I haven’t really talked publicly about the foundation in a cohesive and complete way. When people ask me how important Khyentse Foundation is for me, I will say, Khyentse Foundation is very important for me. The reason is very simple, but it’s not necessarily a wholesome and dharmic reason. Khyentse Foundation is important for me because I am a Buddhist jihadi.
To explain this a little bit, as you all know, in the world in general, the attention to spiritual matters is waning. The materialistic world is growing ever faster. And anything to do with religion is, at best, not talked about—if not laughed at.
The chances of governments, big organizations, big companies, big foundations, and even individual people helping support anything to do with religion are very, very slim. And I think many times it’s understandable, because religion has created so many problems. I don’t know whether it’s unfortunate or fortunate, but Buddhism has been characterized as religion.
So if we, as followers of the Buddha (now this is me, the jihadi, talking), if we don’t support Buddhadharma, who can? Who will? I think that as followers of the Buddha, it is our duty. This is how I feel. The chances of someone like Bill Gates or [another secular foundation] giving money to support Buddhist activities? Very slim. Almost nonexistent. It is not their duty.
And so it’s that simple. For me, it is my duty. Khyentse Foundation aspires to have big vision. We cannot promise, but we are aspiring. Not just a narrow vision of supporting just one tradition, one lineage, one country. We are trying to support those people with new enthusiasm for the Buddhadharma from places like Serbia, Croatia, Bulgaria—places completely unfamiliar with Buddhadharma and vice versa. And there is interest. We don’t know how long that interest will last without support, because trends move very fast.
At the moment, due to the compassion of the Buddha, there is some kind of increasing interest. And the Khyentse Foundation is aspiring to have this attitude of supporting this part of the world.
And at the same time we must remember how important it is to help the source, the heritage. So this is why we have tried our best to help monasteries and other traditional Buddhist places.
In a way, Khyentse Foundation is aspiring to become like a patron. As much as we pay tribute to great masters such as Nagarjuna, Atisha, Milarepa, and the lamas still alive today for the existence of the dharma, there’s something we shouldn’t forget: If you look at Buddhist history, at the social heyday of the Buddhadharma, the golden age did not come about just because of a few renunciant Mahasiddhas roaming around. It was because of the great patrons like Ashoka, Genghis Khan, the kings. When there’s sound, healthy, and strong patronage, we can see in history, these produce an amazing world of Buddhists and Buddhadharma.
So why is that important? I think that when a Buddhist-influenced society is thriving, there tends to be more peace, harmony, and prosperity.
As I said, Buddhism has had its heydays. But Buddhism has had more unfortunate times as well, in many, many, many places. Countries like Indonesia, parts of Pakistan, Afghanistan—these used to be thriving Buddhist countries. So Buddhism I think has suffered a lot. And because of this, I feel that Buddhists have developed a very small attitude of trying to maintain and take care of one’s own territory. For example, when Burmese Buddhism is declining, I don’t know how much Thai Buddhists are concerned. When Japanese Buddhism is in decline, I don’t know whether the Tibetan lamas even care. A few years ago, when we gave some money to UC Berkeley, in California, my Tibetan friends were shocked: “Why do you give money to those who have money?! Why give money to where the money comes from?!” That’s the attitude. And it is actually understandable. There’s that very individual, take-care-of-one’s-own-territory attitude. I think this is a habit that we have developed. And each of these—Japanese Buddhism, Burmese Buddhism, Thai Buddhism—all of them are priceless. Every one of them. Just like Tibetan Buddhism. Each and every word of the Buddha is so precious. It’s unbearable to witness the decline of Buddhadharma in any world.
So we are trying to aspire to have this bigger vision, to really help as much as we can—not just one or two traditions, but all, as long as it is related to the Buddhadharma. Because we aspire to help many different lineages and traditions and types of people, I think at times Khyentse Foundation is also perceived as rich. That we have enough to carry on. All I can say is, if that’s what some people perceive, then I pray and wish that their perception becomes true.
And even if Khyentse Foundation becomes a multi-billion-dollar foundation, I hope that people still consider giving more. And I hope people never think that contributions of one cent are not worth it. One cent is good. I also pray and aspire that every cent, dollar, and loonie that Khyentse Foundation has goes to the right cause, and does not get wasted.
And finally, I hope that people will not just think that Khyentse Foundation is rich, but people will rejoice that it is rich. That’s it.
Photo: Rinpoche in Vancouver, by Isaiah Seret.