Elevate Difference

Compassionate Action

As a new Buddhist practitioner, though in the Nichiren tradition, not the Nyingma tradition of Chatral Rinpoche, I am in a process of reading the works of many revered Buddhist teachers and practitioners. Compassionate Action by Chatral Rinpoche, and edited by Zach Larson, provides wonderful insight into the diversity of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition through a series of essays, interviews, prayers and photographs. I read it cover to cover on a flight from New York to Chicago.

The highlight of Compassionate Action for me was his explanation of one of his most well known actions. He releases 70 truckloads of fish from the market in Calcutta annually, an action that allows the live caught fish to re-enter life with a greater possibility of being born into Dharma practice and ultimately attain liberation. In an interview, he details his reasoning behind the sign that hangs in his monastery: “In this Buddhist monastery the consumption of meat, alcoholic beverages, and tobacco as well as playing cards or gambling is strictly prohibited.” Citing the early teachings of the Buddha, and eventually basing his ideas on the laws of cause and effect, he simply notes the negative influence of both killing and not taking action to prevent the killing of other beings has on our own spiritual lives. Chatral Rinpoche is committed in his practices and beliefs around the preservation of all life — insect, animal and human.

In the West we most often hear of the Dalai Lama as the foremost representative of Tibetan Buddhism. Chatral Rinpoche has taken a different approach to his practice of the Dharma than the Dalai Lama. While the Dalai Lama makes great efforts to travel and teach as many as will listen all across the world, Chatral Rinpoche offers teachings to very few people, often only a few of those who have spent a minimum of six years at his monastery. He is a part of a complex system of lineage that has developed for centuries in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. In the end, I am still a bit confused about the exact meaning of it all, who is an "emanation” of whom, but appreciate the overall reverence for spiritual ancestry.

Written by: Aisha Domingue, July 21st 2007