A few years ago, Rinpoche’s cow, named Cangioli, gave birth in the pasture of Grantha Griha in Bir. Rinpoche named the calf Noa. Cangioli (KF’s executive director, not the cow) sent me a photo saying something to the effect that I am like a daughter to her in this life. I am so honored to have worked with her so closely over these past 17 years, and now that I am stepping down from my role as communications director of Khyentse Foundation (reasons explained below), there are a few things I’d like to express.
In 2001, Cangioli rang me up and extended Rinpoche’s invitation to become part of a team establishing a foundation for him. She said they were going to try to raise $3 million to create a fund to support Rinpoche’s monasteries. If it worked out, maybe he could focus his attention on the future of the dharma in bigger, more global ways. First I said of course! And then I said…3 million dollars?!? I couldn’t imagine how it could be done. At the time, I was living in a tent in the mountains.
And here we are, 17 years and more than 17 million dollars of grants later (and that’s just what KF has given out, not what has been invested and endowed). With Rinpoche as our guide, the mostly volunteer team has created a beautiful, transparent, efficient mechanism by which people’s heartfelt generosity is transformed into meritorious, dharma-enriched activity. I have been so blessed to be a part of it, and I’m forever grateful to Rinpoche and the KF board of directors for giving me the opportunity.
Overseeing KF’s brand creation and communications has been such a fun job, but I couldn’t have done it without the guidance of Rinpoche, the board, the Executive Committee, and the whole communications team, east and west. I am grateful to everyone who has helped me grow in this position. My lovely team has worked seamlessly and harmoniously over the years and I thank them wholeheartedly—Jessie Wood, Jesse Klein, Margret Sablatnig, and Chou Suching have been with me nearly the entire time. And thanks to all the amazing volunteers who have designed, written, contributed photos, helped with the videos, consulted, edited, and otherwise helped make our communications cohesive, clear, and—we hope—inspiring. I especially have to thank Cangioli (the executive director, not the cow), who has been my support, my champion, and my friend consistently and throughout.
I’ve learned many lessons from being around Cangioli and some of the other amazing women who have worked so long for Rinpoche, but one thing in particular has really transformed my outlook. It’s about the Asian culture of giving. It’s not that western culture is not generous, but there is an Asian habit of constant, unsolicited giving that I witnessed again and again from Bhutan to Taiwan to Hong Kong to mainland China, Malaysia, Singapore, and beyond. Being around it, I developed a sense of abundance, an understanding of the flow of generosity that I had never experienced before. From the subtle ways they sneak their credit card to the waiter, to the suitcases full of gifts, to the red envelopes, to the elaborate meals and warm hospitality, to the major donations, they are always in a mode of giving, so much so that there is rarely ever a need to ask for anything because it is already offered. Would it hurt if everybody had this habit? It is something that KF has relied upon over the years rather than constantly asking for donations—and it has worked.
I hope that everyone appreciates the low-key messaging of KF publications over the years, and the near total absence of requests for funding. If people feel inspired to give, we rejoice; there is a need and there is a channel that they can trust, but deciding to donate is up to one’s own merit. And it’s just one way of connecting; even reading our updates and wishing us well is enough.
But now I need to stop saying “us.” Because I’m moving on. I will still advise KF on education-related grants and funding, but my focus and energy will now be on establishing Middle Way Education, a new, independent, not-for-profit, inspired by Rinpoche. I am overseeing the creation of a new model of Buddhist education for children. This model will be developed at our pilot school in Upstate New York. You can read more about the school in this issue of Focus, and you can follow our development on Instagram and Facebook.
Rinpoche’s vision for Buddhist education opens up a whole new world for parents, students, and educators. I pray that I can do this job with even a fraction of the grace and tenacity that Cangioli has shown over the years as she shepherded Khyentse Foundation into the remarkable game changer that it has become in the world of Buddhism and Buddhist philanthropy.
Grace really seems to be the word when it comes to KF. The funds have flowed in like a steady river and have flowed out like a vast ocean, carrying the good work of people and projects all over the world. Expansion has been unwavering and healthy, goals are set high and met again and again, with enthusiasm not strain. The KF teams have also grown to accommodate these expansions. Time and again talented, extremely competent, kind people have appeared when we needed them. Every year at the annual meeting of the board of directors, I watch that smile grace Rinpoche’s face. He appears quite pleased with what has been accomplished, all because of the generosity of KF’s donors.
I’ll miss that! But I’ll be busy. My replacement will be training over the next few months, we’ll introduce her soon. Her creativity and fresh perspective are most welcome. You may see some changes, and we are very open to suggestions. Maybe the Focus needs a facelift, maybe we should have more videos, maybe you want to tell us your story, maybe we need to Tweet more or less. Let us know.