Traditional offering bowls on a Buddhist altar
Who can participate in programmes organized by the Benchen Centre in Grabnik?
The information for each programme gives details for who can participate: some lectures are open of everyone interested in Buddhist teachings. Other are intended only for practising Buddhists.
The first step on the Buddhist path is the ceremony of formally taking Refuge in the Three Jewels. This is also prerequisite for receiving further transmissions such as a layperson's vows, the Bodhisattva vows or empowerments, which would be meaningless for a non-Buddhist.
If one is serious about embarking on the Buddhist path, one should request a lama to perform the Refuge ceremony and formally take Refuge.
Abhisheka is a special transmission of Vajrayana practice, which empowers one to meditate on a particular Yidam or meditational deity embodying the perfect qualities of the Buddha. It is a step on the path, which makes sense only after having taken Refuge.
I'm going to attend a programme. Where to start?
Fill in the online form or call the office. Office hours: Tuesday – Sunday 10:00 am – 1:00 pm and 2:00 pm – 5:00 pm. Closed on Mondays.
If you will be accompanied by children or adults, who will not participate in the programme, please fill out separate forms for them as well.
During large programmes with visiting Rinpoches, a creche may be organised for the time of sessions (depending on the number of applications). Please contact to Office for detailed information and cost.
Decide which meals you want to order, when you register. For example, if the programme begins at 10:30, are you sure you will make it for breakfast; if session ends at about 5 p.m., will you stay for dinner?
Please remember that in the case of ordering meals, it is necessary to pay the deposit on time. If it is not received, your meal order will be cancelled.
When making a bank transfer, clearly write the name of the programme and what the payment is for. If you are making a bank transfer in someone else's name, please do not forget to give that person's name.
Meals are only served at specific times. Please make you plans around that.
What are my accommodation possibilities?
For smaller programmes, we can provide accommodation in rooms (without bed linen).
During large programmes with Rinpoches, it is best to have your own tent. You may also bring a caravan or camping car to the Centre, for the duration of the programme only. It is also possible to sleep on the floor in the shrine hall. Rooms (without bedding) are reserved exclusively for the elderly, those who are ill or with small children. This type of accommodation must be arranged with the Office in advance (number of places limited).
Those accommodated in the buildings are requested to bring their own sleeping bags and slippers.
As far as conditions allow, the Office tries to meet the requests of our guests. Please do not change your accommodation plans without notifying the Office.
The Centre does not make reservations in the nearby hotels and we don't provide transportation to them. Please contact the hotels directly.
What I should and should not bring with me?
- a sleeping bag and pillow, if you use one;
- slippers, if you are sleeping in a building;
- a cup;
- notebook, pen;
- a torch, especially if you are sleeping in a tent;
- it is good to bring your own cushion for larger programmes (the Centre provides mats and cushions for smaller programmes);
- it is advised to have a more elegant set of clothes for an empowerment or another special ceremony. By the way we look, we show our respect to the Teachings and Lama.
Do NOT bring:
- alcohol or drugs;
- pets or wild animals!
How can I get to the Centre in Grabnik?
Various access options are described on our website. Please call the Office, if you have any doubts.
If you arrive by train and you notify the Office in advance, we will pick you up from the station in Jaktorów, but not later than 15 minutes before the session starts.
We do not drive to the station directly before or during a session. Then, you may use a taxi from Jaktorów (tel. 602 35 55 33).
If possible, please plan your arrival to the Centre early enough to have time to register with the Office before the beginning of the programme.
The office of the Benchen Centre in Grabnik is located in building C
I happily arrived at the Centre, what now?
Upon arrival, check in with the Office to complete all formalities, even if you have made all the necessary payments.
In addition, persons, who do not participate in a programme but who stay at the Centre, are requested to check in with the Office and make a donation to cover the costs of their stay (detailed information in the Office).
Make sure you park, set up your tent and arrange your things in the shrine hall in the correct place. You can always find someone, who can inform you about those things.
Are there any rules concerning the stay at the Centre?
First of all, we expect you to consider the purpose of the Centre and behave accordingly (see the Regulations of Benchen Karma Kamtsang Centre in Grabnik).
We count on you joining in daily chores, or at least cleaning up after yourself. We are particularly grateful for help in organising the programme (before, during and after). If you can offer such help, please contact the Office.
We remind you that it is forbidden to drink alcohol (including beer), or to possess or use drugs in the Centre. Persons under the influence of alcohol or drugs will be removed from the Centre's grounds.
It is forbidden to smoke in the buildings, as well as the entire area around the Centre, apart from one designated place, where it is allowed to smoke.
Night quiet hours are from 11 p.m. until 6 a.m.
Try to use water, gas, electricity etc. moderately. Do not spend too long under the shower, because there will not be enough hot water for others. Do not use aggressive chemical products (we have an ecological septic tank system).
Before you leave, please clean up your room or camp site.
Please take care about your valuables, money, cards, phone etc.
Please keep your entrance card and meal carnet. We do not issue copies.
Please report lost and found things to the Office.
If you have any questions, please ask at the Office, but keep in mind that during lectures, empowerments and meals the Office is closed.
Can I take photos, record the teachings?
Yes, but consider general rules of polite behaviour. Remember also, what the true purpose of a programme is.
Taking photos do not to blind the teaching Lama with your flash or disturb others by the clicking of your camera.
Remember that not everyone wishes to have his or her photo on the Internet.
An abhisheka will have a greater impact on you, if you focus on the ritual. Also, an abhisheka is a secret Vajrayana ritual so it is better the keep the photos only for yourself.
Teachings can be recorded and transcribed only for personal use. Copying, publishing, distributing, sharing on the Internet and so on requires the permission of Benchen Karma Kamtsang Buddhist Association.
Abhishekas should not be recorded, even for personal use.
How to behave in the lhakhang - a Buddhist shrine?
First of all, be moderate in uncovering various parts of your body, even on a hot day. In any religion, shorts are not the proper outfit to attend a shrine.
Entering the lhakhang, one should leave shoes in front of the door.
Traditionally, after entering a temple one does three prostrations towards the shrine. When a Teacher comes, one should get up and wait until he or she sits down; then one should prostrate again, this time in front of him or her.
Listening to Dharma teachings one should not sit higher than the Teacher; that is why seats are arranged on the floor. If one is unwell, one may use the chairs at the back of the hall.
If your legs hurt, you may change your position, but do not stretch your legs towards the shrine or Teacher - it is considered disrespectful in Tibetan culture. Lying down, half lying or any careless position will also be considered disrespectful.
According to Tibetan tradition, one should not step over another person. Be watchful: if you notice someone wants to pass, move your legs out of the way.
Offering lamps, incense or flowers is a positive action, yet it is better to ask where to place them. Do not touch or move anything on the shrine without discussing it with the person responsible for the shrine.
The shrine hall is not a proper place for flirting and everything that is connected with that.
Apart from tsok offering, do not to eat in the shrine hall. If due to health reasons you have to eat, try not to keep your surroundings clean. Please do not bring beverages that could stain the mattresses. Have your tea or coffee before the session and only bring water into the shrine room. If you spill or drop something, please clean after yourself.
Do not treat your children as a necessary evil. Give your attention to them, even if it means you have to skip a part of the session. Rinpoches often underline that taking care about a child is the greatest opportunity for parents to practice the Dharma in daily life.
When going out of the lhakhang, return everything (for example texts) borrowed for the session, take all your belongings and leave the place tidy. Make sure you have got all your belongings.
Do not prostrate on your way out of the shrine - it is considered an unfavourable sign.
How to treat practice texts and ritual objects?
Dharma texts, Buddhist books and notes should not be put on the floor, but be placed somewhere higher out of respect to the Dharma Teachings. If you do not have a table, symbolically put them on your bag or rolled sweater.
Be careful not to tread on or step over sacred practice texts. If somebody wants to pass and your materials are in the way, pick them up and move them out of the way.
If you need to get rid of outdated practice texts or other materials containing Dharma words, do not throw them into the garbage, but burn them. Our Centre has a special place for burning sacred texts that are no longer used (please ask about details in the Office).
Practice texts and ritual objects (mala, bell, damaru etc.) are personal items. Do not use or take hold of someone else's things without their owner's permission.
You can talk about your practice with your Lama and others who do the same sadhana. It is not allowed to talk about secret practices in the presence of those, who have not been properly introduced. It is best not to leave secret texts and notes in public places, unattended.
How to treat a spiritual Teacher?
With respect and gratitude! It is thanks to him or her that you have the chance to learn and practice the precious Teachings.
When a Teacher enters the shrine hall or gets up after a teaching, students immediately get up as well. When he or she passes next to you, stand slightly bowing, with folded hands.
Even if a Rinpoche is friendly and direct towards students, he or she should not be treated as your pal - hugged, tapped on the shoulder or talked to as an equal. Do not interrupt when he or she is talking.
Titles such as Rinpoche and Lama express respect; therefore, they should be added to the Teacher's name, when you speak about him or her. If you address a Teacher directly, it is polite to add the suffix -la (Rinpoche-la, Lama-la).
During a programme, it is worth having with you a katak, a special kind of scarf. Traditionally, a katak is offered on various occasions: on welcome, farewell, during an audience or at the end of an empowerment. You should present it unfolded, holding it flat on both of your hands.
How to properly offer a katak
If you want to offer a gift to a Teacher, it is elegant to hand it on a katak.
A katak is a symbol of respect and gratitude, it is a gift for the Teacher, you do not take it back, unless the Lama gives it back to you by putting it around your neck.
Whatever you are handing to a Teacher, hold it in both hands. Try to avoid giving something with one hand, particularly with the left one - it is considered a big faux pas in the East.
Rinpoche knows the best, what benefits the students and what does not. Therefore, he or she is the person who decides about the programme and has the right to make changes at any time. One might politely ask for something but one should not push if Rinpoche is not enthusiastic.
You show respect to the Teacher and the Teachings also by being on time. It is mainly you who loses on being late. If you are late for an empowerment, you lose an important part of it. If you are late for an interview, you might not be admitted.
In the Tibetan tradition, a short goodbye or not saying goodbye at all are considered an auspicious coincidence, meaning that the Teacher and students will meet again soon. However Rinpoches who often visit the West may have adjusted to the customs here. Therefore, before a Lama leaves you can offer him or her a katak, but do not do prostrations and do not push, if you see that Rinpoche is avoiding a farewell.
Is there anything else to know about how to behave during an empowerment?
A Vajrayana empowerment is a unique gift. It is worth to expressing your appreciation by the way you dress. Tibetans usually wear their best clothes and jewellery for this occasion. Nobody is expecting that you will bring a suit when camping, but it is not becoming to wear ragged clothes or to walk around the lhakhang in a beach outfit.
If you are wearing something covering your head, you should take if off for the time of the empowerment. If you usually wear your hair up, it is better to loosen it. The ritual implements should directly touch your head without obstruction.
At the start, participants usually receive a pinch of rice for the symbolic offering of the mandala of Universe. If you do not know how to fold your hands in the special mudra, just keep the rice on open palms and then throw it up.
Try to save some of the rice for later - a mandala is offered again at the end of the ceremony as a thanksgiving for the empowerment. If you do not have rice, do not pick up rice which has fallen on the ground. It is better then to put a mala or flower on your hands.
If you do not always know what is going on during the ritual, do not worry. You should trust the Lama who at a given moment explains only what the students need to know.
At the end of an empowerment, as an expression of gratitude, we offer the Lama a katak, and possibly, a gift. Sometimes the Lama returns the katak, by putting it around your neck. Otherwise, put it on the throne or a place arranged for that.
Can I talk with the Teacher in private?
During a programme, the Lama usually reserves some time for private interviews. Find out how to sign up for such an interview. Often, you should register in advance at the centre. Sometimes, one is asked to send an introductory, written note to the Teacher, explaining why one needs the meeting.
Entering the audience, traditionally one should prostrate three times in front of the Teacher. However, many of the Rinpoches signal not to do it. Follow that. It is nice to offer a katak to the Lama in the beginning or end of the interview, as a way to say thank you for the time devoted to you.
During the interview try to express your problem clearly and concisely. It is best to write down your questions in advance, not to forget something important.
When you ask a question, be aware that the answer might surprise you. The Lama knows the best what will be really beneficial for you. Follow his or her advice, even if it is not in line with your expectations. Do not insist that Rinpoche did not understand the question.
We leave Rinpoche's room walking backwards - all the time facing Rinpoche. Do not prostrate at the end of the meeting, Tibetans consider it an inauspicious sign, showing that it will be a long time before you meet your Lama again.
Do not be stressed if you do not know traditional Buddhist savoir-vivre. What is really important is maintaining respect towards the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. If you simply apply the rules of common etiquette, everything will be alright.
Lama Rinchen & Agnieszka Zych