“We sentient beings are all identical in continually moving toward joy and away from pain. Every one of us has the potential to attain lasting happiness and freedom from suffering. I find this universal sensitivity to be very beautiful and moving. But in order for us to realize our potential — to have our intentions and actions meet — we also need great wisdom. When we recognize this, we can then really appreciate the Buddha as the guide, the Dharma as the path, and the Sangha as our companions on the path.” – Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche
Unbroken lineages of wisdom traditions are rare in these times, and Kongtrul Rinpoche descends from a pure lineage of the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. Born in India to a Dharma family and recognized as a reincarnated lama, he received traditional training from a young age, yet his life evolved in ways that stretch far beyond a traditional setting. In his youth he traveled throughout India to study with various masters, carrying all his belongings in a simple sack and sleeping on hemp cots on the roadside. Later, he met and married his American wife Elizabeth, and a surprising turn of events led them to settle in the U.S.A. Here, weaving his ancient spiritual heritage with the many threads of a modern Western culture, Rinpoche continues to follow what he calls his “life-long assignment”: to offer the revered wisdom of the Buddhist teachings to those who have an interest.
Kongtrul Rinpoche’s life defines what it means to be a spiritual person in modern times. Whether through his teaching, his passion as an abstract painter, his steadfast loyalty to his lineage, family and students — which he describes as one of his most cherished qualities — or through his joy in solitude, his fierce independence, and his unshakable determination to engage his own path, throughout it all, Dzigar Kongtrul mixes his Buddhist practice and life. “Isn’t that the goal of the spiritual path?” Rinpoche often asks. Indeed it is — to be flexible, courageous and exploratory in the face of life’s joys and paradoxes, while never losing touch with a connection to its deepest meaning.
Encouragement for Our Bodhisattva Intention: Part 1 – Being Willing
by Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche
In the end, our life won’t just evaporate like a puddle of water in the hot sun. In fact, even a puddle of water does not just disappear into nothingness. The molecules remain in a different form, since atoms do not just disintegrate.
If we do think that life is like this, then our life becomes very small. Believing that this life is all there is, is a very narrow and boring viewpoint. But understanding that this life is an ongoing progression, makes for a passionate life.
A great teacher once said that if we attain only one percent progress in our life, then in one hundred lives we will be enlightened. This is doable and we can actually get there soon!
But what ends up happening is when we do have a day off from our responsibilities, which on one hand is really nice and leisurely, we tend to do something very small-minded, either in the garden or the kitchen. Or, if we do not find something to do there, we look for someone to argue with.
When we do actually have some genuine purpose and meaningful vision to carry out in our day—not just anything, but something we really want to do—we can live passionately, fulfilling our potential enlightened nature, and serving mankind with great joy and zeal. Even over the course of one hundred lifetimes of walking this path and being reborn, there is no sense of suffering in taking rebirth and dying. Instead, there is a passion to walk this path from lifetime to lifetime.
Let’s talk about that sense of responsibility or duty for a moment, and this sense of burden. When people are being lazy, they don’t want to live up to a sense of duty or responsibility. Feeling burdened, they just want to look for a hole to sleep in. But that never ends up working out for one’s well-being or for anyone else’s. It’s a psychological state that we all have at times, when we think “Oh, how nice it would be to just sleep in my cocoon and not come out.”
Acting with a sense of responsibility and duty when it is not imposed from outside, but rather from your own passion to be responsible and carry on with what is in front of you, gives you a feeling of great joy in the privilege to serve others. Through the process of being stretched in this way, we become shenjanged which, in Tibetan, means thoroughly purified and enriched.