A Teaching within a Teaching – The April teaching with Jigme Rinpoche
To remain ourselves, to encounter just who we are and to understand our situation, is the essence of Jigme Rinpoche’s instructions during the April teaching. The ideas of impermanence, of causality, and of uneasiness arose, but so too the conditions to assemble in order to free oneself from illusion and confusion. Nevertheless, if one takes the time to reflect on Rinpoche’s teachings, one always discovers a subtext, like a teaching within a teaching. Over the course of the four days, we were able to (re) discover once more, as if there was nothing to it, the 1001 tips to implement the instructions received.
The first condition for the practice is quite obvious: one needs to be interested in the Buddha’s teaching and wish to experience it on the inside. Of course at first, when we hear the Dharma, we can only understand it from where we are, with all that we know. Our ready knowledge is already helpful in carrying out our lives, personal or professional, but little by little, we realize that it generates many contradictions regarding the Buddha’s teaching. The danger in this is that we risk getting lost in the maze of our opinions and our biases while the aim is to get to the essential points: to discover by ourselves the heart of the instructions.
Another way to say this is that when we address the actual themes of the Dharma such as causality, impermanence, clarity etc., the problem is that we do not really know what it is talking about (even if we think we understand). We have to take the time going back over it again in order to digest it. Learning it consists of knowing how to learn the teaching, to know how and why things are said in such and such a manner. The Dharma was designed to free one from suffering: we need the information in order to see that and we will need to analyze it to understand what it means to say. We cannot do it after hearing it just once or at the first reflection.
The lack of understanding comes from a lack of habit ; integrating the teaching is not so obvious.
Concretely, we have to keep the information we’ve received in mind and think about it. The main idea of Buddha’s message touches that which beings live: suffering and its causes, liberation and the conditions of liberation. So we have to find out what is favorable for ourselves and for others and remember that, to be able to then put it into practice.
We have seen today, we have so much information that we no longer know how to apply it, we have amassed so many ideas that we no longer know what is beneficial and what is not. Studying the Dharma is necessary. Since we tend to forget what we hear, we need to learn the terms and the references that give direction as to what is to be adhered to and what ought to be abandoned. By keeping these references in mind, we will be able to reflect and then determine by ourselves if they are pertinent or not. Then we can think about how to apply them according to our capacities. It is a progressive path.
Study and reflection guides us to an understanding that begins to arise from the inside. Never-the-less, it is only through meditation that the obvious conclusions can be established. It is meditation that makes it so that we feel the meaning of the study differently. This is the whole reason for Buddha’s words : give the information which the meaning will be discovered through meditative practice; that is where understanding begins. How does that happen? When we listen to instructions, they leave and imprint in our mind, and even more so if the listening is followed by reflection. It is on this basis that the meditation makes for the emergence of an actual understanding of what has been heard and contemplated.
The Dharma helps us orient our life in an appropriate direction, in a way that gathers the conditions for realizing enlightenment. It is meditation that stops us from taking the wrong path. Meditation therefore brings another value to our mind.
The material of our spiritual (in)quest is daily life, the situations that we face every day. It is about reflecting our daily experiences back to the words of Buddha. When something happens, we become aware of our discomfort and of our reaction of just what is unpleasant. We then analyze what generated our reaction from the point of view of the instructions we have studied and contemplated. That will clarify our experience of daily life in another way.
The idea is not to change, but to recognize what comes up in us when we encounter difficulties. When emotions and the concepts arise, let’s look at them! This way of doing things will allow us to understand and apprehend the message of the Buddha starting from our experience. It is understanding that arises from Dharma study which helps us face situations in a progressive and natural way, on the basis of inner understanding.
We need time. This way of taking care of ourselves and situations takes place over time, it builds progressively. Before, results did not have to come as quickly as today. The idea is not to commit rapidly, but to put a natural process in place. The Dharma explains how to know situations and how to discover responses to these situations. The solutions depend on our choices; they are neither imposed nor obligatory. They depend on our capacities, or what we can apply.
One thing is certain, if we put the profound instructions transmitted by the Buddha to work, progressively our aim changes, the meaning that we give things evolves. The vision that we have of ourselves naturally changes. When we are a child, toys are important to us. But once we are grown, they lose their value and importance. In the same way, when we grow due to the multiple aspects of the practice, we progressively learn to go straight to the essential aspect.
(This chronical has been woven with the threads of advice given by Rinpoché throughout the four days of his teaching. I took the liberty to reorganize them and link them into a coherent text.)
Puntso, program director for Dhagpo