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 a practitioner, I’ve come to realize how crucial it is to understand the concept of shenpa in order to make any progress in this path. As we’ve noted before, the Tibetan word, shenpa is traditionally translated as “attachment.” But the idea of shenpa is very broad and very subtle at the same time, so this single word “attachment” is not really adequate to describe all the aspects of this Tibetan word.
It involves much more than simply having a recognition of some attachments in the mind and then just trying to get rid of them somehow. The implications behind shenpa are much broader and more complex than that.
So let’s look at the idea of shenpa more carefully. How do we recognize shenpa in our life, in the mind, and in our interactions with the world and other beings?
Shenpa definitely does involve attachment. We all have an ego and we do cling to a self. That in itself is the most basic form of shenpa: clinging to the self, very dearly and importantly. Shenpa also has to do with the quality of how we cling so permanently and solidly.
Separately, there is also the emotional momentum behind this clinging to the self, all the various ways we use to cherish and protect our self. This is a slightly different kind of shenpa. Although this form of shenpa arises from clinging to the self, it then becomes the desire to protect the self from threats, and from all kinds of harm. So this is a little bit more complex level of shenpa, and has a changed quality from the first, most basic level of clinging to self.
Beyond that, we find ourselves wanting to not only cherish the self, but also all our material belongings and the things that we generally include with our idea of the self, whatever we closely associate with this sense of self. So this next level of shenpa is also a little bit more sophisticated or complex than the basic shenpa.
Interestingly, it often doesn’t seem to be so bad to have a self and to relate to self. In some sense, we do need to have a sense of self and we do need to actually relate to a self in order to function in the physical world. So from this viewpoint, our clinging to self is not necessarily something negative.
So the question is, we need to have a self and we need to relate to the self but without clinging to that self, so how do we go about doing this?
From the perspective of Buddhist philosophy, we designate a self to be present in a relative sense, and then we cling to that designation, or in other words, we say that we relate to that as our “being,” as “who we are.” And that self or being has certain aspirations and desires, for instance, to be free of suffering or free of pain. We may want to gain joy and happiness in the relative sense or in an ultimate sense, we may wish to attain full enlightenment and enjoy permanent and everlasting happiness and joy. Neither of these are unreasonable by themselves.
In fact, without that kind of desire how could we even begin on the path or cultivate an ethical sense of kindheartedness and compassion? It is said very clearly in the Buddha’s teachings that there is nothing wrong with that.
So then, what is wrong in doing such things? How does this become the actual cause of suffering and pain? I think this occurs because of the nature of the shenpa that is present. Shenpa here is more closely allied with the emotion rather than the actual thought. It is not simply due to having a sense of self and relating to this self.
That is, having a self-feeling is not bad in itself, but the shenpa that arises along with this self is incredibly problematic. In some ways, cherishing that self is not even a problem, but rather the shenpa that is also present in the self-cherishing is the problem.
So you see it is the shenpa which is the “fly in the soup” or the “thorn in the shoe.” It is not necessarily the “soup” that is the problem or the “shoe,” but rather this added element of emotional clinging in the ways described above that creates all our problems.
Excerpted and edited from Personal Link talk #52 – 8/8/99
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