Weekend Retreat w/ Ponlop Rinpoche
Updated: Nov 7, 2019
I attended a retreat this past weekend with Ponlop Rinpoche, a joyful and compassionate teacher in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. He offered some simple but powerful teachings, including one from Gautama Buddha that there are only two mistakes one can make along the path to awakening: stepping off the path before reaching the end, and not starting at all.
This was especially poignant for me, illustrating that even in my own moments of struggle and doubt, if I can help myself to stay on the path, and to believe that I am still on the path, I will be in a position to continue to make progress. Or, in moments of frustration and negativity, if I consider myself to be "off" the spiritual path, and as a result stop my practice energy, I will cut off my confidence that I am able to continue making progress.
Rinpoche also spoke about looking at the path as one should look at the stock market: one should expect there to be ups and downs, and if you are a wise investor, you don't become discouraged with a bear market. That is simply a market's nature.
The 7th Dzogchen Ponlop also used the metaphor of an electrocardiogram heart rate monitor: any movement is a good sign. So one has to expect "negative" movements along the path: that indeed is the bulk of the practice itself. But moreover, one should consider that occasions for difficulty may even be signs of progress.
Indeed, whether experience is "good" or "bad", at root, awakening is there. Rinpoche returned again and again to a teaching from the 12th-century Tibetan master Gampopa, who pointed out that the mistake often made with regard to practice is that practitioners don't believe that awakening can be so simple or so basic, so they look elsewhere.
Awakened awareness, or basic goodness, is actually right in front of our noses, or perhaps more accurately, right inside our own consciousness. If we can open to it, we can wake up right here and right now.