Unbroken lineages of wisdom traditions are rare in these times, and Kongtrul Rinpoche descends from a pure lineage of the Dzogpa Chenpo Longchen Nyingtik tradition of Tibetan Buddhism.
We have two main study and practice centers in America: Phuntsok Choling in Colorado and Pema Osel in Vermont. Rinpoche teaches the core MSB programs at these two centers. In addition, MSB has several city centers or groups around the world where people gather for group meditation and study, and to listen to the LINK teachings together.
You may browse directly to any of the calendars to find out more about the teaching schedules of Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche, Dungse Jampal Namgyel, or Elizabeth Mattis Namgyel. In addition, you can view the upcoming events at Phuntsok Choling, Pema Osel, or find out who is giving the next LINK talk.
MSB is a part of the Longchen Nyingtik and Khyen-Kong-Chok-Sum lineages. (Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye, and Terton Chokgyur Lingpa, collectively known as Khyen-Kong-Chok-Sum, were the heart of the Rimé, or nonsectarian, movement, which did so much to preserve and harmonize all schools of Tibetan Buddhism in the nineteenth century.)
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» Degenerate Age: Part 2 – Relationships and Trust
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As we discussed in Part 1, our present culture is sometimes referred to as the “degenerate age.” But, this does not refer to a condemnation of beings or of modern society. Rather it describes a pervasive suffering within society that occurs when there is a loss of noble values. We can observe this in our own mind and emotions and in the temperaments of beings around us, and it stems from an individual’s ego insecurities.
With this situation, it may therefore be very difficult for us to really trust anybody. Our minds are so often like feathers in the wind, blowing this way and that. When our own selfishness and our predominating need to feel supported are foremost in our mind, there is often no ground for us to appreciate our culture or our environment of friends and family.
When the mind has no ground in this way, the corresponding feelings can become complex and intense. This arises through the enlarged demands of ego, with ever greater expectations, and all the insecurities that stem from thinking only of oneself. So, when this occurs, everything becomes unstable in one’s life.
For instance, if we only have relationships with one another that are based on immediate emotions, today we might feel in love with someone, but by tomorrow we might feel totally out of love with them. Today we might feel only devotion and admiration for someone, and tomorrow we might have feelings of animosity towards them.
So how could anyone in this situation actually feel trust in someone else? If everything we experience is based on such transient feelings that shift constantly like feathers in the wind, we never know what’s coming next.
Since our speech and physical actions arise from the mind, it is therefore very difficult to trust another person’s speech and behavior. It’s clear this is related to the lack of any sense of culture or tradition. When noble values are no longer cherished and appreciated by the consensus of society, then it is very difficult to know whom you can trust.
Today someone speaks flatteringly to you, so you feel they will be your best friend forever. But tomorrow you see them change toward you, so how can you trust them? When you can’t see how one person is different from any other in this way, it becomes quite difficult to trust people in general.
Similarly, it is really difficult to get to know another person. We can only get to know someone by getting to know them gradually over time, through observing their character in different situations over time. But if we are to get to know someone over time, there also must be a sense of shared culture, or shared values, some common ground. There must be some sense of honor or evidence of noble values that support an individual’s character. When someone’s character is all confused, in disarray, then it is even more difficult to get to know them.
However, please don’t misunderstand me. I am not suggesting that you should not trust anybody. There must be people we can trust! Remember this saying, “The teachings are not about pointing a finger at anyone, but much more about reminding us to look at ourselves, then seeing what we can do.”
So despite all this, we do see people shining above the degenerate age. Even though we may be surrounded by confusion, we still see people shine through it all. We see people stand their ground with noble honesty and that is truly wondrous!
Nowadays especially, I believe that is really something to be honored and respected. I think that just one such person is more worthy of honor these days than a hundred such people were in the past, because it is a much more difficult time now, and the culture is much more confused.
When I see people that shine with noble qualities in our time, I actually ask myself, “Where does that come from?” It cannot be merely the result of this lifetime. Such a noble character could not come about simply as a result of the consequences and education within this lifetime. It has to come from previous lifetimes, from having a deeper soul and a deeper nature.
So in these modern times, in this present culture and surrounded by the degeneration of noble values, what can one actually do to prevent sinking further? What can one actually do to rise above all this? In this case, raising oneself up and developing the strength to do that comes from being much more independent. We must cultivate a feeling of independence, and not be so caught up in the dynamics of this culture.
As we look at all of this happening in our life much more closely, we start to develop a sense of renunciation and disenchantment. This does not mean becoming personally disheartened, but in a larger way we are able to see how this is all part of the cycle of samsara, part of what we are striving to become free from.
Understanding our own mind and the minds of the people around us allows us to have less confusion in our own direction and entanglements. One can simplify one’s life more and more, to the point that one could become a genuine dharma practitioner. Otherwise there will always be confusion and entanglement. There will always be some sense of expecting something out of life, expecting something from other people. This doesn’t leave you free to do your own practice very simply, without needing the approval of others, or worrying whether it makes sense to anyone else or not.
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A commentary on this text by His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche is also available, click here.
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