His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche was one of the leading masters of the pith-instructions of Dzogchen (the Great Perfection), one of the principal holders of the Nyingmapa Lineage, and one of the greatest exemplars of the nonsectarian tradition in modern Tibetan Buddhism. He was a scholar, sage and poet, and the teacher of many important leaders of all four schools of Tibetan Buddhism. He passed away on September 27, 1991, in Thiumphu, Bhutan.
This interview was conducted by James and Carol George, who first met His Holiness Khyentse Rinpoche in Sikkim in 1968 while Mr. George was serving as the Canadian Ambassador to Nepal and the High Commissioner to India. In the following years, the Georges were fortunate to meet with His Holiness several times in Nepal, Bhutan, and later in Toronto and New York. Since his retirement from diplomatic service, Mr. George has been working with the Threshold Foundation, Friends of the Earth, and the Sadat Peace Foundation. Tulku Pema Wangyal Rinpoche was the translator. This interview took place in May, 1987, at Karme Choling Meditation Center in Vermont, where Khyentse Rinpoche had come to preside over the cremation ceremonies for Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche.
I suppose, even to begin an interview like this, we need to find a right attitude. Yes! Even for an interview right attitude is very important, especially for anything connected with a spiritual training. For example, when we pay our respects to a Buddha statue or we meet a highly accomplished spiritual master, our attitude is very important. The quality of our attitude can make all the difference in spiritual practice. In essence, a perfect attitude is to meet the teacher, receive his teachings, and put them into practice in order to perfect oneself to benefit all sentient beings.
We begin to know in the West that, in spite of amazing technologies, we are, in our inner life, living in a wasteland. How do you see us? What has gone wrong with us, and what, from your point of view, do we most need now? It seems very important for all of us to seek ultimate peace and freedom. If we are constantly being disturbed and losing our inner peace and freedom, what kind of happiness do we have, after all?
How can we begin the work of transformation? If we had to make a choice between outer pleasure, comfort and peace, and inner freedom and ultimate happiness, we should choose inner peace. If we could find that within, then the outer would take care of itself. Even when we have a comfortable and pleasant life externally, if our inner peace is shattered, or disturbed, we are not able to enjoy all that we have in our outer life. To make that transformation we find, when we think only of ourselves, and hold on to things, consider ourselves and our happiness as the most important thing, that it is the ego and its clinging that disturbs both the outer and the inner happiness. Even if we have a well-organized outer life, it can be very difficult for us to find inner happiness because we can never be satisfied so long as we have not cut the attachments due to ego. There is no end to it—it wants more and more—without any limit. The ego is insatiable. So it seems necessary to work on that, to free ourselves from ego, with the help of teachings, especially the Buddha’s teachings on this subject, in which we will find all kinds of ways and means of developing peace both externally and internally. Of course it is the inner that is important, not only for this life but for our lives to come, and not only for ourselves but for others too.
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