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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» Enlightened Hiccups – Part II: How Our Buddha Nature Interacts with Karma
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Part II of a teaching given by Dungse Jampal Norbu at the 2011 NSS
Thoughts arise from karma. All of our thoughts are based on cause and effect. When you see that you’re angry, then see the karmic flow of the situation, whatever conceptual thoughts you have will be karmically created because our thoughts are based on karma. So, just how much free will does this empty karma leave us with?
Let’s say you’re angry at another person and you have the karmic tendency to lash out physically, or with words, or in some other form of active aggression. Sometimes you can catch yourself in mid-swing by recognizing: “Ah! I see where my mind is going.” Your karma generally goes in a certain direction, but this time you catch it. You choose not to react, not to go with that karmic flow. You remain like a log of wood, or apply patience. This is your choice.
It may seem we’re caught in some constant flow and there’s really no choice in the matter. But if there’s really no choice, then something like enlightenment would be like winning the lottery.
This really doesn’t make sense, however, because enlightenment is the absolute realization of one’s own inherent nature and the qualities therein; and our essential nature remains unaffected by karma.
If karma really is all that controls life, ”if there really is no choice”, then we would never experience a realization of our buddha nature, because karma alone wouldn’t take us there. Karma would lead from cause to effect, and there would never be a time when you’d be free from karma. But, karma doesn’t work that way. So there must be something besides our thoughts that provides us the capacity for choice in the matter.
What then is the basis for choosing not to react with anger? This took me a long time to understand. Initially I felt that it had something to do with the buddha nature itself. I thought, how does this nature manifest in our relative, experiential lives? It manifests, as I’ve heard and seen, in all sentient beings’ desire to be free from suffering and to find peace. That is how, according to the Uttaratantra Shastra, we know that all sentient beings have buddha nature.
I realized this manifestation in our own lives is not only evidence that there is this essential nature, but is also a device for us to reach that nature. The desire for all sentient beings to be happy means that this nature shines through the obscurations.
It means that no matter what, a person is never totally deluded, because enlightenment isn’t something you attain, really. Enlightenment is something that you realize by removing the emotional and cognitive obscurations, yet which were always there.
When the Buddha was in the hell realms, hundreds of lifetimes before he was Buddha Shakyamuni, he was pulling a cart up a hill with another person, all the while enduring continuous whipping from the hell beings in charge. At that time he was not yet enlightened. He was just as deluded as anyone else. I think it’s important to realize this; it gives us perspective on the enlightened ones, all of whom began first as ordinary sentient beings.
During that time the Buddha probably did not look at his fellow hell beings with total compassion, because he was at a very low point. He may have thought, “It really bothers me to see all these people in so much pain. I wish I could do it all myself, so that they could be free, and then I wouldn’t have to deal with looking at them.” Or maybe he had a more noble thought like, “Everyone around me is suffering. I wish I could take their suffering on myself so they could be free and enjoy some other realm.”
I give examples of two different possible thoughts because it’s important to understand this in a way that we can relate to in our own practice. It’s not that we should expect ourselves to have such compassionate thoughts if we are in the hell realms, but every little thought counts. Whatever the Buddha was thinking, his intention, his compassion, even if it was just a sliver, even if it was selfishly based, was enough to bring him out of the hell realms, and thus he began his very long path towards enlightenment.
Every sentient being has buddha nature, and that buddha nature shines through. No matter what realm or state they are in, beings are never truly deluded. In a moment of choice, the nature shines through.
This nature is the great wisdom that is the union of all our different types of consciousness, completely purified. It is the enlightened wisdom that contains all the enlightened qualities, so when the nature shines through, the qualities also shine through, though probably in very marginal amounts in the beginning.
When natural wisdom and intelligence shine through, this is what creates a hiccup in that karmic process. This is what happens when one catches oneself in the middle of an act of aggression. In that split-second hiccup one sees what’s happening and the natural intelligence tends to work a little bit.
When I think about this process in my own life, it seems so fast and so indescribable, that I feel it must have something to do with the enlightened state shining through.
We do have a choice in how we interact with karma. We have this opportunity because karma is empty of intrinsic existence and because the nature shines through.
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