News Briefing on Khenpo Sodargye’s European Teaching Series
In the course of a single month, Khenpo traveled to five European countries (eight cities), provided over 21 teachings and engaged in multiple dialogues with leading academic scholars and religious figures.
On November 23, 2017, only two days after the successful conclusion of his U.S. speaking tour and Khenpo’s arrival in Stockholm, Sweden, Khenpo traveled over 200 miles to a prison to deliver a speech to the prisoners on Buddhism’s view of freedom. Khenpo told the prisoners, “Some people have claimed that they would rather die than live without freedom. Actually, freedom without restraint is detrimental. Real freedom is the freedom of one’s own mind. If one’s mind is a slave of affliction, anywhere could be prison.”
The next day in a speech held at Stockholm University, Khenpo revealed what he saw as the primary reason for the increasing popularity of Tibetan Buddhism. Khenpo explained that the reason that Tibetan Buddhism has become so popular in both the East and in the West is because it unites knowledge and action, which has the potential to lead to a solid practice and realization.
In another speech, one that focused on the Heart Sutra, Khenpo discussed the theory of emptiness, and the unity of appearance and emptiness. Due to special dependent origination, he urged everyone in the audience to recite the Mantra of Avalokiteshvara 108 times and the Heart Sutra at least once every day.
While speaking at Lund University on the ways that Buddhism could inspire research into the science of subjective wellbeing, Khenpo provided three suggestions on how, from a Buddhist perspective, one might raise the level of one’s own personal happiness. First is the understanding and realization of the nature of life and death; second, is the cultivation of self-contentment by adhering to a simple lifestyle, and third, is the consistent observation of one’s own mind.
On the very next day after his arrival in Norway, Khenpo discussed current developments in Tibetan Buddhism with professors and PHD students from the University of Oslo, and lectured on the study and practice of Tibetan Buddhism. Approaching the end of his lecture, Khenpo expressed two of his fondest wishes: first, that like a candle that brings brightness and warmth to the world, we should all aspire to dispel the darkness within ourselves and others through the light of love; second, that like heather flowers, which can survive even under the harshest conditions of extreme weather, we should persevere through all adversity with a determined mind, and exert every effort to bring happiness to others.
After giving meditation instructions and exchanging ideas about science at a Taiji Center, Khenpo started two days of Dharma teachings at Karma Tashi Ling Buddhist Center, where he provided the thousand Buddha empowerment and teachings on “Prayer to The Guru to Be Taken Care of”, along with the practice of Avalokiteshvara Sadhana. When explaining the verses of “Prayer to The Guru to Be Taken Care of,” which was composed by H. H. Jigme Phuntsok Rinpoche, Khenpo emphasized that the Buddhist approach to relying on a guru should be valued and preserved without any changes. He also reiterated that the basis and essence of Buddhism is listening, contemplation and meditation.
In addition, while in Norway, Khenpo held conversations with a Christian bishop regarding world peace and with representatives from different Buddhist sects on the establishment of Buddhism in the West.
Though it is not easy to tour around providing Dharma teachings, I sincerely hope that by doing this I can benefit others and shine some light on them, even just a little.
As it had been more than a month since Khenpo left Larung Gar, where he has spent most of the past 30 years, translating various sutras and shastras and teaching the Dharma, the snow of Switzerland reminded him of his home in the mountains of Eastern Tibet.
After a warm welcome by a local Dharma Center, Khenpo provided empowerment and a series of Dharma teachings. During the teaching on guru yoga, Khenpo said that while faith plays a pivotal role in the entirety of Buddhist practice, completion of all preliminary practices is a prerequisite for developing authentic and irreversible faith.
This was followed by a series of public speeches in Zurich, where Khenpo provided teachings on variety of topics including the importance of maintaining Tibetan Culture and Spirituality, Taking Refuge and Bodhicitta, and the Four Noble Truths.
As Spain is known around the world for bullfighting, Khenpo asked to visit a famous bullring in Madrid – the Plaza Las Ventas, where over 25,000 bulls are killed every year, and where some bullfighters have also lost their lives. As there were no fights being held on the day of his visit, Khenpo sat quietly in the arena and recited various mantras to help those who have lost their lives to dwell in peace. On the next day, he tweeted on his Weibo account: “However glamorous the bullring might appear from the outside, it is bloody (on the) inside…. om mani padme hum.”
On December 14, Khenpo delivered a lecture focused on self-compassion at the Complutense University in Madrid. In this lecture, Khenpo first analyzed society’s strong competitive state of mind and the intense desire of modern individuals to become a member of the “elite” class, all of which contribute to the build up of stress. He then stated that we should all relax a little and learn to be more compassionate towards ourselves. He also warned that we should not go to the extremes of either excessive obsession or the complete abandonment of the pursuit of material objects. Ultimate self-compassion is the realization of the non-existence of oneself, which can be achieved only through meditation on the nature of mind.
On December 16, Khenpo gave another speech on meditation in action and delivered a teaching on how to observe and realize the nature of our minds while we engage in our daily activities. Khenpo explained that according to Theravada Buddhism, we are asked to be mindful of the action of meditation itself, while Tibetan Buddhism teaches that at all times, the focus of our attention should be on benefiting all sentient beings, not on the action of walking, resting, sitting or sleeping.
Israel was the last stop on Khenpo’s overseas Dharma teaching tour. Despite the drastically increasing political tension in Jerusalem in December 2017, Khenpo insisted on completing the tour as scheduled, with the understanding that a riot, or even war, could break out any time. Khenpo felt that it was important during his stay in Israel to benefit as many beings as possible, especially those who are in the midst of a turbulent situation.
On December 18, 2017, Khenpo delivered a speech on reincarnation and the law of cause and effect at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Khenpo explained that karmic law is not just an extremely complicated religious concept that entails six causes, four conditions and five results, it is a universal TRUTH. Khenpo further explained that the law of cause and effect is closely related to reincarnation, and that his root guru, His Holiness Jigme Phuntsok Rinpoche, could clearly recall experiences from his past lives. In spite of this, current scientific research pays little attention to these kinds of experiences.
In the afternoon, Khenpo discussed peace and religion with academic scholars. In replying to a rabbi’s question regarding how to balance his own religious practice and the academic study of religion, Khenpo said that while an academic scholar, with no personal religious practice, can focus their research on the historical or social aspects of a religion, a scholar with a strong personal religious practice can reach a deeper level of understanding as they are able to combine their academic research with actual practice.
During his stay in Israel, Khenpo also visited some hi-tech companies and had several one-on-one conversations with researchers and scholars regarding Artificial Intelligence and neuroscience. Khenpo also expressed his sincere hope that factors such as loving-kindness and compassion can be integrated into the future development of AI technology.
In several of Khenpo’s speeches to the BSA membership, (the BSA is an organization under Khenpo Sodargye’s guidance for people to learn Buddhism and apply Buddhist teachings in their daily lives), he rejoiced that local Dharma centers had been established where BSA members can study, discuss and meditate on the Buddhadharma. Khenpo also suggested that we should constantly remind ourselves about the nature of this fleeting world by reciting this famous verse from the Diamond Cutter Sutra: “Like a star, hallucination, candle, magical illusion, dewdrop, bubble, dream, lightning or cloud—know all compounded phenomena to be like this.”
The European and overseas Dharma teaching tour was successfully concluded on December 23, 2017. In the course of a single month, Khenpo traveled to five European countries (eight cities), provided over 21 teachings and engaged in multiple dialogues with leading academic scholars and religious figures.
Khenpo said: “I travel to different places, with the hope that I may raise in others the desire to explore the nature of their minds. Though it is not easy to tour around providing Dharma teachings, I sincerely hope that by doing this I can benefit others and shine some light on them, even if it is only by a small amount.”