Volunteer for a Year (Part Two: Vade Mecum)
Posted on 11 Nov 2022
"In the sandalwood forests of the Malaya mountains, when an ordinary tree falls, its wood is gradually impregnated with the sweet perfume of the sandal. After some years that ordinary wood comes to smell as sweet as the sandal trees around it. In just the same way, if you live and study with a perfect teacher full of good qualities, you will be permeated by the perfume of those qualities and in everything you do you will come to resemble him."
Words of My Perfect Teacher, Patrul Rinpoche, (Chapter 6: Pge. 138)
I am so extremely fortunate to spend most of my days in the office, and in the company of Lama Zangmo. I am not sure, really, what other reason there could be, to be here.
"For people who understand Dharma, life is practice – everything they do in life is practice, what’s more, everything they do brings benefit for themselves and others…. So the actual practice, or implementation of Dharma, is done in our daily life, not just on the cushion."
Drupon Rinpoche, Thrangu Vajrayana Buddhist Centre, Hong Kong, 20 November 2016
I join fellow residents at 8am from Wednesday through Sunday. Ducking past the camera I sit imperfectly, and fidget. This cushion time is important but how I am with others who live here, how I do my work and how I am when the Centre is open is really where all my practice is. It’s not easy, this communal living; this shared life. Our living room is your library, our practice room is yours too. Lunch together is noisy, sometimes fractious, often happy and joyous. I like to have breakfast quietly, and alone. Not always possible. Days off are quiet, often spent on our own. There is the occasional day trip together, part-time work outside the Centre to cover personal expenses as well as friends and relatives passing through. You need to be happy in your own company, or learn to be. Is this community of practice a text for life? A living guide? Another Vade Decum?
There is no single experience of volunteering at KSDLondon, there is no typical day at the Centre. It is a rich tapestry of tasks, experiences and meditation sewn together by the thread of Dharma, intention and the effortless effort of Lama-la. What you bring is your motivation, and that is what drives your day.
"Many people are very fond of doing voluntary work in the dharma centres and at dharma events… But you should remember that the most important thing when relying on your Lama is to learn the dharma. Sacrificing the opportunity to attend a Dharma teaching to do volunteer work or something similar can become a very big obstacle for your path in the dharma."
Drupon Rinpoche, Thrangu Sekhar Retreat Centre, Nepal, May 2022
With the tide of COVID receding, the Centre recently hosted Drupon Khen Rinpoche Karma Lhabu, Ringu Tulku Rinpoche and Gelong Thuben who all taught, and spent time with the residents – Emaho! I am so very, very grateful. I am excited for the months ahead.
In Part Three I will share more about daily life at KSDLondon, as well as a little on my personal practice.
Much love and courage, Katrina