New York, October 22, 2016
I can only repeat what I have been saying every year for the past how many years now? But even to repeat, at this age I have to make notes. I have made some notes here. First of all, I have to rejoice about what we have done. I think we are supporting more than 2,500 monks and 1,500 lay people, probably many more. We are helping all different lineages and traditions, not only the Tibetans. I think Khyentse Foundation has managed to support people from 40 different countries. We are also, directly or indirectly, associated with more than 20 different universities. That is very worthy of rejoicing.
Of course I don’t need to remind anyone that Khyentse Foundation is not a materialistic, profit-oriented organization. It’s not aiming to improve a political or economic situation, even if what we do, definitely, indirectly, may have this kind of influence. Khyentse Foundation has no other duty or responsibility than to — in Tibetan we say [Tibetan], which means to offer the service to Shakyamuni.
By saying this, I am emphasizing that Khyentse Foundation’s aspiration is to help not just one or two lamas or lineages or one or two monasteries, our aspiration is to help anything to do with Buddha Shakyamuni. That is our aspiration. And I think our driving force is all of you here, continuously dedicating your time and energy, and everything, basically. The driving force of that, I am very sure, comes from your concern.
I don’t know whether concern is the right word. Dolpopa Sherab Gyeltsen, a great Tibetan master, wrote this prayer, which I think should be Khyentse Foundation’s aspiration.
“May I be reborn again and again, and through my whole life, may I carry the load of Buddha Shakyamuni’s teachings. And if I cannot do that, at the least may I be reborn again and again, having this concern that Buddhadharma might fade or diminish.”
Just having the concern is such a wonderful prayer. I really believe that Khyentse Foundation and I have a lot of support — textual support and lama support — members of Khyentse Foundation, donors, staff, people who are really dedicating their lives. Actually, not just Khyentse Foundation, but also other organizations. Those who are dedicating their life to Khyentse Foundation may not have a particular spiritual practice, they may just have the concern that Buddhadharma must remain, Buddhadharma must survive, and they should just have that concern. Then if they have no mantras, no mudras, no meditation, no hours and hours of retreat, I think it’s absolutely fine. That should be our practice.
The longevity and the strength of the Dharma is so important because, if the Dharma becomes extinct, then the source of the happiness, liberation, is finished for all. So I would say that even though Khyentse Foundation people may not formally practice bodhicitta, concern for the Dharma is a bodhicitta. I don’t think there is any other greater bodhicitta — relative bodhicitta at least — than concern for survival of the Dharma. So, until our body cannot hold it together, and as long as we actually make sense when we speak , and until we have become senile, I think it’s important that we really try to offer our service to the Buddhadharma as much as we can. When one day you cannot offer service, then you can still continue doing aspiration for the survival of the Dharma and request the blessing of the triple gem.
Meanwhile, it’s important that we think of the big picture. I was just in Washington DC, and the vision of the American forefathers is mind boggling — their planning of this country, just the streets, just the size and geographic location of the White House, these things took a lot of planning and a lot of vision. And I think it’s important that we have a big vision.
I sometimes think that we Buddhists suffer a little bit from poverty mentality. This poverty mentality needs to be, if not eradicated, at least lessened. Many people confuse poverty mentality and renunciation mind. I think poverty mentality is very rooted in selfishness, renunciation is not.
We need to think about helping as many people as we can, and for as long as we can. And we need to learn to be creative. I grew up thinking [Tibetan], the holder of the Dharma, so, the lineage holder or the sort of [Tibetan], where X means Dharma, Y means protect, and Z means person. I grew up thinking XYZ always meant lamas, His Holiness or his eminence, and that’s not true. We have to consider that all of us are XYZ; we are stakeholders of the Dharma. So we need to think big, and think creative. And when I say creative I mean, for example, not only facilitating and helping monasteries — monks, nuns, Buddhist institutes — but maybe we should also consider grooming young businessmen, scientists, and politicians. We never know, we might need them.
Since we are talking about long-term planning, as long as we can manage to produce billionaires, politicians, scientists, who worry, who have concern for the Buddhadharma, we are good. As long as they have that concern for the survival of the Dharma, that is what we need. So maybe we should not only invest in the monks and nuns and the so-called practitioners, but we should also invest in other people, this is something to think about.
We have been putting a lot effort into academic work, which must continue. I see a lot of good reasons, a lot of benefit there. Otherwise Buddhism could get watered down to mean a few things like nonviolence, mindfulness, meditation, not only because of external obstacles but internally. I think supporting the academic world could help a little bit in that area. A critical approach to Buddhism is so important.
But we should not only be satisfied with helping the academic world; the quintessence of the Dharma has to be practiced and for that we have to always be ready to help genuine practitioners. Not just genuine practitioners, but also mediocre practitioners; they may become genuine practitioners. Otherwise we may lose the essence.
Not only should we be involved in academics, shedras, and supporting practitioners, it’s high time we think about the children. Still we are not facilitating the kids , who are growing enough.
And then, since Buddhism is, in one way, flourishing, we have a shortage of teachers from both traditional places and nontraditional, meaning non-Tibetans and the Tibetans. Richard and I and some of us have been thinking about how to train the teachers. What is it that they are not getting across? We need to train Tibetan lamas. And then we also need to train western teachers, who actually know how to get a message across but probably most of all, they need to have the concern that I have been talking about. They need to really teach, not for fame or glory or possessions, they need to care for Dharma. That kind of training.
And we should not only train teachers, it is also high time to train sponsors and would-be supporters. This is something we have talked about before. I think such training is really important especially for traditional sponsors, the Tibetans and Chinese. Because as much as we appreciate their generosity, their one-pointed devotion and all that, many times their help ends up not really helping; in fact it creates a lot of chaos, on many different levels. So I think that it is important to train sponsors.
I would like to end with these things in our mind: We cannot afford to have a poverty mentality. We need to remind ourselves that every penny that has been received has been offered from the heart with devotion. People have worked so hard to earn money and then they give it to the Dharma. Then it becomes the property of the three gems, the Buddha, Dharma, and sangha. So it’s really, really important that we not misuse and not waste, and that we are vigilant about how we help. Recently there were some people who even applied for a scholarship to pay for tipping others. And for missing two weeks of work to attend a teaching. Things like that. We need to be very firm. We need to be really frugal. Even if Donald Trump gave us one billion dollars, we should still be frugal.
And then lastly, as much as I seem to get all the credit and sit in this better seat, it is actually all of you who have put in all the effort. I actually don’t even know what is going on most of the time. So I have to thank you for putting in so much time and energy. I know that some of you could get a much better-paying job, but you dedicate your life here. I know there are probably a lot of other better things to do from the worldly point of view, but you sacrifice a lot. So, thank you. But it’s a bit like the yakuza, you know, once you’re in, no way out. So I am telling you that you should continue.