Visiting teacher addresses Buddhism and mental health.
—by Cynthia Shumway
On January 1, 2005, I went to my friend Blake Spalding’s house in Boulder, Utah. At the time, I had no idea what a life-changing event that little visit would turn out to be.
Blake had been telling me about the Buddhist teacher Khentrul Lodro Thaye Rinpoche for over a year and I had been secretly impressed with everything she said. Now, Khentrul was staying in Blake’s yurt and, though I went under the guise of asking a blessing for my son who had been hurt skiing, I carried another truth in my heart: For the last 25 years I had been looking for a teacher of Tibetan Buddhism.
It is always a great pleasure to go to Blake’s, but that winter day was particularly beautiful in Boulder. The air sparkled. As I walked into the yurt, and into Khentrul Rinpoche’s presence for the ﬁrst time, my awareness immediately changed. He was sitting on his bed, because that was the only place to sit, reading a text. The feeling in the room was one of peace and comfort. Upon being introduced, I had a feeling I have never had before or since of deep familiarity and loving connection. Tears of recognition and relief came at an overwhelming rate and I tried desperately to hide them as I didn’t understand what was happening. Really, I was just meeting a stranger with whom I could barely communicate.
Khentrul Rinpoche’s monastery, Mardo Tashi Choling, is in the Amdo region of Tibet, in the northeastern quadrant of the Land of Snows (now known as the Tibetan Autonomous Region). His monastery, which practices in the Nyingma tradition, cares for 300 monks and 100 children. Khentrul, whose name means precious one, had been sent to the West to teach upon the request of His Holiness Moksa Rinpoche, the leader of the Nyingma tradition.
That day in the yurt, two other visitors had come to meet Khentrul. They came prepared to take the vows necessary to enter the Buddhist path to enlightenment. Having been a former Mormon and a life long seeker I was not about to join a “group,” and when Khentrul asked if I wanted to take refuge I said no. But I sat down to watch. The ritual was beautiful and joyous with a meaning that had many layers. I felt happy and peaceful. Suddenly, it felt so wrong to not take refuge with him.
A few months later, our local Buddhist community, or sangha, Katog Jana Ling (“the place of peace and wilderness”) brought Khentrul to Salt Lake City to offer his first Teaching. Since then he has come once or twice a year. Our sangha has grown in its commitment to supporting the dharma and compassion in action.
Recently, when Khentrul Rinpoche was in town offering a teaching on Transforming Suffering into Happiness, he announced that he was arranging a guest visit by Khenchen Tsultrim Lodro Rinpoche, a teacher whom many have recognized as a reincarnate lama, though he has never accepted such a title.
Khenchen Tsultrim Lodrö Rinpoche is recognized as the foremost disciple of one of the greatest masters of the century, Khenpo Jigme Phuntsog Rinpoche.
Khenchen Tsultrim Lodrö travels throughout Tibet promoting environmental protection, a vegetarian diet, AIDS and public health awareness and education. In particular, he has founded libraries and schools in numerous Tibetan regions and has collaborated with prestigious scholars to compile Chinese-English-Tibetan dictionaries, aspiring to bring the Tibetan people modern knowledge in their own language.
Khenchen will speak on how Buddhist practice beneﬁts our mental health and how that experience can extend into our values and daily actions. The weekend teaching will address the Nectar of the Heart, “a song of realization” poem composed by the great 18th century Tibetan saint, Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo. It presents advice for cultivating wisdom and compassion based on his personal experience of parting from the four attachments.
I invite you to set the intention to attend his public talk and from this moment forward to create an environment in your mind that will welcome his words into the deepest part of your self and, most importantly, to joyfully recognize the wonder of a great being coming to our city to bless us with his wisdom.
Cynthia Shumway, LCSW, is a practicing social worker and Buddhist in Salt Lake City.
Public talk: Buddhism, Mental Health, and Contemporary Values (teachings with Khenchen Tsultrim Lodrö Rinpoche)
Friday, April 29, 7-9pm
Rowland Hall (Larimer Center), 843 So. Lincoln St.
Suggested Donation: $15
Weekend teaching: Nectar of the Heart—A Song of Realization (with Khenchen Tsultrim Lodrö Ripoche)
Saturday, April 30, 10am-12pm & Sunday May 1, 2-5pm
Ballroom in the University of Utah Guesthouse, 110 Fort Douglas Blvd.
Suggested donation: $50-$75/day. No one will be turned away for lack of funds.