What can establish dharma in the West forever? Forever is a long time, but that’s how I understand this question. It’s a big question, and a big answer will just confuse everyone. So I’ll make it simple: One Western person must attain full enlightenment in the same way as Marpa, Milarepa, or Guru Rinpoche [Padmasambhava, Indian founder of Tibetan Buddhism]. If one Westerner—man or woman, doesn’t matter—attains that level of realization, then pure dharma will be established in Western culture, Western language, and environment, and so forth. Until that time, dharma can be taught in the West, which is already happening; it can be practiced in the West, which is already happening; and it can be recited in Western languages. But it’s not yet one hundred percent complete.
Only with the presence of great mahasiddhas like Guru Rinpoche, Marpa, and Milarepa did dharma become established in Tibet. After that, dharma flourished within its own culture and language and has lasted to this day. This unbroken living lineage and blessing explains how even an unenlightened person like myself can teach and practice the enlightened dharma. In India, Buddhism took root with the appearance of Shakyamuni Buddha and the Indian mahasiddhas. In both Tibet and India, dharma was established through the appearance of enlightened beings, and it will take root in the West the same way.
Until that happens, Tibetan dharma for Westerners remains inseparable from Tibetan culture and language, Tibetan ways and mentality. All that will change when a Westerner attains full enlightenment. The cultural context will become your own, and this will greatly increase inspiration and confidence.
Of course, some people may not have the karma to appreciate a Western Milarepa. In Tibet, some Buddhist kings who encouraged the spread of dharma were assassinated. Shakyamuni Buddha’s own cousin, Devadatta, didn’t appreciate the Buddha’s qualities. But milk is milk and water is water—in the end, the majority of people will discern the difference. If you get enlightened and appear in the sky above the entire city of New York, and you manifest all the Buddha qualities while singing the most perfect dharma song, which is the most appropriate song for New Yorkers, all of them will have some realization.
No one can help make a Western Milarepa. Nobody supported the historical Milarepa. His own mother urged him to continue black magic. When he was practicing in the cave, people were very critical; they called him a ghost because he was so thin. For years, he ate no human food and his clothes were shredded by the wind and rain.
The West needs such a person, but you cannot make such a person. But I’m sure there are plenty of people out there. Perhaps one Westerner has already made the decision to attain full enlightenment. I don’t know about now, but in our past, hundreds of people attained the same level as Milarepa. Our faith, confidence, and trust are based on experience that has been confirmed over and over and repeated by hundreds of individuals through many generations. In the West, people are sincere and intelligent, but faith, trust, and a genuine understanding remain difficult because you don’t have your own lineage. Once you can see Buddha qualities within your own environment and culture, and hear pure dharma in your own language, you will no longer be dependent on some foreigner.
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