My Name is Ayla and I have been asked what it feels like to have my
daughter Michelle return after 13 years of estrangement?
My first response is amazing, simply amazing, yet this is only the
highest tip of the feeling. It does not encompass the full and rich
experience I now have of really seeing and being with a precious human
being who has so much potential and happens to be my daughter. The
mother-daughter stuff is gone and when it even peaks into a
conversation it is easily addressed and evaporated with laughter,
mutual loving concern and respect. This is truly remarkable as anyone
who has known us knows there was plenty of mother-daughter stuff and
then some. This proves anything is possible.
When I read Michelle’s recent posted confession regarding her lies
about our Teacher, Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo, our Temple KPC and the
Sangha, I was overjoyed to see hoe much she had grown and what a
courageous woman she has become. I am so happy for her and for me as
we have a real basis for supporting one another to continue on the
path os self honesty.
Now that the 13 years are over it feels like it went by in a flash
however I remember while I was in those years how time dragged on
endlessly and how much I missed seeing my daughter. Every year I would
ask in my prayers if I could get a detective and find her now as I had
her social security number and I was her mother after all! Each year
the answer was the same “remember Jetsunma’s teachings and develop
more patience if you want respect you must give respect” so I kept
respecting my daughters wish for privacy.
As time went on other valued relationships came and went due to
impermanence so I comforted myself with the thought that this
estrangement was also impermanent and would one day end.
And here we are 13 years later reunited in a way that goes way beyond
anything I had hoped for thanks to this amazing Spiritual Path and the
tremendous skill and blessings of a remarkable Teacher Jetsunma Ahkon
Lhamo. May all beings be blessed by such a Path and such a Teacher so
they too can also be happy and have the causes for happiness!
Jetsunma suggested I write this and I’m glad she did because it’s been on my mind.
She and the KPC students have totally ruined my personal melodrama.
I’ve written already about my past mistakes, how I was a member of KPC, then blasted Jetsunma and the temple for thirteen years. I filed charges against her, participated first in an article, and then a book, and then attacked her online, and finally my mindset about KPC and Jetsunma shifted these past few months as I took a hard look at my own responsibility for my actions, how I had caused most of the problems I criticized and then distorted everything from a very egocentric point of view, using a palette of “facts” to my own ends. I lied, first to myself and then to others. Speaking to my spiritual teachers, I had to make amends.
You can only imagine what I expected when I returned to KPC to make amends. I dreaded it. My imagined return-to-KPC scenario requires a bass drum from a slave galley and perhaps the theme music from Conan the Barbarian playing in the background. I thought it was going to be really hard. I pictured kind of a Milarepa scenario (yes, with me in the starring Milarepa role, stop laughing). I’d go to the temple to purify my broken samaya, following my last directions from Jetsunma. I’d scrub floors and empty trash cans for a year (at least) before I got any signal from Jetsunma. The students would brush by me, busy with their lives. I’d be ignored by the new members who didn’t know me (no one notices the cleaning lady); openly disdained by everyone else.
With a dry throat, I expected some tense moments with sangha members. Possible confrontations about the book. Then, after a year of hard labor I figured that — from a haughty distance — Jetsunma would frown at my meager efforts, sigh, and send me a stern note laden with sadness and disappointment. She’d send me away to Lama Padma Karma Rinpoche, relieved to see the back of me. I was scared. It would be hard row to hoe. But I needed to do it. Instead, Jetsunma answered my first letter within about a week of receiving it. She was so gracious, when I arrived here I kicked back the first day, hung out with mom. I wasn’t too surprised at her kindness, come to think of it.
I went to the temple ready to face the music.
All the students without exception were genuinely kind, happy to see me. Ani Samla (whose daughter left a few years ago) was overjoyed. “Oh, anything’s possible, anything!” she said. Michael Brunk said that that was the nice thing about Buddhism, no matter what, there’s nothing that couldn’t be purified. People that I remembered hurting remembered things completely differently. Ani Palchen brought up a time we both repeated incomprehensible Tibetan just from sounding it out. (I remembered owing Palchen $800.) Maura Daly remembered our doing tsogs together. (I remembered leaving her high and dry and needing to replace me as a roommate.) Our experiences don’t line up at all.
I was so relieved, I let myself slack off for a day or two. And got a pretty tough response from Jetsunma, like I’d originally expected: while I’d had permission before, suddenly I wasn’t allowed to set foot on temple grounds. Now that was more like it. We were back on board with my “Milarepa scenario” (stop laughing). Ani Dolma, one of her Tres Anis, seemed appropriately stern.
To my surprise, I was given instructions as to what to do to begin to purify my broken samaya. Which was more than I expected.
I’d meant to go it alone. And Jetsunma offered that, provided I renounced all my prior activities to the best of my ability, if my heart had truly changed, as a throneholder of the lineage she could clear my samaya.
It’s hard for me to understand how severe broken samaya is, that no one can go it alone, especially not with a breakage this serious. I can’t just do a few Vajrasattva mantras, empty some trash cans and all will be well. I don’t really get it, though I have a clue from how I’ve been constantly sick for the last thirteen years, coughing up phlegm like a life-long smoker coughs up a lung.
I was in constant contact with Jetsunma through her Tres Anis. When I wrote my public confession, I asked and was given permission to go clean the temple again. Bit by bit, as I made progress I was allowed to do prayer shifts again, to attend tsog. New KPC students I’d never met read my confession and approached me, equally kind, offering to help in any way they could. Howie for example urged me to attend more tsogs, very concerned.
I still don’t understand it. I confessed to some pretty awful things. The students at KPC are a credit to Jetsunma. They must really practice her teachings on compassion because I blasted KPC for 13 years and any ordinary group would at least have some resentment. A little. It should at least be a struggle for them. There has been none. Not a trace.
Jetsunma responded to the second confession letter I’d sent from Charlottesville and she wrote back, warm and encouraging. “This confession stuff is hard!” and “keep going” and “it will eventually purify.”
The hardest part has been my own self-flagellation and backpedaling pride. Cringing moments of “yes, yes, but I meant well” and “but– but mostly I exaggerated!” I hate to say that I lied. Yet I want it to be tough in order to punish myself, and then ratchet to the opposite extreme, rebelling, slacking off in watching my mind. Thinking of it as punishment makes it difficult.
She and the sangha have completely spoiled my martyred melodrama.
It’s hard to give up my game plan of martyrdom. But that’s not how this works. It’s practical. Jetsunma helps you, tells you what you need to do to purify your broken samaya, and then you do it.
I’ve had to work but it’s been effortless. Obstacles have just fallen away, as easily as Dorje Phagmo waves her drigug in chod practice. I was supposed to go to Seattle but my ex-fiance decided to just send me my things here. When I needed work but didn’t have a car, sangha members approached me with things I could do from home — before I even asked. There has been support from everyone. People want this to succeed.
The best part has been the hope this has given the KPC students though. That’s the best. When I saw Ani Samla light up, I thought, “That alone makes it worth it.”
I’m told that a lot of the students were feeling tired this summer, like they wanted to give up. My mother, for one. After losing me for thirteen years, and losing friends and family, she felt hopeless. Mom’s so delighted to have me back I don’t think there’s a word for it in English (maybe in Tibetan — dzomkyid perhaps? Gathering of all happiness?). Her health is even doing better. She’s energized in her practice. “This is a miraculous path,” she says. “It’s difficult, but truly miraculous.” She can tell you more.
It’s so easy to return, I’m almost disappointed.
Right Livelihood? Mr. Cassidy, aka Tulku Tenpa Rinpoche, has had a sordid past that includes trading in weapons. According to a Las Vegas Sun article, “Cassidy embroiled in another caper,” (April 13, 2000, http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2000/apr/13/cassidy-embroiled-in-another-caper/ ) Cassidy, in 1987, “founded the Triad Armaments Corp., a short-lived Westminster, California, company that sold a classified weapons system to a foreign government.” The interviewer remarks, “This is one of those topics Cassidy declined to discuss in detail, other than to say that the sale was legal under federal arms export laws and was approved by the U.S. government. He said it was the company’s only transaction.”
In teachings about the Eightfold Path, the Buddha explained the importance of Right Livelihood. One’s livelihood affects one’s mindset, which affects one’s spiritual path. For that reason, Buddhist practitioners should not engage in professions that cause harm to others. The Buddha outlines the five types of livelihoods that should be avoided. These include:
Business in weapons: trading in all kinds of weapons and instruments for killing.
Business in human beings: slave trading, prostitution, or the buying and selling of children or adults.
Business in meat: “meat” refers to the bodies of beings after they are killed. This includes breeding animals for slaughter.
Business in intoxicants: manufacturing or selling intoxicating drinks or addictive drugs.
Business in poison: producing or trading in any kind of toxic product designed to kill.
Buying and selling weapons that are meant solely to harm others is not right livelihood, Mr. Cassidy.
In his post, “Health care and Buddhist Monastics” on September 4, 2009, Mr. Cassidy expounds on the health care debate, and how he became homeless after suffering a heart attack in 2006. In his words,
“As regular readers of this blog already know, I became progressively very ill and finally suffered a near fatal heart attack in 2006. This was a life-changing event in several respects, not the least of which was the financial impact. During this period, I was hospitalized over 70 times. Almost overnight, I went from being comfortably retired to utter poverty and homelessness. Yes — homelessness: something which I thought was impossible, but which came to me like a flash, and was due to no other cause but health care costs — an unbelievable USD $1.2 million at one point.”
That sounds awful, doesn’t it? It is more likely that Mr. Cassidy was ruined financially when he committed crimes of assault and arson against his wife, had to resign from his position as mayoral aide in Nevada in 2001, and subsequently served much of 2003 in prison. Perhaps the real reason he was without health insurance at the time of his heart attack in 2006 is because he was violating the terms of his probation, having fled the state, and was in hiding from law enforcement at the time. He was re-arrested in 2008 for violation of his probation and served out his term until early 2009. In any case, as an indigent, it is unlikely that Mr. Cassidy had to pay for his healthcare bills. More likely, the State of California picked up Mr. Cassidy’s tab.
An altar should inspire one’s faith and support one’s practice on the path to awakening. It’s a place to make offerings and to take refuge. A Tibetan Buddhist altar upholds what the practitioner holds most dear – the face of one’s own enlightenment in the forms of one’s teacher, the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.
Mr. Cassidy refers to his website as the Digital Tibetan Buddhist Altar. Lets take a look at the recent offerings on Mr. Cassidy’s altar. He has posts on the decline and degeneration of the publishing industry and music (negative commentary on Jetsunma’s music that puts mantra, which is indestructible, to modern beats). He has an article called “Buddhist Televangelism: Put Your Hand on the Screen.” In another post he claims that Alcoholics Anonymous doesn’t work. He also has posts about Buddhism and Taiwan’s economy, images of oversized rabbits, tents, and a daily dose of astrology.
Mr. Cassidy peppers his posts with some references to Dharma supports such as Stupas or a Lama. More disturbing are his posts in which he offers his commentary on the meaning of Protectors, or much worse when he claims to offer a White Mahakala “Empowerment” in a series of posts. This is not possible to do. Recognized Tulkus cannot, do not, and would not offer empowerments over the internet. This does not allow for proper transmission from teacher to student. And Mr. Cassidy is not recognized as a Buddhist master. This is not an empowerment, but rather the opposite. This is what he has to offer? Rather than inspire faith, his blog reads like a tabloid.
Buddhism and Nazism are about as far apart on the tolerance spectrum as you can get. Buddhism teaches compassion based on a profound understanding that all beings are equal, want to be happy, and are inseparable from oneself. Nazism is about division, inequality, and ultimate superiority of some over the “others.”
Mr. Cassidy’s post on July 12, 2009, called “Befhel ist Befhel: the Nazi Sangha” is particularly vile and hate-filled. You are lulled at first, as you read the post. He talks about how “our” religion (Mr. Cassidy considers himself to be a Buddhist) is built on the foundation of loving kindness for all beings. But this acknowledgement quickly yields to a fear-filled tirade about how “some of us” have lost the way and will destroy Buddhism. And Cassidy names the demon destroyer the “Nazi sangha.”
With his now familiar arsenal of fabrications, lies, innuendo, and unfounded accusations, Mr. Cassidy proceeds to paint a picture of this Nazi sangha that allegedly burns effigies, steals private medical records, takes turns slapping its own members, and promotes the generalized use of psychiatric medication. And Cassidy wants his readers to believe that Kunzang Palyul Choling is that Nazi Sangha with Jetsunma Ahkhon Lhamo as its leader. This is an outrage not unlike Nazi propaganda – that creates an enemy where none exists, slathers on lies to cover up and even justify the perpetration of unspeakable atrocities against innocent people.
Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo’s Jewish grandparents fled Austria with the resurgence of anti-Semitism that followed World War I, as too many Jews were “disappearing.” They began a new life in America, but their family hid their Jewishness still. Afraid of that kind of hate, never knowing where it might pop up again,what form it would take. Today it takes the form of Mr. Cassidy’s post. It is a slap in the face of all Jewish people and all Buddhists.
Mr. Cassidy goes on to present his website statistics record that shows that someone at Kunzang Palyul Choling monitors his blog. Given the venom and threats that Mr. Cassidy spews forth on his blog, as well as his rap sheet of incarceration for being a violent offender, it would be foolish not to monitor the situation. Kunzang Palyul Choling, Jetsunma Ahkhon Lhamo and her students are deeply concerned that this man will transform his hate speech into physical violence. His post is yet another example of the hate he perpetrates in the world.