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July 17, 2009

“No Time to Lose.” It’s Pema Chodron, in Seattle. ~ via Nick Vail

Ani Pema at Gasworks Park.

No evil is there similar to anger,

No austerity to be compared with patience.

Steep yourself, therefore, in patience—

In all ways, urgently, with zeal!

Shantideva

Chapter 6, Verse 2

The Way of the Bodhisattva {Translated by the Padmakara Translation Group}

A diverse crowd of 1,300 gathered at Meany Hall for the weekend program.

Engendering Patience in an Aggressive World:

Pema Chödron in Seattle

By Nick Vail of Nalanda West.

In the firmament of Western Buddhist teachers, few shine as brightly as Ani Pema Chödrön, a humble nun and formidable fount of vast and profound teachings of compassion and wisdom.

Nalanda West was honored to host Pema for an amazing weekend of teaching and discussing the dharma, awakening our innate wisdom, kindness, and patience in our daily lives.

Pema captivated the full house at Meany Hall on the University of Washington campus, about 1,300 people—many hundreds of whom do not consider themselves “Buddhists,” teaching on the chapter of Patience from her book No Time to Lose, a commentary on the Indian classic Bodhicharyavatara or Way of the Bodhisattva by the 8th century sage Shantideva.

With characteristic clarity, ease, and humor, Pema brought to life these seminal teachings, making them personal, accessible, and relevant to a large and diverse audience. She expertly taught this age-old wisdom of how to train the mind in patience, recognizing and changing our habitual tendency to “bite the hook” of indulging in emotional reactions that lead to the suffering of ourselves and others.

So come what may, I’ll never harm

My cheerful happiness of mind.

Depression never brings me what I want;

My virtue will be warped and marred by it.

~ Shantideva

{Chapter 6, Verse 9}

A full house says thank you and dedicates the merit of the weekend.

Along with explicating each verse of the text, she used examples from her own life and experience to relate how the fundamental human condition is basic goodness, on which we project the play of the temporary manifestations of our seemingly individual experience, including our suffering. Since this is the case, we can acknowledge and work with our ingrained patterns, and change them by investigating our intentions and modifying our behavior accordingly.

Thus, when enemies or friends

Are seen to act improperly,

Be calm and call to mind

That everything arises from conditions.

– Shantideva

{Chapter 6, Verse 33}

Pema was joined by Dr. Karl Brunnhölzl, who talked about meditation practice and provided instruction. Karl is a Mitra (sanskrit for friend) or senior teacher in the Nalandabodhi sangha. From his depth of experience and with great wit he described a classic threefold process of engaging in meditation, including Mindful Gap or giving mind the space to be mind, Clear Seeing of the thoughts or emotions that arise, and Letting Go of them and letting them naturally dissipate on their own.

Karl also led a follow-up question and answer session at Nalanda West after the conclusion of the program at Meany Hall. A book study group of No Time to Lose is also now being offered at Nalanda West on Tuesday evenings into September.

Teaching sessions were also interspersed with optional yoga sessions, specially designed for the theater environment, to allow participants a chance to stretch and re-energize. Particularly fun was the laughing yoga. We also practiced silence during the weekend, allowing people to explore the dimension of speech in a contemplative manner.

The dedicated efforts of the organizing team and over 30 volunteers created a warm, open, and friendly atmosphere for the weekend. Even with the large numbers of participants, we were able to co-create a meditative space in which we were able to relax, interact harmoniously, and enjoy Pema’s compassionate presence, warmth and wisdom. She touched our hearts, and provided us with the methods, tools, and tips to help us to make truly beneficial changes in our own lives, and in a world that needs love and patience now more than ever.

Ani Pema and Mitra Karl Brunnholzl at Gasworks Park.

As long as space endures

As long as there are beings to be found,

May I continue likewise to remain

To drive away the sorrows of the world.

– Shantideva

{Chapter 10, Verse 56}

Ani Pema Chödrön is an American Buddhist nun in the lineage of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, the renowned Tibetan meditation master. She is a leading exponent of teachings on meditation and how they apply to everyday life. She is interested in helping establish Tibetan Buddhist monasticism in the West, as well as continuing her work with Western Buddhists of all traditions, sharing ideas and teachings. She is the author of several best-selling books, including When Things Fall Apart, The Places that Scare You, and Practicing Peace in Times of War.

Nick Vail is the Program and Outreach Manager at Nalanda West in Seattle. He also serves as Vice President of the Board of Directors for the Northwest Dharma Association. You can learn more about Nalanda West by visiting: www.nalandawest.org

photos by Rysiek Frackiewicz, courtesy of Nalanda West

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