Although he didn’t always have a word for it, Dr. David Shlim has witnessed Tibetan Buddhist teachers reliably respond to requests for help with a problem — no matter how big or small — with a sincere and steady presence.
“They manifested this kind of dignity that we don’t think about much here,” Shlim said.
Dignity. That’s the word that captures what the Jackson physician and author has admired in so many Buddhist teachers, “an unshakable ability to handle things.”
Outside of those circles, Shlim sees “dignity” used more often to describe how people feel they are being treated by others. For example, “They didn’t treat me with dignity.”
Buddhist teachings flip that focus, concentrating instead on how to treat others.
Author and teacher Phakchok Rinpoche returns to Jackson Hole after a five-year absence to talk about his latest book, “Awakening Dignity,” written with Sophie Wu.
At 7 p.m. Thursday at the Presbyterian Church of Jackson Hole he will discuss how learning about dignity from the Buddhist perspective can lead to a better life. Tickets to the event cost $15 and are available on Eventbrite.com. Shlim recommends buying tickets in advance since Rinpoche’s Jackson Hole appearances have traditionally drawn a crowd.
“I think anyone with any curiosity about Tibetan Buddhist philosophy and how it could be of practical value in your life would want to go to this talk,” Shlim said.
“Awakening Dignity” is Rinpoche’s second book for the general public. The first was “Radically Happy: A User’s Guide to the Mind” with Eric Solomon. A book-signing will follow his talk, with both titles available for sale through the Jackson Hole Book Trader.
Shlim lived and worked in Kathmandu for 15 years before moving to Jackson Hole. In 1985 he went to the monastery of Phakchok Rinpoche’s grandfather, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, to learn from the elder Buddhist teacher. He was camping in a tent on the mountain overlooking Kathmandu Valley when Phakchok Rinpoche, who had just been recognized as a reincarnate lama at the age of 5, crawled inside. That was the first time they met and hung out for a while, although the young lama didn’t speak English and Shlim didn’t speak Tibetan.
Rinpoche has since become fluent in English, which sets him apart from many Tibetan lamas who travel and teach, Shlim said. Rinpoche gave his first public talk in the West in Jackson in 2003. He returned nearly every year for the next 14 years. Then, four years ago, he began a prolonged personal retreat, did not travel and finished his latest book.
Married with two children, Rinpoche can relate to the daily concerns of his audience, but he never strays from the Tibetan Buddhist teachings that have been taught for more than 2,600 years, Shlim said.
“Awakening Dignity: A Guide to Living a Life of Deep Fulfillment,” published in December by Shambhala Publications, is described as “A Buddhist master’s guide to cultivating dignity through meditation to live a meaningful and fulfilling life.”
The guide offers reflections, examples and simple meditations as tools to embody dignity the way the Buddhist masters do.
That kind of training can help people weather life’s ups and downs, said Shlim, who last year published his memoir, “A Gentle Rain of Compassion.”
“Whatever arises, we can handle it and be of value to others who are facing difficulties,” Shlim said. “Where does this stability come from? Rinpoche asserts that we all have this stability already built into our minds, but we lose track of it as we get caught up in our egos.” ￼
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