Goodness within us all

By LOIS LEGGE, The Chronicle Herald, March 13, 2006

Buddhist leader and meditation master Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche gives strategies on Ruling Your World

HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA (Canada) -- The smell of juniper incense fills the air. Lovely brocades cover chairs or tables, decorated in traditional Tibetan red and yellow. Little Buddha figures appear on shelves throughout the rooms of Halifax’s Shambhala Centre.

<< Shambhala leader Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche sits on a shrine chair at the Shambala Centre in Halifax on Thursday. The Buddhist leader and meditation master has published his second book, Ruling Your World. (Picture: Peter Parsons)

Compared to the hustle and bustle of the outside city streets it’s almost startlingly quiet here at the world headquarters for Shambhala Buddhists, an ancient Tibetan religion.

Inside, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, world leader of Shambhala Buddhists, speaks about the basic goodness of all human beings, letting go of aggression and the peace that comes from compassion — all themes of his latest book Ruling Your World.

As idealistic as some of the concepts sound, the meditation master is quick to point out their everyday applications.

"This is just not some sort of whimsical idea or this sort of spiritual idealism but really it’s very practical. . . .," says the 42-year-old sometime Halifax resident and frequent world traveler.

"Compassion is a viable means as opposed to just aggression."

The Rinpoche believes angry words or deeds beget more angry words and deeds. And whether it’s a confrontation with a quarrelsome co-worker or rage on the roadways, karma makes sure the cycle of aggression continues.

But the Buddhist spiritual leader says choosing another approach brings about different, more peaceful results.

He’s been studying these ideas since he was a child, schooled first by his late father Vidyadhara the Venerable Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, considered largely responsible for bringing Buddhism to the west after leading followers out of Communist occupied Tibet in 1959. He eventually picked Halifax as world headquarters because he considered it a peaceful place of tolerant people, says his son.

The Rinpoche (meaning precious jewel) still studies during retreats to India, between trips to the more than 200 other Shambhala centres across the globe.

He hopes his new book will help spread a core concept — that all people are basically good — to a wider audience.

It sounds like a difficult concept in a world with so much war and terror; poverty and pain.

But, he says, "when we say basic goodness really what we mean is that every individual has the ability in them to be awakened and enlightened. . . .

"(Are) there things that people do that are horrendous? . . . Certainly. . . . A lot of situations in the world are because people have not been cared for, they’ve not been loved, they’ve not been supported and then all they have is . . . these negative emotions. . . .

"Even, we say, the most vicious animals have compassion for their children. It’s there. It has to be cultivated and it may be really like far in another galaxy," he says with a laugh "but it’s there."

The Rinpoche says these days, people’s minds are often too muddled; "intoxicated with self-infatuation"; wrapped up in the culture of "me." But ironically, he says, when they start thinking more about others, they become happier.

He encourages his students to stop and think about their reactions instead of instinctively lashing out at real or perceived wrongs; to consider what may have led to the other person’s actions.

"Compassion here doesn’t mean you’re weak. . . . We mix compassion and wisdom . . . and compassion actually is a very, very strong state of mind so . . . some act of compassion may be telling somebody what they’ve done and try to help them and be direct. It’s not just saying everything is okay."

He suggests starting small — initially using just 10 per cent of the day trying to help others.

"You don’t have to start off by thinking you have to be nice to every single person, it’s like just try one person . . . have an approach as opposed to not having an approach at all and just kind of going through life haphazardly. Ten per cent, where you just take a little bit of the attitude and think okay I’ll think about myself the rest of the time."

Meditating can help bring such thoughts into focus, he says, noting the practice is still often considered "new age" in the west but is "hard and tested" in Tibetan culture.

"I know people who have meditated for years in very tough conditions who wouldn’t waste their time doing it unless it worked."

While he teaches meditation and Buddhism worldwide, the Rinpoche still considers himself a student, constantly learning as he conducts his busy schedule and deals with pressures unique to his position.

"A lot of the old (Tibetan) masters, like my father and his generation, they’re all passed away," he says, adding he feels a responsibility to carry on their work. "I was just in India and people like the Dalai Lama and other senior teachers you know they’re are asking me to do more."

His personal life is going to get busier this spring too.

He and his new bride — a member of a Tibetan aristocratic family now based in India — were married in a Colorado civil ceremony last August. But their main marriage ceremony will be held at Halifax’s Pier 23 in June and yet another ceremony will be held in India later for the Tibetan community there.

"At least it’s the same woman right," he says with a laugh.

The Rinpoche will give a free public talk and book signing 7 p.m. March 10 at the Dalhousie Student Union Building (McInnes Room), where he will also hold a workshop 9 a.m.-5 p.m. March 11. Tickets are $75 ($50 for students).

Ruling Your World: Ancient Strategies for a Modern World
by Sakyong Mipham
(Morgan Road Books, hardcover, 224 pages,

We Need Your Help to Train the
Buddhist AI Chat Bot
(Neural Operator for Responsible Buddhist Understanding)

For Malaysians and Singaporeans, please make your donation to the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB

The SWIFT/BIC code for RHB Bank Berhad is: RHBBMYKLXXX
Address: 11-15, Jalan SS 24/11, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Phone: 603-9206 8118

Note: Please indicate your name in the payment slip. Thank you.

Dear Friends in the Dharma,

We seek your generous support to help us train NORBU, the word's first Buddhist AI Chat Bot.

Here are some ways you can contribute to this noble cause:

One-time Donation or Loan: A single contribution, regardless of its size, will go a long way in helping us reach our goal and make the Buddhist LLM a beacon of wisdom for all.

How will your donation / loan be used? Download the NORBU White Paper for details.

For Malaysians and Singaporeans, please make your donation to the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB

The SWIFT/BIC code for RHB Bank Berhad is: RHBBMYKLXXX
Address: 11-15, Jalan SS 24/11, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Phone: 603-9206 8118

Note: Please indicate your purpose of payment (loan or donation) in the payment slip. Thank you.

Once payment is banked in, please send the payment slip via email to: Your donation/loan will be published and publicly acknowledged on the Buddhist Channel.

Spread the Word: Share this initiative with your friends, family and fellow Dharma enthusiasts. Join "Friends of Norbu" at: Together, we can build a stronger community and create a positive impact on a global scale.

Volunteer: If you possess expertise in AI, natural language processing, Dharma knowledge in terms of Buddhist sutras in various languages or related fields, and wish to lend your skills, please contact us. Your knowledge and passion could be invaluable to our project's success.

Your support is part of a collective effort to preserve and disseminate the profound teachings of Buddhism. By contributing to the NORBU, you become a "virtual Bodhisattva" to make Buddhist wisdom more accessible to seekers worldwide.

Thank you for helping to make NORBU a wise and compassionate Buddhist Chatbot!

May you be blessed with inner peace and wisdom,

With deepest gratitude,

Kooi F. Lim
On behalf of The Buddhist Channel Team

Note: To date, we have received the following contributions for NORBU:
US$ 75 from Gary Gach (Loan)
US$ 50 from Chong Sim Keong
MYR 300 from Wilson Tee
MYR 500 from Lim Yan Pok
MYR 50 from Oon Yeoh
MYR 200 from Ooi Poh Tin
MYR 300 from Lai Swee Pin
MYR 100 from Ong Hooi Sian
MYR 1,000 from Fam Sin Nin
MYR 500 from Oh teik Bin
MYR 300 from Yeoh Ai Guat
MYR 300 from Yong Lily
MYR 50 from Bandar Utama Buddhist Society
MYR 1,000 from Chiam Swee Ann
MYR 1,000 from Lye Veei Chiew
MYR 1,000 from Por Yong Tong
MYR 80 from Lee Wai Yee
MYR 500 from Pek Chee Hen
MYR 300 from Hor Tuck Loon
MYR 1,000 from Wise Payments Malaysia Sdn Bhd
MYR 200 from Teo Yen Hua
MYR 500 from Ng Wee Keat
MYR 10,000 from Chang Quai Hung, Jackie (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from K. C. Lim & Agnes (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from Juin & Jooky Tan (Loan)
MYR 100 from Poh Boon Fong (on behalf of SXI Buddhist Students Society)
MYR 10,000 from Fam Shan-Shan (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from John Fam (Loan)
MYR 500 from Phang Cheng Kar
MYR 100 from Lee Suat Yee
MYR 500 from Teo Chwee Hoon (on behalf of Lai Siow Kee)
MYR 200 from Mak Yuen Chau

We express our deep gratitude for the support and generosity.

If you have any enquiries, please write to: