OK. My name is Kalpana Betancur. Oh, my married name is Betancur, but was born Kalpana Magnetic was born in Pune, India, and I grew up in several different small towns and big cities in India. And I would say my first spiritual teacher, if you will, was my father. And it was not formal going to temples of the Hindus by birth, and my mother had had a traumatic episode of losing my oldest sister when I was three years old, and it was traumatic for the whole family. A three year old doesn’t understand. What happened? And my mother was so sort of angry at God, if you will. So she had said, Well, I’m not going to go to any temples unless so unless I get. Get what I want. That was her attitude.
I would say that it’s very gentle and it’s very being present in this moment. And I think it took me all my life to get to this moment. Already preparing the path, all the suffering was a necessity to get to the death. Of. In the thirst for what I’m getting, so it’s almost like prepared the soil for all of this to be absorbed. If I had come just as a teenager into this, I would not have absorbed it. So the soil is more porous now I am more. You know, like I’m prepared to receive it, so whatever I receive is going a little deeper. So I don’t have to force it and not try to get anywhere. And I think by not forcing an outcome and forcing getting somewhere, you just appreciate the moment much better. So it’s not like, like I said, even my studies, I don’t feel like I have to do X amount of reading a day or X amount of sitting a day, and I just give myself the liberty to take each moment and experience like, if so, if I’m doing gardening. You know who says that isn’t part of a zen practice. You know, it’s all being present in that moment doing what you do. So when I’m with my grandchild to babysit, it’s going to be like, I’m not getting my sitting time. You know what I mean? But it’s OK because I’m present with whatever I’m doing to be absorbed. It’s that degree of absorption. And in that moment that I think makes a difference in the richness of the practice. So there’s no obstruction. Affleck. Luckily, I have all my faculties so I can read and I can, you know, comprehend and, you know, it’s not like I’ve seen any decline in my memory or anything else. But even if I do, I’m not afraid of that because that’s part of the journey to kind of be OK with wherever you’re at and take in and being around. You know, these other sentient creatures like my dog tells me, it doesn’t matter where you are, you can cultivate your life where you are. That’s the only place to cultivate anyway.
So in 2013, I decided whether my husband wanted to go and not that I needed a break. And I was going and I announced to him, You well, now go. I’m going just for this one week retreat or five days. And he said, Show me what you’re doing. And he got interested for different reasons. He loved nature. And he also and neither one of us would like Temple going people here, either. They would do like our holidays, you know, with family, but not collectively, you know, like a temple group or whatever. So. I. Talk to you. It’s a beautiful space in nature, and it said, you know, it has certain requirements where simple clothing do not have any perfumes that thing that will just, you know, make you stand out. This is my kind of place. I’m coming. Said, OK, so I just go up this pad to drive up this path. And there’s like two dorms timeless in place. Listen. And there’s this beautiful hall at the space was so serene and beautiful and just kind of be there was like, Oh, I can breathe now, you know, just this this this aura of peace and everybody who I met was just reflecting that peace that you get from practice. And there was no direct promotion of anything. They were just sharing, you know? Just a healthy way of being. And it seemed authentic to me. It’s not like someone’s preaching to you or telling you something, you know, to do that they are not themselves doing. And. It was, first of all, I never knew how to sit still for very long with all the people who are sick around me, all my patients. And my husband’s many illnesses and my sister. I mean, I was the index person, people say, you’re a doctor, tell us what to do. I was so focused on everybody else’s illnesses, I had no time to think about sitting down. Although my practice went when you ever gave me a very challenging, you know, patient, my practice that my father taught me was to step back and not get into this just kind of slow down. The nurses loved it because I was always a calm person in the midst of chaos and life taught me that. And then the buzz word that I heard from Reverend Song, this is my this is what I’m leaning towards, he said. The real practice is not just sitting on a cushion. He said it’s finding the calmness within the alertness and alertness within the calmness. That balance. That’s what we try to cultivate, it’s time, listen, no matter where you are sitting on a cushion is just a practice. I don’t want you to even think about, you know, having to do it for like hours and days at a time. That’s not one Bushisms suggestion. We want you to have a sense of what that being come is and bringing it into every moment of your daily life. And I said, I can do that because I don’t really sit still for a long time. I could never do the past now. Like, you know, just five days of like nothing I can. I can be quiet for a little bit of time at a time. So it was it seemed like it was good just giving me little bits that I could do rather than, you know, huge practice that it seemed impossible for me to do. And then also moving meditation on what it meant. So Taichi and Qigong and that fit into all the principles of Yin Yang that I was taught through Chinese medicine. So I said, OK, I had learned some qigong through acupuncture school. But the way Reverend Song and revenants and the 21 Buddhist ministers really integrated it with the spiritual practice, which I had not done through. You know, it was just an exercise, but really connecting it with how that energy settling in you and you can do it through not just sitting still, but you can do it through a movement. It just resonated with me that I could really take this on. So then we attended every single retreat moving meditation retreat that they offered. And on a daily basis, I was doing some practice or the other not like, you know, everything, but I would take a moment like a pause any time in the day when things were too stirred up, I could just calm myself down with. Doing a simple movement exercise or just or just, you know, silence sitting or whatever seem to be needed at the moment for me to step back. And, of course, life challenged, so to all of that, then my husband in 2015, like just two years later, developed a very serious bone marrow disease, almost like in the category of a low-grade cancer. And that made his blood very thick and they did what they do actually like a bloodletting. And he literally had like a heart failure that was so bad when they just drew their blood. He just collapsed. And. Another who really loving, kind act that I didn’t even ask for. So these two ministers who did the retreat for us and they knew me as faculty, but by now had in 2015, I said I can’t even teach anymore. He’s so sick. So but somebody had told them that he was sick in a hospital. They came to visit and here he was, laying in bed and eyes and acupuncture. As I could do as a wife, I could do something for him, but I never saw a person just profoundly like they just put their hands on his shoulders and they were just like, present with him in such a way to use for flowing down his face and instead of feeling like I’m going to die. He felt a ray of hope and they held his hand, and he took his first steps around the nurses station and I said, This is really what a minister does . This is really the practice in action. So these are my these are my teachers. I really felt like I could connect with them and appreciate that that’s what you can get to and they’re not doctors or anything, but here’s what they can do by their presence that reaches the person’s spirit so deeply. I want to be like them. That was my next awakening, seeing that moment in that hospital and how they connected with my husband and my son saw it too. He was visiting at the time. He didn’t live here, but he was visiting because his father was sick and he connected with and he said he wanted to come to the retreat then. So in 2016, he came for a retreat. Then he told his sister. You don’t know what this is. Guys, you have to come. So all four of us in 2017 went for a retreat. So the whole family was like. Connected my. My daughter is a. She was a social studies teacher at the time and really focusing on world and more the Asian and not American history, a bit more world history and culture. So she was already connected with, you know, she called the classroom the Silk Road. So she took interest in all of this, but my son more so. And in 2017, I was really by then saying, This is my I came here to teach, but I’m no longer really teaching seriously. But I am going to embrace this as my is my I’m the student ready to have them teach me. So then I took the suggestion of my different. I was going to the temple regularly by then and I took this situation to take a, you know, they call it the authentication ceremony to take a Buddhist name and to take the first ten precepts and do a daily practice. So that’s when my journey was sanctified, if you will, in 2007. In August of 2017, August.
It’s not so much like they came to do anything physical with me, you know, to kind of help me with like whatever I needed physically, you know, for my sustenance. But what I learned from my Sangha is how they practice and what are the different ways in which the practice works for them and how does it work for them? So we exchange our ideas about how, you know, what are the obstacles that they find and how do they overcome that? And then I try something that maybe someone else finds useful. So this exchange is very useful in in styles of practice, and I’m always ha OK, how does it work for you? OK. And it’s not like we we like judging each other’s level of practice, but OK. All right. And then there are ways in which you know, people express where they’re at and just uncritical listening. You know, because how come you interpreting that like this instead of that, you know, just just simply listening to how that person’s journey is without interrupting them and just not saying, Oh, that’s wrong, that this is right, you know, just kind of letting it be inclusive. And that’s that’s a good practice to. And even the ministers who are on that Zoom call don’t interrupt someone if they seem to be getting a little esoteric in their thinking, so OK. But then this just without saying that’s wrong. All right. Just bring it back to center. It’s done in a very inclusive way, so no one feels like you can express how you’re thinking and then know, be guided.
You asked me about how does science and scientific inquiry blend with spiritual truth and science is one aspect of the truth. And studying material things and finding answers to questions that you pose and, you know, like studying biology, chemistry, whatever. You know, all the biological sciences. It was fascinating through medical school. And, you know, like things as you advance, you learn more and more. And sometimes all perceptions are discarded and new things replace it. Like what was the best thing to do is now the worst thing to do and go with what’s modern and whatever. But you know the truth, the essential truth of what a human being is doesn’t really change how nature works in a being. And you know, the whole aspect of you’re going to conquer death. I don’t think any medicine can conquer death. So sometimes this whole practice of like treating everything to the, you know, that’s causing the most expense in medicine, trying to just sustain, you know, things that are just not doable until the person says, I’m done. The doctors feel like they have to keep going on on and on and depending upon, you know, a younger person can recover. But depending upon the serum, the seriousness of the disease in older person, this is like nothing. And so people hesitate to say that this is the limit of our. Capacity and you get into the realm of the unknown. And so when it’s presented like, this is the only way I’ll be. And then the outcome is different. I don’t know why that is so that we have to be presenting like, this is the only way this disease is going to manifest because we really don’t know. And I’ve seen that in my practice, I’ve had like young children with like severe disease, and you think they’re not going to make it and miraculously, they make it. So the reason to continue to do extreme measures is much more a valid way to go in the younger child in like this premise that we save, you know how many of them are going to have a quality of life? There’s a lot of ethics bioethics that is involved in making those decisions. OK have come far, but there are still we’re still going to reach a place of not knowing. And a good physician should know what you don’t know, and then you’re fine, but if you pretend to know and you’re going to apply your limited knowledge to something that is beyond your expertize and not be willing to let the big criticism now his doctors are not listening to what the patients have to say and just making jumping to conclusions and saying This is what you should do. That’s a lot of suffering. So really, knowing what you know and knowing what you don’t know and being humble and respectful of everybody’s truth, how they’re experiencing life and their. Interaction between you and the patient in terms of making decisions that are important to them life and death wise. And we’ve had some doctors who are very good in that respect. In at least noticing my husband’s journey with very serious illness, it was a blessing to hear that the doctor saying, we don’t know how this is going to turn out. Rather than someone who’s just smart aleck is saying, We know this is this and we’re going to fix this. No, it doesn’t work that way. So I can usually tell someone who is who’s got that little spiritual. You don’t have to be religious, but has that understanding of their own limits of their knowledge. And wisdom is more than knowledge, that’s all I can say, the wisdom to know what you know and what you don’t know makes a difference in whatever technical expertize you have and in being using it in in in your daily interactions with your patients. Using that science is a technique, you know, like I said with music also, my teacher says the instrument and getting mastery over it is just a technique. But then what is coming through it is beyond the technique. So beyond the scientific, you know, detail, where’s the humanity in connecting with that mystery of what you don’t know that comes from the person’s spiritual depth, not their ego. And someone who is an evolved, you know, physician knows what they know and knows what they don’t know and is honest about it. And that makes a difference in the quality of interaction and how much the patient trusts the doctor, if you will. So that’s my. So are you presented like, you know, the absolute truth, there’s no absolute truth. You know, in physical material, in biomedical science. And so a lot of when I switched over to, you know, studying Chinese medicine, which is all you know beyond the physical. What is the undercurrents of was the energetics of it. A lot of my, my colleagues, you know, kind of said, Oh, what is that? Unless they experience a transition through that into like, you know, transformation in their experience might look like one of my teachers said, Don’t ever pretend that you fixed anybody’s problems. It’s dangerous for them to think that you fix them because life is too big to be fixed. They have to own their own role in absorbing and, you know, like understanding how their body works and the first role of a physician is to help a person understand themselves well. I live in this body, I need to know how to use it, but I need someone to guide me. So that’s the role of a physician to teach me, to guide me and to share with me what what’s known that I don’t know. I don’t know all disciplines. Even if I’m a doctor, I need a doctor. Sometimes acupuncturist need doctors, too. But that’s not the only thing, you know. But in medicine, it’s made that if you have a mental problem, you go to a psychologist. If you have a spiritual, probably go to your spiritual counselor and the physical problem, we will fix it. So it’s not a fix it medicine like that? Yeah, a broken bone. You align it, but then the body heals. So the difference between what you can and cannot do is important to know in every field, in medicine, every field and science of the way as a tool becomes a weapon and it can be misused and corrupted.
You know, most of my professional like intellectual part of my development is more in medicine, and it’s already fulfilled through studying the Chinese medicine, Daoism know all those roots Confucianism, Taoism, all of those have there into interconnection with, you know, how roots of Chinese medicine are. So I kind of felt like that was there in me. So I didn’t kind of delve into one Buddhism, you know, studies as such, and it needed the practice. But I had some somewhat of a root in that. This is my usual. When I used to teach, I would still my first year students without theory. Practice is dangerous with our practice. Theory is useless. So now that I have a practice, I must ground it on the, you know, the foundational principles of, you know, it’s not like I have a specific. You know, like I’m not making it like a struggle that I have to do this much study and this much. It’s not like a course have to pass at, you know what I mean? I’m taking it at my own pace and I’m allowing it to be absorbed. So like, even if I do like one little reading, let it sink in because there’s no rush to kind of say, I would this. I came up with the theory and practice. Maybe somebody else’s is I don’t know where I heard it first, but this is where I am today as I see it. And this is not a quote. It’s like all my life I felt like I was to learn intellectually how to live and earn a living. But now in my mid-seventies, most of my living part and, you know, living, learning to live part is like behind me. So now I’m living so I can learn. So whatever days I have left their days to just absorb the beauty of whether it’s through nature or through, it really is learning what our innermost nature is, which is the core of all of Buddhism. Know your true nature, your true self, and you may not know it in ways you can talk about it, but just to let it sink in. And as it sinks in. When I observe it and people who are more ahead in the path, you know the two teachers who are walking the path, I can sense that they don’t have to lecture and give me a talk. I can see it and I absorb it that way. And then I also do some, you know, like, I don’t have to do like this much of like coursework, but I absorb a little bit at a time. So I’m living so I can learn. That learning to earn a living, that phase is done. That’s that’s makes. I’m mostly retired, just learning for this, like doing my continuing education even in the depths of Chinese medicine. It’s like, you know, if medicine was essential to Chinese medicine as a scuba diver, I may never reach the depths of it. There’ll be other lifetimes to learn. But whatever I can do, you know peacefully without stress of having to do it perfectly. Just do what I can. Every moment is a moment to learn even this. Having this conversation with you helps me, helps me understand, you know? Ways in which, you know, different people, you know, as you explain your own journey. You know how we kind of come to little bits of awakening.
Say one of the things that one Buddhism has is to model yourself after what they call the IL1 song. So what is the fall full grace of one song? What’s the what’s the meaning of that one is you model yourself after the benevolence of heaven and Earth and treat everyone you know with. And in fact, there’s a Sanskrit word for this also some adversity. Look at everyone you know, in a way in which it’s like you’re not just making like this is, you know, someone I have to be different with. And this is someone who’s like, Oh, look at everyone as everyone has the same light in them and not put someone down. Not no discrimination. That mind of openness. Every minister models that for me, I may have this to call people I know. But when I with the temple head minister, I just remember just one beautiful thing, she said. And it resonates with me forever. And she doesn’t speak that much English, but her expression and the way she says things like teaching goes deep inside. So one of the teaching was. The flour open bacon. That’s all she said. The beat isn’t coming because the flour is making the bacon. The flower just has to be natural, becomes what a simple thing. Not forcing any outcomes, just letting things just unfold as they do. He said it and forward, she doesn’t have to say it and in the long term are tough. And it comes in and then, you know. When they talk about their attachments and how they return, recognizing it, when they feel the pull and then return, every one of them is authentic. It’s not like they’re teaching us something that they do. They describe that on every one of them. So there’s not a single minister I have met who is not practicing and catching themselves on things that kind of tethered them. And so now I have two ministers who are on every Friday and every Wednesday, there’s one minister who’s there with our term over the saga and we do this book study of the spiritual scriptures study I learned from. I just soak it in from every one of them as we’re doing the study, but also how they are in their reflection in their daily practice. And they honestly say sometimes that they are learning from us through what we’re going through as we describe our weekly whatever how practice is going. So there’s the speed fact, like no one’s like hierarchy and you think they’re approachable. And they understand they can. They’re walking with you. They’re not out here saying, this is what you should do. So I think that kind of teaching has a very different quality to it as opposed to someone who is just authoritarian. But we recognize that they are further along the path to the respect that you owe them. You give them for the practice, you know, is much richer and deeper. You recognize it, but they’re not saying, respect me because I’m your teacher. No, that’s the that’s the best way to progress along with everyone. Just kind of give what the student needs when they’re ready to learn and then they advance. They get a little bit more. Be like a parent helping someone who has less capacity to be that. And that’s how you it required the grace of what you were given by your parents. So you’ll be like the parent to everyone. It doesn’t matter what age you are, that you’re helping those who have less capacity. Then be aware of, you know, your brethren and treat the whole universe like they’re your fellow beings, like your brothers or sisters. Nobody’s different. And then respect and, you know, live with certain precepts and certain laws that, you know, help you be free because, you know, you learn that if you follow certain principles, then you’re not in trouble. You know, when you can be living in more harmony. So those rules are not just for the sake of rules of they’re like natural laws by which we should be living. So they model themselves. After that, they’re not saying they’re perfect, but if they do that, that’s how it looks. OK, so that’s the theory is very simple to follow.
Well, probably the teaching that helps me the most, I would say, helps not even helped, but just going forward, this is what I learned from the one with this ministers, every one of them. This should be a real moment of practice is when you have a huge sensory condition. And most people, we call that stress, but they break it down to a sensory condition because everything we process outside of us is to our senses. So when we have a profound, challenging experience instead of seeing. Resisting instead of saying or going into retreat, facing it, not just facing it, embracing it, so this is the Taichi, I’m using my hands. Reverend Song was very clear. This is what I use. Probably every single moment when I face anything, the more difficult the problem. The opportunity to practice has arrived. So welcome it. Process it. You don’t have to take it here and you don’t get agitated. Just bring it here. Put it beside you and just simply observe. So this is the place to move, but some protection for use of this hand. But this hand actually embraces and brings brings it to you, bring in all the problems of the world wherever they are, put them right beside you. Don’t get heavy chested about it. And I notice. When you know, witnessing my husband’s death or dealing with this pandemic situation, all the stuff that has happened, that isolated us. I look at that as like a huge thing to see, OK? And that’s the grace within the harm. That’s another word that’s actually in our every recitation of ill one sung. You know that you can transform your life and find the grace within all the harm that you think it is and then eventually go even beyond thinking this is good or bad. Just going into the putting it into the empty space. And not reacting to it. And the whole point of that is if you can do that and then you can help others do that, then all the conflicts of the world will be. Just drop it off because it’s all impermanent. I use that so much in my practice of coaching patients. In my acupuncture practice, you know, when people come with anxiety, whatever I can use, the simple thing and I haven teach a little group my little, I’m not a legal practitioner, but how it helps me was authentic for me . I’d like to share with others. So that’s what I do. That’s the one practice I do bring on whatever happens. And I’ve had living alone, my challenges like I’ve had many falls like in June of this year. I’m a healthy person considering all the problems that my husband had. Right now, I’m not in any of all the stresses that I’ve gone through. I’m still healthy. But what happened was I slipped and fell and hit that granite corner. And of course, I live alone and I’m on the floor. And. I just didn’t notice any education, and I suddenly in that moment, I said. Here in this body, and you are not this body, just observe your body. So I know that practice works because, you know, I even wear this watch so that if I have a fall, it’ll call 911. Luckily, that day my watch was not on my wrist and. I just did a scan. Scan my body and I said, everything is working, my fingers and toes are working. I am not my body. I live in this body, but the body isn’t me. Just observe. I didn’t see a doctor for the next. A week and a half, but I was flying to Seattle after that, so I just said, I just want to clear bill that I don’t have a mild concussion, so I did see somebody afterwards, just to be sure. But I’m telling you, it helps me when I deal with what looks like a huge condition. There’s no panic. Hopefully, this is what I would like to say. Doing this practice helped my husband died peacefully, and it’s helping me live peacefully, and when my time comes, I hope I can die as peacefully as he did. And that’s all it is, is just a transition to another space, and so that is like letting go of your attachment to that. All of this is impermanent anyway. It’s helping me be at ease with whatever happens. And then the threefold practice which follows that and how that looks like in your daily practice is to cultivate your personal way to understand what the settled ness is inside you, to see everything and walk by everyday things that you put your little filter on. Really, be well-rounded in your practice and then know human affairs and universal principles. Understand those and then right choice and action. So those are the 334 practice. It’s not like it’s sequences like all simultaneous and sometimes a little three legged stool. You know you need all three for the sake of achieving that clear mind. That’s not clouded, that’s not tethered by all these things and daily things will come up and they show how you get tethered, but how you can, you know, they show that in action, how those two core things are working out in their practice. So. That’s what I like is very practical in dealing with everyday situations going through all this pandemic. You know, and all the political strife and everything, you know, you can be so polarized, but they show you how to harmonize and not be stuck on your opinion and use that to be opposed to anything. Just work on video opinion. Let’s take a good look at it. You know? So it’s a very good way of teaching.
As a board of trustees, that’s my role now is to basically support them in taking this. I’m on the development committee so well, it’s kind of my journey there too is fairly new. You know, I haven’t been on the board of trustees for a long, long, long time. This is only through the pandemic time and we weren’t really even meeting in person so much. But what I gather is the general idea is to do a sustainable growth, not try to do too much. And then, you know, just kind of not do it well. So just kind of do it in an organization like, you know, financially and otherwise in a doable fund. Already, this huge expansion to this big complex opens doors to the community, and now they have like bigger space in which to. Include community classes for the community meditation, you know, seminars, you know, and I think we’re having plans to have let go more like a science, psychology, neuropsychology, neurosurgical immunology, you know, like people like that bringing them together for like a discussion. You know, this looks like something to kind of do at a like a scientific level. You know, see one as a place where you can have that dialog that people who deal with mental illness or I wouldn’t even call it mental illness, I would call it, you know, life and its stresses. And how do you handle them? And in the culture that we’re in now, what’s another alternative that brings some more realness to clearing a mind with like having this approach and how the two work together and how those some of these breeding practices and to yoga, you know, inclusion in your daily stuff, how how will that affect your ways of responding to life and stress for the communities, for the sake of the community to grow? So that’s what we’re trying to establish. And then as far as the one Buddhism spreading, that is something that I think is not for me to comment on and just work on the institute and how to increase its mission to serve the community. I tell them that in person how it has helped me with my husband being the most skeptic than me, and if it helped him to transform his ways, believe me, they’ve got everything they need. They don’t need to market it. They do have the marketing and all of that, but they just need to bring the body there and they know how to do it. So I’m just saying, Hey, I’ll support you with whatever input. I mean, my own experience with acupuncture and with, you know, even severe illness and the stresses that go with near-death situations and someone can find peace through that. So dealing with PTSD and you like the veterans who come home from war zones and some people just live war zones right here, they don’t even have to go to war. If it helped us, it can help them. So I think to slowly expanding to that and then they get a taste of where this is coming from. That’s what happened to my husband and to me too. It wasn’t just like feeling feeling good for that moment, you know, then we said, there’s something more to this teaching . It’s not just, you know, a meditation center. Let’s. Let’s discover a little bit more in depth, and that’s how the term spreads. So you have to give them a chance to just come in and experience in their body, how they feel, come and get it. one person at a time. So it’s not like a giant advertisement that’s being done. And with the internet and all and the courses are now there were people from Australia. There was someone else from other states in this country, and I myself will take the course when I go to Seattle. So already there’s like more people interested. But, you know, to feel the whole experience of it is this is the only institute there is in North America that has a graduate course in one Buddhism, as well as an acupuncture, was the only acupuncture school in Pennsylvania. So they’re starting small. It’s 106 year lineage. So, David, give it like sustainable growth going forward. That’s that’s kind of their principle. I mean, I was fortunate to hear the talk given by Dr. Kim Dr. The and Kim, who is the president of the school, and she believes, too, to kind of go in increments and not kind of try to go far ahead and then find that you don’t have the resources to support that. Do it will do it slow, make it sustainable.
It’s only relevant in an interesting way. None of my friends, neighbors, you know, my neighbor is Jewish and she was the president of the synagogue. She is training to be a rabbi. So when I tell her, I’m, you know, practicing Buddhism, my other neighbor who actually just passed away, you know who though being a Catholic, she was a yoga teacher and she had like meditation, serious meditation practice. I mean, to them, it’s nothing that, you know, nothing to off to say that I belong to this Buddhist temple. I get the big question mark from my other Indian people, you know, because in India, Buddhism was like, not the mainstream thing. Hinduism looked at Buddhism as like, Well, I don’t know, I should not speak for all of them, but my own context, you know, my family and friends, you know, think it’s rather strange that I’m in this, you know, even my relatives around here. Some of them have come like my husband’s nephew was there. When he had his money, he was visiting him because he was not well, but he came for that ceremony and he was like, Hmm. OK, so I sent him a book. You know, the scripture to look at my brother, who is in Arizona right now. He knows what we practice. And you know, they respect it, but they’re beyond curiosities. It’s just they haven’t like gone any deeper. My brother, little bit more than the other people, the people in India, they don’t understand it because to them, it’s interesting that in India, Buddhism was. 100 years ago, there was a gentleman, especially from my section of India. His name is Baker. And he just said for all the people who the Hindus and called low caste, you know? Let’s scoop you up and you become like, we’ll scoop you up and you’re a Buddhist, you’re someone that, you know , you’re like, You belong, you’re not outcast. So a lot of Buddhists in India are like, you know what the Hindus call, you know, Locast. So why are these Brahmins, which we are, you know, why are we? Doing Buddhism, they’re thinking or I’m thinking of what they’re thinking. They don’t understand, and I have not found the need to make them understand so far because I haven’t, they haven’t traveled much to have a dialog and it’s OK. And my friends will see what I do. They respect it. And, you know, my friends for medical school, they’re surprised that I’m handling my stresses so well. They know what my roots of, you know what I’m doing and they respect it. But beyond that, there’s no explanation needed. They just know what works for me. It’s not strange. And most of us are like secular, anyway, we all have our own kind of. And in that way, Hinduism is opened is not like Hinduism is one thing. You can have 10,000 gods you can worship, and so it’s as diverse as it can be. And you can have your own path. And actually, those one time that Reverend saw himself said is, doesn’t it say in your religion that you can have a oh yoga of books to let you go as a just a complete devotional practice without being intellectual or you go to, you know? Intellectual, which is Diana, or you can go to like derma or you can go to the Hatha yoga practice, you can go different avenues to the same same source. So no one’s like, you know, questioning it in a way in which I feel like I have to explain to them. But, you know, sometimes they just when they heard that we were doing a deliverance service and most recently this year, my brother in law passed away. My husband’s. Older sister and her husband were actually instrumental in this was an arranged marriage, and so they were very close and supportive of both of us. So she passed away a few years ago, but he just passed away this year. So we did a service in the temple and you know, we asked the other relatives to join on Zoom. So, you know, they liked it. So they’re just noticing and not not really saying it’s. Anything you know to be questioning, right this moment. So it’s like guarded. I wouldn’t say indifferent, but just curious, but not really jumping into like, what is this all about? You know, the only Indian, you know, in the group. But it doesn’t feel strange at all because, you know, it just feels like it resonates with me. I belong there. Nothing throws me off. And I think that’s because. The way I was, I’m a mixed up kid to begin with, I was in a Catholic school from kindergarten to graduation in India and in my class were like throughout my, you know, high school and preschool preschool to high school. All those twelve years, we were all all different types. They were Muslims that the Jews that was, you know, there were 80% Hindus, maybe. But it was not about being Hindu and it was a Catholic school. It was all embracing and none of us felt like we didn’t belong. So I think that’s what I’ve brought into this too. Like, I belong where I belong. It doesn’t matter. So it was never an obstacle for me. And I thank my parents for putting me in the Catholic school, and they did that so that my father used to be transferred from one state to another where the language was different, said Lisa had a common English language based curriculum that was same in every town that we lived in. Whereas my sister, older, sister, six years older than me. And it was a little bit of an obstacle for her to go from one state to another. And so they learned quickly my brother and I were both Catholic schools. So there’s always a common denominator for everyone to belong in there. And that’s how I feel. I feel very welcomed. I don’t feel strange and different, and the composition is very diverse. I find that, you know, a lot of the people there are, you know? Not, not quite. There’s some, you know, people of all different kinds, you know, it’s OK. See, when I first came from east to west, I felt out of place for a while and it felt like my home is elsewhere. But then over time, you know, I could be here or there and it feels at home here and it feels at home there in terms of where you feel you belong because you neither belong to any one place or the other place. And in fact, there’s a scripture reading, especially since I’m moving now to the West Coast. I’m thinking the Diamond Sutra, you know, teaching of Where does your mind dwell? And that’s very useful because it’s not any physical dwelling that matters. It matters that you don’t get stuck in your opinions, stuck in your ways of being. And you know, one of the reason why a good teacher from my old tradition is worshiped as the first of any ceremonial first worship Ganesh. And he symbolizes the removal of obstacles, the wisdom he’s the god of wisdom, removal of obstacles. So the deepening wisdom that we’re all one. Removes all obstacles in the first place, so it doesn’t matter where you dwell, as long as your mind is spacious. And that’s what I get from one Buddhism to which is the same. Just looking at everything is part of being one creation, then it’s not like, Oh, how am I going to be there? And this is not mine? And so there is no individual self anyway, so you can be whatever your background is. And if you create not a stock opinion about, first of all, you being separate and you being who you are. This is the way I only way I know how to be, then that’s like a, you know, obstruction only in your mind . So if your mind is unobstructed and the wisdom of light penetrates you and your mind, your path opens up so it doesn’t matter age or whatever, you just don’t have stuck opinions. Of how things should be. If your mind wasn’t suffering, you going to suffer, if your mind was peace, unity, so. Yeah, so where does your mind will? That’s what matters. So it doesn’t matter whether you come from east or west or who is Korean or who’s Tibetan or whatever. If you connect with the source of the teaching. Sometimes translations get into the way. But one of the first things that we read in our scripture reading a one song is the source is beyond all words and speech. So don’t get caught up in these words and speech, it’s just where they are directing you. So that is already set in there. So sometimes it’s like, Oh, what does this mean? But not get too much in the head, but just kind of just go the direction is pointing to. And go beyond how someone else who’s teaching you something. Maybe they’re not saying it in a way which you understand we can always ask a question. So for some of the ministers who are not that fluent in English? I mean, not everybody is, you know, like Reverend Grace, who was born and raised here, who is very fluent in like North American English, and it can really explain it. But how would they explain it? You can just read it in their body language and you can you get it. So there’s no obstacle for. Someone who’s been less fluent, less if you if you really want to catch the meaning beyond the words, you can get it from their practice again and in their demeanor. So I feel like there aren’t any obstacles, really, unless the ones you want to create. That I’m different and I don’t belong here. That’s the number one obstacle. But even in medicine, when I first started here, I was the first Indian doctor and everyone said, Oh, you’re in this provincial town and you’re an outsider. If I think of myself as an outsider, then that’s how I should be. What I had to do for that is not wear traditional garb, you know, dressed like. Dressed like an American, my husband taught me that don’t wear your little, you know, thing because then the conversation comes about how you’re different. And then you can’t connect with your patients, so it doesn’t matter what you wear as long as you’re connecting with someone that’s OK and trying to emphasize on external differences, you know, and I use that in my medical practice to not to meet everyone where they’re at. It’s not about who I am. Connect and understand where they’re coming from. Fine, what’s common?
Well, let me tell you, it was an interesting wedding that my son had at age 45. He met this, he had met this young lady who I haven’t met till we just were able to cross the Canadian border. Otherwise, we were separated from Canada. And so he had met this. He had lived in Canada for a while and he had met this young lady and I. He announced he was going to get married and. But he went to Reverend Song to kind of have a prenuptial, you know, like a session with her, you know, and that really touched me and that was not me telling him, you know, he says, I want to get his little Lego session, but in-depth explaining, you know what, this transition in his life means. And so that mentoring session with the reverend, a song that the two of them, I wasn’t part of that. But he also asked him to write a blessing, you know? And the whole ceremony that was done for the wedding was what Reverend Song wrote that the minister in the area was non-denominational and someone who had, I wouldn’t even say, minister, I would say a wedding officiant. He just did what Reverend Song had asked him to do. And they had this beautiful wedding. And so that’s how the mouth was like part of the beginning of their journey and his and he wanted his wife, who doesn’t really have a spiritual connection yet with what you know, her husband does. But. It just helped her understand that, you know, when he does meditation, when he does whatever his practice is, how important it is for his life to have that. And I think that’s what he designed to explain to her, you know, because, you know, in the earlier years of marriage, it’s all about, you know, household or whatever . But it’s important for him to continue his meditation practice. And he works in the corporate circle. And, you know, it’s so, you know, it’s important to have that founding principle of one Buddhism. It connects with him that you can have all this material, whatever. But unless you bring the spiritual practice to a certain level, all that material stuff means nothing. It can be corrupted. So he gets it. And I’m so grateful that he gets it because, you know, he can’t be just like, you know, in this practice, it’s completely allowed. If you have, you know, some money and you have a good life, it’s fine. It’s not a bad thing. As long as you have your, you know, he wants to have a lifestyle that supports his wife and it’s a different phase in his life and. He wants to be grounded in the, you know, spiritual practice, and he’s disconnected from now, he’s not attending all the Zoom meetings that he used to before he was married. But I’m not going to get into his, you know how he’s practicing. I know. Time to time we touch base and he’s and I think both of us are involved in supporting the Wuhan Institute to cultivate. This is the part of helping others or the the my dharma, which says, you know, instead of just focusing on you or on your own growth for public welfare. So we’re designing something in the name of my husband to kind of establish a local spiritual growth through the Buddhist ministers teaching the community, as well as particularly people who have addictions and PTSD and, you know, suffering trauma in their lives. You know, the new one this year, which is the expanded campus now they can really serve so that as a as a family, we want my son and I hope to, you know, kind of contribute towards that, as are, you know, give back to the community. Wherever we live, we can still help. So that’s that’s our family connection. Our daughter is busy with her baby and still dealing with her, you know, her own life. But but she’s she’s grounded in her. In her own ways of whatever she does, I don’t. She’s not into one Buddhism yet, but she knows what we do, so I don’t push it. Nobody pushed it on me. We just practice. And she sees how we handle life and it’s there for her to explore. There is no one Buddhism temple yet in Seattle, but who knows there may be opportunities to expand as this more , you know? Go with one Buddhism in America as such. You know, they have now had a minister for Head Dharma, Master for North America. So that’s the first time ever this year. So there’s opportunities that I look for. This is something that will help the whole world with you. You know, you can be whatever religion you are. This is and how to really put it in practice. I truly believe it integrates with life. As a person, as a family, as a society, as a community and beyond. That’s the vision of, as I read the scriptures, everything it says to start with yourself. And it really is like expanding circles.
So before the 2017, you know, taking the refuge, I was attending the Temple Dharma talks and, you know, the devil as a way of introducing the nine essential dramas of daily practice, which make which made total sense. Every one of them is recited at each temple service. There’s also a verse from the scripture book that is read. Then we have a lot of time to contemplate, and then we have sitting meditation for about 2530 minutes. And then there’s a drama talk and exchanging, ah, you know, pitfalls and, like, you know, struggles in practice with more senior practitioners and with the ministers in small groups and as well as like one on one with we call them covenants. You know, in the one tradition, the the ministers. And so particularly every Tuesday night, in addition to the Saturday service, both my husband and I would attend a session like a two hour session and a small group of like five or six people at the most and sometimes even just two or three with Reverend Song, who we consider our primary person who really we felt like he had our back. And that was like every single week, no matter, no matter what the weather was or whatever, you know. And that was very helpful. It’s actually a reverend song. I said to my husband that he too should take our money because we were doing the practice, you know? And he was like, No, let her go first. But then he had a situation which was his life long horn and his being, which probably was the root of all his struggles. Even I didn’t know that, but he had a struggle with a relationship with his older brother, and he didn’t know how to deal with that. And. If I don’t have to do something, he would say, oh, he wouldn’t listen. So I kind of told my son to suggest to him to get the help from the criminals. They helped him so much that he went all the way to India. And he had recovered from his heart failure by then and his brother was dying of of cancer. But he was in such a good space with his brother, having cleared some of his whatever his situation was, that was transformative in his life. And again, that was another moment of like really seeing how the one on one, you know, asking for guidance in practice and receiving that guidance and how it worked for him. And so then when that worked for him, he took up with this name. But by the time he took with this name in 2018, he was already having some health issues creeping up back again. And the real practice for both of us was then in 2019, January, he was diagnosed with a terminal illness. He didn’t know it was terminal. I knew it was terminal, though we didn’t present it as such. He sensed it. He sensed it by middle of the year in 2019. He knew it wasn’t working. And through that time, you know, between June of 2019 to like October 31st, the coming up in a couple of weeks is this two year death anniversary, the way that these two practitioners of ministers and the whole saga, how they supported us. It’s incredible. I could not have gone through that whole period on my own. I’m so glad I had a grounded practice by then. Up until the very last moment when he was in hospice care. Even when I didn’t call them again, the two of the two core ministers came and. He was my husband was comatose at the time, and it was funny the whole time that he was in the hospice, in the hospital. It was not in the hospital, basically, but the fifth floor is hospice care. He had written on the board that nobody should speak loudly because he just was not tolerant of loud noises. So that was his request. Reverend Sang song comes and it was a shout booming shout. Would they take a break? And as my husband’s eyes open and he was comatose for all those days, and he almost tried to lift himself off that he had moved for days, it was like day before he died. And he made an attempt to give and give a hug to the minister that he was most connected with. And I song tells me that he said normal Amitabh, who his last. He could hear the whisper. And he said, your husband is the age he died, saying, no, Mohammed Adobe was his last words. That’s powerful. That’s wavy, powerful. Well, within within the delivery service, which is another very powerful ritual at the hospital, at at the temple and through that ceremony. And we’ve done other services for this brother when he passed away and his sister passed away, too many, too many people. You know that we have done this for, but it’s really powerful to do the service for my husband. I had to see everything that’s in my heart, publicly in front of my son. And that was so cleansing to what this whole 46 years of life and journey was and did realize through the struggles of daily life that we really were spiritually meant to be with each other and meant to be with this. All of this was. Struggled to help us state to a better place. And within two months, a new babies born in Seattle, and I remember my husband saying that. You should be there for our daughter and support the new life that’s coming to our family, and that’s what’s making me make the transition to move to Seattle, though my son is here. They will still be my son, go here wherever I go, it’s time this practice anyway. So.
My father was processing that grief in a very different way. But what happened was about a year later. So when I was a four and a half, my younger brother was born and that was my mother’s like, yes, her prayers were answered. And he was the only male child in the whole family. You know how that is. So they were really my mother was much more settled after that and was just really happy with the fact that she got a baby boy. But it left me confused because my baby brother’s name was sort of like a morphed name of my older sister. Her name was Nirmala and my brother’s name is Newman. So this little four and a half year old very confused. And my father would kind of just, you know, in a quiet way to sit at the breakfast table or whatever. And just kind of in the context of what was going on in his life, you know, mention certain passages from the word GEETHA, which is really our spiritual text and just subculture around me was mostly of other people who went to temples and temples to me was more like a cultural thing. And there was no teacher at the temple. There still isn’t, you know, they have like little schools on the side based on, I think what we see here is like little, you know, Sunday schools and stuff. So they do have some teaching. But back in India, there’s no schools necessarily that are affiliated with the temple. But when I was a teenager, there were this isn’t by then we had moved to what was called Bombay. Then it’s now Mumbai. And through my high school years and through my early pre-med years, there was like a big it was called the Oval Maidan. It was called. It was a big area, big green, like a commons like Boston Commons, kind of where a swami or a spiritual teacher would give lectures. His name was Swami Chinmayi, and I would love to hear him talk about, you know, different aspects of spiritual development. There still is like watching me on a mission right here in Langhorne, Pennsylvania. But in my married life here, I never followed up with him. But I would still say growing up, my father handled so many different stresses in his life, and especially as they got to be older, they decided all the three children were here. So they moved to this country and for like 28 years, they kind of live at in our homes like my sister lived in an hour away and my brother was an hour and 15 minutes away from here. So they would kind of move around and just watching them age and watching them go through life with different ailments and struggles, and especially the end of life. Things my father shared had a profound effect on me, and I started questioning, you know, how I will be when it’s my time to face that. And even now, when I deal with a difficult situation, I say to myself, What would my father do in this situation? Say, I would say he was my first. And even right now for foremost, my. What he will call karma yoga. And by that, it meant like really doing the next right thing, being in the present moment. The yoga of being present to just the action that you’re doing. That’s the essence of his take take home message from the guitar. And in fact, he only translated two chapters from the guitar. And I have his book, Just the Perfect Engineered Translation.
Kalpana is a former pediatrician
and now retired acupuncturist.
He was a mathematician, an engineer. So it was just the exact, precise words. And he would say, that’s the whole essence of what you need to know in life, just to do unattached, correct next correct action, which is not different from the present moment awareness. But I lost my dad in 1997 when I was 50 years old. And right about that time there was like a lot of struggle in my life. Professionally and personally, things started to change in medicine in the mid-nineties, decided that I will just just explore, you know? And I did feel like prescribing all these. I was a pediatrician in my. And that’s another spiritual quest, too, because since childhood, having lost a sister, I was always drawn to the mysteries of life and death. And, of course, helping children live the best life. And actually, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to be a pediatrician, but I wanted to do something that will improve the lives of people. So from thinking about being a surgeon for a quick fix. When I just did a rotation in pediatrics, I just got it that it’s not just a quick fix. Life is a journey and to partner people with whatever they’re going through. And 90% of pediatrics is dealing with families and the parents deal with all the stresses. So in my practice, to most of my people who, you know, gravitated towards me first, I was in a solo practice and then in a group practice, the ones who stayed with me were people with long term issues with difficult situations aren’t just simple, sore throats and lyrics. And then when this managed care business happened, I was getting increasingly disenchanted. And spiritual life is feeling more bankrupt because I’ve lost my father, my husband was very sick at the time. Through different things. Heart attacks on the state of malaria, one time from a visit to India. All of us will find and all of us took a preventative, but he got a really severe case which we didn’t think he would recover from. And that I was dealing with again, the life and death mystery and not knowing how to get a grip on life myself and. Still, just like looking to just reading books and not really having a teacher as such, but going back to study Chinese medicine, which has. You know, that’s that’s what I did, because I had the fact I had no other skills other than medicine and learning how to do, you know, I didn’t know even what acupuncture was, but learning the ropes of it, which was Taoism. And, you know, not necessarily Buddhism, but really how nature works in a person. So that kind of fulfills some spiritual quest and being able to be with people. In that framework was more fulfilling to me and seeing people transform their lives. I was transforming my life. So my spiritual journey was being kind of, you know, quenched a little bit with introduction to the depths of Chinese medicine. Now, this is just a mystery.
In 2005 of somebody who I didn’t even know called me up didn’t know so well, we just kind of had been introduced. And he’s another physician who also was interested in alternative medicine, he said, Would you like to teach a physiology course at one institute, which was the only acupuncture school at the time, and they they had the first class that was going to graduate at the time. And as a substitute teacher, I went in there to teach. And as an adjunct faculty, you just teach you just say hello to the people around and you just did a three hour course and you get out. So I met these one Buddhists who were running this course in the hallways and I just bowed and said hello , but really didn’t know what they were all about. And I was not, you know, I was not into even investigating that around that time. My sister, my older sister, had died when I was three and a half and now my other sister who lived, she was about six years older than me. And she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. And so going through her death and her dying more than death again brought me to grips with my original wound of losing, losing someone I loved. And around that time, my husband had another serious illness. So again, my trauma is continued. And in 2012. My husband had maybe his 18th serious illness, which is this time of really bad, what looked like it wasn’t going to make it through, though they said 85% recover the lymphoma, which was, you know, really difficult journey for like a year and a half. At that time, I was in the clinic. I was also taking a another immersion of a deeper understanding of Chinese herbal medicine. And I’m sitting at the clinic desk more as a student rather than faculty at this time and saying, I can’t do this anymore. I was exhausted. My husband had just recovered and it’s it’s spent a whole year doing, you know, care for him. And that’s when I said, I need a break. It is a flier with one of the reverend’s doing a retreat at the one Dharma Center, which is like four hours from here in upstate New York. That is my beginning of real, you know, waking up to ways of really cultivating myself under this long spiel. But now that’s by way of introduction. Yes. Yes.
© 2021 Jack Huynh | Orange Photography
Annual update on progress of project.