China, ruled by a dictatorship since the Communists seized power in 1949, that which the 16th Karmapa escaped in 1959 in search of the freedom to practice his particular lineage of Buddhism in the West, the dictatorship of the Chinese Communist party being incompatible with his lineage of Buddhism as such, is something we in the West take this to be self evident.
For us the Karma Kagyu lineage that Rangjung Rikpe Dorje established in the West in the 1970’s represents a return to the Buddhism of India before thr sacking of Nalanda in the 13th century by the Muslim Malmuk Dynasty and its masters of Mahamudra, specifically the lineage of Maitripa as brought to Tibet by Marpa the translator in the early days of Buddhism there, with its emphasis on Buddha nature and the recognition of the true nature of the mind.
We can’t get enough of these teachings in the West.
After His Holiness passed into Parinirvana here in 1981, his choice, against the wishes of his Tibetan followers of the day, specifically Thrangu, Akong, and Khenpo Karthar Rinpoches, in the name of preserving Tibetan tradition chose to collaborate with the Chinese to make Tibet, as part of China, great again, to borrow a phrase from Donald Trump and his followers whom like our Rinpoches saw their future best served by dictatorship rather than democracy.
Birds of a feather flock together.
In the future when the history of what became of the Tibetan people is written, when there are no Tibetans left free to speak for themselves other than China’s version of a Tibetan, it will record that the Tibetan people chose the dictatorship they know, life under the rule of Chinese Communist Party, over the freedom they balked at embracing, life in the West.
My history as a Karma Kagyu begins in 1981 when I took refuge with Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche, a lama of the 16th Karmapa sent to us in 1976 to represent his interests in North America, not so much as a teacher as much as a response to our enthusiasm for the teachings of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche whom introduced us beginning in 1970 to his Indian Mahasiddha inspired crazy wisdom Karma Kagyu lineage, which as it turned out was not representative of the Buddhism practiced by Tibetans living in exile at Rumtek Monastery in the Sikkim, India, the monastic seat in exile of the Karma Kagyu sect of Tibetan Buddhism.
Suffice it to say I am a witness of that which I speak of, what happened from the collaboration of Thrangu, Akong, and Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche with the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front Work Department which began with Akong Rinpoche’s first visit to Chinese occupied Tibet in 1983 to present, the coming of age of China’s 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, and his Chinese followers we in the West so oppose not just for their spiritual materialism, to borrow a phrase from Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, but also for their lack of representativeness,
transparency, and accountability, that which we find so offensive as dharma practitioners living in Western democracies as opposed to dictatorship as a matter of principle.
Unlike as with Ogyen Trinley Dorje and his Chinese followers, for us the arc of human history bends not towards dictatorship but instead to democracy.
This is our story.
I’m just recently retired.
My wife was an editor at McGraw-Hill like forever, the only job she ever had since graduating college, up until she stopped working two years ago.
At 60 ears old she was reorganized out of her livelihood
We’ve been married 13 years, the past 10 years of which I’ve been in retreat, for lack of a better word to describe my decision to stop working and focus my efforts on my dharma practice.
I’m a lama.
For the past two years our expectation was that my wife would continue her career in publishing as an editor but sadly there isn’t much demand for people with here level of experience as a publishing professional, other than as a freelance project manager, which simply isn’t the same career wise.
The day my wife stopped working was the end of my retreat.
For eight years my day was mine to drill down into my practice while my wife was at work.
It has taken me two years to adjust to my post retreat existence.
In 2010 Waylon Lewis, publisher of Elephant Journal, asked me to write for him.
I was dying at the time.
I was collecting dharma quotes and posting them to Twitter to
pass the time when Waylon Lewis reached out to me.
It gave me a reason to get out of bed and sit in chair for a couple of hours.
I kid you not.
My prognosis could not have been worse.
In 2009 I survived the widow-maker.
That I survived what I did was a miracle in itself.
I meditated through it.
I was walking, I stopped, sat down, crossed my legs and began doing mani recitations while visualizing Amitabha, as outlined in Karma Chakme’s the Union of Dzogchen and Mahamudra, a favorite teaching of mine being Khenpo Karthar’s teaching of the text.
I highly recommend the practice.
Without it I doubt I would be alive today.
One day, Marvin Moser, a lama friend of mine reached out to me and asked me to blog about KTD’s banishment of Bardor Rinpoche.
As a KTD lama at the time, he paid for his robes, did his three year retreat with Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche at Karme Ling, the first of us here in Chicago to go there, he was one very unhappy camper.
He has since put his robes in a drawer and put the experience behind him.
At the time though he had a lot vested in KTD, not just as a retreat lama, but as a longtime financial contributor to the place since the early 1980’s.
I checked out what he had told me had happened.
All I had to do is say I’m a friend of Marvin’s.
This was my first encounter with the machinations of Ogyen Trinley Dorje and his Chinese followers that have taken over KTD since the early 1990’s and it was a revelation for me as a dharma practitioner.
Long story short, in 2008 Tenzin Chonyi, President of KTD fired the facilities manager for not mowing his lawn.
I kid you not.
Bardor Tulku took exception to this.
Khenpo Karthar agreed.
Both Rinpoches asked Tenzin Chonyi to reinstate the terminated facilities manager.
Bardor Tulku demanded Tenzin Chonyi’s resignation.
Tenzin Chonyi refused.
The matter was kicked up to Ogyen Trinley Dorje and his Chinese followers back in India.
The powers that be in India sided with Tenzin Chonyi, and Bardor Tulku resigned from KTD’s board of directors.
In retaliation KTD’s board banished Bardor Tulku from teaching there or at any of its affiliate centers, what his supporters refer to the “night of long knives”, which is the point in this story where Marvin Moser asked me to blog about what happened.