29 Mar

A Spiritual Test

The joy of being a guru is when he or she gives a test, the students or disciples pass it, it doesn’t matter if they pass it with distinction or not, the most important is to at least see some positive progress and improvement. A guru’s job is to guide, especially gurus like us, we have a very heavy responsibility to guide using our skills, experience and trainings. If we are unable to guide, if there is no one following our guidance, that means we have no job. A guru who has no job here would be better off looking for a job elsewhere. If you really want to be a genuine student or disciple, you have to make an effort to improve. Therefore whenever I see improvement, genuine improvement and not superficial improvement, in my students and disciples, the joy I have is beyond description. It really makes my day.

Of course if I am not a responsible guru, I wouldn’t care how my students and disciples or even friends live their life. Anyway if they are helpful to me whether financially or work wise, I will be comfortable, living nicely, being supported in such a great way that I don’t even have to work, I become like a leech living on someone and I am the only person benefiting from this “devotional” relationship. To me, this is nonsense. I don’t think and I hope I am not that kind of gurus. It has been my personal choice to be a guru, a spiritual friend or guide, for aeons, if you want me to say something like this, although it doesn’t make any sense in this modern age. “Guru” is no longer respected as a “guru” because there are many gurus who are not functioning as gurus, or maybe they have no chance to function as gurus, these gurus have to really please the students and disciples because without their material support, gurus cannot survive in this world. Some people who may not have the qualification of a spiritual guide are becoming very famous “gurus” because of their ability to communicate in the material world, I hope they are leading their students and followers in the right direction, otherwise it’s a very strong negative karma to accumulate. Like what my son, Khamtrul Rinpoche, always say, these days people are practising “disciple devotion” not “guru devotion”, gurus have to be devoted to disciples or students, otherwise gurus will have no students and have no job. This is a very pathetic situation.

I give you a very interesting example. If we put some very nice wisdom words on our Facebook, the liking is very few, maybe people just look and leave, but if we put some very controversial news or some information with masala, then many people will press “like”. One of my very famous celebrity friends in the west told me whenever she puts some silly information such as “I am very hungry”, millions of her fans will like that sentence and she herself doesn’t understand why. She was experimenting on different messages and she found out that the silly ones attract most attention. So the only thing I can say is this world is really becoming quite shallow and crazy. We have to be careful, this is where the Mara and afflictive emotions love us to be trapped in – shallow, lazy, crazy, without wisdom, always angry, always crying, always upset.

Now back to the “guru” business. I just finished meeting my long time disciple and had very nice time chit chatting about different things. Many of my friends and students or my fans know about the story of my beloved German Senge. We were talking about living in India, Himalayas, Ladakh, Nepal and different remote places. I asked him how did he like or dislike the dirty parts of India. He said that everytime he comes to India, he enjoys so much, the food is great, dirt is not a problem. He finds a lot of fun going to the market, have a cup of tea in the middle of very busy and rundown street and he also enjoys talking with people on the street. We Indians have a unique way of speaking English and we invent new words that cannot be found in any English dictionary. Sengela is always sharing with me the new English pronunciations and new Hinglish he has learned from Indians. I asked him about his life back home in Germany. He said that the slope going to his house is quite steep and his new Italian car does not have enough power to move up the slope, so everytime when he is about to reach home, he would call his daughter Tara to come down the slope to help him push the car. He laughs about these. As I put him in charge of the restructuring work at Hemis Museum in freezing Ladakh, he was just there, it was snowing and temperature was minus 20 degree. I asked him whether he suffered in Ladakh or not. He said, “No, Yishin Norbu, I am enjoying myself so much. Food was fantastic. Even though it was a little cold, the scenery was beautiful. Sometimes manager of Hemis Monastery would come with some Yak cheese and we would eat Tsampa together. I had brought bars of chocolate from Germany to give myself a treat now and then, but I had to force myself to eat one bar of chocolate because there was no need to rely on German chocolate for a treat, being in Ladakh was a treat! Thank you, Yishin Norbu for sending me to Ladakh to work on the museum.” Actually, it was the first time I heard about “Yak cheese”, I have never heard that Yak has cheese, haha!

This is the highlight of my life. I feel that my job as a guru is well done. Sengela first met me when we were both very young, he was in fact one or two years older than me. For more than 25 years, I have been trying my best to work on him. Now, I really feel I have done a good job. I am also very happy that Zangmola is following this track, although she has been my student for only a few years. Age wise, she is also older than me. Why I am bringing up the subject of “age” is because when I was having a conversation with my personal assistant Lobsang, we were talking about an incident years ago when someone argued with him that Naropa could not be born in 1016 because if Naropa was born in 1016, Marpa could not be his disciple, since Marpa was supposed to be born in 1012, meaning that Marpa was older than Naropa therefore he could not be Naropa’s disciple. The logic that a guru cannot be younger than his or her disciples is quite interesting, maybe it works these days in schools because teachers have to study years and then have to be graduated from universities before they could teach small children in schools. Spiritual enlightenment or understanding cannot be measured by the number of years you have been engaging in formal practice and it is not about how long you have been a practitioner or how much you have practice, it is about how much you have transformed yourself and your mind towards positive direction. Anyway, this “age” issue reminded me of this conversation that we had a few days ago.

I am so used to hearing people complain about this and that, about this person and that person, about their life, especially whenever they come to my motherland India, they always complain about India and Indians. This really gets on my nerves. They would say, “Delhi is so filthy, India is so dirty, pollution is killing my health. Indians are so bad, they are so dark, so dirty. They are so poor. They are so rude.” Nothing good about India, yet they are choosing me as their guru, I am Indian, don’t they understand? Buddha was Indian too. Naropa was Indian. Tilopa was Indian. Not only they complain about India, they look down on India and Indians. Back home, they also complain about their partners, their countries, their private jets, their cars, their shoes. Wow! I feel very sorry for them, because they must be so unhappy and so distressed. No wonder when I went to Oxford a couple of weeks ago, I was told that depression is now a big issue in the west or rather in the modern world.

I met a friend recently who has been a very generous supporter of our lineage and especially for me. He was saying that everytime he goes into a temple, he feels so happy. So he has to build a temple next to his big house, otherwise he cannot find happiness and peace, he would be lost and become depressed, he is not able to sleep if temple is not there. Some may say that he is very spiritual, I think that this is not right. This is same as relying on going to disco, relying on drinking alcohol, relying on gossiping with friends, in order to make yourself happy, to make you have some self worth. Instead of disco, this is a temple, but it’s the same. This means your spiritual strength is very weak.

We are all endowed with spirituality, this is why we are “living beings”, “be-ing” means we all have the quality of spirituality, otherwise we should be “living having” or “living wanting” if we are only have the material quality. Gurus (by this I mean genuine and sincere gurus who have the motivation to help without conditions) are there to show the way to rediscover your own primordial treasure of spirituality. Some have been able to reveal their own treasures, and this is like finding a misplaced or hidden gift. We all have this gift, but we don’t realise it, so day and night we make ourselves crazy by looking outside for this gift. This gift is within us, we are born with it. I would tell my friend who has now built a temple next to his huge house that it’s much cheaper to build the temple in his mind or his heart, with some joyful effort and some diligence, this temple will be built very nicely. The other way of looking at this is that this temple of joy and happiness is already in your heart, covered by all the nonsense, covered by the bush, the trees and the obscurations, so that you will not find it. In the modern way of saying, don’t go to the disco outside, find the disco in your heart, firstly it’s safer and secondly it’s free of charge.

Look at Sengela and look at Zangmola, they can enjoy themselves wherever they are, whoever they spend their time with. They enjoy dusty air and dirty place and they also enjoy 5 star luxurious comfort. They enjoy wherever they are, whoever they are with. Because they are always positive, they are happy, and therefore they are able to make others happy and to help others. They raise themselves above all the negative projections and by rediscovering the primordial gift, they now have the special means to enjoy themselves wherever they live and whoever they are with. So when they say they are ready to help the lineage, they are ready to help me, I fully accept their offering because they are truly ready. They will not give me headaches afterwards, for sure! I should also say that as a master I feel very proud of them. It somehow tells me that I have done a good job. I am not saying that they have become Buddha and do not make mistakes, they will continue to make mistakes because they are human beings living in samsara. But they will have more chance to improve because of the openness and more space to receive the blessings or instructions.

It can never be worse than seeing my own students not improving and complaining. Mostly they are complaining about nonsense things caused by their own arrogance and their lack of understanding. It is not because they are not smart, but because their big fat overweight ego refuses to open to let them open themselves up. Complaining is mainly due to not having any sense of tolerance. They want everyone to be in their box, sometimes they want me to be in their box too. They obviously can’t have a sense of tolerance because they have no sense of picking up the positive part of people and things around them. That is the area that they need to work very hard to improve on.

Some of my friends and students are suffering from spiritual indigestion. They are so knowledgeable that they cannot listen to anyone, they cannot accept anyone. Everything makes them upset. Even if they do very good formal practice such as finishing 20 sets of Ngondro, years of retreat, years of mantra recitation, if this kind of hard labouring practice is not improving their tolerance, understanding and instead is increasing their ego and misunderstanding, this is what I call spiritual indigestion. You must always check yourself, have you become better or worse after your ngondro practice, after your retreat and after your mantra recitation? You can act superficially that you are better, but when the real test comes, you will fail, because spiritual practice has not transformed your mind. But the good thing is if you are aware that you have failed, then as a genuine and good spiritual practitioner, you will pick yourself up and try again like a bulldozer. Afterwards, check again if you are doing better. If you are complaining less, increasingly seeing all the positive and negative circumstances, friends and enemies, likes and dislikes in a more positive way, especially developing this in your own mind, if you are genuinely becoming more tolerant and more understanding, this means you are improving, otherwise go and work on yourself again. The worst kind of so-called practitioners are those who never admit that they are off track. Everything they do and everyone they meet will not go on a positive direction, even if they start with a selfless motivation to help, it will go the difficult direction unless they bring the spirituality into their heart. Nothing works if they don’t change and improve. The history will keep repeating again and again, so one day they will go into depression and they will go into self denial, because after disliking everyone in this world, they only have they themselves left to dislike and complain about. People become crazy because of that. Spiritual indigestion can make you mad.

Whenever I give some work to do, this is a test too. Whether to go for the test again or not after one, two or three failures, it’s completely up to individual wish, whether they are really aiming for enlightenment or they are just looking for something else. Then very sorry, over at our particular “training school”, we as gurus only have one simple lecture to teach, that is to teach each of you how to rediscover your own gifted treasure. For some people it takes a very long time, for some others it may take such a short time that a few hours of conversation could bring the positive change in them. I guess it depends on the level of negative or positive karma or arrogance or ego.

We have to understand that no one in this world knows everything, we all coexist with everyone in this universe, we coexist with nature and the beings in the nature, we are not excluded. Stop blaming others for your unhappiness, no one can make you unhappy except yourself. Each of us has a hidden gift, go and rediscover that and live a happy life!