Heart Advice

– excerpts from Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche’s book Healing With Form, Energy and Light

Heart in IceEveryone in samsara has problems. That is the nature of samsara. Practice will not make anyone problem-free as long as one is in samsara, despite what many Westerners seem to believe. People often ask me if people who always abide in the natural state get ill. Even people who abide continuously in this state – if they have a body! – will become ill if they live long enough. The rent still has to be paid, the car needs gas, food must be bought, relationships have difficulties, and finally the body dies.

Though practice will not remove all the difficulties of a life, it will lead the practitioner to better ways to deal with problems. This is a much bigger statement than it sounds, because in the practices the emphasis is on how to be rather than on the problem. Most people don’t know how to be with a problem and often don’t have a good method of working with difficulties. Instead, they have the pervasive idea that problems have substantial causes and that the resolution of problems lies there. In psychotherapy it’s common to think that problems begin at a certain point in life as a result of certain situations, and that the particular time and situation must be dealt with in order to remove the problems. This may be so for particular problems, but suffering begins long before childhood, long before birth. No matter how perfect the childhood, everyone will still have problems.


As practitioners, we are taught to think about the gift of the precious human body. We have been born in places where the dharma is taught, at a time when teachers are accessible and where transmission is obtainable. We live where there is the political freedom to follow our spiritual paths. Our living conditions are good and we have the leisure to practice.

What we often lack is the recognition of the gifts we have already received. Sometimes we remember how good our lives are when we are brushed by tragedy, but then, caught up again in our normal lives, we forget. We are driven away from gratitude and appreciation by dark and negative forces, by habitual dissatisfaction and constant stimulation. When others have more than us, we feel envy, but in a world where so many people have less than us, we often don’t recognize how fortunate we are.

The teachings often focus on view, meditation, and behavior. What this means is that the way we see determines how we feel and think. And how we feel and think determines how we act. When we look from a dualistic viewpoint, we see an imperfect world and we live as troubled, imperfect beings in that imperfect world. When we see the world in its perfection, just as it is, we are buddhas, living in a pure land, surrounded by other buddhas.

Until we have pure vision and realize the perfection of the world and the beings in it, it is helpful if we can accept the imperfections of the world as a natural part of life, as the material with which we can work. When we turn away from any aspect of the world, we turn away from parts of ourselves. By opening to the world and accepting it as it is, we open to deeper dimensions of our own being. Complete acceptance is the end of hope and fear, the end of fantasies of the past and future. It is living entirely in the present, in what actually is.


Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche’s book Healing With Form, Energy and Light: The Five Elements in Tibetan Shamanism, Tantra, and Dzogchen, published by Snow Lion Publications, is available through Ligmincha’s Bookstore.