I remember sitting near Lama Yeshe’s enlightenment stupa at Vajrapani Institute several years ago, listening to a student describe a stunning jewel that captured his attention long ago. It caught mine too.
He was describing the jewel of the Dharma – the Buddha’s teachings for cultivating happiness through an understanding of the true nature of reality. As a jewel has many facets, so do these teachings and its teachers, offering us multiple perspectives and approaches to consider.
That analogy has become increasingly beautiful over time, as I see how apt it is. There is space for a multiplicity of teachers, personalities, and approaches to Buddhism. Yet at the same time, these views do not contradict each other. I have also been mesmerized by our Dharma jewel’s wish-granting nature, granting us great inner wealth, with capabilities to endure tough times and confidently sow the seeds for future happiness.
In 2016, we share this Dharma jewel with our friends, as some really amazing teachers come to shine light on its varying facets and offer their unique perspectives for study and practice.
Following Geshe Gelek Chodha‘s teachings on mind training and the Bodhisattva vows, Ven. Amy Miller will return March 4-6 to help us integrate the essence of Dharma into our daily lives. In a no-nonsense style, she marries scholarship with practicality so that students may gain a strong understanding of Buddhist teachings and apply them to various challenges in their lives, such as anxiety, depression and trying circumstances.
On May 13-15, Ven. Amy will lead another getaway retreat at Garrison Institute, for which so many of us are excited! The retreat last year left a deep impression upon many students. It was a joyful time to focus on meditation and Lam Rim teachings, as we left the daily grind for a weekend so that we might return to our lives with greater mindfulness and purpose. We will take up the meditation cushion again this year in full force.
We are also very honored to host Professor Jan Willis of Wesleyan University from April 8-10. Professor Willis was one of the earliest American scholar-practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism, as well as a close student of our tradition’s founder, Lama Thubten Yeshe. She has published numerous essays and articles on meditation, women and Buddhism, and Buddhism and race.
In December 2000, Time magazine named her one of six “spiritual innovators for the new millennium.” She has not shied away from teaching about her connection with the Dharma and Lama Yeshe and how that has integrated into her roots as a black, Southern Baptist. I’m sure Professor Willis’ teachings will be both timely and insightful, as most of us are cultural neophytes to the Dharma in our own ways.
Shantideva Meditation is also supremely delighted to welcome back Ven. Tenzin Chogkyi for two retreats in 2016. Students benefited greatly last year from her presentation of the Chapter of Joyous Effort from Master Shantideva’s eighth text. She brought this classic to life, so that we could benefit from it in powerful ways to meet the challenges of our modern world. We are grateful to learn from someone who has spent years in retreat and has dedicated her life so passionately to the Dharma and to the service of others.
Gen Don Handrick will also return to visit us this year! He has been a font of knowledge and inspiration for the students of our Basic Program, teaching us for hours to help us navigate the complex and detailed tenet systems as elaborated by the great Indian pandits. Actually, Ven. Robina recently contacted us to suggest we use the title “Gen” (which is a Tibetan term of great respect and endearment for scholar-teachers), as she understands the depth of Gen Don’s scholarship following his years of study and teaching.
Later in the year, Shantideva Meditation will welcome Geshe Tenzin Zopa, a beloved teacher for students around the world. Geshe Zopa has entered the hearts of many who have not received direct teachings yet from him. Those who have watched the documentary Unmistaken Child will recognize him as the devoted disciple of Geshe Lama Konchog who sets off to find his deceased master’s reincarnation. Those who are familiar with him already will be enthused to spend time with this deeply compassionate and humble being.
For the first time, we will also welcome Dr. Lorne Ladner at the end of 2016. Dr. Ladner has integrated Buddhism and meditation with psychotherapy and the psychology of positive emotions, to help people gain best practices from both Buddhist and Western psychology for leading integrated, healthy and happy lives. His well-received book, The Lost Art of Compassion: Discovering The Practice Of Happiness, is among many publications and articles that Dr. Ladner has written for the benefit of others.
We also hope to soon finalize a beautiful practice day with Paula Chichester (Ngyinje), a deep meditator and skillful teacher with a heart of gold who has devoted much of her life to the teachings and practices of Lama Zopa Rinpoche and our other lineage masters.
We hope that she will lead practices to help us come closer to the Buddha energy of infinite compassion, labeled as Chenrezig.