May bodhicitta, precious and sublime, arise where it has not yet come to be. Where it has arisen may it never fail, but grow and flourish more and more.
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.
Browse to any of the calendars to find out more about the teaching schedules of Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche, Dungse Jampal Norbu, or Elizabeth Mattis Namgyel. 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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There are two types of power. The first type of power is natural power, or things as they are. “Things as they are” means that there are naturally occurring relationships between all phenomena. For instance, if you pour water on a fire, the fire will go out. You do not need to add anything to the water, think about what you want the water to do, or help the water fulfill its function. The water already possesses an inherent ability to put out fire, as one of its natural powers.
The second type of power is man-made. Man-made power is directly connected to natural power, and would not exist without it. For example, a firefighter’s hose harnesses the natural power of water over fire, and, therefore, can put out a blaze. Leaders who govern in accordance with natural power use their power to serve and benefit those they rule. People are empowered by their leadership because that leadership is humane, encouraging peace, happiness, and prosperity. These rulers know that, to rule in accordance with natural power, they must concern themselves with the well-being of all their subjects. King Ashoka was one example of this type of leader.
On the other hand, man-made power discordant with natural power, resembles force rather than power. Forceful power is fabricated and relative. People who use forceful power do not understand how natural power works. For example, someone might pour oil on a fire, assuming that, because oil is a liquid, it must possess the same power as water. The fire spreads – no matter how frantically the person pours the oil – because oil does not possess any natural power to put out a fire. In this case, a misunderstanding of natural power could lead to disastrous circumstances.
The source of power abuse is not natural power, but forceful power. Rulers who abuse power usually seize their positions, disempowering their subjects in the process. Their vision is shortsighted and based on self-interest. When situations change, leaders who rule in this manner grow weak, since their governing is not in accordance with the naturally existing power in the world. However, forceful power can be self-perpetuating, because as one corrupt leader’s power declines, another forcefully replaces him. In this way, successions of corrupt leaders can continue indefinitely.
Power, in its many forms, affects our daily lives. It exists both in nature and in our man-made systems – political, social, and economic. It is important for us to be able to distinguish power in accordance with natural power from power that is not. In this way, our responses to power will be beneficial rather than harmful.
How People Respond to Power
Habitual responses to power can be divided into two general categories: resistance and surrender. Resistance and surrender are words that usually carry negative connotations in relation to power. However, both responses to power contain elements of critical intelligence. For instance, we often resent man-made power because we sense that it is not in accordance with natural power – it just does not “seem right.” We may realize that, if we surrender to it, this forceful power could undermine our own power and possibly do us harm. In this case, there is intuitive intelligence in the resistance.
We must remember, though, that our lives are never, and were never free from natural power. From birth, and, to varying degrees, throughout our lives, we depend upon other people for our own survival and well-being: our parents, our teachers, our elected officials – even our firefighters. This interdependency is a condition of our existence. Therefore, people we depend on naturally affect our lives. If we completely resist their power to affect us, we may be harmed – not by the power of others, but by the “burning” power of our own resentment. This resentment comes from not understanding that there is interrelationship (and therefore power) between ourselves and others.
The flip side of resistance is surrender. Surrender is an intelligent choice only when we open ourselves to natural power. In this way, our individual power may be enhanced, since we are choosing to accept things as they are, rather than fighting the natural order. Sometimes, however, we surrender to an outside power because we are desperate, fearful, or insecure. It is important that we are able to distinguish between choosing to open to natural power, and habitually surrendering to a forceful power. In the former case, we take more responsibility for our lives; in the latter, we give up our intelligence altogether. Ideally, we should strive to replace our responses to power based on ignorance and habit with those based on insight and intelligence.
Religious and political systems often take advantage of our habitual responses to authority. They may offer us simplistic solutions to society’s need for power structure. As responsible individuals, we should carefully examine all the social structures under which we live. These man-made systems are not always in accordance with the natural order, and may need further reform.
Powers That Encourage Surrender to Authority
Autocratic systems demand complete surrender from their subjects. While some leaders may have had the wisdom to rule in accordance with natural power, most autocracies have deteriorated into tyrannical situations, where power is wielded purely for its own sake. The Syrian people, for instance, are suffering greatly under the dictatorship of a perverted power. Such unnatural, fabricated power systems inevitably fall into chaos and decay. Although the structures of some monarchies still exist today, their power has also declined. In England, for example, the Queen’s role has changed from ruler to figurehead.
Some religious organizations also encourage followers to surrender to a particular viewpoint. People who join these organizations often feel desperate or hopeless, and the religious leaders sometimes take advantage of this “blind faith” to further their own interests. Questioning and doubts are often not encouraged in these closed systems, even though some followers have valid criticisms.
In the face of these types of powers, we should ask ourselves: What am I surrendering to? What are the benefits of my surrender? Am I surrendering out of habit, or am I surrendering by choice? Our answers to these questions will help us make intelligent decisions when facing either significant or mundane power situations.
Powers That Encourage Resistance to Authority
Both democracy and communism evolved in response to pre-existing autocratic systems. In order to gain their independence from autocracy, rebellion and revolution were seen as necessary. Both systems, therefore, are founded on the notion of resistance to authority. Each system then developed ideals (such as personal equality and guaranteed rights) to alleviate the problems inherent in the previous autocratic rule. However, these ideals do not always function as intended, provoking further resistance.
The Marxist-based communist system stresses the equality of all individuals. Yet, the ideal of equality does not take into account the existence of natural power – the way things are. In the natural order, things are not necessarily equal. For instance, if one child is naturally taller than another, no matter how much you claim the two will be equally matched basketball players, the taller child will have the advantage. Likewise, when there is no visibly pure equality in a system where equality is the standard, people think something is wrong with that system, and, naturally, resist its authority.
The Marxist vision was developed during a time of great suffering. Karl Marx developed this philosophy with the intention of lessening that suffering, which was due, in part, to the existing power structure. However, in his passionate attempt to remedy the situation, he developed a purely conceptual philosophy which was not based upon naturally existing power. Although the vision may have stemmed from a wish to better mankind’s situation, the desperation of the times and their passion for change may have blinded Marxist’s founders to its pitfalls.
Generally, ideas driven by passion – desperation, pride, urgency, or any other intense emotion – are often not tested thoroughly before being put into practice. Marxist philosophy expounds fairness, equality, and benefit. Yet, the corresponding communist structures which evolved were hierarchical and authoritarian, encouraging power abuse. The system did not serve its original purpose. Russia, as a country united under communism, is now falling apart. Much of the suffering there today can be traced back to original errors in judgement during the initial development of Marxist doctrine.
Democracy has more practical elements than Marxism. While Marxism requires citizens to sacrifice individual gains for the good of the whole, democracy promises complete independence and freedom. These goals are more in keeping with what individuals naturally desire, although they are still idealistic. For instance, the United States claims to be a country of tolerance. Religious, racial, ethnic, and socio-economic tolerance are some of the standards by which we judge our success or failure as the “leaders of the free world.” The United States has usually been at the forefront of social change, and, outwardly, we might appear to be a tolerant people. Yet, if we closely examine our minds, questions arise: Who do we know that is truly not racist? How many of us are liberal enough to tolerate all religion? Do we really practice equanimity in all our daily interactions? Once again, a noble ideal does not serve its intended function.
Karma and Power
When political systems contain elements that are not in accordance with natural order, their ideals become self-defeating. When we fall short of our ideals, we may become angry, depressed, and resentful. These tendencies can be remedied with an understanding of natural evolution, or karma. Karma is not a law that was invented or voted into being. It is simply the way things work. We all have conditions that bind us to our karma which cannot be changed, no matter how much force is behind our efforts. For instance, the shorter child may practice basketball harder and longer than the taller child. Yet, when the children reach high school, the shorter one might not make the team. Try as he might, he cannot change the conditions into which he was born. He was born “short,” and high school basketball players must be tall if they are to be successful players.
There are, however, intelligent ways to fulfill our aspirations. In order to achieve our goals, we must cultivate the benefits of positive karma, and dissolve the obstacles of negative karma. First, we must develop an understanding of which causes and conditions lead to which results. Then, we work to cultivate those actions which lead to positive results, and let go of those which lead to negative results. This is the only way to change the situations that have manifested due to certain conditions. For instance, the shorter child might get cut from the high school basketball team. Feeling bitter, resentful, or self-pitying will only increase the obstacles to his achievement. Instead, he can engage in positive activities: coaching a youth basketball team; playing with a community team; taking up a new sport better suited to his physical stature. Only by engaging in the appropriate path can he achieve that for which he is properly suited.