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”Namaste - may the light in me, honor the light in you…”

Lessons from a Master Spy

If you are not part of the solution,
you are part of the problem.
—Eldridge Cleaver, Soul on Ice

I read these words when I was 20, and they have always stayed with me. In the current cultural environment, polarization in one form or another rears its ugly head no matter where you look. I do not want to contribute to this problem, but what is the solution?

The only way that I can see to be part of the solution is to stay in touch with the practice of compassion and meet what life brings to me. By compassion I do not mean the well-meaning but questionable compassion of pity, or the self-serving compassion of those who seek to feel better about themselves by cultivating a practice of compassion, or the materialistic compassion of those who aim to “do well by doing good.” No, I mean compassion that sees clearly what is happening yet does not contract into self-protection; compassion that sees through the cultural projections that hide inconvenient truths or unpleasant ironies; and compassion that understands that it is not so much about making a perfect or even a better world but about being present in the suffering of the world, the conflicts that produce that suffering, and the tensions that produce those conflicts, and then seeing what can evolve from there. 

Many years ago I came across a paragraph in one of John Le Carré’s novels. These novels are set in the middle of the Cold War, the ideological battle between communism and capitalism that occupied much of the 20th century. George Smiley is a master spy who appears in many of Le Carré’s stories, and here he is speaking on the occasion of his retirement from the British Secret Service.

I only ever cared about the man. I never gave a fig for the ideologies, unless they were mad or evil. I never saw institutions as being worthy of their parts, or policies as much other than excuses for not feeling. I believe that almost any political system operated with humanity can work. And the most benign of systems without humanity is vile. The trick I suppose is to find the system that gives the least leeway to the rogues. The guarantee of our virtue is our compassion. And if you allow this institution, or any other, to steal your compassion away, wait, and see what you become. The man is everything. And if your calling is anything, you will always prefer him to the collective because the collective is humanity’s lowest and the collective is most often spoken for by people who are nothing without it.

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Why We Sing: Three Spiritual Music Masters on the “Sounds of Liberation”

More than four years after Nepal was struck by a 7.8-magnitude earthquake that left nearly 9,000 people dead and another 900,000 homeless, the country continues to rebuild. Following the quake in 2015, Grammy-nominated kirtan [Hindu chant] master Krishna Das and other spiritual singers performed at a benefit concert in New York City to raise money to help with the reconstruction efforts. That concert, Sounds of Liberation, has become an annual event and returns to New York and Boston on October 3 and October 5.

This year’s performance will help raise funds to repair the Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling monastery, home of the beloved Tibetan Buddhist teacher Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche. The monastery was established by his father, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche in 1976 , and will feature performances by his students and supporters, including Krishna Das, the monastery’s chant leader Lama Tenzin Sangpo, and the “rock star nun” Ani Choying Drolma

The proceeds will go toward a number of projects, including rebuilding the main temple, or lhakhang, at Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling, which was deemed unfit for use due to structural damage from the quake and needs to be torn down. A portion of the monks quarters also were condemned in 2015 and are being reconstructed to accommodate a spike in residents, many of whom sought refuge in the wake of the disaster. The funds will go toward supporting the lineage’s monks and nuns as well.

Tricycle spoke with Ani Choying Drolma, Krishna Das, and Lama Tenzin Sangpo about the concert and about the role that music plays in their spiritual lives.

Why might someone who mainly practices meditation want to include a musical component, like chanting, in their spiritual practice?

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Sogyal Rinpoche Eulogies Make Victims Disappear, Critics Charge

In the days after Tibetan Buddhist teacher Sogyal Rinpoche’s death, his followers posted to Sogyal’s official website a number of glowing eulogies from Buddhist figures and organizations, and even the Central Tibetan Administration. The condolence messages made no mention of the allegations from several of his students of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse against Sogyal Rinpoche that led to his stepping down from Rigpa, the international Buddhist group he founded in 1979. Survivors and their supporters expressed outrage and heartbreak at the praise, arguing that these eulogies—some of which extol him as an infallible teacher—do the work of covering up Sogyal’s painful legacy. As a result, some organizations have since retracted their condolences. 

Sogyal Rinpoche died on August 28, leaving behind a legacy fraught with abuse allegations. But some have chosen to focus on the positive parts of his past, such as helping spread Buddhist teachings to the West with Rigpa and his popular book, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. 

Many people have since taken to social media to call on Buddhist teachers to retract their statements of homage to Sogyal. A change.org petition calling on the dharma teachers to take back their comments has drawn hundreds of signatures. “With all this information available, it is disturbing that you are advising us to imagine Sogyal as our guru, sending comforting blessings to us from the bardo” the petition said. “You wrote eulogies that implicitly assume that Sogyal had no victims. Your words made them disappear.”

After the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) issued a message of condolences (originally published in Tibetan and translated on Sogyal’s website), Rob Hogendoorn, co-author of the book Sex and Violence in Tibetan Buddhism: The Rise and Fall of Sogyal Rinpoche, wrote directly to the CTA in protest, expressing his “grave concern” over the eulogy. 

“All things considered, the hypocrisy of the Central Tibetan Administration stance is staggering to me,” he wrote. “How can you pose as a champion of human rights, compassion and nonviolence while publicly endorsing a known abuser? Please consider for a moment how much you would have accomplished by just keeping silent.” 

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Buddha Buzz Weekly: Tibetan Democracy Day

Tibetans in exile celebrate Democracy Day, a monk campaigns against extremists in Myanmar, and a former nun offers “sacred naps” at Four Seasons in Bali. Tricycle looks back at the events of this week in the Buddhist world.

By Karen JensenSep 07, 2019

Tibetan children in traditional dress perform a dance during the Tibetan Democracy Day celebration at Tsuglagkhang temple, in Dharamshala, India. | Photo by Shailesh Bhatangar/Pacific Press Agency/Alamy Live News

Nothing is permanent, so everything is precious. Here’s a selection of some happenings—fleeting or otherwise—in the Buddhist world this week. 

Tibetans in Exile Commemorate 59th Tibetan Democracy Day 

Tibetans in Dharamsala, India, this week honored the 59th anniversary of the first elected body in Tibet’s history, which took oath on September 2, 1960, according to the Central Tibetan Administration. Tibetans gathered at Tsuglagkhang, the Dalai Lama’s head temple in Dharamsala, for a Tibetan Democracy Day celebration. Speaking at the event, Pema Jungney, current president of the Tibetan Parliament in Exile (TPIE), referred to Tibetan democracy as a gift from His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, who introduced the government-in-exile’s system of elections. Jungney also stressed that it is important for Tibetan voters to be engaged in the political process to ensure that they can fully exercise their rights.  The 84-year-old Dalai Lama has indicated that he may not reincarnate, raising questions about who would fill his role as Tibet’s central spiritual and political leader. The full endorsement of and participation in the TPIE by Tibetans may prove a key factor in the preservation of Tibetan culture in exile.

Former Nun Guides Hotel Guests into Sacred Naps

Move over, hot stone massages, sensory deprivation tanks, and crystal sound baths. “Sacred naps” just might be the new trend in immersive alternative healing. At a Four Seasons hotel in Bali, Indonesia, a former Buddhist nun is leading therapeutic sleep sessions, where the “bedtime story” is the awakening tale of Sakyamuni Buddha. Nun-turned-wellness-mentor Heny Ferawati, who goes by the name Ibu Fera, modeled the Sacred Nap on a method some Balinese mothers use to lull their littles ones, which involves holding their infant in a sarong-like sling, and singing traditional lullabies or telling a bedtime tale, according to a press release by the Four Seasons. While rocking her own baby to sleep, Ferawati had the idea to create a similar experience for adults. Instead of a baby sling, guests at the Four Seasons Resort at Sayan lie in aerial silk hammocks (typically used for special “anti-gravity” yoga classes.), “I combine this with telling the life story of Buddha and chanting various mantras that I learned when I was a Buddhist nun for seven years,” Ferawati said. Ironically, most people fall asleep before the part where the Buddha wakes up. 

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Buddha Buzz Weekly: Gun Violence Survivors Join in Meditation

Forty-three mass shooting survivors gather at the Healing Through Love meditation retreat, the Dalai Lama’s Land Rover is for sale, and Thai worshippers offer bubble tea to the gods. Tricycle looks back at the events of this week in the Buddhist world.

By Karen Jensen and Matthew AbrahamsAug 31, 2019

Survivors of mass shootings and gun violence at the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies in Massachusetts. Photo by Barre Center for Buddhist Studies via Facebook | https://tricy.cl/329OJSj

Nothing is permanent, so everything is precious. Here’s a selection of some happenings—fleeting or otherwise—in the Buddhist world this week. 

Barre Center Holds Special Retreat for Mass Shooting Survivors

The Barre Center for Buddhist Studies in Massachusetts hosted a retreat for survivors and family members of victims of gun violence earlier this month, according to the Jewish Chronicle of Pittsburgh and Buddhistdoor. The three-day Healing Through Love meditation retreat brought together 43 people affected by the October 2018 shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, the February 2018 shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, the 2012 shooting at a theater in Aurora, Colorado, the 2017 shooting at a concert in Las Vegas, five separate shootings in Chicago, and the 1999 shooting in Columbine, Colorado, according to the Jewish Chronicle. The gathering came out of a collaboration between Insight Meditation Society co-founder Sharon Salzberg and Shelly Tygielski, a mindfulness teacher in Florida who has been working families and survivors in Parkland. A group of 12 therapists and meditation instructors oversaw the retreat, which Salzberg said was meant to “offer tools that people might use for greater healing and resilience.” Leigh Stein, whose mother-in-law was killed in the shooting at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue, told the Jewish Chronicle said that the most meaningful part of the retreat was the “powerful connection” she had with the other attendees. “Unfortunately, we are all in the same boat. We have all been affected by gun violence,” she said. “In a world that can make us feel so isolated and misunderstood, connecting with others that ‘get it’ is life-giving.”

The Dalai Lama’s Land Rover For Sale

A Land Rover once owned by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama was scheduled to be auctioned off in Indiana this weekend, according to a listing by automobile auction house RM Sotheby’s. The green 1966 Land Rover Series IIA 88 was expected to sell for $100,000–$150,000 at a Labor Day weekend sale in Auburn. The Dalai Lama acquired the car in 1966, and it was maintained by his frequent driver and brother Tenzin Cheogyal until June 2005, when it was donated to the Dalai Lama Foundation in Palo Alto, California, to help raise funds for Tibetan refugees in the United States, according to the listing. In other words, it’s a great vehicle. 

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