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Jul 23
Sakyong and Family
Machen: A Look into the Kalapa Court

Behind the Sakyong and Sakyong Wangmo left to right: Machen Corps Commander Michael Weiss, ADC Nathan Railla, Cecilia Driscoll, Susan Morin, Kevin Hoagland, Jeffrey Stevens, Anthony Miller, Dorothée Rosen, Stephan Bierling, Meta Maertens, Janos Porps, Joe Schoech, (not pictured: Marvin Robinson); photo courtesy of Ian Bascetta

Behind the Sakyong and Sakyong Wangmo left to right: Machen Corps Commander Michael Weiss, ADC Nathan Railla, Cecilia Driscoll, Susan Morin, Kevin Hoagland, Jeffrey Stevens, Anthony Miller, Dorothée Rosen, Stephan Bierling, Meta Maertens, Janos Porps, Joe Schoech, (not pictured: Marvin Robinson); photo courtesy of Ian Bascetta

COLUMN: Dispatches from the Kalapa Court Kitchen
article by Anthony Miller

The birds are chirping, dew is glistening, and the sun is rising in the East. The Machen, or Kalapa Court cook is putting on her Chef’s coat. The Kusung silently delivers a cup of Tibetan style tea to the Sakyong. The Sakyong Wangmo is practicing and Jetsun Drukmo and Jetsun Yudra are playing. The Shabchi are putting together a place setting for the Royal Family’s breakfast.

In a few minutes the Machen whirls into action. Eggs are cooking, organic greens are sautéing and bread is miraculously being turned into toast. Breakfast is lovingly plated and whisked away. The center of the mandala is being fueled!

The Kalapa Court is the center of our mandala. It is the power source, the lightning rod for our community. The center from which radiates the Great Eastern Sun. In the heart of this center is the hearth, or Kalapa Court Kitchen. This hearth is the domain of the Machen. From his or her hands the Royal Family is fed and nourished.

In the Kalapa Court the job of the Machen is not just to cook good, nourishing, healthy food, but also to hold the space of the kitchen. The Machen protects the sanity of the space.

Keeping the kitchen clean is a key aspect. How does it feel when your kitchen is a mess, when there is dried egg on the stove, or dirty dishes piling up in the sink? It makes us slightly irritated, or we feel sloppy or lazy. The cleaning weighs on our mind.

How does it feel when we wash our dishes mindfully, clean the stove carefully? How does it feel to have an uncluttered space with a cutting board and a knife clean and ready for action? We might feel inspired to cook, we may feel a sense of wholesomeness and organization. A clean space helps us to see clearly and lets our mind relax a little. When we clean up after ourselves we feel uplifted in a very basic and essential way. By caring for it, we are expressing the view that our space is sacred.

The food itself is treated with the same view of sacredness. The Machen takes care in washing the vegetables, in slicing a mushroom, or selecting a piece of steak from the butcher. The expression of sacredness here is that these things are worthy of our full awareness. The Machen can afford to pay complete attention to all aspects of the process. This practice uplifts and energizes our mind. It feels good!

The Machen also holds the understanding that how he or she communicates to others while in the kitchen is also essential to creating an uplifted and sacred space. Even if the Machen is engaged in a lot of activity, or is working quickly, there is the view that one communicates with patience, directness, and kindness.

Cooking and eating are two of the most fundamental human activities. They are aspects that help us create community. Eating together gives rise to conversation, to the opportunity for genuine communication. We can share ideas, questions, our intelligence and our confusion. When we sit down with our friends or family to share a meal we are sharing an aspect of our humanness. We need to eat! We are engaging our sense perceptions and can feel enriched by our appreciation for what we have in front of us. Good food, food made with love can even wake us up.

Being a Machen is one of the most critical and the most rewarding paths of service in the Mandala. If you are interested in learning more about this particular path please contact Anthony at [email protected].

Now, for a RECIPE!

Essential Chicken Stock:
One of the foundations of good cooking is a good stock. A good stock makes soups and sauces a success.

All ingredients are organic unless unavailable as such

photo credit: ilovebutter via photopin cc

photo credit: ilovebutter via photopin cc

2 Large Spanish Onions – quartered
1 Large Leek – washed and cleaned very carefully
3 Carrots – peeled and quartered
5 stalks celery – washed and quartered
One Whole Chicken – removing the breasts, thighs, and legs for another use
3 Dried Bay Leaves
3 Sprigs Fresh Thyme
3 Sprigs Fresh Parsley
10 Black Peppercorns
3 TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil

In a large stock pot sauté the onions, carrots, leek, and celery in the olive oil. Cook over high heat until the onions are translucent. This sautéing helps bring out some of the flavor of the vegetables.

Add the chicken (minus the breasts, thighs, and legs) to the pot. Cover with cold water. Add the bay, thyme, peppercorns, and parsley. Turn the heat down to medium. After about 30 minutes keep an eye on the stock as it heats up and skim off any impurities that create foam on the surface of the liquid. Do this every 20 minutes or so for the first hour or two. After this turn the heat down to low and let barely simmer for about 8 hours. It is best to start this first thing in the morning. After 8 hours, strain everything out of the liquid and discard or compost. Let the stock cool a bit and then refrigerate or freeze.


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9 responses to “ Machen: A Look into the Kalapa Court ”
  1. Arthur Ramsay
    Aug 2, 2014

    Thanks to Anthony Miller for contributing on the issue of meat-eating and being brave in accepting his responsibility. I certainly appreciate there are different views on the matter and I am not any kind of fanatic. Neither am I personally an advocate of any kind of “ism”. However I am not sure it is a topic for consideration in the way it should be ,in my opinion, in our community.
    I wonder if members of the community have seen footage or read about the condiitions in abbatoirs etc. Obviously it was very difficult to be a “vegetarian” in Tibet and in some other situations. It is also possible to eat only meat that has been ethically sourced and where the animals have had had some kind of decent length of life and have been shown kindness, given that most of them wouldn’t exist at all if they weren’t born to be eaten.
    I appreciate that I do not have great realisation and all that,or any realisation for that matter, but I wonder if great teachers like the DL and VCTR and the Sakyong for that matter are really fully cognisant of the situation in the modern world. I appreciate they come from the Transhimalayan cultures and might tend to follow such traditions. If we are warriors we should ask them about it, and accept we might disagree, as they should consider changing their mind! I believe we are encouraged to be intelligent and not follow behaviours or our leaders in a cultish way which has already got us into one or two unethical positions in the past.
    I also wonder if this might be some kind of misuse of a tantric view of doing whatever we like as it is” all awake.” It ain’t awake if it is cruel.
    No harm in Hinayana and putting others before ourselves in Mahayana seem to be the way to ensure that we should only occcasionally have an ethically sourced chicken or leather jacket at best! I would really like to hear more views on this topic as it has subtleties and causes confusion to me. Thenks.

  2. Hi Anthony. Thanks for responding. Yes, vegetarianism SHOULD be a topic of discussion in our community. Our Dedication of Merit includes the words “may ALL beings enjoy profound brilliant glory.” Living a brief life of torture in a factory farm before being slaughtered isn’t “profound brilliant glory.” And if “beings” excludes animals, then I guess we could all go out and enjoy some bullfighting. I hope that the words of the chant aren’t just meaningless blah blah blah, something that sounds nice. Why refer to the Dalai Lama or Dorje Dradul (although I sort of expected it), or anyone else? If they did it, then maybe it’s okay for me too? That’s too easy, too convenient. And if that’s the bar we set, we can pretty much justify anything if we look hard enough. Because it’s a “well known” practice doesn’t excuse it. Certain individuals you mentioned indulged in some real doozies that people don’t like to talk about. And we needn’t bother. It’s simple. Unless our chant, and the principles it represents, are just irrelevant fluff, we, as a group, SHOULD strive to be vegetarians. It really isn’t that hard. Millions, if not billions, do it. It isn’t a complicated issue. I’d love to see our groups and leaders express bravery by stepping up to this challenge. And it would be especially inspiring to see the centre of the mandala lead the way.

  3. Anthony Miller
    Aug 1, 2014

    Thank you everyone for all the comments.

    @Arthur Ramsay and @Michael, I just wanted to respond briefly to your thoughts.

    I think the question of vegetarianism is a great one, and one that should be a topic in our community.

    I personally have a lot of respect and belief in vegetarianism and know many of the great masters have espoused the same view.

    I have found there to be some examples on both sides of the issue however. On one hand the 17th Karmapa, Chatral Rinpoche and others have urged vegetarianism and on the other hand the Dalai Lama and the Dorje Dradul were/are well known to eat meat.

    My description of being at the butcher shop was intended to convey that I feel a personal responsibility to buy food and especially animal products where the situation is as healthy as possible, and to have complete appreciation for what has been offered by those beings.

    My comments here are not intended to particularly answer any question regarding vegan/vegetarianism, but just to share my thoughts on the topic. Thanks again for commenting. It is exciting to see a lively readership at Shambhala Times!

  4. Michael Weiss
    Jul 30, 2014

    Chuck – thank you for bringing to attention the passing of JoAnn Carmin. I just read the wonderful remembrances of her in the Chronicles. Looking at her photo, I realized that I had seen her at the SSA at KCL. I wish that I had known at that time who she was – a venerable forebear and now an esteemed ancestor for all the folks who serve in today’s Machen Corps. Thank you JoAnn for paving the way.

  5. The idea that “selecting a piece of steak from the butcher” is a practice that “uplifts and energizes our mind” and “feels good!” is disturbing. Arthur is correct. This is not Tibet of centuries past. If culture and practice can’t change with the times then we might as well have a feudal system while we recite happy chants and pat ourselves on the back. Out of sight, out of mind I guess. Too hard to refrain? Tastes too good to give up? Lighten up, go with the flow? In this case, I don’t think so. Nobody’s perfect in their practice (including me!!!), but this is an obvious case where actual practice contradicts a straightforward principle. It’s too far over the line. There’s no excuse for it.

  6. Arthur Ramsay
    Jul 29, 2014

    Very uplifting and precise. Except for any mention of the source or ethics of eating the chicken. Could someone enlighten me as to how this is not causing harm to other being(s)? Are we aware of the conditions of animals in agribusiness? If not please look them up. This is not Tibet. We do not have to eat animals do we? Please explain.

  7. Helena Fagan
    Jul 28, 2014

    Thanks for this, Anthony. I would love to be able to participate, but since it’s not practical, will continue to try to apply these principles in my own kitchen.

  8. thanks for writing this Anthony…great connection to Shambhala Household teachings! Good article!

  9. I would encourage any who are inspired by this lovely description of the Machen lineage to remember JoAnn Carmin, the principal Machen for the Vidyadhara for the last year of his life. JoAnn, an MIT professor for many years, died last week and the Chronicles of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche has a moving remembrance page.


    I appreciate the work of the Machens having had deep training by the Vidyadhara in that practice. He was hungry and I was around. The entire instruction (secret no longer) was “Just cook some meat and noodles in the Tibetan style but maybe make it a little British and American.” It is fair to say that layers of subtlety and nuance have been added in the 44 years since that teaching was offered, and I imagine that is much to the relief and longevity, of the Sakyong and his family.

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