Wisdom Dharma Chats | Ven. Robina Courtin

In this Wisdom Dharma Chat, host Daniel Aitken interviews Venerable Robina Courtin, who has worked full-time for Lama Thubten Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s FPMT (Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition) since ordaining in the late 1970s. Over the years she has served as editorial director of Wisdom Publications, editor of Mandala Magazine, executive director of Liberation Prison Project, and as a touring teacher of Buddhism. Her life and work with prisoners have been featured in the documentary films Chasing Buddha and Key to Freedom.

Ven. Robina dives into the conversation by describing how the pandemic has caused her to take her usually nomadic teaching pursuits online and her pleasant surprise at the level of intimacy online platforms can foster. Throughout her many years of teaching, she also notes which aspects of the Dharma tend to resonate most with people and explains the ways in which it allows us to practice being our own therapists through a thorough examination of the mind. Coming from an activist background, Ven. Robina stresses the importance of disentangling our own suffering before attempting to tackle problems that lead to the suffering of others on a larger scale and falling prey to the kinds of anger that can lead to dualistic thinking.

Ven. Robina then turns to the idea of karma, asserting that it can be conceived of as a natural law similar to how we might think about any other set of organizing principles that guide the universe. In this vein, she elaborates on how nothing in Buddhism relies on “beliefs” but rather on what she prefers to call “hypotheses”. She and Daniel also discuss the topic of gurus and how she was very skeptical when she first encountered Lama Yeshe but gradually began to witness how his teachings had profound impacts in terms of showing people their own minds. Finally, during the Q&A sessions, Ven. Robina answers audience questions regarding these topics as well as others, ranging from bodhicitta and reincarnation to dependent origination and the importance of pilgrimages.

To hear more from Ven. Robina, please enjoy this podcast interview. Also be sure to check out Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s books How to Face Death without Fear, which Ven. Robina compiled and edited.

Photo credit: George Manos

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