Paving the Way to Compassion: A Conversation with Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche

- through Francois Leclercq

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Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche. From shedrub.org

The true benefit of studying the teachings of the Buddha and the pronouncements of enlightened masters is being inspired to change the way we think, speak and behave, which will make us more civil, gentle and peaceful. When we carefully study the value of the meaning presented, it becomes evident that we can become free, each of us. — Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche

Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche is considered one of the greatest living masters of the Dzogchen or “Great Perfection” tradition of Vajrayana Buddhism – a gentle yet imposing figure whose warmth and presence easily fills any room or hall.

The eldest son of revered Dzogchen master Kyabje Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche and devoted practitioner Kunsang Dechen, Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche was born in Tibet in 1951. He was recognized as the seventh incarnation of the Drikung Kagyu lama Gar Drubchen, a Tibetan mahasiddha and emanation. by the XNUMXnd century Indian Buddhist philosopher Nagarjuna.

After the invasion of Tibet, Rinpoche spent his youth in India, studying for 11 years under the care of His Holiness the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa at Rumtek Monastery. He also studied and practiced under revered masters Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Dudjom Rinpoche, Khunu Lama Tenzin Gyaltsen, as well as his own father, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche.

In 1974, Rinpoche joined his parents in Kathmandu, where he helped them found Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling, a monastery on the outskirts of the city, a few steps from the benevolent gaze of the venerable Boudhanath Stupa. Rinpoche became abbot of Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling in 1976, at the age of just 25, and has since overseen the welfare and spiritual education of several hundred male and female monks.

Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche in 1963, aged 11, in Dalhousie, India. From shedrub.org

Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling, a shrine dedicated to the study and practice of Buddhadharma, lies at the heart of Rinpoche's growing mandala of dharmic activities. Among his many initiatives and projects, Rinpoche, now 72 years old, is the author of several books and founded a network of meditation centers around the world.

In 1997, Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche established the Rangjung Yeshe Institute within the Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling compound. The institute affiliated with Kathmandu University in 2002 to form the Center for Buddhist Studies. Today, the center offers a range of courses at different levels, including bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in Buddhist studies and Himalayan languages, with courses taught at the monastery's monastic college.

When Buddhadoor Global had the privilege of sitting down with Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche at Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling, he shared some of his thoughts on Buddhism in the 21st century, immediately emphasizing the fundamental importance of compassion as a fundamental aspect of Buddhist practice.

“All sentient beings have loving-kindness in their minds – we all have it, everyone has it; all sentient beings,” Rinpoche explained, smiling gently. “Generally speaking, Buddhist practice is based on kindness; Buddhist ethics are based on kindness. In general, in Buddhist practice we speak of Silas, samadhiet prajna (Skt: moral virtue, meditative awareness and spiritual wisdom). Sila, therefore means ethics. Ethics means not harming anyone. What does harm mean? The five negative actions: killing; flight; sexual misconduct; the use of alcohol or drugs that disrupt the mind; and lie. It's a natural law and we all know it! It's not even necessarily a uniquely Buddhist way of practicing; it is a natural and necessary thing.

“Each country may have its own laws or constitution that mention these points. But when people don't follow them. . . so that's why so many painful things were created: why do we need laws? Why do we need judges? Why do we need prisons? Why do we need armies, police and so many terrible weapons? Because we don't behave naturally and follow this natural law based on kindness.

Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche consults Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche in 1990. From shedrub.org

Rinpoche then detailed the emphasis on loving-kindness and compassion in the Mahayana tradition, particularly the cultivation of effortless love and unbiased love.

“Because all sentient beings are your own father and mother, and as such we must help and serve them. all sentient beings! " he's laughing. “Whether they hate you or love you, you must help them, serve them. You should never be angry, never hurt them. This can be very difficult, but it makes a lot of sense!

“Generally speaking, in the Mahayana, the two most important principles are, in Sanskrit: Karuna et sunyata,” he explained.

“Karuna ou mahakaruna means great compassion or love. But what do we mean by awesome? We must explain it clearly: major means, notably everybody– those who love you, those who hate you – and serve and help them have. It is extremely difficult but at the same time it is extremely important. And if you can do this, then profound realization will be easy to achieve!

“Therefore we say that the supreme method is benevolence and compassion, and that the supreme wisdom is Mahasunyata. These are the key! » Rinpoche smiles here, raising a signifying finger.

Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche inspects a rare please. Photo by Craig Lewis
Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche inspects a rare please. Photo by Craig Lewis

He then turned his attention to the conditions of the modern world: the ever-present danger that Buddhist teachings might be diluted, misunderstood, or even lost amid the capitalist and materialist obsessions of contemporary society, and the difficulty young people have today to connection with the Buddhadharma.

“Well, it depends a lot on us, you know, how we preserve and present the Buddhadharma and how we manage the now" observed Rinpoche, his voice taking on a more solemn tone. “But there is a danger, you are right. And it is also because there are many false teachers; it can become difficult for people to distinguish what the true teachings are.

Rinpoche briefly recalled some of the revered teachers on his own path. “I can say that whoever was born in Tibet, grew up in Tibet and studies in Tibet, his knowledge is very pure and very authentic and, I can say, unpolluted,” he emphasized emphatically. “They may not even know how to dial a phone number, but their knowledge is so deep, so high and so pure. . .”

Nevertheless, Rinpoche expressed his firm belief in the ability of younger generations to receive the teachings and practices of Mahayana and Vajrayana.

“Western students are very intelligent,” he said. “One of the reasons is their modern training. Their problem is science: the scientific mind can be good or bad. Because scientists, with their way of thinking. . . whatever their doubts, they like to ask questions and want to get a logical answer!

Rinpoche continued: “The majority of world religions say that there is a creator who created, whereas science says that this is completely false: there is no 'creator'. . . how do you know there is a creator? Who created the creator?

“In this respect, the scientific spirit is similar to the Tibetan Buddhist method of debate. While Buddhism is more analytical in the study of the mind, science is more interested in objects. So, thanks to this common perspective, science and Buddhism have become more and more friendly! he exclaimed, laughing.

Rinpoche recalled the teaching he had given in the main temple of Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling earlier the same day, during which he had emphasized the importance of combining Dharma study with practice, observing that the Practice without study cannot lead to realizing Buddhadharma, while in the same way, study without practice cannot lead to realizing Buddhadharma either.

“When many people look at Buddhism, what they see makes bids, performing rituals, etc., and they think it is Buddhism,” Rinpoche noted. "Yes, it is an aspect of Buddhism, but it is only the method. We often think that “I want to go practice somewhere” – perhaps to a temple or on a mountain, but this body is a retreat house and the mind is the retreatant. Train here.

“Your work is also a form of practice in your daily life,” he told me.

“I think (today's students) need to study the teachings really well to make sure they have no doubts. This way, if the road is clear, then it is easy to walk. If the path is not clear, very big problems can arise. Studying ensures that our path is clear and our practice is then walking.

photo of author

Francois Leclercq

François Leclercq is the founder of Buddhist News, a website which aims to disseminate information and practical advice on Buddhism and spirituality. François Leclercq was born and raised in Paris. He studied Buddhism at the University of Paris-Sorbonne, where he graduated in social sciences and psychology. After graduating, he devoted himself to his passion for Buddhism and traveled the world to study and learn about different practices. He notably visited Tibet, Nepal, Thailand, Japan and China.

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