8th October 2016 - Public Talk Part One - Advice to Students of Akong Rinpoche
This is an unedited transcript of a talk given on 8th October, 2016 - the 3rd Anniversary of Akong Rinpoche's Parinivana - by Drupon Rinpoche, from Karma Kunga’s Oral Translation.
So, having first given rise to the motivation of Supreme Awakening, Supreme Bodhicitta, then please … enter into these teachings for this year's retreat.
And so some of you have come from afar. Some of you have put aside a lot of work, important work, important activities, in order to be here. Others among you are maybe sick and have … put that aside, sort of dismissed that, seeing listening to the Dharma and doing retreat to be important and in that way you’ve come to be here. And so to start, then, I wish to thank you and wish you a Tashi Deleg.
At the beginning of the teachings I thought I would first start by sharing a few thoughts with you.
And so all of you who have come here, then I am guessing almost everybody in this room, is a student of Akong Rinpoche and today is the Anniversary of his passing and so maybe … maybe there are a few things that we are feeling. We may be feeling that now that our Lama has passed into Nirvana and that he is no longer directly here with us, we may be feeling a little bit sad and unhappy about that. But then there's the other side of the coin, which is now all of us Dharma friends have come together, we’ve come to listen to the Dharma, we’ve come to practise and meditate together and so maybe when we look at that side maybe it's … maybe we feel quite joyful and happy. And so, maybe there’s quite a mix, a mixed bag of feelings.
Something that we need to recognise is that Samye Ling is Akong Rinpoche's main Dharma Seat and Akong Rinpoche is our Root Lama. And so I don't … I need not tell you that this is his main Dharma Seat and there are many branch Dharma Centres and Organisations: you’re very aware of that. But, you need to keep this fact in mind, that this is his main Dharma Seat and there are these various Dharma Centres. You should keep them either in your mind or maybe we could say ‘close to your heart’.
And so when I ask you to keep Samye Ling, the main Seat of Rinpoche, our Root Lama, and the branches, the different Dharma Centres, when I ask you to keep these in your mind, ‘close to your heart’, what do I mean by that? I'm asking you to go, or to come, to Samye Ling, to visit the branches, go there, listen to the Dharma or give Dharma Teachings or practise the Dharma. This we need to continue and we have to do our best to make sure that that is able to continue.
And if one is doing that to one's … to the best of one's ability, who will benefit from that? Oneself will, because we feel that the practice of Buddhism is of benefit. That’s why we came to Buddhism, that's why we became Buddhists: not because we thought it would be harmful, but because we see it to be of benefit. And so if we do this, if we maintain a good and strong connection with the main Seat and the branches, it will be of benefit to ourself. That's one main point that I wanted to share with you.
Now, I'm not sure if you are aware of this or not: I'm sure some of you are, some of you maybe not. And that is when we talk of Lamas, we talk of Root Lama, or Root Lamas, and Lineage Lamas. And the Lineage Lamas are important, of course they are, but not as important as the Root Lama. For example, if we go against the Lineage Lamas, then of course that is not a good thing, you know, it’s a negative thing to do, but it’s not the same as … it will not cause you to lose your Root Samayas. Whereas if one goes against one's Root Lama, then one does lose one's Samayas. And so, that's a sign that our Root Lama is more important to us than the Lineage Lamas. This is what the texts teach. And we can look at it very immediately as well, for ourselves.
When it comes to learning how to go about the practice of Dharma, learning what is to be abandoned, what is to be adopted, the correct attitude, where do we receive that from? We receive it through the advice of our Root Lama. And it’s on that basis we are able to practise. And so it is the … the direct benefit we receive from the Root Lama. We can tell that through our own experience, can't we? And so because the Root Lama is so important, the Root Lama's Seat is very important. And we can see that. If we take the Lineage Lamas and the … their different residences and practice sites in India: or, we can look at the Buddha himself. We visit the sites of the Buddha, the … Pullahari and the other Seats of the … accomplished Kagyu masters, such as Nalanda and so on. We go there, we go to visit them, we go to practise there and we see them as being holy. And then if we think about the sites in Tibet, such as the Dharma Seat of Marpa the Translator, the Seat of Milarepa: well, when we talk about Milarepa's Seat, then we talk about various different practice sites and practice caves, don't we? And then there’s the Seat of Dakpo, the main Dharma Seat of Gampopa and then the various different Dharma Seats of the Karmapa and we see these sites to be very important. We see them as being holy. And therefore we go to visit, we go to practise, feeling that they are blessed. And so we go, we make a Dharma connection, we do retreat there, we make offerings there. And these sites are the Seats of the different Lineage Lamas, not the Seat of our Root Lama and so therefore, for us personally, then the Seat of our Root Lama is more important, more blessed. If one values and has such regard for one's Root Lama, then one will see their Seat to be extremely blessed. Of course, if one doesn't value, and have such high regard for, one's Root Lama then one won’t feel like that. It … it mainly depends upon our faith. Whether we receive blessings or not is dependent on faith. That is what is taught.
And so, we should visit the Seat of our Root Lama. If we’re busy, then we should just come to visit, but when we have opportunity and more time then, if we are a good worker, then we should work to maintain … and maintain and look after the seat, not let it diminish or deteriorate in any way.
We know how hard Rinpoche worked building this place. And so, we can't let that count for nothing. We have to maintain it. And so those who are capable of work, should work. Practitioners should come here and practise. Teachers should come here and teach. Students should come here and learn. It's very, very important. It’s not a matter of who is now caring for the Dharma Seat, who is looking after it. That doesn't come into it. Again, we can take the pilgrimage sites that we find in India and if we think about who are maintaining those sites these days, they are not Buddhists in a lot of cases: they‘re people who belong to other religious traditions but nevertheless, we go there, we go there, we make prayers, we make aspirations. We don't think, 'Who's looking after that place now? Oh, they’re nothing to do with me. Oh, I don't like them.' That way of thinking is mistaken. And, what's more, many of the … the sites for our Kagyu Lineage are now empty. Nobody’s caring for them. But still we go there, we pray, we make aspirations, we make offerings, we maybe stay there for a day and do retreat, you know, as the occasion affords. To think about who’s now looking after the place is a mistaken way of thinking, because for us the very site itself is blessed. This is the site of my Root Lama and that doesn't change. And so, again, the … the pilgrimage sites in India, maybe they did have many statues, holy texts and other representations of the Three Jewels and so on. You know, most of them are not like that now. But nevertheless, the earth is still there and it is the very site itself which is blessed. And so therefore we go, we meditate, we make offerings and so on. And many of the sites of the Kagyu Masters are empty, especially those of Milarepa. But nevertheless, the earth hasn't changed. The earth still contains blessings. And so that’s why we feel it is special, it’s because of that that we feel it to be a special place, a special site.
And so it’s my hope or, you could say I’m sharing my opinion with you, that this is the main Seat of Akong Rinpoche, this of Samye Ling and then there’s the various branches, that you come and you serve; and you serve the place, you help maintain the place, you come here and you practise, and you listen to Dharma Teachings. And it’s in this way that the place will … it's in this way that we have … it's in this way that we ensure that the place is maintained and continues, that it doesn't wane but instead continues to get stronger. This is the correct way of seeing things, the correct way of thinking. And what's more, it's something through which much benefit will come to sentient beings and so this is why I ask you to keep this in mind. And this is one of the points that I wanted to say at the beginning.
And the second thing I wanted to talk about was ROKPA.
And so this was probably the principal activity of Akong Rinpoche: it’s one of the most important aspects of all his activity. And now, I know many of the people who work for ROKPA are here. But it’s not just the work of one person. The work of ROKPA is the shared responsibility for all of Akong Rinpoche's students. And so, I ask that you … you work hard, you pull together, you work in harmony so that even if you aren't able to help more people than ROKPA was able to help when Akong Rinpoche was here, that we at least don't help less. And so that’s a matter of all working in harmony with one another, pulling together and keeping in mind what Akong Rinpoche advised us to do, what work Akong Rinpoche gave us and asked of us and advised us to do, keeping that in mind and seeing it to be important, seeing it important ourselves to fulfill that activity because this was the, or one of the, most principal aspects of Akong Rinpoche's activity.
And then to say something about Tara Rokpa specifically.
Obviously, when I first came to Samye Ling, then I didn't know you, you didn't know me, we weren't familiar with one another, we had no particular plans to work together and this sort of thing. I was new to the West but, in those first couple of years, then we had a meeting together and it was mainly, I think, the therapists of Tara Rokpa who made up the … the group, those who advise people regarding their mental health and help people with their mental health and we had this, like, … a Symposium and there was [sic] about 90 people present: many people, I was amazed, I couldn't believe how many people there were, connected with ROKPA, working as therapists and helping people … in this way. It's vast, isn't it? It's a vast part of Akong Rinpoche's activity. And then, when the very first retreat that has continued and … this is the latest version of: when this very first came to pass, it came about through Tara Rokpa, it was mainly … requested by the people of Tara Rokpa, so it came about in connection with them. And around that time Akong Rinpoche said that … he talked about how large the Organisation of Tara Rokpa is.
And so, how things are now though, I don't know. I don't know how things have been kept going and what the present situation is, regarding Tara Rokpa: but it is essential that it not wane, and so that people work hard, remember what their Root Lama told them and do their very best to implement it. It's very important not to forget this: that many of you were trained by Akong Rinpoche and so it's very important to remember that training and help pass it on and help use it … for the benefit of others.
When we think about the present day situation in the world, then mental health issues are becoming more and more prevalent. They're certainly not decreasing. And so, to have doctors, people who are able to help those with mental health difficulties is very, very important in the present day. And so it’s essential that Tara Rokpa not diminish, not wane in strength, but that it is continued and help is brought to others who need it. And so, to keep in mind what Rinpoche told each of us individually and … and implement that, really is essential.
And the fourth thought that I’d like to share with you is … since we all here are students of Akong Rinpoche, then I'm in no doubt about it that when his reincarnation is here, then we will accept him, we will believe in him because just generally, as Buddhists, then we believe in past and future lives.
Then especially as Tibetan Buddhists and, even among Tibetan Buddhists, as Kagyupas, when we consider our history and our tradition and how, you know, for centuries we have searched for the reincarnations of our holy Lamas, and have enthroned them, installed them, you know, and returned them to their Seat with trust and belief in that reincarnation. So, I’m sure we will believe in the … next incarnation of Akong Rinpoche. And with that we should hope and aspire that we are able to see the reincarnation of Akong Rinpoche before we pass on from this life, 'In this lifetime may I be able to witness and see the reincarnation of my Lama.'
And we should pray and aspire that … the … the authentic Tulku is found and that the whole situation be free from obstacles. Obstacles are not an impossibility. Whenever we are engaged in any important task then obstacles are always possible. And when we look through the history books, then we see that many problems and difficulties have occurred around the … the subject of reincarnate Lamas. And so therefore we have to aspire and pray that we are able to meet the reincarnation of our Lama before we ourselves pass away and that everything be without obstacle and come about auspiciously and excellently.
And then when we do have the opportunity to meet our Root Lama, then we have to have something to show for ourselves. We have to think about what, so, in our case, what Akong Rinpoche told us, what work he gave us to do, what he advised us to do and even if we haven't been able to do more and better than he advised, at least not, when we turn up before his reincarnation, not turn up empty handed or just a kata in our hand and nothing more. But to be able to go into his presence and say, 'This is what you told me to do and this is what I have done. I haven't ignored your command. I haven't procrastinated. I haven't left what you told me to do unaddressed. This is what I have been doing from the time you passed away up until the present.' And with that, one has a beautiful mandala to offer one's Lama.
Just turning up with a kata and the … mudra of, 'What have you done?' ‘Nothing, I'm afraid.' That’s not very good, is it? It’s not enough. And so, instead, we have to be able to present to our Lama what exactly it is that we have done. How is it that we fulfilled their command and their wishes? To be able to say very clearly: 'From the time that you passed away until the present, on meeting you again, this is what I have done. This is what I’ve done to fulfill your commands and your wishes.' Rather than … the Lama having passed away, think, 'Well, it's up to Lama Yeshe now. Oh, it's up to the Dharma Centre Lamas. Oh, I don't know what ROKPA’s been doing since … since then.' That’s not the approach. Just to turn up with a kata and tears in one's eyes is nothing in and of itself. It's just a facade.
And so from the time that the Lama dissolved into the Dharmakaya, that is how we talk about it, when the Lama passes away, they dissolve into the expanse of Dharmakaya. From that time until they arise as the … Nirmanakaya, the Tulku in Tibetan, then what have we done during that time? And if we have got something of real worth to share with the Tulku: 'I have been doing this!' … then that is a mandala offering. Having … been only able to say, 'Well I became very sad after you passed away' is not enough. And so, we can't let Rinpoche's advice, we can’t let Rinpoche's instructions, go unheeded. It’s very important for ourself that we act upon them, fulfill them and it's important for the Lama. It is something that will please the Lama.
And so these are my thoughts that I wanted to share with you. If you feel that they are just … pointless and I'm interfering in what is no business of mine to interfere in, then I apologise. If you feel that there is something of worth to take away from it, then I ask that you take that on board and act accordingly.
And the main reason for me stating that today, at the start of this course, is that this first session anybody is able to attend, whereas from tomorrow onwards then only those who are participating in the entire course are able to … attend and so thinking that there’d be more people today … then I wanted to share this with, you know, with you all … so that’s why I said it at the beginning. You know, we have many days left of teaching so I could have talked about this later, but this is why I wanted to talk about it today.
My eyes are pretty much finished! When I first came to Samye Ling my vision was very sharp and I'd have … no trouble reading the time on a watch, and so it shows how long I must have been coming to Samye Ling! During that time, then my … that’s how much I’ve aged!
And I will continue to try and be of benefit to the students of Samye Ling, teaching as I'm able to. What I’ve just been saying, it’s not just for myself. It’s not just words alone, just being big-mouthed or anything like that. I mean, as you know, I am not a student of Akong Rinpoche, but he had a lot of trust in me and so therefore from my side I have to do whatever I can. And there’s a … strong connection between Rinpoche and myself. There was, you know, genuine love and affection between us and so I feel that I have to do whatever I can for the students of Samye Ling, I mean, but I can't do much more than … than teach. And in Nepal also there are many Samye Ling people who I'm, you know, working hard to teach them [sic] and … I teach … you know, in Samye Ling here as well. And so regarding the amount of Samye Ling students that I teach … if it hasn't increased, it’s certainly not fewer.
But those who are over there in Nepal, who knows? Maybe they’ll end up forgetting about you in Samye Ling! So maybe you should send them a card, a card as a reminder: 'Don't forget us!' [Laughs.]
There are those not-so-decent people then they do forget, you know, those who are very fickle. I'm not … I'm not saying that the people over there in Nepal are not very good people! I'm just saying if they were to forget, if they were to forget, then maybe they could be classed as not being very good people.
I'm saying this now because they can hear what we’re saying! The teachings are being transmitted over the Internet to the retreat centre in Nepal. This is the webcam. There are many Western retreatants there, over in Nepal, but the Internet and this web-conferencing set-up was installed mainly for the Samye Ling retreatants on Holy Isle and Arran because I'm not able to be over there for long periods of time, but I thought if they could receive all of the teachings that were given in Nepal, then it would be very … it would be of benefit to the retreatants on Holy Isle and Arran.
So that covers … that covers the intro. So now we’ll go to the teaching.
To read Part 2 please click here.