00:00:00 Anne’s early days coming onto her spiritual journey

00:09:00 Her time in India with HHDL, Rabten Rinpoche and others.

00:14:00 Longchen Nyingtig pilgrimage in Tibet and meeting Adz.om Rinpoche reincarnation of Jigme Lingpa.

00:20:00 Terton and visionary capacities and spontaneous song

00:29:00 The importance of heartfelt confidence

00:39:00 Doubtless of our awakenment, buddhas masquerading as humans

00:42:00 Karmic and wisdom narratives and the ground of Dzogchen

00:46:00 Trained imagination, permission, and realization

00:54:00 Geshe Ngawang Wangyal, “America’s first lama”


Dawn Mountain 


Dzogchen Cycles  


Online Course, Longchenpa Training


Anne’s recent book:

Being Human and a Buddha Too



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Transcript (please excuse all errors)

Olivia Clementine: I’m Olivia Clementine, and this is Love and Liberation. Today our guest is Anne Caroline Klein. Anne, also known as Lama Rigzen Drolma, is professor and a former chair in the Department of Religion at Rice University, where she developed a contemplative studies concentration for graduate students. and teaches courses on Buddhism and Tibetan.

She is also a Lama in the Nyingma tradition and a founding teacher at Dawn Mountain, a center for Tibetan Buddhism. She just published a book titled, Being Human and a Buddha Too, which explores the wonder of living in more wholeness than in fragmentation. Her other seven books include, Knowledge and Liberation on Buddhist Distinctions Between Intellectual Knowing and Direct Experience.

and meeting the great bliss queen, contrasting Buddhist and feminist understanding of self and heart essence of the vast expanse, introducing images and insights of a beloved tradition in Tibet. In all these endeavors, her central theme is the embodied interaction between head and heart on the paths to wholeness.

She also has a course that begins with the Wisdom Academy online connected to Longchenpa’s sevenfold mind training. Practical instructions for entering Dzogchen.

Thank you so much for taking the time. And you recently published a book, it just came out in August, called Being Human and a Buddha, Longchenpa’s Sevenfold Mind Training for a Sunlit Sky.

And to be honest, there are so many things I wanted to ask you that are not contained in this book, but this book is so unbelievably rich. It’s impossible to not just focus on this. So I really want to, you know, go into kind of little Little drops of this this richness and before going into that I wanted to ask you how you came into Buddhism because you’ve had quite a path thus far

Anne Klein: You know, I think the way life goes, you tumble into things, you tumble into it, and I definitely had a certain kind of orientation that I couldn’t have described, you know, when I was younger in high school and college, and kind of not really satisfied with what was in front of me in terms of, well, I loved college, actually, I was an English major, but In retrospect, at least, I was kind of thirsty, and I didn’t know for what, and I didn’t even know that that was true.

But, I did get, my junior year abroad, in college,

we had been looking at maps, and thinking about traveling during the summer. So there was a little bit of a sparkle there, but then one day, it just hit me, I have to go to India. I have to go to India. And, My friend sitting behind me in class said, You can’t go to India! It’s two continents away! Because we were talking about hitching around that summer, and, you know, you can’t hitch to India.

So, we didn’t go to India that summer, and I came back, and I just felt, Yeah, I really have to do this, and never mind that I don’t know anything about India. There were no courses on Asia available in high school or in college. I managed to take old Vedic one semester in college. That was as close as I could get.

And. I just decided I had to go to India, and long story short, I discovered that University of Wisconsin had a Buddhist Studies program. I had imagined, I decided I should go to graduate school, just a little bit, a bare minimum, to, you know, honestly, to make a case to my parents why they should approve my going to India.

And I had been an English major, I thought I would do comparative lit, and I applied and got into a couple programs. And But as I was grazing through catalogs, I saw that Wisconsin, which also had a comparative lit program, they had an Indian studies program. And that just was, wow, yes. And not only that, as part of that, they had a Buddhist studies program.

And that just sounded like fun. I didn’t know, really, I knew pretty much nothing about Buddhism. They’re not like graduate students today. Maybe I had read Suzuki Roshi, I think You know, Beginner’s Mind had come up around then, but there’s nothing to read except Alan Watts, so I didn’t know anything.

And when I came there, between my two years there, to get a Master’s, Jeffrey Hopkins, who was a fourth year graduate student when I entered, had already got the chair of the department, Richard Robinson, who was the founder of the, it was the first Buddhist studies program in the U. S., and pretty much all the rest of them are children or great grandchildren of this program.

So the fact that Jeffrey came, he was one of the few people in the West who was fluent in Tibetan at that time because he had stayed for seven years at Geshe Wangel’s, who you also were going to ask me to talk about. So he came to Wisconsin three years before I did, already fluent in Tibetan and having read quite a bit of Tibetan literature, able to translate, and he got Robinson interested in Tibetan Buddhism, and Wisconsin became the first place to hire hired Geshe Sopa, the first tenure track Tibetan hired there.

And then they started Tibet House, what they called Tibet House. It was an old farmhouse in Cambridge, Wisconsin, about 40, 30 miles out from Madison, where nobody had ever heard of Tibet or the Dalai Lama. And… He, through Geshe Wangyal, arranged for the former abbot of Gumei Monastery. Gyuta is the one with the deep, ah, singing, Gumei is the other. One of the two major Tantra colleges in Lhasa, this was the one in lower Lhasa, he was -, the former abbot, which is, I don’t know, kind of like being a former don of I don’t know, Princeton or Cambridge. I mean, it’s like three in the Geluk hierarchy. It’s like three rungs or so below the Dalai Lama.

It’s a very high position, meaning he was a great being, as he turned out to be. So he was 70. He was born in 1900. He was 71 years old when he came here to Wisconsin. So he’d grown up fully in Tibet. And, you know, that was the end of free and he left and had been in France, I think, for a few years. And he came to live in this old farmhouse in Wisconsin, thanks to Jeffrey, who lived there also.

A couple of graduate students. who were interested in hanging out with a Tibetan, you know, Lama and Jeffrey, who wanted to study with him and did study with him daily for, I think, two years or so that we were all there. So Jeffrey taught a course on He started to teach Tibetan that summer because cancer was coming and if you want to take the seminar with -, you have to study Tibetan.

So of course, I studied Tibetan and, you know, he’s a brilliant lecturer and he always was and he started, you know, lecturing about dependent arising and emptiness and this makes so much sense. This is it. This is what I have to learn about, you know, for the rest of my life. I have to make, figure out how to, you know, have a life that allows me to do this.

So there’s a very strong aspiration, really, from the very beginning. I was really inspired. And then cancer came. And he was wonderful. And somehow I had a very easy relationship with him. And, you know, gradually it became obvious to me that what I would do in India, which had been an open question you know, I would study with Tibetans as much as I could.

And that’s what I did. And it was wonderful. And you know, I’ve continued ever since. Stayed a year and a half at that time. Was devastated when my visa wasn’t renewed. Came back. Jeffrey started the program in University of Virginia eventually. So I went there just because he was going to continue to invite Lamas, you know, from, actually selected by the Dalai Lama.

And so we had the best teachers and Jeffrey. Was just asked to write this up for Tri Cycle, so it’s on my mind. Yeah, so those are the glory days, you know, learning and nothing was in English yet. So if you wanted to learn anything about Tibetan Buddhism, you, you had to have a translator or you had another language or a little bit of both.

And that’s how I got in. And then I just continued. I just continued to meet wonderful teachers and have very, including Geshe Wangyal, and, you know, just have a really, really strong relationship with them, teachers.

Olivia Clementine: Gosh, there’s so much in there. I’d love to know more about . Maybe we could touch on now is that time in India.

So when you were there for that first year and a half, what were you doing with the Tibetans? Were you taking courses or? Yes.

Anne Klein: Yeah. Everything I could. We ended up in. Sarnath. Harvey, who I also met in the program, he was a third year student when I was there, and he and Jeffrey and Elizabeth Knapper were all in David Knipe’s class my first semester, and so we all met.

And Jeffrey started giving me advice from day one, pretty much. I was kind of lost, and he said, oh, read this, read that. So in India, let’s see, first we were in – Harvey and I both went to Sarnath, and I was looking around for somebody to teach me, and I met D-Tulku, now pretty famous for a while, head of the Tibet House in Delhi, who was a well educated monk who wanted to learn English, and knew just enough to help me.

And we read, -, I begged – to give me a suggestion of what to read, because I had no clue, and he first didn’t want to, and he said, Well, read Chandrakirti’s Madhyamakāvatāra . Okay, that was my goal. And we read, like, for three hours a day, for, I don’t know, quite a few months, five, six months. And formed a very warm relationship.

He still regards me as his, you know, first English teacher, and yeah. So I did that, and then we went to Dharamsala. And His Holiness the Dalai Lama had just opened the now, I think pretty well, highly renowned actually, Library of Tibetan Works and Archives. And I remember going there thinking, This could never amount to anything.

It’s just this little place on a hill in India, you know. So I went to that class. Geshe Ngawang taught that class. He, a lot, for many of the months that I was there, he taught Shantideva, Bodhicharyavatara. He said, some of you may teach it in the future. And we all were like, no way, how could we possibly?

 And then had an audience with His Holiness. Which is not so hard to do at that time. And His Holiness said you should study with Geshe Rabten and with Lati Rinpoche, who were both in Dharamsala at that time. So I did that. And I would go up the hill to class in the morning and then up the hill to Geshe Rabten and then some days at least a little, Lati Rinpoche lived in the compound, His Holiness compound.

 George Dreyfus, then a monk translated for me. And, one of Geshe Rabten’s students who now heads the Rabten Ling in, in Switzerland translated for me. And so I walked up and down the hill every day and studied with all those people. And then Jeffrey came to India and he was in Upper Dharamsala for a while and I would stop on my way down after all my classes with my list of questions that I hadn’t quite understood yet and talk to him.

I was very, very happy time. Just a really happy time. Yeah,

Olivia Clementine: I can’t even imagine. And okay, so I won’t get carried away in this. I really do want to, though, but we will get carried away a little bit also in your meeting with A.dz.om Rinpoche, because that also really connects with this book and feels important to speak about him.

So you met A.d.zom Paylo Rinpoche in 1996 when you were going on a pilgrimage, a Longchen Nyingtig, I think pilgrimage, which is your specialty, this area. Would you share about that pilgrimage and then as well your encounter with Rinpoche?

Anne Klein: Maybe the two most significant things I’ve done in my life were because I just, Had to, for no real reason. First one was to go to India. And then I had been to Tibet a few times. And of course, I, there was, I mean, I wanted to go to Tibet for a long time.

I’d been to Tibet, first time I went was in 87, as a tour guide for the Smithsonian. And I did that twice. And then, the Smithsonian, we went to Samye Monastery. And you could see up Chimpuk. But the tourists didn’t go there. And so one day in the early 90s, so sometime after, I don’t know, I just felt, I have to go, I have to do a pilgrimage to places connected to the Jigme Lingpa and Longchenpa.

We went up to Samye Chimpuk, which we had almost called, that was a big part of the purpose of the trip for me, I’d always wanted to go to Samye Chimpuk also, and now it was coming together, and we almost, we were two hours away from cancelling it because a couple people had altitude sickness. And they were scared, and we couldn’t find out how high it was.

You’d think everybody would know, but nobody did. Finally, somebody I didn’t know called my hotel room, and he knew. He had just been there. He said, it’s, you can go. You can go. So, we were on a truck going up.

Truck was full of our group, small group, and nuns, Tibetan nuns, she had a button. Somebody’s face that I didn’t recognize was on that button. I said, who’s that? She said, oh, great Lama, and he’s here. You can meet him. She told me where he was. So we went to meet him very quickly, we understood that he was a Lama from the Longchen Nyingtig lineage.

And I asked, would he teach us? We didn’t quite realize that there were… Well, a couple of a hundred monks up in the caves that were coming down every other day for teachings from him. And there were a group of mostly nuns, monks and nuns from the caves, and monks and nuns camped around who were getting teachings from him on a daily basis too.

And he said, well, would you like me to teach you individually? or as a group. What? So generous. So generous. And at first I was like, how could we ask? I couldn’t ask. And then something was, no, we have to say, yes, please, one by one, if you will. You say, of course, everybody’s different. How could you? And that is what I learned later is that is actually how he teaches Dzogchen.

One on one. I mean, there were a couple of hundred people, he was teaching Yeshe Lama, which is a very important post Ngondro, you know, practice text. In his tradition, he was teaching that to many monks, but he really, his, his semtri, his one on one people call it pointing out instructions, you know, that, that’s really what he, how he teaches Dzogchen…

So, he, that’s what he offered each one of us, and myself and Michelle Martin, she was also on the trip, and very fluent in Tibetan, and we, Both were there for his interviews, so he was just amazing. I’m sure he never met a group of 12 American women before. It was actually only his second time in, in, in Central Tibet.

So it was amazing that he was there when we were there. So it was a tremendous encounter, and before the interview started, his cousin read off the list of reincarnations that he is. Trisong Detsen and fifth speech emanation of Manjushri, on and on and on, and then, Jigme Lingpa. And I… I just kind of passed out.

Not passed out, but something completely just kind of collapsed. You know, here we were to Longchen Nyingtig revealed by Jigme Lingpa. We met Jigme Lingpa our third day into that. And we came back to him twice more. We were staying, we were camping below. So it was an overwhelming experience, actually.

I’ve never experienced anything like that. I mean, sitting in his presence. Anyway, but in this kind of situation, one on one, he would dial it up,

and really it was transformative. It was just transformative. There’s a picture of me a few hours after I met him for the first time, and I really looked different, and I think probably we all did. You know, there was something viscerally transformative. So he was my teacher by the time we left, and several of the other people too are still connected with him.

So, that’s how it started.

Olivia Clementine: I think you did say about A Paylo Rinpoche that he did have visions, right of Yeshe Tsogyal. He’s someone who’s very visionary and, when you read stories about Jigme Lingpa, he had visions of Longchenpa that brought him the Longchen Nyingtig. And will you speak of this visionary capacity? Especially in the modern day.

That we don’t have faith in ourselves, and I, like, I know that it’s not like anyone can just vision this person just because they want to, you know, there’s more going on there. But, yeah, I just wanted to see if you have any thoughts on this visionary capacity that we often read about and, you know, become inspired as practitioners.

Anne Klein: Well, I think you’re very wise to say that it has. Seeing it is kind of lights you up. Oh, this is what’s possible. I mean, maybe not for me right now or this life, but it’s possible. It’s really possible. He’s a Terton, so he has revealed quite a number of Ter texts that the way the tradition understands it.

 Designated. Revealers find it and unpack it from their mind because Yeshitzogil placed it there at the behest of Guru Rinpoche. So there’s somebody who is designated to find these particular texts. And such a visionary, it is traditional that there’s such a Tertön will receive during his lifetime a kind of list of what he, if things work out, it’s never a done deal, that he may discover in his lifetime.

And a couple of years later, I learned from Lama Tsultrim that actually he had received that just before we met. So there’s something about that. To be around it. is amazing. I have been around several of times when he has been writing or singing. It’ll come and he’ll sing. And if somebody’s around, like in one case on Poto Island, he received a tear from Avalokiteshvara.

Putuo Island is sacred to Guanyin, who is the Avalokiteshvara in female form in China and he spent many hours that day just singing and fortunately there were three Tibetan students right with him and I could, they were writing the whole time, they’re writing. So it got inscribed and that has become one of a number of practices that we do.

The Pema Nyingtig ticket is called the Lotus Heart Essence. So that was a vision. At the end of the day, he said, I’ve just received the full Dzogchen teachings from Avalokiteshvara. Who knew Avalokiteshvara had Dzogchen teachings? And on Putuo Island. And A couple different occasions he was receiving something.

I didn’t really know what was happening or even if I had a sense he was receiving something. I had no idea what, but I just started crying. Not like sadness, just Just something just welling up, crying and crying and crying. And so it’s very powerful to be around. And then when he teaches it, it’s really powerful.

It’s very alive, which is what they say about Ter. New Ter treasures are, you know, they’re fresh. It’s not like the other ones really get old. I mean, we still revere them, but it’s like hot off the akashic record or something. And also, sometimes when he was inspired in the middle of a teaching, he would just sing some beautiful verses.

And if somebody was around to catch him, he wrote it down. Sometimes it got recorded, not usually. And it was exquisite poetry, just exquisite, exquisite poetry. And also, like sometimes he would just do it in a car, you know, in the backseat and somebody would be driving and we’d be somewhere. And he would just feel, happy and start singing, and it just changed the whole atmosphere.

Like, even if he didn’t understand any Tibetan, I don’t know, it was like roses were blooming everywhere. Not, not visually, you know, it’s hard to express what that feeling was. It was a very rich, light feeling. Once we were in Methodist Hospital here in Houston, not a very romantic place, and he was getting some tests.

He was in between, you know, waiting for results, and He and I and Jason and I walked around for a couple of hours, and he just started singing, and he said, I’ll answer anything you want. Oh, this is a moment. And we started asking him, he was in the mood to give definitions for things. So definitely, what’s the definition of wisdom?

What’s the definition of Dakini? But I didn’t have my phone. I didn’t record it. And I, I couldn’t read. I understood it in the moment. I do remember listening very carefully to every word and realizing this is amazing. This sounds so absolutely right. I haven’t heard this before, but then the next one would come and it would leave my mind. So I remember that sense of, Just awe and joy .

he had a vision of Yeshe Tsogyal That also resulted in an amazing treasure at Yeshe Tsogel’s birthplace, her latso, you know, where the water arose after she, which is interesting.

We went there right after we saw Rinpoche, we went there and it was fantastic to be there after, you know, very quiet and we could maybe kind of absorb the amazing experience we had with him. And he also went there after. I mean, he stayed in Chim-puk for some amount of time, I’m not sure how long, but after that he went to Tsogyal Lake.

That was one of the times at least he saw her. He’s talked about his conversations, Guru Rinpoche in Samye, in the middle, I think the turquoise room. Yeah, we know this because he, there’s also a Guru Rinpoche and Tsogyal, and also a – of practice are part of what he calls the Osel Nyingtik, luminous heart essence.

So that’s another cycle of his Ter. They’re just amazing. We have something called the Dzogchen cycles, which has mostly been populated with his explicit direction by his Ter in certain sequence.

 And Tara Mandala has especially been teaching a certain part of the Osel Nyingtik. So that’s what it’s like. You feel like your teacher is just, reality is just pouring through him in every possible way.

Olivia Clementine: Do you know much about the tradition of… Of spontaneous song?

And you’re, you’re obviously giving us examples

Anne Klein: here. Yeah, I mostly know what I know from, from that experience. I mean, they, it is highly respected in the Tibetan tradition. You know, the great ones like Milarepa, it’s a certain kind of state of entering. And

I, I don’t really know much historically what I do feel about it is , so we have this Yeshe Tsogyal practice, for example, or the Avalokiteshvara practice. It’s exquisite poetry. Very, very distilled. So distilled that it seems very simple.

But when he opens it up, or your practice opens it up, You can sit with a phrase, a word or two for any, any length of time and it’s just like in eating, sucking on something extremely delicious and nutritious. And the more I’ve read in Longchenpa, particularly nowadays his Chöying Dzöd, his Precious Treasury of the Dharmadhatu, which Richard Barron translated.

as Precious Treasury of Basic Space. That’s with the commentary and also. And reading various Dzogchen tantras, which is Longchenpa quotes, I see that these texts echo them. And so I see that one of the, the things I’m going to write in my next book about Yeshe Tsogyal is, and it’s like it, it’s an echo from the earliest days of Dzogchen in Tibet.

And you can hear it and you can feel it. And I mean, I’ve, I, I know specific passages that are like that, but I feel that even just Saying that to someone, it just is a certain kind of feeling that’s possible. It’s like all these voices are coming through. Yeah,

Olivia Clementine: it’s very visceral just hearing you say that sentence.

Anne Klein: It’s very visceral, thank you. It’s very, all things very visceral. I mean, your body feels different. I mean, I think part of the joy of being around when he does that, I mean, something happens. Yeah. You know, something just happens and everybody feels it.

Olivia Clementine: I can’t wait for this book to come out. The echoes of earlier

Anne Klein: Tibet.

Yeah. In some

Olivia Clementine: time. Well I want to read these two quotations from your book, so this is the first. “The essential Dzogchen Tantra, reverberation of sound, says that no matter what kind of behavior one engages in, One never leaves reality, the dharmata.” And then the second one is, Longchenpa writes on this leaving nothing out by saying, “Self sprung wisdom is the very essence of awakened mind. Stay right with it. And it shows up. So don’t look elsewhere. Look right there.”

Anne Klein: the inspiration of this kind of statement, brings about some kind of confidence that you’re on track, you know, that you’re going to be able to do it because you know what? It’s right here. You know, you can’t understand that as I, I mean, in a way, the book is a story of my totally not understanding that, but wanting to and never quite giving up.

So I think the training is really important and, you know, for us, we encourage people to do ngondro. Something’s very special, though, about Rinpoche’s Ter, when, you know, who should we teach this to? And I thought he was going to say, people who have done ngondro, but he didn’t.

He said, to good people, to good people, to people who, I interpret that to mean have some kind of faith, you know, in the Dharma, some kind of faith in themselves too even if it’s kind of… over, overridden with lots of gunk, but still some kind of faith, some kind of trust.

So you can taste what you can taste. People do get a lot out of them. At the same time, To really appreciate some of these statements, well, all I can say is it’s taken me a long time a lot of practice, you know, to start to feel like, hey, yeah, this speaks to me. My experience. I don’t think I’m alone. That this is really true. Or maybe it’s true, but I don’t really know where to look to find this in myself because I am so encumbered by, whatever it is at the moment, anxiety, worry, pride, jealousy, just busyness, maybe more than anything.

So I don’t know where, where to look. And I feel that the practices that we have, including these Ter, including Ngondro, the foundational practices. And especially guidance from one’s own teacher, personal guidance, they do in time really show you that that’s not all you are.

There really isn’t all you are, the worry, the fret, even the thoughts. It’s not all you are. And maybe one easy way, I think very helpful way to understand this is that, you know, sometimes if we’ve, if our motivation is strong and we’ve practiced a lot and we’re held by good teachers, we can, even in very difficult circumstances, remember, remember to look and just not be swept up and identify with it, but not push it away and just see it.

And one way that sounds like a basic mindfulness practice, which it is,

but from the perspective of, you know, teachings on Buddha nature, teachings on the unstainable quality. Of your mind, everyone’s mind can kind of see that the ability to do that, you know, already in that moment, right? As you are, you’re not getting better. You’re still angry or hurt or in pain, but not all of you is, you know, not all of you is.

And then from there, I think you can, you know, maybe it’s just the Fifth Dalai Lama says, you know, with a corner of your mind, have a look at what’s going on. And, using the lens that we receive through Longchenpa, you know, we can see that that’s already a kind of freedom. And then we can start to see that, yeah, that’s a glint of Buddha nature.

That’s a glint of what’s possible. You know, clouds pass through the sky always. Thoughts don’t stop coming. Pain doesn’t stop coming. But it doesn’t hurt the same way when we are not identified with it. And with that, which I think is not so hard, although it does take practice to, you know, have that kind of experience, this starts to make sense.

And it’s all there in that mind, in that moment, in that moment of clarity. Because what is it except a state of freedom from the things that usually obscure us? And they don’t obscure us a hundred percent, even when they obscure us.

And so,

there really is a phrase that comes up again and again in the Old Tantras. It’s in one of Rinpoche’s ter, which I translated in Chantable English as Rest neither erase nor place. Just rest, this word in Tibetan means settle, just kind of, and there’s nothing to do. And that starts to make sense the more it becomes believable, seeable, that there really isn’t anything, it is right there, it actually is, there’s nothing to shove away, there’s nothing to fix up.

Very hard to believe. And, you know, you’re mentioning confidence in the beginning, and it’s really important. And I think that’s what the word – gets translated as faith. I think what there really is, is a kind of confidence. – translates it as trust. And I think that’s, it’s the feeling of yes.

Yes, you know, yes for me too. I’m not the only one in the world without Buddha nature. The fundamental message is it is there and if you practice and if you wait. You know, as Nagarjuna says famously, if you churn milk, why, you will get butter one day.

It just happens, right? If you practice. In the end, you know, there’s a lot of emphasis on knowing what to reject, what to take up, and what to discard. Right? That’s core teaching. I’m translating. Now I’m translating. My next book is, Adzom Drukpa’s Commentary on Words of My Perfect Teacher, Rinpoche talks a lot about the importance of what I’m translating as heartfelt confidence. That’s how I translate it in the book. And Adzom Drukpa, and Jigme Lingpa himself, This was a real through line for all of them, and

it’s exceptionally important to feel like there’s something you can trust, and that it’s not naive, you know, part of me lives in academia, so you’re always supposed to doubt and be suspicious and have something interestingly analytical to say, which has its purpose, but goes so far, you know. And this trust is really important because it means you’re porous to the teaching.

And that as soon as somebody says, points to you, maybe, and shows you your Buddha nature, you’re not going to go sputtering, but, but, but, but, but I can’t, I can’t, which was basically my reaction, you know, because you’re porous. If somebody you really trust says, you know what? This is something true that I’m going to show you and tell you.

You relax a little bit, and you have to relax. The relaxation, you’re not doing anything, and it’s so fulfilling. I mean, we do have experiences that are rich, and they’re rich because we’re not doing anything. We’re lying in a grassy, you know, mountain valley, or floating in the ocean, or falling in love, and you know, you can’t make yourself fall in love, but oh boy, it happens.

So we know, if we’re reminded, we have this capacity. We’re not just our worries and our frets and our things that keep us awake at night.

Olivia Clementine: Inspired by what you just shared. I also want to read this other quotation from your book. It’s from the earlier part of your book. Here it begins. “Are we humans practicing to be Buddhas masquerading as humans, given that the ground of all human experience is reality? Is there even such a thing as merely human?

In fact, the more I look into it, the more the question, can I awaken, starts to stand on its head.” End of quote.

Anne Klein: Well, I still believe that. I, as you read that, I was thinking, that’s right. I’m even sure now that that’s right than when I wrote it.

YEah. I think the more the question comes, can I not awaken? How could you not? Over time. You go to sleep, you’re gonna wake up. I think that there are buddhas, many buddhas masquerading as humans, most of our teachers probably, you know, that’s what buddhas do after all, that’s what Shakyamuni did and they’ve been doing it ever since.

So, that’s very sweet. Buddhas are masquerading as humans without a doubt. We’re also masquerading as human because, we may believe the… The costume, you know we’re fooled by our own, masquerade. For Dzogchen, this is really kind of the bottom line. Literally. I mean, the ground as Dzogchen, you know, expresses it is prior either to Buddha or sentient beings.

There’s a wholeness before either of that is configured. And Dzogchen, Dzog, as I say again and again in the book, you know, Dzog means whole, it means complete, it means nothing’s left out. That was a phrase in one of the quotes. Nothing is left out. The worst things about you are part of this encompassing, unbounded wholeness.

That is your nature. The sky is clear, the sky has poisonous clouds, even bombs. You can’t break the sky. You can’t dirty it either. They can mess up the air, we know, but not the space itself. So…

Everything is in, really, in one way, there’s, everything is in continuity, so the Buddhas are sort of in continuity with our own, you know, the further end of our own development. But it’s not just that, there wouldn’t be that continuity if they weren’t already inside of us. If we weren’t already, as Zen people say so powerfully sometimes, you know, if you see a Buddha on the road, kill him.

Don’t think that the Buddha is something outside of you, in other words. And the Tibetan is really, Lengchenpa is saying the same thing. Don’t look elsewhere. He says it again and again and again. And it’s just like so poignant. Here we are rushing around. Rumi has this great… image of, of people everywhere, desolate, desperate for a drop of water or something to eat.

And this visionary is standing, seeing this, and what he sees is just, you know, trees laden with juicy fruit spurting out everywhere. This is a good image for how we are. We don’t, we’re looking for Happiness in everything, but this, this thing inside that isn’t really anything. And yet, as Longchenpa says, everything comes from it.

, we’re materialists from the Dzogchen perspective. Once you’re feeling incomplete, of course you feel you have to grab onto something. And then samsara.

Olivia Clementine: You also speak about in the mind training itself, you , speak about the karmic narrative and the wisdom narrative, and we talk about their relationship with each other. And then what does it look like in real life practice to work with these narratives?

Anne Klein: To the extent that they’re separate, to some extent they’re separate. Karmic narrative is about the brokenness, what we call our brokenness, or… But, you know, our afflictions, our troubles, our bindings are repetitious, samsaric.

hamster on a treadmill kind of way we do life. Feeling like we’re the only person in the world, the best, the worst, the one around whom everything must gather.

So the Karmic Narrative is about that. And the Karmic Narrative is like, don’t get over it, you know? To the extent that you can, think about it. How happy does it make you to be greedy? Not really. Or obsessively compulsive about a clean desk. Or, which is not my problem, by the way.

 But there has to be a certain degree of willingness to accept that this is how I am right now. Not all of me, but plenty of me is like this. And I think that Dzogchen is an invitation to do what we also do in basic mindfulness practice is just observe it. Yes, this is it. I had this terrible, terrible, terrible reaction and I said this terrible thing to somebody that may never forget it or ever forgive me and I did it and I did and it was really bad.

But seeing it is the start of holding it. And in that seeing, ultimately, the wisdom narrative makes itself known, because there is wisdom in that seeing. And there is an oceanic quality to the wisdom narrative. The wisdom narrative is… You, from the very beginning, even before separation into Buddha and sentient being, there is this triadic nature of everything.

Everything is empty in essence, luminous in nature, and responsibly generous, the world. That’s the three kayas. Those are the seeds of the three Buddha kayas. And they’re already here, whether you’re a Buddha or a sentient being, or somewhere in between. That’s there, that’s a given. For Dzogchen, honestly, it seems to make a lot of sense.

We learn, you know, early on, everything’s empty, everything’s dependent arising. And then the mind is luminous. Buddha said that a long time ago. And, you know, that’s been

refashioned or re, rewoven into Dzogchen teachings and amplified more than it was in the early teaching. But it’s not new. Some of the Nathaniel Rich is one of our sangha and friends and teachers at Dawn Mountain and is a senior editor in the 84, 000 and he’s always coming up with sutras that sound an awful lot like Dzogchen.

 So that’s a wisdom narrative from the very beginning. There’s a wisdom narrative. And in Dzogchen, it’s really, really amplified. And the relationship, I think for a time, they seem like two narratives, but they sort of start to come together. And I I play with images in my mind because I think the wisdom narrative is somehow always inside the karmic narrative, but the metaphor doesn’t work so well.

You know, maybe like some parts of the ocean, there’s a river running through it. There’s a place in California, in Northern California, where a river meets the Pacific. Another way I think of the, actually, maybe the metaphors work, that the, the karmic narrative is like a river to the ocean of the wisdom narrative.

It is, that it takes you there. It’s not like going in some other direction. And I feel that that’s a very simple way of saying a lot of how the tradition is so brilliant. If you find, you know, you are Wanting, in some way, and who doesn’t? I mean, why else do we take up practice? Okay, there’s a, the Karmic Narratives helps us with that a lot, and helps us with practices and tools and understandings.

Yeah, okay, and gives us the courage to recognize, well, this is it. This is, I’m not that great in this particular area. In fact, it’s kind of terrible. Oh, Vajrasattva, help me, help me, you know, and Tara, help me. We learn how to get help for these things. And then the wisdom narrative is, of course you can get help because this is just about finding out who you really are.

You’ve always been. A.dz.om Rinpoche, whenever he gives a Wong, he begins by saying, you couldn’t receive this if you didn’t already have it. And that’s so wonderful, you know, like you’re already in the club.

Thank you for picking out these particular quotes and these particular themes. I mean, I feel they’re profoundly important and profoundly delicious also.

Olivia Clementine: Yeah, they really are. Actually, you know, one thing I want to talk about that just kind of continues from this is you say, you talk about Tantra and imagination, and you say this, which I really love, you say, “it’s ritually choreographed performance of transformation” which includes, the senses, the emotion and the body. And you ask, “is it possible to attain something that we have not yet imagined?” Then you go on to say, quote, “what is prayer but an opportunity to imagine and then to feel that something more is possible, not a guarantee. A possibility.” And will you speak about imagination’s place in

Anne Klein: realization?

Well, I think imagination is a very, very important part of, of practice. We have to be able, and we are invited, as you know, in very specific ways in practice, to imagine that we’re succeeding. You know, that we’re Tara, that we’re Yeshe Tsogal, we’re Guru Rinpoche, and we look like them, and we feel like them, and we make them, and we walk around like them, and we move like them, and that’s imagination.

 You know, I think I want to make a distinction between a trained imagination.

Imagination is not daydreaming. It’s really learning how to focus attention on a distinctly Describe possibility. It’s not like, Oh, I’ll be a Buddha. It’s like, No, I’m green. And you know, I have one head and I’m holding a lotus and I’m, it’s very specific performance, right? Performing it. You’re performing your Buddha nature in those practices.

Actually, -, the KenKenser-om, who lived in Tibet house way back when, one of the first things he said in our first class, when he actually started teaching a class in medicine, He gave detailed instruction on the sevenfold posture. He’s one of the most brilliant philosophical minds of his generation.

And he said that because when you sit that way, you inspire others and you inspire yourself.

And that’s where he started. So,

and that’s the beginning of imagining that you, you know, you could have a different, literally different posture in life. People are enormously creative and creativity is the ultimate creator, really. I mean, for Dzogchen, for, creativity creates, it’s, it’s reality that’s creating, it’s Samantabhadra, it’s, of course, it’s described in different ways, but the possibilities are infinite.

This is something, one of the things that Longchenpa, among others, likes to elaborate, that anything can arise. Why can anything arise? Because there’s no actual there there, and it’s not going to be an actual thing either, but it can arise. You know, these people, the, the Tibetan… Pantheon is just so, what can you say, ritually imaginative, you know, okay, maybe it comes in dream, but that’s imagination too, especially a yogi’s dream, you know.

So I think imagination is a place where we can first taste enormous freedom. You know, if you can give yourself permission, which might not come easily to really feel that you are Tara or whoever. That’s a lot of permission. Not just green, but made of light. No real, you know, bird could fly through you.

It’s just made of light. If you can start to feel yourself, even for some moments that way, then maybe you’re already just not quite as stuck in present ordinary perception. I mean, that’s what books say. That, you know, imagining yourself and as a deity and saying the mantra protect you from ordinary experience.

And I heard that hundreds and hundreds, heard or read it so many times and parroted it myself many times. And I feel I’m finally starting to realize how very true it is. It really does. It substitutes for your ordinary mind, you know, more and more. And we can say that it’s imagination, but I don’t mean imagination in a kind of pejorative sense, like you just made it up.

I mean, everything is just made up. And this is at least intentionally made up for a clearly defined pedagogical purpose. So the imagination, it’s very important. Where would we be without it? You have to be able to imagine that you can change. You have to be able to imagine that you could reduce yourself your anger eruptions from ten times a day to seven.

His Holiness said that once in a talk he gave at his first visit in 77 to the University of Virginia, sitting on Jeffrey Hopkins basement floor that we made into a temple for his visit. And I thought, that was an incredible thing to say. He said, you’ve been practicing for five years and, you know, it diminishes by, say, 30%.

Congratulate yourself. Because it’s not easy. It doesn’t happen overnight, as we long time practitioners know. But I think when, you know, you start, you feel, oh, I’ll be another person in a few months, and whoa, won’t that be a relief.

Olivia Clementine: So beautiful. So you mentioned your longtime teacher, we’ve been alluding to him since the beginning, Geshe Wangyo. , yeah. You say that existential paradoxes were a specialty of his. And like in declarations, for instance, like this one, “stop pretending”.

Will you tell us about his background? Because it seems quite unusual and, and how his presence affected your view on reality. -.

Anne Klein: Made me feel like I could survive, I guess. His story is remarkable. Joshua Cutler and his wife, Diana Cutler, have been working for decades on his biography. I think they’re kind of close.

And there’s a fabulous article in Tri Cycle a few years ago by the now, very recently late, David Uroobshara. So Geshe la was born in Kalmyk country, so in Russia.

They were persecuted by Stalin when they were in Russia. And so they left for what is now sort of Kalmyk country, outside of Russia. And they’re Tibetan Buddhists, you know, they have been. Geshe la was born on the , the Caspian Sea. So he grew up speaking Russian. This is part of European. And his teacher, Dorzhiev, very famous, not to be confused with Gurdjieff, although some people have wondered, but I don’t believe so.

Dorzhiev, a very famous Russian, and saw something in him and said, you need to go to Tibet and study. And Geshe la went and said he didn’t really have any interest himself in becoming a Geshe. But his friend wanted to, and so he stayed with his friend in Drepung, Gomang. His college was Gomang College, and he ended up, I believe, staying in Drepung for 25 years and later crossed the Gobi Desert at least once.

He was in China during the Sino Japanese War. He’s kind of like the, Forrest Gump of that time in history. And he was the first trained Geshe, the first Tibetan trained Geshe, to arrive in this country in 19, I believe it’s 55, I could check. I think I say it in my book. Because the Kalmyk community, who were expats from Russia because of Stalin and were living in Freewood Acres, New Jersey got permission to invite a priest.

So Geshe la came and he, he was part of that community, built a monastery, which is still there in Freewood Acres, and then eventually built what he called his retreat house. in, in Washington, New Jersey. And that was where I met him. And he allowed, it always seemed like he allowed, and you were barely permitted, maybe you could stay for a while.

Especially me, who he really, he said, I had not received permission to come. He said it often. It was terrifying. On the other hand, there was really good food. Somebody was pulling out one day. As he was saying, you have no permission to be here, and I’m like, is he going to send me off in that car?

Because there’s no way to leave. There’s no bus stop. There’s nothing in walking distance. Somebody would have to drive me somewhere. Is he going to… And I’m sure he could hear the car door slam, like I could, because his windows were open. And I thought, I’m not going to say anything if he doesn’t tell me to get out.

He didn’t say anything. But that was like, what do you mean I don’t have any permission to be here? Or I’d written a letter. That’s what I mean. He helped me through existential, but somehow I stayed. And years later, 12 years later or so, when I left really to go to school, back to UVA to start my PhD program, he turned to one of his older students and he said, so I was kind of saying, you know, goodbye to this part of our relationship.

I won’t stay here for long periods anymore. He turned to Deb and he said, Oh, you know, from the beginning, I always liked her. So yeah, existential, like there are other stories like that. He was very interesting. He was more like what you read about, like a Zen master. We cooked with him. Sometimes that was the main thing we did. And you just always felt your life was on the line, somehow.

He was, he was amazing. And Joshua’s book, when it comes out, whenever that is. You should interview him about Geshe la. Sadly, David just died last week, but he wrote amazing. He was Kalmyk himself, David. He was a maybe amateur, but very, very Wonderful historian. He was a great storyteller and he would tell us stories about the old days, how my country and how the people moved from here and there.

Yeah, he was an unusual person. Yeah.

Olivia Clementine: It sounds like he was always trying to get you , wherever you would be insecure. I mean, just from , the stop pretending, even it’s like the worst thing to hear from somebody.

Anne Klein: Yes, exactly. I would say that’s correct assessment,

Olivia Clementine: the wisdom

Anne Klein: way there was.

Well, there was always love underneath it. That was what was amazing to me. He scolded me a lot. And, you know, I mean, I didn’t, I didn’t like being scolded, although it did mean I got a lot of attention, I guess. I certainly didn’t feel like I was being ignored. And, you know, I would think, what is it?

I’m not unhappy. I’m not depressed. I don’t feel like, you know, being a person very sensitive to criticism, you know, you really get, but he was being, maybe because he was being so upfront with his criticism. I could just like. Whereas people that you suspect are thinking things that they’re not saying. I don’t know.

I don’t know. But he was very loving, actually, also, under that. And the food was, food is love. He was an incredible cook. And it was a lot, when he wasn’t scolding me, it was a lot of fun. It was actually a lot of fun to be there. I should say that one of the things that is coming out as we look back in the history of Tibetan Buddha’s coming, he was very important, Jeffrey Hopkins and Bob Thurman, his first generation main students and all of the programs and students that they produced.

just the two of them alone. And then he, he kept inviting Geshe’s from India to stay at the retreat house. And after a few years, they would leave and start their own centers, which he would always be annoyed at. But in retrospect, he’s the seed of many centers. that initially the founders came through him.

So he’s a pivotal point, pivotal figure actually in the history of Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism coming to this country.