By Desmond Hosford
When Jennifer Kim, director of Shantideva Meditation Center, called to say that Lama Zopa Rinpoche had made a recommendation on the Center’s next director, which the Board accepted with great enthusiasm, I was poised to rejoice enthusiastically for whomever that would be. Hearing that it was me, the first thing that I managed to say was, “Whoa. This is important. Really important. I’ve never done anything this important.” My background includes activism in animal rights and veganism, PhDs in French and musicology, teaching, writing, editing, and performing. For the past several years I’ve had the amazing good fortune to be part of a community in which we’re all working together to attain liberation and enlightenment in order to end the suffering of all sentient beings. This is a vast aspiration that we can and will achieve together through the strength of what Rinpoche calls our universal responsibility:
Numberless other sentient beings receiving harm or peace and happiness all depends on what you do with your own mind. It’s all up to you. Therefore, each one of us here has complete responsibility for the peace and happiness of every single sentient being. Each of us has universal responsibility.
This universal responsibility is among the great motivators at Shantideva Meditation Center, and when I think of Shantideva, three things immediately come to mind: rejoicing, service, and gratitude, not in any particular order, but all together, because for me these are the foundations of my love for the Center, our community, and our mission.
We rejoice continuously at Shantideva. Whether we’re setting up for teachings, welcoming new and old friends, celebrating after a puja, or receiving teachings, smiles and laughter abound. I’ve always thought that the joy we share is the echo of the contagious laughter of our founder, Lama Yeshe and Spiritual Director, Lama Zopa Rinpoche. Their laughter is profound because it embodies the delight, understanding, and complete acceptance with which these remarkable beings so tirelessly work for the benefit of all, and we aspire to follow their example.
I first came to Shantideva through our Discovering Buddhism Study Group, and the topic of the module was bodhicitta, the altruistic intent to gain enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings. I had slowly been building my practice for a few years, and the support of the Shantideva community encouraged that practice to flourish in new and unexpected ways, especially by offering service. In our tradition, we turn inward to cultivate great compassion and bodhicitta, and then we are energetically motivated to reach outward, to help others. This becomes our path, and the more we cherish others, the happier we become, so the benefits for everyone constantly increase as we practice and share the Dharma. Life is short, sentient beings are numberless, and Rinpoche urges us to realize that there is no time to lose:
This is the most important, urgent emergency. It is a billion times more urgent than an emergency in a hospital. So you can see how your service to this Center brings incredible benefit to sentient beings. . . . It also brings peerless happiness and enlightenment. So these are the general benefits, the skies of benefits of working for sentient beings and working for the Center.
It has always been a great privilege to offer service at the Center. From managing registration and membership, Animal Liberation, and Compassion in Action to being part of the Communications team, assisting at pujas, teachings, and events, the generosity with which these opportunities have been shared has fostered a strong sense of commitment and belonging for which I am tremendously grateful.
I was once asked at a volunteer meeting to make some remarks on my experience at Shantideva, and my immediate reaction was to express gratitude. I am deeply grateful to the community that has offered me so many opportunities to discover what’s good about myself, reassures me in cultivating it without fear, and encourages me to open my heart to others. I can do this with full confidence in the support of this amazing Dharma community.
I know that everyone at Shantideva will understand what I mean when I say that it’s impossible to express how Jennifer has inspired me as a practitioner, role model, and friend. She is a unique and precious being. Her warmth, optimism, patience, and trust have been priceless motivators for me in my Dharma journey, and I rejoice that we will all continue to work together as part of the Shantideva family. Jennifer was leading the first puja that I attended, which was a Green Tara puja, and at that time I was very new to the Center, just beginning to explore. I was enthralled and moved by the exuberance with which Jennifer carried us through the visualizations, recitations, and prayers. I remember thanking her afterwards and saying, “I’m so lucky to have found Shantideva.” After that, the Center was home. Lama Yeshe used to call Tara “Mummy Tara,” and the aspiration that Jennifer and Green Tara helped me to develop resonates with this verse from “A Song to Mummy Tara in These Dire Times” by Venerable Thubten Chodron:
Aware that our own life is temporary like a flash of lightning, we will not waste time in distraction and discouragement but will reach out with love to connect to each and every living being. With fortitude we will plumb the depths of our minds, knowing the stillness and silence of their ultimate nature. Pey! With your sparkling white light, guide us so that our obscurations and those of others evaporate into emptiness. Like you, we will then remain until samsara ends to liberate all beings lost in self-concern and self-grasping.
May we always fulfill Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s pure vision of universal responsibility. May our Center and community always flourish in harmony. And may we always strive together with unwavering dedication and joy for the ultimate happiness of all sentient beings!