The balanced “Middle Way” path is a key aspect of Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche’s new book “Rebel Buddha, On the Road to Freedom.” For me, this simple teaching is critical to a joyful life but practicing it is not easy.
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with him for an exclusive interview. During that hour and a half, we explored many aspects of the inner rebel journey that Dzogchen Ponlop writes about in this book. Whether in person or in writing, Dzogchen Ponlop has a unique talent for breaking down the vast wisdom and teachings of the Buddha into simple, easily understood concepts and actions.
Most serious spiritual paths are a challenge for Westerners like myself because we don’t have (or won’t make) the time or the motivation to sit in meditation for hours, study complicated teachings or go on retreat for weeks. We’re busy people, so I asked Dzogchen Ponlop what I consider “the big question.”
My inquiry was, “How do we stay true to a spiritual path (be it Buddhist, Christian, Pagan or whatever calls to us), be of service to others in the world (we all want to make a difference with our lives), be fully engaged with our friends and families and still have a joyous life while not getting burned out from or discouraged by our spiritual journey?”
Dzogchen Ponlop’s answered,
“An extreme view where one either goes full speed or does nothing is unhealthy. It causes many people to get burned out or discouraged. They think that if they can’t go full speed, they should not be on the (spiritual) path. I am in favor of a balanced middle way, not too fast and not too slow.
People need to be continuously practicing their discipline and following their path but not burn out. It’s very much like choosing the right horse for the job.
In Tibet there are many horses. Some are very fast and powerful when they start out. They actually have too much energy at the beginning of a journey.
If one wants to take a long journey, those are not the horses a wise person will choose. When people go on trips for several months, the fast horses are the ones that get tired quickly. That is why discerning people pick horses that are not fast in the beginning but are steady and can be counted on to complete the journey. They are the ones that are steady and most powerful.”
He then took this metaphor out of ancient Tibet and into the lives of modern Americans when he shared this insight,
“The same situation can be seen in freeway traffic where drivers are constantly changing lanes and trying to speed ahead. These drivers don’t necessarily get to their destination any faster. The driver who doesn’t make constant lane changes and maintains a straight and steady path is usually the one who arrives at the destination first. In essence, that steady driver is actually faster.”
Once again, we returned to the concept that the Rebel Buddha way is actually a middle path of moderation. It requires study, practice and action balanced in a way that keeps us moving forward steadily on our personal journey of growth, development and finding increased happiness.
Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche is a widely respected teacher known for his skill in making the full richness of Buddhist wisdom accessible to all people. “Rebel Buddha” will be the focus of his Rebel Buddha North American Tour, which begins November 14 in New York, NY. The Tour continues to Halifax, Toronto, and Boulder, and will conclude in Seattle on Dec. 5. This will be a rare and unique opportunity to experience and be with Dzogchen Ponlop as well as other renowned spiritual teachers.
May we all recognize our middle way path to alleviate suffering in our lives and the lives of others.