Buddhist Wisdom – The 20-year Kadam Choeling

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This is a 15-minute documentary on Kadam Choeling, and the celebration of its 20th anniversary.

Kadam Choeling is a Dharma center of the Gelug tradition established 20 years ago in the area of Bordeaux, France, by the disciples of Dagpo Rinpoche. Dagpo Rinpoche was one of the important lamas who taught Pabongka Rinpoche the Lam Rim.

Dagpo Rinpoche explains that he did not want to teach, but he eventually did at the request of a few disciples who created the center.

In the video, several practitioners talk about their practice and they also talk briefly about:

  • the unbroken lineage
  • an analysis of our speech-actions-thoughts as a practice
  • the danger of only engaging with Dharma at an intellectual level
  • the meditation on death

Translation of the transcript from French to English

Aurélie Godefroy:

Good morning everyone. Thank you for tuning in. It is my great pleasure to have you this Sunday morning on the set of Sagesses Bouddhistes. To celebrate its 20th anniversary, the Tibetan centre of Kadam Choeling, near Bordeaux, has opened its doors to us. This is an opportunity for us not only to discover this Gelugpa centre but also to meet someone who had played an essential role in the transmission and diffusion of Gelug teachings,Venerable Dagpo Rinpoche. This is a documentary directed by Bénédicte Niogret.

Kadam Choeling

(a Buddhist centre in town)

Voice over:

We are in Bordeaux, on 5th June 2010, to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the opening of the Dharma centre Kadam Choeling in the middle of the city. This centre comes under the auspices of the Gelugpa school of Tibetan Buddhism. Venerable Dagpo Rinpoche plays a crucial role in the diffusion of the teachings because he has lived in France for last fifty years. Through his efforts, the transmission of the teachings continues.

Venerable Dagpo Rinpoche:

Transmission occurs, when someone who has received the teaching practices it and as a result of his practice, he acquires the qualities and shares this knowledge with others. Thus he not only gives (others) the knowledge, there is also a certain force or energy or positive energy.

Alix Bommelaer, practitioner:

The transmission is oral because the tradition in Tibet is an oral tradition. It is the transmission of a text, the direct teachings of the Buddha which were transmitted from Buddha down to us through guru to disciple without interruption. This is the richness of the wisdom. And today, Dagpo Rinpoche is transmitting to us a Tibetan text which he will read first, offering to us the text in its original language and after that, he will develop it with commentaries and explanations. So, it is a complete teaching.

Voice over:

For the occasion, Venerable Dagpo Rinpoche has decided to give a teaching entitled “Néo Lama” or “Fast Path to Enlightenment”. It is a commentary on the Buddha’s teaching compiled in Tibetan in the 18th century. The text explains the stages of the path to enlightenment. It has been twenty years since the opening of the Bordeaux centre. Now we have a regular gathering of more than one hundred practitioners. In the beginning, we were just a small group of about ten people who were very motivated under the leadership of Françoise Cartau, the President.

Françoise Cartau, President of Kadam Choeling:

We had three fundamental ingredients – we had a teacher, we had a group and we had a desire to find a spiritual path. In fact, the teacher was the trigger and he was also the spiritual path as well as the one who enabled us to understand Buddhism. Thus, there was this coming together of people who wanted to change their lives, to find a path and to find a certain degree of stability. It started like this.


Venerable Dagpo Rinpoche:

You know, at the outset, I didn’t want to teach. I was working at the university and I didn’t want to give teachings. I told myself that there were already many lamas who were giving teachings. So it was not necessary for me to give teachings. I was going to stay in my little corner and after my retirement I would go to a quiet corner and stay there all alone. I really didn’t want to teach at all. But due to circumstances, finally I was, as one might say, “cornered” (laughter)… cornered…. No, I had to start (teaching) and I told myself that I would give it a try, for one year. If it is beneficial, I will continue.

(chanting in Tibetan)

Marie-Emmanuelle Gatineau, practitioner:

This teaching enables us to question ourselves constantly on what we are saying, thinking and doing. We have the choice not to question ourselves, not to focus on what we are thinking, saying or doing. But we are given the possibility to focus, to look at things from a fresh perspective. In any case, we have an analytical tool.

Voice over:

(Teaching translated by Marie-Stella Boussemart)
As far as we are concerned, we wanted to engage in this type of meditation on death and impermanence. We took the time to understand this first cycle on the disadvantages of not thinking about death and not being sufficiently aware of the ineluctable nature of death.

Voice over:

It is the presence of death and its ineluctable nature that makes human existence particularly precious.

Venerable Dagpo Rinpoche:

With our human body and the human mind, we can achieve a lot of things, in the intellectual domain. Not only in the intellectual domain. There are so many achievements in the mundane world at the moment, for example, in the field of science and all that, they are doing incredible things, isn’t it? We have achieved this as a result of the power, the strength of the human mind. Therefore, it is the same thing if we apply ourselves to the development of kindness, compassion and wisdom. We will succeed. It is the same thing. We have the means (to do so).

Voice over:

If we listen to a Dharma teaching without the necessary motivation, it is not very beneficial. It will not be very fruitful. So the first thing to do now is to revive or restore our needs, which is to have a good motivation.

Alix Bommelaer:

As a Westerner, I fall into the trap of intellectual attraction. One can become fanatical about things. I already had a liking for dissecting things, to analyze, to cut things up and to reflect on questions in depth. But it was meaningless without conscience as they say. It is good for science but not for a sacred ritual that comes from an official transmission by someone and that is so rich and so rare. Of course it’s very moving.

Voice over:

Which is why a teacher is so important.

Alix Bommelaer:

Of course. The link is inseparable. The disciple cannot live without a teacher and the teacher will continue to teach as long as there are disciples.

Pierre Caumel, practitioner:

The genuine teacher is one who has received the teaching that is transmitted directly from teacher to disciple. Therefore, the genuine teacher is the real Buddha since he is attained. For this reason, the teacher is always more important than even Buddha Shakyamuni himself.

Venerable Dagpo Rinpoche:

I think that as long as there are people who are really interested in the teachings of the Buddha, the transmission will remain. On the other hand, if there are only people who are interested intellectually, then there will be no transmission. Many people are really coming here for something they believe is real, because they have started to receive teachings. Then they have practiced and applied the teachings to themselves. They have personally obtained some results.

Françoise Cartau:

It may appear paradoxical but it is because we are involved in daily existence that we can live our Buddhism in a genuine way. We are not nuns, we are not monks; we are lay people. In fact it is in the way we conduct our lives that we are Buddhists.

(chanting in Tibetan)

Voice over:

What are the other advantages of thinking about death? It is said that on the one hand it is of great significance, of great value. Secondly, it is one of two great forces. Thirdly, fourthly, fifthly, it is extremely useful and important in the beginning, in the middle and in the end. Sixthly, at the time of death, we will be able to die peacefully and happy.

Venerable Dagpo Rinpoche:

It is said that one must receive a lot of teachings on the Lamrim, the stages of the path to enlightenment, all the time, all the time. If one receives and understands well a lamrim text and if one receives the same teachings again, there will be another understanding. It is the same words but the words speak differently. It is said that each time one receives teachings, one will understand more. For that reason, we must try to receive a lot of teachings.

Voice over:

On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Bordeaux centre, personalities from the world of politics and religion in the city were invited to the festive reception.

Françoise Cartau:

Thanks to those who have stayed for so many years. We have journeyed together. We don’t have any realizations but we have traveled the path together. (laughter) I thank those who have joined us here. Thanks to those who have helped us, meticulously, for a long time, or from time to time. In short, I thank all those who have helped to build Kadam Choeling. Let’s hope that it continues. (applause)

Voice over:

A tiered cake in the form of a Dharma wheel, a Buddhist symbol, was made for the occasion. The teachings ended with the morning’s rituals. Some people entered the Buddhist path on this day with the taking of refuge.

Pierre Caumel:

The rituals are often those that will deepen one’s knowledge, that’s for sure, but also develop one’s devotion or faith. If we develop faith, we will “develop the potential” to put into practice what we have studied. Then we will gradually transform our mind.

Venerable Dagpo Rinpoche:

We always do it in Tibetan. For me it’s easier obviously. It’s my mother tongue, you see. It is a language that we have been using, for years and years for the teachings of the Buddha. There is something there. If we recite in Tibetan, we feel something. When one translates into another language, one can recite in that language but it is something new. There may be something later perhaps. For now, there is nothing. One does not feel anything.

Alix Bommelaer:

I think that the next generation of Buddhists will be very Western, that the transmissions will be done by people who have been trained in Dharamsala. There are monks who are being trained in Dharamsala. There is no (training) in France or in Tibet. They have left since the Chinese invasion and we are witnessing now a kind of Western revival of Buddhism.

Venerable Dagpo Rinpoche:

Well, in Tibet, there were no Tibetans who gave teachings. It was the Indians who gave us the Buddhist teachings. After that, the Tibetans practiced and had attainments. Then they transmitted the teachings to the next generations. Now the Westerners are doing the same thing. There is no problem, I think. That’s for sure. We are sewing (seeds) you see. One day, they will grow. One day they will become real.

Aurélie Godefroy:

If you are interested in knowing more about this subject, here are a few works we would like to recommend to you. First, Le Lama venu du Tibet, the autobiography of Dagpo Rinpoche, published by Grasset in collaboration with Jean-Philippe Caudron. You will discover the journey of this Tibetan teacher, from the 1930s until the Paris of today, through his training in the monasteries of Asia, his flight from Tibet in 1959 and his arrival in France.

Also published by Grasset, J’ai connu le Tibet libre by Thoupten Phuntshog, the author who tells his story but who is also the faithful companion of Dagpo Rinpoche and who lives with him today.

And the last work is by Pema Chodron which has just been published by Les Courriers du Livre, (entitled) Vivez sans Entrave (which is about) removing your fears and conditioning.

You can find this programme on the site of France 2 by clicking on the rubrique “Tous les programmes”. Thank you for tuning in and I wish you a very good day. See you next Sunday.


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