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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» Dandelion Renunciation and Genuine Renunciation
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Nothing can be done to change the karma of beings. If that were possible, the buddhas and bodhisattvas would have done it a long time ago. When we read the teachings of great wandering renunciants such as Patrul Rinpoche, and contemplate their lifestyle, we appreciate them. But we cannot expect everyone to adopt that lifestyle or have the same response to Patrul Rinpoche’s teachings.
We have a saying in Tibetan, “Renunciation is like a fuzzy dandelion. From a distance, the seed head can appear very thick and furry, but when you blow on it just slightly, it goes poof! It all just flies up into the air!”
In relation to everything, think about your individual self—the good qualities as well as the bad—the loneliness, the sense of immensely saddened mind, depression, or hopelessness. From far off, some of us who have this kind of “furry” renunciation, we may fantasize about being a yogi and living a simple renunciate’s life, but when it comes to truly facing that, it may prove extremely difficult. So, in that way, it is hard to trust what others say about renunciation—or even yourself, for that matter.
There is very famous saying in Tibetan: “Until that time when your skull hits the ground, you never know what kind of practitioner you will be.” At that point, if you have accomplished something meaningful, then you have accomplished it. If you haven’t accomplished anything, then no matter how much glory or fame you might have achieved in this world as a so-called “great practitioner,” it’s most likely you’ll end up in the lower realms.
But it is very different if someone actually does have genuine feelings of renunciation. This morning I was talking with one of my senior students. Most of the time he totally bullshits me, but today I could tell he was sincere in saying he had a real glimpse of the pointlessness, or, let’s say, the suffering of pursuing the activities of this life. I doubt whether he’s going to renounce anything right away or even do anything different from what he has been doing in his life. But having that glimpse has probably given him much more freedom in his mind. For that moment, he could see how to live his life more in accordance with the Dharma and perhaps let go of the struggle, the hopes and fears around this life.
Maybe other students also have had such glimpses. Whether anything comes out of that or not, I still think it’s great. It leaves what we call in the Dharma, “an impression on your alaya,” so that maybe in our future lives this will become strong enough for something truly meaningful to arise from it.
In one sense, this temporal renunciation is not anything great, but on the other hand, temporal renunciation and a saddening mind—seeing the pointlessness of this life and all that we pursue in this life—implies that our future lives may go fully towards the Dharma. So, it’s important to appreciate that and not to disregard it.
The significant thing here is that it’s a matter of distinguishing that taste, a matter of your ambition, and of seeking a different kind of enjoyment in how you make this life serve you. From a very realistic and practical point of view, living a simple life and pursuing the Dharma as much as you can, will totally protect you from a complicated life. If you can embrace the experience of the sadness, depression, or loneliness of retreat with the greatest depth of feeling of melancholy, without rejecting these experiences through aversion, they can be very powerful forces—stirring deep reflection and serving as the source of tremendous peace. You just let go of your struggles and experience their rawness along with a sense of vision. You won’t find this anywhere else, especially if you are distracted by life’s attractions.
There is a saying, “When Mila looks at sentient beings, sentient beings appear crazy. When sentient beings look at Mila, Mila appears crazy.” Despite such differences in perception, it’s clear that the amount of suffering Mila endured in his pursuit of Dharma—all the hardships from the time he was with Marpa to his time in the mountains by himself, eating nettles for years—was worth it in the end. It all paid off greatly and transformed a sentient being into an enlightened being.
But whatever we try so hard to be—all the struggle and pain we go through to achieve “success” or glory in this life—is for what purpose in the end? We must leave it all here anyway, to go beyond. For example even at the peak of their careers, for many of the past Presidents of the United States—the most glorious time of their lives and what they worked for so hard—we can see how many complications, how much pain and suffering they experienced. Seeing that, we can understand very well how those who are not in such a prominent position would have even more suffering.
From a Dharmic point of view, when you contemplate what it is that you strive to achieve as the central purpose of your life, with all the struggle that you go through to attain it, you can see it just adds complication to your life, causing you to endure ever more pain and suffering. There’s not really any decent payback or payoff.
Whether you believe the Dharma or you completely disregard it, that is still the Dharmic point of view. Before you reject it completely, I think it would be worthwhile to at least consider how much truth there is in that view.
Excerpt from upcoming Palri Edition publication “Bee Story teachings” by Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche, a commentary on Patrul Rinpoche’s “A Drama in the Lotus Garden”