Jetsün Khandro Rinpoche is one of the few female Tibetan lamas (teachers) in the world today and a recognized reincarnation (tulku) of a past great female teacher. She has taught Buddhism across Europe, the US, and Asia. She will be conducting a long Vajrayana retreat in Virginia starting later this week and you can find her Mahamudra/Dzogchen teachings on DVD, and – better for beginners! – her complete guide to the Tibetan path to awakening in book form.
Below she talks about Western students’ common over-reliance on willpower, which has the dual effects of puffing up egos and setting up disappointing defeats.
“Advice to Western Students”
As she says of Westerners, “one characteristic that I find very delightfully amusing is – they think everything is dependent upon their willpower. And I think that’s, in a way, nice. It’s very nice. Maybe that’s how it should be. But if it goes to the extent of disregarding the power of karma, and collective karma especially: karma of the land, karma of the teacher, karma of the time, karma of the place, karma of everyone, the retinue, the sangha, karma of Dharma itself, they maybe ending up putting tremendous pressure on themselves. And then that goes into the spin of either being too overly confident, or then the ebb of that which comes in feeling terribly frustrated with oneself and being guilt-ridden.
A sad part of this, as she says, is that so many Westerners, “lose the joy of having become a practitioner.”
Go deeper: Listen to this 30-minute teaching by Harvey Aronson on “Buddha, Brain, and Body: Shaping our Karma” which goes deeper into concepts of gratitude, getting beyond our ordinary (egoic) mind, and karma.
And in contemporary thought, a Chicago Tribune writer, Nicole Radziszewski, explores how “willpower can be a jerk” and mindfulness can be a welcome alternative.