Questions and Answers

with Ngak’chang Rinpoche

Commitments / Damtsig

Questioner: What is the Aro gTér style of commitment that accompanies empowerment?

Rinpoche: In terms of commitments, Khandro Déchen and I never give commitments. This is in the style of Kyabjé Chhi’mèd Rinpoche. He was once asked why he did not give commitments, and he said, Because I don’t like sending people to hell. I will go there myself, he said, and I thought, Well, that is really quite important. He would say that to give anyone a commitment of any kind, he would have to have known them for years; because all he ever knew was people who broke commitments. He did not see any purpose in doing that. So he was quite happy to give empowerments, but would never give commitments with them. I tend to talk about commitment in a more general sense of being a Buddhist. How we Apprehend Practice, with what that means: trying to be a kind person, trying to be a tolerant person, trying to be open-minded with other people – that at the least. As a Buddhist one has a great responsibility – one is a representative of a tradition. Whatever empowerment one takes, it is important that one looks at one’s own behaviour. If people are interested in Buddhism, and they look at me and I act like a ‘schmuck’ – what is the purpose of that? If one says, ‘I am a Buddhist’ and then acts in a bad way, then people will say, ‘Well, this is how Buddhists are then. It is alright to be like this, obviously’. And if one meets enough of them who are like this—who have some sort of a narcissistic involvement, and they can think about nothing better than to talk about gossip about different teachers—then this is unhelpful. So if you would like any commitment, you could think about that. That is about all the commitment I would advocate. You just try to be kind.

It is important, in terms of kindness, to evolve the wisdom to support it. Whenever we look at other people and how they are acting, one of the most common problems that people have is to be angry with others because ‘I wouldn’t do that’. Well of course I would not do that; but he would not do what I am doing either. One can guarantee that whatever any other being is doing, they have some rationale for it that makes sense to them. It might not make sense to me; but it makes sense to them. Also, anger at other people’s acts presupposes that they know what they are doing, or how it is affecting us. Khandro Déchen and I have a little son. When he was under six months old, he used to vomit on us occasionally. We were not angry about this. Now if you vomited over me…. I might not exactly be angry, but I would think, ‘I will keep six feet away from this person!’ I might not be so happy if you vomited on me, because I would think, ‘Well, this person should have some degree of control. At least they could have put their head in another direction.’ But if you are holding someone across your shoulder, and they just vomit down your back, how can you be angry at this?

It is important, in terms of looking at other people’s behaviour, that they are just being what they are. If I am not like that, then I should think myself as fortunate that I have avoided the patterns that would have made me like that. If I had gone through the life circumstances of that person, maybe I would be like that; maybe I would be worse than that, if I had had the background of that person – their life experience. So how can I judge other people? It is difficult. This actually helps with a compassionate view of other beings – that one does not judge them for their acts. One does not have to be a doormat either: ‘Walk all over me’. If I know someone is a violent character, I can have some wisdom there too, and keep my distance; but I still do not have to judge that. That is a crucial aspect of Shakyamuni Buddha’s kindness.