The Voice of Clear Light
INTERVIEW WITH GESHE TENZIN WANGYAL RINPOCHE
ON THE ANNUAL SPRING RETREAT - April 16-20, 2008
During the Spring Healing Retreat at Serenity Ridge, April 16 to 20, 2008, Geshe Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche will be teaching the soul and life-force retrieval practices from the Mother Tantra of the Bon tradition. In a Dec. 21 interview at his home, Rinpoche offered more details about soul retrieval and its relevance to one's daily life.
The Voice of Clear Light: Are soul retrieval and life-force retrieval two separate practices? How are these two connected?
Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche: The text I will be teaching from has two parts: soul retrieval (la gu) and life-force retrieval (tse gu). These two factors are distinct, but they are integrally related. Somehow, the soul appears to serve as a deeper foundation of the life force. If the soul is healed, the life force is strong. If the soul is damaged, the life force declines.
VOCL: In the Bon tradition, what is the meaning of soul?
Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche: One way to look at your soul is as your spiritual essence: that which is fed by the activity of virtue. Another way we can look at the soul is as a balance of the five natural elements of earth, water, fire, wind and space at a very subtle level. In the Tibetan spiritual traditions, this balance of the characteristics of all five elements equates to one's spiritual essence.In one individual, all five elements may be in balance. Another individual may naturally have a lot of fire in their personality, more so than other people. Yet, within each element there is always some level of the four other elements; for example, the fire element is comprised of space fire, air fire, earth fire, and so on. So, even someone with a fiery personality can have a healthy balance of the elements.
However, sometimes we can lose this balance because of negative karmic ripening; because of long-term pain, conflict, stress or tension; or because of lack of skill in dealing with situations that arise in our lives. When one faces more than one is able to digest or deal with, when it becomes too much, it begins to damage the individual. It does not necessarily affect your physical health right away, but it may affect your personality, your mood, or in a deeper sense, the emotions and thoughts that arise from that imbalance of the elements. Someone with a lot of fire may normally have a sense of joy, of creativity, of enthusiasm, while still maintaining some sense of stability from the earth element and flexibility from the air element, for example. But when there is an imbalance of the elements, the person will not feel the same. They may feel unhappy, with no desire to do things, and no energy. They won't know what to do, they won't have the same sense of creativity. If they live too long with that imbalance, over time they may become physically ill.In the soul retrieval practice the practitioner can retrieve the elemental essences they need by connecting with nature, with the forces of time, with the forces of the enlightened refuge tree, of the healing spirits, of the support of the community of practitioners, of one's individual wishes, of ritual, of mantra — through all those things, formally or informally the practitioner is able to retrieve the qualities.
It is important when coming to these retreats not to think you are coming only to learn something in order to help yourself, or to come only because you work in a healing profession. Of course, you can come for those reasons, but most important, every now and then, once or twice a year, you should attend a retreat like this to retrieve the qualities you need and help put yourself back on track. Internally, spiritually, energetically, you are coming back to that place where you are a healthy, balanced person.
** To register online for Serenity Ridge retreats, or to learn about other retreats scheduled worldwide with Geshe Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, visit www.ligmincha.org, and click on "Retreats." Or, contact Ligmincha Institute at Ligmincha@aol. com or 434-977-6161.