Wednesday, March 21, 2012

This Is Kalu Rinpoche: Work With It

One suspects it is a bit like having a famous father who has now passed away. People keep coming up, saying, "I knew your Dad. What a swell guy he was! Make him proud, O.K?"

You can agree in principle, and you can agree in sentiment, but Dad was Dad, and you are you. Dad is dead, and you are living.

It is something Kalu Rinpoche lives with every day, as people keep trying to stuff him into the mold created by their perception of his predecessor. I have even heard lamas of mutual acquaintance say things like, "Yes, well, I was a little disappointed when I met him. I was expecting an old man."

Too bad. 

Kalu Rinpoche is not a kindly, wise, old man, the icon of a past generation:

Kalu Rinpoche is a kindly, honest, and courageous young man, on his way to becoming the icon of his own generation:

Not long ago, Kalu Rinpoche took the unprecedented step of publishing a statement on YouTube, where he tearfully confessed issues in his life that were seemingly presenting themselves as obstacles. The issues ranged from drug and alcohol experimentation -- at a level that would bore most American high school students -- to the confusion of adolescent sexual exploitation, and a highly charged allegation that one of his tutors tried to murder him.

Speaking plainly, it took nerve, it took guts, and it took a mighty heart to clean out the blackmail pipeline before polecats could reach the tap. I don't have anything to say about what he did or didn't do, but I might have plenty to say about older individuals -- some charged with his welfare -- who put a sheltered, innocent, kind-natured boy in compromising situations, just so they could have a weapon to use against him later.
[Full Disclosure: I've never met the younger Kalu Rinpoche. Field Note: I dislike to commit the same sin I have just decried, but I was quite friendly with his predecessor. At times, I was directly responsible for his physical security, and well-being. We traveled together, and did events together. We spent time in one another's company, and came to enjoy that time. When I see his young successor -- the son of a man and woman I also knew and liked -- treated so downright wrongly, it causes me to think of politics.]
Kalu Rinpoche is also thinking about politics. Since his widely publicized statement on YouTube, he has been occupied with trying to sort out issues relating to transition at Sonada. He has a heavily entrenched mob to face, well dug in; grown fat by virtue of positions engineered between the death of the former Kalu Rinpoche and the maturity of the present Kalu Rinpoche.

On his Facebook pages --- here and here -- he often muses about the situation, sometimes bewails the situation, and occasionally throws his hands up at the situation. You can see the same statements on his blog, as well. I do not see anything out of character in these statements. His predecessor was also disillusioned with samsara at an early age, cultivated renunciation mind, and wound up spending a considerable number of years in retreat.

Recently, his statements have become overt requests for assistance. This past Monday, he remarked:
"I need your help and your love because I am working on Sonada things... ."
From 1962 on, Sonada was built with generous overseas assistance from (primarily) the United States, France, and Taiwan. As an institutional matter, those who built the place are the biggest stakeholders. That Kalu Rinpoche's seat at Sonada belongs to Kalu Rinpoche -- not to some ad hoc committee,  expedient custom, or popular acclaim -- is, I think, without question. Failure to vouchsafe that circumstance, and follow the rules he chooses to make, insults not only Kalu Rinpoche, but insults the legion of stakeholders all over the world.

Here is what has people chafing. You can click these images for the larger versions:

This seems a commonsense approach to command and control of a multinational organization. Since Kalu Rinpoche has proposed these rules, and since he is having some apparent difficulty enforcing these rules, it behooves those of us with some connection to the affair to answer his call for "help and love."

Even if you have no connection, Kalu Rinpoche is still a gifted teacher for this age. I urge you to follow this situation and receive the benefit of his sublime character.

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6 reader comments:

pema said...

Padma Kadag said...

I listened to KR's video some time ago so i do not have an exact quote but one thing he said with no real elaboration I found to be very true and has stayed with me since was his brief comment that he has met people who are not buddhists but act and talk as if they are buddhist,buddhist in the way that he would recognize a buddhist...he was showing some appreciation for this. On some level I have met people and know people who are very naturally caring and kind and exude genuineness and have not heard one word of the Buddha's teaching. Dare I say that these people were more BUddhist than myself and most buddhists here in the west I have known. It is a sensation like a warm sort of shock when you meet these people.

Chöpel said...

Unfortunately, I have never met Rinpoche face to face (up to now) but I really admire what and how he's doing it. Maybe he's about to give the teachings and further more the "circumstances" a new approach - and such a new way dealing with "circumstances" is often needed, even in monastic communities, if I may say so as an ex-monk...
Nevertheless, Rinpoche will make his way!

Bo Bentzen said...


Beki said...

Having had the pleasure and pain of spending a significant amount of time close to this present incarnation of Kalu Rinpoche, a truly precious teacher, in 2009 and 2010, Im surprised by what has occurred.
It seems we Buddhists are not able to join the dots.. Although many people say (for good reason) that the previous Kalu Rinpoche was a great teacher (and perhaps add burden with the 'I knew your Dad' scenario), anyone with a little knowledge of 20C Buddhist history will be aware that he was also connected to allegations of sexual abuse.

Whether June Campbell’s (search Kalu Rinpoche consort) claims are true or not, one has to ask, if the present Kalu Rinpoche has suffered abuse in the early years of this life, where did the karma of that come from? This is what I mean by joining the dots...
There are several issues to consider - not least the "bravery" to speak out - which is exactly what June Campbell could be commended for, although that perhaps didn't happen as much for her as it has for our beloved tulku.
The challenge of 'work with it' must surely include joining the dots from one lifetime to the next if we are to intelligently contemplate this situation and apply the Buddha's teachings.

Interestingly both June Campbell and our present day Tulku have both spoken out in relation to the tulku system itself and it's challenges for the modern world. There are plenty indeed - and here is probably it's greatest example to date - but it is full of richness and opportunity for greater wisdom.

Regards claims that Kalu Rinpoche is so highly realised he is above karma - I'm not an able judge - but then he would also be above suffering. So although he looks jolly sad we would also then have to ask is this really a much greater teaching for us than first appears... and we should contemplate it a great deal more..

I have never met or spoken to June Campbell, nor read her book, (but excerpts show intelligence and care), nor did I meet the previous Kalu Rinpoche, but this incarnation discussed the content of his seminal You Tube video with me 'one-to-one' a long time before he made the decision to broadcast.
In some ways there is great merit in talking about things openly but we must also recognise the difficulties inherent in individual and highly publicised claims of abuse which cannot, for most people, ever be substantiated. There is also of course a need for dignity and privacy in certain situations - but perhaps most importantly for Buddhists, what abuse means in terms of karma.
So the point Im trying to make - to contemplate the karmic aspect of this revelation. But also to consider the tulku system, precious and extra-ordinary .. where children are recognised, given according privilege but also challenges and responsibility - and a traceable history spanning centuries. People who met their previous incarnations are free to speak out internationally in a modern world....
Bravery to speak publicaly of personal experience must be balanced with the question of fairness if others are not accorded the same rights.. This is a great example.

Im remembering Kalu Rinpoche seeming to suffer the privilege of his position and often saying "I want to be normal, like you people".. We were in England - with the help of my money - or my offerings depending on which way you look at it..
Without ‘being Kalu Rinpoche’ would this precious being be happily, anonymously and pennilessly playing with a deflated football in Darjeeling (rather than the Apple Mac in Paris) like the monks he left behind? Maybe. It raises so many subjects for contemplation.. not least the responsibility we all have.. It could make us wiser..more thoughtful - or careful "Buddhists"..
Privilege by birth is as complex as the definition of abuse - without karma it makes no it is messy, but so is our situation in samsara, so this is all about our karma too and for sure, we have to work with it.

Editor said...

Dear "Beki:" Please excuse me for saying so, but you seem to be laboring under a number of false assumptions. First, that the allegations made by June Campbell are true. They are not. Second, that a tulku is a linear being. It is not. Third, that karma operates on the "you're gonna' be sorry next life for what you did to me this life" model. It does not. Last, that the "Mac" photo is in Paris. It is in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

I'm sensing confusion in your words -- England "on my money," and "the monks he left behind" being examples -- and I'm wondering if this stems from something that happened, or didn't happen, as the case may be. Because in either case, you see, there is some operative expectation that has not, in your opinion, been met.

Who wrote those expectations into the script? You did. So, then, is Kalu Rinpoche obliged to follow your script?