Words of Wisdom 6 

June 2021


You Are our Own Master

Rinpoche on Engaging the Younger Generation

Photo credit: Pawo Choyning Dorji 

A lot of kids feel groundless and directionless, so this is something to do with touching your own ground, which can be something so simple, so ordinary, so not complicated.

A consistent theme in what Rinpoche has been expressing recently is how KF and our sangha can explore new ways to engage younger people and ignite an interest in Buddhist wisdom and practice. Rinpoche has spoken broadly on this topic, and this month we share his thoughts on finding new ways to communicate with young people.

We need to speak the language of teenagers, we need to learn about these 12-year-old boys and girls—what they like, what they don’t like, what they are afraid of, what are they imagining and fantasizing about. And not with some sort of missionary mind to convert them into some sect or group, but to answer their needs and wants. We need to think of other ways to reach the younger generations.

We need to make people understand and appreciate and get attracted to the dharma, to the teachings of the Buddha. And for that, we have a lot of work to do. We need to learn how to package. We need to learn how to communicate with future generations about the dharma. Because there is so much to offer. Every shloka, every stanza of the Buddha’s teachings, offers so much, and each and every one of them is relevant and beneficial.

This is something that we can deal with by bringing our awareness of interdependent reality, the dependent arising nature of our lives, and also emphasizing our inner world rather than the external world. The buddhadharma has so many things to offer. 

Rinpoche inspires us to think about not just who is teaching the younger generations, but how the dharma could be taught.

We have to be aware of change and we have to adapt to it because our mission is really to propagate and preserve the buddhadharma. We also have to keep the dharma, authentic dharma, alive and kicking.  At the same time, we also have to think in terms of making the buddhadharma available—not only available in terms of translating the words of the Buddha, organizing teachings, facilitating practice. Of course, that we have to do, and we are doing it. But we also have to think seriously how to make the dharma translatable, chewable, digestible, and appetizing—very appetizing— for the next generation. 

We ask you to consider how we might reach young people where they are, and let them know that what the Buddha was expressing 2,500 years ago is still profoundly applicable today.

I don’t think we should say things like, “To be a Buddhist means to be a good human.” Nobody cares about being good. So actually, I think the Buddhist branding should be རང་ཉིད་རང་གི་མགོན་ཡིན་གྱི། །གཞན་ནི་སུ་ཞིག་མགོན་དུ་འགྱུར། ([Wylie:] rang nyid rang gi mgon yin gyi / / gzhan ni su zhig mgon du ‘gyur). This is what Buddha said: “You are your own master, no one [else] is.” (Often it’s translated literally as “You are your own guardian. Who else could be your guardian?”) Buddhadharma, the whole of 84000, is all pointing toward giving you control of yourself.