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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As we’ve been discussing, the idea of renunciation is a complicated subject. There are many different responses to this idea. Some people immediately feel lighter when they hear about it. They feel a sense of joy because the burden that they carry, whether consciously or not, feels that it could be lifted from them. We all feel burdened to some extent, but some people have become fed up with their burden and with the suffering that comes from carrying it uninterruptedly. So, for them, when renunciation is encouraged or emphasized, they will immediately make the connection to let go. No matter how important their burden or their attachments may have seemed just moments before, once the encouragement is given to release the attachment or neurosis for that person who is ready there follows an immediate feeling of relief. It is as though they were just waiting to hear the word “renounce.” Once they hear it, the connection is made in their mind to let go of their burdens and the suffering that they have been carrying. Then a great sense of lightness and joy arises within them.
But for other people, on hearing the very same word, “renunciation,” it’s as if they say to themselves, “Oh no! I can’t possibly renounce! I’m not ready to renounce! How will I go on living if I renounce everything? It is just not possible for me to renounce with all my needs, and knowing how important they are to me? Besides, what would be the point of renouncing anyway?”
So there is all this interpretation that happens in the mind. And it is the exact same word! My point here is that the way people are with themselves, and how they view their lives will create vastly different reactions to the word “renunciation.” And that is fine! We don’t all have to have the same responses to the teachings. The important thing here is to analyze and understand our response, whatever it is. With genuine openness we can look at our own minds and circumstances without being biased regarding concepts of good and bad, or right and wrong; and without being biased concerning the idea of moving ahead, and whether we feel fully prepared or not.
It doesn’t really matter which side we find ourselves on. At the beginning of our path, it is important to simply see where we are. Truly seeing where we are will permit us to get to where we want to be. If you do not truly see where you are, then you are relying on an idea or your imagination to lead you where you want to be. By relying on ideas to lead us to our destination, we often fail because there is a lack of genuine understanding in the mind, there is no genuine understanding from our own innate wisdom. Like children, we want something, but do not know what it is or how to obtain it, or even whether it is something beneficial for us.
With the first turning of the Wheel of Dharma, Buddha said, “Bhikshus, samsara is suffering. Understand this fully.” That was his first teaching. Try hard to understand this point clearly. To understand it clearly, we have to understand that all beings want happiness. No one enjoys suffering. No matter how much we are addicted to suffering and indulge in the causes of suffering, no one really likes to suffer or be entangled in disturbing emotions. No matter how negative a person’s tendencies may be, nobody truly wants to be stuck with their negativity because it is painful. If you take a needle and poke a thousand people, everybody will react by trying to move away from the needle, won’t they? Nobody will say, “Please poke me again.”
So there is an automatic sense of renouncing of suffering that exists within all sentient beings’ minds right at the point of seeing that we suffer. We know that beings try to avoid physical pain. When we compare physical pain to emotional pain, we see that emotional pain is much stronger, so it follows that beings also wish to avoid emotional pain. But in the very next moment, the mind becomes confused. The mind gets confused due to all the concepts, ideas, and tendencies that come flooding in to overwhelm it. We do not know what to do, so therefore we do not renounce anything. Instead, we continue to indulge in our habitual tendencies, which just leads to more suffering. Then we have created “suffering upon suffering.”
Why do our concepts, ideas, and tendencies occur and cause us to react in all these different ways, overwhelming us with more and more pain? This occurs due to a fundamental lack of wisdom.
Let’s look closely at why this happens. The first cause is our automatic emotional reactivity. Where do these automatic emotional reactions come from? Did we have the same automatic emotional reactions to everything when we were children? No. They come primarily from outer influences, the influences of conventional views, ideas, and even religion. We have accepted these influences to be ultimate truths without ever having determined whether they are actually true in our own experience. Without having completely understood everything through our own mind, we have adopted all of the concepts and views from the outer world and from the people who have preceded us. This is how we have developed our reactive minds and emotions.
From this point of view, what is “good” may not even remain good, and what is “bad” may not remain bad. If something is good, there have to be reasons why it is good, and the reasons have to be understood. If it is bad, then likewise, the reasons have to be understood. When our reasons for thinking and behaving in certain ways are not understood through our own experience and reflection, when we are just reacting because somebody told us to, then we are more or less following these influences blindly.
So what do we have to do? We need to realize that in each of us there is renunciation toward suffering. Samsara does not need to be abandoned for there to be no suffering. Without the suffering, samsara in itself is not so bad. It is due to suffering that we feel a sense of renunciation as sentient beings. Human beings have greater intelligence than other sentient beings, so we have a greater sense of renunciation toward suffering. We experience suffering from old age, sickness and death; from desires not being fulfilled, and undesirable circumstances arising in our lives; from our fear of losing loved ones and parting from things that we are attached to; from the fear of having to confront what we do not desire. These are all outer human sufferings.
The inner human sufferings are negativity and disturbing emotions such as attachment, anger, jealousy, arrogance, pride, and insecurity, as well as hunger and craving, and ego thirsts of all sorts. These are all constantly churning our minds, not letting us rest in a state of freedom. These are human sufferings, as we said. And we don’t like them! No one in the world would say that they like these. If there were a choice, we would always choose not to suffer. So renunciation is right there. It’s important to understand this.
We have to have confidence in this understanding because often people get confused, thinking mistakenly that they must actually like suffering, or that suffering is somehow favorable or necessary. Sometimes people feel that they will never actually be rid of their suffering. That’s not true. Renunciation is present in all beings when it comes to suffering. Whether one is able to realistically and practically develop this renunciation is an entirely different story, however. It depends on how open, wise, and clear we are, and how much wisdom we can apply to truly renounce suffering, and more importantly, its causes.
(adapted from Like A Diamond, NSS 2002, Talk 1)
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