Non-secular and secular compassion

On the eve of the completion of several major events at our Buddhist meditation center in Big Indian NY, I reflect on the ways in which the center will serve those connected with it. Our recent activity choices were to host my teachers, the Venerable Bhakha Tulku Rinpoche, and H.E. Tulku Namgyal Dawa Rinpoche in order to bless our newly acquired land. We added three ceremonies to the main activity, namely, a Naga Puja, a launching of aspirational floating lanterns onto our center’s pond and a performance of the Ati Dances of Gesar of Ling designed to cause liberation upon sight.

The pure Vajrayana as we have come to know it, is an unerring path to enlightenment for those wishing to remove themselves from the unending sufferings within cyclic confused existence. But if one really examines the number of people who would engage the Vajrayana in such pure terms, there would be very few practitioners even in the monasteries, let alone households. In fact, it is not impossible that you would find more sincere renunciates in households than in monasteries but that is another topic.

The Vajrayana has, as one of its unique foundations, the understanding that samsara and nirvana are not really separate things. Within the context of the vehicle one must embrace all the elements of life fully and not simply use external antidotes to tame one’s own inner turmoil. Vajrayana practitioners can therefore be found working 9-5 jobs, running households, or in any walk of life whatsoever.

We know that people only really act in their own perceived best interest. This is no different for Vajrayana practitioners. Moreover, since one of the central features of Vajrayana Buddhism is compassion, it is of no surprise that Vajrayana texts are filled with methods, ceremonies and sciences that benefit ordinary beings within samsara who wish for circumstances to be one way rather than another. Generally, beings wish to be free from illness rather than seeing it as a purifying or favorable condition for example. Beings prefer to have good food on time and long stable relations with people who make them happy, and would like to decrease unfavorable relations.

The momentum of our main events helped us get down to our real focus which is meditation retreat. If all goes well, our center will always focus on retreat and teachings but also provide opportunities for the general public to connect with Dharma. Which brings me to our most recent event which was to conduct a wedding at the center. I was requested by Ivan and Ivana, to design a wedding for the couple and also officiate for the same. In fact, there is not really any wedding ceremony that I have found in any Vajrayana text. But this didn’t stop us since the main provisions one needs for a happy married life are all found within the elements of Buddhist view, meditation and action. We must accumulate merit and wisdom, and practice the six perfections, and above all, learn to serve others selflessly. We must learn to compromise and be content with what we have and learn how to simmer down our emotional reactivity and take responsibility for our own states of mind rather than to blame those around us. So a marriage may well be a most fertile ground for the path of enlightenment.

The texts which I felt were going to be the most practical to demarcate the commitment the couple wished to engender and to seal in the blessings was as follows:

  1. Tashi Tsegpa to assure auspiciousness

  2. Riwo sang chod to purify past negative causes and conditions

  3. Urgyen Khandro Norlha to draw down a fertile shower of good fortunate and provisions and finally

  4. Prayers to dedicate of all the activities and merit to the enlightenment and good fortune of all beings.

It must be mentioned that although the couple was connected to Buddhism and the bride to the place itself, that most of those attending were not actually Buddhist. Regardless, the reports of the experiences people had on this day were extremely positive and all who attended felt deeply inspired. Although at some points I felt a bit odd using these sadhanas for this purpose, I felt that based on the pure motivation to benefit others, there could be no deep flaw. I pray that this kind of activity and motivation become a cause for people to connect with the Dharma in this and future lives.

This was written by a man who wears a white dress and tries not to stain it with his own lack of mindfulness.