Be Natural and Practice
In our daily practice, as well as on particular special occasions such as today, we recall the kindness and guidance of our teacher. His words reverberate in the minds and hearts of thousands of us, his students.
According to the lunar calendar, today marks the four-year anniversary of the mahāparinirvāṇa of our most beloved and revered teacher, Mipham Chökyi Lodrö, the 14th Shamarpa (1952–2014). It is the full moon day of Vaiśākha, the fourth month; it is the day when the historical Buddha Siddhārtha Gautama attained enlightenment, a day commonly known in Asia as Buddha Pūrṇimā or Vesak Day.
For normal beings, such as myself, the use of melody in prayer can be very effective. I find that melody can allow us to be fully immersed in the meaning of prayer. Assuming that there are many of us with a similar inclination, I have been creating many recordings of various melodious prayers and mantras, hoping that they may be useful and beneficial to all. Several months ago, I made a musical track of the Rab ’byams zhing gi – the swift rebirth prayer for the Shamarpa. I am happy to share this track with you all on this website (VIDEO tab).
In our daily practice, as well as on particular special occasions such as today, we recall the kindness and guidance of our teacher. His words reverberate in the minds and hearts of thousands of us, his students. We are bound together by the teachings we received from him. We heard from Rinpoche that the ultimate teacher is not an entity separate from us, but because we are not fully realized beings, we feel that the teacher is totally independent of us, and therefore, understandably, we miss the teacher. All our memories of the teacher, and all of our inner emotionally charged exchanges are woven together under the framework of duality – the teacher and ourselves. On occasions, we recall him. We relive the memories momentarily. We feel inspired. Then sometimes what ensues is a sense of direction, as if we suddenly remember the most important things in life.
Often, in the songs of Milarepa, we can read about similar themes. In his songs, we feel inspired by how Milarepa characterizes his teacher Marpa. That said, there is an apparent difference between Milarepa and us. Isn’t there? Milarepa seems to embody the teachings he received all the time. We arguably do not do that. If we examine closely, we see that he maintains himself in such a way that forgetting the teachings is not even feasible. But we can forget to maintain the teachings whenever we are not necessarily invested in any systemic change. Despite receiving the teachings on what to abandon and what to adopt, we are usually not so smart with the choices we make in our lives, are we? Our choices – whether we make these choices with or without our volition – inevitably and invariably make us prone to forget. For that reason, Rinpoche, many times, said to persevere and to cherish our support system – the Three Jewels and bodhicitta, in accordance with lojong practice. In order to ease in comfortably, and to maintain our connection with the support system, he left many teachings, many of which are readily available in the books he authored.
Using the great opportunity presenting itself on occasions such as today, I see that we have the choice to gather ourselves together, strengthening ourselves, in order to function virtuously, in accordance with the teachings.
By remembering again and again, pledging ourselves – again and again – to embody the teachings, I believe we are being authentic practitioners. We are making the greatest of all offerings to the teacher when we make the offering of practice.
By observing this marked day, we do come to realize the benefits of practice. It becomes obvious to us that the teacher has never left. The teachings have never disappeared. When we simply tweak our alignment a bit, they are all there to be rediscovered. This realization – paired with a deep sense of gratitude – dawns, followed by remembering lived memories, and mixtures of all types of stirring human emotions. That is how most of us, ordinary students, relate to the late Shamar Rinpoche. That is the systemic framework of engagement. While it is important to be natural as we relate to this important day, we can also practice incorporating other ways of engaging – those that may not necessarily come naturally – such as the ways taught to us by Rinpoche.
In order to allow the practice to arise naturally, teachers encourage us to use various tools. The use of melody is one of these tools. I therefore invite you to listen, sing, and remember Rinpoche with me today.