Not For Happiness

by Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse

Excerpt reprinted from Shambhala Sun, January 2013

Buddhist practices are techniques we use to tackle our habitual self-cherishing.
Each one is designed to attack individual habits until the compulsion to cling to “self ” is entirely eradicated. So although a practice may look Buddhist, if it reinforces self-clinging,
it is actually far more dangerous than any overtly nonBuddhist practice.

The aim of far too many teachings these days is to make people “feel good,” and even
some Buddhist masters are beginning to sound like New Age apostles. Their talks are
entirely devoted to validating the manifestation of ego and endorsing the “rightness” of
our feelings, neither of which have anything to do with the teachings we find in the pith
instructions. So if you are only concerned about feeling good, you are far better off having
a full body massage or listening to some uplifting or life affirming music than receiving
dharma teachings, which were definitely not designed to cheer you up. On the contrary,
the dharma was devised specifically to expose your failings and make you feel awful.

Try reading The Words of My Perfect Teacher. If you find it depressing, if Patrul Rinpoche’s
disconcerting truths rattle your worldly self confidence, be happy. It is a sign that at long
last you are beginning to understand something about the dharma. And by the way, to
feel depressed is not always a bad thing. It is completely understandable for someone to
feel depressed and deflated when their most humiliating failing is exposed. Who wouldn’t
feel a bit raw in such a situation? But isn’t it better to be painfully aware of a failing rather
than utterly oblivious to it? If a flaw in your character remains hidden, how can you do
anything about it? So although pith instructions might temporarily depress you, they will
also help uproot your shortcomings by dragging them into the open. This is what is meant
by the phrase “dharma penetrating your mind,” or, as the great Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro
Taye put it, “the practice of dharma bearing fruit,” rather than the so-called good
experiences too many of us hope for, such as good dreams, blissful sensations, ecstasy,
clairvoyance, or the enhancement of intuition.

Adapted from Not for Happiness: A Guide to the So-Called Preliminary Practices, by Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse. © 2012 by Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse. Exceprt from magazine publication by Shambhala Publications Jan. 2013.