Friday, June 4, 2010

in the face of total disaster - equanimity and wisdom

We share with you the following letter sent to the monks who survived the earthquake that virtually leveled the monastery in Tibet that they had spent so many years rebuilding after its destruction during the Chinese cultural revolution. In this message, its author Thrangu Rinpoche, the abbot of that monastery, which indeed bears his name - Thrangu Monastery - and senior tutor to His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa, offers us a model of wisdom and equanimity in the face of devastating loss.


We have been struck by an earthquake in our homeland and in particular at our Thrangu Monastery. The monastic college, retreat center, temple, and dormitories have all been destroyed. Many monks were killed. Many others have been injured and faced with great hardship. Despite this, when we comfort ourselves, we must remember that no one did anything to harm us, nor did we do anything wrong. Instead this is just the way the world is—it is a natural disaster. You are all sad and upset, but instead of wallowing in grief, pray to the Three Jewels. Make good aspiration prayers. Dedicate your virtue to those who have passed to nirvana or died. Doing this will be very good.

When I first heard the news yesterday, I immediately informed the Gyalwang Karmapa and Tai Situ Rinpoche. Both of them developed bodhichitta, recited prayers, and performed purification rituals. His Eminence Situ Rinpoche also performed the Thousand Offerings and many other virtuous rituals. They recited many prayers of aspiration and offering refuge, and so we have received their words of blessing.

A terrible thing has of course happened to those who passed away, but if they had died in another place, it would have been difficult to get such great masters like the Gyalwang Karmapa and Situ Rinpoche to recite prayers on their behalf. In this great disaster, not only did these masters recite prayers, they also regard them with their eyes of wisdom. This is a great fortune, and so all of you please think of this from a broader perspective.

This is of course a terrible event for us, but as the Bhagavan Buddha taught in the True Dharma, the characteristic of this samsaric world is that the end of birth is death, the end of meeting is parting, the end of gathering is using up, and the end of building is falling down. There is nothing that will not meet one of these four ends, he said. This is just the way this world of ours naturally is. This is nothing that anyone else has done to cause us problems, nor is there anything that someone has done wrong to cause this. It just happened naturally. Thus the most important thing is to go for refuge and make aspiration and dedication prayers; it is important to think about this from a wider perspective and do positive acts.

Although I would like to come there, it is a long way and I am old, so I am not able to come immediately. However, I will do as many prayers and aspirations as I can. The monastery has been destroyed, but in general, sometimes things wax, and sometimes they wane. Since this is just the characteristic of samsara, if we do not let ourselves get discouraged, it is not necessarily bad. We and others just need to do the best we can.

I have told the lamas at my overseas centers that they absolutely must go to see the situation, help recite prayers and aspirations for the deceased, and help care for the sick and injured. I have also asked them to examine the damaged monastery buildings and to do their best to work together with you until the monastery has been rebuilt. This is important, so I would like to ask all of you to cooperate with them in looking at the buildings, meeting with them, and accompanying them. Please make a connection with them. My own thought is that we will do whatever is best for the future. I cannot blame you for being sad and grieving now, but I do ask you to please look from a wider perspective and give yourselves courage.

----- Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche

If you would like to help rebuild, here's how.

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