12/10/2012 – Ganden Ngamchoe and a Vision for the Future
Ordinarily, I don’t do introductions to Lama La’s dharma talks – they speak for themselves. But this dharma talk is a little different.
I was editing this talk almost exactly a decade after it was given. At the end of each year Lama Jinpa likes to review where we’ve been as a community, and what the vision for the future is, both immediate and long term. Reviewing the notes for this talk struck at the very heart of me, because it so clearly shows the strength and clarity of Lama Jinpa’s vision and his leadership and energetic force that lifts and propels our diverse community to come together and move forward to accomplish it.
Lama la gave this talk in a space we were renting from the wonderful people at the Society of Friends (Quakers) in East Sacramento. He speaks of the Lion’s Roar community’s need for land for a gompa and stupa – a heart space for our local mandala- and what’s necessary to make that manifest.
And now – ten years on – his strong, clear vision has become a reality.
Lama Jinpa often speaks to me of the importance of history, of remembering the past and the narrative of our story as a community. We have to see and appreciate where we came from, where we’ve been to understand and appreciate where we are now, and where to go next. We need a narrative where past and future weave together at each present moment, where our actions and intentions are put into motion and we can see the results over time.
And what extraordinary results can be seen over a decade… Lama Jinpa shares here that in 2012 we’d had an ordination and purchased the Sangha House, and that we had people continuing the practices, especially Kalachakra, recently bestowed by Jhado Rinpoche in 2011 and 2012.
And now, in 2022, what story can we see? In the past ten years we’ve:
-Purchased Do Nga Dargey Temple in East Sacramento, CA in 2015; our very own gompa and community gathering place!
-Sold the Sangha House in 2019 in the interest of securing Do Nga Dargey in perpetuity.
-Had a second ordination in December 2021
-Created spaces for private, individual and group retreats for refuge sangha
– Have been blessed by the wisdom and kindness of so many wonderful visiting Lamas, with dharma teachings, initiations and mandala building
-We have an expanded website, numerous online practices and our own YouTube channel
-We created Kalachakra Press
-Our community continues, ten years on and more, the practices bestowed by our Heart Lineage Teacher Jhado Rinpoche and so many others – and we will never stop.
And these are just the biggest highlights!
I can only really speak for myself, from my own heart, but I feel pretty safe in saying I believe our entire community shares my deep feelings of gratitude and devotion to Lama Jinpa not only for his teachings, but his vision, and for his ability to inspire us, humble us, lift us up and bring us together to accomplish the extraordinary – to create Shambala right here and now, no matter where we are. There’s so much to be done to alleviate the suffering that surrounds us, but with these gifts we’ve been given, it’s clear that together, as a community, we can do so much.
In friendship, and with gratitude and dedication,
-Marie Gillies (Yeshe Dorje) January 2022
December 10, 2012
Commemorating Ganden Ngamchoe with Lama Yeshe Jinpa
Special guest: photographer and documentary producer Janine Maparunga
Lama Jinpa: Good evening, welcome everyone.
I want to begin with a few words about our tradition. Tonight, we’re here together celebrating Ganden Ngamchoe, or Lama Tsong Khapa day, the day we commemorate his parinirvana, his passing away. We’re actually a couple days behind, in the Tibetan calendar, the actual day was on December 8, last Saturday. I thought today was the best time to do our celebration because on these Mondays we already do guru yoga practice and make offerings to our lineage teachers, so it’s really the perfect time to remember Lama Tsong Khapa.
So, this evening I have two things I want to talk about – first we have this wonderful Lama Tsong Khapa practice to do together, and then I’d like to talk about the Lion’s Roar vision.
I think everyone here tonight is familiar with Janine here in front. Somehow she came forward when we were working on the Dalai Lama project. Remind me, how did we meet?
Janine: I had an assignment to make a portrait of you.
Lama Jinpa: That’s right! It looked good but I look different now.
Janine: You’ve lost weight since then. I also took some photos for the Dalai Lama project.
Lama Jinpa: Yes, I have some of those photos. It’s nice; sometimes when we’re doing lots of meetings and planning we don’t always remember who was there so I’m glad to have those photos to jog my memory.
It’s really very important to make dharma friends like Janine, people who have a shared vision with us. Recently I got a holiday card from Kensur Rinpoche, the card had a quote from the Dalai Lama, “Just because someone is on a different path does not mean they are lost.” It’s true. We need to know lots of different kinds of people who have the same view towards peace and community – they don’t have to be Buddhist. What impressed me about Janine was her sense of humor and her ability to just roll with chaos and keep the vision.
After the Dalai Lama project, she had said that she was going to go away to Spain and she did, but then she miraculously reappeared in Sacramento so I asked her to photograph Jhado Rinpoche’s visit.
Janine: Do you remember that I took photos of the monks creating the sand mandala?
Lama Jinpa: Geshe Gendun did the sand mandala. That was quite creative.
Lama Jinpa: Janine even got my wife Sabrina to pose! That isn’t easy. (laughs)
Finding those people with that shared vision and building those relationships takes time, but when we see someone over many situations, we can come to see whether they have same vision, that same view. This is why I like to see people over time, in many different settings. It’s real life.
That is real Mahasiddha style practice – it only works for people who maintain pure view. And it’s difficult practice. The people who have stuck with that every day practice and have seen each other in all modalities and moods, and who keep coming together are doing the real dharma practice. It isn’t easy.
And if we want to present a wider view of our vision to the world, we need images and recordings. Through these images and recordings, by reaching out, we can actually build a world of intimacy and familiarity. People can get to know us; we aren’t strangers any more.
We need both visual images – still and moving – and recorded speech. We need the entire package – when we start making a documentary movie and book, we will have a full spectrum of sharing dharma!
And in that documentary and book, we’ll reflect on real dharma practice.
So in Mahasiddha style we work on all different levels – we’re training for real life.
Sometimes people get upset with things because they want dharma Disneyland, but that isn’t the real practice – real life is messy and unpredictable.
And how can we communicate our vision? It’s very simple – we have to go out into the world. Some of us go to prisons. Some of us do hospice. There are so many things we can do in a world with so much suffering, to share this vision, this view. But you have to go out into the world – you have to engage with other people.
So we need to establish a bigger presence. We need a book. We need a documentary so people see how this is pieced together. People need to see images – almost everyone is visual. We also need recordings.
Large and small, formal and informal; when polarities are held together, that’s the Madhyamaka Middle Way path.
And to demonstrate this truth, we also need to have land. We need property. We need land so people have a specific place where they can come.
As much as I love it here at the Friends’ Meeting Hall, it’s limited. We’re limited in what we can do here.
When we get sacred land, a stupa and a gompa, people will have a different sort of interaction, a different vision. People will be able to see it all in its totality. This is difficult to do in a rented room, because it’s so limited. You don’t see everyday life. You don’t see people doing laundry. You don’t see people walking around. In a real meditation hall, or a monastery, people live there and are taking care of things. So there’s a really different sense or feeling there, because you can see someone in meditation or see someone on the telephone or see someone walking, all in the same place. It’s real life.
You might see someone there like Geshe Tashi, (gestures like Geshe Tashi) you know his movements, his body language. So you think “Who moves their hand that way? Ah, I know.” This doesn’t happen unless you can be around each other. We need these kinds of interactions for the dharma to make sense. Otherwise we’re like stone Buddhas.
And without a movie and a book to communicate that vision, it’s very hard to raise enough money for land. People have to be able to see it so it seems more real, more reachable.
On a practical side, I just came to the realization that if people want copies of those photographs, they should just ask Janine. I think it’s best if Janine has a list of people’s emails and then you can order photos from each gallery. Can you explain what you have?
Janine: I created an online gallery, and each gallery has hundreds of images. Lots of the photos have sangha members in them. Rather than selecting and printing what I thought were the best ones, I thought some people might want images that they’re in. If you want a print, let me know and I’ll print it for you. I’ll send all of you emails with all links. I would like your orders by January 15th at the latest so that I can send one big order all at once. I will include details in the email. This way everyone can see them and everyone can choose the images they want.
And now that I have the mic I would like to share my side of how we met! (laughs) Basically I was working for a local magazine, and for some reason, any religious assignments were given to me. So I covered a yoga retreat, did a story on Franciscan monks and eventually I was sent to make a portrait of Lama Jinpa.
Something about him clicked.
I thought, maybe he’s crazy! (Lama Jinpa laughs) I thought at the very least he’s very interesting. Through this process I got to know him as a person, and I started to think, “Tell me what I can do – how can I help?” He had a vision for Sacramento, what he’s doing here.
Well you know, life happens and I moved away and time passed by. But eventually I moved back to Sacramento after being away for four years. And even though it had been a while I thought, I have to call him. I wanted him to give me an update. How did it go??
Lama Jinpa: And what was happening was Jhado Rinpoche was coming for a visit, and we’d love to document his visit. We needed to document this community, so I said, let’s do this!
Janine: It was brought to my attention that land is needed and a stupa is needed. The more we talked about it I realized that if we didn’t share our vision with Sacramento it may not ever happen. So I thought, how can we convey our vision? We need support. How can we get that? Our world is dominated by images, so photos, a book and film, make sense.
Lama Jinpa: We want to make a nice book about Lion’s Roar and a short documentary film, just 3-4 minutes long, and post it on YouTube.
Janine: I’m so happy to get an insider’s view, even though I’m an outsider.
Question: What’s your own spiritual background?
Janine: I was raised Catholic but around the age of 10 I decided it wasn’t for me. I borrow what I think is good and fits with my ethics. I borrow a lot from Buddhism. I love the idea not to harm anyone else.
Lama Jinpa: This is informal Tsong Khapa practice, (gestures) what we’re doing right now. We are actually doing the Middle Way. We are actually doing interdependence –right now! The formal, ritual practice is us celebrating that we are actually doing it. The yogic practices we recite are highlighting what we are actually doing. This is why photographs and thangkas are so essential – they’re visual reminders of what we’re doing.
What I mean is, we have long formal practice tonight; we also have a tradition of sharing and getting to know the Middle Way together. So this is like a wedding – first the formal ceremony, then everyone gets together and meets, gets to know each other. Afterward we are living together!
By the way, the wedding and living together won’t match up. (laughter) The living together is never like the wedding. It’s like the ideal versus the real world. (laughs)
I’d like to do a short meditation on images; we have some of Janine’s photos here to use as an inspiration, of Rinpoche and the ceremonies.
Meeting Jhado Rinpoche is like meeting Lama Tsong Khapa – it really is. If you wonder what it was like to meet Tsong Khapa, you can think about being near Jhado Rinpoche. And we’ll have many opportunities to practice with him again, to hear his teachings! Rinpoche was excited and amazed by all we have accomplished – we’ve had an ordination. We purchased the Sangha House. We have so many people really committed to doing the practice. We’re really doing it all!
Even Geshi Tashi was like, wow! (laughs)
Janine is going to Italy now, but even when she’s in Italy we’ll be able to do things.
We’re on her wavelength before she becomes famous.
Janine: Or infamous. (Laughter)