(L-R) Khenpo Pasang, Richard Gere, Khenpo Namdrol Rinpoche, Tsoknyi Rinpoche, Khenpo Sonam Tobten, and Ani Samten Palmo, with some of the Rigpa Shedra East students
The life of Rigpa Shedra students is mostly study and practice, but there are some days that shine especially bright. One such day came in the second week of January when a very special teacher, Tsoknyi Rinpoche, and a celebrity student, Richard Gere, came to the Penor Rinpoche Retreat center in Pharping, Nepal, where the shedra is held, and visited both its students and its illustrious khenpo, Khenpo Namdrol Rinpoche.
Tsoknyi Rinpoche took advantage of the visit to encourage Rigpa students in their studies. “I'm happy to see you studying and practicing to be able to hold the authentic Buddha Dharma. The Western world really needs it,” he said. “Without real human values, life is really plastic.” He also urged students to be steadfast in their commitment, and thoroughly dissipate any doubts about what they are doing.
“I think there is not much danger practicing Buddha Dharma, because the Buddha gave permission to check his teachings based on common sense, and make sure they don't clash with basic morality,” Tsoknyi Rinpoche told the students, “Love and compassion is one pillar, and another is thorough investigation, and another is trust--but trust based on investigation.”
Tsoknyi Rinpoche encouraged students to drop their expectations to achieve something, and just work hard to understand the teachings, as well as nurture their practice. “The goal is to embody the teachings, not just know them,” he said. “Everyone in the world is looking for beautiful, compassionate, honest persons, someone who is like His Holiness.”
He also encouraged students to relax, just breathe out, breathe in, and appreciate their studies in a joyful manner. “From time to time, just drop everything. Go back into the basic space,” he advised. “Don't lose the simple beauty of the Dharma.” As you can see by the smiles on the faces of the students present, his visit had an immediate effect. Richard Gere attended the special class, too, and was as joystruck as the twenty shedra students in attendance.
“If you really become a good practitioner, if you really study hard, I think you might become like Milarepa,” Tsoknyi Rinpoche told the students. “Milarepa was the most fanatical Buddhist. But nice, no? If you really practice hard you'll end up like Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. Do you mind? Or you'll end up like Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche—it's OK, no? Just think about those teachers, and dedicate to the practice.”
(Report by Rob Spaulding, a 3rd year Rigpa Shedra student. Photo by Jurek Schreiner)
See what else the Rigpa Shedra East students have been up to, at www.ripgashedra.org