Thoughts. Experiences. Inspiration.

A Buddha in West Hollywood

October 10, 2014 2


Kickin’ it with H.E. Tsem Tulku Rinpoche in West Hollywood earlier this week. Rinpoche said sitting at this bus stop brought back a lot of memories

After a lovely Indian dinner, Rinpoche thought it would be nice to visit West Hollywood as some of us had never been. In the middle of samsara, Rinpoche gave us a profound teaching about how to generate a bodhisattva motivation. Everybody prays to be reborn in the best circumstances, with all of the comforts and luxuries possible. No one (except a Buddha) prays to be reborn in the worst situations. And that is why we should pray to be reborn there – those are the people who need the most help, because no one ever wants to go there. They have no one to help them. How will we ever develop that seed of compassion in us if we are always praying to be comfortable? Rinpoche’s previous teachings about moving out of our comfort zones comes strongly into mind.

Rinpoche’s previous teachings on motivation also come to mind. How easy is it for us to think to benefit ourselves? “I want this for lunch”…”I want to travel there next month”…”I want to buy that dress tomorrow”. Our minds are consumed by self-cherishing thoughts. It’s not bad or wrong, but it is a habit we need to break out of. Thus when we sit on our meditation cushions, or we are about to engage in any kind of virtuous activity, it is very important for us to consciously generate a motivation of benefiting all sentient beings. We have to replace our destructive tendencies with positive ones, so that one day the bodhisattva motivation arises as spontaneously as our self-cherishing ones do now.

Rinpoche teases a Nepali waiter at an Indian restaurant

Teasing a Nepali waiter. Rinpoche says we should always show kindness and not add to the difficulties that foreign workers already have to bear

When that motivation arises spontaneously, then prayers and motivations like the one Rinpoche taught us above become very natural. This kind of prayer is consistent to Rinpoche throughout the years. I have seen Rinpoche in every environment possible, from the dirtiest and darkest places, to the swankiest hotels and restaurants. And Rinpoche is EXACTLY the same in how he treats everyone and every being. He gives them the same attention, care and concern regardless of how old they are, how they are dressed and how many zeros are in their bank accounts. This consistency can only come from someone whose natural motivation is to benefit others; when you abide in compassion, all of your actions arise from compassion.

Imparting some Dharma advice to this young lady

Imparting some Dharma advice to this young server

Whilst the first photo above (the one in the bus stop) was being taken, Rinpoche also talked to me about his life in West Hollywood. He said sitting at the bus stop reminded him of all the times he had waited for the bus to get to work. That he must have gone up and down Sunset Boulevard thousands of times as a teenager, scared and afraid, and not knowing how he was going to make it through the month because he had that little money in his pocket. But even living in the middle of samsara, with all of the pressures of not having very much money, he was never once tempted by drink and drugs. All he wanted to do was work and practice; that is what he had left New Jersey for, and that is what he wanted to do.

Think about how many of us make excuses for our lack of practice. We are the masters of excuses, we thrive in excuses. Even when we don’t consciously want to have an excuse, our mind naturally gravitates towards them. Again, we are not bad or evil. It just means we have spent so many lifetimes making excuses, that’s what we naturally do now. Therefore practice, practice, practice. In our case, it is still called Dharma practice (and not Dharma attainments) because we need to keep at it. So next time you sit at your cushion to do your daily practice, think about Rinpoche’s words 🙂

Rinpoche composes a note for someone

Rinpoche composes a note to accompany some gifts for a lucky recipient

There's never a bad time to give a Dharma teaching

There’s never a bad time to give a Dharma teaching, even when it’s 2am and there’s a group of drunk men down the street. Rinpoche spoke here about the importance of a human body to do tantric meditations


It may be a formal setting or an informal one, but Rinpoche always finds a way to impart some Dharma

Rinpoche makes a sandwich for a student

Rinpoche makes a sandwich for a student. This was after we went to a Ukrainian deli and Rinpoche explained to us the Russian delicacies his mum used to make, and how she would often bring homeless men and women into their home to give them a good meal

Rinpoche explains his books to a nice lady at the bank

Rinpoche explains his books to a nice lady at the bank, before gifting them to her

Rinpoche promising this lovely lady that he will use the bowls she gifted him to make offerings on her behalf

Rinpoche promising this lovely lady that he will use the bowls she gifted him to make offerings on her behalf

Reflections and Teachings

2 Comments → “A Buddha in West Hollywood”

  1. Elena 9 years ago   Reply

    From Eli Levine on Facebook: I do not wish to be placed in the worst situation, personally. I’d rather that I be placed in the best possible situation that I can have in order to help humanity and the universe. If that means I’m born in a bad situation or have to live through hurtful things, then so be it. I’d rather be the best I can be in the long term than regret. After all, isn’t the long term just the short term tomorrow? The negative karma comes. The difference is in the degree, I think.

    That’s just my take on it.

    • Elena 9 years ago   Reply

      My response: of course, everyone wants comfort and everyone wants ease. I didn’t say it was wrong or bad, but we have to be realistic with ourselves and with the vast majority of sentient beings who assume that when we gain those things we will be more spiritual, do more social work, get involved in more charities, etc etc. But how many do you know have actually done that once they gained the riches they prayed for? I can tell you from experience with being in a Dharma centre since I was 11 that those people can be counted on one hand.

      Psychological studies label this ‘risk averse’ and ‘loss averse’. In a case study we examined back in uni, it involved people who say they’ll leave school to work and save, then return to do their Masters later where most never do because it means giving up their good salaries. Likewise if you read biographies of wealthy people, they never make it to where they’re at by being comfortable mentally. Comfort zones are the killer of ambition (

      When you make aspirational prayers to be reborn in difficult situations, it does not mean you will actually be reborn there. In learning to generate a bodhisattva motivation, you actually create the causes to NOT be reborn in such difficult circumstances. And when you have a bodhisattva motivation, the circumstances will never defeat you. One of the defining factors of a bodhisattva who has bodhicitta is that they assist, regardless of obstacles or difficulty or threat to life. And you cannot gain enlightenment without bodhicitta…have you ever meet an uncompassionate Buddha? 🙂

      Fearing the circumstances is the very reason why we never maximise our potential to benefit others, though we say we want to, because we always have fears, what if’s, doubts and hang-ups plaguing our subconscious and holding us back.

      Simultaneously we should not make such a prayer with the hidden intention to not be reborn in difficult circumstances, otherwise it defeats the purpose of the prayer because the intention itself is self-cherishing. Having a self-cherishing mind is will result in our rebirth in situations whereby we cannot actually benefit others, because our minds are always automatically focused upon ourselves.

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