September 8, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

On Labor Day weekend, Khenpo Tenzin Norgay visited Kunzang Palyul Chöling, a Tibetan Buddhist Center located in Poolesville, Maryland.  Khenpo had just finished teaching at the annual summer Palyul retreat in New York.  He is one of the principal Palyul Khenpos, or spiritual teachers, in the United States as his English is excellent, and he was trained at the Shedra (monastic university) at Namdroling Monastery in Bylakuppe, India, the main Palyul monastery in exile, regarded by many as the preeminent shedra currently functioning in the world.  He taught on ngöndro, or preliminary practice, for the benefit of new students who are just beginning the practice as well as older students who have been doing the practice for some time.  He also conferred an Amitabha empowerment.  It was a very pleasant weekend by all reports with very nice weather as well for this time of year.

Khenpo was invited to teach by Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo, the spiritual director of Kunzang Palyul Chöling.  Over the years Jetsunma has invited many well-known and learned Buddhist teachers to Poolesville to teach and give empowerments that she is unable to confer as she did not have the benefit of the traditional training, growing up in the United States.  Jetsunma has always taught the essence of Buddhism directly from her mindstream and has depended on those teachers well versed in the traditional teachings and practices when she felt her students were ready for them.  During his teaching on Guru Yoga (part of ngöndro), Khenpo reiterated his strong personal support for Jetsunma in all of her efforts to benefit beings as well as the continuous support of the Palyul lineage during this period of transition from His Holiness Penor Rinpoche’s leadership to that of His Holiness Karma Kuchen.

To answer some of the concerns of students at Kunzang Palyul Chöling about some of the events that have transpired since the parinirvana of His Holiness last year, Khenpo explained the Labrang system historically used in monastic instutions in Tibet.  This system delineates those people and assets that belong to the lama and his reincarnations and those that belong to the monastery. In the case of His Holiness, these arrangements were made strictly on the basis of trust and compassion.  There was no paper trail left behind.  Therefore in the days and months following his passing there was naturally some confusion as to who was in charge of what and what people and assets belonged to His Holiness and his reincarnation.  Much of this is still being worked out and will probably continue to be worked out for some time.  His Holiness Karma Kuchen reserves final say on all such matters, but he depends on the members of the High Council of Palyul to work out the details.  Khenpo felt that all would work out with time.

Essentially there has been a clash of cultures that has given rise to some misunderstandings.  Americans like to have everything above board and in the open as much as possible, while Tibetans, like most Asians, prefer to do these things in private.  The students reported that they felt that Khenpo’s openness in discussing the way things work was very helpful in clarifying many of the questions that had arisen, and they were very appreciative of Khenpo’s kindness in taking the time to explain it all to them.

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