We sat in the Bram and Bluma Appel Salon in the Toronto Reference Library anticipating the arrival of Buddhist teacher Dzogchen Ponlop, author of Rebel Buddha. Located in the heart of Toronto, the salon is a contemporary space where writers, artists, and cultural commentators come together to discuss key issues of the day.
We were first greeted by the lively MC, Barry Boyce, who introduced Nalandabodhi’s Mitra Tyler Dewar. Tyler led a short contemplation inviting us to relax and sit quietly, before getting into gear to explore the meaning of “rebel buddha.” In the background, a video screen flashed clues in the form of artwork and quotes (“Live to Inspire”), accompanied by an eclectic soundtrack.
The audience, a microcosm of this multicultural city, was then introduced to Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche. The author walked out onto the stage to the sounds of the Rolling Stones. As Rinpoche explained his book’s title, Rebel Buddha, it became clear that this rebellion is a formless one that takes place from the inside out. It’s a revolution of the heart. He asked us to challenge our own private property of ‘isms’—the assets we cling to with hope that they’ll lead us to freedom.
As the morning came to a close, Rinpoche raised a question for us to think about over our lunch break: “What is culture and what is dharma?” We were silent as we gathered our thoughts on our way to lunch.
When we returned from the sunny, crisp November afternoon, Tyler gave a short, guided meditation and spoke about doctrines versus questions. That led to a discussion about labeling, an unavoidable aspect of communication, but one that can also lead to misunderstanding.
In the afternoon, Barry Boyce moderated the panel discussion with Rinpoche, Tyler, and Jungian analyst, psychologist, and author, Polly Young-Eisendrath. As their final word, the members were asked to compose a tweet to Shakyamuni Buddha. Dzogchen Ponlop’s tweet: “@Buddha Wish you were here” – the song by Pink Floyd. As our day together ended, the audience broke into applause.