The Door of
Prayer for the Happiness of all Sentient Beings
Ngorchen Kunga Zangpo
May the priceless teachings of the Omniscient One, the only door through
which happiness ever appears to living beings, never decline in any place or time,
but spread forth to every direction's end.
May the span of life be lengthened and enhanced for our peerless teachers
and spiritual friends who cherish the Buddha's religion more than their lives and
whose compassion and wisdom are measureless.
May the assemblies of monks who practice His teaching always endure and
their works pervade the ten directions, for they point out to beings the path of
virtue and carry the great burden of teaching and meditation.
May all human beings be free from fears of old age, disease and death, but live
instead with right views of existence in this world. May their minds grow to love
one another, and limitless joys increase always for all.
May the cities of the earth be beautiful, strung with rows of prayer flags, white
and rippling in gentle breezes; may their inhabitants not be poor but wear the fine
clothes and jewels they long to have.
May the eyes of living beings be gladdened by skies made splendid by clouds
that lightenings garland, while on earth below, the peacocks dance with joy as
showers of rain, falling gently, approach.
May the mountains be adorned by rippling grasses, clusters of wildflowers,
and by falling waters, and the valleys overflow with grains and commingling
herds, while men sing songs that spring forth from joy; in freedom from pride,
from wars and discord.
May the rulers govern well in peaceful ways and peoples heed their rulers with
unfeigned respect so that, all inner and outer conflicts set at rest, well-being
prevails as it did in the Age of Perfection.
May every temple be adorned by many images of the Enlightened One and
by books of holy scripture; may there the great rain of worship be increased by
infinite clouds of offerings offered by gods.
May the chanting and study of scriptures increase in every monastery, each
of them filled with spiritual friends and monks in saffron robes who uphold the
teachings of the sage and devote their days to discussing, explaining, and writing
about His words.
May the Holy Teaching of the Blessed Enlightened One be enhanced by lay
disciples, by novices, monks, and nuns, each endowed with moral conduct that is
flawlessly pure and diligent in study, reflection, and meditation.
May meditators who have given up every distraction be increased by those
attainments of insight that follow renunciation; away from all bustle and harm, may
they ever dwell in tranquil places of solitude.
May this, our own circle of meditators, whose prayers are offered with
especial faith, be blessed with prosperity untainted by wrong livelihood, and may
our spans of life and our understanding of Dharma increase.
May there also arise within me spiritual qualities of learning and realization
and the perfection of every principle which the Enlightened Ones have taught,
through my own wholehearted performance of giving, moral conduct, patience,
diligence, meditation, and highest wisdom.
For the sake of others, may I too grow in harmony with the Holy Teaching
and gather others together through kind words and generous deeds; by the power of
right explanation, may their actions and mine become attuned to the Way.
This prayer that I offer on behalf of all is that every obstacle to Dharma may
vanish and every auspicious condition completely prevail; may every virtue that
the Sage has praised increase always in every way!
By the power of the compassionate blessings of the holy masters, by the
truth of the Ultimate Reality of all Dharmas, and by the purity of our own noble
resolve, may our prayers become actuality.
(This prayer for the happiness of all living beings was written by the Venerable Master,
Ngorchen Kunga Zangpo, who established the famous hermitage of Ngor Evam in 1434. He was
an emanation of the Greatly Compassionate One and one of the Sakya Order's most illustrious
saints. Because it expresses the tute intent of all Buddhist scriptures, i.e. the aspiration to bring
about true happiness and well-being of all beings without exception, this prayer is usually
chanted by Sakya monks at the close of each assembly. This is translated by Dr. P D Santina.)
The Verses of the Eight Noble Auspicious Ones
composed by Mipham (1846-1912)
Homage to the Buddha, Dharma and Noble Sangha
All that dwell in the auspicious realms of the ten directions,
where all appearance and existence is completely pure, its nature spontaneously perfect,
May all be auspicious for us!
Drönme Gyalpo, Tsalten Döndrub Gong, Jampe Gyen Pal, Gedrag Pal Dampa,
Kunla Gongpa Gyach'er Dragpa Chen, L'hunpo Tar Pag Tsal Drag Pal,
Semchen T'amchela Gong Dragpe Pal. Yitsim Dzepa Tsal Rab Drag Pal-
Homage to the eight sugatas, merely hearing your names increases auspiciousness and success!
The youthful Manjushri, the glorious Vajrapani, Avalokiteshvara, the protector Maitreya,
Kshitigarbha, Nivaranaviskambin, Akashagabha, and the most noble Samantabhadra.
Homage to the eight bodhisattvas, supreme in granting auspiciousness and success, gracefully
holding your emblems: utpala flower, vajra, white lotus, naga-tree, jewel, moon, sword and sun.
Holding the eight most precious emblems: the most precious umbrella, the auspicious golden
fish, the wish-fulfilling vase of goodness, the exquisite kamala flower, the conch of fame and
glory, the glorious knot of prosperity, the eternal banner of victory and the all powerful wheel
are the creators of delight, making offerings to the Buddhas of all directions and times...
Homage to the eight auspicious goddesses: beauty, garlands, song, dance, flowers, incense, light
and perfume... Merely thinking of your essential qualities makes success grow more and more!
Mahabrahma, Shambhu, Narayana, Sahasrajna, the Kings Dhritirashtra, Virudhaka, Virupaksha
the Lord of Nagas, and Vaishravana-each one holding your divine emblem: wheel, trident,
conch, vajra, vina, sword, stupa and banner of victory.
Homage to the eight guardians of the world, who make auspiciousness and positivity grow
in three realms!
With all obstacles and harmful influences pacified, may the work we are now about to begin
meet with ever-growing fulfillment and success,
and bring good fortune, prosperity, happiness and peace!
(recite last verse three times)
translated by the Rigpa Fellowship
Qualities of Buddhahood: A Brief Sketch
Ven. Khenpo Appey Rinpoche
Suffering or unsatisfactoriness is a basis and indisputable fact of life. Suffering afflicts all
living creatures without exception, even though they try their utmost to escape it and to
obtain happiness. A perceptive and sympathetic individual cannot help being grieved by
this all-pervasive suffering, for he knows that all other sentient creatures are the same as
himself in their longing for happiness. Suffering thus can also become an occasion for
compassion - the deeply felt desire to free other creatures from their miseries. The Mahayana
Buddhist, moreover, does not stop at just generating this compassionate attitude. He or
she also comes to the conclusion that the only one with ability truly to free others from
sorrow is a Perfectly Awakened Buddha. And that Buddhist therefore resolves, for the
sake of saving and benefitting all sentient creatures, to achieve the matchless attainment of
The mere thought or resolve to attain Awakening is, of course, by itself not enough to bring
about its attainment. Buddhahood can only arise through its correct causes, and not in the
absence of those causes or from the wrong causes. These correct causes are the energetic
cultivation, over an extremely long period of time, of the six perfections (paramita) of the
Bodhisattva and the two preparatory assemblages of merit (punya) and Gnosis (jnana). In order
to strengthen one's resolve to cultivate those causes of Buddhahood it is helpful to acquaint
oneself with just what sorts of attainments it consists of. Therefore I shall here briefly explain the
main qualities of Buddhahood, according to their five traditional divisions of body, speech, mind,
qualities, and activities.
1. THE CHARACTERISTICS OF ENLIGHTENED BODY
According to the Sravakayana schools, the "bodily aspects" or "body" (kaya) of the Buddha
is twofold. The undefiled Gnosis of the Buddha's mind - His perfect realization of the Truth of
the Path - is the "dharma-body" (Dharmakaya). The physical form of the Buddha Sakyamuni
who was born in Lumbini and who attained Buddhahood at Bodh Gaya is held by them to be
the "form-body" (Rupakaya).
The Dharmakaya consists of three inseparable realizations: 1) the Dharmadhatu of the original
pure nature of mind, 2) the Dharmadhatu of the purity of mind that occurs through the freedom
from all adventitious stains or faults, and 3) the attainment of Gnosis that is without impurities
(asrava). The Gnosis or Transcendant Knowledge furthermore includes twenty-one categories
of characteristics free from the impurities. These include the thirty-seven factors conducive to
Awakening, the four limitless attainments, the eight liberations, and so forth.
Three main characteristics of the "enjoyment-body" are 1) that it is possesses the thirty-two
physical marks of Buddhahood, 2) that it has the eighty auspicious physical characteristics, and
3) that it engages itself in teaching only the Mahayana. These characteristics can be learned
about in more detail elsewhere.
The "emanation-body" is the doer of various enlightened activites for the welfare of all
sentient creatures. It is constantly active, manifesting wherever there are beings to be trained,
and will continue to manifest as long as realms of cyclic existence (samsara)are not emptied
of sentient beings. There are three types of "emanation-bodies": 1) "born emanations": these
are the Buddha's manifestations as gods, dwelling in such divine realms as Tusita, 2) "fashioned
emanations": these are numerous and include the various different forms projected by the
Buddha for the sake of converting and benefitting others, such as vina (lute) player by which
Supriya, the king of the Gandharvas, was converted, and 3) "the highest emanation": this is
the emanation which manifests the attainment of Buddhahood in the world, such as our great
2. ENLIGHTENED VOICE
In addition those "bodily" qualities, the Buddha has many unique qualities of voice. The
Buddha, for instance, can reply simultaneously to many questions, answering at the same
time in many languages. These remarkable qualities are usually taught through an enumeration
of sixty-four of them. These include sweetness of voice, the sound of which increases the
roots of merit of the listening disciples; gentleness, which soothes the minds of others by its
sound; and captivatingness, which appeals to the minds of all listeners. The list of sixty-four
qualities, however, is not an exhaustive enumeration, it merely indicates through examples the
great number and diversity of these qualities.
3. ENLIGHTENED MIND
Enlightened mind is Gnosis (jnana. It is the only one, but it possess several aspects, and in
that case we speak of four Gnoses. The first of these is the "mirror-like Gnosis", which is the
portion of Gnosis that is free of both apprehending subject and apprehended object. The
second is the "Gnosis of equality", which is that portion of Gnosis that abides neither in cyclic
existence nor in the extinction of Nirvana. The third is the "discriminative Gnosis", which is
the portion of Gnosis that understands objects in their multiplicity and variety. The fourth is
"action-accomplishing Gnosis", which is the portion of Gnosis through which the Buddha
understands the personalities and dispositions of sentient creatures.
On the other hand, when Gnosis is taught as being two-fold division are as follows. First
there is the Gnosis through which the Buddha perceives the ultimate reality of all knowable
things exactly as it is; this is the Gnosis if the level of ultimate reality. Second there is the Gnosis
through which the Buddha perceives all knowable things in their variety and multiplicity;
this is the Gnosis of the surface level of truth.
4. ENLIGHTENED QUALITIES
The qualities (gunas) of Buddhahood constitute the fourth traditional category through which
Buddhahood is described. These to some extent overlap with the other categories, and normally
they are taught as numbering sixty-four. These are the thirty-two qualities of the dharma-body,
and thirty-two of the form-body.
The first group of thirty-two qualities has three subdivisions: the ten powers (bala), the
four fearlessnesses, and the eighteen characteristics specific to the Buddha. The powers of
Buddhahood include the power consisting of the knowledge of what is possible and impossible,
the power of knowledge that takes actions and their consequences as one's own, and the
power of the knowledge of the various mental dispositions of sentient creatures. The four
fearlessnesses are the imperturbable confidences through which the Buddha sets forth in an
antagonistic assembly, His attainments of Gnosis and the elimination of all defilements, and by
which He teaches for the benefit of others' salvation and the things which obstruct the spiritual
path. The eighteen characteristics specific to the Buddha include such characteristics of conduct
as His being free from mistakes and accidents, His lack of nonsenscial utterances, His lack of
non-concentrated or non-meditative states, and His freedom from lapses of memory.
The second group of thirty-two qualities, those of His physical form, consist of the thirty-two
marks of the great individual. These include the image of a spoked wheel on His palms and soles,
flat soles of the feet, a thin membrane between the fingers, the protuberance (usnisa) on the top
of His head, and the curled tuft of hair between His eyebrows.
As with the other qualities of enlightenment, these do not in any way exhaust the Buddha's
qualities, for they are limitless and infinite like the sky. Just as however far one may proceed in
any direction through space one will never reach the end of space, so too, we can never list all
the qualities of Buddhahood. However many we enumerate there are always more and more to
5. ENLIGHTENED ACTIVITIES
The activities of Buddhahood can be explained according to two different principles. First of
all they can be taught in terms of the levels towards which they are directed. The Buddha's
activities 1) establish disciples on the basis of the spiritual path, i.e. in suitable physical existences
such as in human existences, 2) they establish disciples on the paths of practice, i.e. on the path
of accumulation, application, seeing, etc., and 3) they establish the disciples in the spiritual fruit
or result, i.e. in perfect Buddhahood.
The second way in which the activities can be explained is in terms of how they manifest.
They appear 1) effortlessly and spontaneously, 2) without discrimination or favouritism,
3) as identical with the activities of all Buddhas, 4) as a continual and never-ending process,
5) through varied skilful methods, 6) in ways that are suited to the disciple, and 7) as a
protection from the faults of both cyclic existence and Nirvana.
The above are a mere indication of the range and nature of the Buddha's activities. In fact,
He is able to accomplish limitless activities in each and every moment. And these activities
always continue, never faltering, for as long as cyclic existence continues.
Our scriptures teach that merely to hear the name of the Buddha will cause the hearer to
attain a human existence in the future. And they also state that hearing that exalted name
will establish in the minds of sentient creatures a seed which will ultimately ripen into
Buddhahood. Because speaking about the Buddha is so great beneficial, I consider myself
fortunate to have been able here to explain a little about the Buddha's glorious qualities and
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
The Venerable Khenpo Appey Rinpoche was abbot of Dzongsar University in Eastern Tibet
before he came to India. He belongs to the Ngor subsect of the Sakyapa tradition of Tibetan
Buddhism. He received his early monastic training and education in the province of Kham in
Eastern Tibet where he was born. Later he moved to the Ngor Monastery in Central Tibet.
Throughout his active and industrious life, he has performed numerous prescribed retreats
almost continuously and has also given many teachings and initiations.
He left Tibet during the Chinese invasion and has since been residing in India. Together
with His Holiness Sakya Trizin, they were the main motivating forces behind the founding
of the Sakya College of Buddhist Philosophy in 1972 in Mussoorie, India. Venerable
Khenpo Appey Rinpoche was the first Principal of Sakya College.
Until 1967, he was tutor to His Holiness Sakya Trizin in scriptural matters. He is an
outstanding scholar and is an authority on Buddhist philosophy, logic, and ethics.
Cloud Bank of Blessings
Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo
A Supplication to the Ocean
of the Three Roots
and the Dharma Protectors
GURU DHEVA DAKINI GANEBHYAH
Samantabhadra, Vajradhara and the five aspects of Immense Ocean,
Greatly renowned Twelve Illustrious Teachers,
Space-filling holders of the Buddhas' mind transmission
I supplicate you; bestow your blessings and siddhis.
Lord of Secrets, Garab Dorje, Manjushrimitra and Shri Singha,
Jnanasutra and twenty-one panditas,
Mind, space and instruction masters of the symbolic tranmission
I supplicate you; bestow your blessings and siddhis.
Three family sattvas, five noble disciples,
King Jah and Dewa Seldzey,
The hundred thousandfold assembly of anuyoga masters
I supplicate you; bestow your blessings and siddhis.
Lilavajra and Buddhaguhya,
Leykyi Wangmo and eight vidyadharas,
Great charioteers of the tantra and sadhana sections
I supplicate you; bestow your blessings and siddhis.
Vidyamantra adepts of kriya, charya and yoga,
Ornaments and supreme ones of Jambudvipa along with your wondrous disciples,
Eminent lamps who illuminate the teachings of the Muni
I supplicate you; bestow your blessings and siddhis.
Pervading Lord of the ocean of the three roots, Thotreng Tsal,
Eight supreme aspects and twelve manifestations,
Inconceivable circle of the magical net
I supplicate you; bestow your blessings and siddhis.
Vimalamitra and Khenchen Bodhisattva,
Dharma king, father and sons, Vairochana and Tsogyal,
Incarnated king and disciples, assembly of translators and panditas
I supplicate you; bestow your blessings and siddhis.
So, Zur, Nub and Nyang along with the ocean of tertons,
Dharma emperors of kama, terma, and pure visions,
Learned and accomplished ones, appearing successively throughout the three times
I supplicate you; bestow your blessings and siddhis.
Superior and noble wisdom body, embodiment of all refuges,
Perceived by disciples as a supreme teacher,
Root guru of incomparable kindness
I supplicate you; bestow your blessings and siddhis.
Vajrasattva, deities of Dupa and Gyutrul,
Nine glorious herukas, five and three families,
Yidam deities of the six sections of tantra
I supplicate you; bestow your blessings and siddhis.
Shakyamuni, supreme guide of beings in the good kalpa,
Perfect buddhas, guides of the ten directions and four times,
Countless ones appearing as the nirmanakaya to tame whoever needs to be tamed
I supplicate you; bestow your blessings and siddhis.
Comprised of the truths of cessation and of the path,
Calm, desireless and uncompounded nectar,
Ocean of the collections of the nine gradual vehicles
I supplicate you; bestow your blessings and siddhis.
Ajita, Manjushri, Vajrapani and Lokeshvara,
Samantabhadra and so forth, Mahayana beings,
All the noble sangha of shravakas and pratyekabuddhas
I supplicate you; bestow your blessings and siddhis.
Dakas and dakinis of the three abodes,
Vajra Dharma protectors, wealth gods and treasure lords,
Infinite ocean-like assemblage of objects of refuge
I supplicate you; bestow your blessings and siddhis.
I supplicate you, precious jewels,
Grant your blessings, assemblage of vidyadhara gurus.
Bestow your siddhis, peaceful and wrathful yidam deities,
Dispel all obstacles, dakinis and Dharma protectors.
Thinking of you with intense longing from my heart
I bow down and make offerings with one-pointed devotion.
With faith I take refuge and pledge myself as your servant.
Accept me from now on and sustain me with your compassion.
Having fully purified the two veils and their tendencies in my being,
Increase my life span, merit, splendor, wealth, experience, realization and wisdom,
Ripening and freeing the minds of other disciples, filling space,
Bestow your blessings so we may perfect the activity of all the Buddhas.
May all the sacred lamps of the Buddha's teachings, without bias,
Live for hundreds of aeons turning the wheel of the Dharma.
Bestow your blessings so that the Sangha and the splendor of the teachings
of exposition and practice
May flourish and spread in all directions.
May the degeneration of the dark age cease for all the worlds and beings
And may happiness and dharmic wealth spontaneously increase.
Bestow your blessings so that everyone may enter the gate of the supreme essence
And accomplish the state of the four kayas.
Although I've not achieved that state throughout my lives,
May I never be separated from the mind of enlightenment,
Bestow your blessings that I may master the ocean of bodhisattva deeds
And establish myself and others in welfare and happiness.
In short, from now and until supreme enlightenment,
Objects of refuge, lords of wisdom and compassion,
Constantly accept me and grant your blessings
And create the auspicious circumstance in which the virtuous goodness
of existence and peace increase.
Emphasizing the tradition of the vajra vehicle of the early translations, this supplication
was offered by Khyentse Wangpo, a joyful servant of Guru Padma.
Sarva sushriya siddhi bhavatu
the Life of the Guru
(Advice from Kyabje Zopa Rinpoche in answer to requests by students wanting to know how best prolong the life of the Guru and avoid obstacles that can cause sickness and the Guru's life to be shortened.)
Most important is to remember with feeling the Guru's kindness, to follow his advice then remember one's mistakes and confess.
Long-life pujas purify negative karma .and accumulate merit - generally speaking life can be lengthened by accumulating merit - but the best kind of long-life puja is not just the ritual but to cherish the advice with the thought of correctly devoting to the virtuous friend. The Guru should be viewed from one's own side as the Buddha and his kindness remembered. One should feel regret for not practising properly in the past and make a decision to practice better in the future even in the ordinary sense of being a better person.
The heaviest effect on the Guru's life is degenerating or breaking the first root tantric vow to belittle the Guru which means giving up the Guru as an object of respect. It also involves having anger or especially heresy arising in the mind towards the Guru. When there is heresy, the mind is barren like a desert having no faith and where nothing can grow. This can cause the holy mind to be disturbed, like with sadness.
Sometimes students who request secret tantric teachings and not having devotion, can cause the Guru (in the context of the secret teachings) to break samaya as the teacher has difficulty saying no. But if the student has the sincere thought to try to develop and keep the vows etc., then it is good. Although it may be difficult to keep all the vows because the student's mind hasn't even the realisation of impermanence and death.
Harmonious sincerity in obtaining advice can inspire the Guru. This can give him the interest to have the intention to pray in an attempt to have a long-life even if from the Guru's side there isn't the complete capability to control the elements.
It's also important to be aware that the breaking of root tantric vows, samaya and so forth is also a danger to the student's life resulting in sickness and even in their own life being shortened, not to mention suffering in future lives. But of course, as explained in the teachings, any degeneration or breaking of the three levels of vow can be purified through confession etc.
So these things can cause the Guru to take disease and pass away early. It's a dependent arising. This can happen because of the karma of the group. For example, with my Gurus, they don't have karma but they show the appearance.
A great deal depends on how well the students practice Dharma. How much self-cherishing thought there is that causes harm to oneself and others. I don't think the problem is so much to do with the fact that the students don't know what's the cause of the Guru taking disease and passing away early. For some students the cause is not being thoughtful and not taking the opportunity to change the life for the better. That is, not putting the teachings into practice.
VAJRAYANA INSTITUTE, 22 Linthorpe St, Newtown, NSW 2042, Australia
His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
I supplicate all the noble doctrine holders of India, Tibet, China,
Shambhala and all other places who follow the precious teachings
of the sutras and tantras taught by the incomparable teacher who
is praised like the white lotus.
I supplicate the Nyingmapas of the secret mantra, who uphold
the sutras, mantras and the three inner tantras in general, and
especially the tradition of the Great Perfection - perfectly translated
by the supreme learned and accomplished lotsawas and panditas.
I supplicate the Kagyupas, protectors of beings, who chieftly
uphold the lineage of practice and blessing from the Mahasiddhas
Naropa and Maitrepa, the cycles of the profound instructions
and, especially, Mahamudra.
I supplicate the glorious Sakyapas who illuminate the doctrine of
teaching and practicing the heart extract of Lord Birwapa, the
cycles of instruction, in general, and the Path and Fruit in particular.
I supplicate the Riwo Gedenpas (Gelugpas) who mainly uphold
the essence tradition of Manjushri - the key points of the path of
sutra and tantra - by chiefly practicing the Gradual Path of Palden
I supplicate the Jetsun Jonangpas who chieftly uphold the meaning
of the sutras of the last Dharma Wheel and of the Kalachakra, who
have realized the truth of the sungata-essence and possess the vajra
Impartially I supplicate all the doctrine holders, each and every one,
that exist in these snowy ranges, of the Glorious Shangpa, Choyul,
Shije, Nyendrup and the other cycles of profound instructions.*
By the blessings of making these supplications, may sectarianism be
calmed and may impartial devotion blaze forth. May all the doctrine
holders be in harmony and may all countries be peaceful. May the
auspicious circumstance in which the teachings flourish for a long time
* Shangpa Kagyu was brought to Tibet by Khyungpo Naljor. Choyul
was propagated by Machik Labdron, Shije by Padampa Sangye, and
the Nyendrup transmission was spread by the siddha Orgyenpa.
to the King of the Shakyas
Prostrations to the Guru and Manjushri!
Under the Bodhi Tree, the earth and sky were filled with hosts of Mara.
Thunderbolts, javelins, weapon wheels, fire, mountains, and snow-capped peaks
Powerful archers with flower arrows magically attempted to block the path
Prostrations to the one who completely defeated them with a loving mind, and
attained perfect Buddhahood.
When you, for others' benefit,
With perfect resolve and action,
Created excellent enlightenment thought,
Even the earth trembled in six motions.
You completely accumulated giving and morality,
Mastered patience and diligence, and
Accomplished concentration and wisdom.
Prostrations to you who accomplished the perfections.
Protector of beings, when you took birth,
All the wise in the world were delighted.
All demons grew extremely suspicious,
And all heretics were afraid,
Because the holy works of your doctrine
Shine like the light of the sun.
Never deceiving in any way,
I take refuge in you, the source of all.
When you proclaimed the scripture like a lion's roar
In all the worlds, including the gods'
Brahma and Vishnu were struck dumb, and
The teachers of gods cowered like foxes.
Learned Kangmig, Trogkhar,
Rishi Gyepa, Rishi Nejok,
And many others well-renowned,
Prostrations to you who defeated them with Dharma.
Even after attaining perfect enlightenment,
Amazingly, you still performed the benefit of beings.
For those not freed from clinging to existence,
Renouncing life makes the hair stand on end.
But disregarding your own holy life,
You resolved to benefit beings, and
Accept the protectorless, like us.
I take refuge in you, Protector.
Conqueror, you tamed the host of maras,
Defeated all heretics without exception,
Liberated countless disciple Shravakas, and
Prophesied noble Bodhisattvas.
Those who perceive this excellence,
Strive to attain your qualities.
So, I who have undertaken the goal of enlightenment
Again take refuge in you.
Your son is Manjushri.
Your disciple is Shariputra.
Your holy regent is Maitreya.
Who among the intelligent could doubt?
Not to mention your own perfection,
The good qualities of your sons are dazzling.
As through the glorious rays of dawn
We learn the brilliance of sunlight.
You realize the nature of all phenomena
Exactly and entirely.
Prostrations to you who accomplish
Every holy deed just as you aspire.
Thus, the teacher of beings from the Shakya family,
Took birth in the Puramshing clan.
Through this homage to the blessed, perfect Buddha,
May all beings swiftly reach omniscience.
These fifteen verses of supplication to the King of the Shakya clan were written by the
glorious Sakya Pandita in the Lhasa shrine.
Translated into English by Venerable Lama Kalsang Gyaltsen and Ane Kunga Chodron
in 1997 at Sakya Phuntsok Ling in Washington D.C.
From the Four Desires: A Basic Teaching
By His Holiness Sakya Trizin
of the Teaching
We begin with a brief history of this teaching. When the great yogi, the Lama Sakyapa, Sachen
Kunga Nyingpo, was twelve years old, one of his Gurus, Bari Lotsawa, advised him, "Since
you are the son of a great spiritual teacher, it is necessary to study the Dharma, and to study the
Dharma requires wisdom. The best way of acquiring wisdom is to practice Manjushri." So,
Bari Lotsawa gave Sachen Kunga Nyingpo the empowerment of Manjushri with all the necessary
"lungs." Then Sachen Kunga Nyingpo undertook a six-month retreat on Manjushri. At the
beginning, there were some signs of obstacles, which he managed to purify through the practice
of the wrathful Deity, Achala. He continued his meditation and at one time, in his pure vision, he
saw Arya Manjushri in the preaching mudra, sitting on a jewelled throne with two other attendants.
He received immense insight-wisdom at that moment and Manjushri bestowed this four-line
teaching directly to Sachen Kunga Nyingpo:
If you desire the worldly aims of this life,
you are not a spiritual person;
If you desire further worldly existence,
you haven't the spirit of renunciation;
If you desire liberation for the sake of yourself,
you haven't the enlightened attitude;
If you grasp at the view of ultimate reality,
you haven't got the right view.
This four-line teaching includes the whole path of the Mahayana. After receiving this teaching,
Sachen Kunga Nyingpo received a tremendous amount of insight-wisdom. He had no need to
study everything that came to him. He became a really great yogi. Later in life, he bestowed this
teaching on his sons, Sonam Tsemo and Dagpa Gyaltsen, and they bestowed it on Sakya Pandita
and so on. Even to this day, its transmission has never been broken, so therefore, it bears special
blessings. Jetsun Dagpa Gyaltsen, the son of Sachen Kunga Nyingpo, wrote a commentary in
verses to these four lines, and today this text serves as the root text of all these teachings.
"Parting from the Four Desires" is very similar to the preliminary teachings of the other Tibetan
Buddhist traditions. For example, the Nyingma and the Kagyu traditions have a teaching on
"Turning the Mind," which also explains these four lines. By meditating on this precious human life
and impermanence, you will be liberated from the sufferings inherent in this life. The suffering of
samsara and the law of karma will turn you away from clinging to the round of existence. Love,
compassion, and Bodhicitta will turn you away from clinging to this life as real. We Sakyapas call
it "The Parting from the Four Desires," and Kagyu and Nyingma traditions call it "Turning the
Mind Away from Clinging." The name is different, but the teaching is the same. According to the
Gelugpa tradition, the preliminary teaching is divided into "The Paths of the Three Persons." The
first line explains the "small" person's path, - a person who realizes the lower realms are full of
suffering and wishes to be born in the higher realms, such as that of the devas or humans. The
middle person's path is one that seeks self-liberation. This person is described in the second verse -
they realize that the whole realm of existence is full of suffering, and therefore naturally seeks
self-liberation. The third line explains the great person's path. This person realizes that every
sentient being has the same goal, and that instead of working for oneself, one should work for
the sake of all sentient beings to attain ultimate enlightenment. While the wording is different,
the Gelugpa teaching is, nevertheless, the same as this four-line teaching of "Parting from the
All Buddhist practices begin with taking refuge. In this teaching, one takes the Mahayana refuge.
Mahayana refuge has some special characteristics. There are four reasons that Mahayana refuge
is somewhat different from general refuge - in terms of the object, the time, the person and the
1. The Object
Common to all kinds of Buddhist refuge are the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. However, the
explanation of these three, differs between Mahayana and general Buddhism. In Mahayana,
the Buddha is the one who has unimaginable qualities and who has departed from all the faults.
He is the one who possesses the three kayas ,or the three bodies: the Dharmakaya, the
Sambhogakaya, and the Nirmanakaya. Dharmakaya means that his mind, which is completely
purified, has become one with the ultimate truth. Where subject and the object become one is
"Dharmakaya." The Sambhogakaya comes from accumulating enormous amounts of merit while
still on the Path. That produces the highest form of physical body, which has all the qualities,
and remains permanently in the highest Buddha field, known as Akanishtha, and bestows teachings
to the great Bodhisattvas. In order to help ordinary sentient beings, whenever and wherever
needed, the Buddhas appear in whatever form is required. These forms are the Nirmanakaya, or
in other words, emanations. The historical Shakyamuni Buddha is among the Nirmanakayas. He
is called "The Excellent Nirmanakaya" because even ordinary beings can see him as a Buddha.
All the Buddhas who appear in the world are Nirmanakaya forms. In this practice we take refuge
in the Buddha who possesses the three kayas. This is the particular Mahayana explanation of
The Dharma, or Teaching, is the great experience that the Buddha and all the higher Bodhisattvas
have achieved. Their great realization is the Dharma. When what the Buddhas have achieved is
put into words to benefit ordinary sentient beings, this is also called the Dharma.
The ones who are following the enlightenment path and who have already reached the irreversible
state are the true Sangha. This Sangha consists of the Bodhisattvas, according to the Mahayana.
The true Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, the "Triple Gem" are the Buddhas who possess the
three bodies, the Dharma which expresses their realizations and teaching, and the Sangha of
Bodhisattvas. The Triple Gem is symbolically represented in the images of the Buddhas, all the
books of teachings, and the ordinary Sangha of monks. Although the names of the objects of
refuge are the same in the Mahayana and General refuge, their qualities are explained somewhat
differently in the Mahayana.
2. The Time
The second distinction between the General and the Mahayana refuge has to do with the
time. In the General refuge, one takes the refuge for the immediate future. In the Mahayana
refuge, one takes refuge from the present, extending up until the attainment of ultimate
3. The Person
In the General refuge, one takes refuge for oneself. In the Mahayana refuge, one takes
refuge both for oneself and for all sentient beings. One imagines that all sentient beings have
at one time, in previous lifetimes, been your own parents or very dear ones. One seeks
refuge for the benefit of limitless sentient beings.
4. The Purpose
In the General refuge, one takes refuge to gain self-liberation. In the Mahayana, one takes
refuge to attain enlightenment both for oneself and for the sake of all sentient beings.
If one understands the object, time, person, and purpose as we have described, they accomplish
the Mahayana refuge. With these qualities in mind, one should recite the refuge prayer as well
as the request to the objects of refuge to bestow their blessings.
In addition, when actually practicing the teachings, the great Acharya Vasubandu has said
that if one wants to practice Dharma, there are four requisites. The four are: moral conduct,
study, contemplation and meditation. An more detailed explanation of these requisites will
be reserved for another teaching.
Line One of the Text
Line 1 of the text is: "If you desire the worldly aims of this life, you are not a spiritual person."
The great Jetsun Dagpa Gyaltsen explained the first line in the following way. Whatever practice
you do, if your aim is for the sake of this life, it is not religion; it is not Dharma. No matter what
vows you receive, no matter how much you study, no matter how much you do meditation, if it's
all for the sake of this life, it is not Dharma. If one wishes to practice Dharma, one must begin by
lessening attachment to this life. This life is temporal, it is like a mirage. Even if you think that a
mirage is real water, it still will not slake your thirst. Whatever sorts of moral conduct or study or
meditation that you undertake, if it is for the sake of this life, it will not ultimately benefit you.
To change your intention from not practicing Dharma to practicing Dharma, you should
begin by meditating on the difficulty of obtaining this precious human life. Human life is
rare compared to other forms of sentient beings, because one human being's body can
contain millions of other sentient beings. This rareness is explained in many different ways -
for example from the point of view of "cause," "numbers," "example" and "nature."
To receive a human life at all, and especially to receive a human life, which appears in a
favorable place and with the right conditions, one must have a good cause. Such a cause
must be an exceptionally virtuous one in order to lead to human birth with all the right
conditions. In the three worlds, there are very few that practice the virtuous things, while
there are enormous numbers of sentient beings who indulge in non-virtuous acts. So
therefore, from the cause point-of-view, human life that has all the right conditions and is
free from all the wrong places of birth, is very rare.
From the point-of-view of numbers, sentient beings in the hells, in the hungry-ghost realm,
and in the animal kingdom are countless. Beings in the lower realms are as numerous as all
the atoms and dust particles of this world. Compared to these, human lives are very few,
especially those that have the right conditions.
The example of point-of-view is explained in the Sutras with the following illustration.
Suppose the whole world is a great ocean and over this ocean floats a golden yoke, which
has a small hole in it. Underneath the ocean is a blind tortoise that comes up to the surface
only once every hundred years. The golden yoke floats on the surface, going wherever the
wind blows it. When the wind comes from the east, it goes to the west. When the wind
comes from the west it goes to the east. It clearly would be very difficult for the neck of the
blind tortoise to enter the hole in the yoke under these circumstances. The chance of this
happening is very rare. Human life, especially one free of all the wrong places of birth and
which has all the right conditions is even more rare than this example. So from the example
of point-of-view, human life is very rare.
The human birth in which one can hear and practice the teachings requires a number of
particular conditions. The "nature" of this human rebirth is explained in terms of avoiding
rebirth in the "eight wrong places" and being born with the "five conditions." The "eight
wrong places" in which it is unfavorable to be reborn are the states of the hells, pretas,
animals and long-life gods, as well as existence among the barbarians, or persons with
wrong views. Likewise one cannot be born where the Buddhist teachings have not been
given, or with impaired faculties -- such as being dumb, or mentally retarded. There are five
favorable conditions for rebirth. They are, to be born in a place where the teachings have
been given, and where monks and lay-precept holders are still living, not to have indulged in
the five limitless sins, and to live where there is full faith in the teaching in general, and the
Vinaya in particular.
One also has to be born in a time in which a Buddha has come and in which he has turned
the Wheel of Dharma. The teaching must still be going on, and where there are still many
people following the path, and where there are people who are readily helping you to find
your right livelihood. These circumstances all depend on and must be obtained from others.
So altogether, to be free from the eight unfavorable conditions and to obtain these ten
favorable circumstances is extremely rare by nature. This is not only rare, but also very
precious, because through such a life -- not an ordinary life, but a human life that has all the
right conditions -- one must be able to be free from all the sufferings of samsara. Not only
that, even the most difficult and the highest aim we could aspire to, ultimate enlightenment,
is also achieved through human life. Therefore, human life is extremely precious. Not only
is human life rare and precious, but even this is not enough! We have to practice. Without
practice, just obtaining this very precious opportunity will not be enough. In our past lives,
it is likely that we had many, many such opportunities to practice, but which we wasted and
did not reach any significant states. So, from now on, unless we practice, we will still
remain in samsara. Therefore, when we have such a good opportunity and a precious life, it
is very important to practice Dharma.
The Buddha taught that everything is impermanent. The whole three worlds are like a cloud
in autumn and the birth and death of sentient beings is like a dancer's movement. A person's
life is like a light in the sky, or like a steep waterfall, which isn't still for a single moment,
but is constantly rushing down. Even the Buddhas who have attained a permanent body in
order to show impermanence to sentient beings must also leave their bodies. Therefore,
there is not a single place where death will not occur. There are many more causes for
death than causes to live. It is a common wish that death will leave us alone, but of course,
all beings eventually have to face death. Everything is changing. Lives in this particular
realm (our lives on the continent of "Jambudvipa") have no fixed length. Some people die
even before they are born, some die as soon as they are born, some die as babies, some die
at a very young age. Although we may have no major problems today, you never know
what will happe n, even after an hour or so. Anything can happen. Unless you practice
now, if you think, "For the time being I will work on some other things, then when I get
older I will practice Dharma," one will never know whether one will get this opportunity or
not. Therefore, it is very important to practice now! At the time of death, nothing can help
you, no matter how powerful one is, no matter how clever, no matter how rich one is, no
matter how brave you are, nothing can help you. Even one's body, which we have had with
us right from the day we were conceived, and which we have looked after as a very
precious thing, and we take great care of, and for whose sake we do all kinds of things --
even this we have to leave behind. Our own continuity of mind then has to go without any
choice of freedom. The only thing that can help you at the moment of death is the Dharma
practices you have learned. If you practice Dharma, the best thing is that at the time of
death, you will know the path and without any h esitation and as a matter of fact, with full
confidence, you will leave your body. The person who practices Dharma has no hesitation
to die, because they will have no regret of not having practiced. This precious human body
and this precious human life are impermanent. The first line, "If you desire for the worldly
aims of this life, you are not a spiritual person," explains directly that whatever spiritual
practice you do, if it is aimed for this life, then it is not Dharma and it will not benefit you.
That's the direct explanation. Indirectly, it explains about the difficulties of obtaining the
precious human life and impermanence. When you have the clear understanding from inside
of these two things, then you will be firmly set on the path. In this sense, even if someone
attempts to keep you from practicing Dharma, it will not be possible for you to stop.
Line Two of the Text
Line two is: "If you desire further worldly existence, you haven't the spirit of renunciation."
If one continues to desire to be born in the human or deva realms (of course, no one wants to be
born in the lower realms because the lower realms are full of suffering), the second line cuts that
out. It explains that not only should the teaching that you practice not involve attachment to this
present life, but also to be free from the desire for future births in the round of existence. Not only
are the lower realms full of suffering; in the higher realms also, it's all suffering. In the three lower
realms (which are the hells, hungry ghosts, and the animal kingdom), what they have is called "the
suffering of suffering." The hells have many divisions, like the hot hells, the semi-hot hells, etc.
Whenever one is born among the hells, one has an unimaginable amount of suffering. Thus, what
the hell beings experience is called "the suffering of suffering." In the hungry-ghost realm, also the
beings have a tremendous amount of suffering in not finding food. They have great hunger and
thirst for hundreds and hundreds of years. Even if they should find food, instead of helping their
bodies, it creates more suffering. In the animal kingdom, as we all see, animals have to suffer many
things. Most animals have not a single moment of relaxation because they have so many enemies
among the animals themselves. In addition, human beings are hunting and fishing and bringing all
kinds of suffering to them. Generally, all animals suffer great ignorance because they don't have
any way of knowing Dharma. It is very easy for us to realize that the three lower realms are full
The three higher realms are sometimes understood as having a mixture of happiness and
suffering. However, when we carefully think about it, we can see that there is not any real
happiness in the higher realms. Even in the Deva's realm, where it appears that these beings
have a wonderful life, everything is impermanent. The Devas have so much luxury in their
lives that they don't even think of practicing the Dharma. All their lives are spent in enjoyment
of worldly pleasures, so when they near the time of their death, they experience a particular
king of suffering. For example, they have enough intelligence to be able to see where they will
be reborn. And, as they have spent all their lives in enjoyment, many of them will be reborn in
the lower realms. Since they can know these things, the Devas experience mental suffering
greater than the physical suffering of the lower realms. Even the very great Devas, like Indra,
the lord of the Devas, may be reborn as a very ordinary servant. And even t he great Devas
whose bodies can illuminate the whole world, after death, will be reborn in complete darkness
in which they won't be able to see their own hand before their face. In the human realm, as we
have seen, everything is changing. Great emperors become very ordinary people and the very
rich find themselves very poor. Generally, everyone is bound to encounter the four great mountains
of suffering: death, old age, sickness, and birth. There are many, many sufferings, like always
having fear of meeting enemies and always the fear of departing from your friends. Things you
wish not to happen come true and things you don't want come to you. There are unimaginable
amounts of suffering which are mostly of the kind called "the suffering of change." We suffer for
the very reason that everything is constantly changing. In the asuras or demi-gods' realm, since
they experience great hate and jealously towards the heaven realm, they meet with great suffering
in their life. So the devas, the humans, and the asuras all experience the suffering of change.
Next is "the suffering of aggregates," which covers the whole universe. Each of us will
undertake work that we will never finish. Our lives are full of continuous effort. Our actions
are never finished. In this great, busy, worldly life of activities, one day we have to die
without finishing this work. Everybody has to die in the midst of life. Therefore, no matter
where one is reborn, whether in the lower realms or in the higher realms, both are full of
suffering. For example, if poison is mixed with food -- whether it is good food or bad food
makes no difference -- one cannot eat it. In the same way, no matter where one is born,
either in the higher realms or in the lower realms, as long as it is within the round of
existence, one will experience suffering.
Related to this is the explanation of the law of karma. We are forced to ask why the
sufferings we experience happen in the first place. Each thing must have an associated
cause. All kinds of suffering are created by non-virtuous actions. A non-virtuous action is
any action that is created by desire, hatred, or ignorance. Killing, sexual misconduct, and
stealing are the three bodily actions which are non-virtuous. Then also, there are lying,
schism, harsh words, and idle talk, which are the four non-virtuous actions of voice. One
commits these non-virtuous deeds through one's own speech. Envy, hatred, and wrong
view are the three non-virtuous actions of mind. Roughly speaking, all the non-virtuous
actions are included in these ten actions. When one indulges in the ten non-virtuous actions,
not only will one have to face terrible consequences, but even after facing the consequences,
one will have continuous bad results. In other words, all the bad things that are happening in
this life are a lso created by our own non-virtuous actions, which we have committed in our
previous lives. The ten virtuous actions [freedom from hatred, desire, and ignorance] are the
opposite of the ten non-virtuous deeds. Not only do the ten virtuous actions give wonderful
results temporarily, they do so as well for many future lifetimes. In other words, all the good
things that are happening in our life are created by our own virtuous deeds that we have
committed in our previous lives. Finally, by practicing continuous virtuous deeds, self-liberation,
or even the ultimate enlightenment, may be attained.
There are also indifferent or neutral actions, such as walking and sleeping. Although neutral
actions do not produce any suffering (and from that point-of-view they are very good),
since they do not produce any virtuous result, they are a sort of waste. It is important to
transform these indifferent actions into virtuous deeds. For example, when you are walking
you should think, "May all gain from the path of liberation." When you meet people, you
should think, "May all sentient beings meet virtuous friends." And when you are eating, you
should have the intent of feeding the enormous amount of germs that live in the body. All
the indifferent action should thus be transformed into virtuous deeds.
The sufferings of samsara and the suffering of the round of existence and the law or karma,
or law of cause and effect, is explained by the second line of this teaching, "If you desire
further worldly existence, you haven't the spirit of renunciation."
By meditating on two things -- concentrating on the suffering of the round of existence and
the law of karma - you will both turn away from clinging to the round of existence, and
come to the realization that the round of existence is full of suffering. In order to be free
from suffering, one must consider this world as if it were a great fire, or like a nest of
As we meditate on this teaching we will begin to develop a real inner urge to put these
principles into practice. For example, many yogis concentrate on the sufferings of samsara
until they have the same feeling as a prisoner has. Namely, they develop the single thought:
"When can I escape?" Until you have developed this attitude, you should meditate on the
suffering of samsara. Unless we really understand the sufferings of samsara, one will not
practice Dharma. In this sense, suffering is a great help in the practice of the path. When
Lord Buddha first turned the wheel of Dharma in Sarnath, one of the first things he said
was that one must know the sufferings. The first Noble Truth is that one must know the
sufferings. If you think carefully about this, you won't be able to waste time for very long.
This concludes the explanation of the sufferings of samsara and the law of karma.
Line Three of the Text
Line three is: "If you desire liberation for the sake of yourself, you haven't the enlightened attitude."
If we truly understand that the world is full of suffering, and believe that we are able to free
ourselves by practicing virtuous deeds, we can actually attain self-liberation. However,
self-liberation does not fully accomplish one's own purpose, and it cannot help other sentient
beings. As a matter of fact, self-liberation is a great obstacle to attaining ultimate enlightenment
because it delays the actual ultimate enlightenment. It is very important right from the beginning
to set out to achieve the highest aim, which is to attain ultimate enlightenment for the sake of
all sentient beings. This ultimate enlightenment must arise from the right cause and conditions.
The main cause is great compassion, the root is Bodhicitta, and the condition is skillful means.
Although every sentient being wishes to be free from suffering and wants to have happiness,
due to ignorance, they can never have these. In this sense it is wrong to aim to be free from
suffering for oneself. We have to think of all other sentient beings. But we are unable to help
them at this moment because our defilements and delusions bind us. So, the only thing that can
help is to attain ultimate enlightenment - so that we will actually be able to help others. To attain
ultimate enlightenment, one has to have the right causes. The first is to meditate on love and
compassion. "Love" means that you wish every sentient being to be happy and to have the
cause of happiness. This wish must be directed to all sentient beings without any discrimination.
Since we cannot produce these thoughts toward all sentient beings at the beginning of our practice,
we proceed gradually. We begin by meditating on love and compassion towards whomever is
dearest to us, for example, our own mother. One begins by visualizing in front of you, your own
mother or anyone who is dear to you. Then, remember all the kindness they have done for you.
For example, if it is your own mother, consider that she gave birth to you, brought you up in life
with a kind, loving eye, gave you so much love and took care of you. Although now she is aiming
for happiness herself, due to ignorance, she cannot have happiness. She is in the midst of suffering
and she is even causing more suffering. Therefore, you should wish that she be free and be happy
and have the cause of happiness. And so you pray, "May she be happy and have the cause of
happiness of the Guru and Triple Gem." Later, you should gradually increase this visualization to
include your relatives and so forth. Finally, include more difficult individual, such as people you
dislike and your enemies. You visualize your enemy right in front of you and think that, although
in this life he appears in the form of the enemy, in actual fact, in many lifetimes he has been my
very kind mother and father, as well as relatives and friends. He has given so much love and
compassion and so much care has been given to me. But now we have changed our lives and
since I did not repay his own kindness to him, today he comes in the form of my enemy to take
all the kindness he has given. Today we have changed our lives; we do not recognize each other,
so therefore, we must create the thought, "May he be happy and have the cause of happiness."
And then gradually you expand this meditation until you can have the same thought towards all
When one is well trained in this meditation of love, one can also use it to increase feelings
of compassion. First, whoever is dearest to you, you visualize and think, "Although this
person wants happiness, due to ignorance, he is in the midst of suffering. Due to ignorance,
he is making more suffering for himself. May he now be free from suffering and may he be
free from the cause of suffering." And in the same way, later you should try to extend this
meditation to the point that you have the same thought for all beings without discrimination.
When you are well advanced in this meditation, it is important to practice "Tong Len." In
this practice we visualize that all the happiness and the causes of happiness (that is, the
virtuous deeds one has), are given, without hesitation, to all sentient beings. And the
suffering of all sentient beings as well as their cause of sufferings, come to oneself,
visualized like a great mass of dirt. This "exchanging meditation" is, of course, of great
benefit. When one is well versed in this, then one practices the Six Paramitas and the four
collecting things which we have in the main path of a Bodhisattva. With this we have
completed the first three lines, which explains the method side of all the different paths.
Line Four of the Text
Line four is: "If you grasp at the view of ultimate reality, you haven't got the right view."
The fourth line deals with view. Even if relative Bodhicitta, the relative enlightenment-thought
has arisen well within your mind, if one still has clinging to all things as reality, then one will fall
into the error of the permanent and the impermanent. Therefore, one will fall into the extremes
of existence and non-existence. Due to this, one will not be free from the sufferings of samsara.
To really be free, it is very important to keep away from clinging to the belief that this life is
real. The antidote for this deluded belief is concentration and insight-wisdom. Concentration is
necessary because our minds are focused on distractions and outer objects. It is really important
to do concentration meditations, because without proper concentration, one will not be able to
attain insight-wisdom. Before one can meditate on insight-wisdom a strong base first must be
built. The base for insight wisdom is concentration. Concentration should be done in a secluded
place, away from distractions, sitting in full-lotus position, or half-lotus position. First, you do recite
the refuge prayer and create the enlightenment thought. Then you should assume the full meditation
position, sitting straight. One should concentrate first on any outer object, preferably an image of
Buddha. In this way you are remembering the Buddha, which in itself has a tremendous amount
of power. You visualize the Buddha's image in front of you on a jewelled throne, golden colored
with his right hand in the earth-touching mudra, and his left hand in his lap in the meditation position.
He is wearing the full robes and sitting in the full-lotus position. Concentrate on this general image
of the Buddha and the specific parts of the body as well. Or, you can meditate on some other
Buddha form, like Buddha Amitabha or other deities. Try to concentrate on this. In the beginning,
it will seem that you have many thoughts, but in fact this is actually what is happening all the time.
Normally, since you follow your thoughts , you don't notice it. In the meantime, when thoughts
come, instead of going after the thoughts, you just concentrate. You turn back and concentrate on
the image for a long period of time. As you develop, your thoughts will decrease, and you will be
able to remain on the same object for a long period of time. Then, after a while, you will be able to
concentrate on the image for a very long period of time. When that happens, it is a sign that your
concentration is now strong enough to be able to meditate on insight-wisdom. Concentration alone
will not do anything, apart from keeping away distractions. It will not take away the deep roots of
To take away the deep root of the defilements, insight-wisdom is necessary. In Tibetan, the
word for insight-wisdom is "lhag-tong" (lhag mthong). This means that, when you examine
the outer and inner dharmas -- the true nature of all things - through wisdom, then, you are
able to see something completely different. Lhag means "extra" and tong is "to see." So, it
means to see something extraordinary. You see completely beyond existing and non-existing;
you have completely gone beyond the two extremes. The concentration was method and the
actual thing was insight-wisdom. When you managed to meditate on the insight-wisdom instead
of concentrating on an outer object, you concentrate on the actual thing. Before one meditates,
of course, it is necessary to explain a lot of things. First of all, all the different visions that we
see, in other words, animate and inanimate -- all the things that we see. Ordinary people don't
think, "Why do all these things appear?" or, "Why must we have these?" They simply just accept
things as they are. A person with greater intelligence will try to concentrate on these ideas.
Through their intelligence, they are able to examine the true nature of all things: For example,
questions such as "why we are born like this", or "why do we see all these different visions",
"why do people have different visions, why do people have different feelings", and so forth.
In the past, when meditators examined these questions and tried to discover the true nature
of all things, they all came to different conclusions. For example, that all of existence is
created by Brahma or so forth and so on, according to the different schools of Indian
philosophy. Briefly speaking, there are four different Buddhist schools: two of the Hinayana
and two of the Mahayana. Beginning with the Hinayana schools, the first is the Sarvastivadins
or Vaibahashikas. When they examined these questions, they came to the conclusion that
everything that we see is not existing as we take it to be, but the atoms of these are existing.
For instance, for them, a table is a relative truth. They assert that a table is made of huge
numbers of atoms put together in a particular shape and named "table." So the table is relative,
because when you examine it, you don't find "table" anywhere -- it is just hundreds of atoms.
But, when they examined the atom itself, the tiniest atom they could not divide anymore, they
held it to existing absolutely. Thus, the belief of the Vaibhashika, or lowest Hinayana school, is
that the table is relative truth and the atoms of the table are absolute truth.
Higher than this is the view of the Hinayana school called the Sautrantika. They think that all the
outer visions are the same as held by the Sarvastivadins. In addition, they hold that the outer object,
the organ of the eye, and the consciousness of the eye -- these three things meet together. Then
in the second moment, the eye, so to speak, takes a picture of that outer object. Finally, all you can
see is the picture which has been taken by your mind. They held that as the truth.
Then, as thinking about these questions developed further in the Mahayana, there emerged
two schools, the Vijnanavada and the Madhyamika. In the Vijnanavada, it is held that all
this is not true -- that all this is not existing outside, but is all our own projection: It is all
projected by our mind. Everything is mind. Nobody has created what we perceive, only our
own mind has created these things. For that reason, for sentient beings, a certain place is a
very happy place, while for certain people, it is a very miserable place. So, it is all our own
projection -- there is nothing of the outer object -- it is all projected (in other words,
manifested) from our own mind. All this is the relative truth, but the mind exists absolutely.
Even higher than this view is the Madhyamika, which was founded by the great Guru,
Nagarjuna. The Lord Buddha himself prophesied that after his passing away, there would
be a bhikshu named Naga, and only he would be able to find the hidden meaning of all the
Prajnaparamita Sutras. As Buddha prophesied, Nagarjuna came, and when he examined
things, he could not find anything, because to hold that the mind itself is existing is not right:
The mind is subject and things are object. Subject and object are depending on each other.
If there is no object, there cannot be a subject. So the mind, also, is not existing. But, he
accepts everything relatively -- without examining things -- the way ordinary people take
them to be, as in the form of illusions. But in reality, the Madhyamikas' view is that you
cannot find any conclusion such as "Mind is existing." He could not say anything. The true
nature of everything is completely removed from the dual vision. For example, it is just like
a dream. In th e dream, we see many happy things or we see many sufferings, but when
you awake from your dream, you don't find them anymore. All the things you saw in your
dream are gone, and you don't know where it came from and where it has gone or where it
is staying. In the same way, the present vision is like a very long dream. Only this dream
has very firm propensities, so therefore, we think of it in terms of being very real. In reality,
all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas see that this is just like a dream. When you attain
enlightenment, it is just like awakening from your dream. Therefore, all the visions that you
see are just like reflections in a mirror. Until you have a real firm understanding, you should
try to think that all things are not real. This is what we call the vision and the void seen
non-dually. Relatively, with all the things that you see, the vision doesn't cease -- you can
see all the time. When you try to examine with the sharp reasoning of absolute truth, then
you cannot find anything which is independently existing. You should try to meditate until
you attain a definite understanding of this. Finally, you mix together concentration and
insight-wisdom, and try to think that all the things that were explained are realized as
shunyata. In reality, there is no object "shunyata" and no subject "mind" which realized
shunyata. The true nature of all things is completely merged, just as water is merged with
water and completely becomes one. By doing meditation in this way, your mind will
completely turn away from the clinging to the present vision as real and realize that this is all
illusion. All these illusions will gradually turn away. And then, as you go on, you will be able
to realize the real ultimate truth. By realizing the ultimate truth, then, of course, you depart
from all the defilements and are awakened from all illusions.
At the off-time of meditation, due to your understanding of shunyata, you understand that
sentient beings who do not realize this shunyata have to suffer a great deal. With that in
mind, you are able to generate great compassion. Through the practice of great compassion
and the understanding of shunyata, -- "just as the bird in the sky needs two wings" --, with
the method, compassion, and the wisdom (shunyata), one will be able to cross the suffering
of samsara. One will be able to attain ultimate enlightenment. In the ultimate enlightenment,
through wisdom you attain the dharmakaya, which accomplishes your tasks, and through
the practice of compassion you will be able to liberate others. In that way , you attain the
Rupakaya and benefit countless sentient beings forever. So with this, we have completed
the whole four lines of the Zhenpa Zhidel.
The following Questions and Answers are related to this topic.
Q: How does a being become a deva? What is it in this lifetime that we do that brings about
Sakya Trizin: The virtuous deeds like generosity and moral conduct, etc. The result of those
is either to be born in a human life or the demi-gods' or god's realm. Especially, with a lot of
concentration but without insight-wisdom, just the outer concentration in which your mind
is very stable, one will be able to be born in the gods' realm. Virtuous acts accompanied by
wisdom and with the intention of bodhicitta will become the cause of enlightenment rather
than the worldly path of the devas.
Q: Please explain the concept of karma and its relationship to cause and effect and merit.
Sakya Trizin: Actually the word karma means action or activities - the work that we
undertake. The life we go through now, and all of its experiences, is the product of our own
actions that we have taken in the past. Nobody can make us suffer. Nobody can make us
happy. Only through the main cause that comes from our own actions will we be happy or
suffer. The main cause is our own action. The actions that we've taken create the effect
and the result.
Q: Are there factors that determine at what time during this or future lifetimes that the fruit
of a person's virtuous actions will manifest? What are the factors?
Sakya Trizin: It depends on the action itself. There are certain actions that will ripen in this
life. When the object is strong, the action is strong, and the intention is strong, then the
result ripens in this very lifetime. There are certain actions that ripen in this life after this
lifetime, or even in several lifetimes later. The law of cause and effect is such a subtle thing
that no ordinary person can fully explain it.
Q: Yesterday, you talked about suffering. In your life you endured much suffering. Your
parents passed away when you were young, you were forced to flee from Tibet. Could you
share with us how you used such events in your practice and what you've learned?
Sakya Trizin: To experience suffering is a great lesson. The teaching tells you about
impermanence and suffering, but knowing it intellectually and experiencing it in real life is
different. Books can tell you many things but experiencing what it is in real life helps you
realize the practice. Makes the practice more meaningful, more profound, and more
of The Mind
His Holiness Sakya Trizin
One of the main teachings
of the Buddha is the law of karma, the teaching that all the
lives we have are not without cause, are not created by other beings, and are not by
coincidence, but are all created by our own actions. All the positive things such as love,
long life, good health, prosperity and so forth are also not given by anybody else. It is
through our own positive actions in the past that today we enjoy all the good things.
Similarly all the negative aspects, like short life, sickness, poverty, etc. and all the
undesirable things are also not created by any outsider but by our own actions, the
negative deeds we committed in the past.
If one really wishes to be free from suffering and to experience happiness, it is very
important to work on the causes. Without working on the causes, one cannot expect to
yield any results. Each and everything must have its own cause and a complete cause
- things cannot appear without any cause. Things do not appear from nowhere, from the
wrong cause, or from an imcomplete cause. So the source of all the sufferings is the
Negative deeds basically means not knowing reality, not knowing the true nature of
the mind. Instead of seeing the true nature of the mind, we cling to a self without any
logical reason. All of us have a natural tendency to cling to a self because we are so
used to it. It is a kind of habit we have formed since beginningless time.
However if we carefully examine and investigate, we cannot find the self. If there is
a self, it has to be either body, mind or name. First, the name is empty by itself. Any
name can be given to anybody. So the name is empty by itself.
Likewise the body. We say "my body". just like "my house, my car, my home, my
country" and so forth, so the body and "I" are separate. If we examine every part
of the body, we cannot find anywhere, anything called "I" or the self. It is just many
things together that form what we cling to as the body or the self. If we investigate
carefully from head to toe, we cannot find anywhere a thing called self. The body is
not a self because the body has many parts, many different parts. People can still
remain alive without certain parts of the body, so the body is not the self.
Likewise the mind. We think that the mind may be the self, but the mind is actually
changing from moment to moment. All the time the mind is changing. And the past
mind is already extinct, already gone. Something that is already gone cannot be called
the self. And the future mind is yet to arise. Something that is yet to arise cannot be
the self. And the present mind is changing all the time, every moment it is changing.
The mind when we were a baby and the mind when we are an adult are very different.
And these different minds do not occur at one time. It is all the time changing, all the
time changing, every moment it is changing. Something that is constantly changing
cannot be the self.
So now, apart from name, body or mind, there is no such thing called the self, but
due to long habit, we all have a very strong tendency to cling to a self. Instead of
seeing the true nature of the mind, we cling at a self without any logical reason.
And as long as we have this, it is just like mistaking a colourful rope for a snake.
Until we realise that it is not a snake but only a rope, we have fear and anxiety. As
long as we cling to a self, we have suffering. Clinging to a self is the root of all the
sufferings. Not knowing reality, not knowing the true nature of the mind, we cling
to a self.
When you have a "self", naturally there are "others" - the self and others. The
"self and others" are dependent on the "self". Just like right and left, if there is
right, there has got to be a left. Likewise, if there is a self, there are others. When
you have a self and others, attachment then arises to one's own side, one's friends
and relatives and so forth, and hatred arises towards "others" whom you disagree
with, towards the people who have different views, different ideas. These three are
main poisons that keep us in this net of illusions, samsara. Basically the ignorance
of not knowing and clinging to a self, attachment or desire, and hatred - these three
are the three main poisons. And from these three, arise other impurities, such as
jealousy, pride and so forth. And when you have these, you create actions. And when
you create actions, it is like planting a seed on a fertile ground that in due course
will yield results. In this way we create karma constantly and are caught up in the
realms of existence.
To be completely free from samsara, we need the wisdom that can cut the root of
samsara, the wisdom that realises selflessness. Such wisdom also depends on method.
Without the accumulation of method, one cannot cause wisdom to arise. And without
wisdom, one cannot have the right method. Just like needing two wings in order to
fly in the sky, one needs both method and wisdom in order to attain enlightenment.
The most important method, the most effective method, is based on loving-kindness,
universal love and compassion, and from this arises the bodhicitta, or the enlightenment
thought, which is the sincere wish to attain perfect enlightenment for the sake of all
sentient beings. When you have this thought, then all the right and virtuous deeds
are naturally acquired.
On the other side, you need wisdom, the wisdom that realises the true nature of all
phenomena, and particularly of the mind - because the root of samsara and nirvana,
everything, is the mind. The Lord Buddha said: "One should not indulge in negative
deeds, one should try to practice virtuous deeds, and one should tame the mind."
This is the teaching of the Buddha. The fault lies in our wild mind, we are caught up
in samsara or the cycle of existence. The purpose of all the eighty-four thousand
teachings of the Buddha is to tame our mind. After all, everything is the mind - it is the
mind which suffers, it is the mind which experiences happiness, it is the mind which is
caught up in samsara and it is the mind that attains liberation or enlightenment. So
when the true nature of the mind is realised, all other things, all other outer and inner
things, are then naturally realised.
So what is the mind? If one tries to investigate where the mind is, one cannot find
the mind anywhere. One cannot pinpoint any part of the body and say, "This is my
mind." So it is not inside the body, not outside the body, and not in between the body.
If something exists, it has to be of specific shape or colour but one cannot find it in
any shape or any colour. So the nature of the mind is emptiness.
But when we say that everything is emptiness and doesn't exist, it does not mean
that it does not conventionally exist. After all, it is the mind which does all the wrong
things, it is the mind which does all the right things, it is the mind which experiences
suffering and so forth. Therefore there is a mind of course - we are not dead or
unconscious, but are conscious living beings, and there is a stream of continuity of
the consciousness, constantly. Just like the candle light that is burning, the clarity
of the mind is constantly continuing. The characteristic of the mind is clarity. You
cannot find it in any form or in any colour or in any place, yet there is a clarity that
is constantly continuing. This is the characteristic of the mind. And the two, the
clarity and emptiness are inseparable, just like fire and the heat of fire are inseparable.
The clarity and the emptiness cannot be separated. The inseparability of the two is
the essence, the unfabricated essence of the mind.
In order to experience such a state, it is important first to go through the preliminary
practices. Also, through preliminary practices one accumulates merit. It is best to
meditate on insight wisdom. For that one needs to prepare the present mind, our ordinary
mind that is constantly in streams of thoughts. Such a busy and agitated mind will not be
a base for insight wisdom. So first we have to build a base with concentration, using the
right method. Through concentration, one tries to bring the mind to a very stable state.
And on such stable clarity and single-pointedness, one then meditates on insight wisdom
and through this one realises the true nature of the mind. But to realise such, one requires
a tremendous amount of merit, and the most effective way of acquiring the merit is to
So with the two together, method and wisdom, one can realise the true nature. And
when one has realised the true nature, on the basis of that and increasing wisdom,
eventually one will reach the full realisation and will attain enlightenment.
His Holiness Sakya Trizin
A Buddhist Essence Teaching
MADE MANY PREDICTIONS AND THEY ALL
SAID THE SAME THING"
Q. Your Holiness, would you give us an account of your life?
A. Perhaps I should begin by telling you what happened before my birth. The title 'Sakya
Trizin' means 'Holder of the Throne of Sakya' and my grandfather had been the last Trizin
in our family. For the sake of having a son, my parents went on a pilgrimage to Mount
Kailash, to Nepal, to Lhasa and to South Tibet, but there was never any sign that a son
might be born. They had given up all hope when they reached Nalanda Monastery, an
important Sakya Monastery north of Lhasa and told the monastery's abbots of this. The
leaders were shocked and very worried, as our family lineage, the Dolma Palace line,
held the tradition of the most esoteric Sakya teachings and moreover, most of the heads
of the monastery had received these teachings from my grandfather, so to them, the
continuation of our family was most important. They urged my parents not to give up
hope, and moreover they gave up one of their best teachers, Lama Ngawang Lodro
Rinchen, so that he could travel with my parents. This was something of a loss to the
monastery, but he was a very powerful Lama who could perform all the different rituals,
and in particular, his prayers had caused children to be born to women who had been
unable to have children before. After this he always travelled with my father, and together
they performed many rituals and prayed for a son to be born. At last it became clear that
the prayers had been answered and my parents halted at Tsedong, a small, pleasant town
near Shigatse. It had been decided that it was a good place for a child to be born, partly
perhaps for its reputation as the birthplace of many great Sakya teachers such as
Ngachang Chenpo Ngawang Kunga Rinche. In fact, I was born in the same room as
A further problem arose: a succession of astrologically inauspicious days. As my
parents wanted me to be born on an auspicious day, many more prayers were said. And
I was not born on a bad day: I was born on the first day of the eight Tibetan month
(September 7, 1945), which was considered quite good. It is said that rainbows were seen
over our house, and that an image of Guru Rinpoche was then offered to my father, which
were good signs, but of course I didn't know anything of this.
Q. What happens when a child is born into your Holiness' family?
A. The very first thing, as soon as the child is born, is that the letter DHIH, the letter of
Manjusri who represents speech and wisdom is written on the child's tongue with a special
nectar made of saffron and many other things.
Q. When did you first go to Sakya?
A. That was later. I am told that my first birthday was celebrated in Tsedong, and that
after this, our family went on a short pilgrimage to the famous shrine of Guru Rinpoche
in the south of Tibet. After that we returned to Sakya, where my second birthday was
celebrated rather elaborately.
Q. Your parents died when you were quite young, I think?
A. Yes. I cannot remember my mother at all. She died when I was two or three but I
remember her sister, my aunt. She was like a mother to me. My father died in 1950
when I was five. That I remember very well.
Q. How old were you when your studies started?
A. This was when I was five. In that same year, Lama Ngawang Lodro Rinchen gave me
my first lesson in the alphabet. We went to the special Manjusri shrine in Sakya, where he
gave me the consecrations of Manjusri and Achala, and then a very ancient copy of the
Tibetan alphabet written in gold was produced. This was especially for the use of the sons
of our family. Then Lama Ngawang read the letters in front of the Manjusri image and I
repeated them after him. This, of course, was the ceremony. After that I had another
teacher for reading.
Q. Did your spiritual studies begin then too?
A. Yes, I had to memorize and recite prayers to Manjusri. I remember all this very
clearly. After the ceremony, I was taught spelling seven hours a day, six days a week
for nearly two years. We Tibetans say that the more you practice spelling, the faster
you will be able to read.
Q. Were you receiving religious teaching at this time too?
A. I had received consecrations frequently. In fact, I am told that I received the
blessings of Amitayus for long life from my father almost as soon as I was born. When
I was four, I received the Consecrations of Vajra Kila (Dorje Phurba) from my father.
I remember that also very clearly. I was sitting in the lap of a very dear personal
attendant, and I remember, too, when my father gave me the wrathful part of the
Consecration, he was wearing the hat and constume of a black hat dancer, and performed
the ritual dances. I even remembered who played the musical instruments then!
Q. Where did this all take place?
A. In the Dolma Palace. The Dolma Palace is a big palace with three main shrine rooms
and many other rooms. Altogether it has about eighty rooms, and all the teachings were
given in one of these shrine rooms.
Q. Did you ever go out of the Palace?
A. Oh yes, but not often into town. There was a very extensive open area of fields
around the Palace, and the river ran quite near. I used to go out there with an
attendant to play with other children when I was not studying.
Q. When did your religious studies begin in earnest?
A. I began to study reading in the summer of 1950, and in the autumn, I went to Ngor
Monastery where I received the Esoteric Path-Result (Lamdre) teaching. My Guru for
this was Lama Ngawang Lodro Shenphen Nyingpo, Abbot of the Khangsar Abbacy of
Q. How do you remember him?
A. He was a very holy, very spiritually advanced Lama, always very calm, very slow in
movement, and he did everything very perfectly. He was then very old. He gave the
teachings in his own room to a very few people, maybe thirty in all. At that time, I was
very small and could barely read. I remember I sat in the lap of Khangsar Shabdrung,
the successor to the Abbot, who held out the pages in front of me so I could read the
introductory prayers each day. While the Abbot was teaching the Mahayana part, I
could understand it quite well, but I could not understand the Tantric section very well.
I spent much time with the Abbot, and in the meantime, I continued to practice spelling
and reading by going through some biographies. I stayed about four months in Ngor
for the teaching, and then returned to Sakya.
The following year, I visited Lhasa for the first time and met His Holiness the Dalai
Lama who confirmed me as 'Sakya Trizin designate'. I spent four months in Lhasa visiting
many of the monasteries there and in central Tibet. We visited Nalanda and Samye also,
then returned through South Tibet where I visited many holy places and monasteries
During these visits, I was hard at work memorizing the Hevajratantra which is the
basic text for Sakya religious practice. Then, early in 1952, I was enthroned at a simple
ceremony, as I was then too young for the full enthronement which came later. I had to
recite the full Hevajratantra in front of the monk officials and teachers of the Tantric
monastery in Sakya: this was considered a test of ability which all monks had to take.
I was then only six, but I am glad to say that I passed by reciting it correctly. After that,
I attended the monthly recitation of that Tantra by all the monks of the Tantric monastery:
it was the first ceremony I attended there. Later I left Sakya to attend the Enthronement
of the Panchen Lama in Shigatse, which lasted for several weeks. This time I travelled
with the full dignity and entourage of a Sakya Trizin.
I returned to Ngor that summer to receive that Esoteric Path-Result teachings from
Khangsar Khenpo, during which he stopped frequently to give other teachings, such as
the instructions on Vajra-Yogini, the Zenpa Zidel and many other important instructions.
In all, the teaching lasted for a year until I had to return to Sakya, at the request of the
Chinese, for some talks. Early in 1953, I again returned to Ngor to resume studies there,
but unfortunately, Khangsar Khenpo passed away just before he had finished the whole
teaching and the teaching was concluded by his successor. I returned to Sakya before
September, as that year, I witnessed the yearly ceremony and ritual dance of Vajra Kila.
It is always held in the seventh Tibetan month. Then I began the meditative retreat of
Hevajra at the Dolma Palace.
Q. Was this your first retreat?
A. Not quite. During the time I received the first Lamdre teaching, I had performed
the retreat of Amitayus and then I gave the consecration to my Guru, Khangsar Khenpo.
Also, in the interval between the two Lamdre teachings, I performed the retreat of
Bhutadamara, a special form of Vajrapani, for one month. But this was the first major
retreat I performed. During the retreat, we had many difficulties. I had a very strict
teacher and I was allowed to see only my aunt, my two servants and my teacher. Though
I myself remained quite well throughout, my teacher got very ill following the first half
of the retreat - very, very ill and we had a difficult time because of his sickness.
Nevertheless, the retreat ended successfully. I say 'we' because my sister was performing
the same retreat at the same time, but in a different room, some distance away. Of
course, we were not allowed to meet, but we communicated by writing notes.
After the retreat, my teacher remained ill for some months and during this period
I had a long holiday! I became rather wild and took to wandering off and doing as I
pleased. My aunt was a little worried and appointed a temporary teacher under whom
I had to memorize the texts of the Vajra-Kila, both for daily practice and for the long
Then that summer of 1954, Khangsar Khenpo's successor was invited to Sakya to
give the Druthab Kuntu, a collection of Tantric meditations and teachings collected and
edited by the first Khyentse Rinpoche. This lasted for three or four months and was a
very pleasant occasion. The entire teaching was held in the summer house in our park
at Dolma Palace, and Khangsar Shadrung taught in a very leisurely fashion. By this time,
my teacher had recovered from his illness and taught me the ritual dances that go with
the Kila practices. In September, I attended the month-long Kila ceremonies. I was not
the Master of Ceremonies that year, but I took part in the dances and attended nearly
everyday of the ceremonies. Next I received the Mahakala teachings from Lama
Ngawang Lodro Rinchen, and went straight into retreat to meditate on that Protector for
one month. I received more Mahakala teachings from Lama Ngawang, and the Thangtong
Nying-Gyud from Drupchen Rinpoche, a very great Nyingma Yogi and an incarnation of
the Tibetan saint, Thangtong Gyalpo. I then entered the retreat of Vajra-Kila for three
months. During this time, my sister, who was then sixteen, was giving the three month
teaching of Lamdre. She had never done the Kila retreat, so I was asked to give her the
consecration when I finished my retreat. This was the first major consecration I gave.
About sixty monks were to receive the Lamdre, but many other people arrived for the Kila
Consecration: about one thousand, I think. That was all in my ninth year.
Q. How do you remember Lama Ngawang Lodro Rinchen?
A. He was the Lama who caused me to have human birth. He was a very wonderful
Lama, very strict in his observance of Vinaya rules of discipline, and never would eat
after lunch, nor wear skins, nor shirts with sleeves. His arms were always bare, no matter
how cold it was and no matter how cold it was in Sakya - and Sakya is really a very cold
place - his room was always as warm as if centrally heated. In his house, we could keep
flowers, we could keep water. Elsewhere, we could never keep water during the winter: if
we put water in a bottle, it would freeze within a few minutes and crack the bottle!
Q. Your Holiness had a strenuous childhood. What relaxations did you enjoy?
A. I used to enjoy going out into the fields around the Palace. The river ran quite near
the Palace and I used to love going there. I remember when I attended the Kila ceremony,
I would be escorted home by attendants from the town of Sakya itself. Then immediately
they left, immediately they were out of sight, I would tear off all my ceremonial clothes
and go down to the river in the simplest attire. I used to like to bathe, but even in
September, the water was very, very cold, dreadfully cold. Then sometimes I would like
to go out to the summer house in the park. We had an old gramophone, the kind that
you wind up and a pile of old records (mostly British military marches, but also some
Tibetan folk songs) which we enjoyed listening to.
Q. Did your Holiness visit Lhasa again?
A. Yes, in the summer of 1955, I received many esoteric teachings from Lama Ngawang
Lodro Rinchen, and that autumn I went again to Lhasa. That winter, I received some
short teachings from His Holiness the Dalai Lama. But Lhasa had changed. When I first
visited in 1951, I saw a beautiful early, traditional Tibetan capital. Even then the Chinese
were arriving; a few Chinese were to be seen in the streets. But on my second visit in
1955, I drove into Lhasa from Shigatse by jeep - by Chinese jeep! And Lhasa itself was
full of jeeps and lorries; there were Chinese people and goods everywhere.
I stayed about six months in Lhasa, giving some small teachings and performing a
sacred dance as a prayer there. At this time, I first met Venerable Jamyang Khyentse
Rinpoche and stayed quite near him, visiting him frequently. I received many Sakya
teachings from him, but most of the teachings I received from him were actually
Nyingmapa. Early in the following year, I made another visit to south Tibet and then
returned to Lhasa where I had to sit on the Chinese Preparatory Committee, along
with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and His Holiness Gyalwa Karmapa and other prominent
Tibetans. By then the Chinese intentions were becoming quite clear, but we felt that it
was best to try to control the situation as best we could, without violence. In any case,
our country was not a powerful one in any military sense.
I returned to Sakya in the summer and later in the year, Khyentse Rinpoche came
to Sakya. That winter, His Holiness the Dalai Lama went to India on a pilgrimage for
the Buddha Jayanti celebrations and I met him in Shigatse, on his way to India. A little
later, I also went to India on a pilgrimage, visiting the four most holy shrines of Buddhist
pilgrimage in India: Bodh Gaya, Lumbini, Sarnath and Kushinagar. I stayed in India
about two months and then returned to Sakya. In the following year, 1957, I again
performed the meditative retreat of Vajra-Kila, and again received the Lamdre teaching,
this time from the Abbot of the Tantric Monastery in Sakya, the Venerable Jampal
Q. When did your Holiness' full enthronement occur?
A. That was after the New Year early in 1959. It was an event requiring much preparation. At the end of 1958, the great sacred dance of the Protectors of Religion
was held, at which I presided. Then, at the New Year, the enthronement was held.
Q. How was this performed?
A. In the Tantric Monastery, there is a big courtyard in front of a temple with golden
roofs. In this temple, the Spiritual Throne of Sakya Pandita is kept, on which is placed
the Temporal Throne of Chogyal Phagpa. I had to sit on top of these and teach a text
written by Sakya Pandita, called the Sage's Intent. The teaching, which included a little
explanation, lasted for three days. After this, offerings were made by His Holiness the
Dalai Lama's representatives, by representatives of the Panchen Lama, of Sakya, of
many other Tibetans and also of the Chinese, on this occassion. After this a great
procession is held.
Q. This must have been shortly before Your Holiness came to India?
A. Yes, we left for India almost immediately afterwards.
Q. How did you get out of Tibet?
A. It was very complicated. At that time, the tension in Tibet was very high and people
talked of nothing but the Khampas and the Chinese, the Chinese and the Khampas. We
made many predictions and they all said the same thing: that Tibet would be lost and
many very dreadful things would happen. But we still waited, until one day, news came
from an Indian broadcast that there had been a battle in Lhasa and His Holiness the
Dalai Lama had escaped to the southeast of Lhasa. Then we hurried. I was unable to leave
directly from Sakya because there were many Chinese spies. So I let it be known that I
was going into retreat at the hermitage not far from Sakya. I arrived there safely and sent
word to my aunt and sister to join me. From there we left by night.
Q. How long did it take?
A. It is not far from Sakya to the Sikkimese border. We got there safely in five days.
Our party was of only eight or nine people and, because of the circumstances, I was
unable to bring any of the very many precious and holy things we had in Sakya.
In Sikkim, I spent a month in Lachen where, I remember, I began to learn English,
and soon after I could pick out simple words. Then a message came from Khyentse
Rinpoche, that he was very ill in Gangtok, so I went there. The message, in fact, was
brought by a Tibetan doctor who is now my father-in-law, although then I didn't know
him! Khyentse Rinpoche was very unwell and I said many prayers for him, but he
became weaker and passed away in July 1959.
After this, I went down to Darjeeling and then, in winter I made a pilgrimage through
India and Nepal, returning to Kalimpong and Darjeeling in early 1960. I spent that year
and the next two years studying philosophy under a very learned Sakya abbot called
Khenpo Rinche. You see, although I had received many teachings and performed many
retreats in Tibet, I had never had time to study Mahayana philosophy very much, so in
these three years, I learned Madhyamika philosophy, Logic, Prajnaparamita, Abhidharma
and other studies. Then at the end of 1962, there was a border war between India and
China so we left Darjeeling and came to Mussoorie.
The following year I spent recovering from tuberculosis, but at the end of 1963, I
was able to attend the Religious Conference in Dharamsala and in March 1964, we
founded the Sakya Centre to function as our main monastery for the time being, located
down at the foot of Mussoorie. I went back to Mussoorie to take up studies with the
Venerable Khenpo Appey, a very great Sakya teacher. Primarily, I studied the Tantras
under him and received many profound explanations he had received from his own
teacher, the first Deshung Rinpoche, the great Tibetan mystic. Later I studied some
Madhyamika philosophy under him too, and in addition, poetry, grammar and arithmetic.
In 1965, I attended the Second Religious conference in Bodh Gaya. In 1966, I went on
a pilgrimage to Sanchi, the caves at Ajanta and Ellora, but otherwise, my studies continued
uninterrupted until 1967 when Khenpo Appey went to Sikkim. In the winter of 1967, I
gave the Lamdre for the first time at Sarnath, when I was 22. About four hundred monks
and perhaps one hundred lay Buddhists attended. Early in the following year, we started
our Sakya Rehabilitation Settlement at Puruwala for nine hundred refugees from Sakya.
The place was chosen for a physical similarity to Sakya, although of course, it was much
Perhaps I should mention a succession of Western friends who had stayed with me
during these years, helping with our rehabilitation work, and from whom I learnt to speak
In 1970, a tragic motor accident deprived us of the Venerable Thutop Tulku, a
young and very capable monk who had organized the Centre and the Settlement,
practically single-handed. Since I now knew English fairly well, I took over the work
of administration. That autumn, I moved to the Sakya Centre and since then I have
lived in Rajpur. 1971 and 1972 were good years, as the Venerable Chogye Tri
Rinpoche stayed with us in Rajpur, giving a major collection of consecrations, the
Gyude Kuntu of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo. In the spring of 1974, I married and
soon after left on my first visit to the west. For four months, I visited Switzerland,
England, Canada, the United States and Japan, giving religious teachings and meeting
Tibetan immigrants and Western Buddhists. On November 19th, 1974, my son,
Doongsay Rinpoche, was born. The following spring, we went on pilgrimage to Chogye
Rinpoche's newly completed monastery in Lumbini, Nepal, after which I spent a
month teaching at our Sakya monastery in Bodhnath, Kathmandu. That summer, my
aunt, who had brought me up and upon whom all the decisions and work had rested
during my childhood, passed away, to our great sorrow. In 1976, I taught in Darjeeling.
I taught the Druthab Kuntu in Ladakh, Kashmir, and undertook a teaching tour of the
settlements in south India.
Q. And next?
A. I very much look forward to teaching in the West again.
Q. Your Holiness, whom do you regard as your main Gurus?
A. My main Guru was Khangsar Khenpo, from whom I received the Lamdre. Then
my father; Khyentse Rinpoche; Khangsar Shabdrung Rinpoche; Lama Ngawang Lodro
Rinchen; and Sakya Khenpo Jampal Sangpo. Then to a lesser degree, Phende Khenpo,
Drupchen Rinpoche and many others.
"IF YOU WANT TO KNOW THE FUTURE,
LOOK FOR IT IN YOUR PRESENT ACTIONS"
Q. Your Holiness, why should we practice Buddhist teaching?
A. I would like to answer this by describing the three types of persons who practice
Buddhism. Generally speaking, from the smallest insect on up to the most intelligent
human being, there is agreement: all want happiness and all wish to avoid suffering.
The majority of human beings do not understand what the cause of suffering is, or
what the cause of happiness, but in the teachings of Buddhism and in their practice,
you will find the answers to these questions.
Q. What are the causes of suffering and happiness?
A. The Ratnavali of Nagarjuna says, "Every action arising from desire, aversion and
ignorance produces suffering; every action arising from the absence of desire, aversion
and ignorance produces happiness."
Now, as I said, there are three kinds of people. Like all other beings, the lowest
person wants happiness and wants neither suffering nor rebirth in the lower realms
of existence, so he practices Buddhism to create the causes of rebirth in the human
realm or in the heavenly realms of the gods. He does not have the power or the
courage to leave Worldly Existence completely. He only wants the best parts of
Worldly Existence, he wants to avoid the worst parts, and that is why he practices the
Buddhist religion: in order to get a higher rebirth.
Now the middling sort of person understands that the whole of Worldly Existence,
no matter where one is born, is suffering by its nature, just as fire is hot by its nature.
He wants to get out of it altogether and attain Nirvana, the state which is entirely away
The highest person realizes that, just as he himself does not want to suffer, and
does want happiness, so also do all living beings have the same fears and wishes.
He knows that, since we have born again and again from beginningless time in Worldly
Existence, there is not a single sentient being who has not been our mother and father
at one time or another. Since we are that close to all sentient beings, the best person
is one who practices Buddhism in order to remove all these countless beings from
Q. How should we practice?
A. At the beginning of all Buddhist practice come two very important things: meditation
of the Four Recollections and taking Refuge.
The Four Recollections are of the difficulty of getting human birth, of the
impermanence of all Samsaric things, of the sufferings of Worldly Existence
and of the law of Karma, which means of Cause-and-Result.
Generally speaking, it is very difficult to be born as a human being. We think that
there are many human beings, but if we compare our numbers to those of other beings,
we realize how few we are. (For instance, in each of our own bodies there are millions
of germs, microbes, viruses and so on.) So statistically the chances of attaining a human
life are very poor. In any case, there are many places of rebirth which are of no use to
a being, as he will be unable to meet with the Buddha's teaching in them. There are
eight unfavorable places of birth: the realms of hell, of hungry ghosts and of animals,
of barbarians, places where religious teaching is incorrect, where there is no Buddha,
certain God realms and the realm of dumb people. Yet even if we get a human rebirth,
there are ten necessary pre-conditions: it is necessary to be born in a place to which
the Buddha has come, a place in which the Buddha actually taught the religion, a place
where the teaching is still alive, where the teachers are kind enough to teach, and where
there are still Buddhist followers such as monks and lay followers. There are also five
external circumstances required of oneself: one must not have committed any of the
five limitless downfalls, as this would create a great obstruction.
This difficulty is explained in other ways, also. The cause of human birth is the
performance of virtuous acts and keeping correct moral conduct, and since very
few people are aware of this, human birth is rare by its cause. By nature, it is much
easier to be born elsewhere. The difficulty is illustrated by an example: imagine a
blind tortoise living in the ocean. Floating on the surface of the ocean is a yoke. The
tortoise comes to the surface only once a century, yet he stands a better chance of
putting his neck in that yoke than we do of being born in human form.
The recollections is of impermanence: the Buddha said, "The three realms of
existence are like a cloud in autumn: the birth and death of beings is like a dancer's
movement; a being's life is like a waterfall, like a flash of lightning in the sky; it
never stops even for a single moment and, once it starts, it goes inevitably to its
conclusion." Everything is changing: outside the seasons change; spring gives way
to summer, to autumn and winter. Children grow into adults, adults become old;
hair turns from black to white, the skin shrivels and life fades. Isn't that so?
Everything changes constantly. There is not one single place where one can escape
impermanence. Since everything changes constantly, one never knows when the
end will come. One may be in perfect health today and yet die tomorrow. We know
two things of death: it is certain to come and we have no idea when it will come.
It could come at any moment and there are many things, internal and external, that
can cause it. Thus, if you want to practice Buddhism, you must realize that it is
necessary to start immediately. You can never be sure of a tomorrow in which to do
Q. How does this help us? The practice of Buddhism will not make us less impermanent.
A. It will not make us less impermanent, but it will give us the certainty that, in our
coming lives, we will have less suffering. The practice of Dharma, of religion, means
- briefly speaking; avoiding non-virtuous acts; and performing virtuous acts. When
you behave in this way, it is obvious that you will be happier in the future.
Q. Does it mean that, since we expect less from this life, we will also suffer less?
A. Yes, that too, but more important, by thinking about impermanence we will be
moved to practice Dharma quickly. The thought of impermanence helps us to speed
up our path a great deal.
Q. What are the six realms and their sufferings?
A. As I said before, no matter where you are in Worldly Existence, you are suffering.
Suffering is of three kinds: the suffering of suffering, the suffering of change, and the
suffering of conditioned existence. The suffering of suffering is when you have a
headache or something like that. It is simply suffering which everyone accepts and
thinks of as suffering. Then the suffering of change is the suffering undergone through
perception of change. You are with friends today but you have to depart; when you go,
you meet enemies. Nothing stays, and seeing this, we experience the suffering of
change. The suffering of conditioned existence means the unsatisfactoriness of worldly
activity. We do many things in the world but never are really satisfied. There are always
more things to be done, which we cannot do and this is their frustration which is suffering.
The lowest of the six realms are the Hell-realms, of excessive heat and cold, and
the 'neighbouring hells' which are also states of great suffering, and which last for
incredible periods of time. The cause of these states of suffering is hatred. Then there
is the realm of hungry spirits who are tantalized by food and drink they cannot swallow.
This is the result of desire and stinginess. The animal realm is well known to us and
birth there is caused by ignorance. The human realm, too, we know. The fifth realm is
the demi-gods who are constantly engaged in war with the gods, out of jealousy, and
who will thus naturally suffer in their next lives. The gods seem very comfortable.
They enjoy great pleasures and immensely long lives, but sooner or later experience
old age and death. As they have done nothing but enjoy themselves, they will not have
created the merit to achieve high rebirth and will fall into states of great suffering.
The three lower worlds beings experience the suffering of suffering exclusively,
humans experience all three, but chiefly the first two, while the gods suffer mainly
the last two.
The last of the Four Recollections is of Karma, the law of Cause and Effect. In
the Buddhist view, everything we have today and everything we do has a cause in
the past. In fact it is said that if you want to know what you did in the past, you
should look at your present situation; whether you are rich or poor, ugly or beautiful,
this is the result of past actions, as the future, whether happy or otherwise depends
on what you do today. Everything you do today will produce a result in the future.
If a tree's root is medicinal, the flowers, the leaves, the bark and everything that
grows on the tree, will be medicinal, and like this, an act that grows out of the
opposite of desire, aversion and ignorance will produce happiness. If the root of
the tree is poisonous, then everything that grows on the tree will be poison, just as
acts of desire, aversion and ignorance produce suffering.
Q. Is there a practice based on the law of cause and effect?
A. The law of cause and effect, Karma, is one of the main teachings of Buddhism.
It means that you should always practice virtuous things, since non-virtuous acts
will always bring suffering in this life as well as in the next. If you don't want
suffering you should avoid its cause; if there is no cause, there will be no result,
just as, if the root of thr tree is removed, there will be no fruit. If you want happiness
you must be very careful about the causes of happiness, just as if you want the tree
to grow you must take care of its root. If the root is defective, the tree will not grow.
So before you begin any meditation you should contemplate these Four Recollections
very carefully and then you should take Refuge. Taking Refuge marks the difference
between Buddhists and non-Buddhists: it means that you have surrendered, you have
Q. In what way do we surrender?
A. You surrender yourself. As I said, Worldly Existence is full of sufferings. There are
many which are less obvious and which common people do not notice. We wish to be free
from these sufferings but at present we don't have full knowledge or full power to do so,
so there is nothing much that we ourselves can do about it for the present. Now, when
you undertake an important act you seek help from a powerful person: if you are sick,
you consult a doctor and if you have trouble with the law, you go to a lawyer. So, when
you want to be saved from the sufferings of Worldly Existence, you have to take Refuge
in the Triple Gem, which is the real helper in this undertaking. The Triple Gem consists
of the Buddha who is the guide, the Dharma (or Religion) which is one's own Path and
the Sangha, which means one's own spiritual companions. However, the final Refuge
is only the Buddha. The Dharma or teaching has two parts: the Teaching and the
Realization. The Teaching is the Tripitaka (Sutras, Abhidharma and Vinaya Discourses),
but this is like a boat you use to cross a river: when you get to the other side, you
simply leave it behind. The Realization has also two parts, the Truth of Cessation and
the Truth of the Path. The first of these is void, shunyata, so it cannot be a final Refuge,
while the Path, being itself impermanent, also cannot be the final Refuge. As for the
Sangha, even its very highest members are still on the Path so they cannot be a final
Refuge. So really, the Refuge is in the Buddha only, but we always take Refuge in
Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.
Q. Does this mean that the Buddha is permanent?
A. Yes, yes. The Buddha is of course permanent. The Dharmakaya 'the Truth Body'
is beyond permanence and impermanence and the Sambhogakaya, the 'Bliss-body',
always exists. The Nirmanakaya, the 'Apparent-body' is the form the Buddha takes
on this earth, and it does have the appearance of impermanence, though it is always
present somewhere, if not here.
Q. What is the actual practice of taking Refuge?
A. Taking Refuge is performed differently according to the intentions of the three
types of persons who perform it, although the three causes - fear, faith and compassion
- are the same. The actual practice is the recitation of the prayer of Refuge. The
simplest prayer says, "I take Refuge in the Buddha, I take Refuge in the Dharma,
I take Refuge in the Sangha." A more elaborate prayer says, "I take Refuge in the
Buddha, Dharma, Sangha until I get Enlightenmentl by the merit of doing this may
all beings attain Buddha's stage."
But mere recitation of the prayer with your voice is not sufficient; it must be recited
from the heart. If you want to take refuge from the rain, it won't help you to say "house,
house" or "umbrella, umbrella". You have to find a house, you have to go and get an
umbrella, and if you do this, you will be saved from the rain without any doubt. So it is
necessary to take Refuge very seriously, with full brief and, moreover, you must think
that, no matter what happens, you will seek the Refuge of only the Triple Gem, and
that you will always remain under it. Reciting the prayer in this way and with this
intention is the first practice of Buddhism and one of the foundations of all practice.
Taking Refuge like this distinguishes the Buddhist from the non-Buddhist.
Although recitation like this is sufficient to make you a Buddhist, it is common for
a short ceremony to be performed in front of the spiritual guide. He will say the words
of the prayer, which the disciple will repeat after him and also promise to uphold the
basic moral teachings of Buddhism. From that time onwards, you should continue to
recite the prayer daily and with great devotion.
Q. Is animal rebirth really possible for a human?
A. Yes, definitely. There are many stories of animals being reborn as humans as a
result of good actions and of humans being reborn as animals, too, as a result of
bad actions. Some animals are extremely kind, especially to their offspring, and by
working very hard they can create enough causes to achieve human birth.
Q. Why is human birth so important?
A. Human birth is extremely precious because, through human life, one can achieve
not only higher rebirth and Nirvana, but also one can practice Dharma and get
Q. Does it really help us to think a great deal about impermanence? We always know
we are impermanent, and thinking about it too much might make us miserable.
A. Yes, it does help. Tsongkhapa said, "A prisoner has only one thought: When can
I get out of this prison? This thought arises constantly in his mind. Your thought on
impermanence should be like this; meditate on impermanence until this state of mind
Q. Are we really in the position of prisoners? We often do find things pleasant in
A. But that pleasure isn't permanent, is it? That very pleasure can lead to disaster,
can't it? So we are happy now, but we never know what might happen in the next
hour. There may be a complete disaster. Since pleasure is impermanent, since it is
very uncertain, you are not actually happy because your pleasure is colored with
anxiety. In fact, you are never happy because you don't know what will come and
thus anxiety is inevitable here.
Q. Are the hells metaphors for states or amounts of suffering or do they really
exist as described in the Buddhist 'Sutras'?
A. Something really exists, I think. Actually it says in the Sutras that they really
exist much more terribly than they are described because, it says, the Buddha
didn't fully describe them. If he had fully described them, people would have fainted.
Q. How real are they?
A. They are real as the life we have today. Yes, many people think that they are not
real, they are like a dream. But actually, we are happy and unhappy in dreams, just
as real as we are when we are awake. This present experience also is not real, but we
think everything around us is real. Hell is as real as this. Of course hell, also, in
reality, is not real. This is also not real. What is this, then?
Q. Do the Buddhas suffer?
A. No, they never suffer. They are absolutely free from sufferings.
Q. Do they see suffering?
A. They don't see suffering, either.
Q. Then how can they help people who are suffering?
A. They don't suffer. This answer is one of the differences between the Sakya and
Gelugpa orders; the Gelugpas say that the Buddhas do see suffering and we say that
they do not. The man who has awakened from sleep doesn't have dreams. This impure
Samsaric scene of suffering is like a dream, it's like an illusion. So the man who has
awakened from this illusion can never dream again. But, due to his Bodhicitta,
(Enlightenment-mind) and his compassion, help for others spontaneously arises. But
the Buddha himself never sees suffering. For him, all things are transformed into
Q. Is the Buddha involved in 'Karma'?
A. He has achieved the final Karmic result, the highest and best possible results of
Q. Can anything happen to us which is not the result of our own actions?
A. No, never.
Q. Can the Buddha perceive the results of his or other's acts?
A. Yes, for instance, there have been many prophecies, but I don't think the Buddha
sees or perceives these results. Where there is a need for prophecy, it just arises
Q. Can we modify the results of past acts?
A. Certainly. The Vajrasattva meditation can purify many of our past bad actions,
but in any case, the creation of good causes and merit is very helpful and necessary.
"THE BODHISATTVA IS BORN
OUT OF LOVE AND COMPASSION"
Q. In the Lesser Way of mere personal salvation (Hinayana). 'Nirvana' (Liberation) is
one of the Four Noble Truths, but it seens less important in the Great Way (Mahayana).
A. Yes. There are two extremes, Worldly Existence and Liberation. The first is
completely involved in suffering and the other has completely gone beyond it. The
Great Way teaches that we should enter neither. Instead, we should follow the
Middle Way which means that, through the power of Wisdom, we do not remain
in Worldly Existence and through the power of compassion we do not remain in
Liberation. If you are in Liberation, you cannot be active, you cannot help other
beings. You yourself will be completely free from suffering but there is nothing
you can do for others. By attaining Enlightenment, which we call the Great
Liberation, you are not only free from suffering but also you can help all sentient
beings immensely. This is the main difference.
Q. What are the principle practices of Mahayana?
A. There are three main practices: Love, Compassion and Enlightenment-mind.
Love means that you wish every sentient being in all the six realms of existence
to be happy, and compassion is the wish that all beings in suffering should part
from suffering. The Enlightenment-mind means, generally speaking, the wish to
attain Enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings. These three are very
important. Without love and compassion, the Enlightenment-mind will not arise
and, without the Enlightenment-mind, you cannot attain Enlightenment, so therefore
love and compassion are necessary. But of these, compassion is of particular
importance. It is said to be the seed of the Great Way in the beginning; meantime,
it is the water that makes the crops grow, and finally it is the ripening of the fruit.
So, clearly, compassion being in the beginning, the middle and the end, it is very
important. Thus, when Chandrakirti wrote the Madhyamakavatara, he preceded
it with an homage to compassion. "The Buddha," he said, "arises from the
Bodhisattva and the Bodhisattva is born out of love and compassion, but especially
out of compassion." The main cause of the Great Way is compassion.
Q. How should we practice these?
A. First, study is required and then meditation. Visualize those who are dear to you
and wish them to be happy and be free from suffering; then pray that you may have
the power to accomplish this for them, that you will be able to do this. Then meditate
on those who are not dear to you and finally on all sentient beings. In fact, you should
start by thinking of the Four Recollections, then taking Refuge, then visualizing your
mother and thinking very clearly on the most elaborate details of her kindness to you
and the care she had for you. Then realize that she is still suffering and creating the
causes of suffering: at this, the wish to help her will arise and, when you want to help
her out of suffering, the Enlightenment-mind will arise. Finally, pray to the Guru and
Triple Gem that she may be happy and without suffering. Then think of your father,
of other beings and of your worst enemy, too. If this is difficult, remember that hatred
is your real enemy as it will create states of great suffering. Then meditate upon all
beings in the six realms until natural love for them arises without a single reservation.
Finally, wish that any merit accumulated through this may benefit all sentient beings
equally: this sharing of merit concludes every meditation.
Compassion is of the greatest importance and should be practiced as much as
possible. It should be completely instinctive. Avalokiteshvara, the Lord of Compassion,
said in a Sutra, "One who wishes to gain Enlightenment should not practice many
things, but just one, and that one is compassion." The practice of Compassion is of
three kinds. Compassion to beings is to wish that, firstly your mother and then all
other limitless sentient beings should be free from suffering, and the wish that you
may be able to help them. Compassion to Dharmas (conditioned phenomena) is the
wish that sentient beings should abandon the root of suffering, for the root of suffering
is ignorance. The third practice is called objectless compassion. You must realize that,
really, all sentient beings are not there but, nevertheless, through ignorance of the
Real, they are very much tied to the ego and this causes them suffering.
Q. Sentient beings are not really there?
A. No, actually sentient beings are not really there, but through attachment to ego,
there arises illusory appearances. Since you desire certain of these appearances, you
may also have many aversions to others, and so long as you ignorantly believe them
to be really suffering, you remain caught in the closed circle which is Worldly Existence.
The third practice is of Enlightenment-mind, which is a very importance practice.
Generally speaking, there are two Enlightenment-minds, the Relative one and the
Absolute one. The relative Enlightenment-mind also has two parts, called "Wishing"
and "Entering". The Wishing Enlightenment-mind is the aspiration, the wish to gain
Enlightenment for all those sentient beings, and this is like the wish to make a
journey. The Entering Enlightenment-mind is like making that journey: everything
you actually do to achieve the aim of getting Enlightenment is the Entering
Enlightenment-mind; so in fact, this Entering Enlightenment-mind includes all the
Buddhist practices such as the six Paramitas of Giving, Moral Conduct, Patience,
Vigour, Meditation and Wisdom. Then the Absolute Enlightenment-mind is the
understanding of the true nature of all things, which is to say, Emptiness.
To realize this is Absolute Enlightenment-mind.
Q. How should we understand Emptiness?
A. Emptiness is actually only a name. It doesn't mean that all things are empty or
void. Every religion tries to explain the true nature of phenomena, but all have come
to the conclusion of something existing, either positively or negatively. Ordinary
people do not think much about phenomena and their origins, but the more spiritual
people do, and wonder why things exist and where they come from. Christianity
concluded that all things are created by God. An early Buddhist school, Sarvastivada,
concluded that, although gross things do not really exist, atoms - so minute that
they can have no sides facing different directions - do exist as basic elements. A more
advanced Buddhist school, the Vijnanavada, decided that ultimately nothing exists
externally and that the things we seem to perceive are only projections of mind.
However, when the Madhyamika philosophers examined phenomena, everything
seemed to disappear and they could find nothing. They were not satisfied by the
explanation that God created everything or that tiny atoms existed, and they
reasoned that it was impossible for subjective mind to exist if objects did not exist,
as mind and objects are as interdependently inseparable as are right and left. So,
if there was no external matter, there could ne no mind. The Madhyamika concluded,
after a very scrupulous examination, that there was nothing, ultimately, that could
be clung to as really existent. Positive things could not be found, negative things
could not be found, nothing could be found which could be accepted as really existing
because the true nature of all things is beyond existence and non-existence, beyond
thought, and inexpressible. Shantideva said, "The Absolute is not an object of mind;
it lies beyond mind. It is something you cannot describe; it is the wonder of the
incomprehensible." However, when we talk about such things, we have to name
them, so we call it Emptiness, but really Emptiness is not something that can be named,
it is inexpressible.
Of course, this is all 'ultimately'. Relatively speaking, the Madhyamika accepts
whatever ordinary people accept, but the writings of this school do show an experience
of the inexpressibility of all things.
Q. Isn't this critique of phenomena merely a logical paradox? Can it have any
bearing on daily life?
A. Of course it does. When you realize the Ultimate Truth, you are free from suffering.
We are in suffering because we haven't awakened from the relative illusion. We are
wrapped up in this relative illusion and, due to this, we hold things as really holding them
as real, we act and hence suffer and create many more causes of suffering.
Q. So the real point is attachment?
A. When you are no longer attached to things as real, you create no further causes
Q. Is this a subject of meditation?
A. There are many meditations on this in the Greater Way, and especially the Tantric
Way. We have to realize that sufferings come from bad Karma, which comes from the
defilements and that the defilements arise from ego. If we are deluded, we may think
a coil of rope is a snake; we do this in supposing that a self exists, When you have
'self', there must be 'other'; when there is 'other', there is desire for 'self' and aversion
to 'other', and this leads further into delusion and the obscuration of the true nature.
The Enlightenment-mind is the best way to uproot the mistaken notion of a self. In
what way are other beings different from you? Try first to see them as equal to yourself
and to love them as much as you love yourself until, finally, you can love beings better
than yourself. Try to wish constantly, however much you are suffering, that, even so,
all the sufferings of all sentient beings may come to you and that all your causes of
happiness may be given to them. And you should always wish that the merit gained
through this should be benefit to all beings.
The practice for realizing Emptiness, the Absolute Enlightenment-mind, has two
parts; the practice of concentration and the analysis of experience, which shows us
clearly the Madhyamika experience. But these practices need some lengthier
explanation and I cannot deal with them adequately here. But, before and after
every practice, you must take Refuge and share the merit.
Q. If things and mind don't exist, what are appearances? Where do they being and
where do they end?
A. They have no beginning. There is an end, though, when you achieve Enlightenment.
This is an illusion, unreal, like a dream. Where does the dream arise? Where does it
go? It is like that. This is a long dream.
Q. So what are appearances?
A. This is a long dream.
Q. Love and compassion are good, but doesn't there come a point when it is better
to be angry with people? Is anger ever justified?
A. Maybe, if the intension is white, even though the action is black. Even if you
are angry, if it is with the thought of benefitting a being, your anger arises from
compassion, and whatever arises out of compassion is good. If the root is medicinal,
even if the fruit appears bad, it will be medicinal.
Q. Buddhism is often thought of as leading to negative and passive behavior.
A. This is true if you enter and abide in Liberation. But if you enter the Great Way,
instead of selfish desire for liberated quiescence, you have compassion which is the
active desire for the benefit of all beings.
Q. Buddhism is sometimes said to be atheistic because it holds that there is no God.
A. Buddhism does not believe in a God as the creator of the world and, in that sense,
you might say it is atheistic. If, however, God is something else, a divine compassion
or a divine wisdom, manifest in the form of a deity, you might say that Buddhism is
not atheistic but polytheistic.
Q. If there really is no self, than what is reborn?
A. The continuum of mind, the serial mind-stream of a person and the results of his
deeds give rise to a new being. In any case, rebirth is a relative truth. The interpretation
of relative truth differs from school to school, from religion to religion. The Madhyamika
believes the relative to be whatever we see, without examination: the view of ordinary
people. Relatively, there is rebirth, but not ultimately.
Q. How did the 'Madhyamika' philosophy arise? Isn't it later than the Buddha's time?
A. Of course it is Buddhist: it is the actual meaning of the Prajnaparamita Sutras,
where it is clearly said that anyone who follows extremes will never be free from
suffering. The extremes are of positive and negative, of belief in existence and
non-existence, and the like. The philosophy is developed from the Sutras which
were taught by the Buddha.
Q. If we don't accept the existence of beings, since all things are emptiness, what
reason do we have for being compassionate?
A. Everything is not just emptiness; emptiness is also a wrong view, an extreme -
the true nature of things is away from extremes. In order to realize this, you have
to accumulate a great deal of merit and the best way to do this is to practice love
and compassion for all sentient beings. Until this merit has been accumulated,
the understanding of Emptiness will not arise.
GURU HAS A TREMENDOUS RESPONSIBILITY"
Q. What is 'Mantrayana', Your Holiness?
A. Mantrayana or Tantra, actually is method. The first intentions, and the final goal,
are exactly the same as they are in Mahayana, but since the Mantrayana is direct,
more intelligent has more methods, it reaches the same destination from the same
starting place much more quickly: the difference is as between travelling by train and
aeroplane. The Mahayana practices consist mainly of meditation through thinking
about things, but in the Mantrayana, our bodies are also extensively used. By knowing
and using our bodies, we can reach our destination much more quickly. Now, many
things are required for an aeroplane to fly, such fuel, wind, the design of the machine,
and so on, and in the same way, when we try to attain realization in the Mantrayana
we practice not only in thought: we visualize different Mandalas, repeat Mantras, and
so on, and you can say that if these practices are correctly followed, realization will
Q. Is this the only difference between Mahayana and Mantrayana?
A. The Mahayana is called the "Cause Yana", the Causal Path, and the Mantrayana
is called the Result Path. In the Mahayana, you work only to create the right causes
by practicing giving, moral conduct and so on. These practices are very valuable and
correct, but they are still very different from the immense qualities of the Buddha. But
in Mantrayana, you image yourself right from the beginning in the form of the result
- the Buddha, in one form of another. By this practice, the result - which is the same as
the practice - will arise and consequently Mantrayana is called the Result Path. Right
from the beginning, you think of yourself as the Buddha with all the qualities, the
thirty-two major signs, the eighty minor signs and so on.
Q. Is it not wrong to think of ourselves as the Buddha?
A. Indeed not. It is said in Mahayana, too, of course, that the nature of our mind, of
our entire organism, is actually Buddha, and always has been. However, we have not
realized this and we are wrapped up in an illusion, so consequently we suffer. If the
obscurations and defilements were intrinsically part of our mind, purification would
not be possible. Coal will not become white, however much we wash it, but since
the nature of mind is pure, it can be purified. Since other beings have attained
Enlightenment, it is clear that it is possible for us, too, that our minds can also be
The way Mantrayana deals with this problem is as follows: there are five races,
or types, of persons. Actually there are hundreds and thousands of different types,
but they can all be included in five categories, These five, in fact, can also be included
in one, which is Vajradhara, but, in general, it is convenient to think of five. These
five we imagine in a Mandala, which is a celestial mansion of certain proportions and
decorations, surrounded by fire. The Buddha in the centre is dark blue and is called
Akshobhya, 'the Unshakable One'. In the East is white Buddha Vairocana, 'the One
Who Creates Appearances'. In the South is yellow Ratnasambhava, 'the One Who
has the Nature of the Gem'. In the West is red Amitabha, 'Limitless Light', and in
the North is green Amoghasiddhi, 'the One Who is Skilled in Accomplishing all
Possible Works'. They all look like Shakyamuni Buddha except they have different
Mudras or gestures of the hands. Akshobhya touches the earth in the Bhumisparsha
mudra; Vairocana's hands are in the gesture of teaching; Ratnasambhava displays
the gesture of giving, Amitabha, the gesture of meditation; while Amoghasidhi holds
up his hand to show the crossed Vajra, the mudra of fearlessness. Each of these five
has specific qualities, but each is also relatedto the five most common defilements
we are afflicted with: the blue Akshobhya to anger, red Amitabha to passion and
desire, green Amoghasiddhi to envy, white Vairocana to ignorance, and yellow
Ratnasambhava to pride and avarice. These colors are clearly related to the
corresponding defilements. In English, you say 'green with envy' while passion is
associated with red and anger with dark blue. We can clearly see these characteristics
of the five races in individuals: an individual who is dark in complexion, who may
have a mark on his person resembling a vajra and who is often angry, is of the race
Akshobhya. (The vajra is the sign of Akshobhya.) Since there is a complete link
of cause and effect, that person will succeed particularly easily and will if he practices
the path related to Akshobhya. You see, the Buddha Akshobhya represents the
complete transformation of anger. In Mantrayana, we never regard any defilement,
such as anger or desire, as something to be repressed. Instead. the energies tied
up in the defilement are purified and result in one of the five Buddhas, each of whom
is characterized by a certain type of wisdom. This is another reason why the Mantrayana
is the 'Result Path'.
In fact, there is no impurity, of course. The impurities appear because we have not
yet realized the truth and we are still thinking in terms of subject-and-object. So we can
say that impurities also come from delusion.
Q. How do we practice this Path?
A. Although this Path is obviously superior, it is not easy to understand correctly.
For a start, we must be certain of our practice of pure resolve, the Bodhicitta, and
only then can we receive the teachings of the five Buddhas, in one of the many forms
they take to suit our own individual nature. This teaching is given in the form of an
Empowerment which is called a Wang in Tibetan. It means a 'Consecration' or
'Initiation'. This empowerment is a transmission, and it is necessary to receive it
from a qualified Guru, and then to study, think about it and meditate on it in order
to achieve the final result. After receiving the Consecrations, one must carry out
the daily practice without fail, and learn to think very clearly and completely of
oneself as identified with the final result. Then, because of the connection between
cause and result, the result will naturally arise.
Q. This transmission is important?
A. Transmission from the Guru is particularly important in Mantrayana. The Guru
transmits the teaching to you, and he is part of an unbroken successsion of teachers
which goes right back to the original Buddha, Vajradhara, from whom the teachings
arose in the first place. Even in the Mahayana, you cannot practice without guidance,
and this is particularly true of Mantrayana.
Q. Does this mean that we will not get the result unless we receive the teaching
in this way?
A. Of course we will not. No one can get anything merely by studying a text. You
must first receive the teaching in an oral tradition which goes back to Vajradhara
and this direct unbroken blessing of the teaching line must be received first; without
this special blessing, no ripening wil occur. Although most of the teachings have now
ben written down, you must first receive them orally; then you can study them.
Q. So th Guru is very essential?
A. It is said in the Tantras that the Guru is the source of all Siddhis, or spiritual
accomplishments. So it is important to find a guru, and, generally, it is necessary
to find the right Guru, the one who has all the qualifications to teach Tantra. In
particular, it is necessary for you to find the Lama with whom you have a particular
connection by Karma. For instance, when Milarepa first heard of Marpa, he felt a
particularly urgent desire to meet him immediately. Or when Tsarchen heard of
the great Sakya teacher, Doringpa, he felt a special urge to meet him as quickly
as possible. When you find this Guru, you must receive a transmission and
explanation from him. In Tantra, it is necessary to receive the Wang, the
empowerment, the transmission or Consecration. Wang is the door to Tantra.
Without Wang there is nothing you can do. Wang is like fertilising the ground
and planting the seed. It creates the right conditions. After receiving the Wang,
it is only a matter of looking after the seed to see that the crop grows.
Q. How can you recognize the Guru with whom you have a Karmic link?
A. In some cases there is a clear sign. In Tsarchen's case, a woman appeared to him
while meditating in a cave. At that time, he was a Gelugpa monk. She gave him a book
and told him to find Doringpa. He found Doringpa in Sakya, and discovered that
the book he had been given had come from Doringpa's library. The woman was a
manifestation of Vajra Yogini, a female deity. Tsarchen practiced her meditation, in
particular, after receiving it from Doringpa, and achieved great realization. Generally,
however, if you feel a particular urge to meet or communicate with a certain Lama,
a feeling of something happening when you meet him, this is a good indication.
It can also be discovered by prediction. When I was very young, my aunt asked
some monks to do a form of prediction involving a mirror. They saw a strange Lama
in the mirror and myself in front of him. The Lama has long ears and the space
between his upper lip and nose was also very wide. He had a scar. We didn't know
who it could be, but later discovered it was Khyentse Rinpoche.
Q. Does this mean that we can only get good results with a Lama with whom we
have a Karmic link?
A. No, not necessarily. In my case, I was unable to receive a great deal of teaching
from Khyentse Rinpoche. Any qualified Guru is good, but there is a special one who
can help you more than any other.
Q. Is it right for a Guru to make extravagant demands on his disciples?
A. Yes. For instance when Marpa was teaching Lama Ngog, he asked him if he had
brought all his wealth. Ngog replied that he had left behind only one lame old goat.
Marpa sent him back to fetch it. Marpa said, though an old lame goat made no
difference to him: he had demanded it only to uphold the dignity of the teaching. If
you have to offer everything, you must hold back nothing. But the relationship of
Guru and disciple is not the relation of master and a servant. It is the relationship
of a father and son. It is a spiritual relationship, but it must be as warm and close as
the relationship of a father and his son. The Guru has a tremendous responsibility
to care for his sons who, in their turn must follow all the teachings they are given,
and keep all their vows.
Q. What are the vows involved?
A. They are far from simple. After receiving the Wang, there are many vows to
keep, in addition to daily practice and study. If you have already received the
Pratimoksha vows of the Hinayana code, you must keep these and, then in
addition to the Mahayana vows, you must keep the Tantric vows which are very
important. Without keeping these, no practice will be effective. The vows are
given to create the right conditions for caring the seed planted during consecration.
The vows must be kept properly and daily practice must be performed with its
visualizations and mantra recitations and meditation on the two stages of Kyerim
(Process of Creation) and Dzogrim (Process of Completion).
Q. What actually is a Tantric Deity?
A. There are limitless living beings with different tastes, backgrounds, ideas and
dispositions, so in order to suit different types, the Transcendental Wisdom, or
Buddha, or whatever you prefer to call it, has taken different shapes. For instance,
people who have much desire meditate on deities embracing. People who have
much hatred meditate on deities in a wrathful, angry form. People who have much
ignorance meditate on very elaborate deities with many jewels and ornaments. But
actually they are all the same Transcendental Wisdom appearing in different forms
to suit different types of people.
Q. What is the connection between Tantric teaching and the historical Buddha?
A. We call the historical buddha the 'common' Buddha and the tantric Buddhas are
'non-common', but many of the Tantras were recited by the historical Buddha. The
Hevajra Tantra is one of these.
Q. What is Mahamudra?
A. Mahamudra is the Transcendental Wisdom you realize after practicing Kyerim
and Dzog-rim. Kyerim is the process of creation: you visualize a mandala arising
out of a letter, you visualize it peopled with deities. Dzog-rim means the stage of
completion. This is usually at the end of the practice. You imagine everything being
absorbed back into the original letter and then that, too, disappears. Actually
Kyerim purifies birth and Dzog-rim purifies death.
Q. What are main Sakya practices?
A. The main Sakya practice is Lamdre, or 'Path-Result' which covers the Hinayana,
Mahayana and Mantrayana. It comes to us through Virupa, a great Indian saint who
lived in 650 A.D., and it was brought to Tibet by the translator, Drogmi, who died in
1072. It is based on the consecration and practices of the Hevajra Tantra and includes
the philosophy of Tantra as well as all the Yogic practices such as 'Inner Heat' breathing
yoga, bodily positions, the yoga of dreams, Pho-wa or 'Transference of Consciousness',
Bardo practices and so on. The entire teaching takes three months to give. Then we
practice on a very special, very esoteric teaching of Naropa, a Vajra-Yogini teaching
with eleven yogas. Then we have many teachings of Mahakala, we have Vajrakila,
which comes from the original Nyingma tradition of my family; Sarvavidya, which is
particularly helpful for the dying and the dead; Vajra-Bhairava, a wrathful form of
Manjushri; the 'Thirteen Golden Teachings' that belong only to the Sakya Order,
and many others. But Lamdre contains everything.
Q. In the Western concept of morality, sexual energies are usually regarded as a
hinderance to the spiritual path. Does Tantra mean the acceptance of these energies
and can they really help us along the Path?
A. If they are rightly used: if used by the right persons, at the right time and
correctly, they can be a very great help. The story is often told of King Indrabhuti,
who told Shakyamuni Buddha that he would rather be reborn as a wolf in the jungle
than undertake a spiritual Path which demanded the renunciation of worldly things,
so the Buddha gave him a special teaching, the Guhyasamaja teaching, of which
we still have the transmission. Mere external renunciation is, of course, of little
use; one can renounce something externally and still be very attached to it! True
renunciation is the renunciation of attachment. In any case, King Indrabhuti was
of the very highest type of person and he and his entire court actually attained
Enlightenment while the Buddha was giving them the teaching!
However, most Tantric practitioners are, of course, monks who are not allowed
worldly pleasures and who must, of course be celibate. King Indrabhuti attained
Enlightenment immediately, but we have only to read the story of Milarepa to see
the difficulties that even gifted individuals undergo.
Q. What dangers are ther in incorrect practice?
A. "If something goes wrong in Tantra, there is only one direction: down to hell."
Practicing Tantra is like being a snake in a bamboo tube: it can only go up or down.
It is necessary to find a good Guru and practice the teaching very carefully.
Q. Why does Tantra involve so much secrecy?
A. I think that, generally, it is to avoid creating disbelief in, or even aversion to,
Tantric teachings. If people hear things at the wrong time or without proper
explanation, they may be shocked and think that Tantra is a bad thing and lose
faith in the Tantric Path. Also, if people see Mandalas and perhaps read Mantras
in books, they may be tempted to try and practice by themselves, which is a very
serious mistake. In Tantra you cannot do anything by yourself. Everything must
be handed on to you by the Guru.
Q. Is Tantra more than just ritual?
A. Ritual is only a small part of Tantra. The main practice is one's daily meditation,
visualization and recitation, the practice of physical yogas, breathing yogas and so on.
Q. What is the result?
A. Generally the result is the Three, or Four, or Five Bodies (Kayas) of the Buddha.
These are included in Three Kayas; two Rupa or 'form' Kayas, and one is a spiritual
'Body'. This latter is called Dharmakaya, the 'Body of Reality', it is the continuation
of the mind which has been completely transformed, which has become completely
inseparable from Shunyata. The Sambhogakaya, the 'Body of Bliss' is the 'Body'
that dwells permanently in the Akanishtha Buddhafield, giving teaching to the great
Bodhisattvas. The Nirmanakaya, or 'Illusory Body', is of different types, but the
Excellent Nirmanakaya is one like the historical Buddha who appeared among us in
India. These 'Bodies' result from the transformation of our present organism. Our
present body becomes the Rupakaya and our present mind becomes the Dharmakaya
or 'Body of Reality'.
"THE BUDDHA SEES THAT EGO
DOES NOT EXIST ANYWHERE"
Q. It is said that the most important quality needed for successfully practicing 'Dharma'
is great faith. What kind of faith is needed? Why is faith so important?
A. Of course faith is very important but it is not the only important thing. It is the
beginning. Without it, you cannot achieve good results. For instance, if the seed is
burnt, you cannot grow a crop. No matter how much you practice Dharma, you will
not get any result without faith. But it is not a blind faith that is required. Generally,
there are said to be three types of faith: firstly 'voluntary faith', which means that
you perceive so many excellent qualities in the Triple Gem that you wish to accept
it in order to benefit all sentient beings; secondly, 'clear faith', which means that,
seeing the great, good qualities of the Buddha, your mind becomes clear and certain;
and thirdly is the 'faith of confidence', which means that you accept the Buddhist
teachings as valid, such as the Four Noble Truths, and so on: your study these teachings
and conclude that they are correct.
Q. So faith is not just a matter of accepting certain dogma?
A. No, no, certainly not.
Q. The teaching of rebirth is unfamiliar to the West. Can one practice Dharma
effectively if one does not accept rebirth?
A. According to our definition of the practice of Dharma, no. We say that, whatever
you practice, however high or good it may be, it is not Dharma if it is just intended for
this life. Dharma is what you practice for the next life, so the idea of rebirth cannot
be separated from the idea of Dharma. The law of Karma is an intrinsic part of Dharma
and future rebirth is the result of present causes.
Q. Many people in the West might deny the universality of suffering.
A. Buddhists however say that, wherever you are in Worldly Existence, there is
suffering. It is wrong to ignore the continual presence of suffering. One should not
hide from suffering; one should know its cause and try to avoid creating the causes
Q. What is the "anatma" or "ego-lessness" doctrine taught by the Buddha?
A. The Buddha sees that ego does not exist anywhere. Mind is not ego, body is not
ego; ego is just a name given to a grouping of things: form, perception, feeling, impulses
and consciousness all together. So, in reality, when you examine in order to find what
it is we call ego, there is nothing. Ego is just a name given to a collection of things.
Q. Even though we have no immortal soul, doesn't ego exist in some way?
A. No, ego never exists, but the continuity of mind exists.
Q. Whence does our strong sense of ego arise?
A. Since beginningless time, we have been born in Worldly Existence with a very
strong habit of thinking that the continuum of mind is our own ego, and we have
lived with a very strong attachment to it.
Q. So ego is only a habit of thought?
Q. Some Westerners think that death is complete annihilation.
A. That is not right: when you die your body ends, but your mind still continues.
Q. If there is no ego, what continues?
A. The continnum of the mind: it is like a rosary - all the beads are different, but it
is the same rosary.
Q. What is mind?
A. There are many parts to it, but there is a very basic aspect which we call Kun-Shi,
(Alayavijnana). Literally, this means 'foundation of all' and it is a luculent 'self-seeing'.
It is the base on which Worldly Existence and Liberation arise. It is actually unobstructed
mind, that part of mind which doesn't grasp at outer objects. It is luculent and continues
right from beginningless time until Enlightenment is reached.
Q. This mind is also non-existent in the Absolute?
A. Relatively it exists, of course. Ultimately, it is Shunyata, but relatively it exists. In
reality, you cannot not say it exist or doesn't exist.
Q. Is it individual or is it a kind of collective consciousness, a common basis of
all individual minds?
A. It is individual.
Q. What distinguishes followers of the Mahayana from followers of Hinayana?
A. There are differences, but the main thing is that one who wishes to get
Enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings belongs to the Mahayana.
Q. Is compassion for all living beings just a matter of feeling sorry for them?
A. No. Compassion is a thought, the wish for beings to be free from suffering.
Q. Does compassion have to involve understanding the cause of suffering, or is
it just a matter of feeling?
A. I think both are involved. Compassion has three phases: the wish that the cause
of their sufferings be removed, and the wish that beings should become freed from
suffering by understanding the true nature of all things. The practice of compassion
clearly involves an understanding of the cause of suffering.
Q. The meditation for arousing compassion is based upon a reflection of the
kindness of our mother. What should we do if our mother was not kind?
A. Every mother can be considered as kind. It is a great kindness that she gave you
a human body. That is enough for you to consider her as kind. If the meditation is
difficult, you should always try to think of her kind actions and good qualities until the
feeling of love arises.
Q. Your Holiness has said that our sense of 'I' is really an illusion. If this is so,
why is it difficult for us to see this?
A. As I said earlier, from very beginningless time, through lives we have built up
propensities which are reinforced by every act that assumes 'I' is real; these
propensities make it very difficult for us to realize the illusory nature of 'I'.
Q. Seeing the unreality of ego is like breaking a bad habit?
Q. Your Holiness has said that the teaching of rebirth is a relative truth and that
many things exist relatively but not ultimately; what is this distinction between
relative and ultimate truth?
A. Yes, there are two truths, relative and ultimate. Relatively we suffer, relatively
there is cause, path and result. But in the experience of ultimate truth, nothing can
be said to exist, nor not exist, nor both together, nor either. These are what we call
the four objectionable extremes; they are objectionable in the sense that valid
logical objections can be raised to all four possibilities.
Q. Can ultimate truth be expressed in words?
A. No, although it can be described to some extent. However, in fact, it can only be
realized and experienced.
Q. Is the "Madhyamika" doctrine of emptiness taughtby all schools of Tibetan
Buddhism and is their teaching the same?
A. Yes, they all teach the same thing, but their ways of teaching differ. They all have
their own qualities and all achieve the same result.
Q. Do followers of Mantrayana accept all the Mahayana teachings?
A. Yes, Mantrayana accepts all Mahayana teachings. It is distinguished by the greater
variety of methods, the use of a more direct methods to attain the truth.
Q. What is the significance of the 'Vajra' and bell used in Tantric meditations
A. Each has many facets, but they are mainly symbolic of method and wisdom,
which are of equal importance on our Path; they also represent masculine and
Q. Ritual is important in Tibetan Buddhist practice: what is its use?
A. Ritual is very important and, through it practice, much progress may be made.
However, it is not necessary for everybody to perform elaborate rituals. Only the
Vajra and bell are necessary and mudras.
Q. Why are "mudras" important?
A. They are very significant, externally and internally, and are very helpful in
visualization practices. They also have much power in themselves, to protect,
to receive blessings, to heal.
Q. What qualities are required before one can give "Wangs"?
A. Three types of Guru are described in the Tantras. The highest type is one who has
really seen the deity as clearly as we would see another person. The second type is one
who has received some sign of spiritual accomplishment, at least some sign, even
perhaps in a deam. The third type, which is usual these days, is the Guru who has
received all the necessary wangs and teachings from a proper Guru, and who has
performed the retreats of certain major deities, who learned all the rituals, the mudras,
the arrangement of the Mandala, and so on. Then only can he give Wangs.
Q. Is it good enough to receive the teaching from a Guru of the third type?
A. Yes, it makes some connection, even if it is not so close as the first type.
The first type of Guru can introduce you to the deity as he would to a friend!
Q. What is a meditation retreat?
A. There are many different kinds. You can have a simple retreat when you practice
the meditations on love, compassion and the resolve to win enlightenment. In Tantric
meditation you visualize the deities, recite the mantras, or simply meditate on shunyata.
There are many practices.
Q. Why are 'retreats' so important?
A. Through meditative retreats, you attain Enlightenment. Without performing
many retreats, it is not possible to attain Enlightenment. It is well known that in
Tibet many yogis spent years in solitary retreat for this purpose; some still do so
in India. Unless you had the very highest qualities, it would not be possible to
attain Enlightenment in this life without performing long retreats.
Q. In Mantrayana practice, does it matter which deity one meditates on?
A. It is best to meditate on a deity with which one has a karmic connection. This is
called a Yidam, or 'Patron Deity'.
Q. Can every deity be a 'Yidam'?
A. Not all. The Protectors cannot be Yidams. There is a class of deities which are
yidams, and among these will be one with whom you have a particular connection.
Q. Can Bodhisattvas like Manjushri and Avalokiteshvara be 'Yidams'?
A. Yes, they have boths forms, as Bodhisattvas and as Yidams.
Q. What qualities are required of us before we can take 'wangs'?
A. Many different qualities of the worthy disciple are described, but the main qualities
are faith, compassion and Bodhicitta. People without a developed Bodhicitta are not
allowed to take major consecrations, the consecrations of deities like Hevajra.
Q. Is it still a matter of luck, even if one has developed 'Bodhicitta' to find a Guru?
A. No, one has to search. One can always find a Guru from whom to receive teachings.
Q. What should a person do if he doesn't find a Guru?
A. He should search more!
Q. What is the 'Anuttarayogatantra'?
A. There are four classes of Tantra of which Anuttarayoga is the very highest.
Briefly, it is the practice in which every act of one's life - even eating, bathing,
and so on - everything that you do, every action in Worldly Existence both
during your meditation and whilte you are not meditating, everything, every action
is transformed into the Path.
Q. Does Buddhist practice mean we have to renounce the material world?
A. According to Hinayana and Mahayana, yes - but according to Mantrayana, not
Q. By renunciation, you mean going to the mountains and living like a hermit?
Can we continue to live in cities and still practice?
A. Certainly, in Mantrayana. This is why the Lord Buddha taught the Mantrayana
to King Indrabhuti.
Q. Why then is monasticism important?
A. Monasticism is important to keep the tradition alive, to keep the teaching
properly. When you stay in the world you can still practice, perhaps very
effectively, but generally there is too much potential for distraction in the
material world, and lay people don't have the time to practice properly or to
study the teachings effectively. They have too many other things to attend to.
Monks have a much better opportunity to practice and study Dharma, as they
have nothing else to attend to.