Dharma Teaching by Namgyal Rinpoche
A summary by Anne-Marie Wagonis
Rinpoche begins today’s teaching by expressing his great happiness to be joined today by Namgyal Rinpoche who has agreed to give this teaching.
“He knows how to give very difficult teachings but makes them appear to be simple. He has many students all over the world …. in Hong Kong, in the U.K. and in the U.S. and so we are all very honoured today to have him here to teach.”
Namgyal Rinpoche begins by explaining the main purpose of dharma practice. He says our dharma practice is meant for us to obtain happiness, to overcome suffering, to attain enlightenment and to become a Buddha.
Rinpoche explains, “We have many means and methods to engage on the path to enlightenment. Buddha provided 84,000 different teachings to help us to achieve this goal. But, whether you can accomplish this in one lifetime or not is dependent upon how you put these teachings into your life. How we use our daily lives, what we experience and how we think really matters the most. If we allow our minds to follow delusions like attachments, hatred or ignorance, then our lives become less meaningful. This leads to our unhappiness. Then, whatever effort we put into anything we find that something is always missing. But if we live with a mind which is balanced by peace and harmony, we feel more satisfied, we have less desires, less attachment, less hatred and less ignorance.” Rinpoche tells us that how we use our day to day life is very important. He explains that all of our problems are rooted in desires.
“So when we practice dharma, when we meditate, we should try to look into our own minds to see what it is that our mind is following. If your mind is following only your desires, it is not stable. By taming the mind with less desire we can become more balanced. Otherwise, all of the negative delusions will come very easily into this mind. If desire is not tamed, the mind cannot be trained. Bodhichitta, emptiness, tantra, etc. cannot be understood with an untamed mind. All of the reading and studying of dharma that you can do to obtain intellectual knowledge does not make you a practioner of dharma. Dharma practice should help to balance the mind and therefore to make your life more meaningful.”
So how do we begin to lessen these desires?
“Our mind is what we are trying to train here. A strong “I” (ego) mind forms strong attachments. So first we must familiarize ourselves with our own minds. This begins through the practice of meditation. Sometimes our preliminary practices can become less meaningful because our mind is not really focused upon the purpose of what we are doing. There is a distance between our mind and the action we are performing. Also, our motivation is very important. So, start each day with 5 minutes of meditation. Connect with your mind and see where it’s going. Our preliminary practices can become monotonous when we are not focused on the purpose. Remind yourself each morning when you wake up as to the purpose of your life. When this 5 minute meditation becomes a daily practice you will begin to develop a greater connection to your actions. For instance, offering water, making prostrations and cleaning; every action should be taken as a meditation, so that you can see that every action you do also has a purpose…. has a reason….has a cause and an effect. It becomes more than just a commitment to perform an action because it also has a purpose. And whatever you do must come from your heart. Then it becomes even more meaningful.”
There was a question from a student concerning how making money to earn a living could be balanced in a better way so that performing regular work could become something more meaningful and not just so worldly. We were then blessed with responses from both Namgyal Rinpoche and Namdrol Rinpoche.
Namgyal Rinpoche responded first. He explained that the mind, the motivation and the purpose are what is most important. He also explained that when you are at work you have many opportunities to practice compassion and kindness. “It is your actions that create the causes for a meaningful day. If at your workplace you are concerned for others and you are supporting and guiding them that makes a difference in whether your actions are considered worldly or are beneficial.”
Namdrol Rinpoche then responded, “Money itself is not worldly. We make it so with our actions.” Rinpoche tells us how he recently read that in London a bottle of mineral water was selling for 80 pounds. “It’s some exquisite water obtained from a melted iceberg. Water that exists since the time of the dinosaurs and the water which exists now is still the same water. It’s all the same. It’s all been reincarnated many times over again. So, we should work to remove the worldliness within ourselves. Take out the worldliness of our own actions and spend the beginning of every day’s human life to reflect upon the meaning of how we want to do that shift in our mind-set. Then if we can make that mind shift, even just by one degree, it makes a big difference. The main thing is to remove the worldliness in us and then nothing else becomes worldly. That is fundamentally a major part of Buddhism. In the greatest of offerings, in all of the pujas, it is not based upon offering real gold and silver. It is still based upon offering of water, flower, incense, light and food. That is why I have taught you the offering of the mandala and how you should think. How wide is the space. And then you should generate that feeling. So then whatever you do, it does not become worldly.”
In closing, Namgyal Rinpoche is asked by Namdrol Rinpoche to share his thoughts with us on Guru devotion and on the importance of this practice.
Namgyal Rinpoche responds, “Lama Tsongkhapa explains that all of the qualities, all of the knowledge and all of the wisdom come from the Guru. So, wishing to attain enlightenment also has to come from the Guru. A person who serves the Guru has far more knowledge than one who sits in meditation his whole life. It is with Guru devotion that one can achieve the essence of the dharma. The Guru is the guide who can lead you. But, we must see Guru as Buddha. This is sometimes difficult but it is within our own minds to see this. When you can see the qualities of this master….his kindness, compassion, great knowledge and peaceful mind then you will know you have found your Guru and it is through this Guru that you will be able to achieve enlightenment. Intellectual understanding alone cannot lead one to enlightenment. If your heart and mind is connected to the Guru then you will be able to receive the knowledge and the wisdom. Without his guidance, you cannot attain this. In the actual practice of dharma you will come across obstacles and you cannot find the solutions to these obstacles in a book. You must seek the solutions from an experienced master. Then you can find the realizations to help you. Guru devotion’s main purpose is to generate your own mind with good qualities. As a practice, it is not about seeing one as high and the other as low. It is rather the way you will be able to receive the attainments, all the understandings. Without Guru devotion you can obtain the intellectual knowledge but it doesn’t reach down inside of you. Even to have the opportunity to connect with the Guru is not easy. You must have karmic connection from your previous lives. But when you do first connect, just to be able to see the Guru as a good human being is initially enough. Then as you begin to receive instruction and develop an understanding you will begin to see the essence of the dharma. Every individual will see Guru in a different way. But the Guru can be seen as the Buddha. After all, the Buddha has so many forms, so reasonably he can easily come as Guru to you to teach dharma. Because you cannot actually see Buddha until you have an enlightened mind, your Guru delivers the message of Buddha. This is not a blind faith connection. We create this connection by opening our own hearts to make a link so that we can receive. So Guru devotion starts with opening your heart. The relationship comes from the inside and then builds step by step. When you are able to also open your heart to all others, mutually, unconditionally and without limits then you have created a real devotion. We ourselves also need to develop these good qualities in order to receive and in order to see more qualities within the Guru.”