Questions and Answers

with Ngak’chang Rinpoche

How we Apprehend Practice

Questioner: Rinpoche, how does one go about choosing one’s style of practice?

Rinpoche: People apprehend practices in different ways. If one looks at these practices as something that is part of the New Age market—as something ‘I can do’, as a method ‘I can employ’—then there is no particular devotion towards the methodology itself. If one values the methodology, then the syllables ’a, A, and A’a’a are important. If being told that they are a gTérma is meaningful—that this is a visionary revelation from Khyungchen Aro Lingma—then your apprehension of what those are will be different from a situation in which these are just words.

These practices and how they apply to you depend entirely on who you are. This is crucial. A lot of people have the idea that a practice is something that I apply; and I get the results of that practice – as if it did not matter who I was, in terms of how I am practising it. There is no such thing in Buddhism as a practice separate from a practitioner. What a practice is, is the nature of the practice and the nature of what I am.

For example, people can be interested in Dzogchen practice; but if someone is engaging in something that is called ‘Dzogchen method’, and they are practising that with the motivation that they will be realised, then that method is called Pratyékabuddhayana – this is Hinayana! The name of the method is the motivation. If one practices Dzogchen with Hinayana motivation, then the practice is called Hinayana; it is not Dzogchen. It is not Mahayana – for Mahayana I have to be practising for the benefit of all beings. Whoever I am comes into play with the practice; however I view the practice affects the nature of the practice. If I have great respect for the practice, this is different from the situation in which I have little respect for it – I am simply curious and trying it out.

This is not a critical statement for anybody – this is a pragmatic issue; but I think it is useful to understand. If you look at how you practise and what that is, then you realise that actually ‘I am in charge of this’. So if I lack the motivation, then somehow I have to get the motivation. I have to look at myself and say, What is my motivation for doing this? I cannot simply apply a practice; it has to relate to me and how I am.

One of the interesting things about Buddhism, is that it is 99% method, rather than truth. The method is to realise truth, perhaps. All these are methods, and there is always method that can be applied. If someone does not have sufficient compassion, then there are also methods; but one has to apply the appropriate method.