Jigme Rinpoche’s Summer Course
Giving Meaning to Our Existence
“Without anyone forcing them, the bodhisattvas considered their existence and made a decision: to understand the Buddha’s instructions. They saw something important there. They oriented themselves, step by step, in this direction. Which, in the end, gave true meaning to their human existence.” This could sum up the five days of Jigme Rinpoche’s teaching. He led us on the path of the bodhisattvas, these practitioners who combine discernment and compassion, thus accomplishing benefit for themselves and others.
He began with the refuge: the goal, which is the Buddha, the teaching known as the Dharma and the guides, the sangha. Concerning the Dharma, he explained:
“We must reflect on the protection of the Dharma; where does the refuge lead us? What are its benefits? Why apply it? Etc. First, we must feel a simple interest for the teachings, but, through reflection, the meaning will become clearer and ever more present within us. Progressively, we put the teaching into practice. First, we hear the information and then, step by step, we integrate it. In this way, we are able to put it into action. This is what the protection of the Dharma means: to no longer generate things that will result in unhappiness.”
“Putting the teaching into action is not an obligation. It happens based on awareness of the benefits that the Dharma can bring us. It is not a series of rules to apply. It is about integrating and applying the Dharma as much as we can within the limits of our own capacity. In order to follow the Dharma, we must look at our own lives. We cannot apply it completely, but we can become more familiar with it; we can observe our states of mind to develop a lucid understanding of how they function.”
Next, he invites us to contemplate a process which begins with the practice of generosity. Generosity allows to both release the harness of grasping that constrains us and to concretely help others. Then, he explains the necessity of adopting just conduct; this is connected to the awareness of our disturbed states of mind and the means to be free from them. Conduct is just in the sense that it gives us a great deal of freedom. He then showed how, through meditation, we can develop the mind’s clarity.
But the perspective is vast! “It is not a question of modifying something, but of looking at our functioning in order to progressively establish ourselves in a non-fabricated state of mind.” Through meditation, we cultivate discernment that goes beyond our habitual way of thinking. Combining these three—generosity, ethics, and meditation—generates the causes for liberation and enlightenment. But in order to continue to the end of the path, effort and patience are also necessary. We must invest energy for the process to work, and we must go beyond the difficulties.
For the practice of these qualities to be fruitful, we must come back to ourselves again and again. Whatever the circumstances we encounter, we must, as much as possible, become aware of our states of mind from moment to moment. Then, we are able to recognize the afflictions that arise in our minds and what motivates them. Through this introspection, the mind becomes clear. Each circumstance thus becomes a mirror that reveals our own functioning to us. “A bodhisattva uses even negative circumstances as a means to develop enlightened mind,” specifies Jigme Rinpoche.
First, we must know the path, the instructions, and then we must reflect on it. As this illuminates our existence, we wish to put it into action. Then come the obstacles! We have difficulty applying the teachings because we are too attached to what we experience. We have difficulty letting go of our old habits. Rinpoche’s advice is to come back to the truth of our situation. If we become aware of impermanence (again) and consider causality, acts and their consequences with their results of wellbeing or unhappiness (again), then “another decision can take place.”
But we all know, if we approach the path of the bodhisattvas like a system, like a structure, like a manual or a recipe, it cannot work. Rinpoche reminds us again and again that it is a natural process, spontaneous even. It is a question of bringing together the conditions and, once we have understood the meaning, to put them into action. “It is through walking the path of the bodhisattva that we become a bodhisattva.”
Puntso, Head of Dhagpo’s Program