Luna Kadampa asked what does NKT Day mean to each of us. I recently received a letter from my former spiritual stomping grounds about some apparent “set backs” at the center. I realized I had my answer to Luna’s question: What NKT Day means to me is the love I feel for my family and for the people and Sangha of the Swiss Romande. Here is my reply letter.
To my vajra family,
I have heard that there have been some significant changes in the Swiss Romande area lately. I can understand how this can sometimes lead to difficult transitions, both externally and internally. It has taken me a good four years to transition from the life I had to my new life now to get to the point where looking back I realize clearly how all the changes that happened were the best things possible. Change is sometimes very hard, but not only is it inevitable, we need it.
One thing I have realized is even if my own practice slips, Venerable Geshe-la’s does not. I have received Dorje Shugden empowerments from him, and during the empowerment he made special promises as and requests to Dorje Shugden that he look over me every moment of every day from now until I attain enlightenment. So even when I forget about him, he never forgets about me. Even if I do not realize how or why, I can be certain that whatever happens to me is arranged by him, and therefore is exactly what I need. Recalling this, my job is to figure out how it is perfect and go from there. The same is true, but on a much more significant level, when it comes to Dharma centers. Venerable Geshe-la is the founder of all of the centers in the Swiss Romande. He has granted empowerments of Dorje Shugden in the area. He has made promises and requests to arrange everything for everybody in the region. There is no doubt that everything that happens there is arranged by him, and therefore is perfect for the swiftest possible enlightenment of all concerned. This is true whether we remember Dorje Shugden or not. Our relying upon him just helps us realize how and why it is true, and gives us the strength and energy to capitalize on our new found opportunities.
For me, when I am in doubt about whether what has happened is perfect, I generally practice purification in the context of my Dorje Shugden practice. I request to please purify all of the negative karma between Dorje Shugden and myself and between Dorje Shugden and everybody else. I request that all of the obstructions be removed and purified so that (1) everything that happens is perfect for our practice, (2) all of the obstuctions are removed so that I/we can realize how it is perfect, and (3) all of the obstructions are removed to that we have the opportunity to share our perspective on things. This has always worked for me.
So when I heard there were some changes, I did some purification practice, and the following are the “answers” that came to me:
- The conclusion of all Dharma is to assume personal responsibility for the world around you. What this means in the case of each person will vary, but the conclusion is equally valid for everyone.
- Dharma sometimes may externallly appear to confront a setback, but internally it could be flourishing more. The real measure of the progress of a center is whether the realizations of the practitioners is increasing. Perhaps at present there is an external envelope of progress possible, but this just means everyone shifts to internal progress.
- It is essential that we eliminate our attachment to external conditions for our practice, in particular having our own practice in any way be dependent upon other people practicing. Even if you are the last soul on earth practicing Dharma, what difference does it make? You are still going to die, things are still empty, delusions are still deceiving you, negative karma is still binding you. What other people are doing is irrelevant to your own decision to practice your heart out. Our practice should be entirely internally driven.
- We need to think about our view of the center. Do we see the center as providing a service to ourselves or do we see the center as a vehicle through which we can provide services to others? We need to be VERY careful with this that this is a PERSONAL question we ask ourselves, not a litmus test against which we judge others involvement in the center.
- We only make progress by being pushed to higher and higher levels. In this modern world, we are all very lazy. We only make progress when we are pushed to do so. Since we are so easily attached to our present conditions, Dorje Shugden has no choice but to pull the rug out from underneath us from time to time.
- Size doesn’t matter! Not only is this something I tell my wife (hee hee), this is also true for a center!
- It is vital that the services provided by the center be useful, otherwise the center won’t last. Figure out what people’s probems are, have the center provide the services that enable them to solve those problems.
- Don’t get mad at others because they are not living up to your expectations of what they are supposed to be doing to make the center flourish.
- Never give up because samsara will never give up against you.
Feeling of community and family are glue that holds a center together. Common purpose, harmonious, mutually supportive, non-judgemental, non-manipulative, cool and relaxed, not quincee, happy with what people do do not unhappy about what they don’t do, leaving people free to come from their own side, working for the sake of the community without resentment or expecting anything in return. Above all, be the example we want others to be – and a big part of this is learn how to turn to the sangha for help.
There is not a day that has gone by since I have left that I have not prayed for the Dharma in the Swiss Romande. I have no doubt that these latest developments are exactly what is needed.
So in the aggregate, what has really changed? Will it require some rebuilding? Yes, but did not Marpa make Milarepa (or was it Tilopa and Naropa, I can’t remember) keep tearing something down so that the other could rebuild it again?
We will forever be vajra family, no matter where we might be distributed in the world. In my heart, the Swiss Romande is my home and all of you are my family. I don’t know if I have the karma to ever be able to come back to the region, but my feeling is we will all be together again in our old age, helping support each other as we die and go off to the pure land. Until then, we just keep the faith, keep laughing at our samsara, and as they say in the U.S., “keep on truckin'”
With love and laughs,