October 20, 2012
Dear Gen-la Dekyong and Gen Jampa,
I am writing to express some concerns I have regarding the purity of the Kadam dharma within the NKT, and Vajrarupini Buddhist Center, in San Diego, California in particular. I have been a student at Vajrarupini for 3 and ½ years, and was a practicing Buddhist for 9 years prior to coming here.
First of all, I would like to say that I really loved learning both from Gen Atisha and Gen Rigpa. To me, they both seem like Je Tsongkapa himself giving teachings. I am sorry that Atisha was blamed for the Center not thriving; I would consider that a merit issue of myself and other sangha members that he left. Our AD at the time he was here was difficult to communicate with, but very inspiring for the practice of removing obstacles.
I am having a specific issue with our sangha right now, which I feel might be helped by increasing our teaching standards for people who are teaching day courses, lunchtime meditations, Kids classes, and branch classes. Atisha was completely qualified, but due to financial concerns, which were more likely due to confusion on the part of the AD, was asked to leave. I don’t think that is a good karma for our Sangha to have created, and I have been doing Vajrasattva and mandalas to purify losing qualified teachers for myself and beings generally.
Concerning qualified teachers, I understand that empowerments and FP transmissions might be something that only some RTs can do. That is quite reasonable, but I am concerned that we still need a certain degree of qualification to teach and substitute teach in GP classes. I have been told by various teachers, including Chokyi and even Rigpa, that Geshe-la says “all we need when we teach is a good heart.” While I do not dispute that Geshe-la perhaps said that, I think of course that we should try to determine what he actually meant by it. (In fact, perhaps you could ask him, after reading this, to explain what he meant?)
Of course, if we have the ultimate good heart of bodhichitta and are a full Buddha then we would have no problem teaching dharma. After all full Buddhas are completely compassionate and omniscient, so their teachings would be unsurpassed. If, however, we have an ordinary good heart with some bodhichitta intention, that is helpful, but what if we are new, and have not received many dharma teachings? What if the teacher holds wrong views? I had a very confusing conversation with one of teachers (after Atisha left) about karma; she mentioned subsequently that she doesn’t believe with conviction that we have past lives; obviously, this would have an effect on her understanding of karma.
In addition to a good heart, wisdom, knowledge of dharma and not holding wrong views, I also feel in this tradition that someone who teaches a class should hold to the heart commitment to only teach Je Tsongkapa’s doctrine. Some people in our Sangha go to other Centers as well, and on at least one occasion an HYT of approximately 15 years in Geshe-la’s school decided to read a Zen book to the kids and families’ class (this was while Amy was here); he still teaches day
courses here, but apparently doesn’t have the heart commitment to teach Je Tsongkapa’s doctrine. I have no problem with other transmissions of Buddhism, but the Buddhas did teach the different transmissions to help beings with particular karma get to enlightenment in the way that is appropriate to each being. I come to this Center specifically to get the Kadampa transmissions. I think my daughter is very Kadampa, and I actually require Dorje Shugden as one of my main spiritual guides.
Speaking of Dorje Shugden, I have to say I would really like to have teachers and staff who take him as their dharma protector, since this is really the only place people with Shugden karma can openly practice. Having a TTP requirement for teaching GP classes might take care of some of these issues; but only if the people are keeping their commitments. Southern Californians are really notorious about not understanding how to keep a commitment, so they might need a little encouragement.
I am in no way suggesting that I have all the answers or how you should do your job. I am rather making a heartfelt request that we formulate some teaching standards that would ensure that we get taught Kadam dharma. I personally have a preference for fewer classes, if necessary, but taught by more qualified people. The current philosophy that ‘all we need is a good heart to teach’ and ‘everyone is welcome’ seems to be interpreted by Chokyi as ‘anyone who walks through the door can teach dharma’. (After all, all beings ultimately have a good heart). I assume, because you appointed her, that she is doing what I call ‘a teaching in reverse’ by saying that; that is using reverse psychology to get us to argue with her. Should everyone who wants to teach dharma be innocent until proven guilty of not being able to teach dharma?
Please help us keep Dorje Shugden in our lineage. I will not stay here without him, though a good question is, where would I go? I am sure he has this in hand but we could still use some help over here.
I appreciate your time in reading this. I pray that all beings will benefit and the essence of the Kadam dharma will flourish forevermore.