FPMT Hasn’t Even Begun Yet
Ven. Roger Kunsang, Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s personal assistant, Claire Isitt, Center Services Director, and Massimo Corona, Executive Director of FPMT, pictured in action at CPMT 2004
Every couple of years, key players in FPMT get together for the Council for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (CPMT). This year’s theme was “Foundation Training for Compassionate Service.” Over 100 people from 53 centers in 22 countries, including our Spiritual Director, Lama Zopa Rinpoche and the Abbot of Kopan Monastery, Khenrinpoche Lama Lhundrup, flew in for this event in August at Maitreya Instituut, Holland.
Amy Cayton and I, the event facilitators, had come with an agenda of introducing a new “Foundation Training” to the Council for their evaluation. We had carefully planned every minute of our time together. Of course, we had to let go, and learn some lessons!
Lesson One: Never organize a CPMT with a full agenda. The magic of having Lama Zopa Rinpoche attend any event is that plans change, and – if you are really lucky – Rinpoche will teach and inspire for many hours. Rinpoche did exactly that. We had a huge rejoicing fest as Rinpoche reminded us of the incredible things that FPMT is doing in the world. (A list of these projects can be found at www.fpmt.org.)
Then, Rinpoche shared his vision for FPMT, including building the 500-ft. Maitreya statue, and then constructing over 1000 Maitreya statues all over the world. Rinpoche explained that by doing this we hasten the coming of Maitreya and thus shorten the eons of weapons, famine, and sickness that would otherwise occur after Shakayamuni’s teachings have passed – now that is vision! Many other inspiring activities for our future were revealed and Rinpoche emphasized that one of the most important tasks of FPMT is to organize public teaching events for His Holiness the Dalai Lama, especially in countries where His Holiness has never been.
Khen Lama Lhundrup also explained that we do not need to worry that the Maitreya statue will use up resources that we need for other projects. Rather, we should understand that Maitreya is the pillar and by making Maitreya happen, “all the other projects will happen spontaneously.”
Lesson Two: Everyone has something to say. Inspiring stories abounded, challenges were shared. The stories were extraordinary: Ueli Minder describing Mongolian winters where they eat ice cream to warm up. Dick Jeffrey showing his video of children from the poorest state in India expressing their wish to help heal the world – Universal Education in action. Ven. Roger Kunsang speaking of his adventures as Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s attendant.
Lesson Three: The cultural spectrum. Presenters included two Americans, an Italian, three Britons, a couple of Australians, a Dutch person, a Swiss person, a Singaporean, three Nepalis, and a Tibetan. Even so, it was suggested that at the next CPMT we allow for our broad cultural spectrum to be even more vividly represented – perhaps even have presentations in other languages like Chinese and have them translated into English.
Lesson Four: Sincere efforts are always appreciated. Even with inclement weather, colds, limited sleep, and a very full schedule, smiles and appreciation were tangible. Maitreya Institute’s hospitality took the place of the sun. Lama Zopa Rinpoche offered us a White Tara initiation so that we might live long. All of us appreciated the “family feeling” as we met and shared with old and new friends in the FPMT mandala.
Amy and I didn’t give the “training” we planned. Rinpoche himself gave the heart of the training, by giving a beautiful experiential teaching on how to generate bodhichitta and carry it into our day by staying mindful of, for example, “this is my mother.” Still, Lama Zopa Rinpoche did look through the workbook we created for the training, A Practical Guide of Skillful Means and commented, “This is very good. If centers used this, it would change the organization.” That was a nice vote of confidence.
Lesson Five: FPMT hasn’t even begun. The most amazing thing we learned at CPMT is that “FPMT hasn’t even begun yet!” Rinpoche said that he looked forward to the next CPMT because “there will be a great uplifting and illumination” by FPMT in the world by then. After 30 years, 136 centers and service projects, numerous stupas and holy objects, monasteries, nunneries, publishing houses, prison projects, hospices, millions of dollars being given in support of the Sangha and holy objects, thousands of hours of teachings by many high lamas, and tens of thousands of lives being positively affected – we haven’t even begun.