Interview with Esther van Weelden, board member by Amber Walstra

Involved in 2 foundations

Esther, how did you ever get involved with The Dagpo Educational Fund and The WHISE foundation, because you're involved in both?

A big smile appears on Esther's face: “It started with a question from Rinpochee in 2006 to people from different countries how an amount obtained through donations could be invested in a safe way. I went to investigate this for Rinpochee in the Netherlands and finally found a very reliable way. Rinpochee then decided in 2007 to opt for this and to set up a foundation (TDEF) to manage the money. The aim was to maintain and grow the wealth so that eventually a kind of pension fund for the monks of Dagpo Shedrup Ling would be created, thus safeguarding the distant future of the Dagpo traditions.

The question from the monastery

Much later, in 2015, the request came for a heating system for the monastery. But this turned out not to be so easy to achieve. From that simple question arose a project that has become bigger and bigger because we discovered more and more what is going on. First we started looking for alternative ways to isolate the monastery. Through Elly (Hendriks ed.) we soon came into contact with TU Delft, where one of her brothers worked. TU students then went to the monastery twice to do research. Gradually it became clear that the problems are so serious that we could not avoid a professional renovation. We subsequently managed to initiate an investigation with two engineers from ARUP, a company that specializes in geology and engineering in relation to earthquake and landslide hazards.

A lot is needed

Yes, and when we understood that major measures have to be taken and that a lot of money will really be needed, The WHISE foundation was established in 2018, because The Dagpo Educational Fund has a different goal and in addition they cannot actively fund recruit. Elly and I then continued with the project through this new foundation The WHISE Foundation.

Throughout the process we were, and still are, so clearly guided by Rinpochee and aided by the Buddhas! Several times we meet the right people at just the right time! Really very special…”

Introduction to the monastery

When did you first come to Dagpo Shedrup Ling Monastery? Where does your love for the monastery come from?

“That was in 2005 at the opening of the monastery where HH the Dalai Lama was present. Yes, the love for the monastery stems from the love and respect for Rinpochee. The monastery is the heart of the traditions that Rinpochee carries out and embodied. Rinpochee shows what a person is capable of (be the change you wish to see in the world) and he also shows how you can achieve that. His wisdom and compassion are beyond comprehension.”

Meeting with the Venerable Dagpo Rinpoche

Speaking of Rinpochee so fondly, would you tell us how you ever met Rinpochee?

“Yes, that is a special story, although I hesitate to tell it, on the other hand it is an inspiring story. Rinpochee literally fell out of the blue into my life. In 1995 Rinpochee would give a lecture in Rotterdam. On the day that Rinpochee was to arrive at Schiphol, a welcome committee was waiting for him, but an intern from the travel agency who thought that Rotterdam was also an airport of Amsterdam, had changed his flight and so Rinpochee landed at Rotterdam Airport instead of Amsterdam. I also landed there just at the same time from England. I too had to change my flight because I had lost my passport and therefore arrived in Rotterdam a few days later than planned.

Once I arrived at the airport I had to take a shuttle bus to the train station. I got on a bus and saw a man sitting there. This was Rinpochee (which I didn't know at the time of course). He asked me in French if this was the right bus to the station. Rinpochee invited me to sit next to him and we struck up a conversation. We talked the whole trip (up to Schiphol). Rinpochee asked what I did in life and later I asked him what he did. When Rinpochee told me that he did something with Buddhism, he said it, I was so happy right away! I felt I had found the one I was looking for, because I had lived in Japan for some time before that and developed an interest in Buddhism and I had so many questions!

Rinpochee mentioned that he was going to a conference and I asked if I could come too. And so it happened… The special thing was that Rinpochee looked very ordinary, he pretended to be a listener. Later that day Lan Tjoa, whose number Rinpochee had given me, faxed me the folder with his biography and I realized what a great, important teacher Rinpochee was. without too

understand what all that really meant, of course. It was a very special meeting that completely changed my life!”

How would you describe what Buddhism means in your life?

“I used to have an old transistor radio whose antenna was tied with iron wires to have good reception. Often the radio interfered and cracked. Sometimes I received the right channels with clear music or talk shows. Often I turned the tuner and went through the world like that. It was difficult to get on the right track and I was frequently frustrated that it was so far away and unclear.

Buddhism has given me a perfect internal radio with a well-tuned wavelength.” Esther laughs and continues: “There are still interferences, but when I'm on the right channel it's so clear and 'straight to the heart'. A world literally opens up for me and that affects the way you perceive, not just hearing, like with the radio, but with all the senses and above all your way of thinking, your perceptions. That change is so far-reaching!

That is also what the monastery does to me. The first time I came there was like coming home, as if I could finally attend my favorite program live, very moving!”

Just before the establishment of The WHISE Foundation there was an intense period, with a visit to the monastery together with the ARUP engineers. At the end of that visit, Esther broke her wrist in a nasty way. This was also an adventure in which Elly was Esther's great support. It took a long time before the hand could be used again. In the end, a long rest period was necessary due to various health problems. This was overlapped by the corona crisis, which brought the project to a standstill. The rest of the board worked steadily in all kinds of areas. Esther has gradually started to take up her duties again. She is especially very involved in the communication with the monastery and the project management. She hopes to expand this with fundraising and everything that comes with it, for example making a film.

“Oh I want to say this again! The board of The WHISE Foundation is very diverse but balanced, everyone has talents to contribute and complement each other very nicely. But I want to give Elly a big and special compliment, her enthusiasm is the white engine!

And together we fly under Rinpochee's wings, making everything possible!”


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