Buddhist Philosophy

Buddhist Dignity: Gentle Looseness and Not Too Reactive

Buddhist Dignity

What Does Dignity Mean to You?

Phakchok Rinpoche speaks often on the subject of dignity. And Buddhist dignity is a vital quality for a dharma practitioner. In this video clip from a public talk in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts in 2015, Rinpoche explains how dignity functions.

Dignity is a gentle feeling–a very steady firmness. We often see the analogy of a majestic mountain. Dignity is a gentle looseness–not being too uptight or too reactive to situations or experiences. Dignity is not cold or unfriendly–we can still enjoy life! But with dignity, we do not go through the ups and downs and swings of emotions. And when we have dignity, we don’t engage in self-judgment. Usually, we spend our time being reactive. But true dignity brings stability.

Buddhist Dignity is Not Uptight

We learn to accept that each of us is different. So as we begin to practice, we can spend some time reflecting and checking out our own character. Then gently sit and meditate a bit. Have some kindness, and employ a little detachment. Dignity is a by-product of kindness, meditation, knowing ourselves, and not being too uptight.

We can see our own faults and acknowledge our mistakes, but we also develop the dignity to simultaneously see and know that we can change. That brings dignity. Dignity motivates us to improve.

Buddhist Dignity is Not Pride

Dignity is not pride that looks down on others. Dignity comes with compassion. Rinpoche tells a story here of an encounter with a homeless man in New York City. In this story, he demonstrates how our minds often work by rising too quick judgments. But dignity allows us to feel compassion for all people involved. We can learn to recognize bad action, but not to condemn a person.

Dignity creates a little distance from the situation or problem. Dignity allows us to have a bit of space in every situation. If we lose or forget our dignity, we tend to slip back into our habitual patterns, our habitual way of reacting. We all can work every day with our practice to develop dignity in all situations.

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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.