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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» Finding Compassion Through Pain
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When you hit the bottom of all your resources of trying to apply so many kinds of remedies to the pain, and all of them have failed, then there comes a sense of fearlessness. A fearlessness to directly engage with the pain in a very naked way. A courage to experience the pain as it is, without any layers over it, becomes more accessible to you. At that point, what you have longed for so many times in your life – to be brave and free of fears – finally, through pain, it happens. And you feel liberated.
With Dharma, just the concept that everything is actually created by our own karma makes us take so much more of the responsibility onto our own shoulders. Then we don’t blame so much on others. When we take responsibility onto our own shoulders, we take responsibility with a sense of upliftedness. Viewing things as the fruit of our own karma does not mean that we’re hopeless to change the karma. There is much that you could do to change the karma. Karma that has already been created can be purified before it ripens; and karma that is actually ripening right now, where you are experiencing the negative effects of the negative karma right now, one can have a very positive attitude towards it.
One can use suffering or unfavorable circumstances to really understand more about the mind, more about the kinds of hope and fear that the mind experiences. And beyond those hopes and fears, the grasping, the attachment to the self that is so strong and that really has nothing to do with what you are experiencing. This attachment to the self is there all the time. But when you experience karma it all surfaces. It becomes very vivid, right in front of your eyes.
When this occurs you could take a positive attitude to appreciate this opportunity as a chance to relate with your mind and then do something to change. To very deeply inside of oneself, let go. Let go of the grasping to the self. And then let go of the hopes and fears that the mind experiences. And then let go of all the different ways in which we make things very solid and experience what we are experiencing in a magnified, intense way. By taking a positive attitude toward difficult circumstances you actually start to see those times as an opportunity, as a great time to practice the Dharma to change this longterm ignorance and the habitual tendencies which are so deeply rooted in us. Then you begin to feel quite uplifted. You feel inspired to relate with your karma. You begin to feel a lot of strength coming from inside you to relate with karma in the best possible way. Not just to cure the particular symptoms of pain and suffering that you are experiencing from a particular karma but to relate with the seeds of the karma in a very general and grand way.
In this way you are not so vulnerable to your ignorance and the whole mechanism and set-up of the ignorant mind. It’s this ignorant mind that seduces us to create further karma and that right now makes us experience everything in a magnified way, much more than is necessary. In reality you know that, yes, pain does exist; yes, pleasure does exist; yes, happiness does exist; yes, suffering does exist. But, it also depends so much on the subjective mind. It all depends so much on how the subjective mind experiences the pain and pleasure, the suffering and happiness.
When one is quite in sync with the higher levels of the view of the Dharma, then one can actually transcend both ordinary pain and pleasure, ordinary suffering and happiness and attain some freedom from the usual kind of craving. Although it may be craving for something (such as happiness and pleasure) that, ordinarily speaking, everyone thinks is a birthright and should be in some ways. But when you crave, when you try to grasp, when you have so many hopes, when you try, from a deep bed of ignorance, to reach out for that happiness, that itself is so much pain, that itself is so much suffering. And even when you get a little bit of whatever you are trying to get, with that kind of approach, everything that is happiness and pleasure is immediately turned into suffering.
So even such happiness and pleasures need very much to be transcended. We need to have some perspective on their reality, their reality that is beyond how they manifest. And then of course there is pain. When we experience pain and suffering, there is the person who is in pain and the mind or the physical body that is in pain (depending on whether it is physical or emotional pain). Take, for instance, the loss of a dear one, or pain from a great misfortune of any kind. Or take for that matter just any reasonable pain that we can accept to be pain within the consensus view. There is no denying that one experiences pain. But when a person’s mental make-up is full of psychological and emotional density with all these blindspots that make us nothing but confused in relating with the pain, where one’s mind is in a mode of tremendous desperation, filled with so many hopes and fears that are materializing into all sorts of grasping and fixations, in this state of mind the pain itself ceases to be the issue. The pain itself is almost forgotten. It’s one’s mind that becomes more problematic. It is then one’s mind that becomes the hell rather than what you initially experienced as suffering. You are no longer even in direct contact with what you initially experienced as suffering.
However, in the true nature of things when there’s not all this psychological and emotional density in the mind, and one’s practice is totally synchronized with the Dharma, without so many hopes and fears materializing into tremendous amounts of grasping, when one is not so desperate to feel better but instead is directly in contact with the pain (whether you are in a deep depression with reasons or without reasons, whatever), then the pain itself starts to crumble and fall to pieces.
When you directly contact it and stay in contact with the pain for awhile, the pain itself starts to melt. At that point one sees pain is not solid; pain is actually not as unbearable as before. Pain is not in its nature bad at all. It can actually give you a tremendous sense of upliftedness to be in pain. It can give you a tremendous sense of wakefulness because pain is a sensation after all, a strong sensation that we feel. And pain evokes so many emotions to which you had completely closed yourself down prior to experiencing the pain. Although maybe you had the potential for those emotions, although maybe you had a pathway to them before, you never gave that potential an opportunity to blossom into reality, for those pathways to really become an open door to, say, compassion. Compassion for other’s pain, being open to feel so much compassion for other’s pain when you are also in pain. Before when you were not in pain, and when you were totally distracted, there wasn’t this kind of compassion; there wasn’t a person interested in feeling this kind of compassion. But now that you are in pain yourself, you are also able to be present with other people’s pain. You see so much pain around you and therefore you feel so much compassion. Consequently your mind is changed from being practically cut off from the world that you live in to becoming one with the world, the world that is in pain and suffering.
Also, when one is in pain it evokes a sense of authenticity and genuineness in oneself because one sees all that we do to not be authentic; all that we do to not be genuinely who we are, all as an attempt to cover the pain, to distract ourselves from feeling any kind of pain. But now when we are in pain, we change our mind and attitude. We begin to try to be more genuine because the opposite way has not worked for us. We try to be more authentic and that helps us. And we experience right on the spot that however we could be more genuine and courageous, that also helps us. That helps to reduce the pain and to face the pain, to be one with the pain so that the pain actually melts. That is a tremendous gift for us. Because, again, once you are in pain, to cover it up only makes things worse, up to the point that you cannot do anything but remain frozen within the pain and the fear of the pain.
So you see very clearly that fear makes it worse. When you hit the bottom of all your resources of trying to apply so many kinds of remedies to the pain, and all of them have failed, then there comes a sense of fearlessness. A fearlessness to directly engage with the pain in a very naked way. A courage to experience the pain as it is, without any layers over it, becomes more accessible to you. At that point, what you have longed for so many times in your life, to be brave and free of fears, finally, through pain, it happens. And you feel liberated.
There are many further positive effects that pain can have upon us, such as renunciation and a sense of seriousness about the core meaning of one’s life becoming more of a priority. It can also give us an aversion to distractions, to wasting our life and time and energy for no good reason, just living life despite yourself and watching it pass by before your eyes. This is actually fatal and makes so many people come into this world and leave this world without much achievement. With pain, you begin to clearly see that way of living and you aspire to be different from others who just came into this world and left it without any achievement or without even experiencing much great pain either, who just came happy and left happy, so to speak. [Laughter.] So all of this can be a tremendous gift that comes from pain. This is all Dharma and Dharma training, practice training. This is our lineage. This is what should actually be the core of our discipline. This has to be our attitude towards life itself and anything that life contains.
A public talk by the Venerable Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche in New York City, February 5, 2001
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