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An Interview with HE Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche

"So likewise, any kind of pilgrimage such as the pilgrimage to the stupa here is supposed to remind us of awareness, compassion, the hero and the examples of compassion and kindness that are Buddhas and the bodhisattvas."

V: How might the devotional aspect of Buddha Dharma (or religions as they currently stand) be secularized and packaged into contemporary lifestyle while being just as effective? Do you not think this is the way things are headed ?

DJKR: Basically, what you are asking is how to keep the religious aspect of the devotional aspect of Buddha dharma in secular society.This one is a little challenging. The reason is, first of all, the spiritual path, definitely.The spiritual paths, such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, do not really, ultimately, complement the secular setting. It’s only with Judaism, Christianity and Islam that they actually don’t see themselves separate from the state. For instance, Muslims have shariya law; Catholics have the Vatican- you know, - all that. They like to set up a country, whereas, as we know, Shakyamuni Buddha left the country, he left his prince-hood, his kingdom, and he renounced those things.

djkr-1So fundamentally, the secularism we talk about, and the spiritual path of Buddhism...we’ll have a little bit of a problem to meet, because in a secular world, you believe in gain, you believe in loss, you believe in things like victory, you believe in a defense economy, you believe that a certain system will work. That’s the only answer; that’s how it’s going on around the world, you know. You believe the communist thing is the only way the world works. You believe the democracy thing is the only way that works, but it has been proven that nothing really works. That is where the spiritual path, especially Buddhism, is fundamental for those who believe that no worldly system works.

Okay, after saying all that, though,I’d say the Buddhist value of interdependent reality, the Buddhist value of compassion and kindness, the Buddhist value of respect for others, can all be very beneficial for modern people. So from that point of view, I think that secular society and the spiritual path can meet.

Now how do we package this into something more appealing to the contemporary world? It’s easy and it’s not. Why is it easy? In a way, it’s easy because in Buddhism we have to remember that the Buddha dharma is not really a culture, but culture is required as a means to transport that truth. If our spiritual path doesn’t get hijacked by cultural hang-ups, then it is very possible and then it is easy...so if we can decide to forsake, or do without, age old hang-ups, traditions, rituals and methods, and try to adapt that to modern society, then it’s easy; there’s no challenging on that one.

V: How can fulltime dharma practice/service be sustainable in the West (that is, for lay practitioners)?

DJKR: Oh, that is very possible because dharma practice has a lot to do with motivation and attitude. In fact, I’ll say from my own experience, that many times, those people, my so called students, who work in Wall Street as the CEO of certain banks, practice much better dharma than those who roam around Kathmandu sipping coffee, chatting and just roaming around dharma bookstores. The CEOs do much better. That’s very possible

V: We would love to hear about the importance of Shamatha and Vipassana as a basis for Vajrayana practice. How important are they for our sadhana practice?

DJKR: Absolutely important! In fact, one shouldn’t separate sadhana practice from Shamatha and Vipassana because actually, one should know that sadhana practice is one of the most sophisticated forms of practice of Shamatha and Vipassana. But even as a stepping stone to the perfection of sadhana practice, one can do this standard practice of Shamatha and one can also do the Vipassana these days, which can really help.

stabilize and calm our minds. That way one will be able to concentrate and visualize properly, which is so very important.

he-oneV:Since there’s no big deal in enlightenment, what joy and benefits have you derived from realization?(The lady who came up with the question said His Eminence said so in one of his talks.)

DJKR: Well, I think we should try to put it in a specific context here. I don’t know why I said that...because, in many ways, it is a very big deal. But at the same time, if you think of enlightenment in terms of having a penthouse that doesn’t need repair, that doesn’t need to be managed, and needs less money and has a working shower and never failing toilet system, you know, stuff like that...then from that point of view, enlightenment is very simple...then from that point of view, I was saying enlightenment is not very big deal - from a worldly, emotional point of view.

V: For people who suffer from mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, and the like, what is the best way to overcome such obstacles and follow a regime of daily practice?

DJKR: Discipline. This is so important especially for those who are depressed. The moment the word discipline gets mentioned, people get frightened because they think we are talking of hours and hours of practice, shaving their hair, missing cocktail parties; but that is not the case. Everyone has a different capacity, so we all have to begin step by step; that is important. But discipline is very important and one should begin with simple, doable, manageable discipline as this really helps, especially for those who have mental disorder situations

V: What is the spiritual significance of making a pilgrimage? What do you think of Mt. Kailashand its significance?

I was told that Mt. Kailash is associated with Chakrasamvara, one of the most important deities in tantric Buddhism. Pilgrimage has lots of benefits; for instance, when we go to Lumbini, it is supposed to remind us that an ordinary being called Siddhartha was born there. Then, when we go to Magadha, and Bodhgaya, we are supposed to be reminded that this ordinary person has become an extraordinary person. When we go to Varanasi, we are reminded that he taught there. Then, when we go to Kushinagar, we are supposed to be reminded that he went to the parinirvana. So likewise, any kind of pilgrimage such as the pilgrimage to the stupa here is supposed to remind us of awareness, compassion, the hero and the examples of compassion and kindness that are Buddhas and the bodhisattvas.

he-twoV: You have chosen to use movies to communicate to an audience, so could you explain: why movies? Would that be your way of teaching dharma - one of the many methods of expressing the dharma?

DJKR: I’m trying to practice movie making skills because, who knows? This may never happen, but I have this sort of dream to make the life of Buddha; and for that I need to know the technique.It’s a bit of an expensive way of learning, but probably it’s the best way. I don’t want to claim any messages

V: What is the essence, the actual point, of the Buddha’s teaching? What makes you a Buddhist?

DJKR: Generally, if you surrender to the Buddha, dharma and sangha, but more specifically, if you can accept the truths that are taught by the Buddha, then when I say accept - you accept not blindly but critically

Vairochana

Vairochana

Hi! I am Pasang, your editor-in-chief and publisher of Vairochana. The Vairochana newsletter is created on a vision to galvanize a sense of community in the Boudha region of Kathmandu.