On being a Karma Kagyu lama in Donald Trump’s post-factual America in which nothing is as it appears

Nine days into what could well be an eight year Donald Trump presidency, nine days since we allowed this man to become President of the United States of America, a Bernie Sanders supporter whom unlike so many of my fellow Americans whom had this or that issue with Hillary Clinton and thus chose to not vote or voted for a third party candidate as a matter of principle, I instead chose to put my country before my idealized Buddhist world weariness and got off my meditation cushion and voted for Hillary Clinton last week, I didn’t like it but I did my civic duty, notwithstanding my years of cultivating the Buddhist ideal of being weary of samsara, that which turns our minds to the practice of the dharma, my being an accomplished dharma practitioner who like so many of my generational cohorts were the early adopters of this or that Buddhist tradition, despite how as a young man I sat in awe at the feet of my born in Tibet Rinpoche, Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche, back when he had a full head of hair, so unlike how Rinpoche looks today, he actually wore it longish, disheveled, as I did my own, as unimaginable as this may be to the generations of my fellow Americans whom have in the decades since followed in my footsteps to became followers of my guru, my Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche whom fled to our country from Tibet after suffering for almost decade being interned at Buxador by the Indian Government for being an undocumented Buddhist migrant in Hindu India, the exact same thing that Donald Trump will do with our undocumented immigrants as President of the United States, my Rinpoche whom came to America with nothing but the robes on his back, fresh off the boat as my parent’s described their own parents whom in their own time migrated from somewhere else to start their lives anew as Americans, my beloved guru whom could unlike my own parents and grandparents seemingly read me like a book without my even needing to utter a word about myself in his presence, all of this narrative of my life as a Buddhist, as I take a moment between meditation sessions in my retreat from samsara to share my thoughts here, I haven’t worked a day in over a decade, sitting here enjoying a cup of coffee while my cat, Jack, grooms himself beside me, it all seems so dated, so out of touch, so all about me, irrelevant to the situation I find myself in as a lifelong dharma practitioner, a lama of the 16th Karmapa’s Mahasiddha inspired crazy wisdom karma Kagyu lineage, today nine days after we the people allowed Donald Trump to become President of the United States of America, the beginning of a brave new world for Americans in which facts, the appearance of things, how something appears to an unenlightened mind and my pointing out their true nature to anyone whom I encounter inclined to listen to me as Khenpo Gangshar himself did after putting his life as a monk at Surmang Monastery behind him to henceforth dedicate himself to the thankless task of pointing out the true nature of the mind to any and all whom he encountered outside the walls of his hermitage and its inhabitant’s whose world weary Buddhist habits unchanged over countless ages since the time of the Buddha himself were soon to be relegated to the dustbin of history by China’s occupation of Tibet, simply no longer matters in Donald Trumps America, Khenpo Gangshar’s example to his fellow Tibetan monastics on the eve of China’s occupation of Tibet which my guru in his early days as an immigrant here in America before he became the the symbol of the Karma Kagyu establishment he represents today to his multitude of followers when he accepted me as a disciple in my neighbor’s sunroom which she and her husband had converted into the first home of what today is Chicago KTC no longer feels like it is enough for me as a Buddhist to aspire to as a dharma practitioner, I can’t help but think that nine days after Donald Trump became the next President of the United States of America that all that I have aspired to as a Buddhist, following the example of Khenpo Gangshar, the father of the crazy wisdom Karma Kagyu lineage of which I am a lama of, seems hardly sufficient to me given the enormity of the circumstance I find myself confronted with as a Buddhist nine days into what could well be eight years of Donald Trump being the President of the United States of America.


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16 responses to “On being a Karma Kagyu lama in Donald Trump’s post-factual America in which nothing is as it appears

  1. thubten2001

    This post made me chuckle. Not sure if that is the intent.

    • Actually yes, that was very much where my head is as a rule, a happy place, just the other day my wife and I had breakfast at Tweet, a restaurant in Uptown whose owner Michelle so admires Obama that above the cash register she has a full portrait of him looking down over all who pass beneath his benevolent gaze the past eight years, of course I couldn’t resist the opportunity given the election results to tease her about when she would be putting up a portrait of Donald Trump in her place of honor, we will very much need all the humor we can muster to get through the coming years in my opinion.

  2. What’s disturbing about Trump is that he is willing to play with peoples perceptions so readily. You don’t know where his truth is. He pulls the carpet out from under your feet. Then he says he is really a “somber” guy.

    This campaign just really worked peoples emotions and emotions are the things dreams are made of so these images, these appearances, persist. It’s like reality and dreams can’t separate themselves for this country right now. If you get my drift. But really, nothing has changed though. We just elected another President.

    • The 16th Karmapa was known for saying that “nothing happens” whenever something happened so much that his doing so had become an inside joke among his inner circle because every time he pointed this out to someone they invariably thought it the most profound thing that they had ever heard, which they invariably found hilarious given he said it every time something happened, even when he was on his death bed receiving well wishers he would point out to them that nothing happens which they of course would repeat expecting something other than a laugh from the 16th Karmapa’s people, merely pointing out that nothing happens is no longer sufficient, the knowledge of how this is so is not enough, it wasn’t in 1981 when His Holiness was dying of cancer, a dark day indeed, nor today with the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States, we need more than the wisdom of this or that path to liberation we pursue as practitioners of this or that Buddhist tradition, we need to walk our talk, translate what we know to be true into action in the here and now in the upside down world in which Donald Trump is the leader of the free world, a world in which such words no longer mean what they hitherto meant to the world his predecessors as President for generations lead with such distinction.

      • Well, I’ve never believed that Buddhism was practiced on the cushion out that Buddhists have to carry some kind of mental cushion that there minds should retreat to when conflict arises. I think it’s important to be involved. You should only be on a cushion 3 hours a day if your a monk, otherwise we have jobs to do taking care of one another.

        Things could still turn out well.

        • In the 16th Karmapa’s Mahasiddha inspired crazy wisdom Karma Kagyu lineage we put into practice that which our guru has pointed out to us on our cushions, the true nature of the mind, it doesn’t require hours (we do short sessions repeated frequently as needed instead), but our practice itself in fact occurs not on our cushions but instead in when we encounter the appearance of things which arise in our minds, that which so vexes us in our day to day lives, such as our fellow Americans electing Donald Trump to be the next President of the United States of America for example, which is precisely what we believe the Buddha himself did when he chose to after years of dwelling in the forest emerged to disrupt the convention of the day he had hitherto to attempted to practice without success, that Enlightenment required self sacrifice, isolating oneself from the world of appearances, to practice that which we today call Mahamudra, the means by which we realize the true of the mind without relying on spiritual paths we know not to be paths to liberation, but instead something else whatever that may be.

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