(An insightful conversation with Tulku Lodoe Rinpoche, Brussels, Belgium)
- Personal Journey: Could you share with us your personal journey and how you became involved in Buddhist meditation and teaching? What inspired you to dedicate your life to spreading Buddhist teachings in the regions of Belgium, France, Channel Islands, and Malaysia?
As you will know, a feature of Tibetan Buddhism includes recognition of reincarnate teachers. Highly respected religious leaders will meticulously go through a process, search and choose a young candidate to continue the task of a previous teacher, of helping all sentient beings. This young person is then educated according to the standards for reincarnates as proper guidance from an authentic teacher is essential for effective exploration of Buddhism. This is how my involvement came about.
The countries that I have been invited to have diverse cultural backgrounds. Buddhism has a history of spreading to different parts of the world, adapting skillfully to local cultures and contexts. These days we see more and more individuals inspired by Buddhism and its universal teachings. Since the advent of Lord Buddha, the teachings continue to attract practitioners, scholars and people from all walks of life really, seeking spiritual wisdom and enlightenment and teachers to instruct them accordingly.
- Teaching Methodology: Your approach to teaching Buddhism focuses on real-world application. Could you elaborate on your teaching methods, including the use of lectures, stories, meditation, and recitation of prayers? How do you guide your students in integrating Buddhist principles into their daily lives?
Buddha Shakyamuni used many teaching methods, adapted to his audience, be they his disciples or sceptics: discourses, parables, silent transmission, leading by example, meditation instructions, Q.& A. This is the traditional example that Buddhist teachers follow to make the teachings accessible to the different types of students. Nowadays we can of course add social media, online forums and so on that offer valuable means to reach out to students.
To integrate teachings, the methods need to be applied. Here regularity in the training is helpful. To inspire people to train, it is important to instruct them well. Storytelling is a good way to help people to relate to the teachings and grasp their deeper meanings. To think the teachings over and understand how they work for us. We need to take responsibility for ourselves. Buddha therefore encouraged critical thinking and intellectual inquiry.
To cultivate compassion and an open heart, it is useful to think of everyone as a dear close relative and cherish them. This is a very uplifting practice. We can rejoice over and over when something good happens to others.
The most basic real-world problems, so to speak, are suffering and dissatisfaction. Students find meaningful solutions to these in Buddhism. From the outset, Buddha addressed real- world problems with sophisticated psychology, probing for the cause of our problems and providing realistic answers. This helps us to find happiness by creating the causes for it.
Chanting prayers and mantras can be a meditative practice in itself. Also, the contents of the prayers are meant to awaken wisdom and inspire right action. It is about connecting with our own inner capacity to develop constructive emotions and apply them in everyday situations. H.H. the Dalai Lama often explains that only praying will not help much to reach full enlightenment!
- Key Teachings: In your teachings, you cover various fundamental concepts of Buddhism, such as devotion, karma, refuge, compassion, emptiness, and Dzogchen. Could you provide insights into these teachings and how they can be understood and applied in today’s world?
These are all tried and tested doors to the wisdom and compassion needed to create a harmonious society as well as to reach enlightenment. Throughout its history, so many adepts of Buddhism have applied these approaches and through training they attained the goal. We see evidence of this in the sutras and later on in (auto)biographies. Nowadays, there is more and more scientific evidence as well that these methods are very beneficial. All these reports are very inspiring. When we walk the right path, we will see these results.
In the context of this interview, we can summarise and say that karma and refuge are trusting and relying on the mechanism of interdependence and retribution to take responsibility for our actions and follow Buddha’s teaching and the instructions of the sangha. Devotion to the teachings will enhance this. Compassion opens the heart to all other beings and our environment.
Emptiness and Dzogchen are generally considered to be more advanced approaches. They are unique points of Tibetan Buddhism and require a strong foundation in the teachings and meditation practices. A teacher needs to be aware when to introduce these subjects and advise the student accordingly.
Dzogchen teachings often convey profound insights into real-world situations through simple and direct language. This inspiration reminds practitioners that enlightenment is not something separate or distant but accessible in today’s world through simplicity and openness.
- Mindfulness and Meditation: Mindfulness and meditation play essential roles in Buddhism. How do you guide your students in cultivating mindfulness and incorporating meditation practices into their daily routines? What benefits can individuals expect to experience through these practices?
Mindfulness and meditation are examples of the Buddhist inner sciences, that help us to look inside, better ourselves, help others, respect our environment, and lead a life focused on wholesomeness. Buddha provided various meditation techniques and instructions to help his followers cultivate mindfulness, concentration, and insight. Meditation was an essential aspect of his teachings to achieve liberation.
In Tibet, the teachers generally advise to meditate for short periods in the beginning, to stay alert and have good quality meditation. We can perform other wholesome activities such as chanting, walking meditation, and read inspirational quotes to alternate with our brief meditation sessions. Then, when we have developed a good understanding of what meditation is, we can lengthen our sessions. It is helpful to consult with a qualified teacher in all of this.
- Interfaith Dialogue: Living in diverse cultural and religious contexts, how do you approach interfaith dialogue and foster understanding among different belief systems? How does Buddhism contribute to promoting harmony and respect in a multicultural society?
Interfaith dialogue is such a crucial aspect of promoting understanding, tolerance, and cooperation among different religious belief systems! As Buddhists, we have a lifelong commitment to listen to the other, to foster compassion, wisdom, and non-violence. We communicate with humility, based on these universal values.
Buddhist leaders, including the H.H. the Dalai Lama, actively engage in interfaith dialogue with leaders of various religious traditions. These dialogues have facilitated understanding, promoted religious harmony, and strengthened cooperation between different communities.
Traditional Buddhist practices, including mindfulness and meditation, have gained popularity worldwide. When we focus on Dzogchen, this too is considered a universal path that transcends cultural and religious boundaries.
These practices are often taught in a more secular context and have contributed to interfaith dialogue by offering a common ground for individuals of various beliefs to share in their contemplative practices.
- Future Aspirations: As a dedicated Buddhist meditation teacher, what are your aspirations for the future in terms of spreading Buddhist teachings and guiding individuals on their spiritual paths? How do you envision making a positive impact in the lives of your students and the wider community?
I think that we can say that Buddhism is well adapted to the modern world as it allows for pluralism and respect. People recognize this and feel at home. As a teacher in any subject, we carry a lot of responsibility and should do our best to continue striving to the highest standards throughout. However, the ultimate task is for the student to integrate the teaching material. When they do, they will find a reliable path to ultimate happiness and a deep appreciation for the richness of life in Buddhism. The aim of Buddhist practice is not solely personal enlightenment but the benefit and enlightenment of all beings.
My aspiration is that the profound teachings of Buddhism become a supportive and directing force for all. And may Buddhas and sublime masters continue to appear in the world and teach and guide us.