Pema Chödrön spoke to a diverse crowd of 1,300 at Meany Hall, University of Washington
No evil is there similar to anger,
No austerity to be compared with patience.
Steep yourself, therefore, in patience -
In all ways, urgently, with zeal.
Chapter 6, Verse 2
The Way of the Bodhisattva
Translated by the Padmakara Translation Group
In the firmament of Western Buddhist teachers, few shine as brightly as Ani Pema Chödrön, a humble nun and formidable fount of vast and profound teachings of compassion and wisdom.
She captivated the full house of about 1,300 — many hundreds of whom do not consider themselves Buddhists — at Meany Hall on the University of Washington campus. Her focus was the chapter on Patience from her book, No Time to Lose, a commentary on the Indian classic, the Bodhicharyavatara or Way of the Bodhisattva, by the 8th century sage, Shantideva.
With characteristic clarity, ease, and humor, Pema Chödrön brought to life these seminal teachings, making them personal, accessible, and relevant. She expertly taught this age-old wisdom of how to train the mind in patience so that we can recognize and change our habitual tendency to “bite the hook” of indulging in emotional reactions that lead to the suffering of ourselves and others.
Ani Pema and Mitra Karl Brunnhölzl at Gasworks Park, Seattle.
So come what may, I’ll never harm
My cheerful happiness of mind.
Depression never brings me what I want;
My virtue will be warped and marred by it.
Chapter 6, Verse 9
Along with explicating each verse of the text, she used examples from her own life to relate how the fundamental human condition is basic goodness, on which we project the play of the temporary manifestations of our seemingly individual experience, including our suffering. Since this is the case, we can acknowledge and work with our ingrained patterns, and change them by investigating our intentions and modifying our behavior accordingly.
Thus, when enemies or friends
Are seen to act improperly,
Be calm and call to mind
That everything arises from conditions.
Chapter 6, Verse 33
Dr. Karl Brunnhölzl also spoke about meditation practice and provided instruction. He is a Mitra (Sanskrit for ‘friend’) or senior teacher in the Nalandabodhi sangha. From his depth of experience and with great wit, he described a classic threefold process of engaging in meditation: Mindful Gap, or giving mind the space to be mind; Clear Seeing of the thoughts or emotions that arise; and Letting Go of them and letting them naturally dissipate.
After the program at Meany Hall, he also led a question-and answer session at Nalanda West. A study group of No Time to Lose is now being offered at Nalanda West on Tuesday evenings now through September.
At the end of the program, thanks were extended and dedication of merit offered.
Teaching sessions were also interspersed with optional yoga sessions, specially designed for the theater environment, to allow participants a chance to stretch and re-energize. Particularly fun was the laughing yoga. Participants also practiced silence during the weekend, allowing them to explore the dimension of speech in a contemplative manner.
The dedicated efforts of the organizing team and more than 30 volunteers created a warm, open, and friendly atmosphere for the weekend. Even with the large numbers of participants, a meditative space was created in which people were able to relax, interact harmoniously, and enjoy Pema Chödrön’s compassionate presence, warmth, and wisdom. She touched hearts, and provided the methods, tools, and tips to help her listeners make beneficial changes in their own lives, and in a world that needs love and patience now more than ever.
Goodbyes at Nalanda West.
As long as space endures
As long as there are beings to be found,
May I continue likewise to remain
To drive away the sorrows of the world.
Chapter 10, Verse 56
Ani Pema Chödrön is an American Buddhist nun in the lineage of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, a renowned Tibetan meditation master. She is a leading exponent of teachings on meditation and how they apply to everyday life. She is interested in helping establish Tibetan Buddhist monasticism in the West, as well as continuing her work with Western Buddhists of all traditions by sharing ideas and teachings. She is the author of several best-selling books, including When Things Fall Apart, The Places that Scare You, and Practicing Peace in Times of War.
Contributor: Nick Vail.
Photos: Rysiek Frackiewicz, courtesy of Nalanda West