> Buddhism is no big deal; its like being a doctor. There's suffering, you
> diagnose it, give someone a prescription, and hope they go to the
> drugstore. No one in America wants to go to the store, though. They all
> want to be pharmacists and sit around discussing different types of
> medicine. What's with that? Take some medicine and some back next week.
> I mean, don't get me wrong -- Buddhism is choice.
Buddhism is CHOICE?! Ah, youth...
> You're basically a giant filter, like on an air conditioner. You suck
> in the bad air and breathe out the pure air. I see myself like an
> air-conditioning repair dude. I teach people how to filter and cool
> things down.
I can see it now... lamas have been the filtering agents we've been
seeking all along...
------------------------------ 8< ------------------------------------
the Spring issue of CyberSangha: The Buddhist Alternative Journal. Pema
Jones, who is refered to as "Rimpoche" (Precious One) was born in India
to a Tibetan mother and an American father. He was recognized as an
incarnate Lama as a young child. He lived in a Tibetan monastery until
he was seven. Pema now lives in Wyoming, and is one of the youngest
teachers of Tibetan Buddhism in the U.S.
This interview was conducted by Chris Helm. (This piece was reprinted in
the August issue of Harper's Magazine.)
Chris Helm: It must be hard enough to be a thirteen-year-old boy in
America, not to mention a Tibetan lama. How do your friends and family
treat your connection with the Dharma?
Pema Jones: It's kind of weird. I have two older brothers, and they
tease me about it. They call me "shrimpoche." The kids at school don't
know I'm a lama. I would never tell them.
Helm: Why not?
Jones: I get dissed enough as it is just being Asian. They call me names
like "nip" and "gook." It's not like when I was growing up in India.
Everyone here in Wyoming is white. I consider it a good day when some
goof in a pickup truck doesn't try to run me over.
Helm: How do you deal with people trying to hurt you?
Jones: It's pretty safe around here, but we Asians need to stick
together. Some of my best friends in our gang are Chinese. It's strange
to have Chinese friends when my family has been so badly treated by the
Chinese -- but this is America -- I gotta live here with my own karma.
Some skinhead doesn't care whether I'm Tibetan or Chinese. He just wants
to stomp my head.
Helm: You're in a gang?
Jones: It's just for protection. It's like if a guy threatens one of us,
there's nothing we can do on our own, but by getting a bunch of us
together, we can defend ourselves. We don't have guns, and we don't do
drugs or rob people. Can we talk about something else?
Helm: Sure. Do you like your students?
Jones: Yeah, they're all right. They're kind of funny. It's like, they
say they come for the teachings, but when they get into the interview
room, they talk about other stuff.
Helm: What other stuff?
Jones: They mainly talk about the opposite sex. Men talk about their
problems with their wives, and women talk about their husbands and
boyfriends. I don't get it. It's like, I have little enough time as it
is with school and Little League and my chores, and they want me to be a
shrink, or something. And I'm only thirteen. I'm mean, I've got
girlfriends and all, but what do I know about relationships?
Helm: So what do you tell them?
Jones: I talked to my dad about it, and he gave me a stack of business
cards from one of his friends, a psychologist. I just hand my students
one of the cards when they start talking about relationships. I put my
name on the back of the card, and whenever my dad's friend gets a new
client he takes me and my brothers and sister to Dairy Queen. It's cool.
Buddhism is no big deal; its like being a doctor. There's suffering, you
diagnose it, give someone a prescription, and hope they go to the
drugstore. No one in America wants to go to the store, though. They all
want to be pharmacists and sit around discussing different types of
medicine. What's with that? Take some medicine and some back next week.
I mean, don't get me wrong -- Buddhism is choice.
Helm: So you're qualified to teach?
Jones: Sure. I mostly teach Tonglen, giving and receiving. It's what I
think works best at times when people are trying to kill you or too many
changes are happening at once, which seems to be the case in this
country. You're basically a giant filter, like on an air conditioner.
You suck in the bad air and breathe out the pure air. I see myself like
an air-conditioning repair dude. I teach people how to filter and cool
Helm: So if you can cool things down, why do you need to be in a gang?
Jones: It's a samsara and nirvana thing. If some guy disses me I can
just tell myself that he really doesn't exist separate from me, you
know? It's like he's dissing himself. That works fine. But what happens
when he stops talking and starts beating on me? You need to be able to
take care of yourself so you don't get killed. We live in samsara, and
spacing out about nirvana doesn't help anyone.
Helm: Don't you see any contradictions in that? The Dalai Lama, for
example, constantly teaches non-violence, despite having been terribly
oppressed all his life.
Jones (laughing): Oh yeah, right. The Dalai Lama is an awesome old dude
and a killer teacher. But he's got, like, a dozen bodyguards around him
when he's traveling. What do you think would happen if some butthead
pulls a gun on His Holiness? Do you think those dozen bodyguards will
practice nonviolence or bust some karate moves on him? No way, man. A
bodyguard sees this dweeb with a gun and he's gonna pop a cap in his
"A cap in his ass"? Methinks the lama needs his mouth washed out with soap.