California, August 2011
What is Khyentse Foundation? Why did you start it?
It was the idea of a few of my friends who work in the world of finance and management and who understood that there are ways to pool resources and increase the power that money has. We were in Derge visiting my monastery there. Many lamas have this issue of having to support monasteries and I suppose being there, and seeing how much of a responsibility this was, my friends wanted to figure out a way to relieve the pressure. Once we started imagining the possibilities, the idea of a setting up a system of patronage began to take root.
Where is KF now?
That conversation in Dzongsar was 10 years ago. We are now supporting the study and practice of Buddhism in 30 countries. Because of the way these friends have pooled the sources and managed the funds, we have been able to offer over US$6 million in grants. Someone has calculated that the lives of more than 10,000 people have been affected, and my hope is that through their study and practice, Buddha’s teachings are spreading. We have tried to identify people and projects that are dedicated to the study and practical usage of the authentic Buddhadharma, and who can make a positive difference in the world.
The first step was to establish a monastic endowment to support more than 1,500 student monks in India, China, and Bhutan. I didn’t even know what an endowment was before but now I see that this system of using the economy really works. So we started with the monks because it’s so important to maintain excellence in traditional Buddhist colleges. This is where the future teachers will emerge. And once this was taken care of we could now focus outwards, to think creatively to figure out how we can help as many people as possible. Some really good people can’t go on retreat for financial reasons, for example, so our scholarship program now supports 200 students and practitioners around the world every year. And we support the preservation, digitization, and dissemination of Buddhist texts through organizations such as the Tibetan Buddhist Resources Center and Fragile Palm Leaves Foundation.
We have learned a lot. With this experience, Khyentse Foundation is in a position to meet even bigger goals, to have even bigger aspirations. How can we promote the teachings of the Buddha for the benefit of all beings? As our activities extend and the service we provide expands to reach more areas and more people, I hope that people will see the benefit and that we can earn the support of not only my friends and students, but any concerned Buddhist. In fact we are now receiving some support from a few people who don’t consider themselves Buddhists but can see the benefit of preserving and practicing Buddha’s teachings. I think that they see supporting this effort is a rare opportunity to make a large-scale historical impact. All over the world interest in Buddhism is growing – and the Foundation is ready to meet that demand in new, forward-thinking ways.