I thought to share this with everyone here - I think it's a wonderful starting point for anyone who is considering entering a spiritual path, or even to work full-time in the Dharma with a Buddhist organisation.
Below is a blog post from H.E. Tsem Tulku Rinpoche, a Lama in Southeast Asia who is the spiritual guide of the Kechara Buddhist organisation. He wrote it in response to a letter that one of his students had written to him about wishing to leave her current secular job and join Dharma work full time. Though it is written in the context of Rinpoche's own Dharma organisation (Kechara) and in response to this student's letter, I think the advice within is also extremely pertinent and important for anyone who is even remotely considering engaging in a spiritual path more deeply.
I hope it'll be of some inspiration.
A letter from the student, Miss Wei Theng
Date: Fri, 11 May 2012 21:28:26 +0800
Subject: A new journey begins….
I have just tendered my resignation in my company yesterday and will be joining *eDiv in June after serving one month’s notice. My HR, bosses and colleagues are all shocked to learn about the news as I have been performing and doing well there.
Reading through Rinpoche’s SMS today, it really said out what I have in mind. I want to be part of something big and with good results. Since the meeting with Rinpoche early of the year, be full time is always in my mind. Due to family commitment earlier, I did not get to do full time immediately. I am grateful to Rinpoche, Beng Kooi, DM, eDivision* and Kechara that give me this chance to do Dharma work. Lew is also very supportive to me too. My dream has come true! Although there is unknown as the girls are young and it is a stretch for me to handle the sales part, I rather work hard for it NOW when I have the chance, together with you and all the committed members to build it up rather than end up nowhere later. There is nothing for me to lose at all! I have nothing to pay your kindness but to do more.
May I have the blessings from Rinpoche to do more and together contribute to the growth of Kechara and can spread Dharma to more people!
May Rinpoche live long and I can serve Rinpoche life after life.
Humbly with folded hands,
*The eDivision is a department within the Kechara group that manages all its websites and online initiatives
A letter from H.E. Tsem Tulku Rinpoche to Wei Theng
My Dear Ms. Wei Theng,
I guess you and your husband Lew match and get along so well because like-minded people do attract: You are people who do what you promise and what you commit to no matter the circumstances.
I am happy to hear you are coming on board full time. You are right, you have nothing to lose. You can make a billion dollars but if your girls don’t have the karma to get it, then they can be spoiled-rotten by easy money growing up to be useless people (sorry) in society and family, shamelessly wanting free things handed to them and their friends. Or they would never get it, full stop. Wealth is not necessarily passed or given, nor good or bad. Wealth is neutral. It can be the result of good or bad karma depending on what the wealth does to the person. Results show clearly. If wealth ruins, it is the result of bad karma and vice versa. When passed to people who should not get it, it destroys them more than it helps them. No parent can see their children’s future or predict what their money will do to them. But one thing every parent can see is hard work, training kids to earn their own way, and not giving money to them easily which familiarizes them to be better and more responsible adults. Hard work during a child’s formative years in learning things must be earned. It is not an infallible method, but has a much higher percentage of results than handing everything to them on a silver platter. Silver tarnishes anyway no matter how good it looks.
Last time in olden days hundreds of years ago, wealth staying within the generations was easier due to demographic and socially different environments. There were much fewer things to spend your money on. So many would inherit the family residences, maids, property, servants and so on. The children would most likely take over and continue living in the family estates. There were not many other options. There were not many places to go as transportation before motorized vehicles and airplanes were very difficult. Now we have the advent of TV, Internet, modern travel which creates a different environment. Young adults have so many more meaningless things to spend their money on and so much more illusionary fun to chase here, in other cities and countries. You can be on another continent within 24 hours. This trend ‘helps’ young adults to spend more, ‘dream’ more, travel more, have greed for more, want more and fritter their wealth away faster in many cases. I’m talking of generalities, not all are like this, of course.
This is a disturbing side effect of modernization. Externally everything becomes easier, but internally it creates much less time for development. Hence I would conclude that depression, substance abuse, unhappiness, divorce, broken homes, crime and dissatisfaction ranks highest now than any other time in human history. This trend will not end because many still think the key to inner happiness is outer material growth and development alone. Many parents, along with prevalent materialistic values, push their children to get more. “The more the better” is the standard mantra of materialism; the very ingredient of self-destruction in many cases. As long as this thought pervades, then inner development leading to peace and happiness is as far away as the planet Neptune.
Hence you do not have to worry about your girls. You provide them with a house, home, LOVE, ethics, spirituality, care, food, schooling and medical. Show them a good example. Be the best you can be for them and they will see this as they grow up. Parents teach 30% by speech but 70% by action and results. They will be fine. Teach them hard work combined with spiritual values and spiritual basis – then they will be fine when they grow up, whether they are rich or poor externally. The key word here is “externally”. Look at you, your husband Lew in the past and many of us. You are both educated, have great skills but you ended up in a life of just work, bills, toils, commitments and aging as you pay off what you acquired. The more you get, the more you pay. The more you pay, the more you work. The more you work, the more you get. And the cycle is unending. So is that what you want for your daughters? I don’t think so. That is why you are joining precious Dharma work. Wisdom mind, wisdom choice and wisdom path arising from Dharma knowledge has opened up for you after generating a wish to work for Dharma.
When you come into the eDivision in Kechara, don’t be an employee – just doing your necessaries, collecting your stipend, going for the occasional get-togethers, then returning home... that would be the ingredient of stagnancy. That is the wrong attitude for Dharma people doing Dharma work. We are pioneers in doing something so great. We have to give more to get more. Get more of what? We get satisfaction and fulfillment. Satisfaction and self-respect makes us happier now and when we are in our golden years. Take ownership. Do more. Do extra. Don’t look at your department head as the boss and that they should just provide everything. That is the attitude of a secular non-Dharma job and working in a place where the product is mainstream and accepted. It is just for a paycheck. How satisfying could that be in the end? But before it became mainstream, the people of that company also had to give it their all sacrificing socials, parties, weekends and trips. But their sacrifice paid off in just material accomplishments. We don’t have to (thank goodness) ‘sell’ secular products; our ‘product’ is much greater but not ‘mainstream’ yet.
So we have to work harder, then when we look back later, we will feel satisfied. Hard work with results lead to something no one can take away. We will feel that we used our short lives for something better. We will have contentment and results. If we Google large Dharma organizations in East and West, they have hundreds and thousands working for them for many decades now. It is very inspiring. We don’t have anything here in Malaysia yet. Why? Let’s make a change here. Since we are here. Let’s make a change. Let’s inspire ourselves and everyone.
Of course your workmates would feel strange that you are resigning when you are doing well. How else would they feel when they don’t have the wisdom of Dharma understanding the impermanence of our fragile situations, future lives and what is most important at death? In other words, you can’t wish for what you don’t know. You only force yourself to be satisfied with what you have while having a nagging feeling that there is more to life than acquisitions, material successes and a paycheck.
The heads of Kechara’s 13 departments also had secular lives prior to this. For some of them, it was no different than you just a short while back. But they heard the Dharma and ‘took the bull by the horns’ as the saying goes and went another step further. Some go all the way. They decided they had enough of so called secular ‘accomplishments’ that only wither away too fast either now or at death and they wished to accomplish something more. And they took on their department.
So we should think that our departments heads also thought like us, but that they started earlier. Instead of laying all our neurosis, bad habits and complaints to them, wanting them to hand-hold us, we should take more responsibility. Everyday when we come into Kechara to ‘work’ we should think: “What did I do in my previous existences to create the causes to earn a living and at the same time do something totally wonderful for others and myself? It is fantastic that I have the good fortune to support myself in doing good works here in this Dharma centre. How can I improve everyone’s situation in this office so that we can bring Dharma to more people? I joined Dharma because I want to be more. Now I wish to work for Dharma because I am confirmed there is more. So why not go all the way?”
To join Dharma because you learned there is more, then to work for Dharma because more is confirmed, is only half of the way. Now that you are in Dharma work, go all the way and create mind-blowing, extraordinary, beneficial growth and results for everyone. Put all your efforts in, because Dharma results are not deceptive. When you do this, then it’s not being half way but going all the way. Dharma results don’t bring unhappiness like secular results do. Give all you got, because it is the best thing you have done and are doing. Bring Dharma to everyone due to your incredible efforts. That all starts one day at a time and what you do at your desk now. What you do at your department makes a difference to you, other Dharma staff and the recipients of your wisdom to work for Dharma.
If you bring in the old secular attitude of letting the boss worry about the overheads and just ask for your stipend, then that’s all it will be. Nothing more. Instead, look at your department head and think that they are just like you in that they have done something about the understanding of Dharma; then think that you too will do as much as they are doing, if not more. It’s not competition, but understanding and taking responsibility for your decision. It’s not doing more for ego, but for others. Dharma work’s purpose is to benefit others. With this attitude in Kechara or any Dharma work, then you and everyone will be successful on a multitude of levels, affecting many now and into the future.
The fact that Dharma is alive is due to the success of previous hardworking people who worked for Dharma. We are enjoying their success now. So we should continue this for future generations. You gain success on so many dimensions: success for yourself, for our organization and for all the lives we will continue to touch and make a difference to around the world and in your home. What a great gift to everyone you love.
Dharma work is the most supreme because it serves others. You do yourself a favour by doing Dharma work. You are not doing Dharma a favour. You are not doing the other Dharma staff a favour. They came in wanting to help others too. If some staff do not think this way, it should not affect you because your karma is your karma. Your growth does not depend on their performance. All the people who started before you only realised earlier what you realise now. They faced their fears, insecurities and the unknown by just working hard and going all the way, by taking the plunge. The fears and unknown are there. But being relaxed in our comfort zones leaves us with so much nagging dissatisfaction and more insecurities.
We should think that all the people who joined before we did are very kind to have started something with all their fears, being pioneers. Yet they still built it to a point where we can now join. They sustained it even with their fears and held the fort; this is why we can join now. We should feel grateful to them and show it in our work. Feel that gratefulness and add to the dissipation of theirs’ and your own fears of the unknown and future. (Everything in existence is unsure until we gain full awakening.) That is all anyone can do.
That would be the best lesson for your daughters. When your daughters have grown, let them say how lucky they were to have had hardworking, spiritual and loving parents like you. Let them wonder what karmic circumstances they created to be so fortunate to have you as role models. That would be the best reward as parents. Many kids today do not respect their parents for wrong or sometimes right reasons. Parents are fallible humans too.
But parents and kids with genuine Dharma practice are very different. Parenting with Dharma makes a huge positive difference for sure. Children with Dharma grow up very differently also. Parents will pass to their children so many qualities which they sometimes do not even realise, because good and bad qualities can be passed to children as a result of environmental conditioning. Don’t pass greed, fears, and materialism to kids as a way to achieve ‘happiness’. Pass Dharma, ethics, hard work and results to your children. Pass it to everyone around you by your own example. That is what spirituality is about: happiness, contentment arising from living a good life based on bringing benefits to others. That is the purpose of life.
There is nothing to lose. The loss would be not doing Dharma when you can. Not many would fully understand this. When not many people understand this, it just shows you how rare and precious Dharma is. How many people own glass? How many people own diamonds? Of course those who own diamonds are much fewer than those who own glass. That does not mean glass has more value than diamonds in the secular sense. We don’t need to base ourselves on anything but Dharma wisdom. Follow that wisdom. Respect all, listen to a few and follow one.
Some people do leave Dharma work for many reasons. But you know what? That doesn’t mean their reasonings are correct or valid. Dharma work is challenging. Secular work is challenging. One challenge leads to a paycheck and the other – Dharma work – leads to happiness. Some are not sure of Dharma work. I feel that if you are in it already, the chances of becoming sure are dependent on results. How do you get results if you don’t go all the way? This is a very chicken-and-egg situation, wouldn’t you say? Why be in this situation? Go all the way, get the results. If you don’t go all the way, there will always be a disturbing nagging feeling that you gave up something really excellent. The bottom line is that Dharma is good. Therefore, Dharma propagation is good. For Dharma propagation we need people who do Dharma work. This type of easy logic does make sense. Dharma work is very good.
It’s better to follow something you know is good than to be scared and die with regrets. I respect people who live for their dreams and work towards it. I look up to people who are afraid of the unknown but still go for it because they are more afraid of the known (please see the poem below, related to this thought). Leave your comfort zone to achieve more. More in this case is better. I am like that most of the time.
I welcome you and still welcome the current staff in Kechara continuously. Let’s do our best for others. This chance is rare. (I hope all new and senior staff will read this and understand deeper the meaning of Dharma work.) I didn’t mean for it to be this long, but Wei Theng, I wanted you to understand my thoughts because I am happy for you. Since my thoughts have been typed here, I’ve decided to share it with others although it was meant to be a private letter to you.
Please thank yourself and rejoice knowing what you are doing will well extend beyond just benefitting your beautiful family. It will inspire many other people where Dharma work is in pioneering stages.
Again I welcome you, give it your all please. Don’t be an employee, be part of a Dharma team that brings a powerful and huge difference in the lives of others. Do more than the next person because you care. You have my prayer and my good wishes. You have my heartfelt requests to go all the way.
I just composed this poem for you dear Ms. Wei Theng:The Unknown
The Known and unknown are both feared,
Known is being comfortable and stagnant,
The unknown may be growth and opportunities,
One shall never know if one fears the unknown
more than the known.
Who says the unknown would be worse than
the known? But then again, the unknown is sometimes
worse than the known.
In the end nothing is known unless we endeavour,
So go pursue all the way with the unknown, because all
unknown with familiarity becomes the known.
*This letter / article has been lightly edited for style / grammar. The original article can be read here: http://blog.tsemtulku.com/tsem-tulku-ri ... known.html
Do share your thoughts. I'd be so interested to hear! How have you found your own experiences of working / being in the Dharma? Would you choose to engage in Dharma work full-time? What do you think of making Dharma as a CAREER? Is it possible? What challenges and benefits would you anticipate in doing this? Would you take the plunge? Why?