“So” my Buddhist teacher, Khenpo Pema Wangdak told me once, on the bizarre NYC/Tibetan accent that he’s developed over the years “you hafta teach”. We were in my house, after a long day of ceremonies and initiations that I had set up, and I was beat.
“Ok” says myself, thinking “well, I am kinda teaching meditation”
He must have read my face, because he said “yeah, I know, you are doing it…but after His Holiness (the leader of the Sakya Tradition, H.H.Sakya Trizin) formally empowers you to do so, you have to do it even more seriously”. I was a little bit worried. You see, I thought that I was doing it in a serious, respectful manner.
But Khenpo Pema was not done, yet. “You hafta also go through here and teach”
I thought about it for a while. “Master, what does ‘here’ means, exactly”.
Khenpo Pema was already playing with his phone, but he put it down gently and looked to me as if I were a particularly strange puzzle that he saw sitting behind glass on a wall.
“Here means here, like, South America, right?”, he told me and right away must have picked up my rising tiredness and disbelief because he said “well, but that’s after His Holiness”.
Fast forward two years.
We were leaving His Holiness house and Khenpo Pema told me “ok, so…got everything set up?”. I thought about it, while we walked on the gravel…and resolved to tell the truth “no, not really, not as such”.
Khenpo Pema smiled. “You’ll make it up as you go along…bring the Dharma (the Buddhist Teaching) to them like the Christians do. High Church and all that”.
“High Church?” In the tone that people must have asked Perseus “wait, you’ve killed whom?” “High Church, travelling High Church? Me?”
Khenpo Pema did pause at that, but he smiled and said “well, could be that or another thing, but you’ll figure it out”
If that was the goal, I must admit I have failed to do so. Not at teaching meditation, I think: I might have not improved quality-wise, but I’m teaching it at several places: at work in IBM, in clients, in the Buddhist groups that I run, in my own institute, Ganapati.
But I have not conformed to the High Church ideal. My master is more built for it: thin, elegant, with a rapier wit, he fits more with the image of a big temple, lots of incense and ancient works of art.
So…how to teach? What’s my style?
The answer, funnily enough, also came from Christianity. I had a friend (who’s sadly passed away), a Christian theologian, who was a very classical, philosophy oriented person. He also taught at my university and always decried the state of Christianity, saying that it has lost its way; usually he added “for the last two thousand years” and for him, it was true. You could picture him at the side of Jesus: thin, tall, very very bearded, walking in the desert.
Once we were with another friend having coffee and he started decrying the fall of christian ritual in favor of more feeling. He told me that he went to see a traveling pentecostal preacher who danced with snakes and screamed, that was, horror of horrors, doing “shows” (as he put it) near the main cathedral of the city!
I said to him “oh, that’s terrible, I am so sorry” but internally, idolater pagan that I am I though “well, that does sound fun”. So I asked him if it was near us (it was) and if he knew that there was going to be a “show” that night (there was).
One hour later, we were in the preaching. While I wasn’t that moved by it (again, not a Christian, so probably it was lost on me) I couldn’t deny the electricity and charm of the preacher. Afterward, over pizza at Las Cuartetas, my friend asked me what did I think and I told him: I must admit to have enjoyed the energy of it.
He looked at me with warmth tingled with some slight disgust and he said “of course you would, you pagan brute! I can just picture you dancing with snakes”.
Lo and Behold, I had my style of teaching. Punk Preaching, with a Buddhist twist.
No, I don’t do snakes. I rather like them, but I think that making another animal work (besides myself) is a little like slavery. Also, I would have to keep them in my house, where they wouldn’t probably survive my twins; they would twirl them like nunchakus to impress girls.
Also, I don’t dance that much; I’m not good at it, though I enjoy it and most teaching trips end up somehow in a dive bar, with drinks and dancing. But that’s not scheduled, at least by me.
Having said that…I guess I turned out to be a kind of punkish traveling preacher that, instead of talking about snakes and tongues and Jesus, talks about science and meditation. I do go on tours and I tend to be a lot less “high church” as my teacher would say, than most teachers.
I use Storytelling, a lot. I also use games, competitions and try to shock the people who come to learn at least once. But whatever I do, I try to make it an experience: something that you do not only to learn, but to enjoy. And always keep to three chords and the truth.
I am taking the show on the road again, this 2019. I’ll be on several cities: hopefully, if you do come, you’ll learn, I’ll learn, or either/both of us can be shocked; but more importantly, we’ll also have a great time.
So…join up! If you’d like to learn a Modern Mindful Meditation, go to www.ganapati.com.ar to see if we’re near you. Or join our webcasts and Youtube channel. But above all…have fun!