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There is an ever-expanding need for qualified teachers as interest in Buddhist study grows and the number of FPMT centers, projects, services and study groups increases. The personal benefit of completing a full course of study in any FPMT standard education program is incalculable. An enormous additional benefit comes to the graduate and their local center when he or she receives the completion certification for the program – because this fulfills one of the key prerequisites for becoming an FPMT registered teacher, itself a requirement to teach in a center or study group.
FPMT Education Services makes three certificate study programs available to students – Discovering Buddhism, Basic Program and Masters Program – each designed in accordance with the guidance, wishes and advice of Lama Zopa Rinpoche. By completing a program in full, students are directly fulfilling Rinpoche’s wishes for education within FPMT. Acknowledging the need for registered teachers and understanding the rewards and benefits of teaching itself, we encourage all FPMT students to consider taking one of the standard FPMT education programs through to certification. …
In every practitioner’s life, there comes a moment when she knows that she has found her spiritual guide. It can look a lot of different ways. Some people have mystical visions or weep. Others simply find that one day, after many years of observation, they feel comfortable saying, “That person over there? Yes, he’s my teacher.” And although the look of this moment is as varied as there are people, a common emotional experience follows swiftly on its tail: a sense of purpose and inspiration, a feeling of coming home, a certainty of being on the right track.There is no doubt that a qualified spiritual teacher can change a person’s life.
But how do we know when a teacher is capable of guiding us along the path, inspiring us with their discipline, helping us understand the teachings and promoting harmony in our communities? At FPMT, the label “teacher” indicates a person possessing several indispensible qualifications: academic success, solid meditation practice, an attitude of service, ethical behavior and loving kindness. Also FPMT teachers have an appreciation of the organization’s history and unique teaching lineage, which helps build a sense of family and cohesion amongst their students. FPMT’s teacher registration process seeks to ensure as much as possible that teachers at FPMT centers, projects and services meet these criteria….
To supplement “Teaching a Good Heart: FPMT Registered Teachers,” the July-September 2012 cover story, we’re sharing another robust article about FPMT registered teachers, “Like Nectar on Flowers: The Selfless Service of FPMT-Registered Teachers,” from the July-September 2010 issue.
We’ve made our archive story “Like Nectar on Flowers” available in two parts. Both can be read online or downloaded as PDFs. We hope you enjoy this issue’s gems taken “From the Vault!”
Part 1 – History
We take a look at the history of how qualified teachers were developed within the FPMT during its early days, hearing from Lama Yeshe and early students. Here’s how the article opens:
“By 1974, many students of Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche had been studying solidly for at least two years at the biannual lam-rim courses held at Kopan Monastery in Nepal. As a result, Lama Yeshe began holding public examinations of his students in December of 1974 to help ensure their thorough Dharma education was being retained.
“Prior to the first examinations, Lama Yeshe gave a talk to the Sangha of FPMT, known by then as IMI (International Mahayana Institute), in order to prepare them for the first public examinations: ‘I think it is necessary that you know why we are going to hold examinations of IMI Sangha. Since you took ordination, your life, your body and speech, do not belong to you, nor do they belong to Lama. They belong to all universal living beings…’”
Part 2 – FPMT Geshes
In this section, we collected short biographies of many of FPMT’s most treasured geshes. Here’s a brief excerpt from the section’s introduction:
“It can be easy, particularly if one is new to Tibetan Buddhism, to miss just how rare and valuable teachers with Geshe degrees are. The degree is incredibly intensive (the curriculum can last up to 20 years), and graduates must have remarkable memorization and debating skills, making geshes fully qualified to help students master the most basic and advanced Buddhist concepts.
“Of the four levels of Geshe degree, most FPMT geshes have been awarded the highest-level (lharampa). Many have sacrificed promising careers within their own monastic universities as the teachers of young monks in order to teach in various centers outside of India. However, because of their dedication to Lama Zopa Rinpoche and FPMT’s vision, and because of their confidence that Dharma can be successfully established outside of Asia, these teachers have allowed themselves to be thrust into foreign cultures, often far from other Sangha.
“An FPMT geshe is a qualified geshe requested by Lama Zopa Rinpoche to serve in one of his centers when that center has a stable, committed community that can support a residence and salary for the geshe, and the students of that center are ready to go deeper into Buddhist philosophy and practice. The geshe’s responsibilities at the center are far-ranging. As resident teacher, he is there to teach, to provide spiritual guidance, to inspire each student on their path to enlightenment, and serve as a significant object of merit, particularly if he is ordained. He may be faced with a student who walks through the door unaware of even the basics of Buddhism, as well as the veteran student who has been practicing for 30 years and seeks in-depth study and initiation….”
By 1974, many students of Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche had been studying solidly for at least two years at the biannual lam-rim courses held at Kopan Monastery in Nepal. As a result, Lama Yeshe began holding public examinations of his students in December of 1974 to help ensure their thorough Dharma education was being retained.
Prior to the first examinations, Lama Yeshe gave a talk to the Sangha of FPMT, known by then as IMI (International Mahayana Institute), in order to prepare them for the first public examinations….
It can be easy, particularly if one is new to Tibetan Buddhism, to miss just how rare and valuable teachers with Geshe degrees are. The degree is incredibly intensive (the curriculum can last up to 20 years), and graduates must have remarkable memorization and debating skills, making geshes fully qualified to help students master the most basic and advanced Buddhist concepts.
Of the four levels of Geshe degree, most FPMT geshes have been awarded the highest-level (lharampa). Many have sacrificed promising careers within their own monastic universities as the teachers of young monks in order to teach in various centers outside of India. However, because of their dedication to Lama Zopa Rinpoche and FPMT’s vision, and because of their confidence that Dharma can be successfully established outside of Asia, these teachers have allowed themselves to be thrust into foreign cultures, often far from other Sangha….
TEACHINGS AND ADVICE: A Teacher Tells Us Why
In regard to generosity, we often hear about giving. What does Buddhism have to say about receiving?
Answered by Don Handrick:
It does seem that in Buddhist teachings we hear about receiving somewhat less frequently in comparison to how often the topic of giving is discussed. In spite of that, the topic of receiving is actually emphasized in several places in our practice of the stages of the path to enlightenment. Perhaps the most important meditations on receiving that we can do initially are encompassed in the foundational topics of the stages of the path: devoting yourself to a spiritual guide and appreciating this opportune human rebirth.
As part of the subject of devoting ourselves to a spiritual guide, one of the primary meditations that we undertake is developing respect for our gurus by recollecting their kindness1, exemplified by the teachings, initiations, personal advice and material support they provide us, as well as the less tangible and yet quite essential blessings and inspiration that we receive from these invaluable guides. Without all these benefits that we obtain through their incredible kindness, it is impossible to achieve any positive qualities, for as Lama Tsongkhapa says, “The foundation of all good qualities is the kind and perfect pure Guru.” Being grateful for the immense benevolence of our gurus, we are inspired to practice in accordance with the spiritual direction that we receive from them and thereby accomplish all the realizations of the path.
Within the other foundational topic of contemplating our precious human rebirth2, there is not only an acknowledgement of the richness and opportunity that we have received in this life but also a great emphasis placed upon appreciating the causes of attaining such a rebirth. By first thinking about the eight freedoms and ten endowments that make this human life so favorable, we come to appreciate the richness of this life that we have obtained and seek to take its essence by making it most beneficial. In addition though, we must examine how difficult it is to receive such an opportune life, recognizing its rarity especially in terms of the many causes and conditions that produced it. We can clearly see some additional ways that we contemplate receiving within two of these causes that are essential to receiving a precious human rebirth.
First, in order to receive merely a higher rebirth such as that of a god or a human being, the main cause is our practice of morality, for it is only through a virtuous action that we can obtain the ripened result of a human existence. By abandoning non-virtue and practicing virtuous deeds in relation to other sentient beings, we in turn are able to receive this fortunate rebirth. In addition, there is another cause that is mentioned in this context – the practice of generosity – and it is cited specifically as the cause of our receiving wealth in this human life that we currently possess. In accord with the teachings on karma, we must discern that all the material resources that we have received in this life have arisen through the force of our having engaged in giving to others in the past. And in the light of how we need to take the essence of this human life and all the resources that we do own, it is crucial then that we determine to utilize them in constructive and meaningful ways. How sad it would be if we simply wasted all that we received through these causes by not using this life well!
Besides being mentioned within these two foundational meditations, another important topic in the stages of the path wherein we focus on the various kindnesses that we have received is the instruction on developing the mind of enlightenment. In the sevenfold cause-and-effect instruction for cultivating bodhichitta3, we are encouraged to first see all sentient beings as having been our mothers, upheld within the view that we have had infinite lives and thus every sentient being has actually performed that function not just once but on numerous occasions. The significance of seeing them as one’s mother is that we receive so much benefit from the vast kindness of sentient beings when they have played that role in all our lives. Maternal kindness is seen in so many ways: our mother carries us in her wombs through gestation, dealing with much discomfort and difficulty; after we are born, our mother tends to us when we are completely incapable of caring for ourselves and in need of her protection and support; and throughout our infancy and childhood, our mother often continues to be the primary provider of all that we need to assure our healthy growth, physically and mentally.
When we recognize the incredible kindness of mother sentient beings in this way, we naturally generate a sincere wish to repay that kindness, particularly through bringing them to the happiness they seek and freeing them from every form of suffering. Cultivating love and compassion for beings within an appreciation for their kindness towards us, we come to the conclusion that the best possible way to take personal responsibility and to make good on all that we have received from them is to become a buddha for their sake. In this way we reciprocate by providing the best possible repayment for the immeasurable kindness we have received from all sentient beings throughout countless lifetimes by dedicating ourselves to accomplishing their welfare.
In summary, while it is important that we acknowledge and appreciate the many things that we have received in myriad ways, these stages of the path teachings remind us that it would be quite unfortunate if we don’t receive things with a spirit of gratefulness along with an understanding of where they come from and how all that we receive can contribute to our ability to use this life purposefully. With continual mindful awareness of the sincere wish to benefit others, we can come to the conclusion that, while it is generally true that “it’s better to give than to receive,” without skillfully and thankfully receiving we can never accomplish our own enlightenment and give others the bliss and happiness that they seek.
On page 44 of the July-September 2010 print issue of Mandala, we featured a Teacher Trivia question and answer section. How well did you do?
1. Which FPMT teacher said this: “Without the moisture of devotion, our enthusiasm for practice dries up and our heart becomes hard. The wellspring of our devotion needs to be constantly renewed. It’s especially important once we have taken empowerments into the practices of highest yoga tantra, as all success in this path comes from correct devotion to the Spiritual Master.” (Answer: E; Ven. Thubten Dondrub, Resident Teacher, Hayagriva Buddhist Centre, Kensington, WA, Australia)
2. About which FPMT teacher did one student remark: “In addition to being a great teacher, I also consider her a friend. She visited me at the hospital after my cancer surgery and stayed with me the night I got home to make sure nothing bad happened. She also presided at my sister-in-law’s memorial service. She encouraged me to sit with the dying. Although I was reluctant to do this, I found it very rewarding in the end. She seems to know how to stretch people beyond where they might normally consider their boundaries. She’s compassionate, witty, and wise as well as exhibiting a surprising geekiness when it comes to technology.” (Answer: I; Ven. Losang Drimay, Resident Teacher, Gyalwa Gyatso Buddhist Center, Campbell, California, USA)
3. Which FPMT teacher replied to a student who proclaimed: Samsara is crap: “Yes, indeed, samsara is crap, but while we are here, we should maintain it as clean as possible.” (Answer: S; Basili Llorca, FPMT Touring Teacher)
4. About which FPMT teacher did one student remark: “She has this amazing energy, incredible sense of humor and a way of teaching Dharma that is both personal and practical. No matter how busy she is, she always takes time to talk, is interested in others and inquires about one’s welfare, really listening, caring and sharing.” (Answer: E; Ven. Amy Miller, FPMT Touring Teacher)
5. About which FPMT teacher did one student remark: “I love the way his teachings have no mention of a single ‘don’t do this or that.’ He does not impose or preach.” (Answer: P; Glen Svensson, FPMT Touring Teacher)
6. Which FPMT teacher said this, “The advantage with journeys to the inner world is that you don’t need ticket, visa, passport or whatever. You can go whenever you want, you only need some courage. Now I don’t know about your inner world, but mine is definitely full of crap but fascinating. If you are not afraid of the crap, and you have some humor, the inner world certainly becomes the perfect travel ground.” (Answer: L; Ven. Rita Riniker, FPMT Touring Teacher)
7. Which FPMT teacher and early FPMT student has been Spiritual Program Coordinator of six centers and the resident teacher at four centers, and founded two FPMT centers? (Answer: !; Dieter Kratzer, teaches at Tara Mandala Center, Landau, Germany)
8. Which FPMT teacher compiled the popular Lam-Rim Outlines: Beginners’ Meditation Guide published by Wisdom Publications which covers in detail all three scopes of meditation from the Lam-rim? (Answer: O; Ven. Karin Valham, Resident Teacher, Kopan Monastery, Nepal)
9. Which Masters Program graduate is resident teacher at one FPMT center, resident teacher of an FPMT study group, and serves as a teacher with the Liberation Prison Project, guiding inmates in prison with their spiritual practice? (Answer: H; Don Handrick, Resident Teacher, Thubten Norbu Ling, Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA)
10. Which FPMT teacher said this, “Buddha says basically, the extent to which we are not in touch with the truth, the extent to which we are not in touch with how things exist, at many levels, is the extent to which we suffer. So the getting of wisdom, as far as Buddha is concerned, isn’t so you can end up being a smarty pants and getting full marks in your philosophy exam. The reason to get wisdom is to get happy and to benefit others. So there is a really practical basis for it. It’s not just being clever. And this, across the board, is how the Buddha talks.” (Answer: R; Ven. Robina Courtin, Resident Teacher, Tushita Meditation Centre, Dharamsala, India)
11. About which FPMT teacher did one student remark: “I find him humble, humane, funny, friendly, warm, honest, open, approachable and know ledgeable, his teaching very practical, his instruction and explanation very simple and effortless to follow, his analogies so down to earth and easy to relate to as they often come from his own experiences and observations, and his responses to my questions profound.” (Answer: N; Wai Cheong Kok, Resident Teacher, Vajrayana Institute, Ashfield, NSW, Australia)
12. About which FPMT teacher did a student share, “To be in the presence of him is to feel loved, understood and deeply cared about. His great intellectual understanding, monastic experience, language and translating skills are vast and complemented by a teaching style that is warm, gentle and filled with an extraordinary depth of wisdom and compassion … He is affectionately referred to as ‘Grandpa Love’ by my children.” (Answer: R; Jampa Gendun, FPMT Touring Teacher)
13. Which FPMT teacher is currently a lecturer and supervisor for the Australian Association of Buddhist Counselors and Psychotherapists, is an honorary lecturer in Psychological Medicine at Sydney University, recently gave a keynote address at the biannual conference of the Royal Australian and New Zealand Congress of Psychiatry, and is known by one of her students as, “Venerable Funky Nun.” (Answer: L; Ven. Tenzin Chonyi, FPMT Touring Teacher)
14. Which FPMT teacher trained as a psychiatric nurse and worked for four years in psychiatric hospitals, served as cook, office worker and gardener in one of FPMT’s largest centers, served as director of Thubten Shedrup Ling Monastery and the International Mahayana Institute and has led various retreats as well as teaching in prisons and schools? (Answer: R; Ven. Tony Beaumont, FPMT Touring Teacher)
15. About which FPMT teacher did one student remark: “As a teacher he is warm, dedicated and always down to earth on a very honest and personal level. He is an inspiring and warmhearted person, very easy to get along with and humble too. What I admire most is his compassion, honesty and sincerity.” (Answer: S; Stephan Pende, Resident Teacher, Tong-nyi Nying-je Ling, Denmark)
16. About which FPMT teacher did one student remark: “Not only was she perennially kind, supportive and adaptable, but rare was the day that did not start with the greeting, “Good morning, beautiful people!” nor involve crossing paths with at least one ‘happy little Vegemite.’ In awe, I once asked her how she managed to be so irrepressibly positive. She answered, “I’ve always had this sense that I could deal with whatever happened.’” (Answer: N; Ven. Jampa Dekyi, former Resident Teacher, Tushita Meditation Centre, Dharamsala, India)
17. Which FPMT teacher has completed six-and-a-half years of solitary meditation retreat, is a regular teacher in Northern California and New Zealand, serves as a visiting teacher for Liberation Prison Project, guiding students in prison with their spiritual practice, is active in several efforts for the benefit of animals, people with chronic illness, those who are dying and the environment and is known for her straight forward, engaging, inspiring, sincere and fun teaching style? (Answer: O; Ven. Tenzin Chogkyi, FPMT Touring Teacher)
18. Which FPMT teacher said this, “Suffering (the unsatisfactory nature of our human existence) has to be realized, understood. The cause of suffering (craving desire) has to be abandoned. Contentment has to be experienced. And restraining the senses has to be cultivated. By restraining the senses, craving desire is cooled. By cooling craving desire, one is more content. And by being content, one stops dissatisfaction.” (Answer: A; Ven. Fedor Stracke, Resident Teacher, Munich, Aryatara Institut, Germany)
19. Which FPMT teacher said this, “One obstacle is to push ourselves beyond our ability and impose on our practice an idea of how much we should meditate rather than looking at how much we are actually able to meditate. We can build up so much resentment that we end up feeling nauseous and tired just thinking of the meditation cushion.” (Answer: U; Ven. Antonio Satta, FPMT Touring Teacher)
20. Which FPMT teacher is a Physics graduate from MIT? (Answer: S; Ven. George Churinoff, Basic Program at Home Teacher)
21. Which FPMT teacher said this, “We need an incredibly amount of energy to be able to leave this cycle of habits and tendencies and be able to do something different … Aiming to develop our best qualities and opening our hearts to others is something we need to practice every day.” (Answer: H; Ven. Lobsang Namgyel, FPMT Touring Teacher)
22. About which FPMT teacher did one student remark, “Meeting him was a revelation and a breath of fresh air. Here was this very relaxed, kind, and spacious monk who had obviously achieved some experience in his practice. But he was so relaxed and full of humor! And the retreat advice he gave me was spectacular… and very practical.” (Answer: G; former Resident Teacher, Vajrapani Institute, Boulder Creek, California, USA)
23. Which FPMT teacher worked for seven years as a financial journalist based in New York and Hong Kong, received her Masters degree in Languages and Cultures of Asia specializing in Sanskrit and Tibetan, is now completing her Ph.D. in Buddhist studies, and founded a program, made up of forty volunteers, who prepare and offer food to over 200 homeless individuals every Sunday since 2005. (Answer: H; Ven. Lhundrup Damcho, FPMT Touring Teacher)
24. Which FPMT teacher said this, “If we don’t extend our hand, the holy ones who wish to help us have nothing to grab onto in order to lift us up.” (Answer: O; Kendall Magnussen, Discovering Buddhism at Home Teacher)
25. Which FPMT teacher was the first Western male student of Lama Yeshe’s to be ordained and received the following praise from a student: “One of the things I admire most is his open and flexible mind, his humility, his ability to treat all people with the same respect without distinction, whether Buddhist, Catholic, rich, poor, kind, unkind, etc.” (Answer: C; Jhampa Shaneman, Resident Teacher, Rinchen Zangpo Center, Torreón, Mexico)
26. Which FPMT teacher worked as an English editor for the Translation Bureau of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, India, and has authored and edited numerous works including Buddhism for Dummies, Wisdom Energy, Introduction to Tantra, Prince Siddhartha and Images of Enlightenment? (Answer: I; Jon Landaw, Discovering Buddhism at Home Teacher)
27. Which FPMT teacher is a hands-on director of two dynamic Buddhist centers, guides the construction of a large stupa, oversees major facility upgrades at one center, makes overseas trips to raise funds for various projects, teaches top-notch classes on Buddhism, maintains a vegan lifestyle, serves as the history “fact-checker” and institutional memory of the entire organization, and still has the energy and charm to spew Aussie humor at his friends, employees and center volunteers? (Answer: A; Dr. Nicholas Ribush (pictured here in 1969), FPMT Discovering Buddhism at Home Teacher)
28. Which FPMT teacher served as the coordinator of Lama Yeshe’s ground breaking Geshe Studies Program at Manjushri Institute, England; spiritual program coordinator, director, and later resident teacher at Nalanda Monastery, France; and FPMT International Office Education Services program developer of the Masters Program at Istituto Lama Tzong Khapa, Italy? (Answer: H; Tubten Pende, Discovering Buddhism at Home Teacher)
29. Which FPMT teacher and author of How to Meditate starts her morning by making two pieces of toast, smearing Marmite on them, cutting them to little pieces and feeding them to her two cats Tongpanyi and Jamyang? (Answer: S; Ven. Sangye Khadro, FPMT Touring Teacher)
30. About which FPMT teacher did one student remark, “She has provided me with invaluable guidance with her reviews of my Discovering Buddhism at Home module assessments. She led me and five others on our two-week lam-rim retreat at Milarepa Center in beautiful Vermont, assuredly a turning point in my life. Without her continued wisdom and guidance, my life would not be so rich – I am sure of that.” (Answer: T; T.Y., Discovering Buddhism at Home Teacher)
31. Which FPMT teacher, because of her down-to-earth qualities and dependable shoes, was once described as “the red Buddhist angel wearing boots”? (Answer: H; Ven. Tenzin Tsapel, Discovering Buddhism at Home Teacher)
32. Which FPMT teacher studied for eleven years at Nalanda Monastery in France, and from 1993 to 2004 was one of only a handful of Westerners who have followed what His Holiness Dalai Lama refers to as the ‘Nalanda Tradition’ of studies at Sera Monastery in India which has led one student to comment the following, “His depth of experience and understanding of the Tibetan Buddhist path is exceptional, and his unassuming, friendly manner and clear teaching style make him an especially popular teacher.” (Answer: T; Ven. Steve Carlier, FPMT Touring Teacher)
33. About which FPMT teacher did one student say the following, “Her understanding and clear, joyful teaching of the dialectics of Tibetan Buddhism are inspiring, and her deep devotion to Lama Yeshe and Essential Education continue as an example to me in my own practice of guru devotion. Also, her daily effort to bring adversity to the path, through chronic illness and financial challenge, has been a shining example of faith in the heart, a strong commitment to practice, and how practice is not separate from our daily, ordinary lives.” (Answer: E; Ven. Connie Miller, Discovering Buddhism at Home Teacher)
34. Which FPMT teacher said this, “Two and a half thousand years ago the Buddha developed a model of personal perfection and happiness that was more radical than any subsequent attempted social engineering… In a sense we can say that the Buddha pioneered psychology, and that he developed an enlightened form that was the result of systematic and scientific exploration.” (Answer: E; Renate Ogilvie, Discovering Buddhism at Home Teacher)
35. Which FPMT teacher used to wear a pink shantung silk suit, pearls and high heels to her job as a computer services manager in the nineties? (Answer: F; Ven. Kaye Miner, Resident Teacher, Amsterdam, Netherlands)
36. Which FPMT teacher said this, “It is said that if you can remember the sixties, you weren’t there. Well, what I can remember about the sixties is that nobody trusted the establishment. It was easy to blame society for everything, and I took pride in living spontaneously and making decisions that followed my heart rather than my head. For a while I was lucky, then life hit me like a ton of bricks and I lost faith in my heart. Buddhism helped me to put things together again by pointing out that, as long as we remain ignorant of our true nature, we cannot trust either our heads or our hearts to lead us to happiness and away from suffering.” (Answer: I; Ven. Thubten Gyatso (Dr. Adrian Feldmann), currently teaches in Australia)
37. A student said this about which FPMT teacher, “Instead of passing a message to us intellectually, he helps us to reach the core of these teachings in order to transform our minds. He is present at every moment to support us and encourage us despite our egotistical rantings.” (Answer: P; Sixte Vinçotte, Basic Program teacher’s assistant, Marzens, France)
38. After meeting Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche in 1974, this FPMT teacher eventually become a monk and helped to found Nalanda Monastery in France. Not what he had in mind in the sixties when he was enrolled at University studying, according to him, “acting, music and revolution.” (Answer: C; Jimi Neal, FPMT Touring Teacher)
39. About which FPMT teacher did one student remark: “She never hangs on to anything too long, so I am constantly brought into the present moment. When I’m with her, I can’t hang on to the past at all and if I do, then in some playful way, she will snap me out of it. I never know what to expect and she is really fun to be around.” (Answer: S; Ven. Sarah Thresher, FPMT Touring Teacher)
40. About which FPMT teacher did one student remark: “I always marvel at her skill in answering questions. She never rushes and combines her incredible breadth of knowledge and skillful speech to compose her answer. She is both a great resource and a kind counselor.” (Answer: E; Emily Hsu, Bay Area FPMT Centers Teacher, USA)
ANSWER TO PUZZLE
Cherishing others is the source of all happiness! — Lama Zopa Rinpoche
By Tony Allen
Since beginning to study the Dharma, I’ve been amazed at just how inspirational the teachers, lamas, and rinpoches are. Their influence reverberates all across the Buddhist landscape and their ability to inspire transformation in students and practitioners is extraordinary. Recently, I got a taste of this power when Khensur Rinpoche came to our local FPMT center here in Raleigh, North Carolina. And while many people clearly gain much from empowerments, receiving refuge or from just being in the presence of a high lama, surprisingly, my transformative experience came about not from receiving teachings, but by missing them.
Rinpoche, a former abbot of Gyume Tantric College and a senior lineage lama from Sera Je Monastic University, had come to the Kadampa Center to teach, give empowerments and participate in pujas for several weeks, and I blew my first chance to meet him.
The Sunday that Rinpoche was to give his first teachings at the center, I arrived early, or so I had thought. When I pulled into the parking lot, I saw that I was anything but early. The whole area was filled with cars and people were streaming into the center, many of whom carried flowers and other offerings for Rinpoche. As for me, I had nothing to offer. When I walked into the center, it was abuzz with a palpable sense of excitement and it seemed everybody had something to do but me. I walked around for a minute or so somewhat overwhelmed by my lack of preparedness and uselessness.
Instead of staying and helping to get ready for Rinpoche’s arrival, I got in my car and drove off. I was racked with guilt and a diminished sense of self. But as I drove to work, I really began to observe the thoughts that had led me to abandon seeing Rinpoche. I actually began to implement some of the techniques that I had learned from all those Dharma books I had read and from those few minutes I managed to devote a day to meditation.
My thoughts of guilt began to reform and re-shape into thoughts of remorse. That remorseful attitude coupled with a curiosity to understand my irrational acts allowed me to see that the root of this latest act of absurdity was nothing more than ego itself. It was the same ego that had so adamantly objected to my offering prostrations when I first started coming to the Kadampa Center . It was the same ego that caused me to look at and pre-judge and tell stories about people. It was the same ego that called upon me to act out of cruelty, anger and jealousy instead of love, compassion and equanimity. In short, the same force that had caused me to run from Rinpoche, an embodiment of what I claimed to want to be, was the same force that I had been allowing to wreck my current life and so many lives before this one.
This kind of realization for me was profound and somewhat scary at the same time. Now that I was finally starting to make sense of things, what was there to do about it? The wall between my study of the Dharma as an intellectual endeavor and my applying the teachings of the Buddha to my everyday life in more than a superficial way needed to broken down for good.
So what I vowed to do that day was not do things as I had done them the day before. Instead of spending my workday engaged in the most banal and trivial conversations imaginable, I found ways to interject elements of Buddhadharma into the discussions. Much to my surprise, I found a very receptive audience in my co-workers, who clearly appreciated the change towards the positive. It became clear to me that Buddhism was just as much about the twenty-three hours off my cushion as it was the one hour on it. I found that the application of wisdom and compassion in any situation and in any context not only was uplifting to myself, but was of benefit to those around me.
What could have been a day completely controlled by my ego became a day that was transformed. There was a change in me sparked by the arrival of Buddhist teacher from thousands of miles away. A man whom I had never met and whose teachings I had yet to receive, a teacher whose presence I had literally fled from, had sparked in me a surprising chain of realizations. That is the power of the Triple Gem.
If I have gotten this much out of missing Rinpoche’s teachings, I am sure that there is much more I can learn by actually going and staying this time to sit and listen and to contemplate what he has come so far to give.
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