Rock Meets Bone

Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche on Living at a Land Centre

During the Scorpion Seal retreats at Dorje Denma Ling in 2009 and 2011, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche met with the staff community to express his appreciation for the efforts and spirit that were supporting the retreats. Here are few excerpts from his remarks:

It’s when you are actually engaged in working in a practice center that, as we say, ‘rock meets bone’—that it really comes through what your conceptual idea of practice is and what real practice is. So it is very important, I think, for some of you who have been engaged in this way to go further with your own practice and study. It’s important to understand how valuable is the opportunity to live here and work here. When you’re engaged in this kind of work that is benefiting a lot of people, the result is beyond what you can imagine. It’s not ordinary work in that way. It really depends on your attitude and how you begin to approach it. So I think that’s part of the notion of service, that’s part of the path.


One of the greatest joys and practices as a bodhisattva, a warrior, and also as a practitioner, is giving your whole being over to the teachings and working for others. So as I came here, I was reflecting on how we have all given our life over to the situation, even though you may just be here for a few months. A lot of us have been engaged in this a long time… But [in either case] there is no greater teaching than to do that. At the same time there is no greater challenge, because you give your time, your space, your emotion. But that also makes it very interesting to receive and learn.

A lot of what happens when you’re working and practicing in a situation like this is that you are already caught in the karmic stream of the energy of the teachings, and you receive at an exponential rate. So everything’s coming at you and everything’s putting you on the spot. So the training from that point of view is unsurpassed. And I think a lot of times it’s just a matter of whether we’re ready for it and able to handle it. So it’s important to try to balance some kind of healthiness of your own self, in terms of your state of mind and your health. Because once you’re here there is really no stopping the energy. And at the same time, when we’re here we become a conduit, and we become a part of that process of how to express the energy.

Especially here [at Denma Ling] where we’re small—there are very few of you—you’re having to, in a sense, do more than would be normally be expected because you can’t just blend in. Here everybody is very much individual, and so I think it’s a good opportunity for the notion of the enlightened society, where there is a level of trying to respect and understand. And it’s also very good in terms of maintaining your own “wangthang”, your own power, force field, as you stay here.

And I think right now with a lot of transition happening in our own mandala and in the world, [even though] it’s busy here it could become very cozy and protected. That could be beneficial sometimes but it also can become an obstacle, so I would really recommend constantly refreshing your view and understanding of the teachings and who you are. Especially try not to get into a comfort zone, which is very often the case when you’re living in a place like this, to try to find your comfort zone. But remain like the tiger; the tiger is always careful, appreciating and watching everything.

It’s interesting for us culturally, I think because—as you know—this isn’t a vacation. I don’t know if you’ve realized that. [Laughter] This is not retirement either. At the same time it’s not necessarily school. So it is a very interesting culture we’re building. I think sometimes it is difficult because we don’t know what it’s supposed to be—there is no blueprint of “it’s like this.” Part of what we are doing is trying to create an environment where the values of what we consider very important are up front and are constantly being applied. So when you’re working with kindness, when you’re working with mindfulness, and when you’re working with aggression—all of these elements—when you are working with that, it is important to realize that you are actually transforming our culture, you are transforming the culture around you, and you are also transforming the bigger culture. A lot of times you feel like it’s unnoticed. So it’s important to appreciate what is actually happening.