Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A Broad and Open Mind is the Training Ground, by Shang Rinpoche


Shang Longrik Gyatso Rinpoche Blog ImageIn mid-September, I had a few guests who had arranged their visit last Chinese New Year. Two were famous psychologists, another guest was a pastor and the last two didn’t belong to any particular belief system. After some customary greetings, the psychologist from the UK asked me my views on Jungian philosophy to which I replied that I very much admire someone who dedicated the bulk of his life as a serious experiment for the sake of his ideals. Furthermore, based on his own inner experiences--especially his dreams and all the feelings produced by the illusory play of the unconscious--he added some of his original ideas, applying both scientific and traditional techniques in his attempt to create his own school of doctrines. I truly respect this kind of spirit and determination. As for the validity of his doctrines, I believe no one can make an appropriate judgment. However, I normally keep to myself opinions regarding the discordance between Carl Jung and his teacher Sigmund Freud. On one occasion, I made a clear point to a Freudian follower that only if Freud and his student Jung had studied the Consciousness-Only school of Buddhism, then they wouldn’t have proposed the doctrine of id, ego and superego. Likewise, if Jung had devoted himself to studying the Buddhist sutras, he wouldn’t have needed to spend too much time researching the Quanzhen sect (of Taoism) utilizing divination methods and numerology ideas as supplementary tools.

According to their philosophy, regardless of the individual or collective unconscious, whatever the psychological inclination, it all boils down to using an academic approach in order to achieve a psychological equilibrium and an all-round positive character. Essentially, I respect the efforts of these scholars and experts. At the same time, from a spiritual practitioner’s perspective, it’s important to maintain an open and objective standpoint and respect any school of thought, be it academic or religious. For more than a decade, I have also greatly admired the Rime movement advocated by the great Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. In fact, no one can possibly impose any doctrine or ideology on any individual. I have also tried to promote this non-sectarian movement through a very selfless, open, tolerant attitude in interacting with other religions and sects, listening and learning from each other. Maintaining this kind of attitude has helped me to further open my mind, broaden my horizon and humble my behavior because there is always someone to look up to.

The saying “a noble person is not just a mere utensil” points to the need to learn as many skills as one can, to adapt to whatever circumstances arise, to not be bound by convention. If you are overly attached to any one idea, it means that you haven’t truly mastered what you’ve learned and you lack conviction--that’s the only reason you would fear being swayed or influenced. That is definitely not the right attitude for studying. I also very much admire Guan Zhong’s talents, but he still fell short of the eminence of Yao and Shun--if only he could have been more staunch and resolute. In the pursuit of truth, one just has to abide by the adage “learn as much as possible and yet reserve judgement; your words should also reflect this humble and cautious attitude” which means people should adhere to the idea of learning from everyone they encounter, keeping this open attitude, humbly listen and observe. If you feel there is something incorrect or negative in the other person’s logic, you have to be impartially observant, temporarily put aside the problematic issue and don’t make any subjective judgments. Practitioners need to take care to avoid frivolous speech, double talk and harsh words. This is also a way to avoid making enemies. So when people ask whether I belong to Theravada, Mahayana or Vajrayana tradition, my response is that Buddhism originally had no divisions, no better or worse; these dualistic notions had been added by people in later generations. There is no such thing as superior or lesser teachings, no differentiation or attachment. Free and unimpeded is the Mahayana doctrine. Self-congratulatory talk destroys one’s merits and complacency eliminates any possibility of enlightenment. The purpose of practice is to liberate the mind from any attachment and afflictions. The notion of sect divisions is an attachment. What’s the point of talking about liberation when you’re building walls with a disturbed mind? That is far from being on the path of liberation. So, in this era of individualism populated by stubborn sentient beings, how can we spread the Buddhadharma so that all can naturally, imperceptibly adopt, internalise and practice authentic teachings completely unhindered and without any attachment to form. Such is the way of the supreme Dharma

This is I, Shang Longrik Gyatso, sharing a few recollections from the conversations I had with some modern scholars regarding interpretations of the mind’s workings.

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