Tag Archives: Geshe-la

You’re blowin’ my mind, man


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.

This, that, and the other thing


This: The other night I was very pleasantly surprised to get emails from both of my teenage nieces thanking me for the Amazon gift cards I sent them for Christmas. This is the first time I have ever received any acknowledgment, much less thanks for the annual sending of the $25 Amazon gift card.

My brother, the girls’ father, and I have been estranged for about a decade now. And even before that the relationship was strained and before that there was another period of estrangement. Our most recent estrangment started after I “came out” to him as a Buddhist. As a fundamentalist Christian, I guess he didn’t want me to have a bad influence on his children. Who knows? But, even though I hadn’t seen the girls since they were very young, every year I sent them Amazon gift cards, and every year it went unacknowledged. I never knew if they got them, or if they got them if they knew they were from me. But, it was the only connection I had with them, so eventually I let go of all expectations of gratitude and sent the cards and hoped the kids were able to buy something fun with them.

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Relying upon refuge


“I . . . go for refuge to Buddha, dharma and sangha.”

With  everything that has been going on at some of our local centers, and in the upper echelons of our tradition, I am not that only one who has been questioning the status quo in the NKT.  Ours is perhaps one of the most controversial Buddhist groups due to Geshe-la’s open opposition to the Dalai Lama back in 90’s regarding the Dorje Shudgden controversy.  And there are also many other allegations, rumors, and possible lies are floating around the internet.  After a while you learn to tune them out and trust your own experience.

My own experience tells me that the NKT is a human institution.  And while the goal may be noble, it is run by people who are filled with delusions, like any other human institution. Monks and nuns whom we admire, some of whom we love as teachers, and are held out as living examples of moral discipline, can fall from grace and disrobe, often leaving in their trail devastated and confused students.  There are rules, roles and by-laws that are made and changed on a regular basis – not unlike the constant re-organization that goes on in a corporate environment.   At some centers (can’t speak for all) there is an unspoken division between those who are committed to the NKT and others who are not.  Sometimes  it can feel like high school with the cliques of the “in” kids who look on with pity (disguising itself as compassion) at those on the outside.  Even though we may all be striving for Buddhahood, it’s evident we’ve got a loooooong ways to go.

Lately, things have gotten hairy enough that it has caused me to question my reliance upon my spiritual guide, Geshe-la.  Normally, in my mind, he has been shielded from all the mistakes that are made in his name.  I know we’re supposed to have pure view, but that doesn’t mean we put on blinders.  

Part of the problem is my relationship with my own teacher.  Communication has broken down and the heart connection has been severely damaged.   I have stepped away to protect my own mind from what seemed like immenient implosion.  We still communicate.  I still help in areas where I can.  But, right now it feels like we’re on either side of a chain link fence – we can see each, talk to each other, but there is a protective distance.  Maybe at some point we can take down the fence, or maybe not.  It’s hard not having a teacher you can trust.  Yet, in some way it is a blessing in that I have to figure out what is right for me. 

When I meditate on all this, I always come back to refuge.  Neither Buddha nor dharma have let me down.  And while individuals may have let me down, I would also say that sangha hasn’t let me down either.  So, amidst all this turmoil, it is to the three jewel that I go for refuge, and find some peace.