The third annual meeting of the Khyentse Foundation Board of Directors convened in San Francisco on August 17, 2005, just before the start of Rinpoche’s Madhyamakavatara teachings. Rinpoche and the board were joined by a number of committee members, friends, and advisors to the Foundation, including Gene Smith, Richard Dixey, Steven Goodman, Kris Yao, and John Chan. Because of the global nature of the organization, we rely almost entirely on electronic communications throughout the year. The meeting offered a rare and welcome opportunity for committees to meet in person, many for the first time, and for thought-provoking discussions, brain-storming, and a number of inspiring progress reports on the Foundation’s five projects.
The Investment Committee Report, presented by Chair Bel Pedrosa, was especially exciting. Thanks to the committee’s diligence and professional expertise, the return from investment in 2004-2005 was 10.8%, providing interest income at twice the rate we had anticipated.
There was discussion about expanding the scope of the Foundation to include funding of special projects that lie outside the original five. At the discretion of the board and contingent on the availability of funds, the Foundation will now make grants to a small number of worthwhile projects that fall within its core purpose. Projects under consideration range from translation of Buddhist texts to sponsorship of Buddhist conferences. Rinpoche’s Vision Rinpoche opened the meeting with an inspiring talk that reminded us all of how far we’ve come in just four years and how much impact this joint effort can have. He introduced the concept that the Foundation supports both the mother and the child of Buddhism: From a spiritual point of view, Buddhism is one of the most important and profound paths. It is one of the oldest cultural systems and it has so much to offer to the world, not just intellectually but practically. In Buddhist countries even today the peacefulness and friendliness reflects this. In one sense Buddhism involves devotion and an individual’s spiritual quest, so one might say that materialism doesn’t have any place here. But in this relative world, without material support, spiritual achievement is almost impossible. This was also true in the past. The Buddha himself walked the streets of Magadha with the begging bowl, appearing to rely on patrons, merchants, kings, even courtesans. When we say we are patrons of Buddhism I think we are basically talking about supporting two things: study and practice. The dissemination of Buddhism in India, China, Tibet, and many of the Southeast Asian countries was possible very much because of teachers and masters, but patrons have also played a very important role. Some of the most important events in Buddhist history, such as the three assemblies, would not have happened without patrons. Likewise, the degeneration of Buddhism in parts of the world such as Indonesia, Afghanistan, and Kashmir has got a lot to do with the degeneration of their systems, their governments, and the lack of patronage. When these fall, Buddhism also falls.
I see two things that Khyentse Foundation can do. We should work for the preservation of the existing, almost mother-like Buddhist world, such as Tibet, Cambodia, and Thailand. And then we should also support the emerging, almost child-like Buddhist world.
Tibetan culture and Buddhism are two different things. Khyentse Foundation’s main aim is serving Shakyamuni and propagating his vision, the dharma. With this aim in mind, Khyentse Foundation does not need to spend its resources preserving only Tibetan culture. Buddhism’s universal concepts, such as knowing suffering and abandoning the causes of suffering, are not limited to one society or one culture. Buddhism is growing rapidly in non-Tibetan areas such as China, America, and Europe, but it has not yet matured there. It will, I think. And it should. There are so many young people searching for something. Unfortunately, many of them will end up taking refuge in a wrong view that ultimately will not sustain them. At this time we should have some kind of a facility so that people can have access to at least some correct information. So thinking in the long term, Khyentse Foundation has a very important task at this crucial time: nurturing and helping this child, this new interest in Buddhism, while helping and preserving the existing Tibetan and Cambodian Buddhist institutions.
Rinpoche then recited the Prayer of Excellent Conduct:
Until the sky exhausts, sentient beings will not exhaust. And until the sentient beings are exhausted, my prayers will not exhaust.
Similarly, I feel that until sentient beings are exhausted we should have the aspiration that Khyentse Foundation will not exhaust. So, it looks like it is just the beginning. I must thank the patrons of Khyentse Foundation. They have taken a tremendous burden off of me. I could take the six-month retreat that I have just recently completed and the one I will do soon simply because I don’t have to run up and down to make ends meet. I can just relax and think about some other things, hopefully, beneficial things.