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Common and Uncommon Sense in Buddhism

Dr. Any Lowe kindly sent me this informative summary of Phakchok Rinpoche’s teaching at the Siam Society on December 13, 7.30-9 pm.

There were about 50 people who came to hear this teaching. Only a few of whom had already heard the teachings of Phatchok Rinpoche earlier in the day at Chula University. The people in the audience looked very affluent and seemed to be rather tense prior to the teaching. It took a few minutes for Rinpoche to penetrate this rather formal and stuffy atmosphere. After a short while Rinpoche managed to get people to start laughing at themselves and then the real teaching was able to begin. Rinpoche was echoing the “mind training” he had taught earlier in the day at Chula university in a slightly repackaged way.

TonightRinpoche explained that the “common” way to think was to be a victim of our emotions, where as the “uncommon” way was to practice compassion and meditation. Rinpoche reminded the audience that we should practice increasing our awareness of negative emotions. Then we should investigate where these negative emotions originate. Rinpoche said that eventually we would realize that all emotions are intrinsically impermanent and devoid of substance. We should begin to
train our minds to cut the dualist connection between the subject and the object. Having achieved greater awareness of our emotions the next stage was to develop greater sensitivity towards deeply rooted “lower levels” of emotional currents. The only way to achieve this was through meditation over a long period of time. By so doing our propensity to being a victim of our own emotions would gradually diminish. This process was quite subtle because we have to learn how to both recognize that know how to skillfully deal with our emotions without either engaging with the emotions or denying the existence of
the emotions. Rinpoche explained that even after many years of meditation it was still possible that low levels of negative energy “currents” would persist. This is no problem as long it is dealt with by the development of our own meditation. He said that the Tibetan word for this process [bunjung?] meant “arise” and “tame”. First we develop awareness of our negative emotions and then we must learn how to tame them.

Rinpoche’s teaching was peppered with numerous and very amusing anecdotes about his trials and tribulations of evolution from his formal recognition as a Rinpoche to his gradual understanding of what it was to be a Buddhist. Rinpoche said that he only really became a Buddhism when he was 18 years old. Before then he had is a state of confusion during the 11 years from the age of 7 when he was recognized as a Rinpoche until his 18th birthday . With the help of his teachers his was able to begin to understand what being a Buddhist really meant when he reached 18.

There were many questions asked of Rinpoche and he gave elaborate answers to them all. The teaching would have gone longer but the time allocated by the Siam Society had already been exceeded so the teaching finished around 21.00. Several members of the audiences requested that Rinpoche return to Bangkok soon and give more general teachings as well as specific Vajrayana teachings. Rinpoche smiled and replied that he would like to return to Thailand when he could.

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