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The True Nature of Profit and Loss: An Interview with His Eminence the 7th Dzogchen Rinpoche, Jigme Losel Wangpo Interview with Gemma Keogh

by Gemma Keogh(more info)

listed in interviews, originally published in issue 159 - June 2009

Ahead of his UK tour His Eminence Dzogchen Rinpoche, revered Tibetan Buddhist lama and holder of the 400 year old Dzogchen lineage, explains to Gemma Keogh that we can transform challenging experiences by applying ancient wisdom to modern life.

His Eminence Dzogchen Rinpoche
His Eminence Dzogchen Rinpoche

As the global recession deepens and more job losses are announced each day, the effects of the financial meltdown are being felt throughout each level of society. The emotional stress and financial difficulties caused by the 'boom and bust' pattern of the economy has motivated many of us to search for an alternative approach to our livelihood. His Eminence Dzogchen Rinpoche, Buddhist master and acclaimed scholar, whose education was personally supervised by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is often requested by business and health care institutions to give ethical approaches and common sense solutions to modern day problems. Renowned for his ability to combine ancient philosophy and every day practical advice, His Eminence has been teaching to audiences around the world for over three decades. In response to the economic downturn, His Eminence explains in this interview that the real meaning of gain and loss has become confused within the high pressured, contemporary world.
In our race for development and our desire to have immediate gratification, we now value and prioritise short term quick fixes, often creating more suffering. The modern habit of excessive borrowing in the form of mortgages, multiple credit cards and bank loans is based on an assumed stability that does not incorporate the natural long term fluctuation that economies experience. Living on credit cannot ensure stability as it is illusory, and not based in reality. Eventually we will need to repay these debts, and if we have not made sufficient saving plans to accommodate our borrowing, when the economy experiences instability, as it is now, we too will incur difficulties. We cannot borrow continuously without expecting our funds to run out.

H.E. the 7th Dzogchen Rinpoche teaching monks & students
H.E. the 7th Dzogchen Rinpoche teaching monks & students

Our wish for instant results has led us to compromise our work ethic and invest in unprincipled methods to get ahead. We have forgotten the common sense relationship between action and reaction. Both scientists and ancient wisdom holders of different cultures, talk extensively about this important relationship.

His Eminence explains that, "In Buddhism we use the example of planting different types of seeds. In relation to the global economy, we can consider the investments we have made. We have planted seeds of credit and quick fix plans expecting a stable economy. In other words we have planted the seed of an apple and are expecting mango fruit to result. The economy can only be stable when the investments we make posses the qualities of stability and wisdom.

Profit made from honest investment is longer lasting and is more likely to benefit the whole community. It is not an instant success that is only profitable for the individual; rather it is developed over time, with a clear motivation to be productive and useful for others. In our quest for material comfort and success, we have lost sight of the very basic values of honesty and compassion. The current financial crisis is an example of how some businesses plant non-virtuous seeds through dishonesty, in an attempt to develop wealth rapidly. A non-virtuous seed can only provide short term gain because with a change in conditions which is inevitable due to the impermanent nature of all phenomena and a ripening of the seed, success will turn into loss. The great Indian Buddhist master Shantideva taught that all suffering comes when we think only of ourselves but when we think of others we can experience happiness and long lasting peace. The seed that we plant today is like an investment or deposit; our future wealth will grow from that seed."

As a result of the current financial climate, the UK has seen many of its high street stores and small businesses suffer through the recession, to the extent that we can count the recently closed or vacant shops as we walk throughout our local towns. Prominent chains that were once the focal point of the high street have closed, due to mismanagement and lack of long term planning, causing severe job losses.

His Eminence suggests that in order to transform difficult circumstances, we must accept responsibility and invest in planning strategies to ensure long term sustainability. Ideally we should invest in two or more plans simultaneously, so that when we face uncertainty due to global change, we have a second method to rely upon.

"Many businesses operate quite blindly, expecting things to go well. I always teach my students to expect uncertainty and that things will not always go well. There is no need to panic and be pessimistic, but by resting the mind and holding the view, when things do change we don't become shocked. It feels like the world is in a state of shock at the moment, but by looking closely at the seeds we planted over the last 10 years or so, it was very obvious that the circumstances that we now face were likely to occur.

"There is always a reason behind success, and there is always a reason behind suffering. But we rarely wonder why we are happy and successful; we take it for granted and simply enjoy it, without considering the causes and conditions that came together to create this experience. We often think it is based in luck, but what we experience today has been pre-determined by the actions we invested in the past. The same occurs in business; there are reasons for profit and there are reasons for loss, but because we have seen a decade of stable economic conditions, this recent downturn has taken us by surprise. Instability has now become shocking for us, but actually this is the nature of samsara, the nature of this relative world. No one thing lasts forever, and all phenomena are constantly compounded and dissolved."

But as His Eminence clarifies, it is not just in times of difficulty that we should review our business approach.

"Often within the business world, organizations are reluctant to take responsibility for difficult financial situations and blame external conditions. From a Buddhist point of view, if we really want to solve a problem, we need to turn our mind inwards to know its cause and to find a true, wisdom based solution. More often than not, an internal source can be identified, either internal to ourselves or to the company. When we amend our own behaviour and approach, we have the potential to transform any situation. Positive business management is essential for the success of a company. Inspired management can motivate employees to provide a better service and product, thus benefiting the customer."  

The global recession is a clear example that we are all subject to impermanent conditions, but in the face of adversity it is difficult to apply this wisdom to our daily lives. In fact, we find it very confronting to think of impermanence, especially our own impermanence. His Eminence offers reassurance, and explains that if we persevere and plant a positive seed of wisdom, gradually everyone within the community can experience the benefits of peace and prosperity. The extent to which we can plant a positive seed often depends on our ability to remain calm within challenging situations. As the seventh incarnation of the revered 17th century meditation master Pema Rigdzin, His Eminence is the foremost authority on the Dzogchen meditation, and encourages his students to rest their minds whenever possible.

"We can rest our minds in any situation. We do not need to sit on a cushion in the lotus position; we can practise meditation whilst at work sitting at the computer. It is important to be comfortable; if our body is tense it will create more thoughts and distractions. Our eyes can be slightly open, with a relaxed gaze. Then gently turn the mind inwards and rest. We can practise resting the mind whilst eating, cleaning or even shopping."

His Eminence teaches that meditation is a skilful method that can provide practical support.

"In the modern world we rarely slow down and when we watch our minds for the first time we will be surprised by the shower of thoughts that come and go. At first, resting the mind may seem difficult but gradually our thoughts will lessen and we will experience a natural spaciousness. This is very helpful in all aspects of communication, in relationships, when dealing with customers or managing employees. When we have space within our minds, we can take a step back and see the situation with more clarity, enabling us to make a more balanced decision that can benefit others as well as ourselves."

For His Eminence the most important way to transform a situation is through inner change – a sincere, heartfelt and personal commitment.

"We can change from our heart, or change from our intellectual mind. An intellectual approach to change will always be dependent on external causes and conditions that are interdependent. Therefore any transformations that do take place will be subject to the same conditions. Only sincere inner change will produce long lasting stable results. Then, even if we go through hardships, we will be stable within our decision because it was heartfelt and pure."

His Eminence' life story is an example of how to apply this ancient wisdom. His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama requested that Dzogchen Rinpoche re-establish Dzogchen Monastery in the Dhondenling Tibetan settlement, near Bangalore, south India to support the Tibetans in exile who settled there in the 1970s. His Eminence recalls his experiences when he first arrived:

"When I first came to south India with my family, the land was very isolated and barren. Before we could start building, we had to clear the land, and my family went from house to house in the village to raise funds for the monastery. Our circumstances were very difficult, but I learnt a lot during that period, particularly from my father, Tsewang Paljor, who really understood how to plant a great seed for the future. My father was an expert in geomancy and Vas Tu, an ancient Indian practice for aligning buildings with the energy of the natural environment. He chose the location of all the monastic buildings, and taught me the importance of laying strong foundations for the future. It is something that I have never forgotten and practise it in my work."

The Dzogchen Monastery
The Dzogchen Monastery.

For over three decades His Eminence has completed extensive development work at Dzogchen Monastery and in Dhondenling. In 1995 he established Dzogchen Shri Senha Charitable Society (DSSCS), a registered Indian charity that carries out essential health care, education and infrastructural projects for the 7000 Tibetan refugees that live there in exile. As a result, an old people's home, a walk-in clinic and two kindergartens have been established, to name but a few of the projects. Recently recognized by the Tibetan Government in Exile for his outstanding contribution to the welfare of the Tibetan people, His Eminence stated that, "Outer and inner favourable conditions are few, as this is the nature of samsara; therefore working for the benefit of others is the only way to ensure long lasting peace."

His Eminence' continuous commitment to ethical and positive development inspires professionals from all around the world who volunteer their services to DSSCS and its global network of branch organisations, Shenpen. In turn the volunteers learn how to apply this wisdom upon return to their daily work. During his UK tour His Eminence will go deeper into how to integrate this traditional philosophy into a busy and demanding modern life, an understanding that is so rare and precious within the 21st century.

Further Information

This June, His Eminence will be touring the UK, holding public talks in London and Norwich, a public talk and a weekend teaching in Birmingham and a Dzogchen Retreat during July in the Cotswolds. For more information please visit or


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About Gemma Keogh

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