TWR blue red Longevity, Well-Being and Finding Freedom

An Edited Excerpt from Oral Teachings Given by Geshe Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, Fall 2017

It's definitely true that as humanity – as a society and as individuals – we do want to live as long as possible, and as well as possible. We want to learn as much as possible, serve as much as possible and live with each other in harmony as much as possible. That's for sure, there's no question about it. But it seems like it's limiting yourself if you are always thinking about trying to keep your body alive forever. First of all, it's not going to happen. Second, you might be wasting your time and also draining your energy faster than necessary. Sometimes, the more you struggle with life and aging and its many challenges, the more you are going to drain your energy rather than preserving it.

TWR Paris France 2017According to the principles of the teachings, when we turn toward that boundless space, infinite awareness, the warmth – that inner refuge –  there is no death. In that sacred space, there is no death. In that unceasing, unfolding energy there is no death. This sense of the deathless, ceaseless, changeless – the essence of ourselves – this is the ultimate realization, the ultimate recognition, what we need to achieve. So in some sense, longevity is important here, but not for trying to keep this body forever. I'm trying to convey what the relative and what the ultimate sense of longevity mean. Both are equally important.

At the same time, whatever your life situation is, it is important to be able to maintain some sense of well-being. We may find that we wake up in the morning feeling weak, lost, misplaced. We may feel like, “I don't know what to do, who I am, where I am, how I can feel stronger, better today, to do what I'm doing for the rest of the day.” Sometimes we do feel that we lose those energies. But we don't have to lose those energies if we have a better way of working with them. That is the place where these kinds of teachings are of benefit: working with relativity, working with circumstances, working with the natural elements, working with our own psychological states, working with inner knowledge and inner wisdom, working with the supports of the guardians, deities and wisdom beings.

So there are a lot of possibilities for what to work with. And, of course, no one has to work with what they don't believe in, or don't understand or don't want to understand. I always say this wherever I am teaching. No one has to do anything. One thing I have learned and that I try to practice in life is that you don't have to do anything if you don't want to do it. In the Bön teachings, Tonpa Shenrap always taught based on people's ability, what they are capable of understanding.

What matters is what you personally understand, and that you connect with what you understand, and that you apply what you understand directly to your life. Along with your understanding, there's always a sense of your staying open and trusting that there are more places for your growth. Because you are staying open with that trust, then those things that you are not capable of understanding at the moment, you won't undermine them, saying that they are bad, thinking that only what you are able to follow at the moment is the correct path and that all other paths are not good. It's not like that.

Now, I don't know if any of you feel that you are in the final stage of your development . . . [laughter]. If so, then I'm not sure why you would even be here. But because you are here, you believe there is still more space to step into and explore, and at the same time you believe that you know enough and are practicing as best you can. Holding that sense of space and trust I think is very important, even though what you are stepping into may not be very clear, and you may not know it very well at the moment.

TWR Senge Yongdzin January 2018Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche with his son, Senghe, and teacher, H.E. Yongdzin Tenzin Namdak RinpocheSo, there are a number of ways to understand and approach the teachings of longevity. And I think all of them are equally important to understand. The first view that I mentioned is the idea of deathless essence. This is important to understand because at some point you are not going to avoid death. You can avoid the struggle with death; you can avoid the fear of death; you can achieve peace with death; but you can not avoid death itself. If you are doing the practice of longevity to try to prolong life and delay death, that's fine, but not with the deep desire to avoid death entirely. That is just mistaken.

I've seen so many people in my life, again and again, unwilling or unable to accept death. They don't have any peace with death – it just happens to them. Some people even come to the stage where cognitively they are not able to feel or see anymore; they are not able to feel their fear anymore. In that place they simply become numb, and then death just happens to them. But it's not like they have peace with it, where they are in a position to die in peace. This seems difficult for them. So the sense of longevity practice in cases like this would be to find some rest in the space that simply accepts that death is approaching. 

However, longevity is not only about death. For example, there are circumstances in your life, things that you wish were different. Just look at your life and you will see many of them. Whatever it is for you, you wish it were different. But it has not been different for all these years, and very likely, it will not be different for the rest of your life. The only thing that can be different is the way you look at it – to be completely okay with whatever it is, to be completely not bothered by it. You are not only not bothered by it, but you are completely okay with it. You are not only okay with it, but you have a feeling of peace with it. You are not only feeling peace with it, but you are kind of every now and then enjoying it secretly. You are not only enjoying it, but at some point you can't imagine how your life will grow without that situation or that famous person being a big part of your development. Not only that, but you might begin to see that situation and that person as the greatest, truest opportunity for self-development in this lifetime. That situation and person is transformed. From struggle to peace, from blockages to opportunity – that's the work. So death is like that. Circumstances are like that.

There are things you feel that you are trying to do in your life, that you just want to change. We want to stop aging. There are people out there who actually believe that death can be avoided. Some people believe that in the next 15 to 20 years, it will be possible that people can live for a few hundred years. New technology, medicine. It's fine if that happens. But what is the purpose behind it? It's being so deeply identified with and attached to this one pain identity. But that's not a freedom, it's a trap.

There are some things in life that are a natural process that you cannot change. Maybe its something that doesn't need changing, but your ego thinks you need to change it. The situation is not a problem; rather, it's that the ego has a problem with the situation. Whatever the situation is, or wherever it is, it is fine just as it is, even though the ego may hate it. The situation will continuously evolve, that happens naturally. But the key is that one's ego has to evolve with the situation. That's called practice. We need to know what those situations are and not waste our time trying to change them; rather, we need to try to accept them. It's better to have peace with them rather than fight with them, trying to change them.

In these teachings then, there is the ultimate sense of what it means to achieve longevity, and there is the relative sense of working to overcome obstacles by working with the elements and nature and circumstances. So the ultimate and relative sense of the true aspects of longevity practice are both there. The main core of my message, though, is not to always think about fully avoiding the obstacle or unpleasant condition, or one's death, but rather, to have a better relationship with it. That is my main message. I have reflected about this a lot, because it seems like people have very strong feelings of only wanting to change it. Success for them is looked at as only one thing: to change it to the way I want it. True success is about the way one looks at that issue without changing it, and having a total freedom from it. That's the best success. Enlightenment is actually like that. You are the one who changes. You become free.