Saturday, July 19, 2008

Choden Rinpoche Teaching (July 18, 2008)

Choden Rinpoche (FMPT bio) gave a public teaching on Friday evening at the Unitarian Universalist Society of Sacramento, whose facilities were rented by the sponsoring group (whose name was, quite oddly, not spotted anywhere). I have attended talks by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama as well as Thich Nhat Hahn, so I attended with some expectation. The evening met some of those expectations, exceeded them in some areas, and fell significantly short in one area.

The facility was sufficient, but lacked either capacity or ability to establish a comfortable temperature. There was a huge fan that circulated air prior to the arrival of Rinpoche, but once the teaching began the fan was turned off. I presumed this was in response to the very quiet voice of the Rinpoche and his translator who, from my position in the back of the small hall, was hard to both hear and required intense focus to understand the heavily accented words (this was in part the fault of the public address system, which seemed barely adequate for the space, and in part due to my aging ears). I found the normal bodily response to the warmth of the room very distracting. This became worse after about and hour when what I believe might have been a "swamp cooler" or attic fan clicked off and air circulation stopped. My clothing quickly became damp and remained so for the remainder of the evening.

The teaching centered around developing mind training and Choden Rinpoche's comments were insightful and informed. He spoke quietly, and his translator used a wireless microphone to share the words of this great lama with the audience. He spoke of developing a training to allow us to view each sentient being as a mother, and how the desire for bodhicitta (wiki) results in actions which allow us to treat one another with compassion and caring. He spoke about using visualizations to manifest changes in behavior, and spoke briefly about not becoming bogged down in the "muddy water" by teaching others how to fish rather than giving them a fish. He spoke for about two hours, and discussed much more than can be mentioned here.

I was somewhat surprised by the lack of robed attendees. Outside of one monk accompanying Rinpoche, there were no saffron robes in the audience. If you have information that would explain this, I would be very curious to know why, so please leave a comment.

I found the evening very worthwhile and will carry with me the appreciation for the opportunity to listen to such a highly regarded holy man. My gratitude goes out to the Rinpoche for his willingness to speak to us on a warm Sacramento Friday in July, and to the organizing group for their work in making the teaching happen.

Photo of Choden Rinpoche is from 2004 and was found on the internet.

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