Monday, September 28, 2009

Dalai Lama in Long Beach, Part Two


Fortunate connections continued on Saturday, as I was again able to attend His Holiness the Dalai Lama's program of teachings and empowerments in Long Beach, California. Also, on a personal note, what made Saturday really special for me was the companionship of my youngest daughter at this session.

The scheduled event was a Medicine Buddha empowerment, but he began with a lengthy question and answer session that elicited both laughter and applause from the audience of approximately 15,000 people -- the second capacity crowd in two days.

He then made a spontaneous decision to give both upaseka and bodhisattva vows to those in the audience who wished to make such commitment. His explanations of the vows and commitments was done with such open liberality and good humor, that it actually encouraged one to become so engaged.

One noteworthy aside: after the genyen vows, but before the bodhisattva vows, His Holiness gave an extensive statement and admonition concerning the practice of Dorje Shugden. He said that anyone is free to practice Dorje Shugden, but in the event one wished to do, he politely asked that they not take vows with him.

He stated that he, himself, had once been involved with the practice, but he began to notice something wrong. He said that he researched the matter very carefully, and found in the writings of the Fifth Dalai Lama ample reason not to pursue the practice any further.

He said that only someone who has realization equal to that of the Fifth Dalai Lama should attempt to modify the Fifth Dalai Lama's words. He said that as someone who carries the name "Dalai Lama," it was his duty to carefully preserve the Fifth Dalai Lama's explicit meanings and instructions.

I must say, I was somewhat surprised that this weighs so heavily upon his mind. He stated that the Dorje Shugden practice was causing enormous trouble at various monasteries, and so forth. I know from reading news reports that some monks are clinging to this practice, but I do not understand why they feel it necessary to go against his wishes. This is the sort of thing that plays into the hands of the most wicked schemers -- the ones who mean to do harm to His Holiness and to Buddhism on the operative theory of divide and conquer.

The program ended with the Medicine Buddha empowerment -- a very beautifully explained visualization, and the deepest sort of transmission. During the whole presentation, as he did on Friday, His Holiness also went to some length to include non-Buddhists in the practices. He came just short of saying "you don't have to be Buddhist to take bodhisattva vows, but it helps." Under the broadest possible interpretation of his remarks, it would not be unfair to report that may not be what he said, but it may be what he meant. In over 45 years, I have never heard dharma employed to include monotheistic believers the way it was this past Friday and Saturday -- the product of an extremely compassionate intention to move past sectarianism and doctrinal differences in order to be of genuine benefit to all sentient beings.

Well, it is true, isn't it? If Buddha walked in the room right this minute, I don't think he would be asking to see membership credentials. There comes a point where one has to grow up and realize that what is printed on your t-shirt pales in comparison to what is printed on your heart.

Thereafter, program organizers announced that the event had cost some USD $260,000 to produce, that all tickets had been given away for free, and that donations had raised an excess of USD $33,000 after all expenses were paid. They then presented the USD $33,000 to His Holiness, who refused the gift saying:
"There are too many lamas who accept money for teaching. I do not accept money for teaching, so you should keep this money and use it for your own center's purposes."
 This two-day event was sponsored and organized by Genden Shoeling, a predominantly Vietnamese center in Westminster, California. It was really quite flawlessly and perfectly accomplished, and nobody who attended found even the slightest reason to complain about any aspect of the presentation. This center has done everyone in Southern California an enormous service, and all sentient beings have benefited thereby. The City of Long Beach Police Department and the Mayor's Office were extraordinarily cordial and helpful, as well.

I cannot give enough praise to Genden Shoeling: it was a wonderful, wonderful two days in a great  California city.

Such joyousness!

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9 reader comments:

Lineageholder said...

I rejoice in your enjoyment, and thank you for reporting the Dalai Lama's words about Dorje Shugden. I think it's very sad that he can give a Medicine Buddha empowerment and teaching and then, in the same teaching, denounce the Protector Deity of his own Guru Trijang Rinpoche and implicitly stir up disharmony towards Dorje Shugden practitioners. There is enough disharmony related to this issue without him creating more! This is in direct contradiction to Buddha's teachings on love, compassion and tolerance.

Atisha's cook said...

how wonderful that His Holiness is able to include non-Buddhists and those who, conventionally speaking, hold opposite views to those taught by Lord Buddha such as monotheistic beliefs.

what a shame that he apparently is unable to extend that same compassion, tolerance and inclusivism when it comes to those Buddhist monks, nuns and lay people who continue to rely upon Dorje Shugden, a principal Dharma Protector of his own Gelug tradition of Buddhism.

what a contradiction between words and action! what deception! how sad.

Anonymous said...

It is so sad that Dorje Shugden practitioenrs are being ostracized this way.

TENPA said...

What is sad is the depth of your ignorance. Sorry to be so blunt, but somebody who genuinely cares for you needs to tell you that you are terribly wrong. Your web site is an atrocity.

Stop hurting the Dalai Lama and stop destroying Buddhism. Free yourself from the grip of this demon. Stay home, shut your mouth, and practice dharma.

Anonymous said...

"There are even some ostensibly Nyingmapa "personalities" invested in this" -- Say wa?

That's an (almost) inconceivable allegation. I sure would like to know who they are, so I can avoid them.

As someone squarely in the camp of Dzongsar Khyentse Chokyi Lodro and the lineages that descend from him, I am all too familiar with the story and its various contexts. If anyone wonders why the Ghoul Groupies have been ostracized, perhaps they ought to speak out critically on a mailing list or whatnot, where the Spook Section regularly trolls for their enemies. Then look at your dreams and see what comes. Then you'll have your answer. I certainly got mine.

The real victims of this problem are the Phantom Followers themselves and the Gelug tradition itself. While most Gelug Dharma students in the West have either avoided the Ghost God all along or given it up at H.H. the Dalai Lama's command, most of those still have to live with a tremendous cognitive dissonance, in willful ignorance, or with a combination of those two. The reason they must do so is that one of their most revered lineage lamas, Phabongkha Dechen Nyingpo, was responsible for promoting this practice in the mid-20th century, in spite of the fact that the 13th Dalai lama (like the 5th) had been adamantly opposed to it.

I am concerned for those individuals who follow Gelug and H.H. the Dalai Lama and also have to somehow deal with the fact that the principle advocate of Wraith Worship is right there in their lineage prayers. Practice is difficult enough without having to solve that gnarly a koan.

The story goes that Phabongkha was originally a fine lama in every respect. Then Dol-ghoul started appearing to him and made him sick until he promised to break his Nyingma samayas. This much is known for certain from Phabongkha's own accounts.

Later on Phabongkha personally ordered Padmasambhava statues thrown in a water in Kham, a fact well-attested by some persons still living or recently deceased. According to some lamas, this turn for the worse in Phabongkha's behavior was due to his namshe being 'liberated' by Mr. Ghost, and his body being reanimated as a rolang or zombie. The same allegedly happened with one of his eminent disciples, who sprang up from tugdam and (thus) had to have his head chopped off prior to embalming, because in Tibetan Buddhism as in zombie lore generally, a zombie can't be subdued by restraint, similar to a raging psychotic. However the Tibetan Government in Exile somehow managed to keep this a secret from all but a very few individuals, or so it is said. Of course were that true, it would go a long way towards explaining why H.H. is so vehemently opposed to all of this. If I saw a recently deceased lama hop out of his clear-light meditation and start throwing things, I would have to make a stand, somehow, on what that meant.

There is a letter in Phabongkha collected works written to a Chinese official in eastern Tibet where he ridicules Nyingma practices and calls Karma Lingpa a fake. This is not hearsay; I have read that letter myself, and it is available in the Library of Congress, as is the autobiography of the Fifth Dalai Lama, where he describes in detail the terrible obstacles that afflicted his government and many Tibetans, especially around Lhasa, after his samaya-breaking disciple Drakpa Gyaltsen committed suicide. I've read that too.

So wake up people who don't believe this is a real issue. It is.

As for the Chinese involvement, I've heard from several people in a position to know that the Chinese have been promoting this practice in Tibet for years. They've seen to it that Dol-Ghoul temples spring up wherever possible. Their reasons for doing so couldn't be more obvious.

TENPA said...

If anyone doubts that some individuals in Tibet made arrangements with the Chinese prior to 1950 to sell out East Tibet -- because, lets face it, East Tibet was a Nyingma stronghold -- then such credulity will become its own reward.

There were actually some deluded individuals who believed that the Chinese would satisfy themselves destroying the Nyingma and Kagyu, and leave the rest of the institutions alone. That is a cold, hard fact.

Todd B said...

It was beautiful, I also got to go Friday (only)...I live close to Genden Shoeling and requested tickets about 6 months ago. Enjoyed taking my two year old daughter and wife, and was so grateful that she sat peacefully and contented (the wife too), even called his Holiness "Buddha"...missed you Tenpa, been a while since the "Horse Reading".

I'm sorry that so many take offense to truth, its much harder to realise than it is to ignore...scary when you add dogma isn't it.

TENPA said...

Hello, Todd. So glad you got to see His Holiness. It was just magnificent. Makes you really respect Genden Shoeling. Glad you took the family.

Anonymous said...

His Holiness only ADVISED people to stop doing the controversial practice, for their own good, safety and well-being. Within some of his own monasteries, some of these practitioners were so disruptive to the other monks (who were in the majority) that they had to be expelled. It was NOT because of any religious intolerance. Read BOTH sides of the story, as I have and you'll soon realize what actually happened. Despite the disruptive (even threatening) behavior of many of the people who do the practice, His Holiness has said that they may do as they wish, but NOT if they disrupt the lives of others in the monasteries he oversees. It was their behavior that got them kicked out, NOT religious oppression. Get the facts before believing the propaganda! They are still welcome to form their own groups if they wish and people who want to join these groups are free do do so (at their own peril).

BUT, if people want to take His Holiness on as a personal guru, then he requests that those who do that practice not take samaya vows with him. Because samaya karma links the teacher and student so closely, the energy of that practice would harm His Holiness, as well as the student, if the practice is done by a student of his. Can't you see that?

But His Holiness has no problem if people want to go off and do their own thing, but like I say, it is at their own peril. I will never understand why anyone with an once of psychic sensitivity can't sense something is wrong about that practice - even if His Holiness had never said anything about it.