Ivy Ang on her “heart project”
As we mark the anniversary of the Bir Conference 2009 that gave birth to our growing initiative, we sit down with Ivy Ang, who—appointed by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche to facilitate those historic five days—has since been there with us every step of the way. A sitting board member and executive committee member at 84000, Ivy’s perspective and guidance has been integral to our accomplishments and progress over the past decade. And as the world continues to grapple with the Covid-19 pandemic, we hope our recent conversation brings you some focus, insight, and inspiration.
84000: Can you tell us a bit about when and how you first became involved in the Dharma, and why it is so meaningful to you?
Ivy: In the midst of a very busy corporate life in my 40s, I felt a longing to search and listen to wisdom teachings during my long commute to Silicon Valley. I listened to tapes from Ram Das to The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. I attended conferences with Pema Chödrön. Then through a chance and auspicious dinner meet up with Cangioli [Khyentse Foundation executive director] and a mutual friend, I attended Rinpoche’s teachings on “Words of my Perfect Teacher” in San Francisco around 2001. I didn’t even understand the full meaning of having a guru then but I stood in a long line to ask to be his student. There are no words to express the blessing for the journey with Rinpoche since then and I hope for lifetimes to come.
84000: You played an integral role in organizing and leading the historic 2009 conference, Translating the Words of the Buddha. The establishment of 84000 itself was an outcome of that conference, and you have been there with us every step of the way. What are your most lasting impressions of that conference and what do you consider our largest area of growth since then?
Ivy: The 2009 conference was one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences I have ever had. I remember Rinpoche asking me to be the facilitator during a break at a Khyentse Foundation board meeting. I said, “yes,” of course not knowing what I was getting into. I had no content expertise on this subject. I only brought my visioning and strategic planning experience. It was an international group of renowned translators and academics plus seven high lamas. I remember the intense debates and lack of alignment the first few days. The turning point was when Rinpoche graciously accepted the role of interim leadership for this momentous project. My joy was at the end of the conference, in seeing the hundred-year vision and the five-year mission becoming a real possibility. Since then, this has been my heart project. 84000 is now a mature organization meeting and exceeding its goals with the contributions of a fabulous team and the generosity of donors around the world.
84000: Can you talk a bit about the importance of ensuring 84000 fulfills its vision? What is at stake really, and for who?
Ivy: Since 84000 is a one-hundred-year vision project, we are the first generation to set the foundation for embedding dharmic values in our leadership and teamwork, setting quality standards for translation and for enabling access. We hope this will help set the groundwork for future continuity and growth so that more and more people can benefit from the words of the Buddha. Our target audience is the educated, general reader, Buddhist or not. If people read or hear even one word, one paragraph or one teaching that opens their hearts and minds to the wisdom teachings, I hope it will fulfill—at least in part—Rinpoche’s vision of spreading the Dharma.
84000: There is so much uncertainty in the world these days, and seemingly more aggression, particularly across the US where you live. How can an organization like 84000 respond to such contextual challenges or offer support to those really suffering?
Ivy: Perhaps we can collaborate or form partnerships with those grassroots groups that are serving the needs of the underserved communities. Here in the US, we are often confusing freedom or independence with self-entitled behavior. 84000 can perhaps help us to understand the interconnectedness of us all, and how we can relate with more kindness to each other.
84000: But what can two-thousand-year-old texts tell us today? With free access to all of these sūtras what should we be looking for? What impact do you see 84000 leaving?
Ivy: I truly believe that the teachings of the Buddha are as relevant today as it was 2,000 years ago. Since the beginning of time, no one has ever escaped birth, sickness, old age, and death. Just like the pandemic we are now experiencing, there has been suffering throughout all the centuries. So, Buddha’s teachings on liberating ourselves are timeless and can benefit all beings then, now and in the future. And 84000’s pioneer work in translating the words of the Buddha into English is particularly impactful for millions of the English-speaking world. Down the line, it will also make it easier to eventually translate these teachings into other modern languages. With 84000 providing access to these wisdom teachings to all, it can at the very least alleviate some of the sorrows of the world.
84000: You have an impressive background in international business across technology, branding, finance, and consulting. What transferable skills do you find most helpful when bringing your past experiences to a non-profit that is preserving the words of the Buddha and how do you balance these two spheres of your life?
Ivy: The transferable skills are visioning, strategic planning, leadership and management, teamwork and coaching. I find the work in both spheres inform and augment each other in many ways. I thrive in the diversity as it keeps me true to what Suzuki Roshi said, “Not always so.”
84000: And finally, what do you think our general readers could do if they feel inspired to somehow support 84000’s vast vision?
Ivy: If they feel inspired by even one word or a teaching, they could share that experience with a loved one, or with friends. Others may be moved to help by contributing in whatever way they can.
Posted: 30 Mar 2021