by Matthew Walsh, Yeshi Namkha Rangdröl
Tulku Yeshi Rinpoche traveled to Kansas City, Friday March 9, to give teachings on Chӧd (Severance) practice and the Machik Labdrӧn empowerment to the sangha at the Rime Buddhist Center & Institute of Tibetan Studies.
Rinpoche first explained that the Buddha primarily taught two truths: compassion and wisdom. Both of these truths are contained within Chӧd practice. To explain, Rinpoche emphasized Buddhist teachings on impermanence. He said that ego attachment leads to fear, but this comes from a failure to recognize the truth, that, 100 percent, you will lose everyone and everything when you or your loved ones die. We cannot escape this truth. This is not, however, an occasion for despair, but for joy and compassion. Since our time as a human in this life is temporary, and since the time of our loved ones is temporary, we should take this precious opportunity to enjoy the time we have with our loved ones. Why should we get wrapped up in our petty, temporary concerns? We should enjoy the time we have!
This not only applies to those we are close to in this lifetime. If we recognize how we’re related through our countless lives to all sentient beings—that we’ve been mother, father, sister, brother, daughter, son, to all sentient beings and likewise have they been to us—we can more easily be compassionate to all. This idea highlights what Rinpoche refered to as the first religion, the universal religion, that of Compassion. We can see this natural religion even with animals. We experience this as we’ve received compassionate care from our mothers even before being taught any formal religion or belief.
Recognizing our connection to all sentient beings, we come to realize the debt that we owe to all, either for the compassion that all have shown to us as mothers in previous lives, or for the wrongs that we have visited upon all beings while we were close to them throughout our previous lives. This serves as the inspiration for our practice of Chӧd. Through Chӧd, we generously and joyfully offer ourselves—our very bodies—as food and payment to our debtors thereby satisfying our karmic debts. Such compassionate, joyful generosity was a common thread running throughout the weekend’s teachings.
Saturday, Rinpoche gave the Machik Labdrӧn empowerment and gave the transmission for the Short, Medium, and Long Chӧd Sadhanas that he had composed, which combine and synthesize the Machik and Troma Nagmo Chӧd practices. He also demonstrated the use of the Chӧd drum and sang the beautiful melodies used for chanting the sadhanas.
Rinpoche not only gave teachings on Chӧd, but spent time Saturday socializing with the local sangha with a Thai food lunch and vegetarian pizza party dinner. They were great opportunities to relax and interact with the sangha. Sangha members had many earnest and not-so-earnest conversations.
He then gave the Dharma Talk for the Rime’s Sunday service, March 11. He spoke about recognizing and respecting all sentient beings as your mother, again calling to mind our karmic connection through past lives with all beings. Rinpoche encouraged everyone in attendance to become half-vegetarian. Rinpoche encouraged such steps in that direction, recognizing the difficulty some may have becoming fully vegetarian.
Sunday evening, after sharing some time and advice with a few of the sangha’s ngakmas and ngakpas and performing a smoke puja, Rinpoche concluded his trip to Kansas City.