I have no doubt that what is important to me is also important to you, that we share similar questions about life: “How do I digest the suffering I witness in the world and what can I do about it?” “Is it possible to enjoy the natural energy of my own mind rather than struggling with it so much?” “What happens when I want to love but my heart feels like a dry seed?” “How do I make my spiritual practice a living experience?”
You could call me an author and a Buddhist teacher, but in truth, I am just asking myself questions about the human condition out loud. I see myself more as a student – always learning, fiercely probing, fascinated with the challenges of being human and the great potential for awakening.
I often stop and ask myself: “Who am I to teach this profound and vast tradition that has been passed down from teacher to student in an unbroken lineage from the time of the Buddha?” I don’t mean this in a self-effacing way, but rather as a way of being honest with myself about where I am with my study and practice. I feel a sense of humility and awe in the face of these teachings. I can recognize my own limitations and also the vastness of my own potential, and I am grateful to see both.
The Buddhist tradition has the most humorous and radical methods for those longing to do whatever it takes to live a healthy and compassionate life. It offers a path for those who are not interested in self-deception or in hiding from their habitual tendencies. It invites each of us to experience the freedom of exposing our own hidden confusion to the light of our intelligence.
It excites and sometimes concerns me to witness the timeless wisdom of the Buddhist tradition enter into the wild, cocky, and creative atmosphere of contemporary culture. In this age of spiritual materialism it is a strong tendency for all of us to use spirituality as a way to make ourselves comfortable. We tend to pick and choose aspects of our spiritual traditions that substantiate our ego, and reject the things that challenge our habitual reactive mind. I can’t imagine how such a path could be transformative and it sometimes makes me wonder if the dharma will withstand the test of time. Personally, I think that will depend upon whether those who practice it understand the wisdom aspect of these teachings, and maintain a spirit of open inquiry – which demands a mind willing to let go of the extremes of belief and doubt – a mind that longs for something much deeper, intelligent, and more daring.
As a Western contemporary female practitioner and teacher, I feel a particular allegiance to the teachings on emptiness and dependent origination, and want to do my part in preserving them. I have confidence that these teachings are the most powerful, transformative teachings for our time, yet they are often overlooked or misunderstood.
So I confess, I do have a personal agenda here. As a Western contemporary female practitioner and teacher, I feel a particular allegiance to the teachings on emptiness and dependent origination, and want to do my part in preserving them. I have confidence that these teachings are the most powerful, transformative teachings for our time, yet they are often overlooked or misunderstood. I want to invite you all to join me in my enthusiasm for these precious teachings. I predict it will be fun! Let’s put them into practice and bring them to life together!
With gratitude and deep respect,
Elizabeth Mattis Namgyel