The Importance of Inter-Centre Harmony

30 April 2009 - 11:39pm Comments Off

In order to make the holy Dharma grow we need to have more inter-centre (in our respective countries) communications, support and harmony. For example if one centre is having a dinner, garage sale, or event, another centre’s representative should offer donations, congratulations, and emotional support. When another centre is doing well, we must all rejoice and be happy because we are all in the same family, and if other members or other centres have contributed to the growth of our centres, we should mention, rejoice and make sure always that the members in our centre are informed now and in the future so that it encourages inter-centre support in the future. It is not necessary that we attend ceremonies of other centres when their teachers arrive as we have our own teachers, commitments and practice. But we should definitely NEVER NEVER criticise, infer, create gossip, or slander the other centre’s teachers, practice, lineage or activities. It is said in the holy Lam Rim composed by the King of Dharma Manjunatha Tsongkhapa that if we criticise any form of dharma, the negative karma accumulated is equivalent to killing 1,000 Buddhas. Just think of the karma of killing just an insect, which we as Buddhists try to be aware and not do so – imagine killing a Buddha. Of course killing a Buddha is not possible but it is a hypothetical example of the gravity of that kind of action. If we create schismatic talk and we are successful in preventing others from going to their teachers, or create doubt in their mind regarding their teachers, stop them from going to a certain centre, or cause them to abandon their teacher and practice how can we gain any attainments???? The negative karma is very strong and multiplies daily. If we are the cause for others to lose faith in their teacher and practice, then how can our own faith (the cause of all attainments in the Tantras) increase, be stable in our own teachers? If our samaya (commitment and faith) is not stable in our own teacher then how can any understanding, attainments, and spiritual growth manifest in our mind stream??? We should think about that point carefully. Those who speak ill of our/others’ teachers, practice and lineage, be they high monks, lamas, or ordinary students, we must be aware of them and let it pass into one ear and then out the other. Have compassion for that person, do not engage or ask any more questions and smile and let it go. If others comment that there is something wrong with our teachers and practice that we have already forged a samaya with, then what is not to say they can be wrong, be they high-ranking monks or simple students? When does it stop?? Either all the gurus are to be respected and the bond between them and their students held sacred or we must be a living Buddha to criticise, judge and talk negatively, and check who is “genuine” and not “genuine”. Who in true Buddhistic practice can run around proclaiming they are a living Buddha? People who are incredible examples of selflessness such as Mother Teresa proclaims herself to be a simple nun or a pencil in God’s hand. The Spiritual Head of Tibetan Buddhism always says that he is just a simple Buddhist monk although more than fourteen million Buddhists of the Tibetan Tradition believe him to be Avalokiteshvara. So once we are able to criticise another practice, teacher, tradition, deity, centre, temple, church, student, etc. then we leave ourselves open for criticism and schism, because in the end who is right and who is wrong?? When we criticise another tradition/practice/teacher it also shows that we are highly insecure about what we are doing so we need more people doing what we are doing to feel “right”. Or to give us security, when only study, reading, practice, holding vows and attending dharma talks to get knowledge is what will really give us security in our practice based on sound logic.

A person like that never criticises others but rejoices, because when you reach a higher state of practice and knowledge, you see the oneness/sameness of the goal – only method differs - and you rejoice at the skilfulness of the masters in offering diversity to differing sentient beings. Otherwise one would create the karma of being separated from one’s own teacher and teachings, unable to practice and gain results, and anger and fear increase in the mind and great insecurities arise due to resultant karma of schismatic actions of speech and mind. People who have taken refuge or accepted another to be their teacher or practice, we must encourage them towards what they have already committed themselves to.

If we separate another person from their teacher, causing them to abandon the teacher-student samaya and bring them to our teacher/practice, according to the 50 Verses of Guru Devotion, that person and us would never gain any attainments. We may be able to negatively influence them in the beginning, but as they gain more and more knowledge in the dharma, our negative words will have less and less of a hold on the other person as they study the dharma more. In fact, the person might lose confidence in us and, in the worst case, forsake their refuge which is bad for them and extremely detrimental to ourselves. Any teacher, traditions, student and writings that castigate, defame or criticise other teachers, traditions and students we must be wary of as they can prove extremely detrimental to our own spiritual growth. People who like to carry tales from one centre to another centre or criticise other teachers/centres create the most detriment to the growth of the Buddha dharma.

Every Buddhist lineage, tradition and teacher has the right to exist, form and benefit others. We don’t need any councils, groups, or authority to look over that. If these authoritarian groups exist, they must consist of very learned students, practiced, have their three doors subdued, unbiased and be non-denominationally based. If so, these groups can cause great detriment to the growth of Buddhism in their individual societies.

H.E. Tsem Rinpoche has been the direct influence, inspiration and connection for a few dharma centres to open in Singapore and Malaysia. To date, he has influenced or directly inspired six dharma centres in Singapore and Malaysia. Some of the most learned masters/practitioners such H.H. Gaden Tri Rinpoche, H.E. Kyabje Lati Rinpoche, H.E. Kensur Jampa Yeshe Rinpoche, Jangtse Jolenpa Gen Nyima, various Geshes, few other tulkus and monks have visited countries in this region due to Tsem Rinpoche. He has generously donated funds to them, found sponsors and benefactors, offered innumerable statues for their shrines, dharma book for their libraries and has even visited their centres to give teachings to raise the membership of those respective centres. Because Tsem Rinpoche has a perfect command of English, combined with humour, foibles, anecdotes and sharp knowledge of dharma and its practical application to today’s distracted and busy individuals, he appeals to many and promotes a non-denominational attitude. He has many visitors from other faiths who attend his talks or simply visit Rinpoche, and he always encourages them to remain -faithful- to their faiths and to share an understanding with each other to create religious tolerance/acceptance. Whenever there is a charity dinner or function, Rinpoche is the first one to offer donations, buy tickets, send his students and centre members to go and support the centre without bias. He feels that the growth of any centre represents the growth of the general Buddha Dharma. So when we contribute to the growth of another centre, Rinpoche feels we contribute to the growth of dharma as a whole. Rinpoche stresses that he wishes dharma to grow in the world. On a practical basis he says, one teacher, one centre and one lineage would be physically and practically impossible to suit/accommodate everyone and their temperament. So if you have ten centres for example, in the city, then there is a higher chance that more people can come across the dharma in that city as opposed to just having one centre.

Rinpoche often has students of other centres consulting him, asking for divinations, advice, clearing of dharma points, or just to meet Rinpoche. He always encourages them towards their teacher, practice and centre and discourages them to join him unless it’s for general gatherings. He doesn’t not welcome them, but Rinpoche always mentions, what do we want from that person? Do we want them to gain attainments, knowledge, realisations so that their lives can be happy and they can transform to be of benefit to others, or just increase the membership of our own centres for financial gains, profits or simply to look good? If our motivation is the prior, then we should encourage them towards what they have already committed themselves to because once they gain knowledge and realisations, causing a transformation of themselves, it doesn’t matter anymore what tradition they came from, they simply benefit others. Isn’t that Buddha’s intent? If so, that should be our own intent.

Therefore inter-centre harmony is crucial to the growth of the Buddha dharma in today’s world. We should consider if we wish the holy dharma to grow so that it can be of tremendous benefit to the contribution of inner peace which leads to outer peace. If so, then H.E. Tsem Rinpoche of Gaden’s thoughts and advice are very applicable to wherever we live in the world because Buddhism is a renowned world religion and it will only grow. In countries where traditionally Buddhism has not taken root, it is establishing itself by way of centres that turn into temples and eventually into institutions of great learning. Wherever Buddhism thrives, it serves as great addition to the peace and harmony of that city or country due to its stress on non-harm, non-killing and peaceful agenda of cooperative human social interaction. It also stresses very much on peaceful interactions and inter-religious harmony. So it would be very important for the thousands of Dharma centres throughout the world to grow, expand and fulfil their functions as contributors to inner and eventually outer world peace. These thoughts have been penned specifically from the teachings of H.E. Tsem Rinpoche who has kindly adopted Malaysia as his home, but many can access his teachings, thoughts, ideas and broad views by his website.

These are a few thoughts I have penned through listening to the skilful talks of Gaden Tsem Rinpoche.

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