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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» Shenpa: Part 4 of 4 – Leaving Rome, Moving Out of Self-Defeat
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Many people are intelligent but they don’t have the freedom of addressing their shenpa. Many people are smart and skilled, with resources to do whatever they want to do, but it still doesn’t give them the sense of the deep self-empowerment that a person can have by being able to honestly, sincerely, and tenaciously able to address ones own shenpa, and become free.
At first, it is difficult to address our emotional clinging. As the saying goes, “No pain no gain”. Some of the shenpas we have are very strong, we hold them very dearly to our heart, and it feels as though these are our identity, and if that falls apart, we will also fall apart. We have this kind of relationship with our shenpa.
So you have to question and examine them, you have to look at them honestly. At first it may feel as if the IRS is coming into your home and looking at all your papers, checking all your accounts, it may feel more uncomfortable and unpleasant than that, but that in itself is a shenpa and a sign that a particular shenpa is being busted.
As this examination becomes more natural to you and becomes a part of your practice, those very shenpas can become liberations for you. Like a mother who just can’t get over her anxiousness of her only child. At first it’s almost too much for her mind to feel, she is unwilling to let go for even an instant of her most precious infant from her bosom. There is so much love and care, but also a lot of pain and wanting to block the pain that is coming up inside of oneself. But finally when our baby starts to crawl, it’s liberating for us as parents to be able to let go slightly. Once it starts to walk, it is liberation for us with every step as the baby gets to be more independent and on its own. Just like that, letting go of shenpa can be liberating for us.
But often letting go of our shenpa gets more difficult as we get older. Even just to think that it is possible to get over a particular shenpa becomes so hard to imagine.
When you are younger you think, “Well, I still have a lot longer to live. So I might as well plan to live my life as everyone else.” As if you are in Rome, you just live like the rest of the Romans live. But when you are younger you have some openness to work with your mind, to work with your habits, you are a little more flexible.
But as you get older you have been living in Rome for so long, you don’t plan to live anywhere else, so your Roman habit becomes your absolute habit and you have no intention of changing it. So it becomes increasingly difficult to change. These thoughts set like stone in our mind as we get older, I can see it setting inside of me.
What particularly bothers me is when we accept that defeatism inside of us, self-defeat over our own inability to address our mind, to work with the world, to work with others and work with our emotions. Basically we are already giving up the fight, just like a timid dog that before it even confronts another dog, just tucks it’s tail up and rolls over.
I really think this is what happens with older people in many cases, as I am getting older I notice this, but I cannot accept it, and I suggest that you not accept it either. We actually start to believe this is who we are, and feel that we have to accept this. But do not believe those sets of thoughts!
You could still change your mind, you could still challenge your shenpas, you can still resiliently work anew to address your shenpas. Just as when you were a teenager and a young, energetic, fresh man or woman in the world. You can become a born-again “shenpa addresser.”
So the question is, do you have the will to become a born-again “Shenpa-Buster?” I really encourage you do this, because I know a lot of people have already accepted defeatism. I feel very sympathetic with all the reasons to feel that way, maybe our relation has not worked out in life as we planned, our career hasn’t work out as planned, our education has not worked out as we planned neither in the secular world nor in the spiritual world, and our finance have not worked out to become rich and in the secure elite five percent of the American population.
So, I would suggest to never let that defeatism take over you. Just close your eyes and look at how close you are to coming to that defeatism with some issues and difficulties that you face in life. And say to yourself, “No! I am going to overcome this challenge, this shenpa that is disturbing me. By my strength alone I will let go of the shenpa, and I will not let go of the love and affection in my heart, just like all the Buddhas and bodhisattvas, and all the tathagatas of the past times have done it so.” Make this intention and raise this self-confidence inside of you.
Don’t blame the external circumstances, take full responsibility of yourself, and know that there is a way forward from this place where you are now stuck.
Maybe you come downstairs one day and see a big mess in the kitchen, the soup spilled over the stove or the sink is full of dirty dishes. Whoosh! The shenpa comes right up and immediately you are looking for someone to blame. So and so is the person responsible for my unhappiness, because maybe you have a lot of history with this person. You feel justified in your aggression “This is who I want to prosecute today, so that I can actually get some kind of relief from the shenpa. ”
But this is exactly when you have to sit and take a stand against shenpa, take no action whatsoever, no action physically, no action taking place verbally, no action taking place mentally or emotionally to further prosecute anyone.
Just be, as Shantideva points out, “like a piece of wood.” It doesn’t matter what the situation is, it doesn’t matter if it is this way or that way, it doesn’t matter if there is a mess or you feel personally insulted or whatever.
When the emotions eventually subside, and when you can accept the situation as it is, you can actually ask the person “did you leave the dirty dishes in the sink”, and if they say “yes”. “Then could you please”, with two hands folded, “could you please clean the dirty dishes and put them away.”
So, standing up against shenpa doesn’t have to be a passive response. The point is once you get over the stage of being traumatized by your shenpa, and when you get to a place where it doesn’t matter one way or the other, you could then continue to execute your vision for the situation. Execute your care, execute in a way of how it is helpful to you but without losing the care for the other person.
But during this in-between period when this situation becomes what matters so much to you and when it feels like someone has purposely insulted you, you must understand that it is not coming from outside, understand that no one is traumatizing you, understand instead it’s your own shenpa traumatizing you here. And try gather the strength of the mindfulness, and the strength of self awareness to just breathe.
Once you get to the point beyond the shenpa, then execute whatever you think is right from your intelligence and care for others with a sense of living harmoniously with the world and with others.
And if you blew it, if you did act out and failed to take a stand against your shenpa on that occasion, reproach your negligence to address the shenpa. Reproach your lack of actions and missed opportunity, but do not reproach yourself with self-aggression, it just doesn’t work at all.
Consider reproaching ones actions in the following way. If you had an easy way to make a million bucks, but somehow you just didn’t get out of your comfortable deck chair to get out there to get that million bucks, which only required you to get out of that comfortable deck chair and walk over across the road to the 7-11 store and get that one sure ticket. You would reproach your negligence; you would reproach your negligence badly, right?
“This, my damn laziness, this my damn deck chair, so comfortable. This, my damn habit of just lying in my deck chair, just made me miss this million dollars!” You would reproach yourself wouldn’t you? It’s so obvious, how somebody could be so negligent and just miss such an opportunity.
So I would say, not reproaching yourself, when you could address your shenpa is going to be much greater loss than losing a million dollars, because this kind of negligence will keep you in samsara. This kind of reproach and getting it right next time will make you attain liberation from samsara. Which one has the greater benefit, addressing a single shenpa, or picking a winning lottery ticket?
We may think there is some special capacity or disposition that we need to do this. But actually what it takes is just one’s own willingness and determination. I know this for sure, I have had many failings in this way and I reproach myself again and again.
Consider the alternative, how the pain of shenpa overwhelms you. Are you going to keep carrying this dead body of a shenpa around inside you forever? Feeling mentally and emotionally ill with no strength either physically or mentally to have any accomplishments?
Until the shenpa is gone away, or whatever suffering the shenpa brings is gone away, physically, mentally and emotionally you are just only coping with the situation. You are only coping with what seems like a truck hitting you and knocking the wind out of you and you are just trying to gasp to fill your lungs. That is what the experience of shenpa feels like when it strikes us.
So, how smart would it be, to instead just sit down and address ones shenpa, just for five minutes, sit down and address one’s shenpa and get it over with.
It doesn’t take much, but if we don’t do this, we end up just living with the same shenpa again and again and merely coping with what has happened in any given situation, rather than living with the ability to move on with a fresh moment, a fresh life, and with a sense of fresh engagement with the world, a life free of shenpa.
Excerpted and edited from Nyingma Summer Seminar 2007 talk 17
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