Question from a young chap to Rinpoche
After yesterday afternoon’s teaching here in Johannesburg, Drupon Khen Rinpoche was on his way to meet someone when a young chap called Owen wished to ask him a question. Since we were already running late we arranged for him to see Rinpoche today. Rinpoche very much appreciated Owen’s questions and asked him if it would be ok for me (Kunga) to make a rough transcript of their conversation and post it online; thinking that the questions might be useful for other people too. Owen was a little hesitant at first but with a little encouragement from his mum, he eventually agreed. Here is how their conversation went.
Owen: Thank you for seeing me Rinpoche. I have a question in relation to the first of the Four Dharmas of Gampopa. It was taught that if we are attached to worldly things then dharma does not become the dharma. Well what happens if we get attached to the true Dharma?
Rinpoche: If we get attached to the dharma then dharma does not become dharma, it becomes something harmful, because the very purpose of the dharma is to undo our attachment and aversion. It is like if we take medicine that makes us worse. The purpose of medicine is to make us better, but medicine is not medicinal if it makes us worse. Likewise dharma is not dharma if it increases our attachment.
Owen: That was a very clear answer. That question was bothering me. I have a few secondary questions if you don’t mind? I try to keep a daily practice and if I don’t do it there is sort of an ‘empty’ feeling, like something is missing. Why is this?
Rinpoche: I suppose it is because you know that to practice the dharma is a very positive thing to do. When we know we haven’t done something that is good to do, it makes us feel uncomfortable. I think it might have something to do with this.
Owen: Yes, I think that’s right.
Rinpoche: Can I give you one piece of advice about the practice? Do not become overly focused on the external aspects or forms of the practice. The main part of the practice is what we do in our mind. The best thing you can do is try to see the areas of your behaviour that are not good. The ways of thinking you have that are not good. Take note of these and try to change them. This is real practice. Please don’t forget this.
Owen: Are mantras and the refuge prayer part of the external activities of the practice?
Rinpoche: It depends. There are certain things we need to bring to mind when doing mantras and taking refuge. If we are doing the mental side of the practice while reciting mantras and refuge, everything is fine. We are practising properly.
Owen: If some days I don’t have time to finish my daily practice because I have to go somewhere, can I do the practice just by bringing to mind the mental sides of the practice as I make the journey?
Rinpoche: Yes, you can. You are a clever young man. These are very good questions you are asking.
Owen: I really don’t want to take up more of your time, but now while I have you… When we are developing bodhichitta (I know that takes a long time) do we need to also focus on developing ourself, in order to be able to help others?
Rinpoche: No. If you are really generating bodhichitta and really want to care for and help others, you will naturally develop excellently yourself. There is nothing wrong with wanting to better oneself in general, but if you are generating bodhichitta you are already doing the best thing you can do for yourself and others. So if you start focusing on yourself you may get sidetracked from the best path. For example if you really look after and care for your mother very fully, other people will think that you are a wonderful young man, and they would be right. You would already be an excellent person.
Owen: That is the best answer I could hope for. One final question please. When I was taught my daily practice the teacher did not tell me to do a dedication at the end. Can I do that? Here I have a short dedication prayer, it is only four lines, can I do this at the end?
Rinpoche: It would be very good to do that. Do you know why we do dedication? It is related to your first question. We dedicate the merit so that we do not become attached to it. If we get attached to the virtue of our dharma practice, our dharma practice does not become dharma practice.
Owen: Before I leave I just want to thank you for coming to Africa and teaching here.
Rinpoche: Thank you. I hope you continue to study and practise so that one day you too can teach the dharma here in Africa.