Rinpoche’s address to the Khyentse Foundation Board of Directors
December 3, 2018
Hello, everyone, everywhere—east, west, here, there. I will repeat things I have been repeating for, how many years? First of all, I would like to thank everyone, not just here, some of you have travelled from very far. Others are missing sleep to be here. Not just that, but throughout our endeavor, all of you have put so much time, energy, thinking—and I repeat this.
There are people who have this karma, this good karma I guess, for getting all the credit. Doing nothing but getting all the credit. I guess I have this karma. You guys do everything, and I get lots of credit. But here I want to express, it’s really you guys who put so much devotion into this. That is why I think we are managing to do what we do, and I have the aspiration that we can continue doing the same thing.
I have nothing much to say but I think it’s important that we know, and that we tell ourselves, that Khyentse Foundation is a religious foundation. I think we really need to accept that. I say this because amidst all the changes in these times, the sound of religion and anything to do with religion, and especially nowadays, anything to do with superstition and all of that—people try to shy away from it, at the least.
I think with Khyentse Foundation we need to be very clear. This is a Buddhist foundation, we are all devotees of the Buddha, we care for his teachings, and not just one or two schools but all the lineages. Our wish is to preserve, maintain, propagate, and think about the future generation of Buddhism. It does not matter what lineage or what tradition. I think this is very important to know, because the world is changing so fast. I know people also change the way they think, the way they value things. They also have different definitions of what they are embarrassed about. They have different values towards things they are proud of.
I have been quite vocal about how some of the lineage holders—like the Tibetans for instance, and I think it may be true with the Burmese, Thais and Sri Lankans, we so-called traditional Buddhists—end up hijacking this precious, pristine, stainless Buddhadharma through our cultural baggage, with all kinds of our local culture, habits, traditions, and customs. I think some of you may know I have been quite vocal about this for many years. I have seen this in the process of trying to present Buddhadharma to the next generation, the generation that is very much influenced by computers, digital, digital thinking—just the modern society.
It is really important. We need to translate, and we need to present Buddhadharma to these generations. But in the process, I think we have to be very careful that the Buddhadharma does not get hijacked by modern values. If we present, let’s say, to Czech Republic, I think it’s important that we don’t let the Czech hijack Buddhism with their Czech thinking. This is basically what I am saying.
So, this is where I think Khyentse Foundation can play some role in training teachers and giving facilities to students who want to study and put what they have studied into practice. It’s not an easy job, because people are very attached to culture. You know, you can really talk to me about that! In the past I have, at the least raised eyebrows from my own traditional people.
It’s very difficult to even critique our own habits, because culture is important. It’s a certain value, it’s a vessel. But I think it’s important also to keep the Buddhadharma intact and pure. I always use the example of Mexican food: we don’t want to have Buddhadharma be like Mexican food that is served in many parts of America. And it’s not bad, by the way, and it is really delicious and very good and sometimes it is much, much better than what is served in Mexico. But that is not the point. The reason why it’s better sometimes, in places like Los Angeles, is because they know how to package it and they know how to do it properly, the portions, with exotic names, and everything. But is it really Mexican food? Probably not. Maybe it has the label of Mexican food but then you have lost the Mexican food.
So, similarly, I think it’s important that we don’t lose Buddhadharma. The great thing about Buddhadharma is it’s never outdated. There is not a single word that we have to modify or change. There are a lot of things, like practice methods, that can be changed and adapted, and Buddha himself has encouraged us to change and adapt. But the essential teaching of the Buddha is up to date. It’s very progressive, and the essential message of the Buddha is something that the world needs today, instead of being very embarrassed about it. So, I think this is what Khyentse Foundation should remember. We are a servant of this man called Shakyamuni, and we are trying to serve him as best as we can. Thank you.
Read the more from the 2018 board meeting.