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The Sakyong brings ancient wisdom to Krakow

Teachings on Basic Goodness offered to an appreciative audience in Sakyong’s visit to Poland.

by Mio Sylvester

Sakyong 108Krakow has always been a spiritual and intellectual center for Poland. Legend states that the city was founded by Krakus, a Polish prince, who built the famous Wawel palace over the slain dragon Smok Wawelski’s lair at the foot of Wawel Hill. The Enlightenment had its beginnings here, when Nicholas Copernicus – a Polish student at Krakow University – changed the view of the universe, removing Earth from the center of everything, and placing the sun at the center of the solar system. This city was the heart of the East European Jewish community for hundreds of years before World War II, and the Auschwitz museum is only forty-two miles from the city center. It was the city in which Oscar Schindler had his factory, and also the place where Pope John Paul II served as a parish priest and archbishop before the fall of the Iron Curtain.

The Sakyong recently visited this historic city, his first time in Krakow. On the first day of his visit, he gave an open lecture on “The Art of Being Human.” He taught that as he has been traveling and teaching around the world, there is now a particular energy and atmosphere present.  As he has in other recent teachings, the Sakyong emphasized that what is going to happen to humanity is being decided right now. We are all thinking about who we are as humanity, and where we are going. This is a human question, the question of whether basic goodness is possible – it raises curiosity for all of us. The Sakyong confirmed that we are all basically good, and invited participants to contemplate this truth.

The Sakyong shared his message that the powerful notion of human basic goodness had been transmitted through his lineage, brought to the West by the amazing journey of his father, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. This notion provides an antidote to the idea that humanity’s basic nature is selfish and cruel. The Sakyong encouraged his listeners to regard compassion and kindness as strengths, and to build a culture around innate trust in ourselves and others. He acknowledged that this approach is very challenging and requires bravery.

unnamedWith the Lion’s roar, the Sakyong kindly offered a poem to the new meditators of the end of the Basic Goodness Level 1 program, in which he proclaimed the Great Eastern Sun of basic goodness.  In response to questions, he further taught that countries can have feelings and hold trauma just as individuals do, and that every place he has visited has experienced suffering.

There were nearly three hundred participants at the Sakyong’s talk on the first day and almost two hundred participants in the Basic Goodness Level I program over the weekend. Most were from Poland, but others came from Ukraine or the Czech Republic, as well as many other parts of Europe. With great kindness, the Sakyong taught Shambhala meditation in addition to his teaching about basic goodness.  He answered many questions about meditation, human dignity, raising children and confidence in basic goodness. He also observed that Tibetans are a practical people who would not have meditated for more than a thousand years if they had seen no results — this clearly struck a chord with the practical attitude of his Polish audience.

The Sakyong had also invited Acharya Barbara Martens to teach shamatha meditation. Like a vajra-mother, Acharya Martens patiently explained imaginary strings and falling feathers to the many new meditators who were eager for instruction. She also taught about posture, view and soft gaze. The Polish Sangha had labored for some years to bring this wonderful event to  fruition through planning, organization, hard work and skillful means. While all who helped bring this program into being cannot be named here, three individuals are particularly noteworthy: the joint co-coordinators Ania Bartys and Magdalena Grudniewska, and the patient and skillful translator Bartek Kociemba.

After three days of practice and teachings, the question that had been asked of the Gautama Buddha came to mind: “How do you stop a water drop from evaporating?”  The answer: “By throwing it into the sea.” The Sakyong had given many teachings to a deep and appreciative Polish audience and sangha; in particular, he had recognized their human dignity. The participants departed the Krakow Auditorium Maximum of the Jagiellonian University, dispersing into the city of Krakow and beyond. The sun shone brightly on this autumn Sunday afternoon; the wind rose, and dragon clouds danced above.

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