It’s not often that I get a dharma teaching where I leave out thinking “whoa, I think my mind has been blown.” Have I walked out feeling inspired? Sure. Chided? Yes. Challenged? No doubt. But the teaching on Sunday by Anam Thubten Rinpoche was really amazing. I felt like I got called out on ten years of incorrect dharma practice. My friends, were likewise moved.
In the teaching, the Rinpoche talked about there being only two paths: the path of awakening and the path of ignorance. Yet, many of us believe that there is a third path, this very inherent path that will lead to a very inherent enlightenment. A solid path. A path where one can measure one’s progress by certain milestones. A path filled with many different practices and rituals. Yup, that’s the one I’ve been on. Busted. But, if there is no path, and no instant enlightenment, what in the hell are we doing?
My friends, also NKT rebels, went to lunch afterwards and mulled this over (apparently very loudly, as someone with whom we spoke later said that after we left the restaurant was very quiet.) and looked forward to getting some clarity when we had our meeting with Rinpoche after lunch.
One of the things I know I struggle with, and I believe my friends do also, is how to we view Geshe-la, now that we are no longer with/contemplating leaving/still peripherally involved with his tradition, the NKT. For the most part, I’m feeling at ease with my decision to leave, and only occasionally engage in negativity while my friend John tends to get caught up in a lot confusion and guilt. And I think we both feel a bit embarrassed at having to tell people we are refugees from the NKT expecting that people from other traditions will heap scorn upon us, or pity us for falling for the cult. Of course, none of those things have happened. In fact, quite the opposite.
After lunch, we headed back to the temple to wait for our appointment with Rinpoche. And, as usual, we are the most boisterous people in the room. A woman sits down with us and starts asking us question since she hadn’t seen around before. We mention that our previous teacher was Geshe Kelsang Gyatso and braced ourselves for a negative response. Instead the woman paused for a very long time, and we thought she was going to start crying. “Oh my god, I love him. I’ve loved him ever since I picked up one of his books. You’ve gotten teachings from him? You are so, so fortunate.”
When our turn came to see Rinpoche, John was our designated spokesperson. He explained that we were long time students of Geshe-la, and now we feel as if we were traveling the third path. One of the first things the Rinpoche said was how fortunate we were to have studied and learned so much, and that we need to have a heart full of gratitude towards our teacher that had taken us to this point. But, he said we need to make a U-turn. He prescribed for a practice that includes daily recitation of the Heart Sutra and a prayer by Shantideva. That works for me for now.
In the hours that have passed since our meeting, it is hard to remember his exact words. They feel so light that it is hard to hold on them. Meeting him in person confirmed my impression from his teachings that he is the real deal. I’ve only met one other person like him where I felt that sort of lightness, that lack of ego obstructions.
I’m not feeling the need to follow the NKT Survivor forums anymore. I wish all my friends who remain in the NKT the best, and I wish for them to find peace and happiness. And for those who have left, may they likewise find peace and happiness and teachers who can help them along their journey. Geshe-la still has a place on my shrine, and while I may no longer be seeing him as my spiritual guide, I’m sure he would be pleased that I’m still loving practicing and loving the dharma.