Sangha Heroes and FPMT Education

Sangha Heroes and FPMT Education

Date Posted:
September 2009

Rinpoche gave the following talk before and after Guru Puja, at Tse Chen Ling Center, San Francisco, USA, on 26 April, 2007.

It is great here, tonight, doing Guru Puja with the ex-abbot, Geshe Jampa Thegchok, the resident teacher here at Tse Chen Ling, Geshe Ngawang Dakpa, and the resident teacher from Boston, Ven. Geshe Tsulga. And all the Sangha from different places are gathered here, and also lay students.

I’m not going to talk for very long, unending, which I normally do! I just want to introduce here again the ex-abbot of Sera Je, Geshe Jampa Thegchog, who has been a teacher in the FPMT for so many years, and who was at Manjushri Institute in Cumbria for over three years. We gathered there with Lama and used to offer an introductory course, and with Geshe Jampa Thegchog we used to do questions and answers with the students. Then, after that, Geshe Jampa Thegchog went to Nalanda, not Nalanda in India, well, it could possibly have been Nalanda, India, in the past, but Nalanda, our Western monastery, that we have had for a long time in France. Nalanda is the only monastery in the West in this organization. Khensur Jampa Thegchog has been teaching all the Sangha at Nalanda, which is a real monastery in an isolated place, very quiet and peaceful, an excellent place for a monastery, where everybody tries to guard their vows and study under the guidance of Khensur Rinpoche. There have been many many Sangha there in the past.

Of course, in the West, it isn't easy [for Sangha]. I think in Chinese countries it's a little easier because the society respects the Sangha, and offers service to them. I discovered in recent times that there are some differences for Sangha being in the West and Chinese Sangha in China or Taiwan. We have some Sangha, monks and nuns, in Taiwan, and I noticed that there is more security there, more safety; I think this is because the society has more respect. There have been one or two who have disrobed, those who became a monk or nun when they were very young, but this can happen. I noticed that the Sangha is able to last longer in Taiwan, in that culture. The conditions – culture and society – are somehow easier.

I think in the West the culture is quite different. It has gradually been developing respect for Sangha, which didn’t exist for many years. But in Western society, the life and culture, it's not easy. I think it’s a challenge being in such a country, where the culture and everything is dedicated to developing delusion. Everything is like that. I would say that it is incredibly heroic and brave to be able to stay as a monk or nun in such a country and culture. I think it is great – these beings are unbelievable heroes; in Tibetan it’s called pawo.

Obviously, it is easier in a place where there are no obstacles, in an isolated place where there are only Sangha, no one else. By mixing with people who have a totally different culture, and then being able to live in your practice, in the vows, that’s really being a great hero, that's a great challenge. That hero is unbelievable. That is a hero over delusions, not a hero from killing many millions of people, which is what worldly people regard as a hero. The real hero is a hero over the delusions, who is able to conquer the delusions. You have given freedom to yourself, not allowing delusions to have dictatorship over you: you become the controller, it's the other way around, which brings liberation and enlightenment to yourself, and through that to others, to numberless sentient beings. I think that’s unbelievable; those beings are really heroes.

In some countries people get medals for having killed thousands of enemies, and are regarded as a hero by common people in the world. Actually, that person is a loser, because he or she has all that negative karma left to experience. The result is sufferings for hundreds of thousands of lives, because karma is expandable. Then, also there are sufferings in the lower realms for an inconceivable length of time. If you are born as a human being due to another virtue, another good karma, you will still have to experience the result similar to the cause of killing, then create the results similar to the cause, again committing the action of killing and the results. You have to experience all those sufferings not just one time, but for hundreds of thousands of lifetimes, because karma is expandable. That’s the reality, that’s the great loser, you become the defeated one.

From the bottom of my heart I would like to thank very much all the Sangha who for so many years have not only lived in and guarded their vows, but have been able to benefit others; have done retreat continuously for many years, or social service; have done hard work at the centers, offering service to sentient beings and the teachings of the Buddha, which is service to our guru, His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Every single understanding of Buddhadharma that we have comes from the kindness of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Every single purification that we do in our daily life by understanding the lam-rim comes from the kindness of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Every single merit we collect is through the kindness of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Buddhism and Tibetan Mahayana Buddhism in particular exist in this world due to His Holiness’ kindness; they exist and flourish.

Having met with Dharma at FPMT centers is due first of all to His Holiness’ kindness, and, second, of course, to Lama’s kindness. Even though many people didn’t meet Lama, he passed away so many years ago unfortunately, his activities are still happening. All the centers still exist and continue due to Lama’s kindness, are the result of his compassion, and his activities are still happening. That’s due to Lama’s kindness, secondly. Then, of course, there are resident teachers, thirdly. Having met perfectly qualified resident teachers – Khensur Jampa Thegchog, Geshe Ngawang Dakpa, Geshe Tsulga, and so forth – all this is also a result of Lama Yeshe’s kindness. What I want to say is, that to be able to meet qualified teachers is through Lama’s kindness. First, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, then Lama Yeshe’s kindness; that’s very clear, that's the evolution.

So, the Sangha live in their ordination, on the basis of subduing their own minds, then benefiting other sentient beings. The lay people also live in vows, protecting their karma, and on the basis of that do Dharma practice, practice bodhicitta, study the Dharma, do social service for sentient beings and the teachings of Buddha, do many various activities at the center, for the organization, and take on responsibilities. That is repaying kindness to our kind and compassionate guru Shakyamuni Buddha, His Holiness, and Lama Yeshe. Also, there are the resident teachers – you put into practice whatever you can, from what they teach, learn Dharma as much as possible, and reduce ignorance as much as possible. Every time one hears Dharma one has less ignorance, then from that correct practice, correct realization comes, then liberation, and enlightenment. So, we are repaying the kindness of the resident teachers' service as well.

The FPMT is extremely fortunate, unbelievably fortunate, that we have many qualified resident teachers, who have spent their lives in a monastery on the basis of living in the vinaya, guarding one’s vows and one’s mind. Then, they have extensively studied Buddhist philosophy, the whole path to enlightenment, and the Four Noble Truths. They are not only scholars but are living in the practice – that is an extremely important moral for us. So, the organization is extremely fortunate. If you look at other organizations, no question if they are not Buddhist, but even other Buddhist organizations, then you can understand how fortunate we are to have so many qualified teachers, and have the opportunity to study. Through that we are able to offer service to the world, to sentient beings. With our Dharma knowledge and practice, we can enlighten other sentient beings, liberate others by providing a Dharma education, by offering the light of Dharma to others, in their hearts. In minds which are dark, where there is ignorance, we bring the light of Dharma there, bring the wisdom eye. I think that’s the best service to sentient beings and to the world.

The whole global problem is a lack of understanding of Dharma, due to ignorance. There is a lack of understanding of karma, and a lack of the good heart. The whole problem in the world is that, whether we are talking about environment problems, global environment problems, global warming, or whatever, all these issues are due to karma. The root is ignorance and the self-centered mind, including environmental problems. The entire problem comes from that. Therefore, I think learning Buddhism and practicing, especially the lam-rim, the whole 84,000 teachings, all the extensive BuddhaDharma, integrating the lam-rim and putting it into practice, is the best, richest, and most meaningful life in the world. That is the main answer to world problems. What the centers do, allowing us to learn, practice, and offer wisdom and Dharma training to others, an understanding of karma, bodhicitta, and so forth, is the best. Through that they achieve total liberation from the entire oceans of samsaric suffering and achieve enlightenment. That is where we lead them to. Our activities, what we do, are urgent, an emergency, the most important thing for ourselves and sentient beings.

Khensur Rinpoche was in Nalanda for about ten years, quite a long time, and with incredible patience guided, taught, and served the FPMT organization for so many years. When Khensur Rinpoche was the teacher at Sarnath University, Lama went there and requested him to teach for the organization. Then, for so many years, Khensur Rinpoche served with so much patience and without causing any problems for the organization. We have the great fortune that, after finishing his activities of being abbot at Sera Je, all the students here, the longtime students and new students, have a great opportunity to learn the clear, extensive Buddhadharma, about the path to liberation and enlightenment. From the bottom of my heart I want to say that I appreciate this very much and want to thank Khensur Rinpoche.

All three teachers are from Buxa, including the resident teacher, Ngawang Dakpa. I lived at Buxa for eight years. Of course, I didn’t study, I just spent my time playing, painting, making Christmas drawings, going out looking at things, wandering. I used my time the wrong way, learning English words instead of learning texts and Dharma, so it was a total waste. I was in the monastery, but I was very lazy. So, that’s the result called "shang-go” in Tibetan. If you don’t know the debating subjects, you are called “shang-go”– great “shang-go”, not small “shang-go”!

Geshe Ngawang Dakpa was in the same class as Lama Lhundrup, the Abbot of Kopan Monastery. I requested Geshe-la to be resident teacher in Taiwan for three years, then to be resident teacher here at Tse Chen Ling, and he has now been here for many years. Geshe-la said it was seven years, but actually it is eight. Geshe-la is very qualified in whatever Tibetan subject he’s teaching, anything, as well as Dharma, so we're extremely fortunate. I would like to thank Geshe Ngawang Dakpa for so many years of teaching for the organization. It's not easy; for a long time there are many hardships and difficulties that one has to tolerate, and one has to use compassion. I would like to thank you very much on behalf of the entire FPMT organization. Of course, I should thank you on behalf of all sentient beings, not just the organization, for representing all Buddhas and bodhisattvas! So, thank you very much. Geshe-la is the one who I consult with on some topics, even though Geshe Sopa Rinpoche is there, but sometimes I don’t want to disturb him for everything.

Then there is Ven. Geshe Tsulga, who has been resident teacher for many years in Boston. I asked Geshe-la how many eons he has been in Boston! He has been serving as resident teacher for 13 years, using thought transformation when there are difficulties with people at the center, showing compassion, practicing contentment, and so forth. I would like to thank him very much. Geshe-la is also very qualified, not only in Dharma, but in many subjects, such as Tibetan culture and education.

We are very fortunate because they are not just scholars in words, but beings who are actually living the practice. They are sincere-hearted and good hearted. This is an extremely important quality for teachers, as they are a very good model for the students, an inspiration for their studies, to have a deep, clear understanding of Dharma, and be inspired to practice. Basically, I am just saying how fortunate we are; that's the essence. We have to realize and remember that. The FPMT is very fortunate, and that’s the most important thing. Without a qualified teacher, nothing happens, nothing can be developed. So, that’s the main thing I want to say, as we are gathered here. The FPMT has about 38 geshes – we had a meeting in Sarnath in the winter – of course, not everyone could come. All 38 geshes who are serving in the organization are lharampa geshes, who have done extensive studies in the monastery, and have studied well. They are not like me –Solu Khumbu Mickey Mouse! Therefore, I always feel that the FPMT organization has good luck to have qualified teachers.

I am happy with the education [in the organization]. The reason I'm saying this here is that there are people present from International Office and various places who have done hard work for many years; there are many old students here. I am quite happy with the way education is going now, it has been developing for many years, and now we have the eight-year Master’s Program at Istituto Lama Tsongkhapa, and I think they will also start this with Geshe Sonam Gyaltsen in Holland. I would like more centers to start this eight-year program, and the five-year or two-year programs, also. Istituto Lama Tsongkhapa also has the two-year program, as everyone is already there, so it's very easy to do. The five-year program takes place in the city centers, where it is hard to do it in two years. This is happening in many places, so I'm very happy about that; I feel that is a great success.

Even though there are many centers where teachings have been given for so many years – philosophy, lam-rim, lo-jong, repeated over and over – establishing the study program makes it more sure that the students take it seriously, learn and complete the texts, and clearly understand Buddhist philosophy for their own deeper and clearer understanding, for their attainments, realizations, and enlightenment. Also, you need that deeper and clearer understanding in order to spread Dharma to other beings, so that's very necessary, especially if you are able to teach and fulfill the wishes of other sentient beings, who have different levels of intelligence. So, I'm very happy with the way education is now in the organization.

Materially, we have come a very long way. For many years we had so much hardship, so many problems, because we didn't have experience in business. We had so many young students who came to Nepal and India, who benefited so much from the Kopan course, and wanted to offer the same benefit to others in the West, show others the meaning of life, but they had no experience in business or managing. So, we went through many hardships, started different businesses, lost so much through lack of economic knowledge of business and management. We’ve come a very long way. What we have developed now has come over a very long time.

So many people at different times have put in a lot of effort, sacrificed their lives for the organization, for centers, put their lives into them. Now, what has been developed is relatively good for many centers. This came from so many people sacrificing their lives for so many years and bearing so many hardships. It is not truly existent or independent, even though it may appear like that. The old students, for many years, started communities, and put in a lot of effort, even though they may not be involved now. There are people here who did that, who are still doing that now, or who did that in the past. The result is that now we are able to benefit so many sentient beings for so long. So many sentient beings get so much benefit from each center, get closer to liberation and enlightenment by learning more Dharma, doing more practice, more purification, leaving more imprints on the mind, so becoming closer to attainments.

Generally, overall, some things in the FPMT may have degenerated and got worse, but overall I see people becoming more compassionate and wise. When I look at the old students, over many years, this is generally what I see. I am very happy with that – the good heart which has developed. That is what we really need, that is what benefits the world and all sentient beings, and helps them to achieve enlightenment in a short period of time.

Thank you very much.