Difficult World, Peaceful MindDzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche

Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche gaf deze inleiding oorspronkelijk bij een publieke lezing in Rotterdam in October 2017. Dit artikel is een korte versie van zijn inleiding. Aan het eind van deze inleiding is een korte versie te vinden van een aantal vragen en antwoorden naar aanleiding van zijn inleiding. 

Difficult World, Peaceful Mind

We have so many kinds of suffering in our world––natural calamities, earthquakes, hurricanes. It seems as though all of the elements are attacking us. At least the sky hasn’t fallen yet.

We cannot control natural calamities, but at the same time we do have a hand in creating them. We may not be able to completely stop these disasters, but we can reduce them.

All our normal habits of desire are having a serious impact on our environment­­––the ocean is heating up, the ozone has more holes. And everywhere there are more natural calamities. Even those are interdependently arising. In any case, this heart of compassion and loving kindness is the primary way for us to change our world for the better.

And secondly, if we master the wisdom of working with the interdependent nature, then you gain a real sense of freedom. This freedom comes from interdependence, it doesn’t come from independence. We think freedom comes from independence. But the real wisdom comes when you can master interdependence. In this regard it is crucial for us to connect with one another and see how we can make each other’s world better, instead of only thinking, “How can I make my world better?”

How can we create less harm in each other’s world, not just in “my” world? It’s an important question to consider.

The approach of interdependence
America is in the North American continent, far away from everything. We in America tend to think the Earth’s pollution exists mainly in China and other countries. So we take care of our own environment and send all the polluting production to other places. Recently, however, due to extremely strong winds, this massive air pollution made its to America from Asia. So this approach is not going to work. If we want our own sound, healthy and beautiful environment, we also have to take care of other places. I remember that in India and Nepal, when you clean the area outside of a store, you just clean your own little storefront and push the dirt to the other side of the street. Then an hour later, two other guys from the store on the other side will come with their brooms and push the dirt right back to where it was in the first place

What do we achieve when we only consider “my” world and not others? We actually become more irritable. We engage in more emotional actions and reactions that end up creating more suffering. And in the end, the whole world becomes a suffering world. But if you take care of yourself, while caring for others as well, it’s a different story.

When you ask your partner to love you, it doesn’t work too well, does it? Love comes naturally. There is a natural sense of giving and sharing. One of my students told me, “When you say to your partner, Why are you not making me happy? that is not love. But when you say to them, How can I make you happy? then that is love”. When you say that, naturally they will make you happy. Just by seeing a little smile on their face, that makes you happy. Then everybody’s happy.

So if we just keep looking at our problems always focusing on them­­––why someone is not fixing this, why my president is not fixing that­––it’s not really going help us accomplish our goal. Instead, if we ask, How can I help? can you imagine? What if everyone in this whole room here begins thinking that way? If we all start doing it together, can you see how much difference we can make in our world?

Every challenge is an opportunity
Our world is really difficult these days. There are many leaders in the world who are very skillful at making you irritated. They are very skilled in making you upset and bringing out so many emotions. Generally we feel this world is pretty bad. We feel that we live in one of the worst times ever, and we feel it’s very challenging. On the other hand, if we look at it a bit more deeply, every challenge is an opportunity for us. If you feel there is no opportunity, then that presents a challenge, and see­­––right there you have an opportunity.

If you can see this opportunity, and if you can contribute in some way to make it better, then your contribution will be magnified thousands of times. Rather than doing what we’ve always done. We can put forth the same amount effort, but if we approach what we do with this attitude, we can make a huge difference.

It’s important for us to have more wisdom of interdependence, and more compassion, a genuine heart-to-heart connection with others. Because just getting angry or irritated doesn’t solve any problem. But when you understand interdependence, love, and compassion­­––then really there’s nothing we can’t solve.

Desmond Tutu once said in an interview that his father used to tell him all the time when he was upset, “Don’t raise your voice, improve your argument.” Isn’t that a wonderful instruction? Instead of raising our voice and saying all of these not-nice things, we can look for solutions. We have a great opportunity here.

In the Buddhist teachings we have something called “ripening your aspirations in a timely manner.” There are three important elements here: aspiration, ripening, and timeliness. First you have to have the desire, or the aspiration. Second, you have to have ripening––that desire must actually grow with wisdom. It’s not enough just to have the passion or desire to change the world. And then finally, it must be timely––the perfect time is the perfect opportunity.

In times of crisis, compassion ripens
The world of crisis is a perfect time for your compassion to mature and ripen. You can see this even in the most ordinary sense. For example––don’t misunderstand me here, because I don’t know anything about economics––but I heard there is something called the “stock market.” We don’t really see anything, but there is something called the stock market. When it is volatile, that is a very good opportunity for someone to make a lot of money. When the world is volatile, it’s a very good time to make lots of points of loving kindness and compassion.

From dharma teachings I understand that, along with that increase in genuine compassion so deep in our heart, comes awakening, which we call enlightenment. Enlightenment is not necessarily restricted to some kind of meditation. It also can come from this deep heart of compassion towards sentient beings. This is really wonderful news, because in our daily life, with all our family obligations and everything else, we usually don’t meditate very often, do we? Most people do not do too much meditation. If you can do an hour a day, we think that’s a lot. But a day has twenty-four hours, so for that one hour of meditation, there are still 23 hours left to undo the positive effects of that meditation.

So how can we really get to awakening by means of loving kindness and compassion? Every minute of every day, we hear bad news on the TV and radio. It’s not because good things aren’t happening, it’s because people aren’t interested in good things! The media networks are business people catering to the market. When they do research, they find that people are interested in bad news. This shows that we haven’t yet developed a strong habit of rejoicing in others’ happiness.

When you see others’ good fortune there is usually jealousy. We think, “Why don’t I have that opportunity?” So it becomes crucial for us, not only to work with our compassion, but also to cultivate a sense of rejoicing or satisfaction. We can have sense of joy in another’s good fortune instead of instantly comparing that with your own situation. Opportunities to practice compassion, loving kindness, and caring for others are present for us 24 hours a day. Or 23 hours, if you meditate. Or if you meditate for 15 minutes, you have 23 hours and 45 minutes.

Awakening through compassion
If you do the math regarding the probability of awakening, there are many more chances for you to be awakened through practicing compassion than through sitting meditation. The opportunity to practice compassion is always there. When you raise a child, when you take care of an aging parent, or take care of your partner. You don’t have to look very far to practice compassion.

There are people throughout your country who also need your compassion and generosity. So we can look for opportunities right here, instead of only looking for opportunities far away in third world countries.

In everyday life, loving kindness and compassion is the key. You’re not only helping others this way, you’re also helping yourself. Studies were done in which they found that all beings naturally have this heart of compassion, that it is present in everyone to some degree. All of us, all human beings, have this heart of compassion. Sometimes you may not see it, but it’s definitely there.

Sometimes this heart of love begins with a biased view. That’s okay. In the beginning we have more love toward one person than another. That’s natural. The point here is how we bring that across the board. Once we are able to make that heart-to-heart connection with the people we naturally feel love for, how can we begin to have that sense of caring toward all others as well? That’s the key to making the world a little better.

DPR-ARTICLE_Compassion_Heaven_Interdependence_2Vraag en antwoord

Na afloop van de lezing was er de mogelijkheid om vragen te stellen over de lezing. Een deel van de vragen en antwoorden volgt hieronder.

Compassion and heaven
Q: I feel that compassion and heaven are somehow connected. If the afterlife exists, do you see a relationship between the love between people and heaven?
Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche: I think they are very closely connected. When we experience a complete sense of genuine love, selfless genuine love, then that is heaven, isn’t it. Heaven is nothing other than that. When people talk about heaven, it sounds so open, peaceful and welcoming. But when you hear about hell, you find out that as soon as you get there, people start poking you with knives. So I can see a connection between compassion and heaven.
Of course, from the point of view of Buddhist teaching, the real sense of heaven is not necessarily a physical space, but a mental state you achieve. But then there are these questions: “Are there really such things as heavenly realms, or hell realms?” And the Buddhist teachings say that it is really up to you. As long as you have a strong projection, a strong fixation, thinking there is “you over there and me over here” then such a thing as heaven or hell can be there. But as you go beyond that dualism of self and others, all these terms cease to exist. There’s no idea of “me going to heaven” or “me going to hell.”

Helping others
Q: When helping others, is there a difference in the impact and sense of urgency between helping someone homeless to find food, versus helping spiritual seekers find peace through meditation?
Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche: In my understanding of dharma, it’s actually a two-stage process. When people are in need of some temporal, immediate material or mental health support, then I think it’s important to see how much we can do. If we were to go and start preaching to someone who is really hungry, it might make them resist more, against our spiritual preaching. So it can be a two-stage process. On the relative level, we can provide whatever support we can, materially or mentally. Then if there is interest, and you have some spiritual advice to share in the end, that might be helpful––but not in the beginning.
Caring for others is practicing loving kindness and compassion, which naturally opens our heart and brings us a sense of joy. But sometimes we say that taking care of others’ suffering brings more suffering on oneself. The funny part, and the good part, is that caring for others doesn’t increase your suffering at all. In fact, according to research studies, it actually reduces your suffering.

The wisdom of interdependence
Q: We need to develop greater loving kindness and compassion, and at the same time we need to master the wisdom of interdependence. How can we increase the wisdom of interdependence?
Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche: One way is by seeing the positive potential in everything and everyone. Seeing clearly that not every positive or beautiful thing is coming from one source––there’s beauty in everyone. There is positive potential in every person. There is a potential of power in everyone and everything. When you see that and have respect for others’ positivity, or their potential, that is one aspect of mastering interdependence. When we see this more clearly, we can also begin to see which actions can bring a positive result, for my world, your world, and everybody’s world.
It’s not like the one person is the best artist and that’s it, there are no more artists. Every person has a unique potential. The way Van Gogh beautified the world is different from how Andy Warhol has beatified the world. There is a power in each of us to bring change, and to produce something beautiful.
One thing the Buddha taught is that it’s really important to be inquisitive and explore the world. We need to be ready to understand. We need to keep our sense of wisdom and inquisitiveness alive, and to realize that we have the wisdom to understand things. When we shut down our mind and stop paying attention, we lose the chance to understand everything.
When we don’t want to see or understand what’s going on in the wider world, we become completely ignorant of interdependence. And these words of Buddha do seem to be true, of course. But even in a mundane sense, if you consider the whole reality of a situation, you naturally understand more about everything that went into creating it. When you understand more about your phone––where it’s produced and how––then you can see interdependence very clearly. When you’re not curious, you don’t see. And that’s ignorance.
It’s OK to smile and laugh
So I hope that we all, our own way, can express kindness and love to each other in our world. I hope we can make the world a little more humorous, too. You don’t have to be so serious. Just relax and bring some humor of selfless compassion into the world. Isn’t it humorous to be selfless and compassionate? We can be the clown of compassion in the world and make everyone laugh! Bring some humor to this unnecessarily serious world.
You can start just by bringing a little love and caring to the person right next to you. Try to bring a smile to their face. If we can make just one other person smile, at least there are two people smiling. Then if both of you decide to bring a smile to someone else, it will multiply.
In this way we can spread the laughter of joy and a loving heart. If we can spread this smile and help it to multiply, then someday we will feel the whole world smiling. We can send emojis, too. Imagine if everyone sent a smiley––6 billion smiles going out simultaneously. When you send smiling or laughing emojis, then you’re also smiling inside. That’s how we can change this world into a peaceful state of mind. Each of us can make at least one person smile, right?
This is what I’ve been saying with my GoKind project. Let’s try to make at least one person smile every day. (No pressure.) Recently I was telling someone about #GoKind and he said, “I will make my partner smile at least once a day.” I was happy to hear that.
In this way I hope we can make the world better––by becoming kinder, a little at a time.