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Adam Camillus von Friedeck, a priest of our college, has written a rite for Christmas yesterday. The rite itself is based on the Episcopalian and Anglican Book of Common Prayer.

Read the 2018 Christmas rite here or below.

Order of worship for Christmas Eve 2018

Collegium Sacerdotum

Adapted from the Book of Common Prayer according to the use of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America

The people standing, the Celebrant says
Blessed by God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

People             And blessed be his kingdom, now and for ever.


The Celebrant says
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen. 

Kyrie eleison.
Christe eleison.
Kyrie eleison.

The Collect of the Day

The Celebrant says to the people
                        The Lord be with you.

People             And also with you.

Celebrant        Let us pray.

O God, you have caused this holy night to shine with the brightness of the true Light: grand that we, who have known the mystery of that Light on earth, may also enjoy him perfectly in heaven; where with you and the Holy Spirit he lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

The Lessons

The people sit. The Lessons are read, the Reader first saying

A reading from _____.

A citation giving chapter and verse may be added. This service’s Readings are Isaiah 9:2-7 and Titus 2:11-14.

After each Reading, the Reader says
                        The word of the Lord.

People             thanks be to God.

Then, all standing, the Celebrant reads the Gospel (Luke 2:1-14), first saying

The Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke.

People             Glory to you, Lord Christ.

After the Gospel, the Reader says
                        The Gospel of the Lord.

People             Praise to you, Lord Christ.

The Prayers of the People

With all our heart and with all our mind, let us pray to the Lord, saying “Lord, have mercy.”
For the peace from above, for the loving-kindness of God, and for the salvation of our souls, let us pray to the Lord.

Lord, have mercy.

For the peace of the world, for the welfare of the Holy Church of God, and for the unity of all peoples, let us pray to the Lord.

Lord, have mercy.

For all the clergy and people, let us pray to the Lord.

Lord, have mercy.

For the Sôgmô, for the leaders of the nations, and for all in authority, let us pray to the Lord.

Lord, have mercy.

For this city, for every city and community, and for those who live in them, let us pray to the Lord.

Lord, have mercy.

For seasonable weather, and for an abundance of the fruits of the earth, let us pray to the Lord.

Lord, have mercy.

For the good earth which God has given us, and for the wisdom and will to conserve it, let us pray to the Lord.

Lord, have mercy.

For those who travel on land, on water, or in the air or through outer space, let us pray to the Lord.

Lord, have mercy.

For the aged and infirm, for the widowed and orphans, and for the sick and the suffering, let us pray to the Lord.

Lord, have mercy.

For the poor and the oppressed, for the unemployed and the destitute, for prisoners and captives, and for all who remember and care for them, let us pray to the Lord.

Lord, have mercy.

For all who have died in the hope of the resurrection, and for all the departed, let us pray to the Lord.

Lord, have mercy.

For deliverance from all danger, violence, oppression, and degradation, let us pray to the Lord.

Lord, have mercy.

For the absolution and remission of our sins and offenses, let us pray to the Lord.

Lord, have mercy.

That we may end our lives in faith and hope, without suffering and without reproach, let us pray to the Lord.

Lord, have mercy.

Defend us, delivery us, and in thy compassion protect us, O Lord, by thy grace.

Lord, have mercy.

In the communion of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, and of all the saints, let us commend ourselves, and one another, and all our life, to Christ our God.

To thee, O Lord our God.


O God, you make us glad by the yearly festival of the birth of your only Son Jesus Christ: Grant that we, who joyfully receive him as our Redeemer, may with sure confidence behold him when he comes to be our Judge; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

The Celebrant says
And now, as our Savior Christ has taught us, we are bold to say,

People and Celebrant
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy Name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Celebrant blesses the people
The almighty and merciful Lord, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, bless you and keep you. Amen.

The Celebrant dismisses them with these words
                        Let us go forth into the world, rejoicing in the power of the Spirit.

People             Thanks be to God.


In addition to being Halloween, today marks Lhabab Düchen, a Tibetan Buddhist holiday that celebrates the Buddha’s descent from Indra’s heaven where he taught the Dharma to his mother. Khenpo Tenzin Norgay of the Palyul lineage has jokingly called it “Buddhist Mother’s Day,” but it is a day that especially celebrates the miraculous acts and deeds of Siddhartha Guatama, the Shakyamuni Buddha.

The following are two works of praise for the Buddha and his miracles.


Great Praise of the Ten Acts of the Buddha
by Arya Nagajuna

tabkhé tukjé shakyé rik su trung, shyen gyi mitub dü kyi pung jompa
With skillful means and compassion, you were born in the Shakya clan, unconquerable by others, you vanquished Mara’s hordes,

ser gyi lhünpo tabur jipé ku, shakyé gyalpo khyö la chaktsal lo
your physical form resplendent, like a mountain of gold. To you, the King of the Shakyas, I pay homage!

gang gi dangpor changchu tukkyé né, sönam yeshe tsok nyi dzok dzé ching
You I shall praise who first awakened the mind of enlightenment, then completed the accumulations of merit and wisdom,

dü dir dzepa gyachen drowa yi, gön gyur khyö la dak gi töpar gyi
and now in this age, through the vast sway of your actions, have become the lord and protector of living beings!

lha nam dön dzé dulwé dü khyen né, lha lé bab né langchen tar shek shing
Homage to you who, having taught the gods, knew the time had come to tame the human world, and

rik la zik né lhamo gyultrulmé, lhum su shyukpar dzé la chaktsal lo
descending from the god realm like a great elephant, foresaw the family of your birth and entered the womb of Mayadevi!

dawa chu dzok shakyé sepo ni, tashi lumbi tsal du tampé tsé
Homage to you, prince of the Shakyas, born after ten months in the auspicious Lumbini grove, where

tsang dang gyajin gyi tü tsen chok ni, changchub rik su ngedzé chaktsal lo
Brahma and Indra revered you, your supreme marks proving you were destined to be enlightened!

shyönnu tobden mi yi sengé dé, agha magadhar ni gyutsal ten
Homage to you, lion among men, in all your youthful vigour, displaying your prowess in the games at Agha Magadha,

kyewo drekpachen nam tsarché né, drenda mepar dzé la chaktsal lo
where you triumphed over the proud contestants, so that no one could stand as your rival!

jikten chö dand tünpar jawa dang, khana mato pang chir tsünmo yi
Homage to you who, to comply with worldly convention and avoid all misdeeds, took on a queen and courtiers

khor dangden dzé tab la khepa yi, gyalsi kyongwar dzé la chaktsal lo
and by acting with such skilful means, so you ruled the kingdom!

khorwé jawar nyingpo mé zik né, khyim né jung té kha la shek né kyang
Homage to you who saw that samsara is wholly futile, renounced the life of a householder,

chörten namdak drung du nyi lé nyi, rabtu jungwar dzé la chaktsal lo
and, travelling through the sky, ordained yourself before the Vishuddha Stupa!

tsönpé changchub drubpar gong né ni, nairanjané dram du lo druk tu
Homage to you who, intent on persevering until enlightenment, for six years practised austerities on the banks of the Nairañjana,

kawa ché dzé tsöndrü tarchinpé, samten chok nyé dzé la chaktsal lo
and taking diligence to its ultimate perfection, attained the supreme samadhi!

tokma mé né bepa dönyö chir, magadha yi changchub shingdrung du
Homage to you who, seeking to make meaningful all your efforts, made throughout beginningless time, sat

kyiltrung miyo ngönpar sangye né, changchub dzokpar dzé la chaktsal lo
unmoving in the vajra posture beneath the bodhi tree in Magadha and awakened into true buddhahood, attaining perfect enlightenment!

tukjé dro la nyurdu zik né ni, varanasi lasok né chok tu
Homage to you who, in your compassion, gazed at once upon living beings, then

chö kyi khorlo kor né dulja nam, tekpa sum la gö dzé chaktsal lo
turned the wheel of the Dharma in sacred places like Varanasi, and established disciples in the three vehicles!

shyen gyi golwa ngenpa tsarché chir, mutek tönpa dang lhejin sok
Homage to you who destroyed evil-minded opponents, by defeating the six teachers of the tirthikas, Devadatta and the rest,

khormo jik gi yul du dü nam tul, tubpa yul lé gyal la chaktsal lo
as well as the maras in Varanasi; you were the mighty sage, victorious in battle!

sipa sum na pemé yönten gyi, nyen du yöpar chotrul chenpo ten
Homage to you who performed great miracles in Shravasti, unmatched in their splendour in all the three realms,

lhami drowa kün gyi rab chöpa, tenpa gyepar dzé la chaktsal lo
and through the offerings made by gods, humans, and other beings, caused the teachings to prosper and increase!

lelo chen nam chö la kuljé chir, tsachok drong gi sashyi tsangma ru
Homage to you who, to spur the lazy on to the Dharma, left your body, though immortal and like a vajra,

chimé dorjé tabü ku shek né, nya ngen dawar dzé la chaktsal lo
and passed into parinirvana in the pure abode of Kushinagara!

yangdak nyi du jikpamé chir dang, ma ong semchen sönam tobjé chir
Homage to you who, to show that you had not in reality perished and so that beings of the future could gain merit,

denyi du ni ringsel mang trul né, kudung cha gyé dzé la chaktsal lo
emanated a wealth of relics and caused your remains to be divided into eight portions!


Short Praise of the Buddha’s Deeds
by Aryashura

gang tsé kang nyi tsowo khyö tam tsé, sa chen di la gompa dün bor né
When you were born, chief among human beings, you took seven steps on this earth and said:

nga ni jikten di na chok ché sung, detsé khepa khyö la chaktsal lo
“In this world I am supreme.” To you, O wise one, I pay homage!

dangpo ganden lha yi yul né jön, gyalpö khab tu yum gyi lhum su shyuk
First, you descended from the heaven of Tushita, and in the royal home you entered your mother’s womb;

lumbini yi tsal du tubpa tam, chomden lha yi lha la chaktsal lo
In the grove at Lumbini, O sage, you were born: to the victorious ‘god amongst gods,’ I pay homage!

shyalyé khang du mama gyé shyi chö, shakyé drong du shyönnü roltsé dzé
You were tended by 32 nurses at the palace, you spent your youth in sports at the house of the Shakyas;

serkyé né su sa tso khab tu shyé, si sum tsunmé ku la chaktsal lo
At Kapilavastu you took Gopa as your wife: to you who are unequalled in the three worlds, I pay homage!

drongkhyer go shyir kyowé tsul ten né, chörten namdak drung du utra sil
At the four city gates, you were shown the four kinds of sorrow and cut your own hair in front of the Vishdda Stupa;

nairanjané dram du katub dzé, drib nyi kyön dangdral la chaktsal lo
On the banks of the Nairañjana, you practised as an ascetic: to you who are free from the faults of the two obscurations, I pay homage!

gyalpö khab tu langchen nyönpa tul, yangpachen du pé’ü drangtsi pul
At Rajagṛha you tamed a rogue elephant, in Vaishali the monkeys offered you honey;

magadha ru tubpa ngön sangye, khyenpé yeshe bar la chaktsal lo
In Magadha O sage, you realised buddhahood: to you in whom omniscient wisdom blossomed, I pay homage!

varanasir chö kyi khorlo kor, dzeté tsal du chotrul chenpo ten
At Varanasi you turned the Wheel of Dharma, and in the Jeta grove you showed great miracles;

tsachok drong du gongpa nya ngen dé, tuk ni namkha dra la chaktsal lo
At Kushinagara your wisdom mind passed into parinirvana: to you whose mind is like the sky, I pay homage!

ditar tenpé dakpo chomdendé, dzepé tsul la do tsam töpa yi
Through the merit of this brief praise of the deeds of the Enlightened One, Master of the Teaching,

gewé drowa kün gyi chöpa yang, deshek nyi kyi dzé dang tsungpar shok
may the actions of all living being come to equal the acts of the Sugata himself!

Armilustrium 2018

Happy Armilustrium!

The ancient Romans celebrated Armilustrium festival in honour of the god of war, Mars. They ritually purified their weapons and stored them for winter. In Sandus, we celebrate Armilustrium as a fall festival, where we purify our own weapons—the materials of our identities. These weapons might be our books, pens, and paper or the instruments of our trade.

While the unique geography of a micronation like Sandus means that we cannot all celebrate this holiday in the same physical space, the following ritual is offered to you so we can celebrate together in the same spiritual space.

For this ritual, you will need those instruments mentioned earlier (or a symbol of them).

If you have an altar, place these instruments (or a symbol of them) on or near the altar. Clear the space around your altar and prepare yourself for this ritual.

To begin, it is first important to get into the right headspace for ritual. Dim the lights, light a candle on your altar.

We are going to be making a sigil of our intention for both this ritual and this season. Consider a phrase that you want to set as your intention. This phrase might relate to your work and specifically your weapons for this ritual, or it might not.

  • You might begin with the phrase, “Let me use these books to research new things and grow in knowledge in my field.”
  • Get rid of all the vowels in this phrase: “Lt m s ths bks t rsrch nw thng nd grw n knwldg n m fld.”
  • Then eliminate duplicate letters: “Ltmshbkrcnwgd”
  • Finally, create an artistic rendering that combines these letters in some way. You may use all of the letters in this, or you may not. The practice of working through this phrase will help deepen your intention, and after this ritual, you can keep this sigil on a bulletin board or other prominent place.

Sigil Example

Here is an example of a sigil. While I am unsure what the original phrase was, you can clearly see some letters that have been artistically rendered in this symbol that is now meaningful and important for the person who created the symbol, although it is meaningless to an outsider who was not privy to the process of creating that sigil.

Next, we are going to charge that sigil.  Place your sigil on the altar and prepare to meditate (although this process will have hopefully been meditative).

Roman trumpets would be played as part of the purification ritual. In the spirit of this important part of the Roman Armilustrium, here is a meditation track that largely features a trumpet.

While you play this track, sit and face your altar with your weapons on or next to it, and your fresh sigil placed on top of it.

For this meditation, you may want to focus on the original phrase you created as an intention, or rely on any personal meditative practice that works best for you.

Finally, we turn to the washing of weapons that marked Armilustrium to the ancient Romans.  Raise your “weapons” over the smoke of your candle in order to spiritually cleanse them. If you believe in G-d, pray to the deity of G-d, thanking G-d for those instruments and asking for blessing in continuing to use them well.  If you believe in a multitude of gods, or no god at all, you may choose to address a specific deity or merely thank the universe for your gifts, remarking that you hope you are able to use them well.

Sit in this space for as long as you would like. If you do this ritual after dinner, it would be more than appropriate to eat your (seasonal) dessert near your altar with your lights still dimmed, thinking about the ritual and about Sandus.

Happy Armilustrium, Comrade Citizens!

— Sisenna Melville

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Titian, Crucifixion (1558)

Today is Good Friday, the most solemn day of the liturgical year, when Christians reflect on the suffering and death of Christ. Tomorrow is Transgender Day of Visibility, when trans people and their allies proclaim the presence and worth of transgender people in our society. I note this coincidence because Christians, in particular, have a responsibility to reflect on what this public visibility means for transgender people and the role that we have played and continue to play in rendering visibility a trial and a burden to those trans people for whom visibility is not a choice and in rendering it unelectable for those who would like to choose it.

In considering this, I invite you to reflect on the spectacle of the crucified Christ. I say “spectacle” deliberately: the word connotes a source of titillation or entertainment for a mob. In the Roman Catholic observance, this spectacle is enacted during the Good Friday liturgy, when the narrative of the Passion according to John is read. It is common for the assembled faithful read the part of the crowd, exclaiming “Crucify him!” and other invectives, in order to remind us of our own complicity in the death of Christ. We become partakers of the mob’s morbid delight in the spectacle of the wounded and crucified body of the Savior, seeing in the brokenness and grotesquery of a human body nothing but an object for our amusement.

This the ever-present risk of visibility: the transformation of visibility into spectacle, of a human body into a puzzle, of the Imago Dei into just another agglomeration of data to be “read” and categorized. For the person reduced to spectacle, even the simple fact of their public existence becomes material for evaluation and speculation by an audience for which they did not ask and with whom they have no relationship except proximity. This is a source of suffering for those forced to be visible in this way, and it is spiritual poison for those of us who participate in making spectacles of others’ bodies. Just as we imposed the logic of the world on the One sent to redeem us, and thereby killed him, so do we continue to impose the logics, régimes, and categories of the world on those sent to be our sisters and brothers, and thereby kill them.

The Crucifixion also affords us a glimpse at the alternative that opens us to redemption. Christ was not found out and interrogated by the world, but revealed Himself in His time and in His terms: for a Christian, salvation depends upon accepting those terms, and the imposition of worldly logics on Christ has rightly been condemned as heresy. Why, then, do we sin against our transgender neighbors in the same way? The régimes and systems through which we process the world are not self-contained: all depend ultimately on our accepting terms that do not come from us but are given from another. Each person we meet reveals to us, in a new way, the very image of God: who are we to think we can read it unaided? But the very fact of God’s image revealed to us tells us all we need to know: love and revere them as an icon of the Lord. As we move through this day of penance for our role in the Crucifixion, we can’t forget the people of whose lives we make a spectacle, whose existence we have made a crucifixion. We can do better: we can refuse the logics of the world that demand the legibility of each person and thing, and instead be open to God’s revelation in each person, and to any revelation that might be given to us from each person. Only in being open to God revealed can we hope for our salvation. God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and lead us to everlasting life.

D. Walden

The Sôgmô in þess capacity as Sacer Flamen of the Collegium Sacerdotum of the State of Sandus has established a new sodality for Sandum Buddhists on the last Amitabha Day of the Tibetan year 2144, or the year of the Fire Rooster. The new sodality is mandated with organising discussions of the Dharma, meditation events, and pan-Buddhist ceremonies.

Though the State of Sandus is made up of a minority of Sandum Buddhists, the country’s Buddhist tradition is seen as one of the most significant traditions in Sandus, as well as the country’s Socialist traditions. The Sôgmô, who is a Tibetan Buddhist, formed the country in May 2009 as a Tibetan Buddhist country under the then-Grand Lamate of Sandefreistikhan. Under the government then, the Grand Lama was intended to dress in state robes which reflected a lay person’s commitment to the Buddha’s teachings of poverty and asceticism. Today, the Sôgmô still wears state robes which reflect the country’s Buddhist tradition.

The leader of the Sangha will be governed by the Sandum Facilitator of the Council, Hatsu Ryuho, rather than the Sôgmô. Hatsu is expected to be made a flamen in the Collegium in the coming days.

As the Sandum Sangha does not have any teachers or officials of the Dharma, the body will be comprised only of lay people and of any ordained who may decide to join. While the body will not accept vows of ordination, however, it may receive pledges of refuge and of taking precepts.

While the country’s tradition is mostly Tibetan Buddhist, moreover, there will be no doctrinal or cultural divisions in the Sandum Sangha. Sandum Buddhism, as an abstract concept separate from Buddhism as a cultural community and practice in Asia and in America, is but a fledgling idea.

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The new logo of the Sandum Church

The Sandum Church (officially known as ἡ Σανδῆς Ἐκκλησία in Greek) has been granted a new monogram and logo from the Sôgmô in þess role as the Sacer Flamen of the Collegium Sacerodotum. The monogram is composed of the letters Iota and Eta, which are the first two letters of Jesus’s name in Greek (Ἰησοῦς). The monogram could also be seen to contain the Latin IHS monogram, meaning “Iesus Hominum Salvator” (Jesus the People’s Saviour). The colours within Christogram contains the colours of found in the coat of arms of the State of Sandus.

The significance of the new monogram, as described by the Sacer Flamen, is that the three lines separated by a single horizontal line represent the Trinity in heaven and on earth. The number three is also significant to Sandus generally because of the three parts of the Sandum Philosophy on human suffering, socialism, and pluralism.

ἡ Σανδῆς Ἐκκλησία

The new emblem or monogram of the Sandum Church depicts the stylised letters IHS and the Sandum national flag.

The church’s logo is comprised of the monogram with the name of the body in both English and Koine Greek.

The Σανδῆς Ἐκκλησία is a semi-autonomous body of the Collegium Sacerdotum, the Sandum cooperative which pioneers cultural developments and provides for religious and philosophical expression in the State of Sandus.



Kunzang Odsal Palyul Changchub Chöling in Poolesville, MD

༄ In 2006, my aunt and uncle, who served in Mongolia with the US Diplomatic Service, took our family to a Buddhist temple—which would eventually become my Buddhist temple—for a Mongolian autumn festival. My parents were less than impressed, but I found the experience life-changing. I had been frolicking around the temple, thoroughly enjoying the atmosphere, when I entered the prayer room and saw other people there sitting in the prayer room meditating in front of the altar to Padmasambhava (who, I later learned, had brought Buddhism to Tibet). I left the room and went to the last place I remembered seeing someone sitting like them: the little gift shop, where I saw statues of the Buddha in meditation postures known as “calling the World to witness” and the “lotus” posture. I immediately ran back (ran is perhaps accurate since I was 11 years old) when I sat down and crossed my legs and joined my hands in the lotus posture.

An amazing, miraculous calm came over me. Gone were the senses of anger and sadness from loneliness after my move to Maryland, and instead I breathed in fragrant air that was the most uplifting and rejuvenating I had ever experienced. My mind—normally keeping itself busy with youthful thoughts—was almost immediately decluttered.

A few minutes later, my mother came in the prayer room to tell me that our family was leaving. Someone stopped her on the way out and asked her if I had ever meditated before, and she said no—that our family was just visiting for the Mongolian autumn festival. The woman remarked that they had never seen something like it before, where a kid entered the prayer room with no background in Buddhism and in meditation and spontaneously started to meditate.

Today, though I tend not to use this term, I consider the experience nothing short of a miracle.

༄ What followed was a long journey of self-discovery and religious exploration. I figured that I was meant to be a Buddhist, and this intuition was reinforced when I learned about Buddhist philosophy. The same reason why I was called to be a Socialist—suffering and uplift of disadvantaged peoples—was reaffirmed by the basic tenets of Buddhism: (1) we suffer, (2) suffering is rooted in desire, (3) we can remove suffering by removing desire, and (4) we can remove desire by essentially following a thoughtful and ethical life. I was interested by Buddhism’s notion of compassion and the dedication which bodhisattvas show in helping other suffering sentient beings traverse the ocean of Samsara.

But I wanted to be sure, and not to be mistaken as choosing a new faith because it was novel—as was the case when people told me they thought my Socialist beliefs were “just a phase.” I spent the next three years exploring various religions and learning more about a variety of religious beliefs. I learned more about the tenets of Judaism and Islam, visited a mosque, and even revisited Christianity. In fact, I dabbled in so many religions that my few friends at the time thought I was fickle and was converting to a different religion every month. But I was not rash. I acted in a way uncharacteristic of someone who was less than thirteen years old:

I acted with restraint.

༄ It was the early morning of 12 April 2009. I was only 13 years old, but it was only three more days until my 14th birthday. I had spent the night before sitting in my bed, thinking about my religious faith, the Buddhist dharma, and how exactly does one formally converts to a different religion. I wanted to convert right then and there, but I decided I would wait until the morning when I woke up to see how I felt and what I would decide.

That morning, only my mother was awake. That morning, she sat and listened to me awkwardly explain how I wanted to become a Buddhist and to learn more about the religion. She was caring and told me, for example, how you don’t need to formally convert to being a Buddhist. You just are one. After I decided to covert, she would be the only one who would take me to my temple as often as she was willing to and let me attend youth classes. These classes were meant to culminate in your taking of bodhisattva and refuge vows, meaning you become a formal member of the tradition and receive a spiritual teacher—it’s a lot like being confirmed.

I only recently took refuge vows and received a new name, Tseten Dorjé, “Firm-” or “Stable-Life Vajra.” A vajra, “lightningbolt” and “diamond” in Sanskrit, means an instantaneous enlightenment. It is a very auspicious name, and it is my little silent prayer to become a bodhisattva.

༄ After I openly converted, which is to me a lot like coming out, quite a few people gave me their opinions and told me what they thought. I suppose one can expect some backlash, but I was not expecting quite as much when I decided to convert. I thought others would see how sincerely and delicately I had treated the matter, and still do. What follow are a few brief and real stories about responses I received, in no particular order.

My grandmother visited our family soon after, and I recall walking with her and my father around the national arboretum in Washington D.C., ironically, looking at the bonsai collection. I had flagrantly talked about converting, and she tried to tell me that Buddhism was not a good religion. She told me that “one day” I would find Christ and God again and that I would come back to church. My father sat silently and was pleased.

I once explained to a few other students in my science lab, in high school, that I was a Buddhist. Neither really understood what that meant, but one told me that I was going to hell and that I should accept Jesus as my Lord and Saviour and another told me I was possessed by demons.

On another occasion, I told my two Baptist best friends from my preteen days that I was a Buddhist. Thankfully, they were smarter and more aware about Buddhism than the two girls in my science lab—but they still told me I worshipped a rock, a statue, and not the living god.

On one occasion, in a French class, one person had assumed that I was Buddhist because it was novel and interesting, not because I had learned about the dharma and what it says about suffering—and had accepted it as valid.

I was once told by a relative that I should “go to Tibet and eat only saffron rice in a cave” if I did not like it here in the US and if I did not like being a Christian. Apart from just being racist, it is also impractical. Given, you know, how Tibet is occupied.

I have been called an idolater. And more than once! A Christian woman from Phoenix, AZ, has especially harassed me for several years about being a Buddhist.

During the Christmas season one year in high school, two religious boys in my year decided to give Christmas cards to everyone in our grade. The cards wished everyone a “Merry Christmas” and, for the ones whom they knew were not Christians, an aspiration. They hoped that we would “accept Jesus into [our hearts].”

One Christmas, after I graduated from high school and was an adult, someone opined openly to a table of family and his academic colleagues that there was no “hope” in any other religion except Christianity. Now, it was an interesting occasion, considering our guests on this occasion were all non-Christian: several Muslims, a Jew, and a Buddhist. No one wanted to disagree with their host, but I was thoroughly disgusted—and he said this looking at me.

Most recently, for Christmas, I received two books from a rather zealous relative, trying to entice me back to Christianity. One was a more popular book on Christianity, while another was touted as a apologist’s book to “prove” Christianity. I read neither and threw them away.

These are only a few such typical examples. There are, of course, the few rare harassers and missionaries, who scream—as has happened to me—at you to tell you that you are going to hell and that you are satanic and demonic.

No, we do not worship a statue. No, we do not all sit on a mat and eat only rice. (an actual very racist opinion I have received from a relative) No, we are not the same as Hindus. But thank you for praying for me.

I will pray that you find peace and overcome the causes of your anger and ignorance.

Migyur Dorje

Altar to Terton Migyur Dorjé at KPC

༄ Christian holidays tend to frustrate me. I am still not committed to the idea of going home for them. On one hand, I love the glee and joy associated with them. I love the lights, the cookies, and the warmth, and so on. But, with both missionaries and the increasingly politicisation of Christian holidays, with the so-called “War on Christmas,” I have learned to dislike the whole lot. They are not my holidays.

For one, everyone assumes you are a Christian unless they know better (and they often don’t), and, when I out myself as a Buddhist to them, many seem repulsed or taken aback. I wish people would stick with the generic “happy holidays,” since then I won’t have to clarify and be the recipient of someone’s stunned, prejudiced gasp. It keeps us all from very awkward social situations, I think you would agree.

Second, the “War on Christmas” is a melodramatic fantasy. People saying “Happy Holidays,” as opposed to “Merry Christmas,” is polite, inclusive, and appropriately sensitive—and, frankly, less likely to make you into an ass when you learn the other person isn’t Christian. But, for me, it is especially pernicious as a Buddhist who cannot always celebrate their own holidays.

Case in point. I once took a day off from high school to celebrate the Tibetan New Year, Lösar, the most important Tibetan holiday. When I explained I took it off for a religious holiday, I was told I needed to say which one and that Lösar was not an appropriate, officially-classified holiday. My absence was unexcused.

I envy Christians for thinking that their holidays are under fire, when their holidays form some of the most important cultural holidays in the country. I can only imagine in the future trying to take of from work and class for holidays none of them will have heard of, like Lhabab Düchen, Lösar, Chökhor Düchen, or Saga Dawa—let alone to wait to have to explain to someone who might come at me with some sort of ignorant comment. (“Oh, like Chinese New Year?” No…) I imagine experiences like the one I had in high school will likely reoccur, and I will have to explain that, yes, the “Festival of the Descent from Indra’s Heaven” is a real holiday, as is the holiday commemorating “the time the Buddha first turned the wheel of the dharma.”

In comparison, I recently experienced for the first time a Buddhist holiday with my sangha, the same day I took refuge vows and received my new name. It was for Chökhor Düchen, the holiday which celebrates the first time the Buddha lectured on the dharma, and I had only received word of the schedule the day before. I immediately took off work and, the next morning, woke up early for the two-hour journey to my temple and back. The experience was unrivalled and awesome. From 10am to 8pm, I was praying and doing activities for my sangha. I was surrounded by kind and uplifting people, who could teach me about the dharma and who would understand my Buddhist humour! I met new kind people, and remet some friends from many years ago. Several anis (nuns) lit up when they saw me, stopped their practice, and came up and hugged me and asked how I was doing. Others recognised me from social media, and many others thanked me for my avid posting and appreciated my perspective on current events when I share it. I was surrounded by a loving community which many people take for granted—but one which, in the past four years, I have only experienced three times, and not for lack of wanting to visit. Two of them were in the past two months. If I could, I would visit every weekend, but I am not able to make an 80-mile journey without a car.

Even in the past two trips, however, I learned and achieved much. In addition to taking refuge, a big step for such a novice lay practitioner, I learned about ngöndro, a course of study and practice of the dharma, and learned about from a trained lama (teacher) about the dharma and how to practice it. This is just evidence of age-old wisdom in Buddhism: that you really do need a teacher.

Suffice to say, my association with holidays is interesting and frustrating thanks largely to others’ prejudices, assumptions, and

༄ The culmination of witnessing others’ aggression, ignorance, and prejudices, as well as having to frequently defend my faith has left a heavy toll on me, I feel. Today, many people around me are surprisingly unaware I am a Buddhist, even though it is such a major part of who I am. And this is not because I am not a practising Buddhist, but rather because I hide my faith in public. When others are talking about their churches and their events, I have not felt comfortable discussing my own. I live in a society where I am expected to learn about these others’ religion, but few take their time to learn about mine, apart from the time they tell me about how “peaceful” it is. Have you heard of dukkha? The Four Noble Truths? The Heart Sutra? I live in a society where apologists claim they can “disprove” my religion and can viscerally attack me personally, claim I have a mental disorder, and threaten me. All this and more for witnessing my faith.

I know I am not alone, either. I have heard similar stories and frustrations from many others in my sangha. I have heard others express their frustration, their antipathy, about their own experiences with this latent form of Christian supremacy, and I have heard others allude to their uneasiness about being Buddhist in public. Many of the majority have pushed back against me when I have couched our society as “Christian supremacist” and have lambasted missionary and evangelism. They say “They mean well,” or they tell me that “If you had such good news, would you not want to share it with others?”

That answer is no, and they might mean well but that does not absolve them from their harmful and oppressive deeds and behaviour. Assuming that anyone is unaware of Christianity in the US is absurd, and evangelical missionaries strip individuals of our their own agency when they try to convert them. They have disrespected me and my intelligence, claimed there is something wrong with me, or even have screamed in my face and harassed me. I did not unknowingly become a Buddhist any more than they unknowingly were born and raised in their Christian religion. We both were aware of what we were doing according to our beliefs, but they have decided to tell me and try to make me change my mind. How rude.

In Buddhism, we do not believe that our religion is the “only true” one. We believe that others follow their religions for perfectly valid reasons, and we hope that their beliefs bring them peace and an end to suffering. My religion does not tell me that I need to convince you that your religion is false. My religion tells me that is ignorance, driven by my own egotistical notions about my religion, which will only create suffering. My religion tells me that your religion makes you happy and fulfilled, and there is nothing wrong with that. Mine does that, too.

With the recent election, I have come to terms with the fact that I cannot sit by idly. President Trump’s commitment to making sure everyone can say “Merry Christmas” again politicises Christmas and religion even more, exacerbating already clear religious divisions, and it worries me that the sort of personal attacks I received as a kid will happen more frequently and, worse, to others. It has encouraged me to stand up even more fervently now for my religious faith, to make clear to others that I am a Buddhist, and to practice my religion even at times when it is conspicuous to others, where before I have kept myself in the closet. I am encouraged not to “fight” some sort of religious war, as the “War on Christmas” is purported to be, but I am encouraged to represent compassion and peace I know of as a Buddhist and to advocate for awareness of my religion and for inter-religious work and dialogue.

All suffering comes from wanting your own happiness.
Complete awakening arises from the intention to help others.
So, exchange completely your happiness
For the suffering of others — this is the practice of a bodhisattva.

Even if you have done nothing wrong at all
And someone still tries to take your head off,
Spurred by compassion,
Take all his or her evil into you — this is the practice of a bodhisattva.

Even if someone broadcasts to the whole universe
Slanderous and ugly rumors about you,
In return, with an open and caring heart,
Praise his or her abilities — this is the practice of a bodhisattva.

Even if someone humiliates you and denounces you
In front of a crowd of people,
Think of this person as your teacher
And humbly honor him — this is the practice of a bodhisattva.

— 37 Practices of a Bodhisattvas by Togmé Zangpo (1297-1371)

By this effort, may all sentient beings be free of suffering. May their minds be filled with the nectar of virtue. In this way, may all causes resulting in suffering be extinguished, and only the light of compassion shine throughout all realms.

— Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo