by Pia K. Hansen

Someone asked me to explain Buddhism in a nutshell, and I said, 'Do no non-virtue whatsoever. Practice virtue solely. And completely train your mind.' "

Those are the words of Lama Inge, the leader of the Padma Ling Buddhist temple on West Seventh Avenue and the host of Tibetan Buddhist leader Adzom Gyalsay Paylo Rinpoche. Adzom Rinpoche is one of the two highest-ranking Buddhist leaders currently residing in Tibet, and he'll be giving a public talk about Buddhism, compassion and Tibetan culture on Friday.

"We are so excited and grateful that he is going to be here," says Spokane's Lama Inge, over tea at the Padma Ling. "But this is not a political thing, we want to stay out of politics. This is a spiritual center, the people who work in the Free Tibet group are separate people." It can be difficult to separate political and spiritual issues when it comes to Tibet.

"The country is permeated by religion. It's almost as if it lends itself to it, with its vast openness and high altitude," says Inge. "You are so close to the stars out there. Tibet was a very rough place with lots of bandits prior to Buddhism, but it was changed through Buddhism to a kind and compassionate people."

The country's spiritual leader, the 14th Dalai Lama, is not only the king of the country as Inge puts it, but also Tibet's spiritual leader. "But of course you know he lives in exile in India," says Inge.

In 1950, the mountainous Tibetan kingdom was invaded and conquered by China. For the following nine years, the Dalai Lama, who was only 15 when Tibet was occupied, tried peacefully to regain the independence of his country -- but it was to no avail. In 1959 he left for India from where he's continued his quest to free Tibet from China's oppression.

But Adzom Rinpoche comes to Spokane to talk about Buddhism and to share with non-Buddhists some of the fundamental teachings of his faith.

Buddhism is partly based on the avoidance of the 10 non-virtues of body, speech and mind: killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, slander, harsh speech, idle talk, ill will, wanting and not understanding the nature of reality.

"It's a little like the 10 commandments. Killing out of hatred is the worst," says Inge. But there's an element of reincarnation that's foreign to Christian beliefs. "Everyone will eventually be enlightened, but there is so much suffering on the way to enlightenment."

Everyone? Yes, Buddhists believe in the continuous reincarnation of the soul. In other words, when people die, their soul continues to live but in a new person or even in an animal.

"Whenever there is death, there is also birth," says Inge matter-of-factly. During every life span here on Earth, the soul learns something new and becomes progressively more enlightened. It may also do something horrid and suffer a setback, by reincarnating as a lesser being until it has learned the lesson. But there is no eternal roasting in hell in Buddhism. You may spend some time in the Buddhist version of hell, but there's always a way out, to learn more, to work on toward complete enlightenment," says Inge.

Adzom Rinpoche is an incarnation of Jigme Lingpa, a 17th-century Buddhist spiritual leader of the lineage that's practiced at the Padma Ling.

"He was born in Tibet, where he still lives and takes care of somewhere between 10,000-20,000 monks and nuns who don't have a whole lot," says Inge. "In Tibet, he once drove a big staff into a solid rock to stop two villages from fighting. He has left his thumb print in a rock in Texas, and a handprint in a rock in Colorado."

But don't expect Adzom Rinpoche to perform anything like that in Spokane.

"This is not a time for display," says Inge. "This is not a time for showing stuff like this, as the leaders sometimes do. This is a time for teaching compassion."

But isn't it a bit far-fetched to ask Christian, homogenous Spokane to attend a Buddhist lecture?

"No, I don't think so. Here's a chance to meet someone who knows the nature of his mind and has a complete understanding of reality -- that's awesome," says Inge. "People of different faiths shouldn't feel timid about coming. There is an enormous benefit of being in the presence of that person. I can tell you a lot of things and give teachings, but the outward teaching of compassion communicates itself a lot better when it comes from someone like Adzom Rinpoche."

Adzom Gyalsay Paylo Rinpoche gives a public talk on Friday Aug. 10, at 7 pm at the Women's Club of Spokane, 1428 W. Ninth Avenue. Doors open at 6 pm. Donations requested. A series of teachings and empowerments follows, some of which may be open to the public. Call: 747-1559.

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