Open Letter to the Sangha

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

Geshe Michael Roach, speaking on bodhisattva vow #35, a secondary offense against the morality of working for others: “Failing to assist someone in need out of anger or laziness.”

“We’re maybe gonna get a place in Connecticut, where we can all do retreats.  We can have special programs there. We may get a place in 6th Street, where we would have a bigger classroom and things like that.  In other words, becoming a group.  It started with 5 or 6 people. It wasn’t really a group.  It was just a bunch of people.  That’s how it started.

Then you think about how the group will become.  You see Dharma groups that work for a while, then they collapse in politics, or the teacher goes away, or dies,or does something thing bad, and it collapses.  Then you see Dharma groups that live and survive, and you go to that place and it smells really nice, sweet.  We were at one this last week. And I think the key is that everyone is being a bodisattva in this sense.  Everyone is helping each other, and everyone is helping out with the dirty work.  And that’s how you can tell that the students got it.  They went to class and they got it.  The opposite is that you can tell that they didn’t get it.  They sat in a bodhisattva vow class, they heard about this vow, and all the other vows and they didn’t get it.  So they don’t help each other.  They don’t watch out for each other.  There is no feeling that the group is a group of bodhisattvas.

So I think if we keep this one really good, all of those other activities which we are trying to do which are going to be major types of things to handle, it will go really nice, it will go really smooth.  It will last a long time.  It will help many people.  If we don’t, if we don’t keep this one, which is helping each other, helping out, the whole structure won’t last very long.  It has to be knit together by helping each other.  So I think you have to keep this one.

You have to think a lot about this one and you have to be there with your two hands.  Not with your advice so much (laughs).  That’s a Tibetan proverb: ‘Many hands are gold, when people stick out their hands to work, that’s gold. When many people are giving advice, its like poison (laughs)’.”


In ACI-LA’s original mission statement, Lama Marut charged the community with creating a physical center. In a sprawling city like LA, he said that the emerging sangha would dwindle away without it. Our Lamas have carried out his wishes, and built the very floors and walls of the Mahasukha Center with their own hands, time and money. In this beautiful refuge, they generously offer the highest of wisdom to all.

I was fortunate enough to step inside Mahasukha again this summer. It was impressive to see how much has been done since my first visit in 2009 – a kitchen added, lovely rugs to sit on, stunning thangkas, a wonderful lending library and more. It’s so easy to feel that this place is solid and unchanging, that it will always be there for us – a safe haven, peaceful home and refuge.

But like everything in samsara, even our Dharma center is a changing thing. If it came into existence, logic says that it too must one day go out of existence. The karma of being able to walk down our street with such ease and receive the highest teachings, or to flip open our laptop and do the same, is incredibly expensive.  The ancient texts are filled with stories of disciples travelling for years to reach their teachers, and offering hard-earned bags of gold dust in order to receive the Dharma. It can all go like THAT. In the time it takes to open up an email, our world can change.

So many people are relying on this community. My heart is at home in Mahasukha Center. I live 2000 miles, 3 time zones and another country away, in Toronto. Though you may not have seen or met us or known we were there, there are many others out there like myself. Some live in places where there are no teachers or Dharma centers. Mahasukha is our refuge too, and all the online activity is a lifeline to our Lamas, the teachings and our sangha. In Mahasukha, a blueprint is also being created for other emerging sanghas. It’s “the mothership”, as a Dharma brother recently remarked.

So don’t be afraid to make a commitment of your time, your money, your joyful effort. In the words of Lama Cliff, “it’s unregrettable”. These efforts are never wasted – never. They can only have a positive result. Many hands make light work, and there are all kinds of ways to help at the center, as well as tasks that you can carry out from home (wherever that may be).

What could be the karma of taking care of our center, of helping to fulfill the wishes of our Lamas? It would seem logical that a possible result might be that every perfect teaching would come to one very easily and effortlessly. You just wouldn’t be able to stop it. If done with a pure intention, it would be the cause for our enlightenment that could benefit all beings in an ultimate way. The only sane thing we can do is to take care of our Dharma center, so that, in Geshehla’s words, “it will last a long time, it will help many people”.

With you in the Dharma,

Rhondda Smiley

Toronto, ON

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