Dagpo Rinpoche's pathway to happiness

By S.C. CHEAH, The Star (Malaysia), Jan 10, 2005

Petaling Jaya, Malaysia -- Dagpo Rinpoche's previous incarnations are said to include the main spiritual guide of the Indian sage Atisha, the great Serlingpa of Indonesia and the great 11th-century translator Marpa Lotsawa, one of the pioneers of the Kagyu School of Buddhism in Tibet, as well as several abbots.

There is so much anger and discord in the world today that many people have sought refuge in religion to seek inner happiness. In this respect, many Westerners have turned to Buddhism to achieve greater happiness.

According to Dagpo Rinpoche, who is regarded as one of the most exalted spiritual leaders in Tibetan Buddhism, many people in the developed countries have found Buddhism a practical religion that teaches one to become a more balanced person and, through the study of the dharma, draws out one?s inherent wisdom.

?In today?s modern society there are huge problems. Everyone wants happiness and to avoid suffering but we do not know how to achieve it,? said Rinpoche. ?Sometimes we try to do it by accumulating wealth or by harming and dominating others.

?There are those who think they can be happy by taking control over others and misleading them. They commit dishonest deeds. As a result they create problems for themselves. Buddhism can help pinpoint the source of our unhappiness.? Rinpoche, 72, gave a talk recently on Patience: The Antidote to Anger at his dharma centre, Kadam Tashi Choe Ling, in Petaling Jaya.

People have to learn to lead an ethical and principled life, he said. ?You must respect others as well as yourself. You must respect not only human life but also that of other beings. Ideally we should refrain from killing any form of life. Conflicts can be avoided through mutual respect and discussions,? he added.

Rinpoche is one of the few masters today who hold such a large number of transmission lineages of Lord Buddha?s teachings. His previous incarnations are said to include the main spiritual guide of the Indian sage Atisha, the great Serlingpa of Indonesia and the great 11th-century translator Marpa Lotsawa, one of the pioneers of the Kagyu School of Buddhism in Tibet. They also include several abbots of the Dagpo Shedrup Ling Monastery and Longdroel Lama Rinpoche, an important 18th-century meditation master and scholar. The 13th Dalai Lama recognised him as the reincarnation of Dagpo Lama Rinpoche Jampel Lhundrup.

In 1959 he followed the 14th Dalai Lama into exile in India and in 1960 left for France to work at a university. In 1978 he founded a Buddhist centre, Guepele Tchantchoup Ling (now known as Ganden Ling Institute), in Paris, France, where he has taught extensively. 

He often travels to Europe and South-East Asia to give talks on Buddhism at the invitation of individuals as well as Buddhist centres. He has found that there is a great demand for a better understanding of Buddhism in Europe and the United States. He taught Tibetan language in a French university for 25 years. One of his students Rosemary Patton is his English interpreter.

To a question on whether reciting the tongue-twisting Tibetan Buddhist mantras and practising the rituals were practical in today?s modern society, he said it was very much up to the individual.

?If performing the ceremonies and rituals allows people to improve themselves and achieve happiness, then it serves a purpose. One should not hold ceremonies for the sake of ceremonies.?

He said many people who practised Tibetan Buddhism recited the liturgies in their own languages but some French people find that the prayers in French reminds them of their former house of worship and since they have changed their religion they preferred to recite in Tibetan. 

On rebirth, Rinpoche said that for one to be reborn a human being was indeed ?very precious and a very rare thing? as compared to being reborn into the lower realm such as an animal or an insect. ?Human beings have virtually unlimited potential of finding solutions to problems. Hence we have a far better capacity to realise happiness than animals.?

However, leading a human life is not easy as we still face suffering. To escape from this endless cycle of rebirth, it is important for us to find the root of our sufferings, he said. The root cause is our ?ego? or a ?very wrong view of ourselves? and in order for us to overcome it we have to understand ?selflessness? or the way the self actually exists.

?Once you have understood selflessness, you destroy ignorance and achieve enlightenment. As a result you no longer create karma (causes) for rebirth.?

So why are monks ? who are supposedly ?wise and pure? ? reborn? Why is it that a high priest can even demolish his own head temple? 

In replying to my questions, Rinpoche said that not all monks have achieved a true sense of selflessness. ?They may have studied (Buddhism) to a certain degree but still do not have a direct realisation of selflessness and as long as you do not have it, you are not free from the cycle of rebirth,? he said, adding that one who has achieved selflessness need not be a monk but he or she can be a layperson.

?Such people can choose to be reborn as a monk, a layperson or even as an animal to be helpful to others,? said Rinpoche with a smile. 

To overcome anger, Lord Buddha gave as ?antidotes? three forms of patience: Firstly, being patient in relation to the harm that others inflict upon you by understanding the origins of the harm. Secondly, patient acceptance of adversity as the result of karma, by looking at the brighter side; for as Rinpoche explained, every time you face a problem you are experiencing the result of bad karma which means there is one less to get rid of. Furthermore, we must learn not to exaggerate our difficulties. Thirdly, having the patience to persevere and surmount difficulties that arise in spiritual endeavour ? only then can we become stronger.

Rinpoche said: ?If we fight the suffering, it might only make things worse for us. Lord Jey Tsongkhapa said that if we cultivate patience, our joy will never decline and, in this lifetime, we will constantly be happy. Also, we will be able to close the door to lower rebirth in the next life.? 

As for the disadvantages of not practising patience, Rinpoche said that anger destroys our virtues. An instance of anger towards a superior being (such as a bodhisattva) can destroy aeons of merit that we have generated in the past through the practice of generosity and patience. And we do not know which person is a boddhisattva as he does not wear a ?nametag?.

So Rinpoche explained that a harmful person is actually ?un-free? in the sense that he is controlled by his mind and in turn his mind is controlled by his disturbing mental factors. ?So he is like a slave to a slave!? That is why it is incorrect to feel anger towards a person who has harmed us.