Engage not Enrage
The Buddhist Association of UC Irvine invited Venerable Thubten Chodron, a Tibetan nun, to speak at one of their community lectures on Thursday, April 19.
New faces joined regular community members in the Humanities Gateway lecture room. The lecture opened with a short video on Chodron’s achievements, the most significant of which was founding Sravasti Abby, a Buddhist monastic community in Washington State, of which she is now the abbess.
Although this was Chodron’s first time lecturing at UCI, she was not far from her alma mater, UCLA. After earning her B.A. in history, she traveled Europe for almost two years and after, earned her post-graduate degree in Education at USC. Chodron taught in the Los Angeles school system before she was ordained as a Tibetan nun in 1977.
Her familiarity with students of Southern California, combined with the spiritual lessons she learned from mentors such as His Holiness the Dalai Lama, kept the audience in a positive mood.
The room was completely silent for five minutes while Chodron led mediation, guiding the audience to “cultivate our motivation” to be open to learning about how to “work with our anger” and more frequently forgive.
Once the audience was mentally prepared and relaxed, Chodron launched into her lecture full of both dramatic and practical examples which made the audience laugh and think twice about their individually justified reasons for being angry.
Chodron captivated the students by relating her own experience with anger to theirs. This lecture had a different atmosphere than others led by native Tibetans because Chodron knew how to address the questions that these students and community members had.
She later talked about the need to “interfere with the evolution of anger,” as opposed to merely “suppressing or repressing anger.” For members of the audience who were new to Buddhist concepts, Chodron explained ideas like karma with definitions such as “what goes around comes around,” and “the boomerang effect.” According to Chodron, anger stems from the sensitivity associated with having to release an issue one has been clinging on to.
Vivien Phung, the president of internal affairs, Kevin Truong the Webmaster, and Thar Soe the publicity representative, presented an orchid to the nun as a token of their appreciation. Chodron returned the blessing to Phung with the Khata, a Tibetan blessing scarf.
Dennis Trinh, a webmaster intern, had two extra tickets to see His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Long Beach on Saturday, April 21, and decided to donate them to the Buddhist Association for members who attended Thursday’s event. Thanks to Trinh’s generosity, two very lucky community members were announced as winners during the following raffle.
Carah Reed, who won one of the raffled tickets couldn’t contain her excitement. Reed attended her first retreat with Chodron in 1993. She has seen His Holiness the Dalai Lama on several occasions but was very excited to add Saturday’s event among the rest.
“I am shocked, but at the same time, I had a feeling that they were going to pull my name,” Reed said.
Phung is part of the committee to volunteer at the Dalai Lama event, joining other community members in bringing the Dalai Lama to viewers in locations far from India.
The attendees at Buddhist Association lectures are often adult community members who are happy to receive the chance to meet monks and nuns on the UCI campus.
Ahmed Bahar, a student member, expressed his hope to see His Holiness the Dalai Lama.“I just want to be in his presence,” Bahar said.
In between community members giving their appreciation and gratitude to Chodron for her lecture, Bahar talked with Chodron about what the nuns do in the Abby to diminish anger and make use of what Chodron referred to as “non-violent communication.”
With humor and wise advice, Chodron won the audience over, helping convince them of their own power to overcome the negativity of anger. Chodron’s lecture gave UCI students the chance to take into practice Sravasti Abby’s slogan, “creating peace in a chaotic world.”