Dear Gomde California Sangha,
I have the pleasure of writing to you after spending an extraordinary few months at our Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling monastery in Boudhanath. During my time in Nepal I was able to meet with Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche to assist Gomde California, as well as witness a glimmer of the activity that issues forth from our main monastery to touch the world. Rinpoche kindly asked that I share with you some photos from the monastery, as well as a few personal insights, so that we might all take joy in the goodness of the community we support and of which we are a part. There is much to say, but I believe it all comes down to acknowledging love and wisdom.
The care that emanates from our monastery to all beings is both direct and indirect; and it is impossible to measure. Though immeasurable, the force of this goodness is undeniable as a felt experience and is visibly present on the faces and in the eyes of those who spend time at Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling. A visit to our monastery will stir the heart of a person, so that he or she cannot help but walk in the world differently. The thousands of people that visit Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling each year return home having contacted an intangible grace that touches their family members, friends, and even the very atmosphere they inhabit. One might call this grace 'unconditional love.'
The source of this grace is the liberating teachings of the Buddha taught at Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling. Therefore it is not surprising to observe that this grace fully suffuses the minds of many people living at our monastery. As Gomde California sangha members, we know what it is to come into contact with someone who is heavy with wisdom. A single person whose mind is free from negative habitual thinking and responds with perfect clarity and love to our pain, is a priceless treasure. To be in a community of humble, careful, and discerning monks and nuns is to encounter such a mind at every turn.
I have found myself riveted by the smallest gestures of our monastics. The sincerity of their study and practice and the selflessness of their service encourages me to involuntarily bow as they pass in a hallway. Now, back in the United States, it is relieving to simply recall that they are at Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling (and increasingly, around the world!), practicing to bring the mind of awakening into all of their encounters. It is said that if a normal piece of wood is placed within a sandalwood forest, in time it cannot help but take on the scent of sandalwood. Indeed to be at Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling is to be bathed in a sandalwood grove.
Trees start as saplings. The young monks at Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling study hard, but they are clearly full of delight. This year I often stood at the edge of the Buddha Hall and looked down into the field before their quarters. Watching them play freely is to remember a relationship to childhood that I rarely see these days. There are no cell phones or screens among the young monks. They recite their prayers, show respect for their teachers, study, and chase each other across the grounds. Their delighted laughter rings off the monastery walls.
Meanwhile, students from all over the world congregate in the freshly-built library and classrooms inside Rangjung Yeshe Institute's new
shedra building. Pursuing Bachelors, Masters, and PhD degrees, they study in an exquisite environment that combines traditional monastic education with western academic curricula of the highest caliber. It is my experience that these students are extremely intelligent and curious. They are studying to bring the authentic teachings of the Buddha to the rest of the world; I cannot help but generate a sense of gratitude and respect for their labors.
Other devoted students at the monastery plan, develop, and carry out social projects and activities that support the minds and bodies of the impoverished and downtrodden. Earthquake relief efforts, medical care for the street dogs of Nepal, and aid for homeless children are just some of the activities supported by the monastery's social work branch,
The drum continuously thumps within the Buddha Hall, where dozens of advanced practitioners fulfill the requests for specific prayers and practices from people around the world, submitted through
. The air itself is heavy with wisdom around the door of the temple. Throughout the year, "great accomplishment"
are performed to clear the obstacles of practitioners and encourage the blossoming of our innate goodness.
Everywhere students are studying, practicing, and serving. Hundreds of people visit Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche's annual seminar each November, and thousands more make personal pilgrimage to Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling throughout the year. All are pursuing the satiating logic and profound energy of the Buddha's teachings. Soon, thousands more will visit a new and breathtaking temple in Lumbini, the birthplace of Shakyamuni Buddha. Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche and his students are building this "Thousand Buddha Temple" so that people from across the world may offer prayers, gather virtue, and become deeply, profoundly inspired. This temple will be a World Heritage Site to be enjoyed by everyone.
Gomde California and the other Gomde centers across the globe are extensions of this activity. I feel that it is important to recognize this; we must draw inspiration and power from fully inhabiting the understanding that we constitute a tributary of a coursing river of virtue. In this light, I want to extend my warmest wishes to all of our Gomde California sangha members this year, and invite our community to become ever closer. May we all delightedly take part in study, practice, and service to bring about minds that are extremely sharp, that have discerned the truth of
shunyata and abide in unconditional love. Gomde California endeavors to perfectly and purely serve the teachers, the monastery, the lineage, our community, and all sentient beings. May we flourish and expand and may each of us take responsibility to represent the goodness of our spiritual home.
With love and care,