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Distinction Between Culture and Buddhism


27 Aug 2003
If I'm Lucky They Call Me Unorthodox

An interview with Vajra Master/filmmaker Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche

What does your father, Thinley Norbu Rinpoche, say about your filmmaking habit?

My father? I am sure he thinks it is a useless worldly pursuit, ego boosting, everything that's not right. And I honestly believe he is right.

So is this proper behavior for a Rinpoche?

I have often heard that some people feel I am Westernized, I guess partly because of my association with Westerners. But I totally disagree. I may be slightly modern, this is true. But when it comes to Buddhist teaching itself, I totally oppose people attempting to make Buddhism more adaptable to the West or to the modern world. It is not required: Buddhism has always been up to date. From the moment Buddha taught, the essence of the teachings hasn't changed, and it shouldn't change. Anyone who tries to modernize buddhadharma is making a grave mistake.

It's important to make a distinction between the culture and Buddhism. As the wisdom of Buddha traveled to different countries over different ages, the culture and tradition of each particular time or place became intrinsic to the teaching. Culture is indispensable because without it, there is no medium to convey the teachings. Dharma is the tea and culture is the cup. For someone who wants to drink tea, tea is more important than the cup. The cup is also necessary but it is not the most essential. Hence, you can say that I am not attached to the cup. If necessary, I am ready to change the cup, and for that reason you can say that I have a modern mind.

From "If I'm Lucky They Call Me Unorthodox," an interview with Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche. Shambhala Sun, November 2003.

Copyright ツゥ 2003 Shambhala Sun

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