When thinking of my teachers, gratitude is invariably the first instinctual reaction. I was able to contemplate this on my last day at the Light of the Path retreat with Lama Zopa Rinpoche in August.
I have often heard said that attachment to food is one of the most difficult to overcome, and after several days of precepts, I found myself struggling with a craving for fried tofu. To my amazement, fried tofu appeared for lunch! Samsaric delight on retreat? I didn’t give it another thought because there was no grasping, just happiness. I joyfully and sincerely thanked Rinpoche from the bottom of my heart for taking such good care of me, as if he himself had sent me the tofu, which somehow I felt he had. I offered my lunch with sincere delight and not a hint of attachment in a beautiful prayer that we say before eating:
The guru is Buddha,
The guru is Dharma,
The guru is Sangha also,
The guru is the source of all happiness,
To all gurus I make this offering.
Offering physical nourishment, obligatory support for the body and mind, is a powerful way to create close connections with our gurus, and among my daily practices, those that I consistently find to be the most moving and inspiring are when I offer food and drink to my teacher. Pouring tea, serving food, but most of all offering my practice, because this is the most precious thing I have.
As Sonam Gyatso, Third Dalai Lama (1543–88) instructs in Essence of Refined Gold, “But kinder than Buddha is your own teacher, For [s]he personally gives you the oral teachings.” In this way, the guru is indeed the source of all happiness, and as Ven. Thubten Chodron explains, “The kindness shown to us by our spiritual mentors and the Three Jewels is peerless, for they lead us on the way to actual joy and freedom. Seeing this, our hearts fill with gratitude.” With full hearts, we look forward to welcoming some of our precious teachers back to Shantideva Meditation Center in 2017.
We will first joyously welcome our leading teacher, Ven. Amy Miller, in January for some of our Tuesday evening meditation sessions visualizing the inspiring qualities of different manifestations of the enlightened mind. Venerable will also connect with our Discovering Buddhism group throughout the year in each of the upcoming modules beginning with Introduction to Tantra in January. Ven. Amy is deeply appreciated for her ability to show us how to deploy profound Buddhist teachings through straightforward, pragmatic methods for successfully navigating our challenging lives in joy, confidence, and courage.
With warmth and clarity, Venerable will take a clear look at our current world situation, teaching “Riding the Wave: Facing Adversity with Love and Compassion” from February 3 to 5. We are also overjoyed that Ven. Amy will, for the third time, lead our annual retreat at Garrison Institute, April 14-16. Just as spring begins, we’ll have an exceptional opportunity to withdraw from the urban crush to a pristine, peaceful environment where Venerable will guide us in shiné meditation and personal growth harmonious with the season.
The return of Geshe Thubten Sherab has been eagerly awaited since his visit in 2015.With his unique and inspiring personal blend of humor, care, and erudition, Geshe-la will teach us about buddha nature, the pure seed of enlightenment that is the fundamental essence of all sentient beings. We look forward to welcoming Geshe-la, and it will be an honor to receive teachings from him again, March 17-19.
The summer will heat up with a two week visit from Ven. Robina Courtin at the end of July. Ven. Robina is known for her straightforward and energetic teaching style, helping people discover the potential of their own minds with clear explanations about Tibetan Buddhism and how to apply it to their lives. It has been two years since we’ve welcomed Ven. Robina, and events planned for her visit will be announced soon!
We can rejoice and be truly grateful that our teachers take such compassionate and continuous care of us, working tirelessly every moment, never giving up on us, because all they want is for us to be free of suffering. May we follow their wise guidance with open hearts, joy, and full confidence. Offering them our best practice, may we continue striving enthusiastically for the ultimate happiness of all universal sentient beings!
Desmond formally met the Dharma in 2008 through the great compassion and generosity of Venerable Thubten Chodron, which gave his life purpose by showing him how cultivating virtue while having the courage and fortitude to open his heart would lead to the eventual liberation and enlightenment of all sentient beings. Desmond has a strong background in animal rights and vegan activism, including an extended internship with Farm Sanctuary, earned a BM in harpsichord performance from Manhattan School of Music, holds PhDs in French (specializing in 17th- and 18th-century tragedy and gender and sexuality) and musicology (specializing in French opera of the 17th and 18th centuries) from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and has published widely. Desmond is an Adjunct Lecturer in French at Hunter College and a Senior Editor at the Répertoire International de Littérature Musicale (RILM), CUNY. Desmond’s life revolves around the Dharma and his dog, Ollie.