Dungse Jampal Norbu: Cultivating the Mind with Awareness

The newest episode of our podcast, Mindful U, is out on iTunesSpotify, Stitcher, and Fireside now! We are excited to announce this week’s episode features Dungse Jampal Norbu, the son and dharma heir of Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche, a lineage holder for the Dzogchen Longchen Nyingtik tradition.

Dungse Jampal Norbu: Cultivating the Mind with Awareness

“[Meditation] can be a little unfamiliar and scary, but it’s something that we all can do. We just lean into it. Lean into the openness. What is it like to just be free? I mean, think of when you graduated college for instance—you’d been studying your whole life—filling your time with acceptance essays or homework or a thesis or something like that, and then you come out the other end of the education curriculum. And suddenly there’s all this room. It’s like, what do I do? And society says get a job. But for a brief moment when we graduate—it’s like what’s all this space? What’s going on here? It’s a little like that.”

Full transcript below.

Dungse Jampal Norbu is the son and dharma heir of Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche. Rinpoche is the founder of Mangala Shri Bhuti and a lineage holder of the Dzogchen Longchen Nyingtik tradition. When Dungse Jampal was still an infant, Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche’s root teacher, instructed Kongtrul Rinpoche to train Dungse la to uphold and continue Kongtrul Rinpoche’s lineage. With life-long guidance from Kongtrul Rinpoche, particularly in traditional Buddhist shedra studies in India and the US, Dungse-la now teaches widely as well as engages in an annual 100-day long retreat at Longchen Jigme Samten Ling.

Dungse Jampal has lived and traveled extensively in Asia, but spent much of his youth in Colorado. If you were to ask Dungse la how long he has been studying the Buddhist path, he would say, “Since I was born.” Under his father’s wing he has received many teachings and transmissions, sometimes while the two were walking in the mountains of Crestone. Dungse la’s anecdotal style and first-hand curiosity about how Buddhism relates to actual experience imbue his teaching with a fresh perspective, and reveal a natural wisdom and humor.

Mindful U podcast host David DeVine with Dungse Jampal Norbu.

Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche will be at Naropa University February 8th for a talk on ‘Creativity in Action.’ More information/tickets available here.

Full Transcript
Dungse Jampal Namgyal Norbu
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[MUSIC]

Hello. And welcome to Mindful U at Naropa. A podcast presented by Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado.

I’m your host, David Devine. And it’s a pleasure to welcome you. Joining the best of Eastern and Western educational traditions – Naropa is the birth place of the modern mindfulness movement.

[MUSIC]

DAVID:
Hello, today I’d like to welcome a special guest to the podcast and the Naropa community — Dungse Jampal Namgyal Norbu. Dungse is a Buddhist teacher, a practitioner and the lineage holder from his father Dzigar Kongrul Rinpoche.

I appreciate you speaking with me today — so thank you for coming.

Dungse Jampal Namgyal Norbu:
My pleasure to be here.

DAVID:
How are you doing?

Dungse Jampal Namgyal Norbu:
I’m doing well.

DAVID:
Awesome. It’s a privilege to have you. I’m really excited to speak with you today.

So, I was a little curious. You’re the lineage holder of your father who is a Buddhist teacher and a Rinpoche and he has deep roots in the Buddhist tradition. I’m curious — what was that like growing up for you — being immersed into the Buddhist faith in such a way. I feel like most of us don’t have such a deep lineage and you kind of like we’re grown up in that and I’m just curious what was that like for you?

Dungse Jampal Namgyal Norbu:
Well, initially it didn’t occur to me that there was anything you know different because I grew up in the community and you know it’s the community, I grew up in. It just seems very natural. And — but later on — kind of getting a sense that there’s something a little different. And maybe at that time like around the age of five or six I really just wanted to be low key. I’ve always wanted to be low key. And not be too outstanding — just kind of be a regular kid. But I think the — the crux of it kind of came when I was growing up and getting into adolescence and then in high school — that’s when I really saw a big difference. Particularly in all the subtle things that I didn’t realize were Buddhist teachings — it just was stuff you did like contemplative breathing or working with your mind or kind of generating compassion — you know in different situations when you’re frustrated or something like that.

And seeing the contrast of how I had this kind of asset that maybe some of my classmates didn’t have and then it became a little more clear that, oh this is something that is valuable to me. And, I didn’t really have that much of a rebellious phase — my parents were pretty open. So, there’s not a whole lot to rebel against. Like they let me just run off into the woods.

I mean maybe they just realized they couldn’t stop me from running off all the time. So, they’re just cool with it. So, I didn’t feel like I was pushing back against much. So, in the end I figured this is something that is supportive to me and I really saw the contrast with my friends in school and decided that this is something I have. And so, I want to you know develop that at least.

DAVID:
Yeah that’s awesome. So, when you were growing up did you want to become a spiritual practitioner and be a teacher of that? Or did you have — like I want to be a fireman or something like that? Like how did that happen for you or were you just like wow I want to follow in my father’s footsteps and keep teaching and do the Dharma.

Dungse Jampal Namgyal Norbu:
I think as far as what I wanted to do — I wanted to be Bruce Lee but —

DAVID:
Me too, what?

Dungse Jampal Namgyal Norbu:
I know it’s like the dream for most of us. But somewhere in the back of my head I knew that that was less likely and that there was this kind of community in place and you know this is what my — my father did. I didn’t quite know what he did like as a job — it was just the thing he did — the thing he was. And so, you know he taught and he — he embodied and so it didn’t really strike me as a career necessarily until later and you know when you start thinking about careers.

And then I wasn’t so sure about it because I wasn’t big on public speaking. I didn’t like to make a big splash. I was really more like — I just want to kind of be sitting in the back row a bit more and I had to — I was pushed a little bit more towards the front. And you know adjusting to that I felt maybe there were some assumptions of my own about what it means to be a spiritual practitioner and to own up to my advantages or my lineage or you know just the blessing that I had of being connected. And so, it became more of a matter of service for me like this is what helps other people. I have this unique opportunity to do this. The Bruce Lee thing is kind of phasing itself out from my — my life as a career opportunity.

DAVID:
Is it though? Are you a mental Bruce Lee? Energetic Bruce Lee. You just kind of empowering people to like take charge and just own it.

Dungse Jampal Namgyal Norbu:
In some ways it — it kept transitioning because I retain a strong interest in martial arts — like in an ongoing sense, but it kept transitioning from the physical aspect of you know (wah) to ohm and there’s like a connection there with like Bruce Lee and his teacher and they had that whole thing the tao of gung fu and kind of the spiritual touch in and as I encountered the world a bit more — you end up seeing so much violence and confrontation. And you know even in Bruce Lee’s movies he — he dies in some of them. So as cool as it is — it doesn’t seem like an answer or something I really want to do. Like I want to embody something in that which is the discipline or the — the openness to the tradition and the strength of character and — and so on. But not necessarily always about it being confrontation.

So, it became kind of an emphasis on spiritual kung fu and you know I have the whole Tibetan Buddhist tradition behind me. And so, I started seeing parallels on you know strength of character and even Buddhism and martial arts, Buddhism in Shaolin monks and then my interest kind of developed and now it’s more of a spiritual — even my kung fu interests are spiritual now.

DAVID:
Yeah, there actually is a huge amount of mindfulness and just body awareness in the art of martial arts, Kung Fu — all that stuff. I actually have a black belt in Taekwondo and hapkido and I studied Xing Yi for about seven years. So, like I have a pretty deep practice with the breadth of martial arts.

So, and I grew up wanting to be Bruce Lee as well.

Dungse Jampal Namgyal Norbu:
That’s awesome.

So, I had that vibe as well, but I never really realized how much you’re using your mind and your body. The relationship between the two and I love how you’re using your passion when you were younger and bringing it to your passion as you become a person of like interests and well-being. And it’s really cool to hear that.

Dungse Jampal Namgyal Norbu:
Yeah, I had a predilection towards philosophy and introspection — I guess in that sense from an early age. And when I really got into it, I thought that whatever I do whether, you know, I end up being a kung fu teacher or I end up working in an office or working outside or even just going off grid — I mean that was a thing in high school. I was talking about biodiesel and like living in a trailer somewhere. No matter what I did it would be helpful to have some sort of spiritual practice or way of — way of living so to speak. And this seemed to be a great thing to do and so I pursued it as a way to support life and whatever else I did. And the more I pursued it the more I felt like everything I did took on that context.

So, you know whenever I cook now there’s some element of spiritual cooking or spiritual nourishment. You know Kung Fu takes on a spiritual element. So, you know writing takes on a spiritual element — like everything takes on some sort of introspective, hopefully compassionate or — or I guess insightful emphasis. I don’t quite take it at surface value — like I feel like it has a way to integrate. Like it’s not separate — nothing is separate in that way. Like there is a way that everything connects. And so, it stays alive in that way no matter what I’m doing.

DAVID:
Yeah, spirituality kind of seems like the ingredient you can add to any endeavor in which you engage in. I like hearing that.

Dungse Jampal Namgyal Norbu:
And I see other people doing that too — like doing their spiritual, mindful business or they’re mindful bartending or mindful martial arts or mindful politics or mindful activism. I mean it — I see other people doing it and it inspires me because I see it’s out there. It can be in all places.

DAVID:
Yeah mindfulness is able to be applicable to anything you do You’re washing your dishes — the way you’re standing, the way you are relating to gravity — the gravity of heaven, the gravity Earth because you’re being pulled down, you’re being pulled up. How do you play within that? You know like how is the body made — I’m not just doing dishes — like walking your dog. How do you think as well? Like your body mechanics — your mind mechanics. I love hearing that.

Dungse Jampal Namgyal Norbu:
What is it — oryoki — just — in Japan is mindful eating. Just eating has its own spiritual element. Or it can have its own spiritual element with gratitude, with mindfulness, with appreciation for where everything comes from and how it all comes together. Your own sense of craving or disinterest or disgust or equanimity. I mean — I’ve eaten some pretty weird things in the name of trying to develop equanimity too.

DAVID:
Interesting.

Dungse Jampal Namgyal Norbu:
Just as like also being fun and trying new foods and cultures, but yeah in the same line too.

DAVID:
It’s amazing when you start cultivating awareness — how more activated you are and how much more awareness floods into you. You’re like, oh my God I’m so aware like I can feel and see so much more than I’m used to. And you almost realize how unaware you were in some senses of like wow there’s like an overwhelming amount of awareness, but then the physical mind gets to choose what it gets to focus on. And then I guess the meditative mind helps you define what to focus on, what actually resonates and benefits you of the decision of what to focus on and be aware of.

Dungse Jampal Namgyal Norbu:
Yeah. It’s a choice that we cultivate too. You got to cultivate the ability to work with the mind and you know not just be led on by your habits all the time.

DAVID:
Awesome. So, you have the title Dungse — what does that actually mean? Like how did you achieve this title? I feel like a lot of people that listen to this podcast that are not essentially steeped in the Buddhist tradition, but they’re very interested in the practices. So, I’m just kind of curious.

Dungse Jampal Namgyal Norbu:
So Dungse on a more superficial level means that I am the son of a Rinpoche. The son of a teacher. But in a little more in depth it also means spiritual and Dharma heir — a lineage heir.

DAVID:
Oh ok.

Dungse Jampal Namgyal Norbu:
So, I wasn’t always labeled as Dungse Jampal — just Jampal. But then at a certain point when I decided that I would step into this role in our sangha community and that I would you know start training and teaching and learning what it took to carry this lineage forward from my father’s instructions then I got that title as well.

DAVID:
Okay, so it’s like when you stepped into it more — that’s when you were given the title?

Dungse Jampal Namgyal Norbu:
Yeah, it’s a more recent thing — it’s — I’ve only had it for the past about six, seven years.

DAVID:
Nice. Is there any titles that you are wanting to get to so you can like teach further? Or like is there a path in which you’re taking in which your title will be presented to you?

Dungse Jampal Namgyal Norbu:
Well, I don’t know if there’s anything that I aspire to get. I mean in some ways it’s just my pleasure to serve the community and to you know be where I can, and you know I’m not some tremendous meditator or a teacher. You know I am engaged with my community and I certainly do the best that I can, but I’m not necessarily aspiring for anything lofty myself. I just want to be of benefit and be a positive example in my community. And if there is anything on the horizon it’s not something I know about.

DAVID:
Such a great foundation. Just being a good person and just to have that be available.

Dungse Jampal Namgyal Norbu:
It’s a relief for me too because there’s someone like his Holiness the Dalai Lama you know born as the Dalai Lama and he is like a great teacher, a great spiritual being — and with a tremendous lineage behind him. But there is a lot of responsibility behind that too. And he often says that he just wishes he were a simple monk and that would have been his preference. I take that to heart that I’m more or less not a monk, but a simple practitioner in kind of a smaller context. So, I’m really happy to not quite have that level of notoriety.

DAVID:
Okay, yeah, but I definitely can feel like a really good heart — a sense of well-being like an enjoyable life living — you have things that are being cultivated that seem really nice. It seems as though you speak about your community and your Sangha and so it sounds like you have a really good community to be surrounded in?

Dungse Jampal Namgyal Norbu:
Oh yeah for sure. I’m — I’m very lucky that way. And I think the happiness naturally comes about as someone does find a meaningful spiritual practice regardless of if they have a name or anything like that. I mean that’s the — the point of having a practice is to find something deep and meaningful and uplifting.

DAVID:
Yeah. I love all the talk about practice because that’s my next question.

[00:14:33.14]
Q: Ok, cool.

DAVID:
So, what does practice mean to you and how do you practice? Pretty vague, but we’ll kind of — narrow it down as —

Dungse Jampal Namgyal Norbu:
I see practices as twofold. And there’s the — in meditation. And this is kind of a traditional description as well, but I think it applies very well to life for me. There is in meditation where you have maybe a formal practice. You sit on a cushion. You have a chant or a mantra or a text or a set of practices that you follow. And then there’s off the cushion meditation — post meditation. And that’s when —

DAVID:
I like that.

Dungse Jampal Namgyal Norbu:
That’s when you’re just out — you know hanging with people or living life. And you’re driving and someone cut you off in traffic and then you’re like about to swear — you know give them the bird or something like that. And you think ok wait this is a time for patients. Or this a time for sympathy. I’m not giving in to those tendencies — those habitual tendencies of like exploding in anger or I mean that is practice. That is active practice when we are just dealing with life and being kind, being considered, being mindful. I mean that is what practice is most of the time we’re not sitting on a cushion, but I am also part of a Tibetan Buddhist lineage and there is definitely a set of practices which I do, and you know that progresses as I get better and better at them. I mean I don’t ever really leave all of them behind, but that’s more the official on the cushion practice and then there’s post meditation life.

DAVID:
Yeah, yeah.

Dungse Jampal Namgyal Norbu:
And they go together. Some things you have to do on the coach, some things you have to do off the cushion. And so, practice is really at every opportunity — every opportunity where your mind is involved.

DAVID:
Yeah, there’s a symbiosis between those two. I really like how you said that and just clarified for us because I feel the same way. There is a practice that you do when you’re alone and by yourself and then there is a practice where you engage with the real world and that’s where the challenges sort of come up and there’s a lot of challenges within the mind, within the self learning as well. But, I really love hearing that when you’re in traffic — when you’re standing in line, when you’re dealing with other people and something’s not going your way there’s a moment where the practice comes up and you’re like, oh wait a minute, I don’t have to just respond or react to this. I can actually like just take a breath — take a moment. And I’ve noticed that there is a different way to respond and then my question is usually like what is responding? Is it your ego responding or is it your heart responding? Like how many different levels of response do we have?

Dungse Jampal Namgyal Norbu:
Right. My general thought — I mean this is very overly simplified is if you respond you’re doing it from intelligence. If you react, you’re doing it from your ego.

DAVID:
Oh yeah.

Dungse Jampal Namgyal Norbu:
Like you choose. And the level of choice that you give yourself depends on how much practice you have. You give yourself the ability to choose by not giving into habitual patterns and you know ego says scream, shout! You know this — like you choose what you want to do from a place of intelligence. So, any practice which tames down that ego attachment. I mean it’s not like you’re going to just go throw the ego out the door or something like, but just tone down the attachment to the ego and just let it just be and not have to control your life so to speak. And be kind and considerate and generous towards others. You have that openness. You have the freedom to say I’m making a choice to do this — not I’m reacting and thus being controlled by my ego.

DAVID:
Yeah there’s a different place of ownership that you can own it from.

Dungse Jampal Namgyal Norbu:
Yeah.

DAVID:
So, I’m actually curious — I really liked hearing that react and respond in the difference of. So, what does a reaction look like compared to respond. So, like reacting from an ego compared to reacting from a response.

Dungse Jampal Namgyal Norbu:
We mentioned aggression — maybe we’ll — we can talk about craving. So, in a situation where someone’s handing out food or handing out pieces of chocolate — and they’re like six pieces of chocolate. I mean a lot of people like chocolate. Someone’s handing out the chocolates — like the good chocolate. You know straight from Ecuador — dark, 70 percent cacao. Something like that. And there are three pieces, but there are four of you. And then you know first two people get their chocolate and then it’s like you and one other person. Ego says grab it. You know just take it. And that last person is like, ok, well you know I just got a deal — that’s a reaction.

When you feel that you might lose out — you might not get something — that you’re being denied something. That’s the reaction. A response is before you reach out and grab it — you notice the other person. You notice the situation. And your hand can still reach out and grab it. You can still do the same thing as if you know the ego was guiding you, but you had this one moment of clarity to think — do I want to do this? The ego wants to do this, but do I really feel like this is something which is important to me? Do I need this piece of chocolate? Maybe I don’t need it. I just want it. Maybe I want to share it. Maybe I want to totally give it to this other person because they want chocolate. And if I were in their place, I’d want chocolate.

So, there’s this moment of pause where we get to decide whether or not to go with that tendency, that craving, that subconscious desire — or to make a decision, which might gain us a friend — gain us some generosity, gain us some good merit, gain us some compassion. And most importantly maybe to let go of that need to always feed the self because it’s not like anyone needs chocolate to survive.

I mean I’m sorry to anyone who’s listening who — who that —

DAVID:
Sorry out there chocolate lovers.

Dungse Jampal Namgyal Norbu:
Sorry chocolate lovers. But in my experience no one needs chocolate to survive, but we can often grab on to it as if we do. And especially when it doesn’t benefit someone else. We can still grab onto it, which is a shame, but we developed a choice to do that or not.

DAVID:
Interesting, so I just randomly thought of this — when it comes to neural pathways and decision making — because we’re talking about this split second sort of moment where you get to decide to be more mindful and be compassionate towards others in decision making processes. Or you get to take the ego out and just do what you feel like will best benefit you in the like pleasure realms in the brain — is that taking the same pathway? But then there’s like a moment of compassion that is confronted with the idea of doing that or do you feel like it actually is a different neural network pathway through the brain?

Dungse Jampal Namgyal Norbu:
Right. Well, I heard a great metaphor for how neural pathways form and we live in Colorado and so it’s appropriate. The example is going down a mountain in the snow — like going down a snowy mountain — like skiing or snowboarding — whatever you do. Or sledding — maybe sledding is even better.

So, you start at the top — pristine snow, clear mind, unconditioned — and you go down. And then there’s this track. And next time you go down it’s more likely that you will fall into the same tracks that you carved out the first time. And so, then after going down like 50 times — there’s like three or four tracks, which are just getting deeper and deeper and deeper. And so, that’s how we form neural pathways and develop habits. So, in this way we are somewhat forcing an alternative — like forcing a new path in some ways. So, it is different. Or ideally when we let go of ego attachment, we actually reset the snow. So that we can go in new directions that we’ve never tried before. And if we can reset the ego grasping enough — ego is there, but if we’re just not holding onto it so much, we have openness — we have choice to try new neural pathways without getting bogged down into the same routes that we’ve always taken before.

DAVID:
Oh, I like that because I guess with that idea of the snow falling and taking the route — I really love it because then we’re taking ownership of, we actually get to decide what the weather is. So, if we want to have some fresh snowfall fall down and then get to choose a different pathway — I feel like that’s what meditation does — it gives you the controlling factor of allowing the weather to arise to have more decision making.

Dungse Jampal Namgyal Norbu:
Yeah.

DAVID:
That can benefit you.

Dungse Jampal Namgyal Norbu:
Totally. And I think most people who ski, or snowboard would agree that it’s so much nicer on fresh powder than going down the same stale hard packed snow.

DAVID:
Oh yeah. Yeah, you want to keep it fun and fresh, right?

Dungse Jampal Namgyal Norbu:
Yeah.

DAVID:
So, what would you say some of the difficulties are in personal practice? Maybe you can speak to some kind of hang ups that you had while developing your practice? Or maybe some people who have shared some — wow, I really find it difficult to do this or that. Like why can I not sit? I know I need to, I know I want to. Why am I not doing it? What do you think is the hang up for some people?

Dungse Jampal Namgyal Norbu:
Well, were just not used to taking that kind of time or introspection and self-reflection because we’re so busy — we’re just busy, busy, busy. I mean that’s one of the big hang ups is never feeling like we have enough time And I feel that way — like I can’t build any consistency with a practice when I’m always running here or running there. And so, I have to make time. And carve out something so that’s a challenge — it’s a challenge, but mostly today I think it’s a challenge because of the emphasis that we put on being busy. Like you always gotta be busy. I don’t know why. But I mean you got to stay busy. That’s how they say. I’m just keep keeping busy. I’m staying busy. Is that a good thing? I don’t know it’s always —

DAVID:
Like when you’re talking to people, they want to hear how busy you are.

Dungse Jampal Namgyal Norbu:
Right?

DAVID:
They’re like tell me how busy you are. Tell me what you were doing. Like I’ve been doing nothing. Wait, no what? What do you mean?

Dungse Jampal Namgyal Norbu:
Yeah, it’s — it doesn’t engender a conversation very well, but it’s something that I think a lot of us need — not necessarily to do nothing necessarily, but just to not be busy — to take some time to self-reflect and you said what did you do this weekend? Oh, I self-reflected. Mmm right, ok, but what else did you do? We don’t value that necessarily as a culture, but we also need it and maybe we even crave it to a degree. To have space to think — to have space to process. And know take in all of what life has. We only experience about 10 percent of our senses anyways. Like we experience whatever we experience — we only process about 10 percent of it. And we don’t even have time to reconcile that 10 percent. So, that is a big difficulty. I see it at practice, and it comes about what we value. And having the benefit of so many teachings and some hindsight — I see that this is really what I value and thankfully I have some opportunity to carve out time and sometimes I just got to say nope sorry I’ve got to do this. I mean to whatever degree I can.

DAVID:
Interesting so I’m hearing the sense of redefining what busyness means to you and having a positive twist on busyness because a lot of people feel like being busy is what benefits — but it can actually bog you down or kind of burning out. So, what is the relationship to busyness that you have? And is it benefiting you or is it actually getting in the way of just being a sustainable person.

Dungse Jampal Namgyal Norbu:
Mm hmm. I mean it’s — we got to be busy to some degree. We have to take care of business and that’s great. But then there are other times when busyness is also about mental engagement and like being entertained and stuff like that, we’re almost afraid to see what goes on in our own mind. Something’s going to jump out of the shadows of our psyche.

DAVID:
I didn’t know that was there. Where did that come from?

Dungse Jampal Namgyal Norbu:
That can be scary. And that’s why we have Netflix — you know to fill the gap — somewhat. And you know Netflix is awesome and entertaining, but you know how much of it does a person need in a day? And you know I’m totally guilty of that myself. But when it comes to what’s going on in our mind sometimes, we’re just afraid to look and you know if we’re afraid to look at something that sounds a little like thriller, suspense, horror. I mean if we give our mind a chance, we can find all sorts of things — comedy, tragedy, something way more meaningful than what we’ll see on a screen. And it’s in our mind and busyness tends to distract from that. Like we’ve got to fill our mind with something else and not see what naturally pops up. Even space — I mean even if space is in our mind, I mean that can be terrifying thing to deal with in some ways. Like what’s with all this space? I’ve got to do something. I can’t be here. It’s to open. This is something that comes up in meditation. Someone might get nervous because it’s just too open, too much space, too undefined, too vast to you know stare into the void — something like that.

DAVID:
Yeah interesting — it seems as though the meditation practice and just the mindfulness awareness when you may confront something that you’re not used to, or you didn’t see coming within the mind then you have the tools to more or less understand it or work with it. But when you’re just someone who’s just cruising through life and then you just stumble upon or mentally trip over something and you don’t know how to deal with it, you’re like, oh crap. Run. Go.

Dungse Jampal Namgyal Norbu:
And I think that’s totally normal as well. No one should be hard on themself because it’s difficult to meditate. I mean it can be difficult to meditate. And it’s been difficult for me at times. I know a lot of people — really dedicated meditators and you know you reach a point of your mind where you’re just whoa what’s going on? Like seeing something totally unexpected. And it can be a little unfamiliar and scary, but it’s something that we all can do. We just lean into it. Lean into the openness. Lean into what it is to be open. What is it like to just be free? I mean think of when you graduated college for instance — you’d been studying your whole life — filling your time with acceptance essays or homework or thesis’s or something like that and then you come out the other end of the education curriculum. And suddenly there’s all this room. It’s like what do I do? And society says get a job. But for a brief moment when we graduate — it’s like what’s all this space? What’s going on here? It’s a little like that.

DAVID:
Interesting. Ok.

Dungse Jampal Namgyal Norbu:
I mean I felt that.

DAVID:
Thank you for sharing. So, I want to jump in the karma. So, what is your understanding on karma and how does karma affect the decision and outplay of our lives? Like how does karma work within the constructs of being a human?

Dungse Jampal Namgyal Norbu:
Right. Well [LAUGHS] I don’t know if we have as much time to cover all of it, but as I understand karma is cause and effect. It’s what our actions lead to. What actions from our past have informed our present? What actions from our present will inform our future or what actions from our past have not yet really manifested?

DAVID:
Oh, I like one.

Dungse Jampal Namgyal Norbu:
And so, you don’t know what’s coming either because stuff from your past pops up in your future. That’s just how it is and it’s not necessarily enigmatic or divine fate or anything like that. Or destiny. It’s just that we don’t always see the results of our actions right away. It’s not obvious — like you drop something, it falls — that’s obvious. You say something to someone and then it kind of matures and influences and spreads over time and then it will come back to you in a different way and that’s not something that’s easy to predict down the line.

DAVID:
Yeah you can’t really like track those sort of settings.

Dungse Jampal Namgyal Norbu:
In a more traditional sense, a great book to read on karma is Karma: What It Is and What It Isn’t and Why the Difference is Important is by Traleg Rinpoche. And it’s from the Shambala publications. It’s really a great book. I think it’s helped inform a lot of my understanding of karma — things that I’ve heard before and things that I’ve never heard before. And it makes a lot of sense to me that you know actions — our actions affect us. They will always come back around to affect us in some way because we engender them. We’re a part of them. T here’s a relationship between us and our actions and thus their results. But then there’s also this interconnected sense of actions and how we affect other people and how that spreads out and how that in turn spreads out — like seven degrees of separation. So that we also see that we’re not separate necessarily. Like we do reap the effect of our own actions because we have that relationship with it, but also that it’s far more vast and interconnected than just one linear cause and effect stream.

DAVID:
Yeah, I feel like we’re just so used to seeing stuff happen in front of our being. And so, the fact that it’s this weird thing where it’s like well what do you mean if I say so on to someone that might not be in in full intention of what I actually want to be is going to affect me 3 years down the line. You know like it’s hard to understand that, but I call them energetic investments. So, when you’re engaging with someone and your mind’s like say this and you’re like I don’t know if I want to say that and it’s like well what do you want to invest in? What type of person do you want to show up as? And understanding karma can kind of help you do the practice — be the person to say something that is going to resonate with both people and not just react.

Dungse Jampal Namgyal Norbu:
It’s hard to see ourself in a vast picture, which is why I think studying history is kind of awesome.

DAVID:
Huh. Interesting. Okay.

Dungse Jampal Namgyal Norbu:
When it comes to history, we’re less likely to read about ourselves in a history book because it takes a while for that to really come into effect and there might be teams of researchers you know studying a particular event. But I am astonished with how many things in our current era have to do with World War II and how World War II is a giant event in recent history, but it affects like really weird things like Fanta soda.

Does anyone know the correlation between World War II and Fanta soda?

DAVID:
I don’t.

Dungse Jampal Namgyal Norbu:
Or how it relates to Coca-Cola or how it plays a role in the development or demonization of absinthe? How it has to do with shaving razors? I mean World War II affected so many small tiny things. And World War II itself started from a handful of people who made decisions. And those decisions had results and they carried on wars. I mean both from maybe war on the darker side of history and you know those who — who were not. I mean actions carried forward and they had effects. And only through a giant lens of hindsight can we see how it was interconnected.

For instance, Fanta soda came about because there was a blockade — like no goods and services were going to Germany. And so, they had to develop their own sodas and Fanta comes out of that. Shaving razors like Gillette — they were streamlined more for the military who are out fighting, and they needed to shave on the go. And so, you can’t have a straight blade with you all the time and shave very carefully while you’re in a barracks. The development and demonization of the absinthe — there was this post-World War boom where a bunch of soldiers came home and a lot of them had been drinking absinthe while abroad in North Africa — like the French legions and — and they’re coming back. And then there’s just this surplus of military personnel who are used to drinking a certain thing. And then they want that in the cafes and then you know the popularity spreads or fast food coming into the American homes when women started going to work more in America and they were not kind of seen as just being at home and they were contributing to the war effort and so on. And then you know corporations stepped in to help fill the gap where women weren’t making food all the time or gender roles were changing or evolving or however that was. So much of life today that we do not associate with those events have a connection. And so, who knows what events in our life — the choices that we make have some far reaching effect that we don’t know about.

DAVID:
That’s why it’s always good to choose the truth and the love and understanding and to realize whatever you choose does essentially affect other people and or just yourself. So just keep that in mind. Do the good work you know just show up.

Dungse Jampal Namgyal Norbu:
In my experience the practice of compassion and being kind to others is an acknowledgment of that connection. One, that we’re all connected. And two, that we all have the same basic desire to be happy. Like there’s not a whole lot of separation between us to begin with and that we affect each other and that we’re not that different. And to have compassion with understanding is wisdom. So, it’s compassion and wisdom right there.

DAVID:
Yeah, awesome. So, I just got a couple more questions for you.

Dungse Jampal Namgyal Norbu:
Yeah.

DAVID:
You’re on the verge of going into a 100 day retreat.

Dungse Jampal Namgyal Norbu:
Yes.

DAVID:
So, I’ve heard.

Dungse Jampal Namgyal Norbu:
Yes.

DAVID:
I’ve never done anything like that. That’s like a third of the year — that is such a long time. That like blows my mind. I’m kind of curious so what is that like for you beforehand, after I’m sure you’ve done a couple of these before. What is it like getting out of 100 day retreat and going back into the wild or the community and what is it like being there? Is it a silent one — you know tell me a little bit about that? How does that affect your soul and your mind?

Dungse Jampal Namgyal Norbu:
Well I guess to start with I’m always nervous. I mean I’m kind of glad for that honestly because it shows that I’m not taking it lightly or least in my own mind. So I get a little excited or nervous going in and I mean it’s — it is a third of the year and so it’s — you know I like to at least think that it’s a big deal so that I take it seriously and you know settle in and do my practice and don’t just waste my time zoning out, but reflecting with purpose — meditating with purpose. And it’s hundred days and the practices can vary depending on what stage I’m — of practice that I’m at or what my intention is for that particular retreat. This will be my seventh year coming up and every year coming out of retreat I definitely feel a huge switch because I’m cooking for myself. I eat very simple meals. I don’t really talk to that many people. I mean there are some people around who are also in retreat and we kind of run into each other on the mountain where I am.

DAVID:
So are you solo at this retreat or sort of solo like —

Dungse Jampal Namgyal Norbu:
I am solo in my cabin and more or less independent. I make my own fires and my own meals and stuff like that. But I do run into other retreatants, so I don’t — I’m not completely closed off. It’s not totally silent. But it is pretty limited. And so, when I come out, I think there is no — no more intense experience than going to Whole Foods. It’s almost like miles and miles of food and people and talking and bright colors and you know sometimes shy — is Whole Foods is almost more than like an international airport. I’ve gone straight to an airport after retreat — it was not like Whole Foods.

DAVID:
Ok, yeah so all of a sudden, you’re just by yourself — you’re engaging with your mind on a deep level, you’re doing your practice, you’re doing your dharma. You’re being very quaint. And then all of the sudden you need to like go get food. And you’re just like oh boy. Screaming kids, people rushing by you — you probably got to get in a car, which you haven’t been in for a while and just —

Dungse Jampal Namgyal Norbu:
Dungse Jampal Namgyal Norbu:
Going — going like 45 miles an hour. I feel like I’m flying down the street.

DAVID:
Ok, ok. Wow, so 7 years of 100 day retreats. That adds up.

Dungse Jampal Namgyal Norbu:
I’m hoping to get to 10 — then it’ll be three years retreat total all added up. And some people do go in for three year retreats. And our sangha had a 3 year retreat a little ways back. I think some people are still doing three year retreats, but I didn’t think that I would quite be able to handle a solid three years. And so, I thought 10 years of 100 days. You know I think that’s doable. I think I can swing that.

DAVID:
Yeah, no that’s impressive by any means. Ok, so when you’re in the retreat what type of meditation do you do? Is there a special time — I know there’s like Tonglen, there’s mindful meditation — like looking at a flame there. The bringing yourself back to the center because there are specific types of meditation you sit in. Is it only one type the whole time?

Dungse Jampal Namgyal Norbu:
It changes up depending on what phase of my practice I’m in. My first retreat was like a week. And this is when I was twelve or thirteen and for the most part it was basic to practice. And sitting and looking out the window. I mean it takes place in wonderful beautiful landscape and there’s this big valley in front of me and so I can kind of look out the cabin window and see the valley below and develop my concentration and deep breathing. And then once I get to a good kind of solid rhythm then I start developing equanimity kind of seeing all beings as equal, all beings as at least equal in importance. Then kindness — wishing that everyone be happy. Compassion — wishing that all beings be free from suffering. And then a sympathetic joy rejoicing in their victories. And then that’s the four measurables practice. And then I move into Tonglen where you kind of take on the suffering of others in order to give them happiness. Not quite in a martyrdom sense, but just because you feel like there’s no difference between yourself and other people. And it’s not even like sacrifice in that way. I mean when we hear sacrifice, we — the ego naturally screams a little bit like no not me. But when you’re not so much engaged with ego it does come quite easily. The wanting to just take away some of those pains — take away some of those trials from other people — just to give them a moment of happiness —

DAVID:
Like recycling.

Dungse Jampal Namgyal Norbu:
Right. And it’s a very powerful practice for a lot of people. I mean a lot people do Tonglen and they say how much it transforms their mind. And it’s — it’s a wonderful, wonderful practice. And so that was really the structure of my first retreat, and it was just a week. But it made a really big impact on me. And I’m just in my cabin crying you know thinking about the suffering of the world and feeling the compassion. You know I came out feeling very positive and wanting to engage or wanting to be open to other people.

DAVID:
Yeah, shifting your relationship to how you engage with things and realizing you’re not as separate as you think you are.

Dungse Jampal Namgyal Norbu:
Mm hmm.

DAVID:
Yeah ok I really — it’s like composing. You know sometimes you need that shit to like create the flower, create the fragrance of beauty and someone’s gotta do it. You know.

Dungse Jampal Namgyal Norbu:
Yeah, actually the metaphor for a Bodhisattva — someone who is on the path to attain and live in order to benefit all being is that of a lotus, which comes up out of the swamp, out of the shit and it blooms and is not tainted or dirtied by the swamp in which it blooms out of and so it comes out of that mire. So, it’s just like what you said.

DAVID:
Oh man, the people who want to be and or are Bodhisattvas — it’s so amazing to me to like want to step into this life to heal others — like being a high resonating soul to like come back to Earth. I got this — I’m going to help y’all out, but I’m by going out to work on me and then I’m going to show up for all you. It’s so — it’s just amazing to me that like people want to come here to help people in that way.

Dungse Jampal Namgyal Norbu:
Yeah, and that’s also what you just did like a little bit of rejoicing. Rejoicing in how people can benefit each other. That’s part of the practice itself. That we can rejoice in all the good things that are happening in the world as if — you know we share. Like that we all share in — in rejoicing over good things. And that’s — that’s a practice too.

DAVID:
Yep, cool. All right, so I really appreciate you speaking with me today.

Dungse Jampal Namgyal Norbu:
Oh yeah.

DAVID:
And just so our listeners out there can find you — maybe shout out to where to find you. Do you have a website? Do you have some talks that you can find online or anything like that?

Dungse Jampal Namgyal Norbu:
Yeah. So, our community has a website — Mangala Shri Bhuti dot org. That’s m-a-n-g-a-l-a s-h-r-i b-h-u-t-i dot org and there is a page there. I also have an Instagram — Jampal Norbu 108. That’s J-a-m-p-a-l N-o-r-b-u 108 on Instagram and — and there is also a podcast that are sangha host — called the link where we do some open Sunday morning broadcasts every week. I’m on it generally once a month and that can be found on the website under mangalashribhuti.org/thelink.

DAVID:
Ok. It was such a pleasure speaking with you today I can just feel, hear enjoyment of the path. You just feel so real to me and I can see the heart and the soul in you and you just have this like presence of joy. And I really appreciate it. So, thank you so much for speaking with me today.

Dungse Jampal Namgyal Norbu:
Oh yeah, thank you so much for having me on. This has really been a pleasure.

DAVID:
Awesome. So, I’d like to thank Dungse Jampal Namgyal for joining me today. He is a Buddhist teacher, a practitioner and a lineage holder of his father Dzigar Kongrul Rinpoche.

So, thank you for speaking with me today.

Dungse Jampal Namgyal Norbu:
Thank you so much.

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On behalf of the Naropa community thank you for listening to Mindful U. The official podcast of Naropa University. Check us out at www.naropa.edu or follow us on social media for more updates.

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