Episode 48 :: Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche :: Rebel Buddha: On the Road to Freedom

Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche

Today we’re joined by Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, who speaks with us about breaking free of cultural accretions in his book Rebel Buddha: On the Road to Freedom.

Being a rebel. A rebel Buddha, no less. These are not words we expect to see together. We think of the word rebel, and images of tattoos and motorcycles may come to mind. We think of Buddha, and the sense brought to bear is serenity and calm insight. But there are many ways to be a rebel, and many ways to be a Buddha.

Perhaps one of the most difficult ways to express our cognitive dissonance with tradition, any kind of tradition, is to question. To ‘rebel’ by simply not accepting what has gone before. We see that a lot in our modern Western culture. We view rebellion as admirable, even heroic. Especially when we question with confidence, and base our questioning on experiences to which we can point, and say, “See? This is what I mean.”

However, not all cultural backgrounds have the exercise of contrary views woven into their very fabric. When we do see dedication cropping up in places it hasn’t had as much play, especially when it’s from a sincere and compassionate heart for the benefit of others, it’s something to celebrate.

Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche is a leading Buddhist teacher in North America and an advocate of American and Western Buddhism. A lover of music, art and urban culture, Rinpoche is a poet, an avid photographer, an accomplished calligrapher and visual artist. He is the founder and president of Nalandabodhi, an international network of Buddhist study and meditation centers, and of Nitartha International, a non-profit educational corporation dedicated to preserving the contemplative literature of East Asia. Rinpoche is author of several books, most recently, Rebel Buddha: On the Road to Freedom. He is a frequent contributor to Buddhadharma: A Practitioner’s Quarterly and the Shambhala Sun. Rinpoche is active on Twitter and in the blogosphere, where you can find his posts on blogs such as Huffington Post, Intent.com, Elephant Journal, Shambhala Sunspace, and others.

So, sit back, relax, and have a nice iced chai with mint.

:: Discuss this episode ::


“That is the essence and mission of ‘rebel buddha’: to free us from the illusions we create by ourselves, about ourselves, and from those that masquerade as reality in our cultural and religious institutions.” — Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, Rebel Buddha: On the Road to Freedom

“I still noticed that little streak of rebelliousness coming up in me again — the same sense of dissatisfaction I had felt earlier with the empty rituals and institutionalized values of all religious traditions.” — Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, Rebel Buddha: On the Road to Freedom

“How wonderful it would be, I thought, if only we could practice the teachings of the Buddha as he really taught them from his own experience — free from the clouds of religiosity that often surround them… Yet it’s difficult to distinguish the tools themselves from their cultural packaging.” — Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, Rebel Buddha: On the Road to Freedom

“… we need to find a way to connect these ancient teachings on wisdom with our contemporary sensibilities. Only by stripping away irrelevant cultural and social values will we see the full spectrum of what this wisdom is in its naked form and what it has to offer our modern cultures. A true merging of this ancient wisdom with the psyche of the modern world can’t take place as long as we’re holding on tightly to the purely cultural habits and values of the East or West.” — Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, Rebel Buddha: On the Road to Freedom

“There is no inherent awakening power in cultural forms that have become dissociated from the wisdom and practicality that gave birth to them. They turn into illusions themselves and become part of the drama of religious culture. Although they can make us happy temporarily, they can’t free us from suffering, so at some point, they become a source of disappointment and discouragement. Eventually, these forms may inspire nothing more than resistance to their authority.” — Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, Rebel Buddha: On the Road to Freedom

“True wisdom is free of the dramas of culture or religion and should bring us only a sense of peace and happiness.” — Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, Rebel Buddha: On the Road to Freedom



Web Links


Music for This Episode

Hon Shirabe

Rodrigo Rodriguez

The music heard in the middle of the podcast is from Rodrigo Rodriguez. The tracks used in this episode are:

  • Shikantaza