Excerpts from Interview with Garchen Rinpoche, in Phoenix, Arizona, 2012

by Jaime Kucinskas

Rinpoche entered the hotel and I introduced myself.  He looked at me with joy and curiosity.  He emanates a sense of playfulness and the love which he speaks of.  Below are excerpts from the interview.

Rinpoche via Translator: My biggest message is love, and he wants to pass on love. And, the Buddha said, “May all sentient beings have happiness and the causes of happiness.” And, the only real cause of happiness is love. So, that is my message to everyone. This is what everyone must cultivate. And, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a Buddhist or not a Buddhist, if you really understand love, then you will have the cause of happiness in this lifetime and also we talk about future lifetimes. So, that is my only intention, is to, is for, cause others to cultivate love, and that is the teaching of all the Buddhas of the past, present, and future. This is what all the Buddhas in the future will also teach. If you have love, you will have wisdom. And, in Buddhist terms, we call that the union of the emptiness and compassion. So, all our practices are just really methods to cultivate compassion. Love and compassion.

Interviewer:  Are there any ways that you tailor it to an American audience in coming here then? Are there ways that you communicate your message  in particular?

Translator: You mean how to cultivate love?  Jaime nods.

Rinpoche via Translator: So, in Buddhism, we call that in of love that is all encompassing, precious bodhicitta to them. And, that is our only aspiration, to cultivate bodhicitta, and, because that is the only cause of happiness. And, whoever has a mind, everyone with a mind, wants to be happy. And, there is many different methods and how we cultivate bodhicitta. Actually, we talk about 84,000 different dharma teachings and lineages also within Buddhism. But, all of those different teachings are only a method to cultivate bodhicitta where it has not arisen, and to not let it decline where it has arisen, and to, and to allow it to further increase. So, that is really all that Buddhism teaches and there is nothing else. It is all a method to cultivate bodhicitta. And, in order to understand that, one must first understand the workings of karma cause and effect. Meaning, one must understand what is the cause of happiness, what is the cause of suffering? The only cause of happiness is love. Any kind of happiness we experience comes from a positive loving mind. And, if there is no love, if one only thinks about oneself, then one cultivates the other six afflicted, the negative emotions, and these are the causes of suffering.

So, in brief, although there is many different sorts of suffering in this world, they have all a single cause, and that is they’re self-grasping mind. And, from the self-grasping mind, the other negative emotions arise. And, as we engage in negative action, karma will ripen. So, if we cultivate trust in karma cause and effect, we understand that all the happiness and all the suffering in this world has no other way but to come down to karma. And, it is really beneficial to know that because knowing that, temporarily, right now, if you suffer, you will be able to tolerate your suffering, and knowing the causes of suffering in the future, you will be able to avoid these causes. So, you will be able to attain freedom from suffering. If one doesn’t understand cause and effect, one will never find freedom from suffering.

Interviewer: How do you usually teach in the U.S.? Have you been traveling and teaching in India and Nepal  as well?

Rinpoche via Translator:  I’m teaching all over the place, and basically, whoever asks me for teaching, I will teach them. If they do not ask me, then also I will not teach them.

Interviewer: Are there different like kind of methods, then, that you stress more if you are speaking to, say, a Tibetan audience? Or, versus a predominantly  American or Western European, given the different kind of worldviews and cultures that people are coming from?

Rinpoche via Translator:  So there is some, some slight difference, maybe, in the way Rinpoche teaches in different countries. But, Rinpoche says that in America and in Western countries are mainly really speak about the, like the essence, the inner meaning of the dharma. Whereas in countries where Buddhism has more spread, like in India or in Tibet, the style of teaching is more according to the scriptures, following the scriptures, and giving a very elaborate explanation on the scriptures. But, actually, a great scholar only should teach on the scriptures and I’m not a great scholar, so actually, I do not know how to speak according to the scripture and give very elaborate and eloquent explanations, but what I’m teaching is from the perspective of practice. I’m someone who has gained quite a bit of experience in this lifetime. So, from that perspective rather from the intellectual perspective, I’m teaching. And, so just say when I was a young boy, I did have faith in the dharma and I believed that if you practice the dharma, there would be some benefits. But, the trust was not completely firm and resolute. Only when I experienced great suffering later on, then I really understood the benefits of practice, applying it to my own mind stream. And, then I really l understood the benefit of the dharma and the deity practice.

And, I felt that especially in Western countries, students do understand the teachings from this perspective, because Western people are very intelligent and, also, they are very sharp, they’re able to keep in mind whatever you tell them, and they don’t just waste it. Whereas, in other countries, sometimes people listen to a lot of words, but then they never really applied these words, they never really put them into practice, and they more follow a system of study, academic study, but not really apply it to their mind stream. And, then it is not so beneficial, because the Buddha himself has said, “You must actually apply the dharma, the teachings, in your mind stream, and only then they will be of benefit.” So, the way we teach and our lineage is the Kaygu lineage, we teach according to the Milarepa teachings, so the way I’m teaching is very much like Milarepa, meaning that first you gain experience, and then you pass on these experience. It is not just intellectual study that you pass on. It is coming from experience. So, there is two ways of teaching, either you are following just the words, the intellectual words, or you’re passing on the teachings based on your own personal experience. What is most important, however, is that you cultivate the correct intention. So, when you teach based on your practical experience, you also must cultivate love for the one that you’re teaching, too. What really happens when you teach is you pass on love from mind to mind. If you only teach the words but you do not cultivate love for the other, those words, actually, will not be of much benefit.

Interviewer:  So, was that the way that his teacher taught him also? Or does he teach in his own way?

Rinpoche via Translator:  My own roots teacher, my own master, actually taught in both ways because he actually, he was a great accomplished meditation master, but also, he was a great scholar. So, he was able to teach to great scholars in a very common way, in a very academic way, which I am not able to do. But also, he was able to teach in a very easy to understand practical way. And, this is more the way I follow. I prefer to teach in a way that is easy to understand just like Milarepa. And, also now, I’m, my teachings are being translated into the English language, and I prefer that this, the language being used is easy to understand words, words that are not too abstract. So, there is different ways of choosing words. One way is to use very eloquent, very academic scholarly words, and the other way is to use easy to understand words. Simple words. And, I prefer the simple words. I do not prefer the high, eloquent words, actually, because this is not my intention. My goal is to benefit beings right now, and if the words are too scholarly and too difficult to understand, then some people will not be benefited right now. So, I think that high and eloquent uh, uh, academic words are not very beneficial because this is not the way I am establishing a connection from mind to mind. And, most people don’t understand high language, and personally, actually, I am not using high language when I’m teaching. The words I chose are very simple words because, also, I am not a great scholar and I do not like to use any elaborate, very uh, very uh, you know, high or difficult to understand words because I want to benefit people right now. So, I prefer the easy language that anyone can understand and relate to.

Interviewer: Are there any other ways that he tries to get his message out to people? Like to the public, I guess?

Translator: Apart from teaching?

Interviewer: Yeah, what are, I guess, the best ways that he thinks, he tries to influence and share his ideas.

Translator: And, also was Rinpoche was in prison, and when he was younger, he said that he had some small, a small booklets, that’s when he started to distribute and think about the benefit of the small booklets. And, now we have this some 37 Bodhisattva practices or (inaudible) prayer, and these are very small booklets, and we have translated that in different languages, and Rinpoche uh, is saying that he’s distributing these booklets to many people. That’s an easy way for everyone to receive the dharma, with these little booklets. And, then also, there is the liberation mantra. Do you know liberation? It’s called liberation by seeing, and liberation by worrying, or liberation by tasting. And, anyone who just sees them will be benefited. That is especially a method for those who do not have any faith. So, Rinpoche’s distributing that as much as he can amongst his disciples.

Interviewer: What kind of world is he trying to create?  What kind of society would he envision would be more beneficial for everybody?

Rinpoche via Translator: So, basically in this world, we have two systems, we have the spiritual, the religious systems, and we have the mundane system, and both of these systems have each an alter and a secret aspect. And, of these, the inner and the secret aspect are most important. And, most important, also, is that these two systems, the mundane and the religious systems work in a union, work together. So, each of them has a responsibility. The religious system has the responsibility to cultivate peace and happiness inside the mind. And, so and the outer aspect is not so important. So, it doesn’t really matter what kind of religion that is. Whether it is Buddhist or not Buddhist. Even if there’s no religion, if one only believes in karma cause and effect, if one only understands cause and effect, then one will ultimately attain freedom, then people will be kind towards each other, they will have love for each other, they will naturally observe the laws of the country, there will be no wars, everyone will be peaceful and happy – if they just understand the workings of karma cause and effect. Whether one is religious or not. So, if everyone would just understand karma cause and effect, I believe that this world would be a better place. And, then there’s many different religions in this world.

And, although we call them different religions, we should not see that there is a contradiction. There is actually no contradiction. Recently, when we were in Singapore, someone, there was uh, uh, a meeting of different religious groups, and we were talking about what is our responsibility, no matter what religion we belonged to, and we, and I told to them that in the world, the scientists, it is their responsibility to improve the outer world, to develop the outer world. For us religious practitioners, our responsibility is to establish the peace and happiness in the minds of all beings. Although we have different religions, we all have one single responsibility, and that is to bring about causes for peace and happiness in the minds of sentient beings. And, because beings have different tendencies, there is a need for a variety of different religions. One cannot say that one religion is better than the other, or one is necessary and one is not. One has different aspirations, and according to one’s aspirations and tendencies, one has uh, one relates rather to a certain religion. And, all of these religions are free from contradiction. It is just important that religions understand this and that they do not cultivate animosity toward each other, but that they understand that their responsibility is to cultivate happiness in the mind of sentient beings. So, if we begin to say my religion is good and then the other one is bad, already we have cultivated a harmful thought, and this happens quite a bit these days. Religions argue, fight, in conflict with each other due to that fixation, this biased thought. And, that is not appropriate. We all have different aspirations, so we follow different religions, and yet, all religions have a single responsibility. Even in one city, for example, if there are many different religions, we still have only one responsibility, and that is to bring about the peace and happiness of the people, and help them to cultivate love and harmony and friendship with each other.

Interviewer: Would he think in a similar way about science, then,  in terms of a different world view?

Rinpoche via Translator:  So, Rinpoche is saying, “I really think that scientists are all very good, and all very necessary, and some of the scientists are, the scientists are more developed and some are less developed. And, some of them do understand the benefits, even, of what the Buddha had already taught. But, even if they do not understand, still, we cannot call them bad because they will still develop. So, all scientists are really, actually, very necessary and, and excellent. We need the science. And, the more we, further we go into the Buddhist teachings, the closer we really come to the scientists. So, as the scientists develop, they approach the Buddhist view more and more. Ultimately, there is really no contradiction between the scientific view and the Buddhist view. And, the more they develop, the closer they come to the Buddhist view. For example, scientists, who really are not so developed yet, are talking about only this earth. How things are on this earth. But, then there is much more beyond that. And, the Buddha has taught in a context of universes that are far beyond this earth. And, so I personally do not have much learning, but I really have no doubt in the work of the Buddha whatsoever. And, so what then, what the Buddha had taught, scientists actually, naturally agree upon, even if they don’t actually explicitly say we agree with that, but what they say really actually does agree with what the Buddha said. So, there is really actually no contradiction.

So, I believe that it is important that everyone learns about both systems. The mundane system and the religious system. And, also actually, according to the Buddhist view, we say that even scientists who try to develop this world, and improve this world, actually also are emanations of bodhisattvas, like are actually Buddhas appearing. Basically, whoever has love is like an emanation of a Buddha. In terms of being a Buddhist, we talk about the outer, the inner, and the secret Buddhist. Outer Buddhists are those who declare themselves to be Buddhist. I am a Buddhist. That’s an out Buddhist. And, there is not so many outer Buddhists. But then, the inner Buddhist, what is an inner Buddhist? It is someone who has loved; anyone who has cultivated love is an inner Buddhist. Whether they call themselves a Buddhist or not. The Buddha says that the Buddhist teaching really is love and whoever has love is an actual Buddhist. And, then what is the secret Buddhist? Everyone is actually a Buddhist in that sense because everyone possesses Buddha nature. The Buddha said everyone who has a mind has the potential to attain enlightenment.

Everyone, and everyone has that mind. So, from the perspective of the mind itself, we are not any different. So then, actually, everyone is so, so to say, Buddhist because everyone has the potential to attain enlightenment whether we are human being, or a little animal with or without a body. The Buddha said everyone has this potential in their mind. So, from that perspective, there’s really no one who is not a Buddhist. So, this is how we must understand it. We should not make a separation thinking that I am a Buddhist and he’s not a Buddhist. Whoever really has a mind, has the potential to attain enlightenment. So, in this way, one can actually easily understand. And, then what the Buddha did is he showed the method to actualize this potential, and this method he called the dharma, and everything that the dharma is really, is love. If you have love, you have the dharma. If you do not have love, you only think about yourself, and that mind is like an ice block, and that ice block must be melted by cultivating love. And, once the ice block melts, it is like ice blocks floating on the ocean, and once the ice block melts it becomes one with the ocean – the ocean being the Buddha mind. So, we become one with the enlightened mind.

So, whoever cultivates love actually will actualize their potential of enlightenment. Actually, the word for Buddha in Tibetan means Sange means to purify, and what is purified is the self-grasping, self-cherishing mind. And, when there is no self-cherishing mind, one thinks about others, and from that, wisdom arises. And, that wisdom becomes vast. So, the second syllable of Sange –ge– means vast or expansive. So, the mind becomes vast if there is no self-cherishing attitudes. That is the meaning of Buddha. And, so that is something even that scientists can agree upon. For example, when we look at a person who thinks about their country and they work really hard for their country, in the end he will turn out really well, even in normal society. Another person who only thinks about themselves, who have no intelligence, and they mistreat their parents, and they smoke or take drugs, in the end, some of them even commit suicide or end up in prison. And, that is just the fault of the self-grasping mind.

In the 37 practices it says, ‘All suffering, without exception, comes from wishing for one’s own happiness. The perfect Buddha survives from the altruistic mind.’ And, so if you only understand these two lines, you really have an understood the meaning of the dharma. And, if you understand the dharma, then things will work out well in this lifetime and also beyond this life. In a mundane sense or a spiritual sense. What we call the Buddha, actually, is nothing else but your own wisdom awareness. What we call the dharma is nothing else but a mind of love. And, who is it that has no love? Everyone has at least some love. Jigten Sumgon, who is one of our lineage masters, has said, ‘The Buddha showed the natural state, the innate nature of all phenomenon. So, the Buddha only explains how things really are. The Buddha explains the qualities of love and he explains that if you have love, you will have wisdom awareness. The Buddha explains that is the cause of happiness, that is the cause of suffering. If you give rise to love, that is the cause of happiness. If you give rise to self-grasping and negative emotions, that is the cause of suffering. And, there is no suffering in the world that does not arise from a self-grasping mind. So, the Buddhist religion is not invention by the Buddha. The Buddha only saw how things really are with his omniscent wisdom, and he explained how those things are. He demonstrated that to us. But, but the Buddha actually did not create some sort of belief or religion. So, this is how we must understand the Buddha dharma.”

Rinpoche via Translator: In a sutra that is called the Moonlight Sutra, the Buddha said within all  beings is the Buddha. They’re only obscured by temporary stains. And, when these stains are removed, sentient beings are actually Buddhas. That is a line, a quote that Drupon Rinpoche, who was a Buddha-like Vajradhara, he always said that line and nothing else. And, so what that means is the mind of all the Buddhas, the enlightened mind, is like a vast ocean, and the mind of sentient beings is like ice blocks that are floating on the ocean. So, that ice block is like a temporary obscuration. It’s like when the weather becomes cold, it becomes, the water freezes into an ice block. But, still, it has the nature of water. So, all sentient beings have the nature of the Buddha. Sometimes people think that when one attains enlightenment, one just disappears. But, this is actually a big mistake. It is just like an ice block melting into the ocean water. The ocean does not disappear. The ocean is still there. And, the ocean performs all sorts of ocean like functions. But, the ocean water is a union. There is no conflict between different types of ocean water. There’s just one. The ice blocks floating on the ocean water, they always crash into each other and begin to fight. There’s always conflict. But, once you melt to be one with the ocean water, there is no conflict. There is only unity. And still, you don’t go out of existence.

Basically, for as long as we do not separate from self-grasping, we cannot melt the ice block. The only methods to melt the melt the ice block of self grasping is to cultivate an altruistic mind. That is what the Buddha had seen. The Buddha saw that even if you cultivate compassion for just one instant, in that very instant, you do not think about yourself. So, self-grasping has diminished. And, that is called the precious bodhicitta. And, that is the most precious jewel in the three worlds of samsara. That is the jewel that we must obtain. Sometimes, when we have love, our love is very limited and then it can cause harm. The harm is caused by the self grasping. For example, if there’s two friends and two partners, and they love each other, and then, eventually, they begin to grasp at each other. They begin to possess each other, then from that possessiveness, afflictive emotions arise, and the love transforms into a fault. So, the Buddha said, Don’t Do That. Cultivate love for everyone. Protect your love.

If you cultivate great love, you will attain enlightenment. If you cultivate love, there is no self. And, so we all understand the fault of the self-grasping mind, and still we cannot destroy it. Even if we try to attack it with a nuclear bomb, we cannot destroy it. Although, we understand it’s fault. But, if you just think about others for a moment, you have destroyed it. And, when you think about it, the moment you really care for another person, you will feel happy. And, that is the only cause of happiness. Love is the only cause of happiness. And, that is the prayer of all the Buddhas of the three times. They say, “May all beings of happiness and the causes of happiness.” In other words, “May all beings have love.” And then, also, they said, “May beings be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.” Or, in other words, “May beings be free from self-grasping.” And, that is, those two prayers is all that the Buddhas had in mind. Even if you are to read the hundred scriptures of the Buddhist teachings, you will not extract any other essences than that. That is the essence of the all the Buddhist teachings.

Interviewer: It seems like a lot of like the ways that I think he’s talking about interacting is kind of between people. How would he try to create change on a more systemic level with organizations, which kind of get bogged down in different organizational rules and things that kind of get more tricky and complicated?  So, I guess what I’m thinking is, I think on an interactional level, things are much more fluid and then sometimes they kind of seem to get slowed down with organizational rules and the ways that people interact over time, whether it be through, you know, a government or at a university or school, or something like that. What ways would you recommend of maintaining that interactional style, that kind of loving interaction, within the confines of different institutions?

Rinpoche via Translator: And, so there are different guidelines. For example, in, in Buddhism there is a code of discipline. But, whatever’s the guideline, one should observe a mental aspiration to things, an equalizer with others. Meaning, whatever I need, also others need. So, for my own pleasure, I shall not cause any harm towards others. So, that is very important. And, what is most important is really the intention. So, if you have cultivated love in your heart, sincere love, then in Buddhism, we talk about different activities – peaceful, wrathful, increasing or magnetizing. For example, making of war in a country could be a wrathful activity. Sometimes, people blame their country for going for war but it is not as straightforward, actually. Of course, if one fights with others with an angry mind, with hatred, with jealousy, then it is very non-virtuous, but if one does it with a wish to benefit others, for the country for example, sometimes there is a need to go for war. There is a need for loss. So, not all activities are always peaceful. They can also be wrathful, but they must come from a place of love. The Buddha says, “Tame your own mind.” So, meaning that in order for your own benefit, you should not cause any harm towards others. Do not cultivate a harmful thought towards others. Think that whatever I do, I will do it for the benefit of others. And, sometimes, we have no choice because we do need to observe guidelines in certain places or institutions, but that is only the outer conduct, more important is the inner mind. That the mind does not cultivate a wish to harm. For as long as you have love in your heart, whatever you do, really, becomes a benefit of others. So, our activities of the body, our jobs or activities are not more important. What is more important is the mind. That the mind cultivates love. And, love needs a protector, and that is patience. Patience will protect the love. If you have no patience, you will lose your love.

So, we talk in Buddhism about the six paramitas or the six perfections, and if you have love, you will naturally practice them all. For example, the first one is generosity. If you have love then, naturally, whatever you do with body, speech, and mind will become an act of giving generosity towards others. Then, second is morality. That is if you have love, you will not cause harm towards others. So, you’ll be moral. Then, the third one is patience. If you have love, then you will practice patience. It is said, “Practice patience even at the cost of your life.” So, in order to protect our love, we need patience. And, that means even if others try to harm us, you must not let go of your love for them. In Buddhism we call that sangha. Sangha is someone who has cultivated love and patience. So, that is what you must cultivate. Is that if you have patience, you are just like a wooden cup, you know, like a cup, a wooden cup will not break as opposed to a porcelain cup that might break. So, a wooden cup, what it needs is a porcelain cup, then both won’t break. So, both will protect, will be protected because you have cultivated love. You were able to protect yourself and others. And, then it is also morality not to deceive others. To be diligent in your conduct and not to deceive others in whatever you do. And, that also comes from a mind of love. Then, the fifth parameter is called, perfection, is called concentration or meditation. And, that is to always remember love. Again, it comes from love. And, if you have love, there will be wisdom, and wisdom is the sixth perfection.

And, wisdom means, also, to be skillful in all your activities. And, you are skillful in your activities if you maintain mindful awareness and alertness. Then you’re very skillful in all your activities. It is that in mundane conduct, many activities will always have faulty aspect and quality aspect. It is said that if an, if you’re about to engage in an activity, and if the faults and the qualities are equal, you should not engage in the activity. If the fault is greater and the, the quality is smaller, then you should definitely not engage in the activity. But, if the qualities are greater, there’s only a little bit of fault, then you should engage in the activity. For example, if you look at the person, and the person has maybe 70 percent of what the person does is faulty and 30 percent is quality, then the person has, is more a person with faults. But, if the person has only 30 percent fault and 70 percent qualities, even though there’s a little fault, you still should consider the person to be a person with good qualities. But, in any case, as practitioners, we say that you should only think about the qualities of others, because then love arises, and if there’s love, then wisdom will arise. We should never look at the faults of others. That is also the word of the Buddha. Also, we should not look at our good qualities because then pride will arise. Then there is conflict between companions. So, we should only look at our own faults, and we should only look about the quality, on the qualities of others. If you only think about the qualities of others, then love will arise. And, then there will never be a conflict. So, within any activity that they engage in, for as long as we have cultivated love, whatever we do will become a practice of the six perfections.