The following memoir was written by Kunga Dondrup, a monk living in Kathmandu. As he explains, he met Akong Rinpoche when he was younger, and this is his memory of that particular meeting.
Apparently, he walked away with a jewel.
Some years ago, in Cardiff, I had an interview with Akong Rinpoche. I was feeling really low, and sorry for myself, as things were going pretty badly at that time. I told him what I was going through.
He looked at me flatly and said, 'Welcome to Samsara.'
And that was it.
I felt a little deflated at first. After all, I'd opened my heart to the man, revealed the anguish that was eating me, and all he could say was this?
And then the penny dropped: What won't work in the first place can't be fixed. What else should I expect? It was a wake up call for me.
If we accept Buddha's teaching then we really do need to make its central theme our personal experience, the springboard for our outlook and practice: Life is full of suffering; the cause of suffering is clinging; but there is a way out; and this is to follow the path which arose from the Buddha's realisation.
Samsara won't work. It can't be fixed. In other words, there will always be suffering, in as many ways as causes and conditions permit, until the very causes of suffering themselves have been overcome, and we achieve arhatship or Buddhahood.
I was very sorry to hear of Rinpoche's death today, as I am very grateful for the teachings I received from him. They were always practical, earthy and wise. And so, rather than wax emotional about how I miss him - which would be connected more with my own emotional self-indulgence, than with what he has personally experienced - I honour his memory by sharing the very same teaching he gave to me.
I am sure Rinpoche will continue to benefit many beings. If we want to do the same, as Mahayana practitioners should, then we need to remember and implement Buddha's teaching and make it bear fruit in our lives.
Welcome to Samsara.