A Farewell from Our Executive Director
by Fabienne Pradelle
First published on: October 10, 2017
This posting is to announce that I will be stepping down from my role as Executive Director. I am writing these words with a heart filled with gratitude for the rare opportunity I have had in serving this organization for the past thirteen years.
In our time together there have been positive developments on many fronts. From a financial point of view, we’re in better shape than before and we’ve also looked ahead, establishing a Wisdom Culture Legacy Circle to promote a steady income for the future of this precious sanctuary. We’re deliberately offering a far more diverse range of retreat programs these days, catering to the interests of different audiences; we’re committed to a ‘Pay It Forward’ system which is helping us reach out to practitioners from a broader array of social backgrounds and age groups. Another hugely important milestone was obtaining planning permits for the 5-trillion mantra Compassion Wheel project. We’ve also embarked on the most ambitious infrastructure upgrade in our history, making the center ready to service future generations. All the while, the ‘Big Love’ spirit embodied by our founders Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche is alive and well here and palpable to all who step on the land. This, the daily renewal of ‘Big Love’, is our greatest accomplishment.
In the past thirteen years, the world around us has changed dramatically. When I first arrived, smartphones were the privilege of the few (remember how “modern” those BlackBerries used to seem?) It’s hard to believe that in those days the mindfulness movement was yet to take off. Now, selflessness (as in ‘no self’) and compassion are the bold new frontiers, with some very promising initiatives starting to emerge. These are exciting times. Times that are responding to our increasing hunger for spaciousness, for taking a moment, for connecting with nature and each other, for peace and for compassionate embrace. The role that organizations like Vajrapani Institute play to assuage this hunger is more vital than ever.
I’m excited for the new leadership here to take on these essential challenges so the Institute can meet these pressing needs and provide renewal and inspiration whilst also steadfastly upholding a living lineage of enlightened masters. This way, experience can keep dawning in the mountains of Santa Cruz as it has done for the past 40 years.
On a more concrete note, here’s a quick look at what lies ahead of us for the upcoming decade:
- Building the now permitted 5-trillion Chenrezig mantra Compassion Wheel. Inspired by Lama Zopa Rinpoche, we’re committed to constructing this powerful beacon of compassion to benefit the larger community.
- Keep strengthening our infrastructure. Spring 2018 will be “Part Two” of the overhaul of our distribution system for power, water, gas and communications. Plans to tackle the power generation systems are penciled in for Summer 2018 or 2019. Being entirely off-grid is an ongoing challenge for a busy operation like ours. From the outside, we may look like a smallish retreat center, but behind the scenes, the logistics in terms of production and distribution of power, water, gas and communications are complex. We’re proud of our achievements in this regard. Our carbon footprint is impressively small.
- Managing complexity whilst “keeping it simple.” The technical expertise required to function as a growing non-profit in a rapidly changing digital age is forever on the rise. Meanwhile our center is getting busier, supporting a larger base of meditators. Despite this growth, the cost of infrastructure remains high proportional to our size. These dynamics present a multitude of challenges. How can we absorb this growth and increased complexity in a sustainable way while protecting the tranquility and rural simplicity of this precious cradle of contemplation? How do we build our organizational capacity whilst maintaining our values? Whilst some aspects of this challenge are unique to the Institute, the larger issue of sustainability is common to so many.
Soon we will be starting the process of seeking out and hiring Vajrapani Institute’s new Executive Director. I will be here to “hand over the torch” and oversee a smooth transition. My departure is planned for Spring 2018.
With Vajrapani Institute’s future Executive Director safely at the helm, it will be then time for me to take a needed break to nurture body and mind. I look forward to having the space to do retreat and let the rejoicing sink in as I reflect on the incredible good fortune I have had in offering service here. It’s hard to imagine ever falling in love again like I have fallen in love with Vajrapani Institute. This Institute that, as Buddhist philosophy instructs us, is merely labeled on a piece of land where people come to open their hearts and minds; this Institute that is merely labeled on a collection of community members all seeking to embody a piece of Lama’s ‘Big Love’.
And now please indulge me for a minute, as I take an imaginary step out and a quick look back in. This is what I see: you are an amazing community, one that makes the world a truly better place just by existing. I am deeply grateful for the support and kindness you have shown to me and to the Institute over the years. To all the staff that have come and gone during my tenure, I have this to say: it’s been such an honor to serve by your side. I have been transformed for the better by each one of you. My message for community members and current and future staff is this: I am confident a new leader will emerge to walk with you and from experience, I know how fortunate they are to have you by their side.
Over the next six months we’ll have ample opportunities to share our good-byes and our fond memories. But mainly, let’s look to the future, allowing ourselves to celebrate the potential of what lies ahead for Vajrapani Institute, a beloved spiritual home and a beacon to so many. May the bright flame of Big Love shine on! And may the lives of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Lama Zopa Rinpoche and all our precious masters be long!
Fabienne Pradelle has been Vajrapani Institute's Executive Director since 2009; prior to that she was Center Manager and Community Relations Coordinator. She first came to Vajrapani Institute in 2004, jaded after three decades of urban life. Her passion for Buddhism and the contemplative path, which started in her late twenties during an early mid-life crisis, has flourished here. Meanwhile the off-grid setting has helped her connect to the joys of nature and of simple living.