(I wrote this just after I started with the State Department)
There is something about Panda Express fortune cookies! On Seferina’s birthday last summer, exactly one month before my OA exam, we went to Panda Express and my fortune cookie said ‘in one month the star of riches will shine on me’, which I understood to mean I would pass my OA exam and get into the foreign service. Later we were at the food court at the mall and went to Panda Express and asked the fortune cookie for advice on our new life in the foreign service and it said ‘you will make many changes before happily settling’, which I understood to mean we will travel all over the world and then in our retirement happily settle in one area. Then, when I got off of the plane upon arriving in D.C., right at the gate where I got off of the plane there was again a Panda Express. Taking this as a sign, I got my lunch there and the fortune cookie said ‘you are heading in the right direction’, which I took to mean that Dorje Shugden is fully in charge and he has and will continue to arrange everything with respect to my life in the foreign service.
Yesterday, I had the welcome reception and today is my first day. Of course, I can’t sleep and woke up every 30 minutes, so I just decided to get up and do my practice. As I was doing my practice, it hit me very clearly that the U.S. foreign service community, the people and families within it, are my new Sangha, my new family. When I was in Geneva, what drove me and provided meaning to everything I did there was for the benefit of the Sangha there. I really felt like they were my extended family and my closest friends. We investeded in contributing to that community of people. In the same way, the US foreign service community is my new Sangha, and my job is to invest in contributing to this community of people. I would before strive to gain the realizations that the Sangha in the Swiss Romand needed, now in the same wayI need to strive to gain the realizations that the people in this community need. I need to learn how to transform diplomatic life into the path to enlightenement and present it in a way that others can accept and understand. Obviously, I can’t go around teaching Dharma overtly, but I maintain this intention and view my life through this lens, and I will gain the realizations that they will need. My job is to improve myself, my qualifications and my understandings to be of service to this community. In the beginning, my job is to gain realizations that are useful for them for where they are at, then over time I will be able to help people with the psychological demands of foreign service life – which, at its core, can be addressed with viewing every difficulty as an opportunity to grow and develop as a person. More immediately, though, I need to gain practical knowledge which helps the people of this community. Each person has their own niche given their circumstances, and clearly my niche is going to be with respect to family life. I should make a point of learning everything there is to learn about how to make a family thrive within a foreign service way of life. This is knowledge which will be of great value to many people and help me build connections within this community. In this respect, I need to start asking lots of questions of people with families to try start understanding things better and gaining wisdom which will be useful. I should join the welcome committees for the 160th and have my focus be on helping families make the transition, etc. It would not be a bad thing if I was known as the family guy, so I should start to move in that direction.
By extension, there are the six main skills they want foreign service officers to develop, and I need to practice the ‘perfection’ of each of these skills. These skills are: intellectual skills, interpersonal skills, leadership skills, management skills, communication skills and substantive knowledge. These are the six perfections of being a diplomat, and I need to develop all of these with a bodhichitta movitation. All six of these are skills that a fully qualified Kadampa Spiritual Guide must develop to be of benefit to the beings of this world, so I develop these skills in the context of being a diplomat and for the diplomatic community with the long-run intention of using these skills for flourishing the Dharma and helping lead beings along the Kadampa path.
In a similar way, Claudine needs to invest in this community and this niche. Our job is to serve this community. She needs to become for this community what Isabelle was for the Pays de Gex. Isabelle was always there for others, always helping out, she knew everyone, she helped everyone, was always super cool, etc. Isabelle should be Claudine’s Yidam. She can get to know everything there is to know about family life, the services that are available, how to make the most of it, etc. Also, since she will be a teacher at the schools, she will be educating the children of this community, etc. In this respect, I think she should come here as soon as possible so that she can start investing in this community.
Part of our refuge commitments is to seek help from Sangha. This has two implications for me. First, Dorje Shugden has provided me with my new Sangha, the diplomatic community. I need to actively seek the help of this community and gain as much wisdom from them as I can with respect to all aspects of this new life. Second, I need to turn to my traditional Sangha and ask them for what advice they can offer me for how to make the most out of my new life. Just as James Morgan would always ask me for advice of what to practice in the coming year, I should emulate his example and do the same of my Sangha. Then, I should apply effort to put into practice the advice that they give me.
Your turn: Explain how you can view the people at your work as being part of your Sangha.