Dear Gen-la Dekyong and Educational Council, March 27, 2013
I hope this letter finds you in good health and the Kadam dharma, protected by Dorje Shugden, flourishing generally throughout the NKT. I am writing you, on behalf of all living beings, to explain the general dharma circumstances of newer people at Vajrarupini Buddhist Center, San Diego, in hope that you may make the appropriate changes that will allow the Kadam dharma to flourish in San Diego and throughout the world. I am beginning with a little history of how my daughter and I came to this dharma, how wonderful and meaningful to behold it was to study with Gen Atisha, and the subsequent issues I have faced, as a newer person with no HYT vows, with people openly discussing the Dalai Lama, discouraging Shugden practice, and also having many odd choices for teachers and coordinators in VBC, all since Atisha’s departure. My inclusion of the history at the beginning is simply to help you understand from what perspective I am viewing things, and why it might seem to newer people like me, that the NKT might well be attempting to retire Dorje Shugden as the Dharma Protector.
I came to Vajrarupini Buddhist Center in late spring of 2009, when my daughter was four and ½ months old, hoping to find her spiritual lineage; I had been a Kagyu and Nyingma for the previous 9 years; neither the side of the Kagyus I was with or the subset of the Nyingmas I practiced with, seemed anti-Shugden in any way; the Nyingmas I was with actually were Penor Rinpoche’s Nyingmas, and if you recall, Penor Rinpoche allowed recently expelled Shugden monks into his monastery to get supplies after the 2008 ban on Shugden practice. I had had a dream which indicated to me that my daughter was not a Kagyu and another dream where Guru Rinpoche told me “take the baby to a Buddhist temple.” I asked him if the New Kadampas would be okay, having seen the website for VBC on the internet in the waking state. At that point (in the dreaming state) Buddha Avalokiteshvara replied “the New Kadampas will be just fine.”
We came there the day after a Je Tsongkapa empowerment; my daughter was small and we were living in a homeless shelter, so I did not have funds to pay the 65 dollars at the door for the empowerment; nor did I think it wise to try to bring a breastfeeding infant to an empowerment as I was afraid she would start making noises. I immediately felt a deep trust for Gen Atisha, and mentioned to him, after prayers for world peace, that I was hoping to get the baby blessed at a Buddhist temple. Kristen, my daughter, was blessed a few weeks later. The first or second time we came, and we only came to imprint, as I felt she was too young and baby-noisy for anything else, I asked Atisha who the Buddha on the wall was, indicating with my hand at Dorje Shugden; when he told me it was Dorje Shugden I immediately replied for him not to worry, I already knew about the stuff with Dorje Shugden (meaning that the Dalai Lama had banned the practice). We soon started to come to puja, and then also started to come to the Kids and Families class. A few months after that, I joined the FP which was studying Meaningful to Behold. We were still in a homeless shelter, and came by video link for awhile, but when my daughter started walking, I felt her toddling around was disturbing people in the gompa, so I switched to correspondence, having no access to childcare on Sundays, the day of the class. Completing the FP by correspondence proved too difficult, due to the sound often not working on the recordings and also being in one room at a homeless shelter room with an infant. We were still able to attend puja regularly, and sometimes attended Kids and Families.
When we moved into a studio a year or so later, a new FP started on Eight Steps, which I joined; we had a small class of about 8 people. A few months into the class, Atisha and (Name Deleted), who was our EPC at the time, had a meeting in the community room where they explained about the Shugden ban, and the 2008 protests. One of the members of the class, who hasn’t been back to VBC in awhile, and whose name was (Name Deleted), said “Okay guys! Let’s use this Shugden practice to hurt people! Isn’t that what it’s for?” I told him that I knew he must be joking, but really it’s very important to have a really good motivation when doing the Shugden or any other Buddhist practice. During this meeting, Atisha gave a little history and mentioned the book A Great Deception. When the subject of the 16th Karmapa came up, he mentioned to the class that my (the author of this paper) first lama had been the 17th Karmapa.
A woman from the class, whose name was (Name Deleted), and who seemed to want to befriend me, drove me home that night, and started asking me if I had known all that stuff about the Dalai Lama. I replied that I knew that there was a ban, but had been homeless at the time of the WSS Protests so hadn’t realized that there had been protests. (Name Deleted) asked me if I’d read anything by the Dalai Lama, to which I replied yes, years ago and had even been to one of his teachings in New Delhi in 2001. She mentioned that she had read some Dalai Lama books and was very positive about them; she also seemed to want to talk about the ban and whether we should be doing this practice if the Dalai Lama didn’t like it. I had great sympathy for how she might feel and said so; I explained that when I first became Buddhist I was up against the fact that the Dalai Lama did not recognize the Karmapa whose school I was in; I explained it was very hard to make sense of that for a new person, and that she should examine the teachings and decide for herself; I also explained that I wasn’t going to go through talking about all of this stuff again; I had already made peace with the idea that the Dalai Lama didn’t know a Karmapa when he saw one, so how would he know a Dharma Protector? Again, I told her to decide for herself.
This woman, (Name Deleted), seemed to want to be friends, and also had a daughter my child’s age; we got together a handful of times, but (Name Deleted) kept discouraging me from going to VBC; when I suggested we swap babysitting so I could get in some volunteer or meditation time at VBC and she could either do likewise or run errands, (Name Deleted) kept encouraging me to “go anywhere but VBC. Get some air. Go to a park, a coffee shop.” I told her I went to parks and coffee shops all the time, but that I really love sitting in the gompa and meditating, which is obviously problematic with a two year old. While (Name Deleted) and I did exchange babysitting a few times, I noticed that she generally cancelled, and I gave up on that working. During the few times we talked, (Name Deleted)was very dubious about Geshe Kelsang and very pro other lineages. She also mentioned that she had never once attempted to come to puja, despite our having a puja requirement for most of the time we studied FP with Atisha. (Name Deleted) had been to 2 or 3 sessions of the Kid’s and Families class between the time Atisha taught and Amy taught; at one point she brought a 6 year old niece who informed my child and (Name Deleted) child, both age 2, that ‘not all the Buddhas in the bookstore are really Buddhas.” At the time, I really had no idea what the little girl meant, though now I suspect that her aunt might have been trying to protect her from our Dharma Protector.
After Atisha left, things at VBC took an odd turn, I’m afraid, and for the worse. We did have the excellent opportunity to receive teachings from Gen Rigpa, whom I’d had a few empowerments with already. However, as mentioned in previous letters, Amy Peng had some rather unusual choices for teachers; (Name Deleted), who had not been to any Shugden puja and who had also been encouraging me personally not to go to VBC, suddenly started teaching a lunchtime meditation course. (Name Deleted) also started attending a minimal amount of Heart Jewel at that time. At the same time, Gregg Lane immediately told me he wanted to change the format of the Kid’s class to be “more like Sunday school.” I protested that a lot of people are turned off by Sunday School; Gregg assured me that he intended to continue with ‘only Geshe Kelsang books’ but then immediately read a zen book to the Kid’s and Families class when he took the podium. In a previous email I mentioned the ‘happy face at the heart meditation’ that Amy Peng and another teacher, whose name is (Name Deleted) taught. (Name Deleted), who is a very sweet human being whom I greatly like, often talks about how she dislikes puja and cannot really make herself believe in past lives. Gregg, after having obviously changed his mind rapidly about staying with the Geshe Kelsang books in the Kid’s class, also openly spoke during Amy and Chokyi’s tenure about how he is finding much more peace now that he does a sitting meditation for 30 minutes every morning to calm his mind. He waives his hand and rolls his eyes if puja is mentioned. During the summer that Amy was teaching the Kid’s class, as mentioned previously, Amy said that Dorje Shugden might not always be the Dharma Protector in the NKT. I found that upsetting, but I didn’t know how to convince the NKT to stay with the practice.
From the transition from Atisha to Amy to Chokyi I have also noticed a lot more people openly bringing up the Dalai Lama in class; Amy’s discussion about Dorje Shugden’s presumed (incorrectly in my case) retirement was in response to a question posed by a woman named (name deleted) and her husband about whether Shugden people were violent; I can’t remember everything they said, but I know the Dalai Lama’s name came up. (Name deleted), one of the Kid’s teachers, seemed surprised that I didn’t really like the Dalai Lama; I assured her my differences with him stemmed originally from his poor choice of meddling in the Karmapa recognition and choosing the Chinese boy to boot. (Name Deleted), having been at least a part-time Geshe-la student for a number of years, invited me to her house and showed me a book by Pema Chodron that she said she preferred to Meaningful to Behold for Shantideva’s commentary. She was surprised that I had read this book a few years before coming to the NKT, and also seemed surprised that I found the Geshe-la one more in depth and appropriate for my level of study. Later, she and I and her partner had dinner in a café, and she invited me to go to the Thich Nhat Hanh temple; I remember I said yes (meaning I’d be happy to visit and see what their Buddhas look like) but we never got around to it. VBC remains the only Buddhist temple in San Diego I or my daughter has ever attended. I had one more invite to “leave VBC, and never come back here. Come to another Buddhist temple with me that has no doctrine” from a woman named (Name Deleted), a previous VBC resident who drove me to Atisha’s farewell party.
After Chokyi arrived, as mentioned in other emails, we had a continuum of some of these same people, picked under ‘farewell to Shugden’ Amy Peng, for teaching classes. Gregg Lane, who did not keep to the heart commitment (and also lied to me) by switching from Geshe Kelsang’s books to one from a Zen teacher, continued to teach half day workshops. (Name Deleted), the woman who was very pro Dalai Lama and hadn’t attended Shugden puja before starting to teach when Amy arrived, was selected as the Kids’ class assistant. Oddly, neither Gregg and his kids nor she and her kid had a regular attendance history at the Kid’s class; my daughter and I had started attending almost weekly during the 6 months Amy was there, but I only saw Gregg when he taught. (Name Deleted) is similar, in having attended about 2 or 3 times, when the class was weekly, but immediately, upon the commencement of the class under Chokyi, moving in to be the assistant who sometimes teaches the class in the absence of the teacher. It does seem odd for people who discourage our practices and talk to people against our lineage to want to teach in it.
Concerning issues that new people may face, here are also problems of in the GP classes; during GP discussion sometimes the conversation is rerouted to something the Dalai Lama taught, or the Dalai Lama is mentioned by name, by some of these new people that we suddenly have. I present this information to you to let you know what conditions people are experiencing, and also to bring the following point to your attention. Gen-la, I have never been to one of your teachings or empowerments, and I do not know you except by reputation; you and other powers that be, took a 100 percent perfect qualified Kadampa teacher away from VBC (Gen Atisha), and gave us Amy Peng, who despite being a nice person, did not seem to have any intention of keeping the NKT tradition alive; we’ll teach tao, we’ll find a new dharma protector. Then you sent us Chokyi, who while sweet when I don’t write the lineage or mention that I am being bombarded by Dalai Lama people (those two things she has ordered me not to do), is allowing these same anti-Shugden- pro- Dalai Lama –or- anything- as- long -as -it’s- not- Geshe- Kelsang-or Dorje Shugden- people to teach. Her new EPC and Gregg Lane seem to be friends; as with many of his other comrades, he shakes his head slightly at her to get her to change subjects when she is talking, I presume so she doesn’t say the wrong thing.
I need you to understand that I was starting to seriously wonder whether you, Gen-la, liked Dorje Shugden or whether you were going to switch us off to someone else as soon as Geshe-la changes bodies. It is understandable that I or other newer people might wonder that, as you, and perhaps the educational council, have sent us two resident teachers in a row that are appointing people that not only do not keep our heart commitments, but also act directly against Dorje Shugden and his heart commitment. While I understand that some of the evidence I am presenting here happened in a car or some other location where we have no witnesses, some of it has been happening even from the podium. As I told Chokyi long ago, we generally look for positive evidence that people have a commitment to our lineage and have the qualities of a dharma instructor before they teach, rather than assuming that they must have the proper commitments and qualities by virtue of having walked through our door.
After having the Dorje Shugden empowerment from Gen Jampa, in which he explained how to keep the heart commitment, and having realized from taking it with him that you seem also to hold it, I am no longer as worried that you wanted to change our lineage at VBC. With that in mind, I will ask again, for the sake of all living beings, that we could please examine the history of these teachers that have been appointed since Amy Peng; some of the board of directors sneers at our pujas as well, and 2 out of 3 current managers have little to no history of tsog puja attendance at VBC. I really think it would be wise to investigate the changes, as mentioned in other letters, since Atisha left.
Please, for the sake of all living beings, to insure that qualified teachers transmit Je Tsongkapa’s instructions purely, and also so that we can assure the people teaching are actually with our lineage and wish to remain with it, may we please increase our teaching standards in the NKT. Concerning the Special Teacher Training Program, while the 6 months intensive course sounds beneficial, I do not think two years practicing is long enough for a resident teacher prior to the course. I will also tell you that two years is not hard to fake, if the person thinks we are degenerate spirit worshippers. We also need better teachers across the board, so that we don’t easily allow undue influence by outside lineages; if they all have to study and practice longer to teach, there will be less of them that would have the time or opportunity to interfere with our lineage.
I thank you sincerely for your time; I hope you will discuss teaching standards with Geshe-la and improve them so that we may maintain the purity of our lineage. If we ever have the merit in San Diego, please send Atisha back our way to teach. I offer mandalas and do Vajrasattva for to gain merit and remove obstacles for Shugden people and all sentient beings.