After visiting Dorje Ling Buddhist Center, attending several Green Tara pujas and receiving teachings from Khenpo Ngawang Dorjee (as described in part 3), I ceased going to the center for a time. There were issues with scheduling due to my job that conflicted with attending classes and/or other events. Yet I tried to process what I had already learned, to continue studying on my own, and to begin to make some effort toward Dharma practice.
For example, I would do a simple meditation on Green Tara, visualizing her as best I could while chanting her mantra. I would also meditate on compassion and began to cultivate more of that in my own life (both for myself and for others). I listened to many online Dharma talks and made a close and careful study of several books on Buddhism. This period lasted about two years, bringing us up to 2007.
While researching some of the history of the Jonang lineage I came across a bit of information that was very troubling to me. I learned that the Jonangpa were persecuted by the 5th Dalai Lama (of the Gelug lineage) over political and doctrinal disagreements. The 5th Dalai Lama banned as heretical the study of zhentong (‘other emptiness’, a view taught by the Jonang lineage), forcibly expelled Jonangpa monks and Lamas from their monasteries and brought those monasteries under Gelugpa control. This all occurred in the late 17th century. The Jonang lineage was thought to be extinct, yet in truth, it continued its unbroken transmission primarily in the more remote northeastern region of Tibet, called Amdo.
This sent me into a bit of a spiritual crisis. I wanted to believe Buddhism was not tainted with political disputes and persecutions. I wanted to believe Buddhism was pure. I wanted to believe Buddhism was different from other religions that exhibited highly questionable histories including inquisitions, crusades, jihads and so forth. And further, if all of the Dalai Lamas are emanations of Buddha Chenrezig (Avalokitesvara, the Buddha of Compassion), how could the ‘Great 5th’, as he was called, exhibit such harsh treatment towards fellow sons and daughters of the Conqueror? And how could I reconcile this with the compassion, wisdom and warmhearted nature of the current 14th Dalai Lama? This indeed became a stumbling block on my own path. So what did I do?
One evening after a meditation session – these issues still weighing heavy on my mind – I prayed to H. H. Penam Rinpoche for guidance. The answer that came to me was not one I was expecting at all, yet it came through loud and clear…
‘Go to the Gelug temple.’
Continued in part 5…