Thursday, July 2, 2009

KTD 10-Day Teachings/Guru Rinpoche Day

Today is Guru Rinpoche day, according to the Tibetan calendar, and it was an eventful one for several reasons.

There was a beautiful ceremony tonight called “Shower of Blessings” that honored Guru Rinpoche (Sanskrit: Padmasambhava), who was responsible for solidifying the practice of Buddhism in Tibet and who is responsible for ensuring the spread of Buddhism to any borderland—like the USA.

There were, of course, the magnificent teachings about Machik Labdron—no, I have not forgotten about her—being given by KTD’s abbot, Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche.

There was my own interview with Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche this morning, an auspicious day for that since I have always felt drawn to Guru Rinpoche.

But the loveliest part of the day was an impromptu talk given by Khenpo at the end of the afternoon’s question-and-answer session, which he cut short by saying, “Now I am going to tell you a little bit of truth.”

Rinpoche talked (in Tibetan) for a long time. He wept; he laughed; he wept and laughed again. At the end of his talk, his translator—the gifted Lama Yeshe Gyamtso—asked Rinpoche for clarification for parts of the translation. This back-and-forth went on for a while; Lama Yeshe apologized to us, saying he wasn’t sure that his translation could capture the emotion that Khenpo had conveyed.

Khenpo began by giving some history of the founding of KTD. In 1959-60, His Holiness the 16th Karmapa (hereinafter referred to as HHK 16) fled Tibet and settled in Sikkim. Since he was a refugee, he did not have means of survival; he had a hard time. Many of the Sikkimese people had faith, however, and one family in particular has served both HHK 16 and HHK 17 well.

This family “did the best service” by taking in HHK 16 and other lamas, giving them a place to live and making sure the lamas got better food than the family did. This is the family of Kunzang-la, newly appointed to KTD’s Board of Directors; her brother was responsible for the successful restoration of Rumtek, Karmapa’s monastery in Sikkim, after it had fallen into disrepair. This family “remained steady, and their samaya is pure,” according to Rinpoche.

Rinpoche then announced that HHK 17 had recently made some announcements with regard to the administration of KTD. Tenzin Chonyi, who has been president of the organization for many years, will remain president for five years. Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche will remain on the board, and Kunzang-la is a new trustee.

“I have no qualities to remain on the board,” Rinpoche said, but added that he had agreed to stay on at Karmapa’s request. No qualities. Hmmmm. I would debate that.

Khenpo also announced that he had chosen Lama Kathy Wesley and Lama David Bole to be new board members. He said that he trusts Lama Kathy “as much as I trust my own heart,” and mentioned Lama David’s administrative abilities and even-tempered disposition while in retreat.

Khenpo then gave some background on Bardor Tulku Rinpoche (hereinafter referred to as BTR), who has for many years been the primary teacher who travels to teach at KTD’s affiliated centers. When BTR was only 12 years old, he was on his own in India after escaping from Tibet. Because he prayed one-pointedly, he was able to reach Rumtek, where he was adopted by HHK 16 as “the son of his heart.” There were two other young men who had that same close relationship with HHK 16; these were Tenzin Chonyi or Tenzin-la, and Shamar Rinpoche’s brother, Jigme-la. The training and lives of these three young men were closely supervised by HHK 16.

When HHK 16 was gifted with the land that became KTD, he chose Tenzin-la to stay in America to oversee that center. Jigme-la went to a center in France. “It is like sending away my eyes and heart,” HHK 16 said, but the young men were sent for the dharma, “not for ordinary purposes,” according to Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche.

Later, when BTR came to KTD, “he wore a tool belt for almost 15 years” while the monastery was being built. While construction was ongoing, Khenpo traveled and taught and founded 30 dharma centers throughout the country.

Khenpo had received three commands from HHK 16: to build a monastery, to start a three-year retreat, and to “take care of Tenzin-la if he has problems in the future.” Khenpo said that the 16th Karmapa made this last statement with tears in his eyes.

This year, Bardor Tulku Rinpoche has resigned as a director of KTD (though he still teaches at the monastery). Khenpo explained that BTR is now 60 years old and has his own terma (treasure text) lineage to preserve, and that he has a lot to do and not much time to waste.

Note from A Word Witch: BTR also has his own new center, Kunzang Palchen Ling, across the river in Red Hook, New York.

“Now about my nephew,” Khenpo said. His nephew is Lama Karma Drodul, who is three people in one—teacher, translator (since he teaches in English), and attendant. Khenpo remarked that because of these skills, the affiliate centers “could save money” by inviting Lama Karma to teach.

Note from A Word Witch: Lama Karma is a shining presence at these teachings, always friendly and approachable when seen out and about, competent and clear when leading Mahakala or other practices, and compassionate in his translations during interviews. KTD is fortunate to have him.

Khenpo Ugyen Tenzin will continue to travel and teach, accompanied by his translator, Jigme Nyima.

KKR then said that he will continue to ask Lama Yeshe Gyamtso to translate for him when he can; everyone clapped enthusiastically.

Note from A Word Witch: I had heard a rumor earlier in the week that this was Lama Yeshe’s last year to translate for the 10-day teachings, so I asked him; that rumor is not true.

Khenpo closed his talk by saying, “We need to remember what we are about.”

We are not involved in the dharma to acquire position or rank, Khenpo said, but to fulfill His Holiness Karmapa’s aspirations and vision. That is our only purpose—to implement Karmapa’s vision.

Many people, myself included, were very moved by Rinpoche’s wise words. He said what needed to be said, and on an auspicious day to boot. This is a talk I will remember for a long, long time.

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