Plum Village and the monasteries in the United States and travelled extensively with Thay in his teaching tours. Michael took a sabbatical in 2011 and returned to lay life in 2012.  He is now a lay teacher.




Our new Dharmacharyas

Lesley Collington (True Lotus of Joy)

Lesley’s insight gathaLesleyC
No Path,
Only the Ground
Gazing up at me
As I look deeply into myself
Tranquil Ground
Cradling Freedom

Response Gatha
The Purity of insight blooms like the Lotus
Creativity is joy in interbeing
Surmounting the obstacles we touch the true self
And remove the three complexes to feel true peace.

Dene Donalds (True Ever-Present Peace)

Dene’s Insight gathaDeneD
Ancestors smile
Descendants rejoice
Dharma rain shines in every direction.

Response gatha
Ever-present is the nirvana here and now
Ancestors and descendants all enjoy its peace.
You patiently remove the thorn of birth and death
Compassion brings beings to the shore

Barbara Hickling (True Wonderful Land)

Barbara’s Insight GathaBarbaraH
The ripples on the water subside,
a cage door opens,
the bird flies free
singing it’s song in tune with the universe.

Response Gatha
Lightly you touch the true wonderful emptiness
Ever-present the Pure land in each step and breath
Smiling you go forward on the heroic march
Building the sangha boat to rescue those in need.

Susanne Olbrich (True Ever-Present Stability)

Susanne’s Insight GathaSusanneO
Seed receiving the water
new growth is happening.
Sweet nectar: the flower’s offering from her heart.
Ever-widening circles of belonging.

Response Gatha
Ever-present is the seed of deep understanding
True stability is like rain watering it.
How wonderful! We can both transform together
And enjoy playing the music that has no words.

Teri West (True Door of Virtue)

Teri’s Insight GathateriW
fierce winds around us
my heart responds with stillness
a new year begins

Response Gatha
Wonderful is the universal Dharma door:
true virtue is relayed through the performing arts.
Harmony within makes harmony all around:
listening deeply we hear the transcendent sound.

new DC 2016