A religious teacher might not necessarily have much to share, unlike those of us (journalists, theologians, academics, and other guilty parties) who enjoy writing about them. That is the perspective of His Holiness Dokhampa Shedrub Nyima, the 9th Khamtrul Rinpoche (whose tulku lineage is affiliated with the Kagyu and Nyingma schools). He carries the message of the Buddha, and in this respect he is extremely humble, having adorned himself with no embellishments like secular experience or worldly qualifications. “The Buddha’s teaching is lovingkindness and compassion,” he told me on 1 November, during his trip to Hong Kong, where he visited several Buddhist centres and monasteries giving teachings and empowerments. “Above all we must think and act with good motivation. We need a good heart behind our words and actions. In this way our inner being matches our outer deeds.”
Incidentally, he also observed that Hong Kong people were quite diligent in their practice and attend pujas regularly, even though they might be very busy. This was despite being somewhat struck by just how busy, stressed out, and fast-paced life in Hong Kong really is.
The sad fact remains that many Hong Kong people are rather dissatisfied and unhappy, so the right way to pursue contentment was one extremely urgent question that I asked him. “Even animals need happiness,” he replied, “yet as we chase it it doesn’t come to us. To understand lasting happiness, true happiness, we must understand Dharma. Then happiness becomes more stable and constant.” He invoked the common conception of happiness: a “high” where we have to stay, or else we fall back down into a “low.” He told me: “Certain forms of happiness are too exuberant and feed into the ego. And some forms can even lead to depression and suicide, because the addiction of having extreme highs overwhelms us once such joys are taken away from us.”
Many people can empathize with this kind of love: the intoxication of a new romance, or literal intoxication by a kind of drug or alcohol, or other kinds of blinding attachments, have a way of sending us into a stupor, dumbing down our faculties, and rendering us unable to distinguish right from wrong, and to analyze the situation accurately. In other words, not all forms of happiness are worth chasing after. Some actually are forms of delusion or attachment masquerading as happiness because they “feel” so good, yet can’t last and leave us on our knees when they dissipate.
Learning the Dharma taught by the Buddha therefore grants a stable kind of happiness – a pleasant background to which we can live our lives, while staying emotionally and spiritually balanced.
Rinpoche also had something to say about ecumenical relations. After all, in everyday life, Vajrayana disciples might regularly be in touch with Theravada and Mahayana sisters and brothers. The Kagyu and Nyingma schools themselves are intertwined, with shared histories, shared gurus, and some shared doctrines. “In Buddhism, there are many kinds of practices. Since we have a good motivation, whatever we do, even in the office or outside of the monastery, is effective,” said Khamtrul Rinpoche. For example, meditation. It doesn’t matter where we meditate. It doesn’t matter where we live; we can do Buddhist practice anywhere. Our mind is like our brother or best friend, because he is always with us.” Rinpoche also emphasized the non-sectarian nature of his teachings. Even though the Kagyu tradition (which draws its spiritual authority from the sage Milarepa) encourages practitioners interested in going deeper to learn specifically the Mahamudra and the Six Yogas of Naropa, as Rinpoche said, “all meditation is, is simply watching out minds. This is true meditation.”
Constant, stable, lasting and sustainable happiness through Dharma: this is Khamtrul Rinpoche’s message. This is what he is bringing to Hong Kong, and to spiritual seekers around the world.