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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In spiritual communities, just as in society, there are different views, different personalities, and so conflicts do occur. Reflecting on this fact, and how harmony within the sangha leads to harmony within society, maybe we can address how to work with those examples.
First to say, as much as we are American, as much as we are a part of the city and neighborhood we live in, we are not traditional Americans: we are not mainstream Americans; we are not sixties or seventies people; we are not eighties or nineties mainstream people. But as Buddhist practitioners we are indeed a community of people.
We have grown up in the mainstream American culture, or at least, you all have. So there is connection with our American culture, both a positive connection as well as negative connection. And today we are talking about not so much about the positive connection we cherish about that culture, but the negative connection we have to that culture.
Please don’t think of this as a biased statement, but contemplate very deeply. Think on the meaning of what I am saying. In the mainstream American culture, there is no true, coherent community. People live in isolation. People prefer to live in isolation. People prefer to live in their own cocoon so they can feel protected, so that no one can actually bother them, or reach out to them and disturb them.
The whole setup of one’s life in America, from the time you graduate from jr. high onward, is to live in isolation and try to just think for yourself, to only think what you could profit and benefit for yourself. What career track you can establish, what home you should buy, what car you should drive, what credit cards you should carry, what kind of lifestyle you should live. This is known as “individualism” in the West.
It is all about thinking of “me, me, me, I , I , I” as being the most important thing out of anything. Even with one’s parents, who gave you the precious human birth, and have brought you up to being who you are, it rarely occurs in one’s mind, “what I can do for my parents.” Because one is so occupied thinking about oneself only.
It is very conducive and seductive to think for oneself, as we have the co-emergent ignorance with us just as we were born in this human realm. So we could really get hooked into it and get deeper and deeper in self-indulgence.
But then in the other hand, ask yourself, is it working? If we look at our lives, before we joined the sangha, and look at others’ lives who are not part of the sangha or a community, are their ways of relating to the world working as they intend them to work – to isolate themselves in order to feel safer, more protected, more unreachable by all the threats of the world. It doesn’t seem to be, because the mind itself is becoming a greater danger and threat. The mind itself is becoming more paranoid, more lonely, more destitute and depressed.
So in some sense we all, too, have the tendency to be that way, even when we are part of the noble Sangha, we can still try to live our life in that conventional way. But, as we’ve become part of the noble Sangha, we cannot isolate ourselves too much; we cannot hide in our four walls too much; we cannot hide in superficial “hi” and “bye” conversations too much; we cannot just be thinking about only ourselves for too long when we are part of the Sangha. If you are only thinking about yourself while part of the Sangha, there is a sense that you might lose all your friends, all your support, all your benefits of being part of a compassionate community.
Because there comes a time, when you are in a need, and a sangha member steps in and helps you, benefiting you simply as a courtesy of being another fellow sangha person. And then there comes a time, when that other person is the one in need. And you are called to show them the same care. If you do not, you fall down in your own mind, in your own self respect, in your own honor, so you do show them that care.
In the beginning perhaps just coming out of mainstream American culture, you actions are more of a superficial courtesy for another sangha member. But slowly, slowly this turns into a deeper care, a deeper connection, a deeper friendship and sense of family; a sense of real well being within yourself. At that point, when you express care, you do it out of joy rather than out of pressure; you do it out of the sake of your well-being rather than out of courtesy of being a sangha person. As we all know, the sense of superficial courtesy and pressure do not work for long.
So at some point this genuine care either becomes a core principal of your life, or not. Whether you are in the position of receiver or giver of care, in both cases it could be very much the same. So in that sense, Sangha is like a family, one huge family, and in the huge family there is going to be all the things that I have mentioned previously, misunderstandings, projections, conflicts, challenge, difficulties, personality differences, view differences, emotional bumps, all of those things are going to come up. But there is room for all of it – and there should be room for all of it.
So don’t make it a bad thing; the differences will resolve. Views can be met. The projections could be seen through; the headbutting of emotions can be united. Difficulties can be transformed, and challenges can become growth. Why is that?
It is because we are not going to forget each other, we are not going to abandon each other, we are not going to just quit the relation that has been developed as fellow noble sangha people. At some point, when the mind doesn’t have an escape, or a hole to disappear in, it comes around to work with itself. The whole point of joining the noble sangha and becoming a sangha person is to work with the mind. So not only one’s mind comes back around because it has no way to escape, no hole to disappear in, but the whole purpose of being part of a sangha begins to work on one’s mind. And at that point, the teachings are really tested, and tested in your own experience, not in the experience of others, not in the eyes of others but in your own experience and your own eyes. How well you do with applying the teachings becomes clear.
Society is like a wild field where any kind of crops can grow, both positive and negative. The sangha is a like a cultivated field where troublesome crops can no longer grow. The whole field where the troublesome crops can grow and flourish is somewhat destroyed through the sangha experience.
The conventional field here is based upon one’s selfish, narrow mind, with short term vision, thinking only about short term benefits. Where small things becoming gigantic mountain-like problems in ones mind, rather than having humor about them. Where the sense of righteousness, determination to be right flourishes, rather than openness to examine yourself and the possibility you could be wrong. Where blaming others while you feel incredibly guilty inside for what has happened occurs, and where being hypocritical rather than in any way genuine – all of these tendencies are the field of conflicts and difficulties, emotional headbutting, where pain and suffering and negative karma are a result of being in society and in close contact with other people.
But in the case of sangha, when that mind turns around because there is no escape, no hole you could disappear into, then one’s mind begins to work with the teachings, it begins to test oneself how well you do with the teachings from your own experience, in your own eyes, how well you do with the teachings. Then you could understand these things and by understanding these things it naturally brings the person into another step of being in peace with oneself, in harmony with oneself, and that is the beginning of being in peace with the world. That is the beginning of being in peace and harmony with the world and with your surroundings and whoever you are in contact with.
Otherwise we are always at the mercy of others, we are always at the mercy of how the situation is, how the cause and effect is, and there is never any kind of predictability of that. Never in the past, the present, or the future has there been any kind of predictability, and so paranoia and fear is going to be always in the one’s mindstream, there is not going to be peace and harmony with ones mind, and consequently we will not be at peace or in harmony with the world. If there is any peace and harmony experienced, it is only going to be a temporary dependent experience of peace and harmony, unless your boss, your job, your colleages, your husband, your wife, your friends all somehow miraculously stay the same, then you may have some chance of staying in peace, otherwise there is no chance at all.
By working with your mind you understand karma works in many mysterious ways, and you are not able to figure all that out. All you can do is actually let go and let go, not only for the sake of others but for the sake of your own well being also. So in that sense by working with others as part of the noble Sangha, you feel the more challenge that comes your way, the better off you are with actually practicing and having the opportunity to work with your mind, to test yourself and test your limits and find the growth and the richness and so much joy of being an independent and inscrutable person. You become inscrutable in your state of peace and harmony with yourself and with beings and with your surroundings.
This is the purpose of being part of the noble Sangha and taking refuge in the Sangha as the Third Jewel.
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