In Lama Palden’s first sangha-wide meeting since her move to Portugal, she shared her thoughts on how profoundly our Dharma practice can serve during current times.
WHEN LAMA PALDEN moved to Portugal last fall, the idea was to live in semi-retreat after many years of intense service dedicated to Sukhasiddhi. Her inspiration came from Shantideva who said that “a bodhisattva retires into the forest to replenish.” Since her move, she has been in close touch with Sukhasiddhi and has been teaching various Sukhasiddhi groups online. On August 30, for the first time since her move, she met via Zoom with the Sukhasiddhi sangha as a whole and shared some of her thoughts on how dharma practice can serve during these challenging times.
“It was especially lovely to be invited into Lama Palden’s home (virtually) and to receive the teachings in such an authentic, relaxed, extemporaneous way,” said sangha member Kelly Minor. “I was overjoyed at seeing Lama Palden – alongside members of the sangha—gathered in this way. It reminded me of our summertime retreats at Santa Sabina except, perhaps, more accessible and sun-kissed. Those two hours together have deepened my sense of appreciation for Lama Palden, spiritual friendship, and the importance of practice at this time.”
In her talk, Lama Palden pointed to how radically the US has changed in the last five years. “When it’s challenging, it’s challenging. All we can do is the best we can do,” Lama Palden said. “As dharma practitioners we have unique gifts from our teachers and our lineages to help us.”
“Lama Palden framed her talk by recognizing the precious gift we have in knowing how karma is created, understanding the nature of suffering, and realizing that samsara ultimately doesn’t work,” said Kelly Minor. “She emphasized that this knowledge, especially when paired with each person’s unique offering to the world, is a powerful antidote to the suffering of our time, and that the primary focus is to keep our hearts open and practice with sincerity. This strikes me as an especially attuned response to the current events, which are leaving many members of our sangha at a loss regarding how to be of benefit in these difficult times.”
One of our biggest challenges is in dealing with difficult emotions, such as the fear and anxiety that comes in the face of uncertainty, and the overwhelm we can feel at the extent of all the suffering around the world. “Vajrayana is unique in Buddhism in the sense that we are encouraged to bring all of our feelings right into the meditation,” said Lama Palden. “Whatever we are feeling becomes our prayers for ourselves and the world. Emotions are brought to the path. We work on purifying our streams of being; transforming and liberating our confused mind and habits into their awakened counterpoints or qualities. Meditating on various yidams, we transform clinging to a false identity, and begin to awaken to and actualize the various enlightened qualities inside ourselves.”
Many in the sangha have heard Lama Palden talk about Tara, Chenrezig and other yidams. Yidam practices can be especially useful in helping us to contact the part of us that is unobstructed by fear and ignorance. “Yidam practice gives us a taste of our awakened nature. We feel into these actual energies inside of us,” said Lama Palden. “The ego tries to mimic these, but this is not actual.”
Lama Palden emphasized the difference between actual and conditioned goodness. “Of course, it is essential for us to be good people, but we don’t want to pretend we are or try to be. We don’t want to be an ego facsimile of a good person. We want to uncover and be in touch with our actual goodness. Our actual unselfishness. We want to get in touch with and then fully actualize who we truly are — wisdom and love.”
One of the two most important points of this uncovering is to serve the world and all living beings. “We can reach out to others with kindness, both in our personal lives, which most of you do, and also as a sangha. Sukhasiddhi is for everyone. We can share whatever gifts we have found in the dharma and invite people into our sangha. We have classes for any level of interest. For example, Barbara Juniper’s class, Opening the Gate is a huge contribution and is free for all to attend. We need to always be like the family that opens their arms to those less fortunate and invites them in.”
Because of the situation with Covid, Lama Palden cannot come to California to teach as was planned this year, but there are still ways to engage with her and receive her wisdom and support. In addition to the groups she teaches online, Lama Palden is also available to meet personally with individuals through Zoom. Sessions can be scheduled directly with her through her website, lamapalden.org. You might also want to read her book, Love on Every Breath, where she shares both personal reflections and profound meditations that anyone can do to transform darkness and suffering into compassion, both personally and collectively.