Guru Rinpoche Day Teachings

The Importance of Dignity

Dear friends near and far

As always, I hope this message finds you well, healthy and happy. Today’s Guru Rinpoche Day marks the birthday of Maha Guru Padmasambhava. So, on this special day, I would like to talk to you about dignity, a crucial quality for all of us to develop. 

We all have different predispositions when it comes to developing dignity. It may come very easily to some, and be quite the opposite for others. So what’s the secret to gaining dignity? I can’t say there’s a magical solution—but I think it’s important to understand the difference between dignity and confidence. The confidence you might have at work, in your life, in social gatherings and the like is not the same as the dignity which is actually inherent to your nature, or your mind. Therefore, the only way to develop dignity which I think really works for all—on both the secular and the spiritual planes—is to meditate. Meditation is focusing the mind so that it can slow down and not jump so easily into negative thought patterns. The experiences of calm and fulfillment that meditation brings about, though short at first, bring us trust and stability. From this basis, it’s then important to introduce the element of dignity.

Now, a key difference between dignity and confidence is that confidence is usually associated with some kind of activity, or a way of relating to others, of impressing them. Dignity, however, does not need to be associated with anything or anyone—or in fact with anyone’s opinion of you. Dignity is inherent to your nature; it is an innate, pure quality of the mind. Dignity, therefore, can be developed through the cultivation of compassion, through meditation, and through gaining some spiritual experience. 

The interesting things is, when you have true dignity, then your critical, judgmental mind eases off, or even disappears altogether. So a good marker to look out for is that dignity is accompanied by reduced judgment. Someone who is very judgmental does not have true dignity, though they can be proud, or confident. Therefore, though confidence and pride may look like dignity at first glance, when you examine them a bit closer, the major difference is that pride and confidence are tainted, they are not pure: both pride and confidence are very much affected by other people’s opinions or judgment. Dignity, in that sense, is the very opposite, because it cannot be affected by others; it is a very pure, untainted experience. 

All this can be a bit tricky to explain because many of us don’t have experiential knowledge of these qualities and the differences between them, and we may therefore misunderstand or misinterpret our experiences. That is why we really need to meditate and gain experience. But before meditating, it is important to set our intention: that we wish to gain dignity through this meditation. This, and genuine compassion, are the key ingredients to developing dignity.

In brief, what I wish to say through this rather long explanation, is that I wish for all of you who are receiving this email to gain some dignity—or in fact complete dignity—so that you may experience peace and calm in your lives. With these qualities, life becomes a joyful, positive experience—so may you all realize dignity!

With thanks, and sending all my love and prayers,

Sarva Mangalam,

Phakchok Rinpoche


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4 responses on "The Importance of Dignity"

  1. I really understood something new about the distinction between dignity and confidence from reading this email.

  2. This teaching is so precious and profound–one to read and re-read, to contemplate, to inspire meditation. Thank you, Rinpoche!
    Chagdud Khadro

  3. Thankyou Rinpoché ,I always have difficulty in this as it says in the 2nd of the 8 verses For training the mind by Langri Thangpa ,’may I see myself as the lowest among all and genuinely see others as superior’ ,still one can be dignified and see like that as well I suppose ?

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Suggested Reading

Dudjom Rinpoche, The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism, trans. and ed. by Gyurme Dorje and Matthew Kapstein (Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1991), vol. 1, pages 468–474.

Ngawang Zangpo, Guru Rinpoche: His Life and Times, Ithaca: Snow Lion, 2002.

Nyoshul Khenpo, A Marvelous Garland of Rare Gems: Biographies of Masters of Awareness in the Dzogchen Lineage, trans. Richard Barron (Junction City: Padma Publishing, 2005), pages 41–48.

Padmasambhava, Legend of the Great Stupa, Berkeley: Dharma Publishing, 1973

Padmasambhava & Jamgön Kongtrul, The Light of Wisdom, trans. by Erik Pema Kunsang (Boudhanath: Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 1986-1999), pages 43-47 & Appendix 5.

Taranatha, The Life of Padmasambhava, Shang Shung Edizioni, 2005

Tulku Thondup, Masters of Meditation and Miracles, Shambhala, 1996.

Yeshe Tsogyal, Life and Liberation of Padmasambhava, translated by Kenneth Douglas and Gwendolyn Bays (Emeryville: Dharma Publishing, 1978, republished 2008).

Yeshe Tsogyal, Lotus Born: The Life Story of Padmasambhava, Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 2004.

‘The Life of Guru Padmasambhava’ in A Great Treasure of Blessings, The Tertön Sogyal Trust, 2004.