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Aspects of Longchen Nyingthig

Venerable Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche
Talk one given at KEBI, Melbourne in September 2001

I would like to focus on a few of the essential points in the teachings of the Longchen Nyingthig, rather than the whole tradition. The first thing that I want to focus on, is that we have to turn our minds towards the Dharma. This is so difficult. On the one hand, we have already turned our minds towards the Dharma, we are already Buddhists, we have already taken vows. On the other hand, we have not quite fully or effectively done it in a way that we reap the benefit of it. When we cannot quite reap the benefit of it, we know that we have not quite effectively, not quite fully, turned our minds towards the Dharma.

What is the benefit that one might reap if one has fully turned one's mind towards the Dharma? It is a sense of freedom and a sense of clarity in one's mind; the mind is no longer too complicated for us to be able to relate to life in a very straightforward manner. Even though we have, supposedly, turned our mind towards the Dharma - we have supposedly taken refuge and supposedly been practitioners for a while - there is still not the kind of freedom in our minds that we long for so much; not the kind of clarity, not the kind of straightforwardness that can relate to life in a very practical manner. We are still very much caught in the conventional views of things; we are still seduced by the same things that everyone is seduced by in trying to make their lives better. We still have so much of the same kind of frivolousness in our actions. It just does not have much of a payback. We are still caught in desires, greed, insecurities and anxieties of all sorts. Our minds are constantly in a sense of panic and fear, which we try to remedy with conventional methods, with a conventional sense of wisdom rather than with the Dharma, rather than truly relying on the Dharma and the teachings of the Buddha.

We try to develop security in the same way that non-Dharma practitioners try to develop security in their lives. We try to remedy our greed by trying to fulfill that greed; we try to remedy our desire by trying to feed that desire; we try to remedy our sense of anxiety by trying to manage everything, like a spider tries to manage a web; we try to remedy our hopes by driving ourselves almost to death to fulfill our dreams. This is nothing but childish hopes and childish dreams. We try to remedy our fears by creating so much paranoia around us, locking ourselves in walls of paranoia to protect ourselves, seeing things in a very dualistic way. 'The cause of fear is all outside.' This is what we do as a result of not having gained freedom from all of this. This is what we speak about, as a result of our minds not being clear about the true cause of all of the suffering in our lives.

Now, if we had truly turned our minds towards the Dharma, we would know very well - we have read it and we have also witnessed it within our own experience - that this life of ours is very, very precious. Let us compare someone who has all their organs intact with someone who has not got all their organs intact. Right there, is the preciousness of one life over the other person's life. Not that the other person's life is less precious insofar as it is life, but the difference is very obvious. In the case of ourselves, we have our eyes, we have our ears, we have our nose, we have our tongue, we have our body and in our body we have all the different aspects of head, hands, legs and internal organs. What a precious thing to have, this body. What a precious thing it is to be able to see. Compare someone who is able to see, with someone who is not able to see, or someone who is able to see and then loses their sight. Only then will we realise how precious it is to see.

We have this body, but we are not content with it; we are not happy just with this body in our possession. We want so many other things. Why do we crave for so many other things outside of ourselves? We have forgotten that what we have is so precious.

In particular, having mind is so precious. We can think, we can feel, we can experience, we can have a taste of the world. We can have a greater and greater adventure with our mind - beyond this world, beyond the immediate experience of what the mind is capable of seeing. The potential for the mind to be trained or for the mind to discover its great capacity is so limitless. However, we do not appreciate our mind, we do not make good use of it. All we make use of, with our mind, is to try to follow others who are totally ignorant and who have totally wasted their lives. Or trying to follow the theories and regimes of people who can see only this life, only what is immediately in front of them.

We follow all of the different methods people have of making themselves happy, of having some sense of fulfillment in life. When we look at people who are older than us, who have gone on this route, we can see very clearly that they are failing. They are failing even though they are actually achieving their goals: they are failing to be happy, they are failing to be at peace, they are failing to be fulfilled. But still we are following. We are following as if that is the only option for us. But that is not true.

There must be something in all of us that is so gullible. To just follow others, even though we very much see how they are failing to be happy, how they are failing to be completely fulfilled and at peace. We are still following, we are still seeing them as a kind of model. In doing that, I think we waste all of our time and the energy of our minds. When we focus on something, that is what is going to consume our mind and its energy. When that has been consumed, there is no more energy or mind left to do something else.

In that way, we do not get to really study, we do not really get to learn, we do not really get to know. We do not get to really experience what the enlightened beings have written, taught and left behind for us to follow in order to make greater use of our mind, greater use of our intelligence, greater use of our wisdom.

If, somehow, we are able to really appreciate our body and mind, this will change. Just being able to appreciate our body will make a difference. It is not going to last forever. Whether one is in a good situation or a bad situation, it does not matter. It is not going to last forever, it is not going to be something that we can hang onto forever. However, in the meantime, we have it. We could actually come to the point of appreciating it so much that we are just happy to have this body. Even if nothing else is in our possession, we are so happy to have this very body - to be able to see the beauty of this world, to hear the Dharma, to smell the fragrance of nature, to taste food, to have the digestive system to digest food, to have two hands to do things, two feet to walk and a heart to feel. We are going to appreciate so much of what we have, that we will not focus so much on the external world to get something more than what we have. Of course, life has to be maintained and for that we have to have the necessary things. However, just the necessities are very simple; we do not need to get into any extravagance.

Then we are going to appreciate having this mind so much: to be able to really take refuge in the Buddha and follow the teachings, to really experience the teachings and transform this wonderful world into something much greater, much more wonderful. There is going to be so much meaning in having just come into contact with the Three Jewels. There is going to be so much meaning in just being exposed to the Dharma. There is going to be so much meaning in just being able to study. Life is not very complicated in that way. Whatever else is in place, is good. Whatever else is not in place, is also all right. Having this body and mind - particularly this mind - means we are equipped to engage in the study and the practice of the Dharma. This is just what we need to make the greatest meaning in our lives.

This is all related to getting beyond suffering, to becoming free from confusion - isn't it? If you acquire a new home, it is a place to live. One is not on the sidewalk anyway, one has some place to live. Whether it is rented or owned by you, one has some place to live. This is all about happiness, isn't it? Getting a bigger, nicer, more extravagant house is all about happiness. It is not about anything else, it is about happiness. It is all about getting beyond suffering, being able to free oneself from one's immediate suffering. If something is not working in your sink it is an inconvenience, so it is suffering. You replace it with something that works. That is also connected, that getting beyond suffering to happiness. Logically speaking, getting beyond suffering is what people often think is happiness.

These are the two main things that human beings or sentient beings are concerned with. Rightfully so, because all sentient beings deserve to be happy, all sentient beings deserve to be free from suffering. As Maitreya said, it is the instinct of all sentient beings to go towards happiness, to go towards the cause of happiness, to wish to be free from suffering, to wish to be free from the cause of suffering. It is the instinct of sentient beings. Maitreya also said that this proves that sentient beings have a greater intelligence than they know. Therefore, there is a sign of Buddha-nature in all sentient beings.

However, looking for the wrong causes to make oneself happy, the wrong conditions to make oneself happy, is the problem of all sentient beings. Having limited wisdom, limited intelligence and a limited sense of knowledge about how to really be happy is the real problem for sentient beings. Not knowing where the problem really lies and how to address it, not knowing how to really work with the causes and conditions in place that cause pain and suffering, is the problem of sentient beings. Therefore, not being able to succeed in getting beyond suffering and to fully inspire oneself to get beyond suffering - not just of the immediate kind but the larger kind that is so much harder to get beyond - is the problem of sentient beings.

In order to change that problem, we need to behave differently from animals. Otherwise we are not going to be much different from them, even though we have this capacity to think. To really get to the problem, we have to be able to use our minds in a proper way. We have to be able to reflect, to be able to understand, to be able to assess, to be able to visualise and to be able to then put the right kinds of causes and conditions in place to overcome the causes and conditions of suffering.

We cannot do this as a group. While the group can support you, it requires the individual person to do it. Individually one has to be motivated; individually one has to be passionate; individually one has to be able to have the longing in oneself to make this the priority of one's life and not just totally waste this short-lived life on something else for no good cause. That is why the Buddha said, 'I will show you the path of liberation, but liberation depends upon you. There is no way one can be freed.'

That is why, I think, the Tibetan word sosor tharpa is very important. It is very important for all of us to cultivate this kind of true heart: the heart of an individual who is very motivated, who is very passionate, who longs to really make something of their life and not just waste this short-lived life on pointless, meaningless things. If there is no merit however, we will not be able to cultivate this kind of heart. We have to accumulate the merit it requires to have that heart. If one sees that one is lacking that kind of motivation or passionate heart, that deep longing, it is due to one's lack of merit. So one needs to accumulate merit.

Once one has that, one will not be foolish and waste one's life when it seems like everything is going well. All of a sudden, a plane crashes into the World Trade Centre and one is trapped inside it and trying to figure out what to do. These sorts of things happen to all of us. We just go on thinking everything is okay, then we get a cough and this cough gets worse and worse. We check in with our doctor and find out that we have terminal cancer in our lungs, with only four months to live. The world gets shattered right there then. But until then, we feel as if everything is fine.

Many things like that happen; impermanent things happen all the time. Everything is fine, we get up in the morning, we make our coffee, we have our breakfast, we say good-bye to our children and our wife or husband and we get into our car and BOOM, we have an accident. Then we realise that either we are dead or our head has cracked and we have brain damage - we might be in danger of being a zombie forever. These sorts of things happen in people's everyday lives - all of the time. It is going to come, one by one, to us too. If not as dramatically as those examples, one way or the other we still learn that our life is going to be ended, it must be ended. Whether we get old and sick and die, or whether we end our life in some kind of dramatic way, we all have to die, that is for sure. From that point of view, we cannot be foolish; we cannot just pretend that everything is okay as it is. We will have to relate to our mind and our mind cannot afford to lose any more time than we have lost already.

We need to work with our mind, we need to get to the bottom of our confusion, the bottom of where all the suffering comes from, and realise how we can get over all this suffering. We must be individually motivated to be a greater practitioner, we must be individually more passionate to be a greater practitioner than we are now, and believe that we are capable of being a greater practitioner than we are now. We are not doomed with any kind of infertile mind or anything. Each and every individual, if we put our mind to it, will have a greater and greater understanding of the teachings of the Buddha. We will be able to effectively, in much more depth, put the teachings of the Buddha into our experience, into our practice.

We have to have that self-confidence and not feel like there is something wrong with us. We cannot afford to have the feeling, 'Yes, I want to, but I am infertile.' An infertile egg cannot hatch and give birth to a young chick. It is like that. Often, we do feel that there is something, maybe, that is not quite complete in us, which makes us unable to really do this. But what is that? When we try to examine what it is that is not complete in us, we find nothing really there. If there is any incompleteness in us, it is our attachments that make us feel so spread out everywhere. Because of them we do not feel that we have the means to do it. Because we cannot get rid of those attachments, we cannot move forward.

Even though it is these attachments that determine whether one is successful or not in the cultivation of detachment - of gathering your focus, gathering your energy, gathering your sense of direction to be able to really follow the Buddha, study his teachings, put that into experience and have a greater depth of experience - these attachments are not always going to be with us. These attachments are, at some point, going to be shattered. We cannot be with our spouse forever, just because of our attachment. We cannot be with our children just because we cannot let go of our attachment. It is like that with anything and everything; we cannot be with it just because we are attached. We must, at some point, let go. Meanwhile, one has lost a lot of time.

In that way, we sometimes feel that we are incomplete; we just cannot quite do what needs to be done because of our attachments. Before we are forced to let go, we might as well try to let go a little bit at a time, by our own will and our own choice, and try to create some sense of the individual path to liberation.

Now, what is it that is so important about the path of liberation itself? Liberation means to be liberated from something. Liberation is not aiming to get somewhere physically, like being transported from this physical world into another realm where there are much more beautiful things surrounding you, making you more happy, more relaxed, et cetera. Although there are different realms that are maybe worse than this one or better than this one, when we are stuck with the confusion and ignorance of our own mind, we will have to face our own pain and suffering wherever we go, regardless of the external situation.

However, regardless of the things that one acquires in one's life - let us say someone who was in poverty and who becomes wealthy by hard work - this does not really come from hard work. It all comes from merit. Outwardly, things may have changed so much, but inwardly, the mind is still in suffering because the mind has not related to itself properly. Confusion has not dissolved and ignorance has not been dissolved. From that point of view, however we change the world outside, when we do not relate to the confusion and ignorance in the mind, we will always be subject to the pain and suffering that comes from within.

Sometimes, when situations change outside for the better, it creates much more suffering in the mind because the mind has to manage it all in a much more complex way than before. One may not necessarily be quite equipped with the intelligence and the wisdom to do it. If things are done with greed and attachment, it is always going to be much more painful. It does not work from the outside. When we are speaking about an individual seeking a path of liberation, we are talking about seeking liberation from one's own confusion, from one's own ignorant mind, which contains so much pain and suffering right there.

Now, let me clarify what ignorance, confusion and afflicting emotions are. Afflicting emotions are attachments. We know very well how painful it is to be attached - there is no need to explain that. We know very well how painful it is to be angry. We have had that experience within our own mind. We know how painful it is to be clueless, ignorant or stupid. If we are clueless and we need to do something, we know how painful it is - we know that from our own experience. We know how painful it is when we are jealous. We know how painful it is when we are puffed up with pride and arrogance just takes over our mind like somebody else has possessed us.

Conflicting emotions affect not only the mind, but also the world. Any sense of peace or clarity gets diminished when we are in those conflicting emotions. The world also changes for the worse. When we get really attached to something we do not see what there is to enjoy or appreciate in the world. We are so fixated on what we are attached to, that our whole well-being depends upon it. We are so pathetic; we act very pathetically. The world also changes in that way. When we are angry and aggressive, the world becomes full of enemies and threats - always coming at you, directed to you. Even a stranger will seem to be intentionally coming towards you, wanting to hurt you. Paranoia takes over the whole world. When we are clueless in a time of great stress or great pain or decision-making, we know how painful it is. We feel so dumb. When we are jealous we feel so much. We need to have this person who we are feeling jealous towards, not to be in the situation or place or favourable condition that we are jealous of. Our well-being, again, is dependent upon that, otherwise we cannot feel happy or peaceful in ourselves. We are burning with that jealousy. However, just because we are jealous does not mean that other people are not going to experience their own merit. It just makes us suffer. When we are swelled up in arrogance and pride, we have no sense of appreciation of anything. Anything that there is to appreciate, or that somebody else appreciates, becomes a threat to you. Emotionally, it is like you either need to condemn or put down or ignore it all. There is no room in one's mind for us or anybody else to appreciate or allow it to happen. These are the five afflicting emotions.

There are many combinations of these emotions that frequently come into our mind, depending upon the causes and conditions that are present. Whenever the causes and conditions are there, our mind is somewhat vulnerable. It has no sense of control, no sense of freedom or independence to react to those causes and conditions. When the mind is in such a weak state, the causes and conditions are many. We will find them everywhere, even if we try to isolate ourselves. If you look at modern society, people have really tried to isolate themselves because they cannot handle this. They have really tried to isolate themselves, but still, there are so many causes and conditions everywhere.

In order for our minds to react differently and not be so trapped in these causes and conditions, our mind must have its own strength, its own intelligence, its own wisdom to process things. Even when our minds react in the same way as an ordinary person's mind, we have the intelligence and the wisdom to process these reactions so that we can come out of them without being so stuck. This is what is called 'training your mind' or trying to bring the teachings into your heart, into your mind. Only the Buddha's teachings can do that. Other than the Buddha's teachings, nothing can really do that. All other forms of education are really all about how to increase the passion, how to increase the jealousy, how to increase the aggression, how to increase the arrogance. That is not so much a remedy. By being in touch with the pain, we can really try to take the teaching into our hearts.

Where do these conflicting emotions come from? It is very obvious that we are in pain when we are in those kind of emotions. When we increase those kind of emotions we get further pain. The world becomes much more unbearable to live in. So, why do we do that? We do it because of the cluelessness or because the confusion in the mind. There is so much confusion in the mind. We are not really quite in touch with where the mind is, or what the mind is going through, or how to process this and come out in a better way. If one was intelligent and wise and had some sense of what is happening and how to come out of it, one would not allow oneself to suffer in that. Suffering comes about because of the confusion in one's mind.

Where does this confusion come from? Confusion comes from nothing other than cherishing the self. From protecting the self and having that as the most important thing to attain and attend to, almost like this is the ultimate, crucial sense of well-being. Now that is ignorance. On one hand, we have to protect the self as if it were the ultimate thing to do for one's well-being, while on the other hand, this creates so much confusion and perpetuates the kind of beliefs that give us further pain and suffering. It is very clear to anyone who is intelligent that there is something missing here. The aim is to be happy and to be free from suffering, but the result is more confusion and more suffering in the mind. It also shows in one's actions, because one's actions reap fruit.

When we see that, we see that we have two choices: we can instantly follow what we are programmed to follow, or we can try to rebel against that or do something different. In other words, Buddha's teachings are about rebelling against our normal programming and instinct. They are about rebelling against that with intelligence, in a peaceful way, with a non-violent method. 'Rebel against it with intelligence' means to see how your psychology of making yourself happy is failing, how it is the wrong way to try to be free from suffering.

When one begins to see that, there is intelligence. We must also have the intelligence to resist our programming, which is very hard because it is the instinct of so many lifetimes. The habit and the momentum is so strong that it is very hard to just resist. It will almost be like someone trying to resist the craving on an addiction, in the same way the ego has the incredible need to be fulfilled, but we must resist. We must resist. Resisting is intelligence, because even though, in the short term, it might make you a little bit frenzied or unbalanced or feel like you are not on your two feet, over time you will feel so much better. When you have not got angry when you are provoked to be angry, for instance. At that moment, you may feel a little bit weak or not brave or courageous or whatever, but in the long run you will feel so much better for having not got angry.

Or when you are attached to something and you are about to act very pathetically, but instead you resist and work with your attachment and let go of your attachment. At that moment, you feel like you are losing this very important thing in your life and you feel like you are going to be devastated without it, from the attachment point of view. Then, when you are not attached, when you are able to come back to looking at yourself, you will be happy that you were able to act from the strength of your mind rather than your weakness of mind. Also, you will not have made such a fool of yourself or acted in the kind of pathetic way that will make you lose so much self-esteem and confidence. There is always going to be that kind of struggle within us when we try to counteract our instinctive habits. However, in the long run, by resisting this with intelligence, we are going to feel a much greater sense of well-being. The feeling of freedom and strength in our mind will also grow more and more and more. Now that is what Buddha suggested we all should do.

There is a greater way to work with this, which is the nonviolent way. What does non-violence mean here? If we see things in a dualistic way, where one aspect of ourselves is bad and another aspect of ourselves is good, and we try to have this good aspect take over the bad aspect, feeling aggression toward the bad aspect of our mind; we create conflict in our mind. We create a sense of war, a sense of good cop/bad cop in our mind. It does not quite work in that way in the long run. In the long run it becomes frustrating, it becomes very disappointing, because we are getting very much caught up in the solidity of our emotions, rather than getting free from our emotions. So, one must approach it with nonviolence

The sense of nonviolence here, is to really understand how this is all illusion, how none of this has any intrinsic nature whatsoever. If one can just realise that, how everything is illusion and none of that has any intrinsic nature - the nature is shunyata, and shunyata or egolessness, is always present - and be in touch with that, all that illusion will collapse. All of the illusion will just naturally expose its nature to the mind, to the intelligence, and will no longer have any power over us. It is not like we are trying to fight them, or trying to get rid of them. The power of illusion will just naturally dissolve, not in a dualistic way, but as if we were to wake up from an illusion and be in a state of wakefulness.

Now, of course, that requires one to have a genuine sense of egolessness or a genuine view of emptiness within our experience. However, even if one does not have a genuine sense of egolessness or a view of emptiness within one's experience, one can still have faith in that. This is very important. Even though the view is not there, one can still have faith in that view and that faith will counteract one's whole illusion. Even that faith in the non-dual nature can be so powerful. As a result, one's whole approach toward overcoming one's obscurations is not going to be so dualistic. It will not like having a war inside one's mind, where good is pitted against bad.

This kind of faith can be studied and it can be understood through one's intelligence. One can also find a guru who can really point that out to you. He will point out the introduction to that nature, directly. Then one begins to find so much space in one's mind. One begins to feel less threatened even by one's own greatest defilements, confusion and ignorance, because they are nothing but emptiness. In that way, there is nothing to be feared, ultimately speaking. There is nothing intrinsic, ultimately speaking. One should therefore develop one's faith through the study of the Middle Way teachings.

We can also take care of our world and whatever is necessary to live life in a simple fashion. Life gets complicated when we do not have a focus. When we have a focus, it never gets complicated, especially if you are passionate about your focus. Complications always remind you that you are getting off track. When we do not have a focus, when we are not quite sure what we want to do in life, all sorts of egotistical instincts overtake us. When we are clear however, when we are passionate about the Dharma in this way, we are not going to be so easily seduced.

That is one of the most essential points on how to be on the path: how to relate to one's mind; how to cultivate intelligence; how to see one's world; how to have a sense of opportunity; how to cultivate a heart; how to see things in a non-dualistic way; how to balance the things that we need to do, that we have to do, and really want to do in life; how to find confidence in one's own resources and have a sense of a greater vision for one's life; how to have a greater passion for one's life that will really serve us; and how to see the frivolousness of one's life.

We must also see our own gullibility, when we do not have a greater intelligence to really guide us. How we so gullibly fall into the traps that others have failed at, right in front of us, trying to do the same thing. We need to work with our habits and be prepared to reap the fruit later. We need to have a sense of how this great opportunity in one's life cheers one's mind at all times, through being compassionate to others who are lost like us, who may be further lost because they have had no exposure to this way of working with their minds.

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