Saturday, January 23, 2021

Hardworking Lama

This message was written by one of Rinpoche’s students, Karma Choeying, following the Three-Day January Retreat; he wrote it in response to spending some time assisting Rinpoche with his many activities as a means to express his appreciation for Rinpoche’s efforts for the Dharma and the Sangha.
After this year's January retreat, I wanted to write a brief message about the tireless dedication of our Lama Khenpo Karten Rinpoche to the Dharma and the Sangha.
As you all know, the Manjushri Dharma Center has been closed since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. One may presume that with the lockdown, maybe Rinpoche will have more free time. In reality, this is very far from the truth.
I know this because I have been fortunate to work somewhat closely with Rinpoche over the past several months providing minor assistance, mainly helping his transition to an online platform related to technology, social media, and English. 
Some of what Rinpoche does for the Sangha can be clearly seen, while other activities are not directly visible. Regarding those that we do see, we know that Rinpoche typically holds online prayers twice per week on Monday and Wednesday. For the past several weeks, Saturday and Sunday, Rinpoche has been holding a Teaching on the “Thirty-Seven Practices of Bodhisattvas” in Tibetan.
After assisting Rinpoche to set up these Teachings, I saw how much effort really goes into a 1.5-hour Practice. Not only does Rinpoche have to prepare for his Teachings beforehand; he is very determined that the live stream video gives the clearest and most pleasant viewing experience. Initially, being unfamiliar with these electronics and online platforms, he has put in a lot of time to understand the hardware and software necessary for a live broadcast; additionally, much of the language required to operate these devices and websites is in English, Rinpoche’s second language, which makes it a bit challenging. Since then, he has been experimenting with different cameras and equipment, and he is still constantly trying to improve and better the online experience from the Dharma Center. Fortunately, some students and friends give him a hand, such as Michael Martinez from Pacific Grove who has helped Rinpoche produce a really special and professional live stream with multiple devices, the MDC logo, etc., but much of the work Rinpoche does himself. Truly, as some students joke, he has really become the Technology Lama! As an aside, it is surprising to see how much time really goes into a live stream video.
Additionally, Rinpoche’s Dharma activities are not just limited to Pujas or Teachings online. I believe that other activities also constitute much of his efforts.
This past year has been difficult for everyone; many of us have suffered from material, physical, and mental afflictions. As young children, we turn to our mothers or fathers for comfort when we encounter problems; in a similar way, many of us turn to the Lama for solace when in difficulty. Rinpoche, I believe, is the only source of refuge for many people both here and overseas. Often we turn to him when we or our loved ones are faced with sickness, depression, difficulties, and death. Sometimes we reach out to him just because we are feeling sad and we know that hearing his voice or seeing his face will make us feel better. Last spring, Rinpoche intended to go on a silent retreat in conjunction with the temporary closure of the MDC. I don’t think that he was actually able to carry out this retreat because, at that time, which was the beginning of the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, so many people were initially quite shocked and frightened when confronted with the new and unknown prospect of the disease and lockdowns, and many reached out to Rinpoche for his support and blessings. To read a little about this, you can check out Rinpoche’s blog “A Discussion between Two Old Men”.
He does whatever he can for his students and still maintains his inner happiness, which acts as a lamp to light and warm the hearts of those struggling around him. 
In truth, he is only one Lama! Not only is Rinpoche occupied with these efforts for the Dharma and the Sangha, in addition he engages in many mundane and domestic tasks, such as taking care of his Dharma Center, shopping, preparing his own meals, etc. Most of the time he gets around on foot. This may seem somewhat typical from a Western perspective, but often Lamas and monks share these responsibilities with one another, and respected Teachers also have many attendants to support them. 
Of course, many students engage in the service of supporting the Rinpoche; certainly, the MDC Board does a great deal, but also many of his students help him with things like setting up his Dharma activities like the retreat, Zoom meetings and Live streams, assisting with the translation of his written Teachings, assisting with his daily life such as driving and doing things around the MDC, and providing generous material support among many other things.
I just wanted to write this brief message at the end of the retreat for all of my Dharma brothers and sisters, and to let Rinpoche know that we do see some of what he does and sincerely appreciate him and his efforts.
Rinpoche has such a strong and genuine motivation to turn his students’ minds towards the Dharma. Often, he says in his talks that he really loves the Dharma, and I sincerely hold it to be true. The patience, persistence, and joy with which he continues to practice is astounding. He is such a great Teacher and example for his students, and I think that we are truly lucky to have him as our Lama.
It is said that happening upon a genuine Dharma Teacher is one of the rarest and most precious occurrences in one’s life, and in this respect I believe that we are extremely fortunate. I want to express my heartfelt thanks to Rinpoche! Katrinche Lama La
~Karma Choeying  (Tony )

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Message of Greeting

My warmest greetings and tashi deleks to all of my Dharma friends who are hearing these words today!
Today we are beginning the retreat that we do for a few days at the beginning of every year. It is a time when many people enjoy celebrating, saying Happy New Year! to each other. If we really think about it, what it actually means is that another whole year of our life has passed! The passing of a year and the passing of our life are just the same. Our human lives are very precious and sacred and it’s like we’re celebrating that a portion of our life is gone. I’m not saying it’s a bad custom, just that that’s the reality if you really think about it. If we celebrate the sublime Dharma then it will be truly meaningful. That is why we organize our yearly retreat to coincide with New Years. Although we can’t actually gather together because of Covid I am really so happy to be able to gather with all of you online. I want to thank everyone.
2020 was a very hazardous year for the whole world; great numbers of people have died, gotten sick, and have mental and physical difficulties; business, work and finances are also very difficult for so many. 
However, the past is the past; whatever happened, good or bad, is done. Learning through our experience from past difficulties it’s up to us to prepare for the future to be better. 
According Buddhism in general, outer and inner things do not truly exist in the way they appear as objects to our senses. They are said to be impermanent, in a constant state of change. Buddha also said that the end of birth is death; the end of gathering is dispersing; the end of accumulation is exhaustion; the end of rising is falling. This is not something that Buddha newly made up for Buddhism. He was just observing and commenting on things as they are; we must learn to accept it. 
Today we are gathering together and for a short time we will practice the Dharma. This is something very important. To me, I don’t see anything at all in human life that surpasses the practice of Dharma. We have come together for the practice of Dharma. Practicing Dharma does not necessarily mean becoming a Buddhist. Since we want happiness we seek paths to happiness and there are many profound explanations for this in the Buddhist scriptures. But happiness transcends the boundaries of any single religion; it is the indispensable cherished wealth of the whole world. Real happiness must be found within our own mind; it is a big mistake to seek it outside ourselves.
In brief, we must take good care in our actions of body, speech, and mind; especially our mind. The mental problems that many of us have are a result of not taking care of our minds. Everyone hopes for happiness but our actions and hopes go in different directions by mistake. As I said in the Dharma Song, a Gong to Wake Us from the Sleep of Ignorance,
Nobody takes care 
of the wish-fulfilling jewel of their own mind.
Everyone chases after objects 
of the five senses, one after another.
Thus, we should realize that the real purpose of our coming together for these days is to take care of our mind. Taking care of our mind might be very easy; or it might not be at all easy. This is because we don’t usually take care of our mind. Not taking care of our mind causes us many difficulties. As I said in the Gong to Wake Us,
If we took care of our mind
like we take care of our body,
we would not much longer have to experience
mental difficulties as we do now.
Don’t be like a mother, searching in the West,
for a child she has lost in the East!
Having turned the mind inwards,
don’t seek happiness outside!
Let’s all seize this good opportunity to act in ways that are different from before. We always hope for happiness but our actions lead in another direction. If we want happiness, what will be the cause for that? Attitudes discordant with happiness such as anger and pride must definitely be abandoned. For example, if we would like to see beautiful flowers with fruit in a garden, we must first give them water and fertilizer. Likewise, if we always rely on love, compassion, mindfulness, alertness, conscientiousness and so forth, we will soon experience happiness arising within our mind. 
Buddhist scriptures explain that effects correspond to their causes. If we always have a mind of virtue we will experience happiness, and from non-virtue will come suffering; it’s just natural. 
As we encounter serious difficulties from the pandemic this year, don’t think only of the bad side of it; there are also benefits we can derive. For example, as we fall prey to suffering regardless of our status and have to depend on others, we can finally understand how interconnected we are. Also, because of the pandemic, many become more aware of impermanence and as a result attachment and anger diminishes; in the future, thinking of our one earth, people have to come together in unity and harmony. In particular, if we are someone striving to practice Buddha’s teachings we must definitely be able to see bad conditions as helpful; as good conditions for practice. These days it is especially beneficial to have Dharma on the internet; that is something we can all be happy about.
Starting now, over the course of three days, according to my knowledge I will explain and emphasize some of the instructions of Gampopa’s Precious Garland of the Supreme Path. As you listen, think, and meditate, keep in mind that the teachings are more important than the person giving them. If we strive every day to take care of our mind, our new year will become truly meaningful; that is my hope and prayer. Finally, like the incomparable Gampopa, I pray that the minds of all who attend these teachings may turn towards and become the Dharma. That’s all for now. Thank you