A Taste of Liberation
Since beginning to study the Dharma, I’ve been amazed at just how inspirational the teachers, lamas, and rinpoches are. Their influence reverberates all across the Buddhist landscape and their ability to inspire transformation in students and practitioners is extraordinary. Recently, I got a taste of this power when Khensur Rinpoche came to our local FPMT center here in Raleigh, North Carolina. And while many people clearly gain much from empowerments, receiving refuge or from just being in the presence of a high lama, surprisingly, my transformative experience came about not from receiving teachings, but by missing them.
Rinpoche, a former abbot of Gyume Tantric College and a senior lineage lama from Sera Je Monastic University, had come to the Kadampa Center to teach, give empowerments and participate in pujas for several weeks, and I blew my first chance to meet him.
The Sunday that Rinpoche was to give his first teachings at the center, I arrived early, or so I had thought. When I pulled into the parking lot, I saw that I was anything but early. The whole area was filled with cars and people were streaming into the center, many of whom carried flowers and other offerings for Rinpoche. As for me, I had nothing to offer. When I walked into the center, it was abuzz with a palpable sense of excitement and it seemed everybody had something to do but me. I walked around for a minute or so somewhat overwhelmed by my lack of preparedness and uselessness.
Instead of staying and helping to get ready for Rinpoche’s arrival, I got in my car and drove off. I was racked with guilt and a diminished sense of self. But as I drove to work, I really began to observe the thoughts that had led me to abandon seeing Rinpoche. I actually began to implement some of the techniques that I had learned from all those Dharma books I had read and from those few minutes I managed to devote a day to meditation.
My thoughts of guilt began to reform and re-shape into thoughts of remorse. That remorseful attitude coupled with a curiosity to understand my irrational acts allowed me to see that the root of this latest act of absurdity was nothing more than ego itself. It was the same ego that had so adamantly objected to my offering prostrations when I first started coming to the Kadampa Center . It was the same ego that caused me to look at and pre-judge and tell stories about people. It was the same ego that called upon me to act out of cruelty, anger and jealousy instead of love, compassion and equanimity. In short, the same force that had caused me to run from Rinpoche, an embodiment of what I claimed to want to be, was the same force that I had been allowing to wreck my current life and so many lives before this one.
This kind of realization for me was profound and somewhat scary at the same time. Now that I was finally starting to make sense of things, what was there to do about it? The wall between my study of the Dharma as an intellectual endeavor and my applying the teachings of the Buddha to my everyday life in more than a superficial way needed to broken down for good.
So what I vowed to do that day was not do things as I had done them the day before. Instead of spending my workday engaged in the most banal and trivial conversations imaginable, I found ways to interject elements of Buddhadharma into the discussions. Much to my surprise, I found a very receptive audience in my co-workers, who clearly appreciated the change towards the positive. It became clear to me that Buddhism was just as much about the twenty-three hours off my cushion as it was the one hour on it. I found that the application of wisdom and compassion in any situation and in any context not only was uplifting to myself, but was of benefit to those around me.
What could have been a day completely controlled by my ego became a day that was transformed. There was a change in me sparked by the arrival of Buddhist teacher from thousands of miles away. A man whom I had never met and whose teachings I had yet to receive, a teacher whose presence I had literally fled from, had sparked in me a surprising chain of realizations. That is the power of the Triple Gem.
If I have gotten this much out of missing Rinpoche’s teachings, I am sure that there is much more I can learn by actually going and staying this time to sit and listen and to contemplate what he has come so far to give.
fpmt-registered teachers, kadampa center