(Editor’s note: This is the start of the first talk of Khandro Rinpoche’s 2012 Annual Retreat at Lotus Garden, which is a continuation of an annual program that Rinpoche has had in one form or another since the mid 1990s. She was starting with helpful remarks for newer dharma students who were there only for the ‘introductory’ 3 day program. As will be seen as the talks went on, while the topics were certainly foundational teachings, it was by no means ‘simplistic’ or ‘beginners only’ material. – LWD/JTR)
Good morning everyone. Nice to see many of you back since Shedra, almost 5 weeks ago and some of you in different places. Welcome back to Lotus Garden on behalf of Jetsunla, myself, the nuns, and lopöns. Lotus Garden is very fortunate to have these people throughout the year, making it possible to practice – Jetsunla, the nuns, our one monk (laughs looking at Lama Roar), lopöns- it has enhanced not only understanding, but have feeling that they are supported. Sangha here through the year has done well with trying to keep continuity of practice. Some of you of course have fall back, but what I have heard, what the lopöns like me to believe in (laughs) is people been working hard.
Some of you are 1st timers. Study group members I consider old timers. Those here for the first time, may whatever time you spend here be fruitful – give yourself some time to reflect on the fortunate circumstance od a precious human birth, but also the human like gives you opportunity to -…. Becomes a resource of happiness for yourself, and can be there for all sentient beings. This should be only motivation with which you live on land and engage in dharma activities, and make it part of your own life.
Before continuing with material, I’d like to mention a few things. Over the past few years, I’ve been joking about the Thursday night 8:30 opening talk. I’ve always found that day is a traveling day. People come to the talk that have a half-pitched tent; new people don’t know which way to go. Newcomers feel like everyone knows what they are doing but me. Actually, no one knows what they are doing including me. (laughter) There is a familiarization. Coming to a new place is exhausting. There are preparations, eating, sleeping in a tent, harsh weather and you turn up at 8:30 PM enthusiastic for the first 10 minutes, and then there is utter exhaustion. (laughter) I thought it was too late, so we usually say that talk is 1 ½ hours or so. I thought it better to arrive, settle, older people get a chance to talk, and new people at least have a chance to set up. There is a modern attitude that if you pay 10 dollars, you want your money’s worth. This is a terrible attitude to have towards dharma. If we had an extra session, it is almost like you would want to be paid overtime. (laughter) Some of you feel like you want to learn as much in short time. It is nice to be enthusiastic, but need to consider the vessel. So, I thought it better this you to let you all get a good night’s sleep, and then Friday morning you would be more awakened, allowing a longer day of discussing and teaching dharma. It was my own hope that I not do a Thursday opening talk. I hoped people would begin the retreat. Some of you only here for weekend, but some for 3 weeks. I hoped you would all begin with prayers, and those on the land would come to the evening practice session Thursday. Unfortunately, this didn’t seem to happen except for some people who got a clue I was here, and were here [in the shrine room for protectors Thursday afternoon].
Prayers are very important. Lots of time, people think listen to a talk is engaging dharma. It is beneficial, of course. But then what are you going to do with what you have listened to – need to bring to your own mind process. The Emphasis of morning and evening session is absolutely important. Those who are new, who don’t know practice, shrine room G is open for you. For those familiar, you need to have a discipline – over the coming course of the Vajrayana week this will be discussed more. Being engaged in practice is important. Reading and reciting in English has been encouraged. But at the same time, learning in tradition Tibetan important. If you don’t want to learn it, on the one hand that is okay. But on the other hand, there is such a thing as being too comfortable. Sometimes, reciting something you don’t understand may be more beneficial. I do want to point out even reading what you understand in not taken into cultivation. Mind related with comfortable, but it must be taken into emulation. Invoke the meaning and living the meaning in Post meditation practice. Sometimes reading in a language you don’t understand… where view is simple, let go. If you can be peaceful…..if you have a capability, it is a [learning] situation. That was idea to start with yesterday’s session. The other point for first timers is there are a few things I encourage you to avoid. Over last number of years at beginning of intensive programs I’ve noticed these. Some of you are familiar; some are very new, so feelings are heightened. Avoid these 5 things for newcomers, especially.
1) You don’t need to know everything. 30, 40 years into dharma, still much to learn. Can never feel comfortable or make full benefit of know-how, protocol, and so forth. Give yourself the flexibility to say “I have a whole lifetime; I don’t need to figure it all out now.” If I were in a situation I didn’t know everything, I would be happy. The problem when you know and don’t do it.
2) Avoid trying to understand everything. There is much to learn: names of teachers, how to sit, what to do, and so on. The seniors will show you, but if you get it wrong, laugh about it. People say “I don’t want to make a mistake.” When is there a time you AREN’T making a mistake? As long as you are in samsara, it is a mistake. (laughter) The moment we do something, it is a mistake. You need to give yourself space to learn. If we were perfect, we wouldn’t be here. Slowly, slowly, give yourself time. Esp. if you don’t know terminology, lists, and so forth. Don’t hesitate to ask. There is a belief that any questions need to be profound. A person who knows, “I don’t know,” starts the journey.
3) Don’t try to do everything. Age wise, practices, background, lineages, there are a difference. Where ever you go, to different dharma centers, be respectful. But don’t try to change yourself. You will only be trying to imitate, which will be killing of happiness. Try to avoid – if you arrive after traveling, eat, sleep, and sit quietly. Many of you are used to living alone. some people like other people, some don’t, which is very sad. I don’t know how you will study Shantideva without liking others. (laughter) Don’t get into stereotype of religion of austerity, penance, blaming self. This in no way to train mind, you need to be inspired. Those days when you’re tired, don’t try to do everything. Listen to how your body feels.
4) Don’t try to have everything. This is common, this “I must have everything.” You won’t have everything. The lopöns, teachers who will be with you, will work with you are to learn dharma and train yourself. A teacher’s prerogative and responsibility is to make sure the training is balanced – discipline, ethical behavior- what is appropriate for you. You will hear sometimes “no you can’t have it.” I encourage you to know “tantrums will not be impressive.” Tantrums are not how a practitioner should be. Neither will flattery help. What will get you far is kindness. There are materials that won’t be given to you. If someone is unable to help. I always change places. I’m usually not in one place any more than 3-4 days, so I am thinking, “I am not married to these people, I don’t live with these people. “
5) For the old timers, you know by now not to do these [above 4]. For you, avoid having to catch up with everything overnight. Especially those of you with a careless attitude, you have to catch up overnight. Try to pace it, thinking that talking enough will help. As much as possible, slow down physical pace. Also, don’t go into places not required, particularly the kitchen. It is as you say “off limits.” Let the cooks do their thing. The same for personal quarters. Don’t gather over there. Use the open space and find quiet place to sit. Half of the problems will not be there if there is no speech, silence where possible. Particularly avoid harsh speech. Some of the smart remarks you like to make don’t impress anyone. It’s better to avoid displaying ones attitude and conduct in that way.