Education in the centers
Lama spoke at length about education in the centers—programs and teachers, philosophy, outreach and integration.
In our centers we offer the prajnaparamita teachings of Lama Tsongkhapa. We also invite other teachers for the purpose of integration. We know that integrating Western philosophies is good. We do not, however, invite rubbish teachers with cynical vibrations who just create contradictions. Some people are ridiculous, fighting and being political. The director must know these things and decide. We do not have time for disharmony. If some people want to negate what we have in our community then we simply don’t invite those people. But at the same time we do not put other teachers down. They do their trip, we do our trip. The director can say, “You go study that trip at another place. You do not pull that trip in here!”
For example, I have invited teachers of Jungian psychology to our centers. But it is not because Buddhism doesn’t have psychology. Buddhist psychology is super profound. But sometimes students can see that some things are helpful while other things are not. Jungian psychology helps them to integrate these things in their life.
When certain students become fanatical and narrow with their spiritual trip, that is not good. We are not asking our Western students to follow some kind of Tibetan trip. Being a fanatic is not a healthy way to become a Buddhist. You people can see who becomes that kind of student. I am very concerned about this. These students do not last. For these reasons it is good to bring Jungian teachers to show their methods.
When geshes come you cannot require that every geshe should teach the lam-rim in Lama Zopa’s or Lama Yeshe’s way. Each geshe has a different personality, so they cannot teach in the same style. After Guru Shakyamuni died, eighteen new traditions arose. That was just fine. Sometimes a new geshe comes to the West, popping up like a mushroom and knowing nothing about Western minds and Western culture. You may blow their minds, but maybe the geshe blows your mind, too. It is possible; you should expect this. I’m not criticizing, not at all. Sometimes presenting the teachings entails problems, so don’t freak out. It is normal.
Our education program has a clear direction, but we do not follow blindly. First we present introductory lam-rim teachings. To anyone who wants higher teachings you first introduce the lam-rim. The reason for this is that intellectual Buddhism is already existent in the West. Our aim, however, is not intellectual; our aim is to establish communities. When real transformation happens in a student, then dedication also comes. Many people know blah blah blah in Tibetan, but they are not Buddhist; their hearts are empty. Knowing the Tibetan language does not make a person precious. If he does not integrate something positive into his life, then what is his purpose? It would be better for him to eat cheesecake! You people know all this already; I’m just telling you again. The main teaching in our centers is the practice of lam-rim—whether in the sutra aspect or tantra aspect—in accordance with the prajnaparamita, from the beginning right up until enlightenment.
The first thing we do is take refuge. The subject of taking refuge is incredible vast, big. Normally the tradition is that we take refuge 100,000 times, but at the beginning this is difficult for the Inji mind. We should practice the proper way of taking refuge in lam-rim. It is so useful. Then we do 100,000 mandala offerings, then 100,000 water bowl offerings. It seems easy, but for most Injis this is difficult. Then 100,000 prostrations. It is good if one can do these in a retreat, but if the situation is too difficult for that then you accept the situation. If you can only do a hundred in the morning and in the evening, that is fantastic. There is a constructive way to do these things. Then we do 100,000 guru yogas, then 100,000 Vajrasattva mantras.
Chenrezig initiation is very good for developing loving kindness–compassion. Then we do Manjushri initiation, which wakes up the comprehensive intensive wisdom. Next it is good to do Vajrapani, to increase power. These three initiations are one person’s path of development to enlightenment.
Each year our directors and old students should do a short retreat in order to keep your hearts warm and to progress in the practice. Retreat is super useful. If you do not do retreat then something is missing. You become sort of distant from the Dharma, unless you learn to become super skillful and make every action a Dharma action. Otherwise, in this twentieth century we all need an injection to keep the Dharma alive in our hearts. I cannot always say to students: ‘You do this; you do that.’ I am only one person. How can I guide a couple of thousand people? Each center director and spiritual director can give that advice, if they understand. I know that it can be very difficult for people to organize a retreat but I think retreat is very important, especially when people do retreat together as a group. It doesn’t matter if it is short or long.
For monks and nuns to think that they are better or that they should have a better education than lay people is wrong. We cannot be jealous. Lay people are equal with monks and nuns who say they want to give their body, speech and mind to all sentient beings. That’s what they have said. But lay people did not say like that; they say they are not ready. They say, “I want to give my body a little bit for my wife, my husband, and it is good I give for them.” Lay people say, “I do the best I can.” The purpose of education for monks and nuns and lay people is completely equal.
Also we do not distinguish between men and women with regard to who should receive a good education. You cannot judge who should be educated; it is completely individual. All centers should provide equal education to all and each person can participate to the extent that they have time. The center is for everybody. If people do not take advantage that is their problem, but from the director’s side we provide for people equally.