Over 150 seminarians, staff, and local guests squeezed into the the main shrine hall at Karme Choling this month as the Kongma Sakyong, Jamgon Mipham Rinpoche, gave profound and practical teachings to the assembly gathered for the first ever Vajrayana Seminary at Karme Choling. This summer, Rinpoche has elucidated and emphasized several very specific themes: it is imperative to internalize and manifest the teachings; it is very important to cultivate our experience and conviction of basic goodness; and that we must also see the basic goodness in society and engage in the mandate to transform our culture into an enlightened society.
Rinpoche stated point-blank that it isn’t good enough to sit back and watch him- saying that he is doing a good (or bad) job and relying on him to represent Shambhala and the Kalapayana by himself. We have to do what he is doing, and what he did while he was on retreat: engage in some “soulless soul searching” and seriously look inside (and for) ourselves into basic questions, such as, “What is life?”, “Who am I?”, “What is society?”, and “Is basic goodness real?” If we do not look deeply & contemplate these questions we run the risk of our path becoming a sort of dharmic-marmalade or “dharmalade” that never results in personal, and by extension societal, change.
The ongoing impediment to social change is our underlying belief that society is fundamentally flawed and unworkable. Having this attitude influences our whole approach to working with others and negates the possibility of meaningful change from occurring. We can look into this belief and contemplate where it comes from, and if it is really true & helpful. By deeply contemplating and becoming more convinced of basic goodness (that people and everything else is fundamentally pure and without mistake rather than flawed) we may see that transforming our culture is a workable situation- due to the innate qualities of fundamental purity as a basis.
Many surely feel that the obstacles we face are insurmountable and that the force of denigration in our society is too strong to overcome. At seminary, Rinpoche reminded us of what it must have been like for the Dorje Dradul (Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche), who had lost everything during the Tibetan diaspora that followed the Chinese invasion in 1959 and came to North America as a partially paralyzed immigrant, who, at the time, was the only one saying these things. Look now at what he and his students have built so far. It is our charge, at this pivotal time, to realize and manifest our inherent wisdom and to have a seat at the table of society where we might interject, “Can we at least consider the alternative possibility that people and society are basically good?”