So my name is on Ani Palmo Lodro. I’m an ordained Tibetan Buddhist nun. I live here at the Vulture Vedere Retreat Center and monastery, which is from the college you lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, and the head of that lineage is stronger and special. And he established this as the North America. Well, really the UT the seat for the USA, for himself. We have two resident lamas here, Champa Jigme Campo Lovesong, and I’m the manager of the center, so we have a retreat center with 20 guest rooms. We invite people to come and we are actually nondenominational. So if people come, they don’t have to be Tibetan Buddhist, they don’t have to be strong practitioners. Even they could even just come and feel, I don’t know anything about Tibetan Buddhism. I don’t know anything about Buddhism in general. I’m just here because I’m curious and I want to explore it. And we also have people that, you know, been on the path 40, 50 years. They’ve done very serious three year retreats, a lot of solitude, retreats and they come and do you know, seclusion retreats or retreats where they’re just doing a specific practice for themselves? And they may stay anywhere from a month to years, so it can is a wide gamut. We provide an opportunity for a very diverse number of guests to come and experience what there is here. And there’s a lot that’s offered in a monastic environment that is probably not offered in our busy worlds in the same way. So we do try to encourage people to really receive what’s here to be received. My journey kind of didn’t start till I was a little bit. I’ve been on the path about 25 to 30 years from somewhere in there because really kind of when you enter the path, you’re into the path. As a lay person, I did. Anyway, I would imagine playing this for everyone. And you know, you’re kind of serious, but you’re not really serious. You’re still I was still very kind of indulging in the world, even though I had a kind of a sense of, wow, you know, there must be something else. You know, I was in the world, I was in the corporate world. I had all the things that, you know, very like typical Western life, you know, all the things that you would expect Westerners to pursue. I was pursuing those same things career. And then at a certain point in around 30 years old, you know, I just was extremely unhappy and it seemed like I shouldn’t be because I had, you know, done all the schooling and then gotten these good jobs and then was, you know, making money, which was supposed to be a really important thing, you know, in acquiring the assets. And and I was looking at my life and it just dawned on me that, Wow, you know what? I have all these things and I am actually very empty inside. I don’t feel fulfilled. And I was I was kind of going through a period of like a depression. And I I I asked the question, What else is there? There must be something. What is this life for? You know, and kind of coupled with that my entire life, ever since I was as long as I could remember. I was very affected by the realization that I was going to die even as a young child like it was. My earliest memory is that realization that people don’t live forever, that you actually die. And it seemed to me that nobody really knew what happened after that. And to me, I, I was kind of became very obsessed with the question of the inquiry of, well, if all of this ends, you know, if if all of our senses end at some point because this body is going to end. What is all of this, what’s going on here? Why am I here? Where am I going? You know, all those big questions that people have. It just happened for me at a very, very early age and it stayed with me. And, you know, I made the choice to kind of acquire things and be in this kind of, you know, life that was very supportive is very supported by the Western culture. But in the back of my mind, I was always kind of looking at that as well as like, Wow, you know what, some day all of this is going to end. I’m not even happy with it all. So why do I? Why am I even pursuing this? And I decided to start practicing. I was very involved with a Hindu teacher for quite a long time. And she introduced me. That was really the start of my actual true spiritual path was I had a teacher that had more of an awakened mind, and she was able to help me see that really, the spiritual path is a path of giving and contribution, and I started doing what’s called in the Hindu tradition Bhakti Yoga and Karma Yoga, which is karma. Yoga is doing selfless service, and bhakti yoga is devotional path. I did that for a very long time with this teacher, and I was very, very serious about it. And I traveled around the world and I saw different things and met a lot of monastic people. I met people at all levels of their spiritual journey. Some, it was very obvious that they were very high, in my opinion. Very high beings, very, you know, open mind, very pure presence. And I was very impressed, inspired when I met people like that. And so I continued in this way doing, you know, working with this one Hindu teacher and then I worked with other teachers as well. I was at a certain point I was reaching out to other teachers. And then, after about ten years of practicing selfless service and back to yoga and, you know, inquiring and going to see different teachers, I had that realization of why two realizations one was I wasn’t my thought it was. It took a long time for me. I was a very slow learner. But after about ten years, I actually had the realization that my mind is thinking and I have all these thoughts. But that’s actually not who I am, and I was actually able to create in a very stable way space from the experience of who I was at that time and the thoughts and the emotions and the experiences of life. So that space that was created, that distance between me and the experience of the world and the thoughts about the experience of the world became a very serious inquiry because at that point that I saw, I’m not my thoughts. I’m not this body. I’m not even my emotions. It’s like a whole new world opened up. It was like, Well, if I’m not those things, but I’m here and I’m aware what is here and awareness, what is that? So a lot of my journey at that point started to become, you know, self inquiry, which really flows very well into Tibetan Buddhism. And I had started to read about Tibetan Buddhism, but not in a very, you know, certainly not in a way where I was just focused on that. It wasn’t one pointed concentration on Tibetan Buddhism. I was still kind of looking at other things and practicing other things and selfless service and karma yoga and karma yoga and as well as Dr. Yoga was still very prevalent. But is that still prevalent now? Actually, it’s just a different terminology in Tibetan Buddhism. So after that experience of, you know, it was a real turning point for me because along with that, it was also, well, if I’m not all these things and I don’t really know, you know, I know I’m I’m aware that I exist, but I don’t even know what that is. Am I as well? In the meantime, just be helping other people, and I kind of can figure all this out. So that kind of deepened my experience of wanting to care for and benefit other people. And then another clinic, ten years went by and I was I’d been on the path at this point for 20 years. I still had my Hindu teacher, which I was very close to, and she was still doing a lot of guidance and I was seeing other teachers as well. I just had just a profound transformation in me. I would say I can’t really explain it because it was so experiential and I have never really cognizant fully, I think. But it was almost like the person that I had been just was gone. You know, it just dissolved. It was like all the things I thought were important that I grew up with were just. Out there, and I felt like an enormous amount of love in my heart. It was like this flow of unconditional love that was coming into my heart and that I just felt that for all beings and that has never kind of left. There was just that turning point in that kind of 19th 20th year of my path where. I guess it was some type of realization, a deeper realization of the nonexistence of self, but also there is an awareness and something going on here, and it has a lot to do about love and unconditional love. And it’s actually a. I was almost residing in another reality, the reality I had before was very polluted. You know, contaminated with mind. But this reality seemed to be more clear. And I stopped having a lot of the old emotions I used to like. I mean, I wasn’t getting angry anymore and I wasn’t feeling jealous. You know, not in the same way. You know, there might have been some subtle remnants of these things or frustration, but not at all like I had. You know where those those emotions took up a lot of my day jealousy and envy. And, you know? Anger and all these kind of negative emotions, they just left, they just kind of dissolved. And what was left was just this scent of the world is an amazingly beautiful place and I want to appreciate it and give back for having this life. That is so amazing. And that was such a complete opposite of where I had been before. So it was almost like I was a different person. And I just was happy. But there was nothing on the outside that was there making me happy. It was almost like the realization of happiness as a birthright. And we were all innately happy and we can be that way. And all of this was very transformational. It was that point I decided to come and come into a monastic environment and explore living in a monastery. So I came here to down. I came to this monastery voucher video and I just immersed myself in the environment. I just had started. I came thinking I would just come for a few weeks or a month or two, and I actually never left. And there was such a connection to camp, a love song and camp with me and such a longing to want to help whatever they were doing here because I could see what they were doing was beautiful and helping so many people. People were, you know, experiencing a lot of transformation by being connected with them as teachers. With this with larger video, as a monastic environment where they could let go of a lot of the burdens and suffering they were experiencing and experiencing experience, something that was much closer to peace. And I just felt like maybe I could help here. So I went from, you know, living here as a retreat and then I, the cook job in the kitchen opened and I started, you know, I became part of the staff, so I was helping run the center. I was cooking. I was doing all the things that help run a center. And then after a few years, I supported this wing was not here, this new wing, and I said, Why don’t we build the new wing back? So I helped take on that project. So we, you know, completed this new wing in about two years. And at the end of that time, the previous manager was leaving and the Cambodia put on encouraging me asked me if I would want to take the position. I said yes. And although I had been on a spiritual path, a monastic for so many years, I had actually never ordained as anything. I wasn’t, you know, I wouldn’t consider myself a yogi, I wouldn’t consider myself a sadhu. And at that point, I knew I wanted to ordain, but I knew that my second year here and I was already asking the Campos. I would like to ordain and they so they started working with me to prepare for that, to make sure I really wanted to. Because in Tibetan Buddhist tradition, once you ordain and take on robes, it’s not a good idea to give back. It’s not a good idea to change your mind. You know, you really want to be sure. And by the time when I asked, I was pretty sure. But by the time I got ordained, I was absolutely positive. That’s all I wanted. And so I’ve only been I got ordained October 31, 2020, so it’s only been a year, although I’ve been monastic longer than that. In other traditions and now I’m pretty much running the center. And, you know, I think what’s important about that is not so much what it looks like on the outside, but just as a practitioner, as a Tibetan Buddhist nun, as just an individual that’s gone through the journey of being this western person that ended up in this very different tradition. I could, you know, confidently say that. It’s probably the best decision I ever made was to get ordained. It. As an ordained person, I mean, you can take refuge in Tibetan Buddhism and do Buddhism for vows, and that’s a very serious and it’s a commitment. And then there was the level of commitment of being ordained. And I had no idea how much, how fulfilling it would be for me. It was almost like once I did that. Once I became ordained, I felt like I was taking refuge on an entirely different level, like I was being supported by sentient beings all over the universe. You know, we practice to deities and we have devotion to all the lamas that have gone before us and all the beings that have become enlightened and of course, to the Buddha. But my experience of that was more of a direct experience of that of connection with other awakened beings that might not be in form, you know, but nevertheless, they’re extremely present in their support of the tradition of Tibetan Buddhism and all people having the opportunity to come more into an awakened mind. And I felt that had happen for me, like I was invited into that opportunity. But even more importantly, I wanted to give whatever I could for other people because what freedom was predominant after I ordained and after all these years of being on the path was that I didn’t feel like I was suffering as much or in the same way. But what I saw was that a lot of people around me seemed like they were. And that might just be my perception. But I do feel that there’s a lot of suffering. Yeah. And I just became very concerned with, Well, there must be, you know, if I’ve been able to create a more happy way of my life and more of a contribution to others that must be available for everyone. And so I just got very committed to wanting to benefit other people and serve other people. And that kind of really all my life is about now you when I meet people outside of the center. You know, we were rubes all the time, so people know I’m a monastic and the reaction is really beautiful. People are very reverent, you know, even though that’s not the tradition in the West, more, you know, enough people know about Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhism when they see a monastic. They’re very respectful, very kind, and they tend to feel safe with monastic because they recognize that a monastic, you know, is here to benefit other people. So a lot of times few people feel very comfortable coming up to me and just talking to me about whatever is going on in their life. I do a lot of counseling and a lot of those times just with people I’ve never met before because they just feel like they they would like to speak with somebody. They don’t want it to be someone they know. And they see it as an opportunity when maybe this person has some kind of insight that can help me because of what they’re doing with their life. So that is one thing I think that is specific to being a monastic. I have I didn’t know that would happen and that definitely happened and continues to happen. You know, on my own path, there was a lot of that kind of, you know, ignorant of anything but trying to make myself happy and go after those things that I thought would. And there was a certain part I entered a spiritual path and there was a certain point on my own spiritual path where I had the realization that making myself happy, we’re trying to make myself happy by pursuing things. We’ll never be successful. And they actually didn’t even make me happy trying to pursue things for myself. What I realized was what truly was more fulfilling was doing things for the people caring about other people. And that was like a very pivotal point in my own path, where my focus stopped being so much on myself and how to, you know, gratifying all the things I thought needed to be gratified and thinking about. Seeing other people seeing their suffering, seeing what they’re going through and asking the question, how can I help this person? What do I have to offer that can benefit this person? And then at that point, my life drastically changed. And it became an almost became a way of, you know, looking at the world with a with a different lens. I mean, from my whole perspective, the world changed and what started happening as a result of just that question. Well, what about people outside of me? They they are trying to be happy too. I want to think about them. I want to care about them just by thinking along those lines. My sense of self, the self-identity started to dissolve. And you know, of course, the police view is the more you move along the path. And there’s a lot of different practices to do this. The more you’re going to experience the nonexistence of self, and that’s what you’re after. But again, there’s a lot of ways to do that and just being in service to other people, it naturally happens. And that was my experience.
Differences with Hindu Path
In my journey, in my experience, a lot of what I experienced on the Hindu path was direct experience without me really knowing what was going on. So like I would, you know, there were times where I would experience like, you know, somebody’s meditation, but I really didn’t understand what was going on. You know, it was just like this experience. And there was continuously experiences, especially after a certain point of bliss and summary and clarity. And, you know, an experience of. Myself being connected to all things or myself being nothing. You know, not nothing in terms of just a void, but nothing in terms of being, you know, a person. You know, the person south kind of went away, but it was all direct experience. And when with that tradition, my journey through it was that you’re a teacher, you with a guru and you’re kind of following the judge’s instructions. And as you’re following the guru’s instructions, these experiences start to happen, and that’s exactly what happened to me. And I’ve read so much about other beings that have been on the path and the journey, and it’s a lot of that is reported as well. All of a sudden, you’re in a state of Somali. You actually don’t feel like you put yourself there. It just kind of happened. And it’s a result of merit from all the selfless service you’re doing and of course, your inquiry as well. The distinction, the subtlety. Well, maybe it’s not so subtle is that when I came into the Tibetan Buddhism, Zen Buddhism, the tradition, the text, the practice, it’s very, very precise. You’re not just, you know, a balloon in the wind kind of thing. Things aren’t just happening to you. You’re very aware and you’re practicing and you’re learning and you’re taught what exactly is happening. So you can articulate very clearly what has happened to you, and you can articulate it from the viewpoint of one to help somebody else. So you can help them understand maybe what is happening to them, because oftentimes now people will say, Well, this happened to me and it’ll be some spiritual experience, and I’ll be able to help them articulate exactly what that was. I could have never done that before in my Hindu path because I didn’t actually know what was going on. I just knew I was happy and I have a sense of self and the world was amazing. You know, I mean, a little deeper than that, but essentially it was just, you know, there was this wisdom coming in , but there wasn’t a lot of skill sets on my part to verbalize or give terminology to what exactly had happened. And when you enter Tibetan Buddhism, depending on the path, but it almost doesn’t matter. I think any, you know, solid path that you travel through as a Tibetan Buddhist, you are very clear about what’s happening. You’re you’re very clear about what is happening to your mind and what is happening to as a result of your in the inquiry into your mind. You’re able to put terminology to your different consciousness is you’re able to define your suffering, you’re able to define the cessation of suffering. You’re able to at a certain point because in the beginning, in my in my journey, it was like I had the direct experience and then I had to understand all that happened. A lot of other people understand all the knowledge of this is going to happen, and this is what awakening will look like. But then they have the direct experience. So I kind of had it in reverse, which I think happens a lot in the Hindu path. And I think that’s an important distinction and something very beautiful about Tibetan Buddhism, because you’re given a framework, you’re given a foundation here is exactly and it’s actually laid out in the four noble truths. If you just read a little bit of a more in-depth version of the four noble truths other than just what the four sentences are, you can actually use that as an as the starting point for inquiry. And very quickly see how you are connected to all the different levels of what you know is being explained in the four noble truths. And so much of the path stems from that. So if you have just, you know, the most basic understanding you’re you could start your journey with a strong foundation. And then there’s a lot that you can do, you know, after you’re very kind of preliminary, you know, glimpsing of what you glimpsed in the four noble truths. And of course, a lot of the Tibetan Buddhist practice is focused on meditation. Because you have to quiet your mind, you have to calm your mind, you have to get to know your mind and inward journey. And that’s true for Hindu as well. But the way that it’s practiced in Tibetan Buddhism is, it’s a very safe way to go through that. I mean, there’s a lot of things that happened in the Hindu world that I would say, you know, people want to do try different things they’ve heard about, but they don’t have a foundation of really the path itself. And it can be a little dangerous. I mean, I’ve seen things happen to people because they thought they were ready for practice. They’re not really ready for what Tibetan Buddhism? I mean, that could be true also. But if you really listen to your teachers and follow the guidance, you start with foundations, block foundations and you build on there and you go from the knowledge base of, OK, this is what this is all about, which ultimately is this is not real. This world is not real. The phenomenon that I see is not real. And the question, of course, that’s going to come as soon as you have that either knowledge or experiences. Well, what is real, what is going on, then if this isn’t what’s going on and I can experience that, this isn’t it. What are we? Where are we going? What? You know, what is it all about? Once I have that realization and Tibetan Buddhism, I think in my view, there’s a beautiful, very immaculate job of walking you through. That experience and realization that moves you towards a clear mind, because that’s basically what you’re doing is you’re clearing all, you know, you’re clearing everything out except what’s really true. And so you do arrive at that place of this is true. You know, this is this is what’s real. And in the midst of that, a lot of the veils that keep us from, you know, realizing there’s, you know, because in the beginning you’re growing up and everything you see around you is what you think is real. And that’s all, you know. There’s nothing else, you know. But as we, you know, the more that I progressed and immersed myself on the path and tried to purify myself, the more I could see. There’s a lot more going on than what I knew as just some condition mind. There’s a lot more going on. There’s a lot of realms out there. There’s a lot of sentient beings that you could. Be in the state of understanding, not only understanding them, but connection with them. And you know, in my view, what we’re trying to do as practitioners is to kind of reside in that state of an awakened mind all the time and cut the personality self, you know, definitively to the extent that it’s not driving your actions or your thoughts.
Accessibly of Path
I would confidently say, I think there’s too much distinction between lay practitioner and monastic, it’s almost like, you know, there’s this kind of. Beliefs, you know, or conception that you know, you’re going to awaken as a monastic and you’re probably not going to weaken as a production. I completely disagree with that entirely. I think all you really need is the desire to be on the path and have the sincerity behind it and have a caring heart. And that’s all you need in my, you know, there’s I mean, you could be the parametres and you know what is necessary here, OK? Well, patience is necessary and moral ethics is necessary and all these things that are talked about. I think that’s all true. But you don’t need to be monastic to have any of that in a way, you know, monastic life. Because I did both like you did, right? And in a way, monastic life is easier in some respects because of the fact that, you know, you’ve cut off the world and yeah, you can go very deep. But it was very interesting for me because more my intention, especially after my first 20 years where I had that kind of a deep understanding, realization, transformation, you know, I initially I just felt, well, I’m just going to go into deep retreat now, you know? But apparently, that wasn’t the best thing for me because here I am running a center where you know, I work eight, ten to twelve hours a day and I’m constantly interacting with people. So it looks almost the opposite of the life of a private retreat that I thought that I was going to have when I came, you know, I kind of was thinking, Oh, well, I’ll just be in seclusion and practice all day and be a meditation. I this can be further from, you know, any further from then. That’s possible because as soon as I get up in the morning, I’m answering phones, I’m answering texts, guests or calling people need counseling. And that goes on all day long. And so, you know, in a way, although I live in this center, I’m leading a very lay practitioner life. I really am. I mean, I interact with people constantly and doing a lot of logistical things. You know, I handle the finances. I do all the finances. I mean, I’m it’s like a job. You know, on many levels, it’s like a job you would have in any company anywhere, except there’s this foundation and there’s, you know, my own continued commitment and sincerity of Tibetan Buddhist and to apply that in every instance. And anybody can do that. Any any person married single kids. I mean, a lot of people come and they do talk to me about that very specific thing. I have kids and I feel like I can’t practice, you know, and it’s there is a challenge there. But at the same time, I don’t, you know, there’s people I know that are spiritual teachers, I feel are very evolved beings, and they raised families and they did it within the family context. And I think even Buddha’s own message, you know, was any ordinary person can become enlightened, you know, in his life was kind of proof of that. He was born of a normal person. So, you know, I mean, just for you, I would say that that’s a misunderstanding to think I need to be monastic too weak. I mean, maybe as a lay practitioner, a householder, you could take pieces of time. I’ll take a month here or two months there and deepen things that there’s something intrinsically. There’s something, you know, that profoundly changes on the inside and then it almost doesn’t matter what the outside looks like. And that’s available to everyone.
one of the first things I would I kind of try to encourage people and keep for myself as well is that to remember that, you know, the whole journey is it’s an inside job. You know, there’s such a pull out side of us to be distracted and to follow whatever the trendy thing is at the moment to follow. And that with that creative thing for us is this complete belief system in that what’s external to us is what is there, you know? And one of the most difficult things for people that I see is to even. You know, to let go of the concept that this is all real. You know, it’s a it’s a huge thing to let go of because we expense you experience it through all of our senses. And then we put names to it all. And then we define it all, and then we create a map of the world for ourselves. And that’s the map where we’re so attached to our map of the world because that’s how we cope. And that’s how we survive. And so to let go of that map of the world is, in my experience, one of the most difficult things for people to do. You know, and of course, you know, at the point where you’re like, OK, well, none of this is real. You’re not seeing it in a flippant way. You’re saying it experientially. It’s not that it doesn’t matter and that you don’t care. But you see the limitations to the external world and how petty it actually is at the point that you really see that is kind of, you know, further along the path in the beginning, you’re not going to have that experience, but you can have the experience of looking at your own judgments and opinions and all the you know, for me, I was a very righteous, opinionated person. I applied, you know, my view projected my view out there, and that’s what everybody should have is looking at the world the way I do, because that’s the way it works and that it was completely false. I was completely deluded. I see a lot of people that remind me of that time in my life because they seemed so sure about, you know, their external world and their opinions about what kinds of things, you know, politics and religion and Buddhism and Catholicism and all these things. What’s really true is that all of that has to drop away. To really actually, you know, be in the position where you can continuously experience clear mind what’s really there to see, what’s really there, what’s blocking it is your belief of what’s there. That’s not true. It completely overlays the whole thing. So I would say that for lay practitioners, monastics, everybody, all of us. That’s one of the major obstacles is we’re so attached not only to what we see and experience to our senses, but our opinions about what that is and how the world works. Even very serious practitioners, when I talk to them, you know, they’re full of opinions. You know, this is right, this is wrong. This monastic tradition, this is, you know, and and all of that kind of criticism. You know, it’s very evocative of continued negative mind. And the negative mind is what keeps us all, you know, pretty unhappy. And we all have it. And when you really see it for what it is, it can kind of get dismantled. But if you’re still attached to it, it’s not going to happen because you’re still regurgitating it on a daily basis. Minute by minute basis almost. Does that kind of help you think people with just seeing what you know is just one of the basic main obstacles? It’s not even like a a practice thing. It’s not like you’re doing this practice and it should be. It’s no, it’s nothing like that. You know, if you can act it like it’s an inside job, like, you know, your mind kind of, you know, investigate your mind, know your mind is what you think. True. What I discovered was 99.9% of what I thought was not true, you know, and that was like kind of pulled the rug out from under me. It’s like, Oh my God. So I was wrong about everything. It’s kind of a scary moment because then you have nothing to hold on to. You know, it’s almost like your coping mechanisms are pulled away. And that’s a very scary moment for people. So I would say that in connection with what I just said previously, what comes of that is. You almost can start with a clean slate or the slate gets very cleaned and it’s, you know, on one level, it’s thrilling and exciting and wonderful and no level it’s scary. And that to the point I see people like at that point of like, OK, well, if I let all this go, I have no idea how to survive in the world. And then they don’t want to go there and they grab back onto all of their opinions. And that’s a pattern I see a lot.
Impact on Modern Culture
How has the Tibetan Buddhist tradition coming to the West because it’s fairly new, it only came in in 1959. You know, we know the history there, but how has it this new tradition that’s only, you know, 60 years old, how has it already impacted and affected the Western culture? And how can it better benefit the Western culture, knowing what the obstacles are for the Western culture and the challenges because of that condition? Mind that intellectual over intellectualized Western mind? So I think the first question is it has had an impact. And I think we have to be patient and realize that it’s going to be gradual. I mean, you know, Tibetan Buddhism is what Buddhism is 20 500 years old, and it’s only been in the West for 60 years, so it needs time. And I think there has been positive influence. I mean, it’s, you know, a double edged sword in some ways because you hear these words being thrown out constantly now, like mindfulness and, you know, meditation and even like, you know, more specific and, you know, esoteric like Roger Yan Inventory, Vijaya Raja Pani certain duties, you just hear their names from just, you know, lay people or not even practitioners. And so there’s this kind of like it’s infiltrating the society, but is it infiltrating in a way that is actually understood or they’re just becoming terms that we throw around, you know, with without really knowing what we’re saying? So. So I think that is a double edged sword and we have to there is the aspect of being careful of that. I think that also for that first part, that that first part of the question of how it has impacted it, even though we have kind of created this kind of Buddhist terminology, that’s a bunch of buzzwords, you know? I think it’s helpful to have it even, you know, because people will. There is the aspect of hearing kind of this terminology out in our culture. And I even for me, like when mindfulness became this big trend, like mindfulness, you know, I think a lot of people thought themselves, what is that? And they would actually start investigating it for themselves. I think that’s the positive aspect of that, even though it’s misunderstood. Meditations misunderstood. Tantra is, Oh my god, what a confusing mess that’s become. You know, it’s out in the culture, it’s out in the public mind. It’s kind of almost become, you know, words that almost everybody is familiar with. And I think it’s just going to take time for people to actually disseminate, you know, create clarity and discard the confusion or misconceptions around those things. I mean, tantra comes to mind because it’s such an extreme. And, you know, it’s something that became popular in the sixties and the seventies, and people were like thinking, You know, I can do this tantric practice and become enlightened. And they didn’t know what they were doing, and there was no foundation and actually created mental mental instability for people. So that’s still all to that first part of the question. But overall, I do feel like there are positive impacts, thank God. Because if Buddhism hadn’t come to the West, I don’t know that I would be in the position I am that I’ve been able to have a spiritual journey. So just those words and those concepts coming in is falling on people that actually are truly wanting to inquire. And it’s like, you know, nourishing to hear these terms that they can go, investigate and start their own practice and start their own journey. So I think there is an invitation there for people to start a spiritual path to start their own spiritual path because they’re seeing the influence of Tibetan Buddhism that’s coming to the West over the last 60 years.
I think have you been on the path for a while then you’ve had the experience of a spiritual community and, you know, depending on what your own path has looked like, you know, the direction in the turnings of it. You might have more experience with diversity in spiritual groups, and I have had a lot of experience with different spiritual groups. There are some commonalities. And so maybe I should address some of these commonalities because I think that’s helpful because each one has its own unique flavor to it. But the commonalities and also comparatively with the East spiritual groups in the West compared to spiritual groups in the east, there are some real challenges with spiritual groups that have that have arisen and developed over the years in the West. Again, it’s newer, so there’s less of that kind of acceptance of them. And because of these kind of crazy stories you hear and what do you see in the news about them? There’s a lot of confusion around them and there’s a lot of skepticism and there’s a lot of criticism of them. And that is, you know, becomes. Unfortunate for all of them, because, you know, people tend to blanket their opinions sometimes, so they hear about this one teacher that did whatever they did, which was, you know, inappropriate and then they apply that to all spiritual centers and all spiritual groups. But, you know, truly in Buddhism, you know, you have your three year three jewels and the Sangha is one of those three jewels. And so the song is extremely important because as a practitioner, as a lay practitioner, as a monastic, you need support, you need support from the group. And there is a collective almost consciousness that happens with a sangha, with a spiritual group. And that can be very uplifting and very healing because a lot of people haven’t grown up with a lot of true peer support. And so a Sangha can give that. And of course, one of the advantages of a song is that when you are, you know, in a state of more delusion or your state of harming yourself or others, a Sangha member is a true friend that will come to you and reflect to you. This is what’s happening. This is what I see is happening right now, and they’re doing it from, you know, their motivation to support you, love you and help you grow on the path. And to have that support, I think, is extremely important because not only do we delude ourselves, but we delude each other. We people please all the time in our culture, we tell people what they want to hear. We tell people what we think they want. They want to hear so that they will like us. And in a song, a true sangha. You know, hopefully that is not so prevalent. You’re not talking to people because you’re thinking about yourself and what they can do for you. You’re talking to people because you’re thinking about what’s going to help them. And I think that is very pivotal and that is a subtle difference between good, strong, healthy songs and songs or spiritual communities that may not really be benefiting each other. So I think that’s important to keep in mind. And I think, you know, in in Tibet and Buddhist, in Bhutan and India, you know, people grow up in ashram. It’s very common. It’s very accepted. So they don’t have a lot of those, you know, it’s almost like here you have to kind of you feel sometimes like you’re swimming upstream when you’re living in an ashram or you’re very involved with the spiritual community. So you have to investigate them, make sure they’re pure and kind of look at what they’re doing, why they’re doing it and take time. I think before you decide you’re going to be part of it. And even the Dalai Lama stresses and focuses on, I think all Tibetan Buddhist view is around really investigating your teacher and the Sangha, making sure that you know it has periods that can be and it can get a little tricky to, you know, because of her own opinions and things. But, you know, generally, I think the song is very important and it’s a very beautiful thing. What I see as a commonality with a lot of the songbirds going back to the initial point is that there’s a huge diversity in songs and spiritual groups, and songs and options are a lot of similarities. So I won’t make the distinction so much between that because I’ve been in a lot of options also. But what you have is a lot of people feel called to, to dharma, to teachings, to song and to Ashram because they are longing for something that is going to be supportive to them and is going to help them heal because they’re suffering and they want to get out of suffering. And they see Sonko’s and Ashram as an honest, monastic environment as ways that they that can help them heal and get out of the suffering that they’re going through. And that’s true. It is really true that that is the whole point is one of the major points of it, especially before you get into the deeper teachings where you know, there’s the nonexistence of self, you know, even thinking about yourself anymore. In the beginning, you are thinking about yourself because you’re suffering and you have to get out of your own suffering before you can help other people get their suffering. So that’s a very real thing. But the problem comes where because you have such a diversity, you know there needs to be a ratio of mentally healthy individuals in a sangha personally to the people that are unstable. If the ratio, I mean, I’ve heard the numbers that other people you know, prescribe, which is for everyone mentally unstable or extremely neurotic, you know, or mentally ill, Sangha member, you need twelve. Mentally healthy Sangha members, you know, you hear that and you think, Oh my God. But from what I’ve experienced, I actually am more in line with that number because someone that’s unstable can create a lot of disruption, create a lot of havoc and create a lot of confusion in a song. And so you have to keep that number to a minimum. And one of the issues, especially here in the West, is that a lot of mentally ill people are attracted to Sangha, to Ashram, to spiritual teachers because again, they’re suffering and they want to heal. It’s a very true real feeling and, you know, very right. You know, they deserve to be healed also. But when you put, you know, all these people together and you have a certain number of mentally ill people, they need to be supported and they need a lot of attention and they need counseling and therapy. And not all songs are set up to do all that. So if you have too many of them, it makes the Sangha fall apart. Yeah. And that’s, you know, for better or for worse, that’s actually my direct experience of what happens in songs and in Ashram here. We’re very fortunate. We have a very beautiful Sangha. We have very strong Sangha. We have a lot of people that have been on the path very long time, and they’re very good at supporting people that are newer, that need a little bit more help, which is, I guess, the other distinction that you want people in your song that you want a certain. You know, percentage of those people to have been on the path a long time. You know, if it’s all beginners, it’s going to be more havoc, you know, and I’ll preface it by saying that. Monastic communities are rarer in the West, because you too have a community, you need a number of people. And in a lot of areas, you don’t have enough monastics to actually create a monastic sangha because you could have a layperson song, you could have a Gnostic song, you could have mixed Sangha, but just a strictly monastic song that’s usually going to happen with a monastery that has a very high number of monks or nuns like Tara. Mandala has a high number of nuns, so they do have a monastic community. The same thing is true for monastic communities as that. You know, there is, unfortunately for better or worse, it’s just, you know, the way it is. Not everybody that enters the manifest of the monastic vocation or life has the same motivation. Some people enter the monastic life for the reasons that mentally ill people go into an ashram or are attracted to a teacher there. They feel, you know, unaccepted by society. They feel and respected. They feel unloved, they’re wounded, they need healing and they come into the they come in as a monastic. They asked to be ordained because they think the monastic life will fix all that, but it doesn’t fix all that. The only thing that fixes all that is your own work on yourself with therapy and awareness and openness and the desire to heal yourself and not blame anybody or expect anybody to do it for you. I think that’s a very big distinction because I have seen in monastic circles a certain percentage that again are not mentally healthy . And so the same thing is true in a monastic circle because of the fact that if you have certain people that are not healthy, they’re going to pull down the structure and create chaos and havoc and disruption. So in some ways, it’s the same. You can’t have more than a certain number of people in your monastic group or community. That or I should say it this way, you need a certain percentage of mentally healthy monastics for the monastic community to thrive and be supportive and benefit. But the subtle difference with a monastic environment or monastic circles is that if you enter a monastery and even hear for myself, I’ll speak for myself. You know, if I came here and I was disruptive and needed a lot of counseling and therapy and just had a lot of unhealed wounds and I wasn’t able to, you know , and I and it was to the disadvantage of other people, you know, where other people may be put in harm’s way because of the way I was behaving. I would be asked to leave, and that is something that you see in monasteries. If you come in, you know, you’re going to get a certain amount of support and help and healing, but a certain point if it if you’re depending on how you’re receiving it, if you’re not able to receive it or you’re so disruptive that it’s impacting the entire community, you’ll be asked to leave. And that’s how those those proportions are kept. You know, in line is that people that are too disruptive cannot be in a monastery because they’re in a monastery, unlike a lot of washrooms. There’s a lot of structure. You know, you getting up at four in the morning, you’re meditating for two hours. You’re you’re helping, you’re in the kitchen, prepping for breakfast and then you’re serving breakfast, you know? There’s a lot of service hours. And for people that are mentally challenged, sometimes service is an obstacle for them and they can’t show up for service. And in a monastery where everybody’s kind of pulling their own weight, if you can’t show up for service coupled with these other things, you can’t stay here. So that’s how it’s dealt with. I think in a monastic community is that, you know, it’s monitored closely. There’s a certain structure, and if you can’t fit into that structure, you just cannot be here. We’re like in a sangha where it’s laypeople and or mixed or an ashram where it’s almost like, you know, some mushrooms or almost anything goes. It’s harder to control that ratio, and there’s a lot more havoc and chaos.
I would preface the because there’s a couple of questions in there, and I’ll try to touch on them in a way that doesn’t jump around. But I want to preface this by saying that everyone’s monastic experience is very unique, and the more that I get to know other nuns and monks and hear about their lives and their experiences and even their practice, you know, they each have their own very individual journey and we’re all in some sense, beginners, you know, so we all still are filtering things through a mind that’s not completely pure. It’s not been cleared of all the obligations and pollutants of the mind. So we’re still kind of experiencing things through somewhat of a conditioned mind, which, you know, tends to flavor it. So, you know, my experience has been for myself and with others that we’re all in that process right now and that we are seeing things and it’s good to talk to each other because of this, seeing things the way we uniquely see them. Other people would look at that same thing and see it very differently. So just in terms of a monastic life, it’s so it’s different for different people. But at the same time, there should be a thread that’s common through all monastics, in my opinion. And of course, you know, that thread is the pursuit of eventual enlightenment and all the things that go together with that and kind of saying that the pursuit of enlightenment because even that there’s so many definitions to it and there’s so many different ways that people, you know, think about what that is. So even that is a little vague to talk about it. But but what I would say was that the common, you know, that common kind of feeling of I am pursuing enlightenment and that’s why I’m a Gnostic. I’m a monastic. It is kind of true for all monasteries. And it is true for this monastery and retreat center. But going back to what you were saying about having a retreat center where there’s only, you know, two senior monks, campos and then me as the resident nun, it is different than, you know, kind of like if you go to India or go to baton and go into one of the larger monasteries there, you know, there’ll be hundreds of monks and there they may have guest stays, people that can come and stay overnight, but the majority of what’s going on is focused on that monastic practice, all monastic practice in monasteries and in this monastery and retreat center as well. All group practice and hopefully individual practice is dedicated to benefit all sentient beings in their pursuit of enlightenment. And so one common thread through all of this is that although we are individually interested in awakened mind and enlightenment, we also have the knowledge and deep seated compassion and care for other people enough so that we dedicate all of our practice to benefit other beings also and beings because all sun beings want to be happy. And then I guess I would say also the next part would be kind of distinguishing how this is a little different. Yeah. So we do have a structure here. And just in terms of, you know, logistically, the structure is that we have set times for breakfast, lunch and dinner. People eat together in a group setting in the dining room, but they could eat in their rooms or they could eat in a private dining room if they’re in complete silence, which some people are, if they’re doing one, the parts in a retreat or something like that. But we have the breakfast at 7:30 a.m. Then we have group practice that starts at about 8:45 and are both senior monks or campers. Join for that group practice. And we do Peugeots long life prayers if it’s medicine. But today we’ll do medicine. Bit of practice, you know, different practices on different Tibetan holy days. We honor those and generally we’ll do our pujas together. We have a book that gives the phonetics of the Tibetan language. We’re doing them in Tibetan, but the fanatics allow us all, you know, the English speaking practitioners to do them as well. And a lot of people have memorized them, especially the more serious practitioners. And then we have a meditation after the puja. We’ll have a meditation for maybe anywhere between a half hour to an hour or even longer, depending on the group and what the composer seeing is needed for the group. And then there’s a question and answer period after. It will do a mock collar protection and dedication of the merit, and then we’ll do a question and answer with the senior monks. After that, if anybody is wanting a personal interview with either camp, a lot of summer camp may, then that is scheduled and coordinated. And so at pretty much every day, they’re meeting with people to discuss practice or whatever is important for that person. And then by that time, you know, we’re getting closer to lunch and people kind of have their own time to do practice. We have a group lunch at around noon and then after lunch is kind of like an open afternoon for people here. So they could either do walking, meditation or a lot of people come in with their own individual practice. You know, they might be doing green tar or white tower. None, Joe. And so they’ll have their practice manuals, their practice techs, their tools that they’re using for their practice. And they are just focused on having, you know, kind of a secluded environment set up so that they can focus really on deepening their practice and doing the , you know, recitations of mantra or whatever that might be. And then we have dinner at 6:00 and then in the evening again, people are kind of on their own doing their individual practice. That’s kind of the standard schedule for a lot of the time. But we also do have a lot of group retreats. So the group retreats, like we’re starting a group retreat on December eight and we’re starting a white tower retreat on December eight, it’ll go for a week. And during that time, there’ll be four sessions a day and will be in white tower practice, led by the senior monks by camp, a love song and camp a jig may. And during that time, everybody is doing the same thing. Yeah. And of course, we dedicate all the merit for the white tower to the long life of our lineage holder, Chongli Rinpoche. It is also his birthday on December 13, so that white tower, which is kind of a longevity practice as well as many other benefits, is being, you know, specifically dedicated to our lineage holder. And so we also and then the third part, so there’s the individual which you come in. You have your own practice. There’s a group retreat where you register and we do a group practice here. And then the third aspect would be that other groups come in and sometimes rent out our entire center because they want to do a certain practice or a certain type of retreat. But they want this environment and that happens quite a bit too. We have that maybe once a month or once every six to eight weeks, we’ll have a group come in doing their own retreat. So those are the, you know, in kind of, you know, in a monastery where you have hundreds of monks, you won’t have people coming in to rent the whole thing and you won’t really have so much diversity with the different practices because here the majority of people that are here are guests. Yeah. And so what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to serve the guests that come as well as local Sangha, which is the Sangha that is, you know , living in the area that comes for practice every day. And we do a lot of group work with just that local sangha because as a group, we’re kind of, you know, growing and learning together. So there’s that aspect to the people that just kind of come through the people that repeatedly come through the Sangha, members that are here every morning for group practice. And then we’re also doing things and projects together. We have mala making classes, things like that that, you know, creates more cohesive. And again, whatever we do, whatever practice, it’s always we dedicate the merit.
Monastic Retreat Center
So there are a lot of retreat centers in the USA, they’ve become such a popular thing and being on retreat has become kind of a trendy thing. We’re also a monastery. And so that you can be a retreat center, just have people come and do their own meditation. But a monastic retreat centers a little bit different in that there’s a lineage. There’s a very specific practice for us where the cause you lineage. And a lot of our practitioners start with the foundation of what’s called an Andrew, which is kind of the preliminary practice for Tibetan Buddhism to kind of establish yourself in a practice mode . Some people can do drill their entire lives, although we do offer, you know, specific practices the way that we’re structured. The infrastructure for us is this is, you know what I would call. We keep the door open to people that want to experience the flavor of Tibetan Buddhism in the cause you lineage. But the lineage doesn’t matter so much because really, all Tibetan Buddhism has the same basic tenets. I would say that what we’re offering here, that’s special for us and could fit the needs of the people that come is an environment that kind of unplugs people from the world. And what I mean by that is, you know, in the Buddhist view, there’s some Torah which is kind of being out in the world and where your mind is really busy and you’re kind of always pursuing things you desire or pushing away things you don’t want. And that’s kind of our normal human condition. We’re going through life and we’re wanting this and we’re trying to acquire that and we don’t like this. We’re trying to get away from that in this kind of push pull, you know, pursuit, which is largely, you know, entirely going on in the mind is what makes up our entire life. Well, we like to do here is invite people to come and switch that off for a day or a few days, a few months, whatever the time frame is, that’s going to serve the person on. The other thing that I think is very important is that especially for us, we’re here to serve people that come. And that’s a very, I think, important distinction to be made when we start talking about Tibetan Buddhism and the monastic life, because in my view, the monastic life is really about serving other people. And somewhere along the line, you know, in my own path, I had the experience for many years of doing exactly what we just talked about, which happens. And some are kind of like, I want to attain this. I want to be that. I want to be this. I need this to do that. So you’re kind of continuously, you know, spinning around in the Buddhist view, it’s a circle and you just keep spinning around that circle your entire life. And it revolves around I centered ness self-centeredness. What I want for me. So you may care about other people. You might care about your spouse, your children, your family, your parent. But there’s an incredible focus on myself. What do I want? What do I need to make myself happy? And your life becomes a series of pursuits of making yourself happy? And what many people realize and what Tibetan Buddhist view emphasizes, is that the more you indulge in that kind of wanting whatever the world has to offer, the more that you’re going to find you’re going to be suffering . Because the world is impermanent. Everything’s impermanent to eventually something that you want that you get it will either leave you or if it’s a person, of course we will pass on. So anything that we acquire will eventually have to be relinquished. And so there’s the pain and suffering in the relinquishing, but there’s also the pain and suffering and in the acquiring. And so what we’re kind of trying to show and allow people to receive is a piece of quiet, a piece of solitude where the mind isn’t racing around and spinning around and pursuing whatever things that need to be happy. And you’re just exploring that. You’re just exploring what happens when I stop desiring things? What exactly happens to me now? You could read about the four noble truths, and that’s very well explained. You know, the cessation of suffering is the cessation of desire. But to actually experience it is completely different than reading about it, and it means something different to each person. Each person has their own individual path. So we try to specifically offer is a glimpse into the direct experience of the Tibetan Buddhist view and experience of not suffering the end of suffering. And we do that through providing guest rooms at Private Retreat, an environment that’s quiet, that supports going inside instead of looking outside to find whatever it is you think is going to make you happy. And we encourage people to do this exploration for themselves rather than us telling them, OK, you, that will never make you happy, and here’s what’s going to make you happy. That really doesn’t work to just kind of like, preach to people and tell them this is how the world works. This is how you know, the cosmos works or whatever. It really is much more beneficial to have people directly experience meditation, quiet solitude, investigation of their own mind. But we also do have a lot of group retreats. So the group retreats, like we’re starting a group retreat on December eight and we’re starting a white tiger retreat on December eight to go for a week. And during that time, there’ll be four session today and will be in White Tiger practice, led by the senior monks by camp, a love song and camp of me. And during that time, everybody is doing the same thing. Yeah. And of course, we dedicate all the merit for the white tiger to the long life of our lineage holder, Chongli Rinpoche. It is also his birthday on December 13, so that White Tiger, which is kind of a longevity practice as well as many other benefits, is being, you know, specifically dedicated to our lineage holder. And so we also and then the third part, so there’s the individual ritual you come in, you have your own practice, there’s a group retreat where you register and we do a group practice here. And then the third aspect would be that other groups come in and sometimes rent out our entire center because they want to do a certain practice or a certain type of retreat. But they want this environment and that happens quite a bit too. We have that maybe once a month or once every six to eight weeks, we’ll have a group come in doing their own retreat. So those are the, you know, in kind of, you know, in a monastery where you have hundreds of monks, you won’t have people coming in to rent the whole thing and you won’t really have so much diversity with the different practices because here the majority of people that are here are guests. Yeah. And so what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to serve the guests that come as well as local Sangha, which is the Sangha that is, you know , living in the area that comes for practice every day. And we do a lot of group work with just that local sangha because as a group, we’re kind of, you know, growing and learning together. So there’s that aspect to the people that just kind of come through the people that repeatedly come through the Sangha, members that are here every morning for group practice. And then we’re also doing things and projects together. We have mala making classes, things like that that, you know, creates more cohesive. And again, whatever we do, whatever practice, it’s always we dedicate the merit.
Obstacles in Modern World
some of the obstacles or, you know, benefit. Westerners, specifically with Tibetan Buddhism, because there’s a lot of different, you know, ways to go here with Buddhism, but specifically for Tibetan Buddhism. I think the answer to that is Tibetan Buddhism was founded, you know, over much time and been thousands of years. And there that entire culture compared to Western culture is much more mentally healthy. So, you know, as a Tibetan Buddhist, if you grew up in Britain or Tibet or India, you’re you’re actually more primed for the practice just by the nature of the culture you live in. We’re here in the West. We have a lot of mental illness. We have depression. We have manic depression. We have bipolar disorder, we have OCD. I mean, it goes on and on and on and on. We have a lot of neurotic disorders. And when we start Tibetan Buddhist practice, it’s kind of Tibetan Buddhist structure of practice is set up for people that already have a healthy mental, mentally healthy relationship with the world. A lot of Westerners don’t. So they start the practice and they become very confused or very disheartened or very discouraged, and they leave it because it’s not helping them. In some ways, it feels like it’s actually harming them. A lot of that is because of that gap, so I hope that’s clear. But but the point is the point I’m trying to make is that I think monastics, teachers, spiritual guides, you know, scholars, writers, everybody that has familiarity and and a good understanding of Tibetan Buddhism needs to be very aware that there’s a gap for Westerners, for them to just jump into a practice. They need a lot of people. Many people, I don’t want to say most, but maybe it is most need to have some kind of bridge. To kind of become more aware of their neurosis and heal their own, you know, woundedness, I mean, just. Abuse the different levels of abuse in our culture, I just don’t think that’s prevalent in Asian cultures, you know, where people grow up feeling like unloved or that they hate themselves and all of these things, you know, that’s very specific to Westerners, and all of that has to be healed. And you know, there needs to be therapy applied to creating a better psychology for us, a more healthy psychology. And if we can do that, I think then people will will benefit from the path much more and much more quickly. I myself was on a Hindu path for so many years, so I was already, you know, 20 years of practice. And I and I had I had therapy and I had my own teacher at that time. I didn’t say this before. I hadn’t even thought of it, but it’s very relevant. My teacher could see where I was mentally my own mental illnesses, you know? And she addressed that and she had me go to therapy and she had me work on looking at my own psychology and through therapy and counselors really taking a lot of time to just focus on that, not just jump into some practice because my mind was so deluded I would distort it. And I think that’s what’s happening for a lot of people. They do these practices, but it’s so distorted in their own minds. They can’t get the benefit of the practice, and their hearts are closed a little bit because they have their whatever their wounds are, so they can’t feel at all vulnerable and therefore guarded in all these things are impediments. There must be. I know there’s teachers out there that are bridging the Western culture to the Tibetan Buddhist practice so that they can help people become more stable and have a good mental, functional, healthy disposition to be able to start the actual Tibetan Buddhist practices. I would say out of everything I can say that I think of when I hear that question that the number one thing that comes to mind if we don’t, it is really going to take hold in a true, pure way. I think we do need to create ways. And I know there’s teachers out there doing that because I talked to some of them and they specifically say what I’m trying to do is bridge Western culture and the way the cultural western mind, thanks to being able to start to receive through the Buddhist practices and be on a Tibetan Buddhist path. I think that’s really important. And it’s a beautiful service to us. I mean, I’ve heard this, you know, some people talk about the Buddhist view, as you know, we’re insane. We’re all insane. And Buddhism is trying to heal our sick minds so you can look at it and you can apply that probably to the whole world. But in the Western culture, I think you can even apply it more. So like even, you know, it’s even magnified in the Western culture where even sicker mentally than most other people, especially comparatively to the Asian cultures. And so maybe we have to make more of an effort. And what is that effort, I guess, is the really good question, which is, I mean, there’s beautiful therapeutic treatments out there and counseling treatment. And I think we have to be humble enough to say I need therapy. You know, I don’t have it figured out that I’m, you know, I have some of my behavior is actually very insane. And to be really willing to admit that we need that, which I think is another little bit of an obstacle because people tend to want to believe there’s nothing wrong with me, which is another kind of trend. Oh, you’re fine the way you are. Well, that’s true. And we are fine the way we are innately. But our neurosis in the way we hurt each other and all the things that we’re doing to damage the planet, damage our cells and damage other people that go on and not OK. So if we can’t see that, you know, how are we going to be able to get on a path where so much of the focus is, you know, living as a body sort for where you give everything to other people, your your thought every day, every moment? How am I helping? How am I benefiting people? What does this person need? You know, what can I do? You know, it’s extremely polar. To the Western Independent, what’s in it for me? Yeah, I think in the West, one of the obstacles to, you know, Buddhism, but it’s probably to end to awakening through any religion actually is that we we’re we are very spoiled. We’re very rich culture. So we feel very entitled. And that in that sense of entitlement, I see that a lot here. I’ve seen it, even my old path. We just feel like we are entitled to. Ask for a lot and not give a lot. We have that sense of entitlement. I think it’s extremely dangerous and I think it’s very prevalent in the Western culture. And it comes from indulging. It comes from being a very rich culture. It comes from getting our way. It comes from getting things immediately. You know, we don’t even have to learn patience. Everything is over-the-counter, you know, anything we want and then we get upset. If you know we’re asked to be put on hold on the phone, we get angry. You know, it’s like we’ve we’ve kind of as as as a culture. Self-created, this conditioning where we all act like, you know, we’re demigods, you know, and everything has to be given to us and we deserve everything. And that’s a very self-involved view. It’s a very self-involved way of getting through life, and it’s very painful, I think, way of experiencing life. It’s not a lot of merit in that. So there’s that. I think, you know, the first part of answering that question as to how can Tibetan Buddhism or any Buddhism help transform this culture? I think you just need to see the obstacle to that transformation because of, you know, the way the culture is, like my experience of when I’ve traveled, when I’ve met people, you know, Asian people, Indian people, people from the east. They’re much more humble. There’s a level of humility there that’s just innately there. They’re not trying to be humble and they’re not pretending to be humble. It’s not some personality costume, you know? They truly are more humble. And that, I think, is lacking here. We don’t have a lot of humility. We don’t have we don’t feel comfortable saying, I don’t know or, you know, you know, more than me or, you know, I really am clueless. Of course, we don’t like that at all. And we’re in other cultures, I think, you know, especially eastern cultures. People are much more surrendered and much more of having a body nature, which is a devotional nature, which also comes, you know, entwined with compassion, with love and kindness and compassion. Because Bhakti, you know, the bhakti nature is that of looking to other people, caring about other people, having a teacher and showing respect for that teacher. Now I know there’s a lot of things going on right now with this whole teacher student relationship. There’s all kinds of crazy things that you hear about and scandals. So it’s a very touchy subject and people get very triggered, even just by talking about it. But there is, you know, needed. A way of having a relationship with a teacher where you are acknowledging that the teacher knew something that you don’t, and for them to be able to help you, you’re going to need to realize. That you don’t know, you know, what you thought you knew was either you either didn’t know which is ignorant or you thought you knew and what you thought is false and you need to let that go. And if you’re working with a good teacher, pure teacher, well, then they can help you see that on your own. And it’s not about the teacher, it’s about the teachings. And that way you can receive the teachings through that teacher that helps you purify that, you know, the the delusional mind. So I think for the West, that’s clearly the direction to go, which is very difficult for us because we’re so independent, you know, when we tend to be righteous. So I know I sound very critical of the Western mind, but what it is, it is what it is. I think also there’s there’s there’s truth in and you know, some of my view may be tainted because I see a certain level of disrespect from people and that’s kind of sad for me. So I might be influenced by that. But I think there is truth in what I’m saying. I think for Westerners, you know, so often I will be talking to people or I will be listening to people, ask questions of the campos and are trying to in practice and the member will be answering their question. And they’ll want to argue with the answer. And you know, it’s like, you know, that story of the student that comes to the teacher and tells the teacher everything they know, you know, and the teacher starts Pawlenty in this cup, you know, you know this story and it overflows. And if basically you can’t put in a full cup, and that’s if there’s like one way to kind of singled out this issue, it would be that you can put in a full cup and Westerners are full cups and they have to get empty.
Relationship with Abbot
Khenpo Jigme you may right now is the head of the center running the cemter but there’s also Khenpo Labsong, who is and they’re both teaching, so they’re both teachers and they both have say in running the center, but compared Bugmy. It’s kind of like the the head of the center right now. And you know, this isn’t as important, this certain thing that I’m saying. But and then I’m managing the logistics and all the kind of daily activities that makes the maintains the center and helps the center to thrive and do some counseling as well and whatnot. And so we were very well as a team. There’s a very deep love and respect and we enjoy each other’s company. And so all of that is wonderful. And so maybe that didn’t even really answer your questions, which I do want to say that because we’re answering specifically how we’re working together, but in a in a monastery . And this is also true for my previous path when I was living with my teacher at a very early on. In your relationship with your teacher in a very, you know, in a structured, monastic setting, it’s very important for you to be able to see your own ego and put your ego aside, you know? So that aspect of humility is very, very important plays a key part in determining how well you’re going to do in a monastery environment. Because we grow up with such a fierce independence and a lot of times a sense of righteousness that works in opposition to humility. It’s more difficult, I think, for Westerners to come into a monastic setting and just defer to the structure and the teachings and the teacher, which is kind of needed. So the format that I’ve experienced directly and in all the options and monastic environments I’ve been in the healthy and safe environment is where you have, you know, again , you have a functional, mentally healthy foundation for your practice. That you you feel empowered on a daily level and confident, but you have a strong sense of humility. You know, and those two things are very different. There’s a lot of confusion around that. Like, you know, if you have humility or surrender or body or devotion, you’re giving your power away when actually it’s quite the opposite, you know, to be able to have a strong sense of body and devotion. You do need to have a certain confidence about your practice and about your commitment to your devotion. So what’s required is commitment deferring to the structure, respect for the structure, faith in the structure, trust in the structure. And then everything kind of goes well because your teacher is going to be able to is going to guide you and you’re going to ask you to do things and whether you think you should or should not do those things. You know, it’s like if an architect comes here and he wants to be in service through his skills as an architect and the teacher says, Well, actually, we’re going to put you in the kitchen and you’re going to help prep the meals. And that architect says, Well, no, that’s not the best thing for me because I have these great skills. But what he doesn’t see is that he’s got a lot of identity around those skills, a lot of ego around those skills and being in the kitchen where he has no identity around that is going to be more beneficial to him. So it’s like one instance, but there’s a lot of things like that. You have to be willing to surrender your opinions at least temporarily and see how it goes. And in that structure, I think there’s a lot of thriving and benefit to the students. Does that answer where you were going with the student teacher relationship? Yeah, I think in the master, yeah, I definitely think it makes sense because it’s a very intimate relationship with that. Yeah, that sort of image is even more important. Yeah. Yeah, it does answer like how that plays out because I think most people’s experience of the teachers lobby along the same lines, but probably not as intense because I work with them very directly on a regular basis. And so that and so to be able to to have a thriving civil relationship. Mm-Hmm. You bring up some really good points. I think that’s really, really, really insightful there. You know, I’ll just add to that because I think it’s important also that in my direct experience, what I’ve seen and for myself as well, that teacher student relationship is gradual. It grows over time for you to come into a monastic environment. It’s very well understood you’re not going to be at the same level that somebody that’s been there for 15 years. You’re just starting out. There’s a lot of things you may not understand, and you need time. So the teacher’s not going to make it so that it’s impossible for you to feel good or to feel supported or to feel like you’re benefiting from the environment. So it’s skillful means to on the part of the teacher. What can I give to this student that’s going to work for them, not overwhelm them, but it’s going to start pulling them away from all the ways they are identified? Through ego or attachment that is not going to, you know, benefit them as they move along.