"We think happiness is what we get when attachment gets what it wants. Buddha says happiness is what we get when we give up attachment."

Ven. Robina

Lama Yeshe

Lama Zopa Rinpoche


With the help of an incredible team of volunteers Raleigh Auction Raises $21,000

Auctioneer Jamie Silberman acknowledges a bid from the back of the packed house for "Garuda" a piece offered by San Francisco artist Losang Monlam. Photo David Strevel.

On Saturday, November 17 The Bodhichitta Trust held a cocktail party-auction at the home of Sarah Brooks in Raleigh, North Carolina. 100 people packed the place, with successful bidders buying some 46 items, including statues and tangkas from Kathmandu, Turkish rugs, and Australian Aboriginal paintings.

The trust offered half of the $21,000 raised to San Francisco FPMT center Tse Chen Ling, and used the rest towards loans from kind supporters of Liberation Prison Project when Ven. Robina ran it, which the trust had underwritten.

The evening included performances by Guatemalan conductor and cellist Igor Sarmientos, Sarah herself, Raleigh's FPMT center director Robbie Watkins, and Jill Marie, all accomplished pianists. A highlight was a five-minute cello piece written by Igor's father, the late Jorge Sarmientos, for a visit to Guatemala in 2004 of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

“It was a beautiful evening,” said one guest. “Ven. Robina and her team know how to throw a party!”

From left: Ven. Katy Cole, Sarah Brooks, Carina Rumrill, Ven. Robina Courtin, Alison Harr, Kate Macdonald, Rashel Adragna and Michelle Stewart. Photo Alison Harr.

Igor performs the five-minute cello piece written by his father, the late Jorge Sarmientos, for His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Photo Alison Harr.
Some of the 40+ items auctioned: clockwise from top-left: Vajrayogini thangka detail, by the artits of Patan, Kathmandu; Lama Tsong Khapa statue, also by the artists of Patan, with 23 kt gold-leaf offered by Maine artists Troy and Mer Stafford; a detail from one of the Aborginal pieces offered by Kate Negoescu of Perth; bell and dorje from Kathmandu, goldleafed by Troy Stafford; silver-plated mandala set gilded in 23kt goldleaf by Troy Stafford; and White Tara thangka detail, by the artists of Patan. Photos David Strevel and Kate Macdonald.

The event wouldn't have been possible without the support of over 30 volunteers: over a dozen of Sarah’s friends in Raleigh: Barb Baranski, Chris Baranski, Sandy Carlson, John Castelloe, Richard Dell, Jr., Sarah Gould-Wright, Guillermo Haas-Thompson, Jessica James, Lisa James, Kim Lillig, David Machles, Jill Marie, Karen Mastroianni, Scott Miller, Patrick McGinity, Timothy Powell, Frank Scalia, David Strevel, Elise Strevel, Robbie Watkins and Brian Wright; plus a handful of friends and supporters of Ven. Robina’s who came from out of town: Ven. Katy Cole, Alison Harr, Rashel Adragna, and Michelle Stewart who flew out from California; Carina Rumrill and Kate Macdonald from Portland; Lana Popovic and Jaime Silberman from New York; Vikrant Bhasin and Igor from Washington DC; Joshua Bond from Tennessee; and Mer Stafford from Maine.

People from around the world also offered items: Kate Negoescu of Perth offered Aboriginal paintings; Troy and Mer Stafford offered white gold and gold-leafwork, and semi-precious stones for the statues from Kathmandu, as well as a series of Rajasthani paintings, a hand-gilded 23kt gold looking-glass, a monk’s gau, and a hand-gilded 23kt framed photograph of His Holiness the Dalai Lama; Lana offered a weeks stay in her Manhattan apartment; Rashel offered a vacation at her Hollywood home; Carol Hunchik of Raleigh offered a series of yoga classes; Elise offered three stained-glass hand-made eternal knots; Jill Marie offered a consultation and series of organizational services; Sarah offered three lotus photographs, and a course of piano lessons from her Peaceful Piano Studio; Seret & Sons of Santa Fe offered a set of silk hand-embroidered Uzbekistani cushions; Jaime offered two tailored Calvin Klein men’s suits; and San Francisco artist Losang Monlam offered one of his paintings "Garuda."

"I was so touched that so many people wanted to help," said Ven. Robina. "People came on their own dime from around the country. Others offered beautiful pieces to the auction. And the Raleigh volunteers were amazing. A very special community they have there at Kadampa Center. Such a harmonious, supportive group."

Clockwise from top-left: Lana and Ven. Robina; Mer and Vikrant; a detail from Rainmaker Dreaming, one of the Aboriginal pieces; guest Andre Smith. Photos Lana Popovic and David Strevel.
Before the auction guests chat over canapes and cocktails, enjoying musical offerings from Igor on cello, and Robbie Watkins and Jill Marie on Sarah's baby grand piano. The auction's Aboriginal art, Tibetan thangkas, and Turkish rugs cover Sarah's walls. Photo David Strevel.
Volunteers Sandy Carlson (left) and Lisa James (right) offer guests various canapes created by Carina Rumrill and her team. Photo David Strevel.

The trust spent some $14,000 to put on the auction, mainly on holy objects and Tibetan furniture from Kathmandu. A friend of Ven. Robina's in Santa Fe, Ercan Nalkiran, also offered Turkish rugs from his store The Rugman of Santa Fe, at cost.

"We had to spend money to do the event well," said Kate, who manages Ven. Robina's projects. “So it does take courage, as Ven. Robina always says. We've done several of these events in the past and they have been incredibly successful. And you can really see the benefit, not just helping bring in the dollars, but touching people’s hearts, inspiring people, bringing people together. They really combine all elements of Ven. Robina’s fundraising philosophies: being generous, offering a beautiful experience to people, and, of course, using commerce.”

Ven. Robina and the staff of Liberation Prison Project did four of these cocktail-party auctions – one of many commercial endeavors of Ven. Robina's to bring in funds to support LPP – in Australia in 2009. They raised $75,000 total.

“The parties have been a fantastic success," Ven. Robina said. "I think because we always try to follow Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s advice to ‘think of giving, not receiving,’ by offering people a beautiful time, music and delicious food – in other words making people happy.

“Awesome event last night at Sarah Brooks house,” said one volunteer. “Wonderful food, excellent company, Ven. Robina Courtin, beautiful items up for auction. I feel so privileged to be part of this community!”

At the end of the evening Ven. Robina thanked each person who worked on the event and offered each a tsa-tsa. Photo David Strevel.
Chenrezig thangka, from Patan, Kathmandu. Photo David Strevel.
Aboriginal art offered from Kate Negoescu of Perth. Photo David Strevel.

Silk hand-embroidered cushions offered by Seret & Sons in Santa Fe. Photo David Strevel.
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