November 7, 2020
I don’t have much to say, but most importantly I want to express my gratitude. This is very sincere gratitude, coming from a lot of contemplation. Sometimes I may disappear, and I’m so absent minded and scattered, it may appear like I’m not on board, so to speak, but I’d like to say that this is not the case. All of you have put in so much heart and head and devotion, lots of good wishes and lots of hard work. For that, I offer my gratitude and appreciation. And I rejoice. It’s one thing to be offering so much time and energy and resources, but many times whatever we are trying to achieve, we don’t really achieve, because it’s so difficult. Even if we do achieve something, it’s often a partial achievement. At the risk of being very proud and like Donald Trump, I think we have achieved so much, due to the generosity of our donors and also to all the people who have worked so hard, at such odd hours. I am very, very happy about this.
At this time, during the pandemic, I’ve been reading the sutras and they’re so inspiring. In the sutras, and the shastras of course, there are many mentions of what in Tibetan they call — I don’t know the Sanskrit term — pempa and dewa and pempa and denpa. Pempa (ཕན་པ་ phan pa) is something that is beneficial; an endeavor that is beneficial, an endeavor that brings you happiness. [Dewa (བདེ་བ་ bde ba) is a happy, balanced state. Denpa (བདེན་པ bden pa) is something that is true, authentic.] Isn’t it interesting that these two [pempa and dewa] are distinguished? It’s incredible, these sutras are so avant garde, so progressive. They differentiate these two; something that benefits us and something that makes us happy. Also, some sutras talk about something that is beneficial and also truthful. The sutras say some things can be beneficial but not really truthful, and similarly, some things can be beneficial but not necessarily bring happiness.
We all want to have something that benefits us. We like to think that we worry about what is beneficial or not. But I think that by and large we are after what makes us happy. This is what we want, but what we actually need is the truth. We want to be happy, but we need to realize, to actualize, the truth. Similarly, we want to be happy, but it is also important that we pursue what is beneficial, not just for ourselves but for everyone. For that, for this purpose, we have so many ways and remedies and methods.
I’m nearing 60 now, and in my 60 years of existence on this earth, with my laziness and distracted mind, I have used a lot of intellectual mind and analytical mind. I have explored some of the systems, methods, and ways, and they are very impressive. They have fascinated me and convinced me of a lot. Science, technology, political systems, philosophy, different backgrounds and languages. But yes, you can say that I have been thoroughly brainwashed by Buddhism. I have also taken to heart the advice that Buddha has given, to not take things at face value, especially his teachings. After all this time and contemplation, the words of the Buddha, that is it. This is the only way. I sound like a Buddhist Jehovah’s Witness — but Buddhadharma is the only thing that brings us what is beneficial to self and others. Buddhadharma is the only thing that brings us closer to the truth. Therefore, one way or another, Buddhadharma is the only source of happiness.
It’s such a joy to work with all of you to preserve, propagate, and support this dharma. We have done quite well. More than we dared to imagine and dream. Of course, we are all human beings, so when things are working, we wish to do more, we have more greed. In this case, our aim and our objective are not just philanthropic but something that is beneficial and actually the only source of happiness. We should be greedy and be thinking more farsightedly. We should not have poverty mentality — if someone is offering billions, we should be ready to accept it and plan according to it.
We have been supporting and helping the traditional, what we call the source of the dharma — Burmese, Thai, Tibetan. We will continue to explore ideas about how to maintain their traditions. We have been translating the words of the Buddha. We have done teacher and leadership training, I think we should do more of that. We have been engaging with how to raise our kids, having children’s schools. We really need to put our effort into this, and I have been talking to donors. Many of our KF activities, we can assess them and we can provide a picture, like monasteries, teacher training, translation. But working with a kids, I am new to this and I have no idea how to do it. All I know is that we must. We are already very late. We have to close one eye and jump into this project. This is important. We will pursue this vigorously.
Another thing I also think is very important: modernity and Buddhism. Modernity, of course, is just a term, it’s really just another way of saying that all compounded things are impermanent. This needs to be practiced. It’s funny that some of us lamas talk about how all compounded things are impermanent and yet everything we do is like we have no clue about this. We seem to want to go back to the old way of doing things. Of course, we don’t want to modify the core teachings, then the whole point would be lost, but the way it is taught, how it is taught, to whom it is taught — this is something that KF can do. We need to explore this area, how to incorporate modernity. The Bhumisparsha Project has been encouraging, and I deliberately asked only the younger generation to get involved. It’s very encouraging.
I’m also exploring ideas about modern retreat. When we think about retreat, many of us think of mountains and caves, something solitary. But it doesn’t have to be, it can be in a New York penthouse, or in a Ginza street. I’m thinking about who will teach people and guide them. Not necessarily someone who looks like me, like a religions person who has been tarnished or stigmatized as a religious person. We are not really talking about choosing a guru or a spiritual master, but kalayanamitra, a spiritual friend or companion. A businessman, a businesswoman, an architect, a doctor, a lawyer, all talking about nonduality, mindfulness, all that. This is something I think we can brainstorm about in the coming year. You can give me ideas.
Beyond that, coming back, I really, really thank everyone for putting in so much effort. This is a bit like the yakuza situation, once you’re in, there’s no way out. Of course, you can change your position or leave for family or health reasons, but your contribution and your advice — this is something you need to keep in mind. Thank you!