Questions and Answers

with Ngak’chang Rinpoche

Beyond Bodhisattvabuddhayana

Questioner: Rinpoche, you have referred to the rôle of ‘irritation’ in a practitioner’s evolution from one yana to the next. I would very much like to know what takes one from Bodhisattvabuddhayana to whatever comes next?

Rinpoche: If we look at Sutra, one can say that Sutra has an experientially common base; that there is nothing in Sutra that one cannot understand with one’s regular intelligence. There is no special experience that is needed beyond being a human being and having the interest to study. This does not apply to Tantra. Tantra has an experientially unique base, which means that you need a special experience to understand it. Without that experience, it is incomprehensible. It has its logic, but its logic is not accessible without experience. The logic of Tantra is the logic of paradox, because it is the logic of emptiness and form: form is emptiness and emptiness is form. One can start playing with that idea in terms of how everything manifests itself – the yidam is empty form. Here the irritation is at the level of one’s speed and capacity; and the realisation is that in terms of emptiness, in terms of compassion, that that compassion is a far wider, vaster thing than ‘all sentient beings’ – that that actually permeates everything. In the context of the Four Naljors, one experiences compassion for namthogs – the arising of the content of mind. One simply allows whatever arises to arise, one allows it to dwell, one allows it to dissolve. One finds that there is appreciation there; this appreciation extends to everything. In terms of Tantra we talk about compassion as being inseparable from lust – that if you do not have any lust of any sort, you cannot have any compassion, either. There has to be desire there. With no desire there is no appreciation. Appreciation is important.

Q: Rinpoche, why do you say ‘the irritation is at the level of one’s speed’?

R: One of the important things for any teacher, is that the teacher has to enjoy his or her student’s neuroses. If a teacher cannot enjoy his or her student’s neuroses, then he or she cannot be a teacher for that person. Otherwise these neuroses are simply a collection of ‘sins’, and this is not workable, particularly from the perspective of Tantra. Whatever my neurosis is, it is also my enlightened state – this is crucial in terms of Tantra. So the irritation here—in terms of the transition between Sutra and Tantra—is one in which one feels the constriction of dividing neuroses from the enlightened state. One is aware that the enlightened state pervades; and that all the sentient beings out there who are in a state of confusion are actually likeable too – that their neuroses are likeable. If you do not like their neuroses, how can you help them? Like, ‘I will help you, you miserable little worm, with all your ugliness and all your horrible yuck there!’. That is not a compassionate stance; that is not workable. If one cannot perceive the enlightened nature shining through the neurosis, how can one help a person? And if one sees that shining through the neurosis, then that neurosis is likeable – it is likeable for its enlightened content, which is inseparable from the neurotic content. If one’s teacher happens to be an enlightened being, then this should be really visible. There has to be appreciation there.