On request of The Mirror, some SMS-instructors would like to share with you some thoughts and reflections regarding newcomers and existing members of the Community, after the passing of our beloved Master.
Firstly, regarding newcomers to the Community, it has been a difficult time for everyone, including the International Gakyil, to offer a clear way forward for those new to the Community, especially to those who have not yet received transmission from the Master. Still, Rinpoche gave specific advice on this topic in a talk entitled ‘On Working with Newcomers’ which was published by Shang Shung Edizioni in 1994. In this article, Rinpoche covers many points that still apply today in our present situation:
“When those who have been following the teachings for a number of years practice together collectively and new people who haven’t received transmission participate, many of the old practitioners often get worried. I have received letters from several different places on this topic. When something like this happens, how should the practitioners who have been following for a longer period of time behave? What should they do? There are two ways of responding to this situation because there are two different types of new people involved.
Firstly, there are those who are seriously interested in the teaching but who may not yet have had the possibility of receiving transmission from the Master. In the case of this type of person, it is not particularly important that they haven’t yet received transmission, because their participation and interest are deep. A person with a profound interest of this kind, even though they haven’t received transmission today, will receive it tomorrow. They will always find a possibility of meeting the Master and receiving the transmission. Those who seek will find!
So one should certainly not reject this type of person who wants to participate and is genuinely interested, and whenever it is possible, when one practices together with them, one should help them to participate in such a way that they can learn something, giving them whatever advice may be necessary so that they can understand what is happening.
Then there’s another type of person who is not sincerely interested in following the teaching, in doing practice, or in having realization through this path. Rather what this type of person has is a kind of curiosity, perhaps just wanting to find out what is going on, and what this teaching consists of. If we conclude that a person only has this kind of curiosity, we are justified in asking that person not to participate.”
The full article regarding these points can be found in The Mirror, Issue 22.
Then regarding the existing membership of the International Dzogchen Community, the figures in 2020 show that the great majority of the members have remained firmly committed to the values that Rinpoche transmitted as being inherent to the Dzogchen Community. What are these values?
Firstly, there is the value of ‘Sangha’ – our closely knit Dzogchen Community – and the support it provides to individuals in their practice as well as via social interaction. We may still be in the middle of a global Covid pandemic, and it is true that the ability to meet other practitioners face to face has been greatly diminished, yet the variety of online media platforms such as webcasts, skype, zoom and various apps (such as the Sangha App) have more than compensated for any lack of more traditional tools for communication and support. As a result of the national lockdowns, a shift has taken place from local, onsite events to international online events, which have the ability to attract a much wider audience. Nor is there the need for speakers or instructors to fly around the world since they are able to fulfil their commitments from their own homes. This is good for allowing wider audiences to participate in a greater range of otherwise maybe inaccessible activities and it is also good for the environment and for saving time and reducing travel costs. Being aware of the value of Sangha, manifests in these constant and continuous online activities that have taken place intensively since the beginning of this year: activities that are offered with devotion by different instructors, either with the great support of the webcast-team, or by zoom. This is the virtual internet-Mandala of our community that gives us a feeling of togetherness, even if we experience difficult times and are far from each other. However, life online does not compensate for the warmth of human contact and let’s hope that face-to-face encounters will gradually return in the next few months. Supporting each other through good times and bad … this is the value of Sangha.
Another value transmitted by Rinpoche is the principle of self-responsibility and self-reliance. Rinpoches’s advice lives on in our hearts, yet now we each need to find our own ground and gaze at our own face in the mirror and to embody his transmission. With self-responsibility and self-reliance as a key, we need to dedicate ourselves to practice, integrating the knowledge of the primordial state into our daily life, being present and doing our best to integrate this knowledge. Being aware that the Master is within us, there is no need to look outside for the Master: his blessing is always with us, and ultimately it is futile to search outside for realization. We have already received the essence of all teachings and we’ve also received so many other practices for different circumstances, now is the time to rely on our own potentiality. The large participation in virtual-meetings shows that this really is happening. Knowing that fundamentally everything is impermanent and subject to change, we can feel empowered by our good fortune in that we share in the commonality of our experience and knowledge of the Dzogchen teachings as transmitted by our Teacher. In this sense, at least we are all in the same boat together, to use Rinpoche’s words, until we all reach the other shore: total realisation.
‘Working with circumstance’ is another piece of precious advice that Rinpoche gave to us all. This means not getting stuck in one type of mode or approach. We are witnessing and living through such a time of transmutation as the Dzogchen tradition finds itself in new cultural circumstances. Path-finding in times of change can be daunting as what lies ahead is not yet clear … but this also represents an opportunity to let go of future expectations and all personal conditioning from the past and to be open to what the present moment is offering. Perhaps at present, we can say that we are in living through a period of change, a time of creative chaos, the Dzogchen Community too is in a state of flux … but nothing ever remains the same in life although we might wish to hold onto a false sense of security … and such a time can also be rich with potentiality. What always remains the same in the midst of confusion and change is the strength of the transmission and the immutability of our inherent instant presence: our nature of mind. Working with circumstances means to be aware of this all-pervading state, to be beyond hope and fear, and to live in the equanimity of bodhichitta.
The ‘principle of generosity’ is another value that characterises the way by which Rinpoche helped to guide and orientate the direction of the international Dzogchen Community. Rinpoche embodied this principle entirely in his own person: he worked tirelessly for the benefit of others throughout his life, often at the expense of his own wellbeing. By always showing kindness to others, even if at times this was through wrathful means, and so he provided a perfect example for us to follow. Equanimity, loving kindness, compassion and joy were constantly apparent in his presence, words and behaviour. Now we need to find all these qualities within ourselves and to embody the spirit of generosity by helping to support the membership so the life of the Sangha can continue. It is also natural that such great kindness elicits a sense of immense gratitude and a sense of responsibility in those individuals who were blessed by His Being: that is, to fulfil his vision in a pure way and continue to maintain the Dzogchen Community as the vehicle for the future transmission of the Dzogchen teachings, which was the very essence of his life’s work. In Rinpoche’s own words:
“All teachings that are related to a precise transmission have their origin. This origin comes from one who has given this teaching and who became totally realized through it, after which this method is handed down and transmitted. Thus if we seriously follow a method such as this, we know that a teaching has its principle, its lineage and its transmission without interruption. This is what real teaching means. It is something really serious. When we speak of a teaching that we follow sincerely and seriously, it is this type of teaching, not just any path or type of his philosophy that someone has invented.
Certainly one can have fun, experimenting with anything in life. But if we are going to dedicate our lives, our precious time, to a teaching, it’s much better to understand well what the origins of that teaching are, what it’s value is, and in what way can one have realization through it, and so on… The basis of the teaching is transmission and if one understands this well, one protects the transmission, maintains the transmission, and those who are interested in receiving the transmission can prepare to do so. So one can work in this way…” (Ibid)
Compiled by Julia Lawless with the kind help of Gabriella Schneider, Stoffelina Verdonk, Elias Capriles & Lukas Chmelik