About Shang Rinpoche
Rinpoche’s spiritual pursuit began at a very young age and has spanned many years, in which he received lineages of all four major Vajrayana Buddhist schools—Nyingma, Kagyu, Sakya, and Gelug—from numerous lineage holders and great yogis of our time in India, Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan. Rinpoche has acquired all the necessary empowerments, transmissions, and teachings to become a fully qualified Vajrayana master. Furthermore, Rinpoche is a recognized tulku (reincarnate lama), authenticated by eminent lineage holders and distinguished masters of our time.
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Uneasiness, depression, and anxiety appear to be the common ailments of modern man. People are often easily provoked and become red-faced with agitation. Others become frustrated and storm off the moment they are admonished by their department head. Some, due to inexplicable mood swings or an offhand remark from another, will set in motion some fatal disaster. Often, spouses and family members become estranged over some harsh words exchanged. Actually, if we look carefully, we will realize that all around, people have become increasingly unstable and intolerant to stress. When you see old friends that you have been out of touch with, you find them full of discontent and ceaselessly complaining and even cursing the world. The elegant and gentle manner of days gone by has all but completely disappeared. These people actually deserve our sympathy because they have, to different extents, depressive inclinations. Everyone knows anxiety or depression is a psychological disorder, and it is uncertain when it might flare up. When the illness becomes more serious it can be devastating for everyone around. Statistics show a rising trend in the mortality rate from depression. This is the modern plague, the Black Death of our times and it can't be taken lightly.
The cause of mental exhaustion can be traced back to our attachments and desires. Not only ordinary people relate to this problem, many great spiritual masters and practitioners invest their lives and their time in transforming greed and attachments. The great Vajrayana master Longchenpa spent a great many years in retreat completely exposed to the scorching sun and torrential rains, not even taking shelter in a cave. He practiced in a place where he could not stand up straight and there was barely room for him to turn around. This kind of ascetic practice was done entirely for the purpose of transformation. His only possession was a burlap sack that he wore during the day and, at night, it turned into his bed, and then during meditation practice it was his cushion. The interesting thing about the place where he would practice was the variety of prickly trees and grasses that would prick him all over, making of him a mass of bleeding wounds. At one point he had thought about cutting these down but it occurred to him that, while he hadn’t yet attained enlightenment, did he really have the time to waste on such things? Then he immediately dispelled the thought and persisted in his practice with even greater determination, eventually leading to his enlightenment.
The buddha-nature of practitioners and ordinary people is identical. The only difference is that practitioners are able to face their problems. Observing their afflictions incites their determination in attaining buddhahood, and so this aspiration is not an inborn quality. It only requires that a person to be willing to face their afflictions, manage and let go of them in order to reconnect with their own self-nature. For people nowadays, enlightenment might be a far-fetched notion but they should at least be able to transform their afflictions and frustrations. Please bear in mind that, when afflictions have not yet arisen, worry and fear are useless; and when something bad has actually happened, worry and fear will in no way ease the sorrow. No one can stop the hands of the clock. But if we are willing, we can always buy new and different clocks, wind them up and start afresh - wouldn’t you say?
From Shang Longrik Gyatso Rinpoche
There have been a lot unsettling incidents reported in the news. The unpredictable and sporadic nature of these events has disturbed some people to the point where their bodies are plagued by tension and they are unable to feel safe and secure. The gas explosion in Kaohsiung led to the senseless loss of many lives and the instant destruction of many homes. When faced with this kind of scenario, people might consider what they would do if it were to happen to them. Many have come to me to say that, were they to encounter such an event, they would not know how to carry on.
The current surplus of similar disastrous events has led to an atmosphere of ever increasing misgiving, hollowness, confusion and uncertainty. When these kinds of incidents are brought up in conversation many immediately feel dispirited and some may even consider emigrating.
Those with even the most basic grasp of Buddhist concepts can understand that all phenomena are the product of karma. This is why certain things happen to certain people in certain places. Some places are engulfed in a distressing and maddening gloom while other places are blessed with peace and tranquility. Karma also explains why a misfortune may befall a group of people and yet some manage to avoid it by being pulled out of harm’s way by a last-minute situation. This is what the Buddhist teachings of impermanence and collective karma elaborate on.
An understanding of karma can clearly show that each circumstance can be traced to a cause. There is no such thing as an accident. Ever since primordial times, humanity has been faced with surviving an incalculable number of natural disasters. Entire regions have been swallowed up by swift bursts of floodwater, and tectonic plates lying quietly under mountain ridges suddenly clash with such overwhelming power that countless lives are destroyed in an instant. The legend of Atlantis can also serve to demonstrate the omnipresence of karma and impermanence.
If we maintain a warm and positive mindset and never arbitrarily forsake the aspects of right intention and right mindfulness, while doing what needs to be done in a calm and wise manner, we will purify our karma and will definitely be able to embrace a brand new life.
There is no need to be overly anxious about our deep-seated fears. Everyone has the absolute potential to face up to the the challenges imposed by external circumstances. People habitually turn away from these difficulties thinking that they are unable to resolve them and so they stagnate in their pre-established ideas and cement their feet to the ground. In reality, once the dark night has passed, the breaking of dawn is sure to come.
The two top killers in the 21st century are cancer and mental disorders. Among psychiatric disorders, depression is the most common.
According to reports from health organisations worldwide, almost 150 million people have been clinically diagnosed with depression since the 1970s. Within the next 50 years, another projected 8 billion people will suffer from depression-related illnesses. Nations will be hard pressed to swallow the bill for the massive amounts of medication needed to counteract the illness.
Further examination of the subject brings up a division between depression linked to heredity and cases linked to diet or hormonal imbalances. There might be a plethora of causes, but what is certain is that once a person develops tendencies, depression will directly affect their lifestyle, including sleep patterns and emotional, physical and psychological well-being. Family members will become strained in providing support.
If the condition is caused by diet or unhealthy lifestyle choices, there is a positive prognosis for recovery. It is worth checking whether the depressed person has a deficiency in certain amino acids or a severe lack in iron, magnesium, potassium, etc. Fluctuations in the testerone levels of older men can sometimes lead to temporary depression. Females are susceptible to depression during puberty, their menstrual cycle or after giving birth. Women going through menopause, which could last up to 10 years, deserve particular attention as they are exposed to a high risk of onset during this period.
Are drugs absolutely necessary to treat depression? Statistically, only 10% of depressed patients experience improvements with medication. In some cases, the harmful effects or complications caused by drug treatment can be even more troubling than the depression itself.
In truth, psychological disorders are not so terrifying. The diagnosis of depression, panic disorder, manic depression or any mental disease and the ensuant anxiety is actually far more damaging to the patient. Studies of personality traits and behavioural patterns shows that most mental patients are perfectionist and timid. They are overly self-critical and persnickety while giving too much consideration to the criticism and opinions of others. Overcome by feelings of failure or inadequacy, they are preoccupied with how others view them and the possibility of failure or loss. This makes them easily demoralised or unable to recover from even minor setbacks in daily life. Many similarly unhealthy habits and personality traits that have been formed in our early life will eventually develop into depression.
Buddhist householder Pangyun upheld the philosophy of “if the mind is unmoving, it is just as well to be surrounded by all things.” In the face of all circumstances and even obstacles, ideally we would be able to cope with them as they arise and leave not a single trace on our mind once they pass. This would mean that we are in complete control of our mind, as it would remain unperturbed by any circumstance. We should try to put all afflictions and tribulations to rest by viewing them in neither a positive nor a negative light. Emotional afflictions are borne out of a preconception, built up in the moment’s thoughts, and carried over by afterthoughts. This cycle can take a toll on our appetite and we might even lose sleep over it.
We should avoid forming attachment or being obsessively meticulous, thereby driving ourselves into a mental cul-de-sac. It is crucial to stop further complicating our train of thoughts and let the mind take breaks. Do not mull over the past and let bygones be bygones - good or bad, applause or derision. Terminate all desires and the mind will always be in a state of unfettered ease; regardless of whatever passes, it stays intact and unaffected as if nothing has happened.
When we can truly understand the empty nature (i.e. impermanence) of all things, their significance will cease. When situations arise, if only we can take precautions, think rationally, let go, shed unnecessary encumbrances and maintain a well-adjusted, level-headed and even buoyant mindset, then we can avoid psychological barriers such as gloomy pessimism and negativity and all that comes with it.