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Buddhadharma : Spring 2009
buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly spring 2 0 09 90 AT ONE OF THE Khyentse Foundation’s first meetings, a management consultant drew a diagram of a mountain to repre- sent their five-year plan, with each mount up the incline being a different goal. The foundation’s head, Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, said, “If we make it to the first goal, I will be very happy. If we make it to the second, I will be very, very happy. If we make it to the third, I will be very, very, very happy.” And he continued in that way, adding a very for each goal. Now, seven years later, Dzongsar Khyentse must be very happy indeed, because not only were all of the original goals met but others have been met as well. All of the foundation’s goals, how- ever, continue to be rooted in its original mission: to support institutions and in- dividuals engaged in Buddhist study and practice. Note that the Khyentse Foun- dation’s mission is distinct from the mis- sions of Dzongsar Khyentse’s two other organizations: Siddhartha’s Intent, which focuses on organizing his teaching sched- ule and managing his retreat centers, and Lotus Outreach, which is dedicated to improving conditions for children, most- ly in Cambodia and India. Explaining the purpose of the Khyentse Foundation, Dzongsar Khyentse says: “In the past Buddhism flourished in places like China, India, Tibet, Japan. Much of the credit for the flourishing has to go to the practitioners, but quite a lot has to go to the patrons. If not for Ashoka in India or for some of the Chinese and Japanese emperors, Buddhism would have disap- peared long ago. But now it’s modern times and there aren’t big royal families acting as patrons. Our aim as Khyentse Foundation is to take their place.” At the inception of the foundation, Dzongsar Khyentse determined that it would promote Buddhism in five differ- ent ways: through monastic education; scholarships for Buddhist practice or study; endowed university professor- ships; the education of children; and the translation and publishing of Buddhist texts. He decided that an endowment fund for monastic education was the top priority. Dzongsar Khyentse, born in 1961 in Bhutan, is considered a reincarnation of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, and as a result he has inherited the spiritual directorship of various shedras, or tra- ditional Buddhist universities, in Tibet, India, and Bhutan, and he has been in- spired to establish others himself. Being the spiritual director, Dzongsar Khyentse must provide for the approximately sev- en hundred monks living in his shedras, and in 2001, when the Khyentse Founda- tion was established, it cost $200 a year to feed one monk, or $140,000 to feed seven hundred. Having to constantly fundraise to cover these costs inevitably took time away from Dzongsar Khy- entse’s teaching and practice. He decided it would be better to invest a large chunk of money so that the interest made off this money could then permanently sup- port the shedras. An initial endowment of $2.8 million was required in order to reach this goal. According to communications direc- tor Noa Jones, when she was first invited to help establish the Khyentse Founda- tion she felt overwhelmed by the idea of having to amass almost $3 million. “I was living the dharma-bum life,” she says. “And I just couldn’t imagine rais- ing that much.” Even more daunting was the prospect of collecting such a large sum without fundraising in the usual sense of the word. Rinpoche decided early on that the foundation would not produce mass mailings asking for donations or other- wise ask people for money. The idea was that the Khyenste Foundation would simply let people know what kind of work it was doing and then allow indi- viduals to help out or not. “I guess there is some potential that we’re not tapping every possible finan- cial source,” says Jones. “But I feel like when the connection comes without any pressure, it’s really coming from some- body’s inspiration. They’re inspired to give rather than feeling obligated to.” And apparently, Khyentse Foundation inspires, because in just eighteen months, Rinpoche’s students raised the required $2.8 million to provide the basic food needs for the shedras. The foundation could then concentrate on raising funds for its other projects. “Our next prior- ity was our scholarship program,” says executive director Cangioli Che. KHYENTSE FOUNDATION By Andrea Miller Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche at the Dzongsar Khyentse Chokyi Lodro Institute inauguration in Chauntra, Himachal Pradesh, India But-SouLai Profi l e