What Our Founder Has To Say
In September the Khyentse Foundation board of directors and advisors met in California to discuss the progress of the past year as well the directions we are heading in the future. Here is a transcript of Rinpoche’s address to the board of directors.
——————— Thank you so much for coming. As I’m getting old, I really don’t like traveling, so I know what it means for some of you. I really appreciate this.
I really believe that what we have achieved, what Khyentse Foundation has achieved, is all because of you, the people, the human resources that we have. Without you I don’t think we could even have come close to what we have achieved.
Of course, I don’t have to mention that Shakyamuni Buddha is so special for us. It’s only with his kindness and compassion that people like us have some kind of direction in our life. Also, I don’t have to mention that only the Buddhadharma is the cause for temporal happiness, and for liberation eventually. So, as someone who is a follower of Shakyamuni Buddha, I think the best thing that we can do is what we in Tibetan call dzin-kyong, to protect and uphold and keep the teaching alive. For us, the followers, that’s our job. And not only one or two teachings of the Buddha, but every one of them, every single one of them. The past masters and scholars and saints and monks and patrons and kings and Brahmins, they have really traded their lives and their wealth and sometimes even their thrones for the sake of one word of the dharma, and it would be so sad or unfortunate to actually lose any of this, even one word.
I have had the opportunity to meet many masters, and some of them have had a very strong influence in my life. I was thinking about it the other day. I think two who had the most influence are those lamas who really have this concern for the dharma like Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche and Deshung Rinpoche. I think I wouldn’t be lying if I said that these people used to lose sleep because they were so concerned and worried basically, almost to the extent of paranoia, about one word, one page. Sometimes of course I’m still very lazy and very much distracted here and there. But what really makes me feel guilty, scared, or uneasy is when I remember these lamas, like Deshung Rinpoche and Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, when I remember the accounts of the moments when they expressed their concerns about the lineage, the teachings of Buddha. So it’s almost as if there’s no choice—we also have to be concerned, because of them. And also, I think it is really important to be concerned with each different aspect of the teachings and the traditions.
For example, when we talk about the environment, of course, it’s good to protect your own trees in your own backyard. But as a citizen of this world, one can’t really forget the Amazon. So not to be concerned, as a Tibetan Buddhist myself, not to be concerned with the decline or degeneration of let’s say Theravadin Buddhism in Burma, is not wise. If we lose one tradition such as Theravada, everything will collapse: Mahayana will collapse, Vajrayana will collapse. It’s so interdependent.
We human beings, we have this habit of being concerned with things that are immediate, things that are connected with us personally, and we tend to forget the general, the big picture. I think this also happens within dharma circles. Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö used to say that there are a few lamas who are concerned with their lineage, but nobody seems to really worry about Shakyamuni. This is so true.
Some lamas feel that this is the age of degeneration, so in fact, the effect of the dharma is no more, so to speak; so there is almost no point, it’s like the show is over. This is how I think some traditional lamas think. But I personally think that’s not true. Because still we have people who really are interested in concepts such as emptiness, bodhicitta, compassion, interdependent arising; not only just curiosity—we still do have people who actually put some effort in it, at least intellectually, and a few even try to put it into practice. So I don’t really believe that the Buddhadharma has completely come to a stop.
Definitely, from the dharma point of view, you can say that we are experiencing a degenerated time. But the fact that it is a degenerated time is actually one of the reasons why we should work even harder.
If you read sutras such as the Fortunate Eon Sutra, the life accounts of the thousand Buddhas, their previous lives, and you read these beautiful stories about the bodhisattvas, around the dark age when there was no Buddha, no dharma, and very few living masters, what they did was they offered a bell to a stupa. The bell would ring, the sound of the bell would be heard by people walking by, and then people would notice the stupa and through that create some kind of a karmic connection to the dharma. And because of having done such a virtuous deed, these bodhisattva later achieved enlightenment and became one of the thousand Buddhas. We hear many of these accounts, so actually it tells us that as the degenerated time becomes deeper, I think we have even more reason to really gather all our courage and put this into practice.
Earlier this year when we had the conference, toward the end, Jigme Khyentse Rinpoche gave such an inspiring concluding talk. He said, “Buddhas and bodhisattvas have so much merit, all we have to do is tap into this merit.” And that’s what we have to do. I think we have to do everything we can. At least, we should have good aspiration.
If we, as followers of the Buddha, cannot put the dharma into practice, at least we can protect the dharma, maintain it, preserve it, multiply it, and make it available so that other people who have time and energy and wish to practice the dharma, so that they can have it. I don’t think there is anything that is less important, anything that we can disregard. Everything, every lineage, every activity that is related to preserving the dharma is so important.
During the Translators’ Conference, Khyentse Foundation and I sort of stumbled into becoming the office for translating the Kangyur and Tengyur. Of course, it’s a very, very big project, it’s a daunting task, but it’s very important. And Khyentse Foundation and I have offered our services as much as we can, we have pledged ourselves to this. But this does not mean that the other things that Khyentse Foundation has been supporting, like scholarship programs, publications, and monastic education, have suddenly become less important. They are equally important, I think. Just like the universities, there is so much interest from the younger generations these days. And we can’t afford to tell ourselves ‘Well, we need to translate the Kangyur, so maybe the universities can wait 5 years, 25 years, 100 years.’ This is something that we cannot afford to do. So we cannot let go of any of these projects.
In other words, I guess I’m saying that we have to do much more. I know all of you, consciously or unconsciously, share this view. And this is why I have a very good feeling about what we can do. Because I think we all have this feeling of really not wanting to let go of some things because we are doing something else that is really special. And I’m very happy about this, so thank you so much. Please, keep in mind that I think we have just upgraded our workload much more.