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May 21
Atlantic Canada, Community Articles
Shambhala’s First Vajrakilaya Four Karmas Offering

By Laura Stone

Catherine Edwards, Susan Drummond, Acharya Eve Rosenthal, Anne Studley, Norm Matkin, Sarah Cox and Marianne Bots (left to right)

Catherine Edwards, Susan Drummond, Acharya Eve Rosenthal, Anne Studley, Norm Matkin, Sarah Cox and Marianne Bots (left to right)

Acharya Eve Rosenthal and Anne Studley were having dinner together one evening last October when Anne brought up the question of when they would practice the Vajrakilaya four karmas fire offering. Several people who had done the Vajrkilaya amending fire offering practice had been waiting for an opportunity to do the four karmas practice. Although there was a translation of the text, there were few instructions and it had never been done before by Shambhala practitioners. These fire offerings are often done during the don season (a period before the Tibetan New Year when sudden attacks of negative emotions can occur), which would be a perfect time to place the first dot on this practice.

That conversation sowed the seed of activity that grew into the first Vajrakilaya four karmas fire offering by Shambhala practitioners, which was held at Dorje Denma Ling February 13-22, 2009, immediately after a Vajrakilaya amending fire offering.

In the past, recitation requirements for the amending fire offering could only be met by counting mantras on retreat. A request was made to Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche to open the fire offering to those who had completed the retreat practice by time. The Sakyong gave his permission, and with this, tremendous efforts joined forces to manifest this Vajrakilaya four karmas practice – pacifying, enriching, magnetizing and destroying. Done from the point of view of enlightened action, it creates the possibility to respond appropriately, with egolessness, when one enters a situation.

A local resident feasts on the offerings

A local resident feasts on the offerings


The fire offerings require making many tormas, sand mandalas (one or four, depending on whether the offering is an amending or four karmas one) and substances to be offered into the fire. Those involved in this period of hunting and gathering are particularly grateful to Heather Scott and Silvana Castillo and their farm La Finquita, where participants cut grasses, willow boughs, apple branches and hawthorn branches in November to prepare for the February pujas. Much appreciation also goes to Norm Matkin, who gathered wood and other necessary substances, and to Anne Studley, who did the lion’s share of preparation for the four karmas fire offering.


Nothing could proceed without instructions to accompany the translated text. These came from Lama Pegyal, the husband of Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche’s mother, Lady Konchok. Lama Pegyal, who lives at Marpa House in Boulder, has done this practice with the Sakyong at various sites around the world. Through Allya Burke, Marpa House director, an online meeting was arranged, and Sarah Harding kindly agreed to act as translator. Larry Mermelstein provided Lama Pegyal with the Tibetan fire offering text written by Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche and Dzongsar Khyentse Chokyi Lodro (the previous incarnation of the current Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche). Sarah Harding and Lama Pegyal went over the text a few days prior to the online meeting. For more than two hours from his room at Marpa House, Lama Pegyal, who was delighted to share information, answered questions from the Vajrakilaya group in Nova Scotia on liturgical details such as mudras, tormas and mandalas. The most important part of the meeting was the instructions on the view of the practice, particularly regarding the destroying karma.

According to Acharya Rosenthal, Dorje Denma Ling is the best place in all of Shambhala for fire pujas, and Dorje Denma Ling was indeed wonderful. It has a shrine room in an old barn with a chimney in the middle of the room, and the staff acted in solidarity by wearing the appropriate colors at appropriate times and serving meals of the appropriate colors. Program director Shonnu Quiana’s support of the mandala was amazing. Moreover, the two Vajrakilaya fire offerings overlapped with a Chakrasamvara group retreat led by Acharya Larry Mermelstein. This created a powerful, energized atmosphere.

Enriching flame

Enriching flame

Vajrakilaya Four Karmas Fire Offering

Preparations and practice took place from early morning to late at night, with each karma carried out at the traditional time: Pacifying started before breakfast, enriching began after breakfast, magnetizing began after lunch and destroying began after dark and lasted late into the night.

Sarah Cox, the choppon for both fire offerings, was elegant and precise; she was assisted by Susan Drummond from Portland, Oregon. Anne Studley and Acharya Rosenthal arrived at the end of the amending fire puja with many of the substances for the four karmas puja. Norm Matkin, the sole male participant, did an incredible job as fire choppon for both offerings. Also participating were Catherine Edwards, formerly of Nova Scotia and now director of the Berkeley Shambhala Center, and Marianne Bots from the Netherlands.

The practice was harmonious and very powerful. As Acharya Rosenthal said, “All the causes and conditions came together so that this practice could take place. It is particularly auspicious that we were able to do a practice renowned for dispelling obstacles during the don season. The first dot has been placed. We look forward to continuing and refining our understanding of the Vajrakilaya fire offerings in the future.”

Dorje Denma Ling hopes to host Vajrakilaya fire offerings again in the don season. In the meantime, there will be an enriching fire offering October 23-25 for those who have completed the appropriate prerequisites. For more information and registration visit dorjedenmaling.org/.

All photos by Catherine Edwards.

Laura Stone

Laura Stone

Laura Stone has been volunteering at Dorje Denma Ling since the end of October 2008. Her home is in Deventer, the Netherlands, and she is a member of the Amsterdam Shambhala Center. This article is the fruition of a talk with Acharya Eve Rosenthal.

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1 response to “ Shambhala’s First Vajrakilaya Four Karmas Offering ”
  1. Fred Weinberg
    May 18, 2013

    I am curious if this is the Anne Studley that used to live in Atlanta, Ga.. If so I would like her to contact me. Thanks. Fred

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