NYC Travel Diary
September 16, 2006 16:34
We’re back at last, and by all accounts, the trip to New York City was a smashing success. Nearly 500 people attended Ken and Traleg Rinpoche’s in-depth exploration of spirituality and Buddhism in the modern and postmodern world, and the Integral Institute Member Event the following day was so packed even the auditorium stairs were full! The trip was magical for many reasons, but there’s nothing quite like being surrounded by many hundreds of friends, new and old, for three days straight—it tends to leave a tingle and glow in the heart, one that follows you all the way home. I can feel it now, a week later, and I think our dear brothers and sisters on the East coast can still feel it too.
Eddie Kowalczyk, lead singer of the rock group Live, was our constant companion. It is utterly extraordinary what this soul can do with a simple acoustic guitar and mic: he FILLS the room with a dancing pranic nectar that shimmers with the knowledge of never-lost Liberation. It’s pretty amazing, and he was clearly one of the stars of the weekend. We were incredibly grateful to have him along, and he assured us the feeling was mutual—what a guy :-)
Speaking of shimmering knowledge of never-lost Liberation, Traleg Rinpoche was the perfect companion for exploring how the utterly invaluable insights of contemplative spirituality, and Buddhism in particular, can find a (deeper) place in the modern and postmodern world. Traleg Rinpoche is unique in that he is one of the very few Tibetan Buddhist teachers who are as well-versed in the Western intellectual tradition as they are in their own, and who value the insights of both. This kind of stance is indicative of a more integral approach to spirituality, and we are proud to count Traleg Rinpoche among the teachers at Integral Spiritual Center.
As Ken writes in his foreword to Traleg Rinpoche’s forthcoming book, The Practice of Lojong:
[Traleg Rinpoche] combines an undeniable grasp of Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism with a thorough familiarity with us barbarians in the West and our many strange ways.
I say that facetiously, of course; but still, the difficulties of translating a teaching from one culture to another are notorious, and yet time and again I have been struck by Rinpoche’s easy fluency with Western culture and especially its overall intellectual canon, something that, frankly, is missing in most foreign teachers. In fact, I know of no other teacher who better grasps both the Tibetan and Western traditions than Traleg Rinpoche, and thus the combination of the depth of his own enlightenment and the capacity to transmit it are matched by few Tibetan teachers. This makes Rinpoche an ideal Vajrayana teacher for Westerners....
If you weren’t able to make it out to NYC to see these two masters at work, don’t worry!—the entire event was professionally filmed by our good friend Dan Edwards, and we are working to share this extraordinary gathering with the world at large.
After teaching together Friday evening (the 8th) and all day Saturday (the 9th), Ken and Traleg Rinpoche made their way over to Tibet House for a relaxed reception and book signing. Earlier that day, Sam Bercholz, the founder of Shambhala Publications, leaned over to me and whispered, “This is the only place in the world where you can hold a copy of Integral Spirituality in your hands”—which is another reason this was such a remarkable event: a full month before its formal release date (October 3rd), Ken’s most recent book was on hand—and so was its author! As people queued up to have their book signed and to say hello, it was apparent just how much the past two days with Ken and Rinpoche truly meant to them. Perhaps it was the presence of so much sacred Tibetan art, but I swear people were glowing....
Then, on Sunday, was our first-ever Integral Institute Member Event. Free to members of I-I, every nook and cranny of that room was filled with yet more new friends to make. Literally every step of the stairs on both sides of the room was filled with people sitting shoulder to shoulder, and looking darn happy with their make-shift seat! Standing next to Ken and looking up at the crowd, all I could feel was wave after wave of buzzing curiosity and warm appreciation. As he often likes to do, Ken opened things up to Q&A and the flow began, punctuated by the audio transmission of Eddie K. Ken gave a lot to the crowd that day, but they gave just as much back. Perhaps that’s what happens when the crowd isn’t just a “crowd;” it’s family.
That evening, the feeling of family continued and intensified with an intimate gathering of 60 people or so, held in the living room of Barron and Robin Reinach, two of Integral Institute’s Presidents Circle members, and, we are pleased to announce, new members of the I-I Board of Directors. Robin and Barron have shown their commitment to the Integral Vision time and again, and we couldn’t be happier to have these two incredibly deep souls join us in this way. The second of such gatherings to be held in their home, it was the perfect way to bring a remarkable weekend to a close.
I sincerely thank everyone who made this weekend possible (as well as everyone I’m sure to have forgotten): Traleg Rinpoche, E-vam Institute, Eddie K, Sam Bercholz, Dan Edwards, Huy Lam, Kate Maloney, Liz Morrison, and, most of all, Ken. When Ken was violently attacked by a bathroom door earlier this summer, the resulting fall not only wrenched his back and shoulder, but broke/separated his pelvis. This is, as he puts it, “quite literally a pain in the ass.” Sitting for any length of time is therefore very painful, if not excruciating, with the added fun of how the body naturally responds to pain: waves of nausea and constant sweating. His determination to embark upon and complete this journey was nothing less than heroic, a sentiment I know is shared by many. At least a dozen times I heard somebody say, “Only a true bodhisattva could do this,” and I think that’s exactly right. Realizing there are no others to save, vowing to save them all, pushing through islands of red-hot pain, so that we in turn may recognize the simple truth of it all: I am the Buddha we are, as simple and obvious as the sky over Manhattan....
PS Pictures are coming soon, I promise!
Colin Bigelow, Ken's Assistant