Just the other day, I received a letter from an old friend. I had not heard from her in almost fifty years, but that does not mean she was forgotten. I had a photograph of her, and another picture in my mind. I remember once, up in the hills, we held each other so tenderly. We sat upon a stone beneath a flowering branch, and she kissed me. It was the spring I was seventeen. When I read her letter, I looked in the mirror, but the old man who looked back at me did not match the pictures I had of her.
So, then -- impermanence.
The generation of Westerners fortunate enough to rejoin Vajrayana when it crossed the Tibetan border is now beginning to die off. For me, as I am sure for you, it is like watching the aging of an old love. Ordinarily, we would say a thing like that is "bittersweet," except I do not know there is any bitterness or sweetness to be found.
Dust, more likely.
A dusty thing, neither bitter nor sweet.
If you venture a touch, it will crumble beneath your fingers.
Dust to dust.
Of the now-dying generation, what can we say? Can we cling to our memory of them, as they were when we both embodied youth, and then just let them drift away? Or do we owe them a greater tribute -- a debt, even -- for the years of their lives devoted to establishing Vajrayana in the West?
I am particularly interested in the answer to that question as it applies to the people who built the largest Nyingma temple complex in the world, outside of Tibet: the authentic Seat of the Nyingma Lineage in the United States of America -- Odiyan Retreat Center: the Copper Mountain Mandala in Northern California.
Here is no dust-to-dust love. I will not say that it is permanent, but I will rejoice in its suchness. Here, a small group of people have dedicated their entire lives to an inspired vision of beauty, constancy, space, and purpose.
Here is no love-of-a-lover love. But, my... what an absolutely stunning expression of devotion! People look at these photographs and remark in wonder, "This is in America?" Yes, it is. Here, with a richness - inside, outside, and secretly - that indelibly expresses the unselfish love of them that did the building.
Here is a gift from the people of our time to those who come after -- done in respectful acknowledgment of tragic events in Tibet during the last half of the twentieth century. Not since the days of the Twenty-five Disciples has the world seen such a profound gift -- product of a lineage of love that is not invested singly, but in all sentient beings.
Unique, perhaps, among all the Western sanghas, one only rarely hears the names of particular individuals associated with this sanctuary. There is no clamor to take credit, no personal authorship, no "signing," no ego, and no flourish. All the merit, without exception, is dedicated to the welfare of beings.
It is important to understand that this work was accomplished by the now-living representatives of a lineage that begins with Samantabhadra, and remains unbroken to the present day. This is unique in all the world. That these individuals should be Westerners is a testimony to what we might term "larger design;" something we might well recognize as the limitless potential of our status as human beings.
The Nyingma Trust
The Nyingma Trust's mission statement is brief and to the point:
"To sustain our community of Dharma practitioners, protecting their health and safety, and to support and honor their commitment to focus on the vision of Tarthang Rinpoche and the Nyingma lineage."
These people live very simply, with no personal luxuries. They receive no salaries or other financial support whatsoever. Since 1969, members of a core group have contributed their entire lives, fortunes, and energies to the security of the Vajra Guru's lineage.
Don't you think we at least owe them a little peace of mind concerning such matters as health care, old age assistance, standard of living, nourishment, and relaxation?
I am told by people who assess such things that over the past six years, Digital Tibetan Buddhist Altar has developed the largest regular readership of any nominally "Buddhist" blog in the world -- even with imitators, we still have a readership in the hundreds of thousands with page views in the millions.
From the bottom of my heart, I am now asking each and every one of our readers to contact Nyingma Trust and find out how you can help. Whether your personal resources are large or small -- whether, indeed, you cleave to the Nyingma lineage or not -- please pay tribute to the absolutely incredible achievement of this dedicated group of individuals.
If only for this...
So that, ten thousand years from now, those who come upon our bones -- metaphorically speaking -- will say, "Oh! Those people loved each other!"
And still others will say, "The better love never dies."