tsoknyi rinpoche

Look at your life. Look at the ways in which you define who you are and what you’re capable of achieving. Look at your goals. Look at the pressures applied by the people around you and the culture in which you were raised. Look again. And again. Keep looking until you realize, within your own experience, that you’re so much more than who you believe you are. Keep looking until you discover the wondrous heart, the marvellous mind, that is the very basis of your being.
—  Tsoknyi Rinpoche, Open Heart, Open Mind
Emptiness

‘Traditionally, one of the words that describes the basis of who and what we are - indeed, the basis of all phenomena - has been translated as “emptiness”; a word that, at first glance might seem a little scary, a suggestion, supported by early translators and interpreters of Buddhist philosophy, that there is some sort of void at the center of our being.

Most of us, at some point in our lives, have experienced some sort of emptiness. We’ve wondered, “What am I doing here?” “Here” may be a job, a relationship, a home, a body with creaking joints, a mind with fading memories.

If we look deeper, though, we can see that the void we may experience in our lives is actually a positive prospect.

“Emptiness” is a rough translation of the Sanskrit term shunyata and the Tibetan term tongpa-nyi. The basic meaning of the Sanskrit word shunya is “zero,” while the Tibetan word tongpa means “empty” - not in the sense of a vacuum or a void, but rather in the sense that the basic experience is beyond our ability to perceive with our senses and or to capture in a nice, tidy concept. Maybe a better understanding of the deep sense of the word may be “inconceivable” or “unnameable.”

So when Buddhists talk about emptiness as the basis of our being, we don’t mean that who or what we are is nothing, a zero, a point of view that can give way to a kind of cynicism. The actual teachings on emptiness imply an infinitely open space that allows for anything to appear, change, disappear, and reappear. the basic meaning of emptiness, in other words, is openness, or potential. At the basic level of our being, we are “empty” of definable characteristics. We aren’t defined by our past, our present, or our thoughts and feelings about the future. We have the potential to experience anything. And “anything” can refer to thoughts, feelings and physical sensations.’

- Tsoknyi Rinpoche with Eric Swanson, Open Heart, Open Mind: Awakening the Power of Essence Love.

The true bodhisattva spirit grows out of this personal sense of freedom. You discover that you don’t feel so needy anymore. You don’t crave another refueling - with shamatha or with other people’s love and attention - because you know within yourself how to be free, how to be confident. With this sense of security and freedom, you begin to direct your attention to the needs of others. The compassion expands.
—  Tsoknyi Rinpoche
Look at your life. Look at the ways in which you define who you are and what you’re capable of achieving. Look at your goals. Look at the pressures applied by the people around you and the culture in which you were raised. Look again. And again. Keep looking until you realize, within your own experience, that you’re so much more than who you believe you are. Keep looking until you discover the wondrous heart, the marvelous mind, that is the very basis of your being.
—  Tsoknyi Rinpoche
- from the book “Open Heart, Open Mind: Awakening the Power of Essence Love”
Allow for Space

‘The difficulty most of us face is that we’re afraid of our humanity. We don’t know how to give our humanity space. We don’t know how to give it love. We don’t know how to offer our appreciation. We seize upon whatever difficult emotions or painful thoughts arise - in large part because we’ve been taught from a very young age that life is a serious business. We’re taught that we have to accomplish so many things and excel at so many things because we have to compete for a limited amount of resources. We develop such high expectations for ourselves and others, and we develop high expectations of life. Such a competitive, goal-oriented approach to life makes us very speedy inside. We become so tight physically, mentally, and emotionally as we rush through each day, each moment, that many of us forget - often quite literally - to breathe.

When we allow space into our meditation practice, however, something quite wonderful begins to happen. That solidity, that seriousness begins to break down. We begin to relax a bit more and experience some of the fluidity we enjoyed as very young children. We begin to dance with our experience: “Haaa… I’m so upset… I’m so good… I might be upset, but I’m alive… If I were dead, I might not have emotion… but, wow, I’m alive.”

We also gradually cut through the habit of identifying with each emotional wave that passes through our awareness. We can be angry, jealous, or scared without having to act on those emotions or let them take over our lives. We can experience joy or love without becoming attached to the object that we think is the cause of our joy.

All too often, the emotions we experience, along with the thoughts and behaviors that accompany them, become part of our internal and social story lines. Anger, anxiety, jealousy, fear and other emotions become part of who we believe we are, creating what I would call a “greasy” residue, like the oily stuff left on a plate after eating greasy food. If that residue is left on the plate, eventually everything served on that plate starts to taste alike; bits of food start to accumulate too, stuck to layers and layers of greasy residue. All in all, a very unhealthy situation!

When we allow space into our practice, though, we begin to see the impermanent nature of all thoughts and feelings that arise within our experience - as well as of the conditions, over many of which we have no control. That greasy residue doesn’t build up, because there’s no “plate” for it to cling to. If we can allow some space within our awareness and rest there, we can respect our troubling thoughts and emotions, allow them to come, and let them go. Our lives may be complicated on the outside, but we remain simple, easy, and open on the inside.’

- Tsoknyi Rinpoche from Solid Ground by Sylvia Boorsein, Norman Fischer and Tsoknyi Rinpoche.

Allow for Space

‘The difficulty most of us face is that we’re afraid of our humanity. We don’t know how to give our humanity space. We don’t know how to give it love. We don’t know how to offer our appreciation. We seize upon whatever difficult emotions or painful thoughts arise - in large part because we’ve been taught from a very young age that life is a serious business. We’re taught that we have to accomplish so many things and excel at so many things because we have to compete for a limited amount of resources. We develop such high expectations for ourselves and others, and we develop high expectations of life. Such a competitive, goal-oriented approach to life makes us very speedy inside. We become so tight physically, mentally, and emotionally as we rush through each day, each moment, that many of us forget - often quite literally - to breathe.

When we allow space into our meditation practice, however, something quite wonderful begins to happen. That solidity, that seriousness begins to break down. We begin to relax a bit more and experience some of the fluidity we enjoyed as very young children. We begin to dance with our experience: “Haaa… I’m so upset… I’m so good… I might be upset, but I’m alive… If I were dead, I might not have emotion… but, wow, I’m alive.”

We also gradually cut through the habit of identifying with each emotional wave that passes through our awareness. We can be angry, jealous, or scared without having to act on those emotions or let them take over our lives. We can experience joy or love without becoming attached to the object that we think is the cause of our joy.

All too often, the emotions we experience, along with the thoughts and behaviors that accompany them, become part of our internal and social story lines. Anger, anxiety, jealousy, fear and other emotions become part of who we believe we are, creating what I would call a “greasy” residue, like the oily stuff left on a plate after eating greasy food. If that residue is left on the plate, eventually everything served on that plate starts to taste alike; bits of food start to accumulate too, stuck to layers and layers of greasy residue. All in all, a very unhealthy situation!

When we allow space into our practice, though, we begin to see the impermanent nature of all thoughts and feelings that arise within our experience - as well as of the conditions, over many of which we have no control. That greasy residue doesn’t build up, because there’s no “plate” for it to cling to. If we can allow some space within our awareness and rest there, we can respect our troubling thoughts and emotions, allow them to come, and let them go. Our lives may be complicated on the outside, but we remain simple, easy, and open on the inside.’

- Tsoknyi Rinpoche from Solid Ground by Sylvia Boorsein, Norman Fischer and Tsoknyi Rinpoche.

You don’t have to say anything.
You don’t have to teach anything.
You just have to be who you are:
a bright flame shining in the darkness of despair,
a shining example of a person able to cross bridges
by opening your heart and mind.
—  Tsoknyi Rinpoche