On January 10th, 2020, I flew from Boulder, Colorado to Hilo, Hawaii to study under Tulku Yeshi Rinpoche, Tibetian Buddhist Lama. I ended up having the honor of spending four days straight with him, staying with the same hosts, attending his teachings, and driving him around the Big Island.
I met Rinpoche in early December of 2019. I have known him a little over a month. Since moving to Boulder in July of 2019, I formed a relationship with one of Rinpoche’s long time students. This man, Rien, brought me to Seattle to meet Rinpoche. We spent a little time together over the course of two days, and I could immediately feel his great compassion and wisdom. Rien suggested I travel to Hawaii for these teachings about two weeks prior to the start of them. We reached out to Rinpoche, and he agreed that I should come and stay with our sweet hosts, Kristina and Andy. I bought my plane ticket that day.
Previous travel plans meant that I would miss the first two days of the teachings, which included Tara Transmission and Practice, Bodhisattva Practices, and Meditation on the Five Elements.
I arrived late Friday, the second day of teachings, to many smiling faces and hot Thai soup. After dinner, I took Rinpoche back to our hosts’ home.
On Saturday we set out for the center in Hilo for a full day of teachings. Rinpoche talked about the “shortcut to Buddhahood” – based in compassion for other beings. After a vegetarian potluck lunch with the Sangha, he gave a talk on the second edition of his book, “Handbook for Half Buddhas.” The sangha received these talks well and seemed thankful to have a guide to daily practices. I had already read the book, so I was thankful to hear Rinpoche discuss each practice. After the teachings, we drove to Kona to the lovely home of our next hosts, Trish and Russ.
On Sunday we headed to the beautiful Paleaku Peace Gardens for that day’s teachings. Rinpoche had two discussions that day: “Between Samsara and Nirvana” and “Love Between Humans and Animals.” Both conversations were well received by the attending students. I had a soft spot for the talk on loving animals as a long time vegan and environmentalist. The talk stirred up quite a conversation. I believe it planted seeds of compassion for our brother and sister sentient beings on this planet in many hearts of those attending. I felt inspired by Rinpoche’s deep dedication and love for the animals through his speech. I saw that love for the animals and earth many times throughout our four days together – towards our host’s dogs and cats, the ducks he fed and blessed, the hawaiian birds, the crashing waves on the lava formed cliffs, at Rainbow Falls, for the magnificent banyan trees, even for a cockroach that had made its way inside. Rinpoche has compassion for the earth and all living beings. After the teachings, we made our way to the south to head back to Hilo. For me, the long drives with Rinpoche were blessings. I enjoyed hearing the stories of his childhood, his family, his education and teachers, and his points of view on life.
On Monday, Rinpoche taught on what happens to our consciousness after we die and gave the Medicine Buddha Empowerment. I could feel that the empowerment was special to many of the attending Sangha. Our host, Kristina, is a powerful healer who feels a deep connection to Medicine Buddha. I could see how thankful and present she was during the empowerment, and after, she was radiant with joy and thankfulness. I could feel the healing energy in myself, and all around the room during the practice. Rinpoche was leaving the next day, so I asked him if he wanted to visit Rainbow Falls that evening. This would be his first trip into the beautiful nature of the island since his arrival. He prayed at the falls, which were overflowing with water from weeks of heavy rains. Above the falls is a massive Banyan Tree that is bursting with the wisdom and stillness of Mother Earth. It was quiet around the tree. We spent some time there in awe of the great tree. Rinpoche even took a moment to meditate in an opening of the branches.
Our last day of teachings, Tuesday, concluded with the Chöd Empowerment and Ngöndro Practice at a local Sangha member’s home. We wrapped up in the afternoon with a potluck lunch. The sangha gave thanks to Rinpoche for his time spent on the island sharing the Dharma. As we went to the car to leave we saw some baby ducks had gathered near our car. Rinpoche fed and blessed the sweet creatures. Witnessing simple moments like these were the most inspiring to me. He has such kindness and patience toward all beings.
Before going to the airport, we visited the ocean with our hosts, Kristina and Andy. Rinpoche prayed and mediated for a moment in front of the crashing waves on the lava cliff. He turned around after a few moments, laughing, completely drenched by the spray of a massive wave.
I drove him to the airport to catch his flight home to Seattle. I expressed how thankful I was to have been able to have the time with him. He, too, expressed his gratitude for having the blessings of being on this Island, having the people who supported his trip, and being able to share the Dharma.
Rinpoche is radiant with love, compassion, thankfulness, and joy for life. He is patient with people. He loves animals and the earth. He is wise. He is gracious. He is humorous. He is dedicated to his path and the Dharma. He embodies these truths, and it is clear through his teachings that he wants his students to have the same radiant and compassionate nature.