“Lids & Flowers.”
Vidyadhara Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche
This lightly edited talk and discussion took place at tea for volunteers at Marpa House, Boulder Colorado on February 28, 1978. It was transcribed by Judith Smith and edited by Judith L. Lief.
We might go back to the foundation and review some of the case history.
Karmê Chöling was the first center and Karma Dzong was the second center founded in this country. As Karma Dzong got bigger, it became Vajradhatu, and then Karma Dzong became an independent organization itself. But the whole administration at the beginning was started on a purely voluntary basis. The funds that were collected were used for postage stamps, renting halls, and that kind of situation. No individuals took salaries. John [Baker], Marvin [Casper], Fran [Lewis], Kesang, and all those people worked on a voluntary basis.
Nowadays, an interesting shift psychologically is that some people are being paid to work and other people are volunteering. To a certain extent, when people begin to feel they are part of the mechanism of the organization, that they are the part of the inspiration of the organization, that natural voluntary spirit continues, whether they are paid or not. As far as I myself am concerned, as the first volunteer [laughter], my food and roof are paid for. But I don’t feel that I want to make a big deal of money out of anybody, just a reasonable living. And that has continued throughout the whole thing.
Actually, even at the present time, I am still a volunteer. I am fed, clothed, and roofed, but I don’t make any money and that’s fine. I prefer to be an accomplished teacher rather than a millionaire. We have a lot of other businesses going on the side, but somehow, all those businesses are focused on just building up the business. When you set up a business, it takes a lot of money to build it up. So, an interesting kind of logic goes on there.
At some point, there was a kind of breakdown between the administration and the community at large. Administrators were paid and they were regarded as officers, administrators, or government servants of various levels—and there was a gap from that to the level of the regular citizens, so to speak, or regular community members. There was some kind of gap. When certain emergency situations occurred, such as His Holiness Karmapa’s visit, the administrators tried to cry out for volunteers. Volunteers were recruited and performed purely on the basis of an emergency situation. It was a kind of first-aid approach. That approach to the whole thing was not particularly necessary, but it happened that way, I think, largely because of some kind of panic being involved.
Presently in Vajradhatu, Karma Dzong, and Karmê Chöling altogether, everybody’s work is voluntary. Those who claim to have a paid job are not being paid, so actually it is saying the same thing. A lot of the officers, department heads, and whatever are working on a voluntary basis at this point. And an interesting situation is that there still seems to be a big gap. The rest of the community, a somewhat large portion of the community, feels that they were cut off from the organization when typewriters and the telephones were installed in the Dorje Dzong building. Such a situation doesn’t have to be instituted. There is no need for that kind of division, at all—it is purely psychological. People holding office and making decisions are not made out of a different species or different race. They are just like anybody else—any Joe Schmidt, or whomever.
As for the volunteer program, I personally feel funny saying, “program.” It looks like we have a particular project to include you people or to enroll you to get involved in this “program.” Maybe we could find a better word than “program.” The idea of the volunteer “situation,” so to speak, at this point, is actually to build a bridge between the rest of the doubtful community members, or uncertain community members, who are basically good-hearted people but still have resistance. They have a problem getting into the building of Dorje Dzong. So volunteers like you can actually build a tremendous historic bridge, a Golden Gate Bridge. [Laughter] And by involving yourselves with this, it will enable the rest of the community to also be inspired. There is a tremendous ambition involved with this organization and this whole vision. There are a lot of people crying out for it, but not finding a particular spot or particular way to get into it. So your type of commitment will be fantastic vanguard to get into the whole thing, and it will inspire others to do so.
I would like to propose a further project at this point. It is that as volunteers yourselves, you are also requested to recruit further volunteers. That will be your particular duty and job. You do that so that we could actually increase and there is mutual sharing taking place. There is nothing mysterious taking place in the Dorje Dzong Building. There is nothing mysterious taking in the community at large. It is a question of meeting one mind together.
Another volunteer situation is the Vajra Guards, who have also been trying to secure people. They are trying to accommodate the situation if there is a big fight between husband and wife or if somebody has been thrown into jail or something. We try not to do that, but at the same time, the Vajra Guards can handle that so some kind of reasonable situation could take place. Similarly, the volunteers could do that as well, when people have problems and difficulties, such as Miss Deutsche has mentioned. A situation like that is extremely helpful in that we have a sense of sisterhood or brotherhood. A quality of sanghaship is actually taking place. In our organization, anybody who has actually sat on the zafu is regarded as a part of our friends and relatives. We can extend our family completely so that they can be helped.
At this point, there are two levels or ways of helping people. One set of people is not quite at the point of actually needing help, but they need encouragement. The volunteer group could come along and work with them so that eventually they could help themselves. Another set of people are desperately in need of help. They can’t move their right or left arm or walk to the toilet. They can only do a little bit.
A kind of complete mandala can be established so that nobody is left out in our organization or in our sanghaship, at all. People will be looked after, worked on, and if anybody is freaked out, we don’t just kick them out. We try not to do that for a long time, actually, unless the whole situation becomes very negative. If our involvement with that person generates further pain and further neurosis, we then try to kick them out. But, on the other hand, we try to cultivate everybody, even to the brink of breaking down. We never give them up at all, unless they voluntarily give themselves up, which is a different kind of volunteering. [Laughter]
Basically, what this actually boils down to is holding the fort. Holding the fort. That also brings out a lot of you people’s resistance to getting your fingers dirty. And I would say that it would be good for sangha member to get their hands dirty, not to speak about fingers.
To get into real situations in which we can actually help each other.
That is traditionally what happened in the past, and it also should happen in the present situation. And as far as the future is concerned, we have a lot more to do along those lines, which probably you will recover or discover as we go along. But as far as the future is concerned, what we do in the present is important. That kind of tight-knit sanghaship, that tight-knit helping out, in terms of the realization of our organization, is helpful.
As far as an individual’s talent is concerned, sometimes you would like to explore a certain talent, although you may not have one particular area you would like to explore. Please go ahead and do it. It would also be the role of the department heads or certain employees of this particular volunteer group to speak out freely. If you don’t fit in certain situations, if you didn’t perform so well because of some conflicts or difficulties in your original makeup, please don’t get hurt or resentful. You could then venture into certain other areas, as well, at the same time.
So if you have any complaints, in other words, as volunteers, please speak out. If your particular job wasn’t successful or satisfying, if you find problems with your boss, your organization working, or the particular department or people you are working for, you should speak up. In other words, instead of talking behind somebody’s back, it is much better to speak freely. Before you establish any kind of complicated relationship, which you have not set up already, you should speak up. Speaking the truth is one of our key principles. If you feel that somebody is doing something wrong, if with your intelligence you feel not quite good, not fit, just express, talk.
Quite possibly, you can talk about your leader in the volunteer program, or further leaders. And the leadership can react to that in a way that is not an attack on the whole project, but just simply expressing a genuine sense of realness. We then can shift into other issues or situations. But, on the other hand, you are not given up. One of the problems I hate is unjustified gossip, which destroys oneself. The gossipers and the gossipees are destroyed completely. That is not necessary. If you feel dissatisfied, or even if you feel good, there should be some kind of reporting back to the source of your particular organizing factor at the beginning.
So it is possible to set up, up to a certain point, reasonable human communication. Such communication can take place without going too much through one’s own individual pain, particularly. Things could be expressed freely, which is important, extremely important. Then, having expressed freely, there may be certain changes taking place in the volunteer project. So you have your particular style of freedom, and a sense of honesty and genuineness taking place. That kind of situation is important.
As far as working with the organization, the notion of hierarchy is important for you to understand. Particularly if you work as a volunteer, you may begin to have all sorts of subcultural, revolutionary spirits [laughter] going on, brewing around [more laughter]. In our hierarchy, you have the Vajracharya [Trungpa Rinpoche], you have the Regent, you have the directors, and you have the department heads—little heads and big heads. [Laughter] All sorts of things are happening, but they are not regarded as lids on pots—big lids controlling the whole pot, and smaller lids controlling smaller pots. [Laughter] That’s wrong.
It is more like different sizes of flowers growing up. You have the smaller flowers looking up, and you have bigger flowers very tall and covering the whole area. It is an upward journey, rather than suppression, particularly. [Laughter] We all yearn for some kind of sunshine and rain, which we collect from our sense of sanity and our practice of meditation—our commitment to that.
Another point is that if volunteers are good, that means they have practiced a lot. Bad volunteers never sit. [Laughter]
So there is some sense of hierarchy as an outreaching process rather than your being clamped down, like one of those, what you call, animals put in the hot boiling pot [Audience: “lobsters”]—lobsters, yeah. [Laughter] Actually, people do feel that way, you know. If you take the wrong stand, you feel since you are employee person, you jump into this big bureaucracy pot, and you are given a trap of hot water, and finally you be put into this really big dungeon and boiled as lobsters. You work until you die! Isn’t it a terrible thing? And that is everybody’s idea, at least in the world of setting-sun vision, or samsaric [confused] vision, as far as we know. A situation like that is taking place all over the country. I am sure the White House is a big lobster pot. [Laughter] And the rest of the federal government has that kind of situation, so we inherit from that, as well, as long as there is a set up and boss levels. And we often say, “Do we really have to do this?” with a big sigh. You really begin to identify yourself as a sizeable lobster, put in a sizeable pot, and cooked to death. The samsaric way of administrating does work that way.
But as far as we are concerned, we don’t work that way. We work outdoors, so to speak. We do have to have a building, but that is not regarded as an outdoor-indoor situation.We basically work as an outdoor situation. It is like a plant of small size, big size, or gigantic size. As long as we work it that way, we grow that way, as well. Sometimes a smaller plant grows bigger. So everybody has absolute opportunity, hundred percent opportunity, from the top to the bottom, and absolutely the whole thing. That is what we call “vajrayana dictatorship,” which actually means ultimate democracy. Everybody has a chance to become a small plant or a gigantic plant all along. So that’s vajrayana dictatorship. There is much more space, much more room, as long as some sanity is kept. That’s where the dictatorial part comes in. The sanity is important. A sense of mutual sharing is also very important.
At this point our community is going through a vajrayana fever along with mahayana growing pains. And when you have a fever and growing pains at once, it’s not quite pleasant, particularly. But when we reflect back on how much we have grown and have recovered from our fevers, we begin to take a pride in ourselves. We begin to view the whole thing as possible. We have done so and we can do so further—as long as we become real, genuine, and tell the truth with each other. We have discussed that before. That is extremely important, particularly as volunteers, because as volunteers you would have a lot of good possibilities, in fact, to give the rest of the people you are working for some kind of feedback from a fresh view, a different perspective. And if you begin actually to speak out rather than just becoming a silent worker, then we get something out of everything, so we could build our own world fully and beautifully.
So one of the important points is that you have to promise to not become a silent viewer, a silent spectator, but speak out. And there is a way of speaking out, as well. It is not necessarily to complain. If you have to, that is fine, but complain as you speak out. The ordinary idea is when we talk about speaking out, it means “Fuck you!” [Laughter] That’s the samsaric Americana approach.
If someone speaks out, they say, “Fuck you!” [Further laughter] But you don’t speak out in that way.
You can speak out, whatever it is. Complimentary speaking out as well as critical speaking out are both absolutely necessary. People usually don’t speak out if there are complimentary things to say. They feel funny about saying good things about situations. That’s not the problem with our organization. We would like to hear good things, too.
At the same time, if there is any negative situation that happens, also equally speak out. Not in the sense of complaining but as some kind of pointing out of holes, misgivings, and all sorts of things. Just the simple truth, rather than coated by emotion and coated by cutting down and building up, or anything like that, which doesn’t actually work in our world.
If we are looking for genuine people: genuine people speak genuine words. It works genuinely. So the hearing person, the person listening to it, doesn’t have to cut down or build up, particularly, but just take it on as straightforward truth.
Which is fantastic. We can actually do that. We have been doing that somewhat slowly step-by-step. I have been doing that and we have been working on that particular issue. And you as volunteers can help a lot in joining all together in this particular project. I hate to say “program,” somehow, it is like sending you into a re-educational process or something. So, I would like to say “project,” actually. This is our mutual project, a real project. All of us have a project.
That’s it. Unless you would like to have a lively discussion on that. [Laughter]
You have to shout, I think.
QUESTION [Hudson Shotwell]: You were talking about speaking out, and one of the things that happened in the community was speaking out in Boulder by writing letters to the Daily Camera. And I was wondering if there is an equivalent of that in our world, sort of a public speaking out to the ordinary citizens. I have never seen a letter to the editor in the Karma Dzong Newsletter. [Laughter]
RINPOCHE: Well, we could institute that. At the same time, we have to understand that it is not particularly the way of following the training of the democratic process. But I think it would be good. And I think actually the point is that each person could speak out in the particular areas they are working in. They could write a letter, a memo or anything like that. If somebody has a big message, so to speak, as far as they are concerned, to the growth and the corruptions of a whole community—anybody in our community could write a letter and it could be published in the Karma Dzong Newsletter.
In fact that could be broadcast to the rest of the world! [Laughter] Sure, we could do that! It can be done.
Question: You said before that most of the problems are psychological within the community. And I would like to give a harmless example. [Inaudible] Mr. Lodrö Dorje here, is generally an eccentric person. [Laughter] People see him walk down the hall eccentrically—I do. And speaking to him on the phone, no fault of his I am sure, is intimidating actually.
Rinpoche: Intimidating? [Laughter] Oh my goodness!
Question: [Inaudible; laughter] But, then again, we are in this psychological space of who’s who, what’s what, and so on. Lodro Dorje comes by his nature honestly. [Laughter] But there is this problem where people become—it could be Ron Stubbert [Director of Finance for Vajradhatu] next to him or other people or all of the directors—something happens to them after a little bit of time.
Rinpoche: Yeah, I understand that, yeah. You see, the point is that there you have the lid approach. Lid. You know, Lodro Dorje is another kind of lid who clamps down. Therefore, you are trying to talk to him and he is eccentric. And Polly Flint is a different size of lid. That’s precisely what I am trying to talk about. If you regard any person in authority, any spokesman, as a lid, you have difficulty understanding them…
…Parental lid, school lid, all kinds of lids. In your experience of them, you feel, “Now this is another kind of lid that I am working under.”
Question: So as a volunteer you are in a position to meet young members who have not experienced Miss Flint or Mr. Dorje—what would you suggest we say to these people?
Rinpoche: Well, they should experience Mr. Dorje and Miss Flint. [Laughter] No, but the whole thing is that you see some kind of change of shift—that the organization that exists here is not really based on the lid principle, but you are walking in the garden.
Question: But I want to bring this back to the fact that volunteers are probably going to have to deal with more people out front than the [inaudible] …
Rinpoche: Sure. Well, ask them to jump in. Find out what they feel first, and then figure it out beyond that. But definitely it is important for the volunteers to explain the difference between a flower garden as opposed to a lid. It’s important for them to understand that in themselves, first.
As far as these gentlemen [referring to members of the administration who are present] are concerned, they are under strict observation, and they are trying to turn their lids up into flowers. They are trying hard. They are having difficulties, but still I think doing quite a good job of it. So I have to reassure you of that.
Rinpoche: No, that’s okay—complain or no complain. But the truth—everybody should hear the truth.
Question: Along with what you’re saying about speaking out, one of the things involved in the program is that we have had no evaluation forms that could be looked at as an aide to speaking out. Both to be filled out by the department and by the volunteer. So when somebody volunteers in some department, they should fill out an evaluation form. It can be looked at as paranoia, or what you say [inaudible].
Rinpoche: Well, I think evaluation forms are good, actually, as long as the whole thing can be freely expressed. But you have to be genuine, you know.
Question: That is sort of a quality control.
Rinpoche: Yeah. Actually at this point it is not even quality control. We are talking about shifting the reference point from the samsaric world to the Vajradhatu world purely, so that those who had related with samsaric-world style of Vajradhatu would relate with the Vajradhatu-world style of Vajradhatu. It’s a simple shift. People could find the samsaric equivalent of the whole thing, from top to bottom, if they are into it, accusing and making their own little bit of sense of things. But, on the other hand, it is possible that people can be woken up from that, as well.
Question: Excuse me. There are many people who come in who are not either way. They don’t have an evil view or a good view. The only reason I brought it up is that you mentioned that almost all, in fact all problems, are psychological problems in terms of our situation within Vajradhatu. If there’s any problem—and there are a lot of people who come in and they just kind of have a tingling psychological problem—they are not quite intimidated and not quite totally happy.
Rinpoche: That’s fine.
As long as they sit at that point.
Yeah, sure. There’s no problem. You did it yourself that way, too. Yeah, yeah.
Rinpoche [to new questioner]: Can you please shout?
Question [Stanley Fefferman]: Since I have been in the community, which has been about a year from Karmê Chöling to here, I’ve noticed that the children are not particularly regarded as an asset.
Rinpoche: Well, free-school approach. [Laughs, laughter]
Question: [Inaudible] Generally, they are regarded as being in the way, [inaudible] creating obstacles, and I was wondering. My views are somewhat different, related to my own child and children in general. It seems to me that when children come into this community, the larger community, people get tense. They don’t really want them around, and don’t see the beauty of having children around. They don’t see the children as a good opportunity to become more accommodating, more generous, more relaxed. Children offer a sense of delight and freedom—a quick sense of delight in each situation. And I wondered what your views are on integrating children more into the community activities and creating more activities for the children themselves.
Rinpoche: Well, I think that says a lot of things, actually. The hippie style of bringing up children is to let children get into everything. It is to bring up children as an extension of themselves. And the other version, the conservative Victorian approach, is that children should be seen but not heard. So we have two things going on there.
As far as we are concerned, parents should not bring out their children as some form of weapon to test people’s openness, particularly. But, at the same time, they could train their children properly and fully. And if their children are properly trained and worked on in their own different levels and ages and psychological situations—you can’t help it. If you begin to have a father, son, and holy ghost [laughter] in their proper arrangement, then there’s no problem. People prefer not to see the holy ghost, but to see the father and son put together. I think we actually have a lot of openness actually in our community. People begin to pick it up because they begin to realize that you can raise children without becoming a hippie. That’s the essence of it.
Previously, with the older parents a long time ago, when I met people, my students, five years ago, they thought the only way to bring up children was to just adopt a hippie approach of pure hundred-percent casualness. Which is extending territory. If you brought children here, a four-month-old child, and you just plop with you and your child in the middle of the floor, a ring of territory begin to develop in terms of noise and in terms of their particular deposits [laughter], their particular food, so the whole thing becomes a gigantic deal.
We don’t do that anymore. We just bring up children like warriors have done in the past. We discipline our children and we have pride in our children, and our children are educated in a certain way depending on the level of their age, and there is no problem.
And, hopefully, tonight we will get some good news. Have you heard anything? [Inaudible response] Well, I think that we are reasonable people and we can go along with that approach, and I have experienced it myself with my children. The extension of territory of my children is sometimes enormous and sometimes it is very little. If you set out with a governess, you know, and you get rid of your children for a while, a few hours, a few days, some of that doesn’t work hundred percent. It has to be in constant relationship dealing with both situations. Children shouldn’t extend in their territory, not as parents, but nevertheless maintain responsibilities of growth that is taking place in the whole relationship.
Question [Tony Cape?]: Rinpoche, something you said earlier about the samsaric world and the Vajradhatu world relates to something I felt in volunteer work [inaudible]—some kind of tension between—what is the vision in which we are participating?
Rinpoche [to Newcomb Greenleaf]: You are going to answer this one. Okay? [To questioner]: Keep talking.
Question: Okay. Some kind of tension between an awareness of the vision in which you are participating and sometimes your personal vision at the same time—a sense of wanting to do the job, be efficient, be appreciated, be recognized. And there seems to be some kind of tension—in my experience, that is. So I was just wondering about how the role of personal ambition works in the Vajradhatu world?
Rinpoche: Well, Newcomb what would you say to that?
Newcomb Greenleaf [Dharmadhatu Office]: The conflict is intensified when you are not paid. [Laughter] I think everybody in Vajradhatu comes there out of some ambition, and that is not all, but that is always present.
Rinpoche: Very simple, eh?
NG: I guess. [Inaudible]
Rinpoche: I think there is always a need for some kind of gentleness. You see, people feel that everybody in their past won their victory by being harsh and overpowering, by a strong military force or great economic measure, and nobody thought that gentleness could actually provide victory. Nobody actually believed it. Maybe Gandhi had to believe that somewhat, but he failed in the long run because he was so pedantic. His ideas for peace and gentleness were holding on to some aggression, fundamentally speaking. So nothing worked in that way. But I think in our world, if we hold on to our gentleness, it will work. With intelligence and gentleness, it will work! It definitely will work. [Pause]
Well, friends, maybe somebody should have a closing remark. Would you like to say something? The lady over there?
Question [Ruth Howard]: It seems to me that if you speak out at the moment, there is a gentleness in that—in seeing it as it is—and simply speaking out at the moment. And that maybe we could enter an evaluation is good, but the moment itself is good.
Rinpoche: Well, it doesn’t have to be particularly good. It has to be genuine.
Question: In that sense.
Rinpoche: No, it has to be genuine. And also it works if you begin to actually celebrate in the totality, so to speak. Sorry to use such big words, but you know what I mean. [Laughter] Then it works. That’s it. Okay? [To Ron Stubbert] Maybe you would like to say something. Sure. You have not spoken in public since your appointment. [Laughter]
Ron Stubbert [Finance officer]: That’s because I haven’t had anything to say.
Rinpoche: Well, now you have. The volunteer project is very much related to the financial situation.
RS: Well, it certainly is. From the standpoint of being one of the supposedly paid volunteers, we’ve I think lacked a lot of input from the sangha [Buddhist community]. Because of the paid quality or the positions, or whatever else, we’ve had some block existing between the people in Dorje Dzong and the community. And I think both from the community coming in, somewhat breaking that barrier, but also personally going out more to the sangha members, inviting them into my office to help me doing my work, that I actually look forward to that kind of fresh air—some kind of input helping me in my office. I think that most of the other departments would say the same thing, that we are looking forward to inviting you all to somehow help in whatever way you can. That it is important to all of us. Thank you. [Laughter]
NG: I would just like to add that something I notice a lot is the difference between Dharmadhatus and Boulder. In the Dharmadhatus [buildings or centers] it’s clear that if everyone doesn’t contribute there won’t be a place for study and practice. Somehow, in Boulder that’s been lost sight of. It feels good and it almost feels like a Dharmadhatu here. I may be a chauvinist. [Laughter]
Rinpoche: Good for you.
Well, thank you very much. And I think we should actually push this program, which is valuable. As I mentioned already, it is not just purely getting jobs done in a paid way, but it builds a bridge with the community at large, generally, and I hope you will be able to fill those forms and reprocess them as we go on.
As volunteers, everybody should practice a lot. That will be helpful. If you do practice you’ll be able to understand what we are trying to do much more so and what you are trying to do much more so. Thank you.
—Copyright 2010 Diana J. Mukpo. All rights reserved.