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The Rain of the Dharma

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by Sangharakshita

Lecture 181: The Rain of the Dharma

Members of the Sangha and friends.

Manjuvajra has made it clear that he's very happy to be here on this occasion. And I must say also that I too am very glad, am very happy to be here with you at Zen Center on this occasion. This happens to be my first visit to the West Coast. I've been thinking about visiting the West Coast for quite a number of years, but it hasn't actually happened until just now. And I'm in San Francisco itself just for four days. But in being here for these four days I have mainly three objectives, three ideas in my mind. First of all, I wanted to have personal contact with the members and the friends of our small branch here in San Francisco of the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order - that was the first reason for which I came here. Secondly I wanted to see something of San Francisco itself, about which of course I had also heard so much. And thirdly and lastly, and I could almost say in a way most importantly perhaps, I wanted to have personal contact with some of the Buddhist groups of this city, of the Bay Area, and some of the Buddhist leaders - I'm not quite sure whether I should use this word `leaders' - but at least with some of those, let us say, who are and who have been prominent in the Buddhist movement in and around the Bay Area for the last so many years.

And I'm happy to be able to say that in the course of the last few days I have had - I have been able to have - that contact. I've been able to see for myself some of the things that I have only read about in the course of the last few years and the course of the last few decades. And here I am of course this evening at our famous Zen Center, about which I'd heard so much in the course of the years. And I'm very glad indeed to be here. And on this occasion I can't help remembering, in fact I can't help saluting, I take this opportunity of saluting all the great teachers, beginning with your own Suzuki-roshi, who have been associated with this center over the years, and who have been responsible for its creation. I think in particular of some of those whom I knew personally, who were personal friends of mine many years ago, like Lama Govinda and like Dr Conze.

So yes, in short I am, for various reasons, for so many reasons, very glad and very happy to be here in San Francisco and in Zen Center at last. As I mentioned, it's my first visit to the West Coast. It's only really my third or fourth visit to the United States. Much of my time in the course of the last twenty odd years has been spent in Britain, mainly concerned with the creation and development of our new Buddhist movement there, the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order.

But before that, of course, I was in India. I was in India altogether for some twenty years, nearly twenty years. And it was there principally that I pursued my - at least my earlier - Buddhist training. Of course we never finish our Buddhist training, do we? It always goes on and on. In fact, we wouldn't like to finish our Buddhist training, because we do enjoy it so much.

So I spent about twenty years in India, in various parts of India. A couple of years I spent just wandering from place to place with a yellow robe and a begging bowl in the traditional fashion.

And of course one of my greatest and one of my pleasantest and one of my most valuable recollections of India is my recollection of my various teachers, my various Buddhist teachers especially. I was so fortunate as to have eight principal teachers, and it might be of interest if I at least mention their names and say a word or two about each of them, in roughly chronological order.

First of all there was Bhikshu Jagdish Kashyap, who was an Indian by birth, a Bihari, and who was a Theravadin bhikkhu, and a very great scholar, one of the greatest Buddhist scholars that modern India has produced. With him I stayed for nearly a year, studying Pali, studying Abhidhamma. He was a great authority on Pali grammar and on Buddhist logic, and he eventually edited the entire Pali Tipitaka in devanagari characters, and established the Nalanda Pali Institute, which subsequently became the Nalanda Buddhist university. He died some years ago, unfortunately. And I remember the days, the months I spent with him with very great fondness, because he was a complete embodiment of tolerance and of kindness, as well as being a very great scholar - a very humble man. Some scholars I've met, I'm sorry to say, have not been particularly humble men. They haven't been remarkable for their humility. But Kashyapji, as we usually called him, certainly was.

And then again I must mention the first of my Tibetan teachers, and that was Chetul Sangye Dorje, from whom I received various teachings and initiations. Some of you may have heard his name, because it occurs in the writings of Thomas Merton, of whom some of you must have heard. Thomas Merton mentions him in the course of his Asian Journal, I think it is, because it was on the personal recommendation of no less a person than the Dalai Lama that Thomas Merton went to Chetul Sangye Dorje, and he was more impressed by Chetul Sangye Dorje, he afterwards wrote, than he had been by any other Tibetan lama whom he met, not excluding the Dalai Lama himself. So I was so fortunate as to be associated with Chetul Sangye Dorje, who in fact is still alive - he's the only one of my eight teachers who is living - but he's now 82, and he does not choose to come to the West.

He was in some ways the most eccentric and bizarre and extraordinary of all my teachers. He did not give straightforward teachings. If you asked him a question he'd very rarely answer it. Usually he would do something very odd, and you had to make the best of that sort of reply that you could. Some of my own disciples actually have visited him. Some have been rebuffed; others have been welcomed and given teachings and initiations for no apparent reason. So he was one of the most extraordinary of my teachers.

And then I must also mention the great Dudjom Rimpoche and Dilgo Khyentse Rimpoche, and the great Jamyang Khyentse Rimpoche, who died in 1959. And I also must mention Khachu Rimpoche, from whom I received most of my Nyingmapa teachings. He was the head lama, the abbot, of Pemyangtse Gompa in Sikkim, which is the principal Nyingmapa establishment in Sikkim. It's also the royal, or was the royal gompa, the royal monastery. With him too I was closely associated.

And again I must not forbear to mention the name of Dhardo Rimpoche. He was my Gelugpa teacher. I was very closely associated with him for quite a number of years. He was remarkable both for his compassion, I would say, and his extreme mindfulness. I associated with him for a number of years. We were quite intimately associated. We travelled together. But though I observed him very closely - observed his words, observed his actions, could almost sometimes read his thoughts - I never saw him on a single occasion, for a single instant, unmindful. Now that's a very big thing to say. Those of you who practise, or try to practise mindfulness will know how difficult it is to remain mindful even for five minutes. But I never caught out - well, not that I tried to catch him out - I never caught out Dhardo Rimpoche even once. His mindfulness, his self-possession, was so extraordinary one could call it really supernatural. He was never caught napping. And one of my disciples, I'm glad to say, has written the biography of Dhardo Rimpoche. It's called `The Wheel and the Diamond'. He died about two years ago - Dhardo Rimpoche did, that is to say.

And perhaps last of all I should mention another rather strange, rather eccentric teacher of mine.

Or perhaps I should say he wasn't exactly a teacher, although I regarded him as such. He refused to be regarded as a teacher. He refused to regard anybody as his pupil or student. And that was Yogi CM Chen, of whom some of you may have heard. With him also I was closely associated for a number of years, though he would perhaps deny that. But although he would perhaps deny the fact, I learned a lot from him, a very great deal from him. And his tradition was Chinese Zen - Ch'an, that is to say. He practised Ch'an and he also practised Vajrayana, he'd been in Eastern Tibet for a number of years and he'd been associated with the great Jamyang Khyentse Rimpoche.

So these, very briefly, were my eight principal teachers, and I had the very good fortune to be associated closely with these eight great personalities, especially in the course of my last ten or twelve years in India. So India means a very great deal to me. For me India means these teachers of mine, it means friends of mine, it means so many things to me. And sometimes I say even now that even though I was born and brought up in England, and though I've spent now more than twenty years in England, I still feel more at home in India than I do in England. I remember so many things about India. There were so many features of India that I recollect with great affection.

And one of them, I must say, is the rainy season. In India - or perhaps in California you can't imagine this - but in India there's a rainy season. It rains without intermission for three or four months, in some parts of India very heavily indeed. There are parts of India which have four hundred and fifty inches of rain a year. Again, in California I'm sure you can't even imagine that.

So there's a rainy season. And the rainy season in India is a very pleasant, a very enjoyable time indeed. You really do enjoy the rain. In south India, where it's very warm at that time of year, people don't bother about mackintoshes and umbrellas, they just walk about in the rain, because they wear so little clothing they can just change when they go home, and that's it. They enjoy the rain. And the rainy season, the ...

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