Why study Buddhism?

From: Learning from the Lives of the Lineage Holders: Khyungpo Naljor
Full transcript

I was with Rinpoche in Hawaii, and this is our first trip. And we’re on O’ahu, and we were staying with a couple who retired in Hawaii and she was a kind of strange woman—extraordinary palm reader. I mean just totally extraordinary—very sweet person. And her husband was such a grouchy, old, retired, aeronautics engineer, who had no time for things mystical. So dinner was a debate between him and Rinpoche. I mean he was just picking holes, and Rinpoche would be answering—I was doing all the translating. Great fun. 
And that evening Rinpoche started off his talk—about four hundred people there—in a way that I’ve never heard him open up a talk before. He said, “Some of you may be wondering why it’s important to study the dharma, study Buddhism. Well, I want to be very clear about this. It’s not important for everybody. There are three kinds of people who don’t need to be here tonight. First, if there are any of you who know that you aren’t going to die—you’re never going to die—there’s no reason for you to be here, so you might as well leave right now.” 
Nobody left. 
Second is, “Those who know when they die nothing happens: it’s over, it’s done, nothing. If you know that, there’s no reason for you to be here, so you can leave too. 
Third, those people who know that when they die they’re gonna be born into circumstances that are definitely better than the ones that they have here. If you know that for certain, there’s no reason for you to be here tonight. It’d be just a waste of your time. But if you don’t know one of those three things then maybe you should stick around. 
I’m sure he was talking to the grouchy old engineer. But the point here is: It’s not enough to hear it from somebody else. You can take in those teachings but you’ve got to think about them, and think about them, and think about them until, you know, “Right! I, I am going to die. And if I die like I am now I’m not gonna feel very good about it. I feel I won’t really have done anything meaningful in my life. And I’ll have these questions that I haven’t answered, and I will die with regret.” 
And that has to become very, very strong. And that’s it. The shade and flavor of it is actually a little different for everybody. It can be expressed in general terms but it really has to become one’s own experience and motivation. You cannot adopt that as a motivation without having gone through the process of making it your motivation. When you make it your motivation by really thinking about what is important, deeply, deeply important to you in your life. You follow? And it is absolutely essential.