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Buddhadharma : Fall 2010
55 fall 2 01 0 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly anne Klein: Exactly. dzogchen PonloP: I work with a lot of students in America and I agree with Anne and Larry that there need to be progressive stages of training in the view of meditation, bringing it to one’s experience, and then manifesting that in one’s action. I would say, though, that the students generally are doing pretty well. Of course, the path is a path. There is a quotation from Maitreya’s teaching that the path at the beginning is mostly impure with lots of mistakes; in the middle, the path is half and half; toward the end, it is more pure and perfect. That’s what everybody goes through. Even in one sitting session. We start out very challenged, in the middle we calm down a little bit, and toward the end when we have to leave for work, we actually start to enjoy it. [Laughter] Buddhadharma: Why can’t we just reverse the order, Rinpoche? dzogchen PonloP: I was actually hoping we could create a machine to do that [laughter]. But it seems that progressive training in the three yanas is how it has always been done. And I think in all of our sanghas we have been trying to do that. larry mermelstein: We are part of a very big, grand experi ment of bringing an enormous cultural infusion of incred ible wisdom that has come to the West from Tibet. We have rapid communications and the internet connects us across the globe, but the rate of transmission of the dharma has a kind of natural rate. We are very busy taking advantage of how much has been provided by teachers coming to the West, and we’re proceeding slowly from some aerial perspective. Or perhaps we’re moving quite quickly. Only future generations will be able to judge how we’ve done. It’s hard for us to see that since we are in the middle of the experiment. Overall, though, the students seem to be finding the teachings very useful and rel evant and are connecting with them slowly but surely. Also, gradually, we’re beginning to understand the view better and getting a better feel for the practice, and we’re finding a way to mix them. Buddhadharma: I have at times suffered from the syndrome of trying to be a cognitive superstar in working with these practices, rather than having a relationship with them that engaged my whole body and mind, a more intuitive kind of knowing. anne Klein: Rinpoche said it all when he said a path is a path. And part of the path for many of us may be transcending the cognitive superstar syndrome. Because we’re so used to cog nitive learning; we feel that if we can just get it intellectually, we’ll have it. On one of the very first visits that His Holiness the Dalai Lama made, he came to the University of Virginia and was sitting in Jeffrey Hopkins’ basement, which had been made into a temple. He sat on the floor. There were only about fifty people there, and he said that if you’ve been practicing for about five years and instead of getting angry ten times a day you only get angry seven or eight times a day, you should really understand that you’ve made progress. I often recall that. It’s a very compassionate teaching. It helps people to understand the extent of the path—what a big job it is even to reduce your anger by 20 percent. Too often we idealize things. We suddenly feel we’ve changed radically and then are devastated when we see the old habits creep in again, as of course they will. The path is a path. It unfolds and it’s important to savor and appreciate that what may seem like a small thing is actually quite an important achievement. dzogchen PonloP rinPoche Patience is very important, espe cially in this time when instant gratification is expected. People think they must achieve something right away, and that becomes an obstacle. Buddhadharma: Since realization is selfexisting, it is avail able on the spot. Yet the path is so very long. How do you reconcile that? dzogchen PonloP: By not trying to reconcile that. [Laughter] Buddhadharma: That’s a profound answer. Thank you. dzogchen PonloP: You posed a good question, and I should have a good answer, but I don’t. I’m sorry. [Laughter] Buddhadharma: I thought not reconciling the instantaneous path and the long, gradual path was the answer. dzogchen PonloP: No. I retract that answer. Buddhadharma: Shall we try again? dzogchen PonloP: It is true that the Vajrayana teaches about sudden awakening, but all of those teachings are based on the idea that our mind is primordially awake, already awake. So, we discover that. That’s very different from instant gratification. anne Klein: As I contemplate the dichotomy of all the chal lenges we have that can obstruct us, and the fact that in terms of treading the path we’re probably doing pretty well and are very well served, I am reminded of something I just read from Longchenpa: the fact of primordial buddhanature does not contradict the fact that there’s much to purify. larry mermelstein: Trungpa Rinpoche said, “I have achieved the bhumi of patience due to the kindness of my students.” dzogchen PonloP: Wonderful! anne Klein: Another of the challenges is that we’re householders, One of the challenges is that we’re householders and there are constraints on the amount of time we have to practice. Will a few short, intense retreats add up to what people were able to do in Tibet? That’s a huge question. —Anne Klein