In Buddhist teaching, the law of
karma, says only this: `for every event that occurs, there will follow another
event whose existence was caused by the first, and this second event will be
pleasant or unpleasant according as its cause was skillful or unskillful.' A
skillful event is one that is not accompanied by craving, resistance or delusions;
an unskillful event is one that is accompanied by any one of those things. (Events
are not skillful in themselves, but are so called only in virtue of the mental
events that occur with them.)
Therefore, the law of Karma teaches that responsibility for unskillful actions is born by the person who commits them.
Let's take an example of a sequence of events. An unpleasant sensation occurs. A thought arises that the source of the unpleasantness was a person. (This thought is a delusion; any decisions based upon it will therefore be unskillful.) A thought arises that some past sensations of unpleasantness issued from this same person. (This thought is a further delusion.) This is followed by a willful decision to speak words that will produce an unpleasant sensation in that which is perceived as a person. (This decision is an act of hostility. Of all the events described so far, only this is called a karma.) Words are carefully chosen in the hopes that when heard they will cause pain. The words are pronounced aloud. (This is the execution of the decision to be hostile. It may also be classed as a kind of karma, although technically it is an after-karma.) There is a visual sensation of a furrowed brow and downturned mouth. The thought arises that the other person's face is frowning. The thought arises that the other person's feelings were hurt. There is a fleeting joyful feeling of success in knowing that one has scored a damaging verbal blow. Eventually (perhaps much later) there is an unpleasant sensation of regret, perhaps taking the form of a sensation of fear that the perceived enemy may retaliate, or perhaps taking the form of remorse on having acted impetuously, like an immature child, and hping that no one will remember this childish action. (This regret or fear is the unpleasant ripening of the karma, the unskillful decision to inflict pain through words.)
If there are no persons at all, then there is no self and no other. There is no distinction between pain of which there is direct sensual awareness (which is conventionally called one's own pain) and pain that is known through inference (conventionally called another person's pain). Whether pain is known directly or indirectly, there is either an urge to quell it or an urge to cultivate it. Whether joy is known directly or indirectly, there is either an urge to nourish it or to quell it. In the conventional language of speaking of events personally, the urge to quell all pain and to nourish all joy is known as being ethical or skillful or (if you like) good. The urge to nourish pain and quell joy is known as being unskillful, unethical or bad.
Being fully ethical is said to be impossible for those who make a distinction between self and other and show preference for the perceived self over the perceived other, for such perceptions inhibit being fully responsive. Being fully ethical is possible only for those who realize that all persons are empty, that is, devoid of personhood.
Karma and The Wheel of
by Ken Holmes
Why are some people rich yet some poor, some happy yet others in misery, some lucky and some unlucky? Moreover, why are some pure, innocent beings afflicted with terrible misfortunes whereas evil tyrants remain healthy and rich? These are difficult questions for most faiths, believing in a just and compassionate God, to answer. The Buddhist explanation is to see this life as but one in a series of many. In this existence, one is reaping the harvest of seeds sown by actions (karma) of past lives, while at the same time planting new seeds to ripen in the life to come. There is no natural evolution in this process, hence a higher state of existence can be followed by an even better one or a worse one, depending entirely upon how it is utilised. Going up or down from one life to the next and returning again and again to the same patterns of action, through habit, and thereby reaping again and again the same results, this endless round of existence is represented by the 'wheel of life'.
Among the almost endless possibilities of existence in the cosmos, a human birth is considered to be very special. It is while human that most karma is created, with other states being mainly the experience of the results of human actions. Animals and other non-humans do create some karma, but it is quite weak. As the force of karma depends upon the motivation behind it, the karma of humans is, on the contrary, strong, since they possess intelligence and free will.
Unlike many other religions, Buddhism does not think of external beings who reward or punish one for altruistic or selfish acts. Future benefits or handicaps are shaped entirely by the nature of action itself, through its ongoing influence upon the mind. Just as good cherry seeds, as they fall to the ground, have the power to produce delicious fruit, some time in the future, and aconite seeds have the power to produce deadly poison, so do our acts already contain a quasi-genetic programming of future happiness or suffering. The ground onto which they fall is our ongoing continuum of consciousness. Like a complex garden, a human (or other) existence is the ripening, side by side, of many different things planted in the past. Some, like mighty trees, have been developing over many generations. Others, more like small flowers and mushrooms, are much more temporary phenomena.
The word karma is the Sanskrit term for action, encompassing not only the initial action itself, but also all its consequences. Thus it is called 'karma, cause and effect'. A seed does not cease to exist when it falls into the ground: it just disappears from sight, to develop later into a shoot which eventually becomes a fully-matured plant. Like buried seeds in winter, the imprints of actions rest dormantly in the 'storehouse consciousness', as potential prime causes of future experience. When this psychological potential meets with certain supportive circumstances - the equivalent of the seed being awakened by the spring sun and rain - results start to emerge. Thus it is not until one meets the trigger of certain people or places that a specific karma from past lives will start to manifest.
One must distinguish between 'virtuous' karma and 'untainted' karma. Virtuous acts produce, in the long term, pleasant results for their doer, such as long life, good health, wealth and friends for their doer. Unvirtuous acts produce suffering. Since both virtuous and non-virtuous actions are performed with the fundamental triplistic delusion of there being a doer (ego), a doing and a done-to (other persons and the world) - both belong to the illusion of worldly existence (samsara). Thus virtue and non-virtue determine the experiential quality of one's samsara yet cannot, in themselves, free one from samsara. Both belong to the category of 'tainted' karma (tainted by ego). Actions performed within the lucid clarity of voidness, in which there is no triplistic delusion, are known as 'untainted' karma. These can free one from samsara.
Another special category of karma, known as 'karma of immobility', applies uniquely to concentration meditation. By remaining calm, poised and one-pointed, one is not doing anything, in the ordinary sense, but rather undoing habits of action and not-doing things which perpetuate worldly reflexes. This lucid inactivity forms a vital part of the path to personal liberation. Scriptures describing it map out the various stages of mastery that emerge from it, while alive, and the possible rebirths into purely mental states that human meditation can engender.
The Wheel of Life depicts the six main types of conscious beings found in the universe. Its inner ring portrays the three main causes for being reborn: craving, aversion and ignorance. The outer ring shows the twelve main stages through which initial ignorance leads to worldly suffering. These are known as the twelve links of interdependence. The whole wheel is held like a giant mirror in the hands of Yamantaka, the Lord of Death, since at death, when the mind leaves one type of existence and embarks on a journey which will end up in a new existence, possibly in another realm, the previous life's actions become all-determinant.
The Wheel is mainly used to depict the real states of existence taught in the first Noble Truth: the Truth of Suffering. However, it can also be considered an allegory for the six main states of a worldly mind and the type of relationship they create with the people and places that make up one's life. The three upper realms are paired with their counterparts in the lower realms.
THE THREE UPPER REALMS
The Deva Realm
One is reborn a god (deva) as a joint result of doing many good actions but being proud. The good deeds - in particular acts of generosity and pure conduct - bring splendour and wonders. The pride brings first a feeling of natural superiority and then, when the good results come to their end, unbearable sadness. The bodies and powers of the gods vary according to their previous karma. Most have beautiful and naturally perfumed bodies of light, upon which spontaneously appear garlands of celestial flowers and various fineries. In delightful garlands and palaces, they sport with their consorts and enjoy the most subtle pleasures of the senses. A day in one of these heavens lasts for hundreds of human years and the deva's lifespan is long indeed. But as it approaches its end, the bodies start to produce unpleasant odours and other gods avoid the fading deva. The flower garlands deteriorate. Worse, the god can see his or her next incarnation, so tawdry, dark and limited compared with its present condition. Heartbroken, incredulous and overwhelmed by self-pity, they have nothing to do but await the inevitable fall. Thus, the deva realm exemplifies the cycle of pride however it manifests.
The Buddha manifests in this realm playing a lute delightfully. This represents the need to gain the respect and attention of the proud before any message can get through to them.
also have good karma and are like demi-gods. Whereas the gods' good karma is tarnished by pride, the asuras' is spoilt by jealousy and some people refer to them as 'jealous gods'. Envying the superior joys and possessions of the gods, the asuras wage war on the latter, in the hope of deposing them and usurping their palaces. However, lacking the karma to possess such splendour, they are defeated and humiliated. Jealousy is like this everywhere, bringing the anguish of envy itself, competitive battles and eventual defeat.
The Buddha manifests to the Asuras with a sword of primordial wisdom in his hand. This symbolises that the jealous respond primarily to force and need to learn to channel their competitivity into a quest for wisdom, defeating ignorance rather than other beings.
As rare as a star in daytime, a human rebirth is considered to be the rare result of much good karma. Sometimes compared to a wish-fulfilling gem, it is considered the most precious existence of all, because of its tremendous potential. Unfortunately, this potential is rarely exploited and the gem is like a buried treasure. The majority of humans are so busy with their desires and projects that they are not even aware of spiritual possibilities. However, being exposed to more suffering than are gods or demi-gods, humans do have a better chance of giving rise to compassion: one of the most vital keys to spiritual development. Their main sufferings are those of birth, ageing, sickness and death, along with those of striving to fulfil their needs, not getting what they want, getting what they do not want and preserving what they have.
The Buddha appears to humans bearing his alms bowl and staff, the symbols of the ascetic life. This shows them that, in their world of multiple choices, the finest option is to follow the way of the sage.
THE THREE LOWER REALMS
"Most of them live in the sea" is the remarkable comment from early Buddhist scriptures, in times when most people ignored the existence of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and had no knowledge of submarine life. One is reborn an animal as a result of ignorance: fostering delusion rather than truth. They fall into two main categories. Wild animals live in constant fear and spend their time seeking food or eating each other. Domesticated animals are enslaved by humans. Their nature is one of submissive acceptance of their lot, the counterpart of the acquisitive dissatisfaction of the Asura.
The Buddha appears to the animals bearing a book, showing that the only way out of stupidity is the development of clear reason and the cultivation of knowledge.
are spirits, born into states of frightful deprivation through former greed. With distended stomachs and needle-like throats, they search for ages for food and then only find disgusting scraps, or else see their find disappear before their eyes. Others manage to eat or drink but are burnt by they ingest as though it were molten metal. Unlike humans and animals, these spirits are aware of their former births and the greed which threw them into this condition. Their destitution is the counterpart of the complexity of possessions in the human realm. The Buddha appears to them bearing gifts and bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, as Khasarpani, feeds them soothing nectar. This symbolises the need to draw the greedy and mean to truth by manifesting generosity.
are, like the Preta worlds, states of severe hallucination into which the mind is thrown once it leaves the body and has passed through the post-death experience. It is the bitterness and anger imprinted in the mind, through past malevolence and hatred, which generate the hellish environment experienced. Some of these nightmares take the form of hot hells, with various agonies of burning and torture. Others take the form of frozen wildernesses, in which frostbite is the worst enemy. All seem to last for endless ages and many take the form of pain which leads to death then revival, only to pass through the whole cycle again and again. This is the opposite of the luxurious indulgence of the gods.
"Who could have created the beings there and the hellish weapons? Who made the burning iron ground? The Great Sage has taught these, and similar things, to be the fabrications of an unwholesome mind."
The Buddha appears in the hells bearing the flame of purification, a sign of finding liberation from suffering by relating to it in an enlightened way.
The Basic Poisons
Just as a whole and healthy body loses its power when stricken by a tiny amount of poison, so does the mind lose its limitless wisdom due to 'mind poisons' (klesa) and thereby wanders in the confused illusions of the six realms. There are three basic poisons - ignorance, craving and hostility - represented by the pig, the cock and the serpent at the centre of the wheel. The three poisons feed off each other, as do the animals in the circle.
The Links of Interdependence
The twelve main stages in the cycle of rebirth are represented by the twelve icons forming the rim of the wheel:
ignorance - the blind leading the blind
karmic creations - a pot being thrown
consciousness - a monkey in a room with six windows
name and form - a boat
the six doors of perception - a house
contact - people embracing
feeling - an arrow piercing an eye
involvement - a man being served tea by a woman
craving- gathering fruits
becoming - two people procreating
birth - a woman giving birth
ageing and death - a corpse being carried to the funeral pyre.
What is Buddhism ?
Buddhism cannot be categorised. No label suits it.
Buddhism is not a religion, at least not in sense that we generally use the word. In fact, it does not at all presuppose belief in the existence of one or several gods, and in a more general way, categorically rejects the idea that there is anything to believe in without being able to submit it to analysis through reasoning.
Buddhism is not a philosophy either, because it is not limited to an intellectual or conceptual approach. It teaches, in fact, that to understand is not enough. One must also experience and eventually "realise". That is the spiritual dimension of Buddhism.
Buddhism is not a cultural, political or social phenomenon either.
Culture, of which one could say that art in all its facets is the superior expression, is rooted in worldliness, whereas Buddhism goes beyond the worldly. Within culture, art is an end in itself; within the framework of Buddhism it is a means. Art is minor when compared to wisdom. In other words, Buddhism is timeless and beyond worldliness, whereas culture or art is rooted in a given time and society.
Buddhism is not political, that is, it does not know the limits of frontiers or of groups. It is not based on opposition between people. It does not come "from somewhere". It transcends continents and groups of humans. Nationality, colour, social class and membership of one party or another etc. do not constitute pertinent criteria in its eyes. The process is, on the contrary, to show that fundamentally all people, and more generally all living beings, share the same fundamental nature, the same emotions, the same aspirations and the same fears.
It is not a social phenomenon either. Buddhism is an individual quest for perfection. The Buddhist looks for himself. He evolves in the solitude of his own spiritual path. The Buddhist message influences, of course, the attitude or the behaviour of those who study and practice it, but it does not have a social aim. It does not intend to be a pressure group and does not set out rules about the organisation of society.
Lastly, is Buddhism a science? The sciences, in any case those which we describe as pure, are turned towards the exterior world, the diverse phenomena that we perceive. Buddhism is, on the contrary, turned towards "the interior"; that is to day, it is attentive to the mind. That is why it is said sometimes that Buddhism is a "science of the mind". As with all expressions, it has its limits.
I prefer to say that Buddhism is unclassifiable; that it eludes categories and comparisons.
Historically, Buddhism is the teaching of the Buddha Shakyamuni, who lived in India more than two thousand five hundred years ago. With the passing centuries the teachings was transmitted, translated into diverse languages and enriched by numerous commentaries. In this way, Buddhist literature is incomparably extensive.
More profoundly, Buddhism is the thought or thinking of the Buddhas, which is summed up by two great principles: compassion and wisdom. Buddhism is, therefore, a way of thinking. Buddhists are those who aspire to finding this good way of thinking and train in it. Buddhas are those who have succeeded.
One could also say that Buddhism is essentially reflection on happiness and the teaching of the causes of happiness. After having shown how much we deceive ourselves, how much we lose our way because of how we conceive the world and ourselves, Buddhism wakes us up to a new vision. It makes us see things in another way and leads us progressively to the realisation of the true nature of phenomena and of the mind.
This realisation is precisely at the origin of the cessation of all suffering and of all fear. A Buddhist is, above all, a serene person. He has no fear. He is also a good person, open to others. Theses three qualities -wisdom, serenity and goodness - are, moreover, linked one to the other and come one from the other.
Buddhism is, therefore, a voyage towards wisdom, serenity and goodness.
This is an example of a Letter of
Instructions by a Buddhist practitioner to non-Buddhist family and friends and
is presented for you to modify in your own words. It is adapted from 'Life in
Relation to Death' by Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche, an inspiring booklet that covers
many aspects of preparing for death.
To my much-loved family and friends, instructions for the time of my death:
First of all, I want you to know how deeply I care for you. Our connection in this lifetime, especially our moments of affection and happiness, represent my great good fortune. The process of dying powerfully brings home the realisation that as surely as we have come together we must separate and the time in between is all too brief. Of course I feel sorrow, but I also feel a sweet and intense appreciation for what we have shared.
As death approaches, however, any ordinary attachment I have for you will not help, since I am powerless to turn back from this journey. And your attachment to me, though very natural, will not be useful, because it may distract me and turn my attention to where I cannot really return - back to the circumstances of my life with you - and hinder me in the transition of death. What I need from you now is calmness, release, and the recognition that however my death appears outwardly, inwardly it is a profound spiritual opportunity. Your prayers, arising from your own depths of love and compassion, will certainly support me in my efforts to use this opportunity well.
You know that my spiritual training in recent years has been in Vajrayana Buddhism. The lineage masters of this tradition have left clear descriptions of what occurs at death and what meditative skills are needed to negotiate death's transition. I have asked some Buddhist practitioners to do the 'Powa' practice around the time of my death, preferably at the bedside. Hospitals are usually willing to create space and time for this meditation, especially if you discuss it with the staff ahead of time.
What follows is a checklist of instructions, It hope they are clear, because I may not be able to clarify them when I am closer to death, but if you have questions, just ask the monks or nuns or the Buddhist funeral director. If it somehow happens that they can't be followed exactly, don't worry. The blessings of my spiritual training will support my passing.
1) Please notify my Buddhist friends in time for them to be present before I die or as soon as possible afterwards.
2) It's best if my body isn't handled much as death approaches, as my whole focus should be at the crown of my head.
3) There should be minimal handling of my body after death until the Powa practice has been completed. Paper mandalas will be placed on my body before being moved.
4) It's important that my body isn't cremated until at least 3 days after death.
Thank you for all you have done and will do. I know that it requires a certain tolerance to honour my spiritual belief system when it is different from your own, but I can hope that your respect for my requests will become a source of positive energy that will ease your mind at the time of your own death. According to the teachings I have received, if all goes well, after death I will find liberation from selfish concerns in the realms beyond death and will attain vastly enhanced abilities to benefit you and all beings.
This is what I most wish. May it come about just so!
THE PATH OF WISDOM
Lectures given at Dhagpo Kagyu Ling in October 1997
In general, the Path of Wisdom consists of taking refuge, the practice of prayer, the engendering of bodhicitta, Guru Yoga and meditation. For each of these practices, it is necessary that we gradually develop, and attune our minds little by little, to the actual meaning of each practice.
THE MEANING OF TAKING REFUGE :
What does it mean to take refuge? It means that from this particular moment onward and until we become enlightened, we seek refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. Why do we need these three objects of refuge? In the Buddha, we establish a link to the qualities that have been attained by Buddha Shakyamuni. The Dharma is the Buddha's teachings that show us the way to connect to those qualities, so we take refuge in the Dharma. We need someone to teach us the Dharma, someone who is realized himself, meaning that he has successfully obtained the results of the path through his own practice. Such an individual person is then a qualified teacher. We therefore rely on these qualified teachers who are the extraordinary Sangha to impart their knowledge and methods to us.
There are generally two kinds of Sangha: the ordinary and the extraordinary Sangha. It is essential for us to understand that it is the extraordinary Sangha in whom we seek refuge. The word Sangha means gathering. The extraordinary Sangha are the spiritual masters who have themselves achieved certain realizations through dharma practice as taught by the Buddha. They may not have the complete realization of a Buddha. But they have achieved certain qualities that they can now transmit to others. Historically, the extraordinary Sangha are the Bodhisattvas. On the other hand, the ordinary Sangha can refer to any community of spiritual teachers from whom we can obtain teachings. A gathering of Dharma practitioners can also be referred to as the Sangha.
What does refuge mean? It means protection - protection from the wrong path, protection from the wrong ideas, and protection from committing negative actions. We start with this basic meaning of protection. Then later on, we will progressively acquire a broader and deeper understanding of refuge.
THE MEANING OF ENGENDERING BODHICITTA :
Having taken refuge, it is good to avoid always thinking only of ourselves to the exclusion of others. Instead, we adopt Bodhicitta, an altruistic motivation in all that we think, speak, and do. We are genuinely concerned for the suffering of all living beings and we wish only that they be liberated. Bodhicitta is not just an idea but it is very profound in and of itself. We begin by being slightly more open to others. Having an open mind will enable us to first think more for others, then to share more with others, and then to be more beneficial to others. This is a process that is learnt. When we can act with Bodhicitta, it means our practice is improving. We are improving and we find it easier to share everything beneficial with everyone.
All Buddhist teachings emphasize this one essential point, to generate the Bodhicitta attitude, to have a more open mind. It does not matter that our mind is not completely open or that we cannot do everything for others. The key is to start with ourselves right here and now, and we try to connect with our own inner capacity whatever its current level. We do what is within our reach as much as possible. This is important. For example, when we open ourselves a little bit, then there is a basic quality in us that we can expand and improve. At the moment, due to our ignorance, we have pride, greed, and other negative emotions. Under their influence, we tend to want only to do the "big" things. But then, we realize that we cannot and so we start to lose confidence in ourselves. It is therefore important to understand that we are not required to be at a certain level already. Rather, we do as much as we can according to our own capability. This is what generating Bodhicitta means.
THE MEANING OF VAJRAYANA :
Guru Yoga is an effective Vajrayana practice. What does Vajrayana mean? In Buddhism, we talk of the three yanas: Hinayana, Mahayana, and Vajrayana. This does not mean that there are actually three separate categories of practices. Rather, the distinctions are more reflective of the practitioner's personal attitude and individual capacity. Vajrayana means actually the understanding of the mind. It is not a course or a subject that you study in school for instance. There are no grades to pass. There is no beginning and there is no end. Some people can practise Vajrayana yet others find it difficult to understand. It depends on the individual capacity, propensity and personality. For those who are not inclined towards Vajrayana thinking that it does not suit them, it does not mean that their capacity is blocked. It just means that they may practise Vajrayana later on.
THE MEANING OF PRAYER :
When we recite prayers, we try to adapt our minds to the meaning of the recited words. Before every teaching, we always say prayers. Individually, we pray to make wishes that will benefit ourselves and others, and to express what we wish to do. We pray to integrate our wishes within ourselves, to integrate them into our habit of mind. Praying is not for calming the mind. First, we pray and make wishes, then we listen to the teachings, then we practise what we have learnt. Then we act in accordance to our wishes. This is the process. Our actions are thus linked to our wishes in our prayers. This is why we emphasize that before we start something, we always pray sincerely.
TO PREPARE FOR THE PRELIMINARIES :
The preliminaries are practices
that include the contemplation on the Four Thoughts, and the special preliminaries
known as the Ngondro practices. They enable us to do the main practice of meditation.
But before we start on the preliminaries, we have to prepare ourselves. This
may sound simple enough. But what does prepare mean? It means to listen, to
reflect, and to integrate the teachings so as to understand the deeper meaning
of dharma teachings and practice. For what are we preparing? The purpose of
all practices based on the teachings of the Buddha is to reach our own mind
and nothing more. When we have achieved this goal, we are said to be enlightened,
or we have reached Buddhahood. These are just terms that may be at times confusing.
Enlightenment cannot be fixed in these terms. We talk about enlightenment but
for now, it is merely a projection of an idea. We are not really clear about
it. Actually, enlightenment is a mind that is clear and stable, free from ignorance.
This is the state of mind referred to as San Gye in Tibetan. San means completely
clear, pure, free of all stains. Gye means knowledge in the fullest extent,
or all encompassing knowledge. It is a state free from ignorance and preconceived,
or fixed notions, but at the same time, mind is clear about mind itself.
listen, reflect, and integrate the teachings into practice
First, we have to listen to the teaching with an open mind, and we try to understand it. Then later, when we do our practice, we will have a slightly different expectation. This expectation does not block us. In fact, it directs us deeper into the meaning and understanding. It leads us into another kind of experience.
How we apply the teachings is important. If you have already received some teachings and you are now practising, then you should continue to practise and to reflect deeper on the meaning. People who are just new to the teachings may find it difficult to understand. It may not really be what they are looking for. But whatever it is that they want, they will also need the Dharma. Take for example that we are looking to buy a house. We may not be concerned about a garden, or the lawn at the time of looking. We find the house we like and we move in. Once we are settled in, we start to think about additional things such as a nice garden, and so on.
Some people go for teachings to look for solutions for their problems. Their focus is on how to get rid of them. While other people may want to be more clear and productive in their lives. In any case, they pick the parts of the teachings that suit them, or that they could use. They apply what they can in their own situation. But later on, they again find that something is missing! This is why it is important to have an open mind. Try not to limit our own vision. By doing more and more practice, by listening to more and more teachings, we begin, very slowly, to open ourselves. This will in turn strengthen our resolve that enlightenment is indeed very important to us. But in the beginning, most people do not have this wish for enlightenment. Therefore, the teachers who understand the inclination of the people try to include key points that are useful both for the short-term as well as for the long-term. Needless to say, it all depends on the practitioner. He has to integrate what he has learned through listening, practising, ever mindful that enlightenment is the ultimate goal, his long-term objective. It is a continuous and gradual process. It is not good to rely on the teaching when we have a problem only to forget about it after the problem passes. Always remember the process of listening, reflecting, and integrating the teachings into our practice. In this way, we prepare ourselves to progress to the preliminary practices. In our daily life, we will find that more and more we will act accordingly. As a result, our actions will benefit others as well as ourselves.
our goal is enlightenment
Many people come to receive teachings, but they are not quite sure what it is they are looking for. They may wish to gain an understanding of life for instance. But, it is much better to resolve that the enlightened state of mind is our goal; then between now and until we are enlightened, all our actions will be directed at this goal. As always, when we practise, there will be some result. The result benefits us and our minds will become clearer. For instance, one result is that we will realize how important the ultimate goal really is to us, we will then be more committed. We will want to start the preliminary practices. For now, we simply try to keep a more open mind. This will bring us more understanding that in turn will benefit others and ourselves. Gradually, we will become clearer about ourselves.
keep an open mind
Up until now, we are used to our own thinking, thinking for ourselves and for our own benefit. This comes easy to all of us. But when we are asked to broaden our current thinking, we find that our minds are very limited with respect to our attitudes and ideas. When we want something, we push to achieve the result. We move on, pushing to achieve result one after another. We have been like this all along. But to achieve enlightenment, or to achieve a clear mind is quite different. It is not just one fixed result that we can obtain. We say that the Path (to enlightenment) encompasses many qualities and extensive knowledge. Each of us individually has to discover for oneself a clear understanding of one's existence and of this world. In the meantime, we need to maintain an open mind, a broad vision, and not to lose track of the ultimate goal.
a clear mind
A clear mind is a mind without veils and without ignorance. The adjective clear does not mean clear as in light. It can be misunderstood. To clear our mind of veils does not mean to reject all the nice things, for example. There is no need to reject the positive feelings, the nice appearances, etc. They are a part of normal living, a good way of living, but they are not our main goal in life. Clarity of mind will come on its own. Everything will clear by itself. This is the meaning of San Gye. This explanation is limited by words. The deeper meaning of San Gye has to be seen or experienced for oneself. But first we prepare by listening to the teachings. There are a lot of explanations that we can receive from teachers or we can read them in the written text. This is referred to as listening to the teachings.
Next, we need to focus on our goal. This is what practising the teaching means. We always try to be clear in mind. The opposite is to be unclear which means being connected with ignorance. We may think we are seeing clearly when in fact the seeing is not right. This is one form of ignorance. Ignorance does not mean stupid. It means that there is no clear understanding as opposed to San Gye. In San Gye, there is no blockage. We cannot see that the earth is round, for instance, so we say that our vision is blocked. We can only see from here until the wall. We cannot see beyond the wall, it blocks our view. When the mind is clear, there is nothing to block our view. There is no ignorance. There are no mental veils. Mind is clear and it sees limitlessly. This is often very difficult for us to relate to because right now, we are limited by this physical body, by this physical world. But mind's nature is without blockage. We keep emphasizing this clarity aspect of mind because we have to become familiar with it. Otherwise, in the next moment, clarity is forgotten and we are back in our usual ways.
SOME IMPORTANT TIBETAN TERMS TO UNDERSTAND :
There are some Tibetan terms that are very useful for us to understand. Even though we may not fully understand them now but it is good to keep them in mind and to make a connection. For example, enlightenment is often described as the realization of mind. To achieve this goal, the main meditation that we do is called Mahamudra or Cha Gya Chen Po in Tibetan. The term, Mahamudra, is difficult to translate into English because there is no such term for it. The word, Mahamudra, is still a term. The understanding of what it really means will come to us through our own action and efforts. The understanding will come through experience. Experience does not mean only the practitioner's experience, but also the experience of the masters who have realized the results of the meditation. These masters are the holders of the teachings and methods and they are quite capable to transmit them to others.
Then there is dun ngaak, which means, literally, clarity. In the context of the relationship between the teacher and the disciple, dun ngaak points to a clear connection, a feeling in the disciple based upon genuine trust, free of doubts and negativities with respect to the dharma practice. The disciple relies on the teacher to give him the explanation of the meaning of the teachings or practice.
There are many examples of dun ngaak in the historical biographies of Marpa, Milarepa, and the Karmapas, who are all masters within the Kagyu tradition. Conventional biographies of famous figures like Napoleon give us some ideas of past events with information such as the time, the place and the descriptions of past events. But contained within the life history of the great masters like Saraha, Tilopa, Naropa, Marpa, Milarepa, or the first Karmapa, is a treasury of Dharma transmissions based on Dun ngaak. Dun ngaak here means that in order for a certain result to take place, certain conditions and requirements must be present. For example, to cure an illness, the appropriate medicine must be taken. Dun ngaak is similar to this. When we lack understanding, when we need an explanation, an instruction, or when we need to know what to do, dun ngaak gives us the answer. It is important for a practitioner to know this so that when he reads the biography of Milarepa, for instance, he will recognize and will pick up the meanings relevant to the practice. Otherwise, reading the biographies as history would not help us at all. The clear transmission from teacher to disciple, or Dun ngaak, may be better illustrated by the following example of a story from the Life of Naropa:
" Naropa was a great pandita of Buddhism at the Nalanda University in India. A Pandita is a scholar of the highest rank. But still Naropa was looking for more teachings. This shows us that indeed there is no highest but that learning is limitless. Naropa knew he needed a great instructor. He had heard of Tilopa and felt that he must look for him. This was Naropa's own understanding, and of course, it is not applicable to everyone. But for Naropa, Tilopa was not so easy to find. Tilopa would hide himself quite well when he did not wish to be found. This was done for a very good reason. Tilopa wanted to make Naropa really examine himself to reach the right understanding. Now the word, "hide" may not be the precise description of what Tilopa did. To disguise himself, Tilopa emanated in the form of a wounded dog. Many worms crawled in its wound while lying on the side of the road. When Naropa saw the dog, he did not pay it any attention. He was so preoccupied with finding Tilopa that he had no time to tend to the dog. Now Naropa knew the concept of compassion, he knew the suffering, yet, he left the dog unattended. He hurried along in his own self-interest. Subsequently, Tilopa appeared to Naropa and said, "If you are not completely committed due to the suffering of beings, if you are not fully committed to compassion, then you will not find the Lama." Not finding the lama means that you are not connected to realization. From this incident, Naropa understood that he had not yet truly engaged in Bodhicitta (compassion). Without a genuine motivation in Bodhicitta, he would not gain any realization. So we say that he understood this point through "Dun ngaak". "
It is very important to know Dun ngaak if you are a full-time practitioner, a research dharma student, or if you are engaged in the preliminary practices. Only then can you recognize it when the time comes. Dun ngaak also plays an important part in the transmission of the Mahamudra teachings and other similar teachings. This type of transmission is not exclusive to one tradition, or one system, or one lineage. Rather, its purpose is to clarify whatever it is that we do not understand. Like Naropa, we have to be prepared or qualified to receive the transmission. Otherwise, even if Buddha were here, we would still not achieve the realization. Naropa immediately realized the lesson through dun ngaak, not just once, but at twelve different occasions. The details are very precise and they are all recounted in his biography. This kind of biography is very important. The dun ngaak teachings contained therein are vast and unlimited. The means of approach are also unlimited to understand the varying degrees of depth. The dun ngaak transmissions are also considered a part of the oral instructions. The oral instructions are all about how to give meaning, point by point.
Another type of oral instruction is called "djin lab" in Tibetan. There is no exact translation for this term. It is a little bit like receiving blessing through prayer or through the practice of Guru Yoga. The meaning is like this: whenever we do not understand something in our practice, djin lab is there to help us understand. For example, when we say mind, it is not so easy to know what we mean by it. But everybody talks about mind, the Buddha nature. We hear the word, and we guess at its meaning. We hear about the qualities of the Buddha and immediately we feel something though we may not understand. In order to understand, we do the practices such as reciting the sadhanas (practice texts), meditating, and doing the different practices. We say that the qualities of the Lama enter our mind. This means that his realization, his understanding of the mind, his Buddha nature, connects to our own mind. It is djin lab that enables this connection. On the surface, it may look as if it is a wish or prayer. In actuality, we are already using the methods and teachings. Somehow, certain words and explanations will start to make sense to us. The understanding is not ours to create. It is how djin lab works. It is very difficult to show. By knowing that this kind of effect can take place, then, when we experience it ourselves, we will understand it as such.
We are made aware of dun ngaak and djin lab to help us understand the practices and the teachings. For example, reading the story about Naropa without the awareness of dun ngaak reduces it to just a story. It is not useful to us when we have missed the meaning. The same applies to djin lab. In the practices of Guru Yoga and Chenrezig, there is communication. Normally, communication means word communication. But in Vajrayana practices, the visualization and receiving the essence of the yidam is djin lab. Though it is important for us to know, it does not mean that we should/could immediately use it. We should instead take this information and try to see for ourselves. The Songs of Milarepa contain a lot of these points. They are clearly presented and easy to understand.
In terms of results they could be temporary, or ultimate. For example, we all say we need blessing but what is our understanding of its meaning. The ultimate meaning of blessing is the connection to the special qualities within our practice. It is like sitting in a dark room and you want to let the sunlight in. But if you do not know how to open the curtains, the sunlight cannot get in.
When we understand the terms such as dun ngaak, djin lab, or blessings, then our understanding of our practice will become clearer. Otherwise, our expectations of the results of the practices will not be quite right. Of course, some results are always there when we pray, or when we recite the mantras. But the main result is our becoming closer to the qualities that the practices are supposed to bring out. For example, the real meaning of the short and simple sadhana practice of Chenrezig is to become like Chenrezig. The result is that we become free of our ignorance, we gain the capability of Chenrezig, and we can act like Chenrezig. This is real and not some kind of misinformation. For now, we may not have this wish to be Chenrezig. Individually, each of us may have different reasons for doing the practice. Regardless, we still gain benefit from our efforts; but if we engender the proper attitude, then the result is ever stronger.
THE CONNECTION IN VAJRAYANA PRACTICE :
When we do Vajrayana practice, we need to know some basic terms as explained. But given the instructions, the understanding can still be rather delicate. We don't know exactly the precise meaning. The terms may strike us as somewhat exciting and our minds attach to them. Consequently, we lose track of the original meaning. The link or connection in Vajrayana practice cannot be established by just following the instructions. The meaning goes deeper than the words in the instructions. It is difficult to catch the meaning immediately. It is unlike an instruction in a daily life situation such as how to connect a piece of electronic equipment where we can simply follow the instructions. Vajrayana teachings are much more than theories, and explanations. Underlying the methods and instructions is the line of transmissions that we call lineage. Implicit in the lineage is also the transmission of djin lab and blessings.
With Vajrayana practice, it is customary
to find a teacher. The teacher initiates you to a particular practice. He achieves
this in three ways. He gives you the explanations and the instructions. He gives
you the djin lab or the blessings to do the practice. Then, there is menlaak.
Menlaak means that the teacher must have had understood the teachings and had
practised them through the proper method until he became realized. This qualifies
him to be able to share the methods and experiences with others. Moreover, he
is the one who connects you to the potential to do the practice. This enables
you to understand and to communicate with your own inner potential. The three
conditions of instructions, djin lab, and menlaak have to come together to enable
you to recognize the Buddha nature.
Then through the practice, a more precise understanding will arise in the disciple. The words sound simple enough. But to get the real understanding is quite different. Whether or not we can achieve some result in our practice depends on our own individual fundamental qualities. No one can see these qualities in another. Everyone has some form of potential due to past preparations or past accumulations in previous lifetimes. Sometimes our past accumulations may ripen in this lifetime. This explains why for some people, practice comes very easily while it proves quite difficult for others. This is why the Buddha taught us not to judge others or situations as good or bad, right or wrong. We don't know.
DEVELOP THE PRACTICE NATURALLY :
The fundamental capacity varies
between individuals but it is developed gradually through practice. It cannot
be forced or pushed. It has to develop spontaneously. Spontaneity depends on
whether we see the meaning of the teachings. When we get the exact meaning,
spontaneity is right there. Otherwise, it is difficult to understand. It is
like when you are sick and the doctor tells you to eat this and not that. But
sometimes, you yourself know precisely which food to avoid. You really understand
your own situation. We then say you know spontaneously by yourself. It is very
simple when we get the exact meaning. When we think of enlightenment, we may
feel that it is so far away or that it is going to take a long time. But sometimes,
it is really not that impossible when all the conditions are right. We should
carry on with the practice without analyzing it too much. As explained earlier,
due to the blessings, even when we don't have a precise understanding, some
result is inevitably there.
There are many practices such as Chenrezig, Green Tara, Dorje Sempa, and Sengye Menla. They all are important regular practices that we can do for different reasons. The effect of each practice is twofold. One, it affords us temporary help specific to our current situation. Second, it enables us to discover our own inner potential whereby we will realize our own Buddha nature. For example, whenever we are not very well, or when we are in difficult times, or when we are not very clear, then the practice of Tara can give us whatever it is that we need accordingly. On the other hand, we do Dorje Sempa to clear up and to purify negativity. The Chenrezig practice is aimed at benefiting others. The result is that we are helpful to others quite naturally. For each practice, the result is equally there regardless of whether we do a short or a long sadhana (practice text).
THREE INNER QUALITIES TO DEVELOP A DEEPER UNDERSTANDING :
" mo-gue "
There is a condition that we need within ourselves when we receive the teachings. In Tibetan, it is called mo-gue. It is a very difficult term to translate. It means, based on a trust and a deep respect for the enlightened qualities, we develop in ourselves a deep appreciation and recognition of their importance. As a result, we feel that we want to follow the practice and that we can do it. Mo-gue gives us a proper perspective enabling us to go deeper into the meaning without getting stuck. To help us understand mo-gue better, let us take for example, confidence and devotion. Our confidence and devotion towards the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha are very important while we are on the path of practice. In a way, we could see mo-gue as devotion and confidence. In the biography of Milarepa, the meaning of devotion and confidence is very precise and evident. Milarepa's perseverance was based on his deep devotion to Marpa that never faltered. That is mo-gue. It is the main cause for Milarepa's realization, his genuine devotion to his teacher, Marpa.
" daepa "
Another word that is similar to mo-gue is daepa, which means faith. But daepa is not blind faith. It requires real understanding in what we are doing so that we can really believe in what we do. It is more than just because someone told us so, or we think that it is special so we just go along with it. Daepa is when we have done the study and the research so that we see by ourselves and we understand. We are then really focused and committed.
" damtsik "
Another term is damtsik. Damtsik is samaya, it means to have the right connection to the essence of our own mind. It means that when we act properly, good results are inevitable. When we make mistakes, our path will be blocked. How we judge and act is directly related to our own mind so we want to be careful. As we study more and more, our understanding of mind will improve.
To summarize, in Vajrayana practice, mo-gue, daepa, and damtsik are the main conditions that facilitate a deeper understanding of our own mind. The depth of knowledge is unlimited so we continue to work with our inner understanding through our practice, while listening to the teachings, and during our waking hours. In this way, the result will come much easier. We often say "inseparable" quality. It means, inseparable from our own mind, it is our own mind. Nothing is created. It is important for you to do the practice. By gradually clearing up your own questions and doubts, you will reach a personal experience and development.
ALWAYS BE PRESENT IN THE
UNDERSTANDING OF MIND :
The conditions, or states of our
mind have far greater reach and effect than our actions. In general, we control
our actions rather than our mind. When we don't like someone, we don't want
to show it. We are afraid that it will spoil our image of being nice. But inside,
we are feeling our dislike for the contact. We try to be nice because we don't
want to break up the friendship. Unconsciously, we go on like this. We need
to understand our own mind rather than just trying to control our actions. Sometimes,
we think like this: "I cannot go"; or "I don't like it";
but I don't want to give in more than this." These thoughts
sometimes come to us then damtsik is no longer there. This we should know very
clearly. Because damtsik is a realization of mind that is linked to our understanding
This is why in the Vajrayana, pure vision is emphasized which is in itself a state of mind. It is not something artificial that someone told us about. It comes from our own basic fundamental nature. It is a part of our consciousness. If we want to realize pure vision, then we need to receive teachings, to learn to see clearly, and to meditate. We have to develop ourselves, our actions are not all that important in and of themselves. The problem is the blockages in our mind. We cannot sort of block them out to avoid the damage. We have to see and understand how they are related to our mind.
We need to understand the emotions
in ourselves as well as in others. They are the conditions of mind. We do not
have to cut them off, nor to develop them. When we do understand the emotions,
then everything will become simpler - our relationship with people and with
our teachers, and how we relate to the teachings. The converse is also true.
When we don't understand our emotions, then everything becomes complicated.
We are judgmental of ourselves as well as others. This is why the teachings
always emphasize looking at our own mind. All the meditation teachings come
to this point. When we truly understand our mind, we will see things as they
are. Right now, a toothache is real and not an illusion to us. But when we see
the real nature of mind then we will see the pain as illusory. This is an important
point. There are many concepts surrounding the emotions. It is easy to talk
about them and somehow they feel very heavy to us. By heavy I mean the concepts
that we ourselves have built up around them. We are ever trying to keep the
good feelings and to be rid of the bad ones. This is normal and there is nothing
wrong with it. But the negative thoughts cannot be driven away because they
are our own mind.
how to work with the emotions
The question is what can we do?
Everybody has experienced negative emotions: anger, jealousy, unhappiness, and
many others. We think that if only we could get rid of them we will be happy.
This is wrong. Basically, we need to look at the cause of these negative emotions,
the cause of anger, the cause of jealousy, the cause of attachment, the cause
of pride, the cause of expectation. The emotions are our mind. Therefore the
only solution is to realize the true nature of mind. We will then see how the
negative emotions do not make sense and they will dissolve on their own. The
process is of course not easy and it takes a long time. However, we should not
be discouraged. The teachings advise us always to be aware of all situations
and their related conditions, to do the practice of looking at our mind, how
our mind is oriented. We have desires and expectations. When they are not satisfied,
our negative emotions come up. This is always the case. We can understand this
basic condition in ourselves as well as in others. This is very important. Simply
look without trying to get rid of anything. This is how we work with the emotions
in the beginning.
In general, an agitated mind or a mind without peace is the cause of emotions. We all know that we have so accustomed ourselves to our emotional process that it is difficult for us to separate ourselves from it and see it for what it is. Whenever our mind is in some kind of discomfort such as anger, sadness, or is slightly depressed, it can serve us well as practice material. This means that immediately we can use the circumstances of the distressed mind to verify the teachings. Rather than being caught up in the concepts and words of the teachings, we try to experience spontaneously their actual meaning in our mind.
In the beginning, the weaker emotions may prove easier for us to explore and to examine. For example, when we are a little unhappy, we try to see how our mind is linked to the emotion. See the cause of the unhappiness. Is it caused by pride, attachment, ignorance, or hatred? Try to see more clearly. But then because of our habitual tendencies, we are always looking for reasons, or excuses. What is required of us is complete honesty. It is easy to say that I am unhappy because of this or because of that. But if we are truthful and really apply ourselves to knowing the truth we will gain some insight. In Tibetan, we say dengpa. Dengpa means the truth without any excuse or compromise. Dengpa points to the real situation of our mind. Our mind tends to sidetrack from the truth so it is a little bit tricky to steer straight in a situation and to see it head on. Simply look without added feelings. We tend to look for something important. "I need this, or I have to do that." There is always the desire for some objective there. To look without any conditions attached is new to us. We have to learn how to do it. As we look, we avoid trying to get rid of something or to achieve a better result. We should have neither expectations nor wanting any improvement.
Take for example, you go for a walk, and you fall. Look at the cause of your fall. Is it because of your shoes, the road, or the way you walked? You do this without any attitude or any preconceived ideas. Just look naturally and leave it. In a similar way we deal with the distractions in our minds. The point is not to try to solve our problem but to see the condition in our mind that brought the problem there in the first place. This will give us a clear answer. It will come on its own. This is actually quite difficult to do. But if we keep trying to look as described, eventually everything will become clearer to us.
Very slowly, we will gain yairpa. Yairpa is like certainty. It means that we have a very clear understanding so that we can then work on ourselves. This may sound simple but when we are actually attempting it, it can be confusing. While we are here in this human experience, we are subject to our emotional states and conditions. We have to work with them. We do the practice and try to follow the instructions.
keep a little distance from the conditions and see
The teachings tell us the true nature of our mind and of all things. We may intellectually understand this true nature. But dengpa has to be experienced. Dengpa as "truth" applies to the truth of our mind, the truth of all conditions. We need to see and realize this true nature for ourselves. No action is required. We try to see the nature of mind and the nature of things. We do it not because somebody told us to do so. That would be naïve. Yet, we see without any doubt. Take the example of our whole situation here in samsara, there is happiness and there is sadness. While we seek happiness in the various ways, we also take the time to do the practice. We try to have a peaceful and clear mind. When we can see what we are doing, then not only are we completely involved in the doing but at the same time our mind is also clear about what it is that we are doing. We watch ourselves. We watch ourselves while we practice, while we work, during difficult times, during times of enjoyment, all the time. We try to separate a little, our own nature from the normal functions in life. To separate means to be able to look at ourselves in a moment of great enjoyment, or in a moment of deep sadness. We may see that things do not make that much sense. It is like watching a movie. Even if we are sad, we understand that sadness is still all right. This may sound a bit strange yet this is a very important point. For now, this is very difficult to understand but nevertheless, we keep it as useful information for later on.
In our attempt to see the nature of something, we may get confused so then we seek clarification from the teachings. Normally, when we are confused about something, that something is separate from us. And we seek an explanation about how it works. But here, we just want to see it for what it is.
For example, we generally think of ourselves as very important. This is why we are here in our individual life situations. Say you have broken your arm and it is very painful. But if you look, you will see that you identify your arm as you. Another way would be to see your arm as being there separately from your mind. Then if the pain in the arm is an illusion, you can just leave it. But right now, even if you tell yourself the pain is illusory you cannot leave it. You have to attend to the wound. But the point is to separate the mind and the arm. If your mind is a little bit separate from the arm, then the suffering also becomes different. You know you broke your arm. You know the cause and the surrounding circumstances. Your mind is clearer and the pain is experienced differently. Your understanding of the mind is also different. But without this kind of check in place, your mind and the pain are stuck together. Then there is a lot of suffering and confusion right there. So these are the two ways of looking at the same happening. The broken arm is just one example. We can expand the example to include all outside phenomena as well as all our inner responses, feelings, and emotions - how we link them to ourselves and to our mind. Otherwise, there can never be any contact. Therefore, we should try to maintain a bit of distance between our mind and anything that is related to time and action. We should not have an attitude like nothing matters. We are here in samsara so we have to be careful in everything we do. At the same time, try to see where we are, how we are involved, how our emotions are and their causes. Slowly and gradually, we will get the point of the teachings and our understanding will grow.
nothing to reject, nothing to gain, just be aware
We are in the habit of being discriminating given any situation. But the discrimination has to be accurate. For example, in daily life when things are going fine, we are involved and doing things. But not everything is useful so we avoid wasting time. The teachings emphasize this point. However, we are inevitably connected to our individual habits, our background and culture. They form the relative conditions that accompany our state of mind. Nevertheless, we could still try to distance ourselves from them. We look at these conditions. We know that they are not separate from us. At the same time, we don't have to be distracted by them either. There is nothing to reject, nothing to gain. We live our lives in the same way. We accept whatever the situation we are in and try to be aware of our mind. This is also how we start to meditate. Meditation means that we are not distracted by our own thoughts. We are aware by ourselves. For now, it is very difficult not to be distracted in our daily life. Our thoughts are very strong at the moment. However, we should still try to be aware whenever we can. We should try to see a little bit differently than what we have been used to.
This watchful state we can apply in all situations without pressure, without forcing ourselves to do so - during the practice, during the teachings, during daily life. Simply watch without any pre-conceived notions. This way we can see clearer. If we cannot do it constantly, we can at least do it from time to time. In time, it will become easier and easier. We have talked about the preliminaries, about how important it is to have the proper preparation for the practice. It is simply this, to see clearly. It is to practise this way of looking, to really experience it for ourselves.
Often we find that we have no time to do this kind of seeing, no time to think. We don't know what to do, or we are not keen or motivated enough to do it. There is too much information out there and we cannot decide which is the best route, the best method for us. But it is really not all that confusing. It is because we are not clear in our mind that we do not know what to do.
THE " FOUR THOUGHTS "
HELP US PRIORITIZE :
The "Four Thoughts" have been regarded as very important for us so that we can be clear about what choices to make in life. The Four Thoughts are, very briefly, to contemplate: 1.) the precious human body, 2.) impermanence, 3.) karma, and 4.) the result of karma. They are simple and straightforward. But sometimes we think too much and we start to have doubts and excuses. Then we feel that we cannot work with them. This is quite normal. Unconsciously, we do not want to see that which is difficult. We want to cover it up with something nice and then just look at the cover. Take the example of a shrine that is made of wood. A nice curtain covers it so we cannot see the wood. We are the same. Even when we see our situation we do not really want to see it. We turn away, or we cover it up with some nice talk or some nice thoughts about it. But if your arm is broken, talking nicely or covering it up with a curtain just won't do. You need the proper medical treatment. The Four Thoughts are important. At the same time, it does not mean that we have to be pessimistic about life - thinking that suffering is bad, or that we should feel our predicament. The key is to reflect on the Four Thoughts and to see the truths in their meaning.
THE FIRST THOUGHT :
THE PRECIOUS HUMAN LIFE
The first thought is that the human
body is precious. As soon as we hear this, our tendency is to think of the overpopulation
in China, in India, or in Bangladesh. Then immediately, we might think that
the human life is not all that precious anymore. Somehow, we tend not to think
of ourselves. But the precious human life means exactly that our own life is
precious. We should try to make good choices in life, and to spend our lives
in a meaningful way. In any case, our reflections always take us back to the
self. The teachings advise us to renounce certain things. This is often misunderstood.
The main emphasis is still on the self. If you are doing something wrong, then
you should stop. You should also protect yourself from harm. For instance, you
have to fly somewhere and you find out that the plane is faulty. You would find
an alternative way. But sometimes an attitude like, "I don't care,"
sets in, and with one stroke of the brush, you say everything is "OK."
This kind of attitude is what we call an illusion. Don't get caught up in it.
Try to be honest with yourself and do what is best. The precious human being
is yourself and your own potential. The real meaning is to make good use of
your very good opportunity, your very precious life. This is the point.
The teaching of the Buddha says that all beings, not only humans, have the potential of becoming a Buddha. But it is in a human body that we can achieve the realization of a Buddha. Buddha nature means freedom from the confusions of mind. Realization means in part to be free from confusion. We have this chance now so we should not waste it. Our focus is always in trying to obtain things, things that are only temporary and ephemeral. There is hardly any time left for the teachings. This is why the teachings emphasize thinking in a broader scope, and in longer term. We should invest our efforts to achieve more lasting benefits. Mind is never ending. Mind will continue. It will not dissolve so mind is very important. We want it to be free from suffering, free from ignorance. That is our goal. This life is important because we can act in a beneficial way for our future.
the conditions of a precious human life
According to the law of karma, action and result, the fact that we are here as humans is a result of our past actions. If we continue to act meaningfully then we will again be reborn with good conditions. These are conditions conducive to dharma practice as in being born where authentic teachers teach the Buddha dharma. We are not handicapped in a way that we cannot understand or practise the teachings. We do not want to be born as someone who does not believe in anything because then there will be nothing worthwhile to do. We want to have compassion, or the capacity to develop it. This is why Gampopa explained (in the Jewel Ornament of Liberation) that all these good conditions are inclusive in the meaning of a precious human birth. Everybody has Buddha nature but the absence of these conditions would make it difficult to pursue the dharma. Another text goes further to point out that sometimes even when we know what is beneficial for us and we want to develop our mind, we are held back by our desires, attachments, and habits. For example, you are offered a very good job in a very nice area with a nice apartment. But you turn it down preferring to stay with your existing job where there is a lot of pressure and the living conditions are quite harsh. You think to yourself that you cannot leave because you cannot let go of what you are used to. Because of your attachments, you could not move into a better situation. We have to let go of this type of attachment. Otherwise, we are creating the blockages ourselves.
know what is valuable in the long term
We take for granted our human existence. Many things seem to be important to us. We don't really think about what is really beneficial to us in the long run. Then when the time has run out, it is too late. So the meaning of reflection on the precious human body is not to pressure us but to motivate us to make the right choices in life. This first of the Four Thoughts prepares us by giving us the reason why dharma practice is important. We can see for ourselves life's conditions for us, for other people, and for people who have already passed away. We become more appreciative of the dharma and its importance.
There are two different levels of expectation in life - short term versus long term. For a practitioner who already has some appreciation of the conditions of this life, he can understand the importance of setting long-term future goals. People lose sight of long-term goals because it is too difficult for them to fathom. They need to try to think more deeply and look beyond the here and now.
For most people, they are more concerned with solving immediate problems and achieving short-term goals. Their problems are often related to the emotions and relationships; they are never ending. The fact is when one problem is solved it is followed by another. There are others who think that if only they could avoid people and the emotions then they could stay calm. There is really nothing to reject, and there is no contradiction either in our life now. We simply watch ourselves. We do this in a very natural and spontaneous way. See if we can make a connection to the meaning of the precious human life. From time to time, we do this, and soon we will become clearer about its meaning. If we only hear it but we don't really reflect on its meaning then it will be of no use to us.
Sometimes, people who are under the influence of their ego, or their ignorance, misuse the teachings. So the contemplation of the precious human life can protect the practitioner from going astray. We follow properly the dharma path. This applies equally to the beginners as well as the advanced practitioners until enlightenment is attained.
take care and make use of our precious life
Let us now look at how the contemplation of the precious human birth can be applied in daily life. It is wrong to just acknowledge that yes, human life is precious, and then forget about it. We have already looked at the many conditions necessary to make the human life precious. To be reborn again in the next life with the same good conditions, we should develop a way of thinking and acting now that would increase our understanding of mind as much as possible. While we are here, we don't just take things for granted or ignore them. For example, we like a certain food that is very unhealthy for us. Knowingly, we choose to ignore this fact, and just go ahead and eat it any way. We think that it wouldn't hurt if we only eat it once in a while. However, after a few times of eating it, we grow used to having it. We'd then dismiss the original caution by saying, " ah, but I really like it. It doesn't matter " We ignore what we know. This is how we usually ignore many little things. But of course, they are actually important from the perspective of the consequences that they bring about. So we emphasize again to always remember that this life is precious.
We follow the examples of the teachers from the past. We follow their way of acting, their way of thinking and their attitudes. For instance, they took seriously their own future. Why, because they wanted to be able to continue to practise the dharma, progressing life after life until enlightenment is reached. If the good conditions and the practice continue in the same direction, then the result will surely be there.
While we are here, the current and temporary conditions of the here and now can be used to secure a better future. Try to understand through our life experiences the meaning of the teachings. Strive to improve a little bit at a time. By applying the methods and by doing the practice, the results will come slowly. This point cannot be overemphasized because sometimes we don't want to listen so we don't really hear properly. In the least, we should take care to avoid those actions that will bring us rebirth in the lower realms. Sometimes, we hear the claim that the teachings can bring about enlightenment in one lifetime. The teachings are very effective but that is not the point. The point is each of us has the capacity to achieve enlightenment in one lifetime. A reincarnated teacher or practitioner is not particularly special. It happens when someone practices successfully and is therefore able to continue the same path in the next life. To continue means not losing the capacity of mind already achieved. Liberation from samsara does not mean abandoning the world. Actually, it means freedom from suffering whereby one works for the benefit of others.
the mind will become clearer with practice
We want to have a clear mind. This does not mean to look for light. With practice we become more open, and clearer. An opening in our mind actually lends itself to further opening. But while the mind is not too clear, it will take time before any result becomes apparent. For example, educated people are very knowledgeable in the worldly ways. Yet they still feel that there is more to know. This is why they want to learn about meditation and the Dharma. If you do not believe that there is more to learn then you would not be here at these lectures. You want to know more about your own self-nature so you research on the spiritual way. The more you understand about your own mind, the clearer the meaning of life will become.
Milarepa once said, "if you know the principal condition of your Buddha nature then everything becomes very clear. Otherwise, you have to go step by step." If we have no accomplishment or knowledge of mind, then we have to go through all the steps. But if we have reached a certain level of the mind then, we don't need so many details. Until we do, we argue and debate all the details. But once we see the real meaning, when we really know for ourselves, then everything becomes very clear.
meditation yields knowledge of the true nature
We have to learn meditation just like everything else, step by step. Learn about your own mind then everything becomes very simple. You don't need to spend too much time in studying. You should reflect on this point. Take the example of Gendun Rinpoche. He held no academic degrees. He was not a professor. But he did meditation retreat. We were all witness to his clarity of mind. He did not spend time studying. This means that meditation yields clear answers. Even if we spend 15 or 20 years studying which we call a short time, we still cannot reach the same level of knowledge gained from meditation. Of course, it is not knowledge in the normal worldly sense. The deep understanding gained in meditation is quite different from this. We call it realization. It is an understanding that comes from our own mind about our own mind. We cannot buy it. We cannot get it from outside of us. Again, we go back to the precious human life where we have the capacity to achieve this kind of realization of mind. We must not let go of this opportunity while going after worldly things. Theoretically, in order to understand mind, we have to know very precisely the functions of mind. There is a term called emptiness. Often we form a wrong idea about this term. Emptiness can only be realized through an in-depth research into mind linked with meditation. This is the right path. This is one essential method. Milarepa stated that by properly using the Vajrayana method we can understand the true nature of mind spontaneously. We go step by step where we do the analysis by ourselves. It is a long process. Analysis does not involve making up anything. Yet there is a system that we could follow to attain realization. This is much similar to the learning of science where one progresses through a series of courses learning step by step. It is risky to just talk about emptiness or realization. We have to actually go through the understanding by ourselves. Again, if we know mind already then we don't really need to go through the process. But for now, we say that we are searching or reaching for something. Once we do have realization, it is no longer a temporary thing. The realization of mind is mind.
When we first start out, we are not looking for enlightenment immediately. We are not looking for a clear mind immediately. But more often than not, we are seeking solutions to our normal problems. But if we could clear our minds, then all the confusions will clear by themselves. When that happens, they do not necessarily clear away one by one because they are all linked.
the purpose of initiation into a practice
Take the different initiations such as Chenrezig, or Green Tara where practitioners receive the instructions for practice before they do the practice. Through the initiation by our teacher, we make a connection to an inner quality and we receive the transmission of blessings enabling us to do the practice. There are generally three aspects to an initiation. The first is the instructions on the practice. Next is lung, which is a reading transmission. The third is wang, the empowerment which enables you to do the practice. We should have a proper understanding as to the purpose of receiving an initiation. During the initiation, our attitude should be directed accordingly. This means to engender Bodhicitta. It is our single most earnest concern for the well being of others that we take on the practice to better ourselves, to improve ourselves in order that we may become more beneficial and helpful to others. Without this crucial motivation, the result may be that we receive a bit of blessings, that's all. We have missed the point of Buddha's teachings. When we are correctly oriented in Bodhicitta, we will improve little by little until we reach true understanding. To improve means to obtain further understanding through the practice. Take for example, our idea of mind. We don't really have an understanding of what it is, or what it means exactly. We can only guess at its meaning. Slowly, by doing the practice, we will discover what mind is.
in meditation, there is awareness with no grasping
In meditation we don't grasp at anything. We allow the mind to be flexible which will bring about some understanding. If we are stuck in the words and terminology of the instructions then we cannot get beyond them. We cannot gain a deeper understanding. We have Buddha nature, the potential to be realized. By employing the proper methods, we can attain the state of a Buddha. Buddha means the accomplishment of a clear mind. We have to put in the effort. During the meditation, we try to keep the awareness and a clear mind. We do not cling to the concepts or ideas of what meditation should be. Otherwise, we might think that we are doing it correctly. Again, we will get stuck. We allow the mind to improve by itself. To improve, we always follow the meditation instructions. These are usually written down with examples to illustrate their meaning. Milarepa composed many songs as a reminder to help with his understanding of the mind. We can prepare ourselves by studying his songs to learn their meaning. In this way, we gain an approach in mind training.
To summarize, we need first the instructions. Then we do the meditation always being careful to avoid becoming fixated, or getting stuck in concepts. There is Ngondro, the four foundations. Ngondro is a set of four practices that can facilitate our understanding and progress in meditation. They purify our karma and help us in the accumulation of merit. Ngondro prepares us for the main meditation. This is why they are also referred to as the preliminaries.
The precious human life goes beyond the present life. Of course we would like to be reborn continuously as humans where we could practise the dharma right up until we reach enlightenment. But life never stays unchanged in one spot. The mind's activities move ahead. Our actions are moving along in time as well as everything else. At the same time, link to the movement of life is the accumulation of negative or positive karma. It is very important not to waste time because the physical body is impermanent. Impermanence means that time - each hour, each minute, and each moment is passing. This passing is also subject to cause and effect. We have to see this constant stream ever passing. It is not meant to pressure us but seeing it can become a part of our own functioning.
in daily life, be aware and reflect on the meaning
We begin our practice with a little awareness, and gradually our awareness will increase. This is one way to prepare and to nurture our own quality of mind. The result as we have seen before is an understanding and a knowing of our own mind's nature. It is difficult for you to hear this and then try to do it. The actual process could be complicated. One recommendation is to take what you have read here and reflect on it from time to time in your daily life. Try to think of the meaning and how it works in the many and varied circumstances in your life while you interact with fellow humans and with the animals. Simply try to be aware. Soon, life's functionings will appear not so difficult anymore and they become easier for us to understand. This kind of understanding will be there spontaneously.
THE SECOND THOUGHT :
" IMPERMANENCE "
The second of the Four Thoughts
emphasizes a conscious consideration of the impermanence of life and of phenomena.
We, as individuals, have many choices available to us in our daily life. To
us, there are always many important things to do. But if we choose to put our
efforts into dharma practice then we will achieve results in this life that
have a more lasting effect. We have to decide that dharma practice is really
worthwhile. Otherwise, we will put it off. Because of impermanence, we cannot
put things off indefinitely. Time does not stop for any of us. In the meantime,
actions and results being linked to time are perpetuated. We must try to gain
more clarity of mind while we are here. This will help us in the bardo, the
period of time when we have passed from this life and before we take re-birth.
In a way, impermanence also means continuity. Things do not stay the same, they
continue to change, they continue to evolve.
In "the Jewel Ornament of Liberation", the beginning of the book deals with samsara and its conditions. Samsara means cyclic existence. It is existence enmeshed within endless cycles of birth, aging, and death. The existence can consist of much happiness and/or much suffering. Each cycle will end at death where soon after another cycle will begin, and so the cycles continue endlessly. At the same time, we cannot find a beginning either. We abhor suffering so we wish to be free of it. We wait to be free but it will never happen unless we put effort into a proper practice. We have to stop wasting time. The book then continues into Gampopa's teachings on the methods of liberation. Once we know suffering, we naturally wish to be free of it. We understand the conditions of suffering and we know that there is a way out. We have thus arrived at the main objective, which is liberation.
We have looked at the first two thoughts on the precious human life and impermanence. We understand the potential and the meaning of our human existence. On the other hand, it is not difficult to see the suffering aspect of samsara. There are solutions and remedies to help us cope with the various life situations. But death seems to be the most challenging one of all. The practice shows us how to cope with it. We come to terms with it through our understanding of impermanence. We prepare ourselves through achieving clarity of mind. We reflect on the suffering of samsara. At times, we find things difficult to bear but then at other times, they are not so intolerable. We are used to the up's and down's. It is the same as our wanting a comfortable life with good food and nice clothes, we work towards this goal. We are aware that there will be some roadblocks but they don't deter us. We are not afraid of them and we find ways to cope with them.
The transition from the present life to the next life is a natural and automatic process. The in-between period is known as the bardo. The mind in the bardo will take rebirth. There will again be life, growth, living, and dying. Then the cycle happens all over again. When we do a lot of practice, we will come to the main objective of liberation or enlightenment. Liberation means liberation from the present condition of not being able to see clearly. Liberation is a clear mind. A clear mind sees clearly and goes through all the different conditions in life as well as in the bardo. This is really not so difficult to achieve if we follow the methods and put in the effort. As well, we need to have the proper conditions and the good news is that all practices make them available to us.
contemplate the effects of impermanence
How do we prepare and build the foundation for the practice? We need to reflect regularly on the meaning of the teachings. The teachings often refer to awareness in body, speech, and mind. The meaning is that we need to be aware of our thoughts, speech, and action as much as we can manage it, on a regular basis. We are aware in our practice as well as the daily activities. In this way, we will eventually reach our goal. To be conscious means to be aware. The Four Thoughts are also referred to as the preliminaries. "Preliminary" here does not infer the general meaning of the word as "prerequisite." It does not mean that we have to finish one step before going on to the next step. Rather, it means that to understand the next step, the first step is very important. So when we say that things are impermanent, we go beyond the common meaning, we go beyond a mere acknowledgement of it. Instead, we take the time to really reflect on its meaning, on its significance, and on its impact in our lives and in what we do. We reflect on how impermanence works in our day-to-day experience. We are aware and we relate to it without being frightened by it, surprised by it, or to have to make excuses for it. We accept it as a normal part of our lives. Impermanence is much like drinking tea. Everyday, we drink tea. There is no element of surprise about it. It is just a part of a regular day in our lives. On the other hand, we can take note of impermanence as it is. Like when we are students in school, the materials that are familiar to us we don't take notice of. Instead we tried to remember all the important unfamiliar points. But here, it is a little different. Though impermanence is already familiar to us, we don't take it for granted. Though conceptually, we find the topic a bit heavy to deal with, nevertheless, we start by seeing it a little bit at a time. It will start to give meaning to what we do. At that point, it is very useful to us. We accustom ourselves to seeing impermanence. We don't have to force ourselves to always look for it. We just try to slowly get used to this view so that it becomes a habit of mind, a tendency of mind, pak chag in Tibetan. But it is a habit where there is awareness without ignorance, without losing sight of its meaning. It is much like our dressing ourselves everyday. We are familiar with our own clothes. We change everyday. We wash them when they are dirty. With our nicer clothes, we are more careful and we avoid sitting in dirty surroundings for instance. How we wear and care for our clothes is very simple and straightforward. There is no hesitation. There is nothing complicated about it.
THE THIRD AND FOURTH THOUGHT :
" KARMA AND ITS RESULTE "
The third and fourth of the Four Thoughts deals with karma, and its result. Specifically, the result of karma is samsara or conditioned existence. Sometimes, the results of karma are referred to as the defects of samsara.
There are many ways of understanding karma. The way we deal with karma is similar to the earlier example of our way with clothes. It is not a big deal yet we keep our awareness, and we are careful. We cannot avoid karma even if we wanted to. The more we try to avoid the situation, the more we get involved in it and the more negative it becomes for us. We don't need to worry about it. But if we see its meaning, we will naturally be careful. This is important.
Karma comes from our mind, from our speech, and from our action. We often think that it is our actions that bring the results. But if we did not have the thought in the first place, then it would not have led to the speech or the action. It is good to read the "Jewel Ornament of Liberation" where karma and its results are clearly explained in great details. Every idea has its result whether or not it is acted out. We never think that our negative thoughts could yield negative actions. Sometimes, we act but nothing comes of it. Sometimes we act and we do achieve something. In each case, karma is created whether our action is fruitful or not. Whether or not the karma is neutral, positive, or negative, corresponds directly to our original intention, be it neutral, positive, or negative. The teachings tell us this much but moreover this is the natural and infallible law of karma. This is the truth of karma. This is also why we should always be aware of our thoughts. We should try to really see for ourselves.
When we look at our mind, we can't help but see it connected to all the conditions of karma. The process of how karma is created is the same for positive as well as for negative karma. For example, you don't want to hurt others, that is one karma. If you want to hurt people, that is also karma even if you don't act on it because your mind is thinking negatively. If you carry out the action then the karma becomes even stronger. And when you have succeeded in harming others through your action, the karma becomes the strongest of the three instances. This is just how karma works karma works.
The result of karma is not a judgement. It is not like there is a judge sitting there judging your every thought and action. Rather, the result happens naturally and spontaneously. We are so used to thinking conceptually but this is a bit different. We have to use a term to describe it, so we use the term law, a natural law, even though it is really not a law in the ordinary sense of the word. If you water a flower, it will survive for as long as it can. Without water, the flower will dry up. These are both natural consequences, inherent in the nature of a flower. It is the same with karma. It feels more like our own habitual thinking. When a small boy is afraid of someone, he would naturally try to hide from him. If he is aware of his own tendency, then he can try to overcome his fear by himself. It is actually quite common and normal for the boy not to think through his fear properly. But if he is aware and really tries to see through his tendency then he will understand more about his own mind's functioning.
the habitual tendencies obscure
The habitual tendencies obscure the nature of mind. When the nature of mind is obscured by the habitual tendencies present in our mind, we refer to them as the obscurations caused by the habitual tendencies. This means an obscuration caused by oneself due to one's habitual tendencies. In the teachings, it is explained that the habits are from both the previous lives as well as the present life. It is easier for us to see the causes that are directly in our present life rather than from our past. It is easier for us to see what effect our current unconscious habits have on us. Our mind functions through the habitual tendencies. For now, it is difficult to give a more detailed explanation about it. But when we look, we will sometimes see how our tendencies come up from within us while at the same time, we are aware of all kinds of the conditions.
Lodjong as an exchange
Now we look at the practice of Lodjong, a Bodhicitta practice. Lodjong means to put in place a positive attitude in exchange for the habitual tendencies. Lodjong means that which runs contrary to what we are used to. The positive attitude is a condition that we put into our mind until gradually it shows up spontaneously in our thoughts and actions. Through lodjong, everything that we like can come our way.
The lodjong practice can bring two kinds of results: a decrease in negative thought and action, and more importantly, a chance for a better rebirth in the next life. In the bardo after death, usually the mind of the deceased is still very much connected to the tendencies. The tendencies that he has created during his lifetime come forth spontaneously, one connecting to the next and so forth. For him, he has no more control in the bardo than he has control over his dreams while he was alive. The experiences in the bardo and in a dream state are quite similar. If he has reached some realization in meditation while he was alive then this can also come into play to help him.
Realization in meditation has many different levels. For example, when a person falls asleep, he loses total consciousness momentarily just before sleep. His mind is there but it has lost all its connections. Even if he tries to see the in-between state from waking to sleeping, he is lost in it. He passes into sleep and after some time, he starts to dream. During all that time, he is alive physically. This is referred to as a lack of realization - he cannot see for himself what is happening to him. If on the other hand he can go through the process without ignorance, he will see the process of sleeping - how it progresses into the dream state. To him, the dream is not a surprise anymore. He sees it as just another state of mind. If he can do that, then we say he realizes by himself what is going on.
A mind without any realization can still have positive tendencies. Lodjong practice can bring about this positive effect. It places the mind in a positive condition and attitude where one is concerned for the benefit of other sentient beings. This entails a more open mind. An open mind in turn is not influenced by negative disturbing emotions thus rendering the mind more flexible to be considerate of others.
the three obscurations bring about suffering
When we practise lodjong, we need to think, to know, and to realize that whatever it is that we are trying to see is tainted by karma in the mind. Because of karma, our understanding and our knowledge are obscured or tainted. The results of karma give rise to three main categories of obscuration present in our mind. The first is obscuration caused by disturbing emotions, the second is obscuration caused by the preconceived ideas and fixed notions in the mind, and the third is the obscuration caused by the habitual tendencies. These three types of obscurations of the mind are responsible for the suffering of all beings. We can all see the suffering around us. Even if you don't see it immediately in your surroundings with your own eyes, you know that there is suffering for people in some countries. You know also the sufferings of the animals. These are very evident. We begin by feeling concerned for the suffering of others. Gradually, our concern will grow into love and compassion. This means to link our consciousness with love and compassion with respect to other sentient beings. We practise Lodjong precisely to connect ourselves with this love and compassion. Our motivation should not be based on our fear, or aversion to suffering, or we want to find a way out. We are motivated by our concern for all sentient beings. In the beginning, our care and concern may be just a thought. In time, when we can see more and more, it will grow into a habit of mind. We will then understand its exact meaning.
Take the example of when you watch television, you see that there is a lot of suffering and you feel a little pity but you don't really have a strong feeling about it. That pity is like a thought only. But if the suffering were right in front of you, you would feel much more strongly. So we begin by thinking for others as an idea, progressively, we try to be more precise until we understand what it means to be caring towards others. We care without passing judgment. We know that the basic cause of suffering is ignorance, and then there are the three obscurations. Acting under the influence of pre-conceived thinking, negative emotional afflictions, and/or habitual tendencies, we create the conditions of suffering for ourselves. Before we embark on mind training, we should understand this fundamental principle. We should check to ensure that our motivation is sincere. Sometimes people have other reasons for doing mind training. For them, it may be just another technical mental exercise.
In general, we place great value and importance in the result of whatever we do. The methods and means of achieving the results are not regarded as important. For example, you want to make a table. The tools you don't think much of. Your main focus is the end result which is the table. When the table is made, the tools are put away and they don't matter much anymore. Dharma practice, however, is not like that. All the conditions that we encounter along the path are very important.
The engendering of love and compassion is an important condition from beginning to end. We begin our daily practice by raising the feeling of concern for all sentient beings by praying for them. Our practice also ends with prayers or wishes. We pray, or wish for something that is beneficial for all sentient beings.
There is a basic prayer consisting of four lines - a fundamental wishing prayer for every living being without exception. In the first two lines of the prayer, we wish all beings to have happiness and the cause of happiness. We wish them to be free from suffering and the cause of suffering. These wishes are on a relative level, of course, ultimately, we wish them to gain realization of the mind and thus be set free from suffering. This basic prayer should precede any practice in which we may engage. This is not just a technique but it is lodjong, a benevolent attitude that we must sincerely attempt to embrace in our hearts. Otherwise, the prayer and our practice is reduced to words again. We should also not feel obligated to say the prayer. We take the time to sincerely reflect on our wish for all beings until our genuine sincerity is a habitual tendency. Here, of course the tendency is a positive one.
In the basic wishing prayer, we pray that all beings have the "cause" of happiness. We pray that they be free from the cause of suffering. The cause comes from karma, action and result. This applies to everybody including the person who is praying. The third line of the prayer is our wish that all beings never be separated from a state of authentic joy that is without suffering. A mind in equanimity is the resultant state of a Buddha that is a very joyful state of mind. A mind that is inseparable from authentic joy is a mind not distracted. A mind that is distracted has no peace. We wish everyone to achieve, to realize authentic joy. The realization of the mind is a realization of a state of mind that is free of suffering. This implies freedom from ignorance.
There is a state of mind that is in equanimity. Equanimity is very difficult to explain and it can be misunderstood. It points to a state of mind that does not differentiate between the self and others. It means a mind that is very clear and absent of disturbances as in the mind of a Buddha. This brings us to the last line of the prayer where we wish that all beings come to rest in a state of equanimity, free from attachment and aversion to those near and far.
We recall that one goal of meditation is to see our own disturbing emotions. In our normal daily lives, through the very small but different incidences, we try to see how our emotions function. We try to see their causes and surrounding circumstances. This will lead us to realize our mind, how it functions at all times. In the beginning, when we look at a distraction in the mind, we explore circumstances that disturb the mind, how they come to be. The obscuration caused by the disturbing emotions is linked to them. They are our attachment, pride, jealousy, or hatred. For example, we may find that it is when our expectation is not met that we become angry. We have to take the time to slow down and look.
We can all agree that love and compassion are good qualities. We are told that we should act out of love and compassion. Then we see that they are indeed very essential and beneficial to other beings. It may take us a long time to really see the results by ourselves. It is the same when we try to see the causes of our disturbing emotions. We start out by slowing down and really trying to see the links and connections. When one day, we can see by ourselves the causes for our own afflictions, we will at the same time understand them in others as well. Through this same process, we will come to understand the state of equanimity - it is the result of knowing the functioning of our own mind by ourselves.
to loosen the grip of ego clinging
All the disturbing functions and emotions of mind come from clinging. In meditation we try to free this clinging to a self. Yet in a way we cannot really say "free", because there is really no self that we need to be free from. "I" does not truly exist. However, theoretically through our own understanding, we can loosen our grip to a self when we understand how our mind functions. When we are able to work with the negative emotions, then it is liberation. Liberate here means to loosen the tightness of the grip that is ego clinging. It sounds easy to just loosen up, but it is not so easy when we actually try to do it. We will find that the clinging to the self is very strong. We can say that there is some fear involved in our trying to let go because we are addicted to the clinging. It can be frightening to let go of an addiction. This is why to be liberated, we have to understand the actual functioning of the disturbing emotions, how they arise and the effects they leave behind. It is a slow and gradual process.
By L a m a . J i g m e . R i n p o c h e
Practising without ego-centred
Lama Gendun Rinpoche
One of the main defects of a practitioner comes from thinking, "I am the one who is practising, so I am the one who will realise this and that through my practice". As long as we think that we are the ones who practise and that any outcome will be because we made the necessary effort, we are completely in the wrong. Nothing will result from that except more ego-clinging and self-importance.
We should think quite the opposite: that everything that emerges in our practice does so thanks to the Dharma. All the qualities that appear are only because of the Dharma. It is only through the quality, the power and purity of the Dharma itself that something can change in us. This is the way all the great bodhisattvas have practised. There is nothing that comes from the individual - things emerge because of the quality of the teaching. It is through his relationship with the Dharma that an ordinary practitioner can transform himself and become a great bodhisattva. All the qualities that emerge in a great bodhisattva have nothing to do with the individual person. They are the same qualities that are to be found in all bodhisattvas, because they come from the same Dharma, they express the quality of the teaching itself.
We should be happy and think, "Now I have decided definitely to practise the Dharma, there is nothing else that interests me in this life, I want to dedicate my life totally to this. Whatever comes out of my practice is thanks to the Dharma, it has nothing to do with me. I am not going to take pride in the results as if they were mine." When we surrender ourselves in this way and just practise the Dharma with no speculations about the outcome, we completely abandon ourselves to the practice. We are not expecting something out of it. We abandon all attachment to experiences and results of practice and engage in Dharma activity. This is when true experiences and realisations can develop.
But first we have to completely give up this feeling of "I am doing something, I am getting results", always bringing everything back to the "I". If we do this, we are just nourishing the ego-feeling, which shows a lack of confidence in the teaching. If we have complete confidence in the Dharma, we no longer have any feeling of "I". We just do the practice, and then the Dharma starts to work and real transformation takes place. This is the only way that experiences and realisation can develop.
We can measure the progress of our practice like this. If we think, "I have practised and I have realised that", then the only result of our practice is that our I-feeling is getting coarser and coarser, so our practice is completely wrong, since the very purpose of the Dharma is to reduce the influence of the ego. But if we think "I am not a good practitioner, I have no real qualities myself", that shows that our feeling of "I" is growing smaller and more subtle and that we are becoming a genuine practitioner. A real Dharma practitioner is someone who is constantly putting aside his own benefit and concern for himself.
Patience and Effort
A Teaching from Ven. Tenzin Palmo
In order to receive any genuine
transformation we have to transform everything we do, everything we say, everything
we think, to the utmost of our ability, into a Dharma practice. If we use every
action of body, speech and mind as our practice, by cultivating awareness, being
present in the moment, seeing things with clarity and understanding, opening
our heart in kindness and in love, thinking about other people and how they
feel, then there is certainty that there will be a transformation. But if we
think that Dharma practice is only what we do when we go to a Dharma centre
or when some Lama is visiting, when we go to Dharma talks or we sit and meditate
together or do some puja, if we think that is Dharma practice and the rest of
the day is just so much extra time, then there will never, even after an aeon
of time, be any transformation.
If we use every action of body, speech and mind as our practice ...
then there is certainty that there will be a transformation.
We have this precious life now. This is our opportunity. If we let it go, who knows if the opportunity will ever come again. Now is when we have the freedom to practice, we have the teachers, we have the intelligence to understand, and we have a motivation to really, genuinely want to practice. This is so rare.
But it's not enough just to intellectually understand. We have to take the Dharma and use it. We have to take the Dharma and eat it and digest it until it permeates every cell of our bodies. What use is it unless it really takes over our life, unless we and the Dharma merge? Without this, it's just another -ism amongst all the many other different ways of doing and looking at things. At this moment, our mind is in one place and the Dharma is in another and they're looking at each other. Occasionally they touch. But that's not enough. They have to become like one, so that it's impossible to see which is one's mind and which is the Dharma. It's like a dye going into a cloth: the mind has to be completely dyed with the Dharma so that every word, every thought, every action is an expression of our understanding of the way things really are.
In the beginning this is not so easy. We have to work at it, we have to be mindful, and we have to remind ourselves. That is what is meant by perseverance. It means moment to moment to moment, to the very best of our abilities, whatever situation comes up, we must really try to bring our intelligence and our heart into that situation. If we have that attentiveness in the moment then everything that happens to us will have some meaning. It will be an opportunity to make some progress on the path. This gives us tremendous freedom because whatever happens can help us. The Tibetan texts say that we should use all occasions as aids on the path. If we believe this then it doesn't matter what happens to us because whatever occurs we can transform into an aid on the path and so there is freedom.
But freedom from what? From hope and fear. This goes back to having a mind that is very open and spacious. When we talk about effort we don't mean huffing and puffing as though you're in a marathon race. What we're talking about is a very spacious effort, a very constant 'alertness in the moment' type of effort. It's just flowing like a river, from moment to moment to moment. It's not doing push-ups, although sometimes push-ups and prostrations might be called for! It's the effort to be here and now and to have a relaxed, open, alert mind which responds appropriately and with clarity to whatever is happening. Usually we are so absorbed in our own desires, our own thoughts and feelings that we don't see things very clearly. What's needed is to be able to step back and have this openness to see things as they really are and therefore to respond in an appropriate manner. The ability to do this, to integrate this with our life completely, is what is meant by effort.
What's needed is to be able to step back and have this openness to see things
as they really are and therefore to respond in an appropriate manner.
The other application of this is what the Buddha called, I think, the four right efforts. These are: the effort to prevent the unwholesome from arising, the effort to discard that unwholesomeness which has already arisen, the effort to create the wholesome which has not yet arisen, and the effort to cultivate and maintain that wholesomeness which has arisen.
Wholesomeness, sometimes also translated as skilfulness, means those states of mind such as understanding, love, generosity and openness of heart which create within us and around us a state of harmony and peace. This is in contrast to the unwholesome, or unskilful, states of mind such as ignorance, greed and aversion which create within us and without us states of conflict. So, part of maintaining our awareness is to be aware of the states of our mind and where they are coming from. We must have discernment. We have to recognise those thoughts and emotions that are rooted in the negative factors. It's not a matter of suppression; it's a matter of recognising them, accepting them and letting them go. We don't maintain them, we don't follow them.
As our awareness grows so we become more acutely conscious of our mental states and then we can see, for example, when aversion, when anger is coming into our mind. We can recognise it. We can even name it and say 'This is anger.' But we don't identify with it. We just see that this is an angry state of mind. We accept that's what it is. But in knowing that it's not helpful, we can also drop it. On the other hand, sometimes very positive states of mind arise and because we are so busy we don't recognise them and therefore they fade away. If the mind is clear then when positive states of mind come, again we can recognise them, we can acknowledge them and we can try to help them remain, to grow, to be appreciated. So, it's not just a matter of blaming ourselves for all our negative thoughts. There's no blame here. It's recognising what is and being able to let go. And when it's positive, it's recognising it and encouraging it. It's dealing with knowing, knowing what is in the mind, without getting caught in our conflicts.
It's not helpful to have the mind as a battlefield. Shantideva writes about using the mind as a battlefield and wielding the sword of discrimination to destroy all the negative factors of the mind. But that is not really helpful because, especially in the West, people start blaming themselves, castigating themselves, feeling guilty and getting caught up in a lot of conflict. "Oh, I'm such a bad person, I always was such a bad person, I always will be such a bad person." Using the mind as a battlefield against oneself is not in any way psychologically useful.
Better than that is just to see the thoughts and feelings as they arise. Recognise them for what they are, accept them and, if they are not useful, let them go. Even better than that, of course, is to recognise their empty, transparent nature because if we recognise that then, of themselves, they will transform into a kind of intelligence.
It is actually better on the spiritual path to be a tiger than a rabbit.
In themselves, negative emotions are not necessarily a bad thing. Even such strong emotions as anger, jealousy and desire are, at their very root, an energy. If we allow them to channel out through negative channels then, of course, this creates a lot of conflict and turmoil. But if we can see them in their true nature, then we get back to their energy source and it transforms into a very deep and profound energy -- intelligence.
Therefore it is actually better on the spiritual path to be a tiger than a rabbit. Rabbits are very nice and they're quite cuddly and cute but what do they do? There you are, a nice little rabbit twitching your nose, but there's no power there, there's no force so, spiritually speaking, it's not very helpful. It might be very pleasant to live with rabbits, but there's no drive. However, someone with very strong emotions, like a tiger, can be very destructive if left in the wild, but if they can learn to harness those emotions then that becomes the drive to enlightenment.
That is why the greatest practitioners in Tibet were usually Kampa. The Kampas of Eastern Tibet were, left in their natural state, quite wild. They were bandits and brigands. They were known by the more effete central Tibetans as very wild and woolly. But those very rough and quite violent people made the very greatest practitioners because when they channelled that energy into a spiritual path nothing stopped them.
Using the mind as a battlefield against oneself
is not in any way psychologically useful.
So, it's not our emotions, even our negative emotions, which are the problem. The problem is whether they control us or we control them. The best way to control is through seeing and thebest way to see is through developing awareness. Once we are conscious and aware of our emotions, of our motivations, then we have the wish-fulfilling gem in our hands and everything can be transformed. As long as we are unknowing, as long as we are identified with our thoughts and emotions, as long as we are controlled by our thoughts and emotions, we are slaves. So it's amatter of learning how to master the mind. Who is going to be in control here - our emotions or us? (Whatever 'us' may be -- we're talking on a relative level here!)
Most of us are complete slaves to our emotions and thoughts. When we are angry, we are the anger. When we are jealous, we are the jealousy. When we are depressed, we are the depression. We are complete slaves to our desires, our angers, our aversions, our jealousies, our hopes and our fears. We're not in control at all.
Most of us are complete slaves to
our emotions and our thoughts. When we are angry, we are the anger. When we
are jealous, we are the jealousy. When we are depressed, we are the depression.
We are completely enslaved by our desires, our angers, our aversions, our jealousies,
our hopes and our fears. We're not in control at all.
The Buddha said that someone who kills
a thousand times a thousand men on the battlefield
is nothing compared with one who is master of himself.
First, we have to learn to be in control of our own minds. After all, our mind is the closest thing we have; it's how we perceive everything. External circumstances are nothing compared to the internal circumstances of our mind. So if we want to benefit ourselves and others, we have to get our mind intosome kind of shape. The easiest and quickest way to do that is to develop this moment-to-moment awareness of the mind. By doing this we can find the space to see what is happening within us and to select that which is helpful. That which is not helpful, we can drop. All our Dharma practices are directed towards attaining this mastery and understanding. First we have to understand then, through that understanding, we can gain mastery.
The Buddha said that someone who kills a thousand times a thousand men on the battlefield is nothing compared with one who is master of himself. He who conquers himself is the greatest warrior. So we have to learn to conquer ourselves. But we don't conquer ourselves by creating an inner battlefield; we conquer ourselves through developing understanding, insight and awareness. This takes enormous effort because the inertia of our mind is so deep, so entrenched.
Sometimes people ask me what I gained
from living for so many years in a cave.
I say, "It's not what I gained, it's what I lost."
I have talked about how genuine renunciation is to give up all our fond thoughts - daydreams, memories of the past, anticipations of the future, the inner mental chatter and commentaries with which most of us live our days and which keep us both stressed and entertained. To drop that as much as we can and to live nakedly in the present, just with what is happening in the moment, is very difficult. We are so attached to our memories, our daydreams, our fantasies and our interpretations. We think that they are who we are. We think that they are what make our life so rich. But in fact, they are exactly who we are not and they impoverish our inner life because we are caught up more and more in delusion. To drop all that, to really drop it as much as we possibly can, is a powerful practice. That is the greatest renunciation. It requires enormous application at the beginning because there's tremendous resistance in the mind to being in the present, to just being with what IS, rather than with all our fantasies and projections about how we want life to be. Just seeing life as it is, without any of our commentaries is very hard. For example, when I look at an object, I immediately start thinking of others I've seen which were similar, of whether I like the shape or don't like the shape, of whether the workmanship is good or not good, of how I might have wanted one which was somewhat different. This goes on infinitely - elaborating, elaborating, and elaborating until we don't see the object at all any more.
First, you have to empty out the cup and clean it,
and then you can pour in the ambrosia.
This might not seem very important. But when we relate it to situations, to people we know and with whom we interrelate, then these layers upon layers of opinions, interpretations, elaborations and memories distance us from what is actually happening, who is actually in front of us, what is actually occurring inside ourselves. Dharma practice is not a matter of learning more and more and studying more and more, although that can also be important. It's not a matter of adding more and more; it's a matter of emptying out, peeling off layer after layer. We're already so full of junk, so stuffed to the top, that first we need to empty out.
A great Thai master was once asked what his main problem was with people who came to him for instruction. He said that the main problem with them was that they were already so full of their own ideas and opinions, they were like a cup filled to the brim with dirty water. You can't pour anything ontop because if you do, it will just become dirty too. First, you have to empty out the cup and clean it, and then you can pour in the ambrosia. And so, for us too, we need to clear out; we don't need to add more at this time. We need to start peeling off all our opinions, all our ideas, and all our cleverness and just remain very naked, in the moment, just seeing things as they are, like a small child.
If we do that then it gives some space for the innate intelligence to which we are all heirs to surface. And with that intelligence comes a genuine openness of heart. But if we try to do all these practices on top of all the junk which we already have in our mind, nothing is ever affected. We just distort; no real transformation will take place.
..during the day, as much as you can,
try to bring the mind back into the present and
try to see things as if one is seeing them for the very first time...
Sometimes people ask me what I gained from living for so many years in a cave. I say, "It's not what I gained, it's what I lost." I think that in Dharma practice it is very important first to really have a period of dropping rather than building up. This is why a practice like Samatha, just quietly sitting, can be so very, very beneficial because it gives us space to begin to peel off and empty out. But also, during the day, as much as you can, try to bring the mind back into the present and try to see things as if one is seeing them for the very first time. This is especially valuable with people one is very connected to -- one's spouse or one's children, one's colleagues at work. Try to look at them as if seeing them for the very first time with completely fresh, new eyes.
Moment to moment, we are. After a while we become so heavily habituated we don't see any more. All we see are our own ideas and impressions and memories. It's very important that we should practice now so that at the time of our death we can think, "Well, I tried. I did the best I could and so I can die without regrets.''
PATIENCE & THE COMPASSIONATE
Guru Shakyamuni Buddha said,
Do not engage in any harmful actions;
Perform only those that are good;
Subdue your own mind-
This is the teaching of the Buddha.
What did he mean? The above verse encapsulates the entire teaching of the kind compassionate Buddha. In it, He is telling us sentient beings, who want only happiness and do not want suffering, how to achieve our aims.
Where do happiness and suffering come from?
Happiness and suffering do not come from outside but from actions motivated by our own minds, our own thoughts. Happiness comes from positive actions. Problems come from mistaken, or unskillful, actions. Positive actions, pure actions, are motivated by a positive, virtuous attitude, the pure mind, the healthy mind, the peaceful mind.
All happiness - the transient happiness of our everyday lives, and ultimate happiness, both liberation and enlightenment-comes from each being's positive attitude and virtuous actions; from the pure mind. Liberation is the complete cessation of all suffering, including rebirth, aging, sickness and death, and its cause. Enlightenment, the great liberation, which is even higher than this, is the cessation of even the subtle defilements of mind and the completion of all realizations. Each and every sentient being has the potential to experience all this. It comes from positive motivation and good karma.
All suffering comes from each being's negative attitude and from your own mind.
In your life, until your mind labels something as a problem, before you have the concept of problem, you don't have any problems. Before your mind fabricates the label, "problem," you don't see problems in your life. What do I mean by concept here? It's where your thought interprets a certain situation as a problem. In other words, your mind creates the designation "problem" for this particular situation. Before that happens, you don't see any problem with the situation, but the moment your mind creates the label, "problem," and believes in it, that is the moment that the concept of problem has been created. You have created the concept of life problem.
This is just a simple example of how problems come from your own mind, how problems depend upon your own concepts, how problems depend upon the very concept of problem. The problems in your life depend upon your having the concept of problem-having the thought, creating the label and believing in it. This is just a very simple example of how your problems depend upon your own mind. It shows how your problems depend upon the thought, or concept, you have at that moment-that hour, that minute, that second-how this hour's problem, this minute's problem is related to, or comes from, the way you are thinking at the time. The present moment's problem comes from the present moment's thought, or concept, which creates the label and believes in it.
Anger is another example of this. If you don't create the mental factor, or thought, of anger, there are no enemies in your life; you can't find any enemies. If you don't form the thought of anger, wherever you go, wherever in the world you travel, wherever you live, whoever you're with, you never see a single enemy. If you don't create anger within, you have no enemy outside.
" If you do not practice compassion, loving kindness and patience towards others
" If you do not cultivate these healthy minds, these positive, beneficial thoughts for the sake of yourself and all other sentient beings.
" If you don't make an effort to develop these positive attitudes, you are just being yourself; you are allowing yourself to be your old self. Your old self follows your ego and self-centered mind and thinks only of your own happiness and nothing else.
From beginningless time, in every rebirth, your old self has been under the influence of ego and self-centeredness, the unhealthy, uptight, unpeaceful mind. Your old self's heart is closed, not open. Your old self works only for your own happiness and cares nothing for the needs of others. Your old self does not think that you are responsible for the happiness of others, that your happiness comes from others and that their happiness depends upon you. Your old, self-centered mind thinks only of your own happiness and nothing other than that.
So "being yourself" means just this-being your old self. Instead of practicing those positive minds, you do just the opposite. You follow disturbing thoughts such as attachment and anger, which offer your mind no peace, no rest, no realization-only agitation, trouble and unhappiness. There's no holiday for your mind. Even if you take your body on vacation, there's no vacation for your mind, no rest and relaxation for your mental continuum. The result of continually following your old self-ego, attachment and anger-is that you never find satisfaction. These thoughts can never bring you satisfaction, no matter for how many eons you follow them. This is simply the nature of attachment.
As Guru Shakyamuni Buddha said, "As long as you follow desire you will never be satisfied." It's like sitting in a fire. As long as you sit in a fire you will never experience the pleasure of not being burnt. If you long to be comfortable and cool, you have to get out. In just the same way, as that is logical, so is it logical that as long as you follow attachment you will not find inner peace, true satisfaction, real rest. There's no vacation for your heart. That's the old self at work. When the Rolling Stones sang, "Well, I tried and I tried, I tried and I tried-I can't get no, satisfaction," they were actually giving a lam-rim teaching; a lam-rim teaching with guitar accompaniment. They were teaching meditation.
If you don't have a good heart, if you have no satisfaction, which can be experienced only by not following the painful minds of desire and attachment-if you don't develop loving kindness and compassion, then even if you do take a break from your job and take your body to the beach, there's no rest for your mind. There's no peace within your mental continuum because you have taken with you your attachment and anger and the constant problems they create. Because you lack a good heart and cannot dedicate yourself to others, there's no fulfillment in your heart. Because of the disturbing emotional thoughts of attachment and anger, you get no satisfaction and experience constant problems.
Your emotional thoughts are the foundation of all problems. They themselves are the main problem. Because of them, you have no inner peace and cannot enjoy your life. Even though externally it might look as if you're enjoying yourself, as if you're experiencing excitement and pleasure, when you look into your heart, you know that there's always something missing. Only by giving up, cutting, freeing yourself from, disturbing emotional thoughts such as the painful mind of attachment, can you find satisfaction in your heart, in your inner life. If you can stop being your old self, if you can stop following the beginningless discriminating thoughts of attachment and anger, stop forming the thought of anger, stop transforming the mind that was not angry into one that wants to harm others, you will never have enemies. Wherever you go, you will never find an enemy trying to harm you.
What do you do when you encounter someone who doesn't love you, who's angry at you? You practice patience. Instead of interpreting that person's actions as negative, or harmful, you interpret them as positive, or beneficial. Instead of thinking how harmful it is that the person is angry at you, doesn't love you, think how beneficial, how necessary, how useful it is. Just as you feel it important to have in your life someone who loves you, feel it just as necessary to have someone who doesn't love you. Think how much you need the person who is angry at you. Feel that the person who dislikes you is just as precious as the one who has compassion for you. Instead of seeing it as negative, see it as positive, beneficial.
If right at that moment, instead of telling yourself how harmful it is, you practice patience by thinking how useful it is, if instead of thinking how useless it is, you think how necessary it is, you will immediately experience peace and tranquillity in your mind. Instead of being troubled, you'll be happy, then and there. Moreover, you won't be impelled to retaliate and will therefore refrain from harming others. In this way you will avoid creating the negative karma of injuring others with body, speech and mind.
If out of anger you give harm to others, you leave negative imprints on your own mental continuum. These then manifest as problems in this life, future lives or both-problems such as sickness, ill-treatment at the hands of others, premature death and so forth. These are called "karmic results similar to the cause in experience," and we create them ourselves by responding negatively to those who are angry at us.
Therefore, by practicing patience, you don't harm others and thus don't harm yourself. If you don't practice patience, you harm others and therefore yourself. Furthermore, when you practice patience and refrain from harming others, you protect them from retaliating in response to your harm, thereby saving them from creating extra negative karma, the cause of suffering-you protect others from having to experience the karmic results of giving you harm. Thus, by practicing patience, besides creating the cause of happiness for yourself in this and future lives, you help others to experience happiness in this and future lives.
As a result of your practicing patience and not harming the person who's angry at you, that other person doesn't give you further harm. Not only is there peace and happiness for yourself and the other person in this and future lives, but you are also training your mind to be patient with others. This person is helping you do that. You are learning to be patient with the rest of your family, the rest of your colleagues, all other human beings and all sentient beings in general. The person who is angry with you is helping you train your mind to be patient and positive instead of angry and negative.
As you eradicate anger from your mental continuum and replace it with patience, the rest of the sentient beings receive no harm from you, the individual whose mind has been transformed into patience. The absence of harm, their not receiving harm from you, is peace. What they receive from you is happiness.
The benefits of patience
Historically, you can see how, at different times and in different places in the world, one influential person who did not practice patience caused millions of people to die. As a result, many millions of people underwent extraordinary suffering by being imprisoned, tortured and killed-during the Hitler era, in China, in Tibet, in Cambodia, in the West and in many other countries as well. Even now, because they do not practice patience, certain individuals are killing many people. They lack the qualities that make a person good.
Now, consider yourself in light of the above. As an individual practicing patience, learning to be patient, by freeing your mind of anger, you can offer great peace and happiness to numberless other sentient beings, not only in this life, but in many future lives to come. Since there's no anger, you don't harm others. Therefore, many people, animals, fish and insects, for example, receive much peace and happiness from you. Thus, life-to life, with patience towards all sentient beings, you bring significant peace and happiness to the world. By practicing patience you give peace to the world-to your parents, the rest of your family, your friends, the people you work with and, on the grand scale, all sentient beings.
Leaving aside other realizations of the path, if those powerful people had only been educated in, possessed and practiced the good human quality of patience, the good heart, each could have given so much happiness to the world. Many millions of people would have had happiness, enjoyment and long lives instead of just the opposite. One person could have made so much difference had he only been patient instead of angry. Put yourself into this situation. This could happen to you. If you don't practice patience in this or future lives, you, too, could be reborn as someone who harms millions of people. Therefore, you definitely need to practice patience. You should consider it a responsibility. It is extremely important that you educate yourself in patience and practice it. It is perhaps the most important meditation you can do.
When you practice patience, you eliminate anger. That means there's no enemy to bodhicitta in your mind. In other words, it makes it much easier to achieve bodhicitta, the ultimate good heart, the altruistic mind set on attaining enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings. Bodhicitta is the gateway to the Mahayana path, the root of the path to enlightenment and the source of all happiness for both yourself and others.
By actualizing the perfection of patience, you can attain full enlightenment, the great liberation, the cessation of all mental errors and the completion of all realizations. Once you have attained enlightenment, you are free to work perfectly for the welfare of all sentient beings in order to liberate them from all suffering and its cause and bring them to buddhahood as well. This is the long term benefit of practicing patience in your daily life right now, a benefit as measureless as space itself.
Practicing patience today will allow you to become the perfect guide and bring all happiness to numberless sentient beings. Therefore, when somebody treats you badly or when someone gets angry at you, these are the benefits of not getting upset. You can look at it differently. You can see how responding with patience is the source of all happiness-not only your own immediate happiness but also that of your future lives; not only your own happiness, but that of numberless others. You can make it all happen. It comes from your patience.
Patience has many other benefits as well. For example, practicing patience is the cause of receiving a beautiful body in future lives-a beautiful human body or the divine body of a deva. If your body is attractive, it is easier to benefit others. It is also the cause of many of the special qualities of a Buddha's holy body. There are many more benefits of patience.
If you do not practice patience, you will get angry. One of the results of anger is to receive ugly bodies in future lives. If you look ugly, people won't want to see or hear you, won't want to help you and won't pay attention to what you say. Worse than that, you will have to experience the unbearably heavy sufferings of rebirth in hell. And even when after that you're reborn human, there will be many other problems as a result of anger. Anger has many, many drawbacks, but by practicing patience you can avoid them all.
In short, practicing patience on a daily basis has infinite benefit. It brings peace, happiness and success for yourself and others in this and many future lives. Ultimately, you attain enlightenment, and bring all happiness to all sentient beings as you lead them to enlightenment.
How to practice patience
Where does your daily practice of patience that brings all this benefit come from? How do you learn to be patient?
Ask yourself, "Where did I learn this patience that I practice? I learned it from those who have been angry at me. By depending on the angry person I have been able to practice, to realize patience. Therefore, all the peace and happiness that I enjoy in this and future lives as a result of my practice of patience has come from the angry person. It is through the kindness of the angry person, who gave me the opportunity to practice, that I am able to offer peace and happiness to all sentient beings as a result of my patience. Because of this person I am able to accomplish the perfection of patience, the other perfections, and thereby complete the Bodhisattva's path and attain full enlightenment. Through this person's kindness I can eradicate all errors of mind and gain all realizations. It is the angry person who has given me this opportunity. This person is actually giving me enlightenment. Through the kindness of this person I can also offer all peace and happiness to all sentient beings. How kind this person is! How much benefit this person has given me! This is the most precious person in my life! Even if someone were to give me billions and trillions of dollars, I could never buy the peace of mind that I get through the practice of patience. Therefore, the angry person who gives me the opportunity to practice patience is of much greater value than trillions of dollars, mountains of diamonds, acres of gold."
The angry person is even more precious than trillions of wish-fulfilling jewels. The most precious material object we can think of in these examples is the wish-fulfilling jewel. Legend has it that by praying to this mythical gem, you get whatever sense enjoyment you desire. Nevertheless, the angry person with whom you practice patience is far more valuable than trillions of these wish-granting gems. No amount of material wealth can bring you the inner peace that you can achieve by practicing patience with an angry person. That's why such people are so precious.
The only reason the person is so kind and precious is because he is angry at you. There's no reason other than that. This is what makes this person so unbelievably kind. Therefore, even though his anger is so destructive for him, for you it is invaluable. It is of the utmost need in your life. Having somebody angry at you is very, very important.
Say there were a cure for cancer or AIDS. We would regard that medicine as incredibly precious, extremely important, especially if we were suffering from one of those diseases. But even though such remedies could cure those fatal illnesses, it doesn't mean that they could purify your negative karma. They couldn't stop you from being reborn in the suffering lower realms-the hell, hungry ghost or animal realms. Practicing patience, however, does offer that kind of benefit. For example, the practice of patience makes for a happy, peaceful death, a death free from fear and worry. Practicing patience purifies, or counteracts, negative karma. When you practice patience, you don't create negative karma. That means you are not creating the cause for a lower rebirth-patience protects you from that. In fact, the practice of patience creates only positive karma, the cause of good rebirths.
Anyway, in order to practice patience, you need an angry person. As the great Bodhisattva Shantideva pointed out in his teaching, the Bodhicharyavatara, the Buddha isn't angry with you, so you can't practice patience with him. And a doctor's only thought is to help you, so there's no opportunity there either. Similarly, your friends aren't angry with you, so there's no chance to practice patience with them. Therefore, if there's nobody angry at you, there's no opportunity to put into practice the teachings you've received from the Buddha and your gurus. That's why the angry person is most kind, precious and indispensable in your life, and much more important than medicine for cancer or AIDS. We think those medicines are so valuable, but when you think about it this way, you can see how much more precious the angry person is. The benefits of practicing patience are infinite.
We always want in our life someone who loves us. We feel that this is important for our happiness. But you can see now that it's much more important to have in our life someone who doesn't love us, who's angry at us, so that we can practice training our minds. As I mentioned before, if you don't have such a person, if you don't train your mind, then even if you do find a friend, there's the danger that through lack of patience, you'll turn your friend into an enemy.
Therefore, to maintain harmonious relationships with others, to keep your friends, you have to practice patience. To lead a happy and successful life, you almost have to train yourself like a soldier preparing for battle. Soldiers train before marching off to war. You need to do the same. Training your mind by practicing meditation on patience is the way to prepare yourself for the battles of daily life. Leaving aside the happiness of future lives or that of other sentient beings, even for the happiness of this life, you have to practice patience.
The power of positive thinking
So now, going back to what I was saying before, look at the indescribable benefits of seeing in a positive light those who don't love you, those who are angry at you. Look at the profits you can reap-every happiness all the way up to enlightenment and the ability to bring every happiness to all sentient beings. The more clearly you understand this, the easier it will be to look positively at someone who is angry with you. In this way, your own anger does not arise and you generate a happy, peaceful, patient mind instead.
No matter how angry at you the other person gets, no matter how much the other person whines and complains, your patient mind never sees that person as an enemy, as someone to avoid, as someone to get away from, as irritating. Rather, you see that person as kind, precious. You feel, "She's purifying my negative karma. All this criticism of me helps purify my negative karma of having criticized and harmed others. How kind she is to help me in this way."
By transforming your mind into patience like this, you get this immediate peace and happiness-that day, that minute, that second-and the long-term benefits as well. All this is due to the kindness of that angry person. If you do not practice patience, if you interpret what the angry person is doing with her body, speech and mind as negative, as harmful to yourself-your mind applies a negative label to the situation and you believe in that-your own anger will arise. That anger will make you see the angry person as negative, undesirable, someone you want to neither see nor help, someone you want to lash out at and hurt. When your mind is angry you see the other person in a completely different light, opposite to the way in which your patience perceives that person. Your anger makes her look repulsive.
The happiness and difficulties we experience every day come from our mind. Whatever we're experiencing at any given moment is dependent upon the way we think, our concepts, our attitude. Our attitude determines how we feel.
For example, once in Tibet there were a couple of monks who returned to their monastery after a long and tiring journey. To welcome them back, their teacher offered them cold tea. One of the disciples thought, "How kind our teacher is. He knew we were hot and thirsty so he intentionally gave us tea that was cold." The other thought, "How mean and lazy. He couldn't even give us hot tea," and got upset and angry. So, he destroyed himself. There was no benefit from the way he thought to either himself or his teacher. But, by having a positive view, the first student made himself and his teacher happy, made his mind peaceful and, since the tea had been offered by his guru, created much merit. The action-offering cold tea-was the same. What was different was the students' interpretation of that action. One labeled it positive and was happy. The other labeled it negative and created a problem for himself.
I started this talk with a quotation from Guru Shakyamuni Buddha:
Do not engage in any harmful actions;
Perform only those that are good;
Subdue your own mind-
This is the teaching of the Buddha.
The first is the cause of suffering, the second the cause of happiness. The discussion of the importance and benefits of patience evolved from that. Everything comes from your mind, everything depends upon the way you think, your moment to moment concepts. Do you label things negatively or positively? The heaviest suffering, what we call hell, comes from your own mind; the greatest happiness, what we call enlightenment, comes from your own mind.
Therefore, the Buddha is saying that the way to never have negative thoughts, the cause of suffering, and to have only a positive mind, which results in only happiness, is to subdue, or take care of, your own mind. Watch your mind all the time. Practice mindfulness. Guard your mind, protect it from disturbing thoughts and eradicate your delusions. How is all that done? Through actualizing the five paths. In the case of the Mahayana, by actualizing Bodhicitta and developing the wisdom realizing emptiness. Through the wisdom directly perceiving emptiness, you can completely remove the two types of defilement and attain full enlightenment.
Therefore, subduing the mind is the teaching of the Buddha. That's the key. Your own mind is the door to happiness; your own mind is the door to suffering. It all depends upon how you use it. It's like the remote control that controls the channels on your TV.
Click it this way, it goes up; click it that way, it goes down. The way you think determines whether you'll experience happiness or suffering.
What creates the labels?
Before I finish, I'll make one more point. Like the monks in the story above, our minds are constantly making up labels that affect our lives. Depending upon the label, we experience different feelings-pleasant, unpleasant or neutral-and that's how our life goes, twenty-four hours a day. So, what is it that causes our mind to create these different labels? People who apply positive labels experience happiness. People who apply negative labels experience suffering. What is it, then, that causes us to label things positive or negative? What's the force behind all this?
It's karma. Because of past karma, some people are able to label things positively while others have to label them negatively. The underlying cause is karma. Therefore, you can see how crucial it is to purify past negative karma and not to create any more-in other words, how essential it is to practice Dharma. Only the practice of Dharma can remove or prevent the negative karma that forces us to label things negatively, thereby creating our own suffering. Dharma is the solution to all life's problems, whatever they are, and, more importantly, the sole means of preventing them from arising in the first place.
By practicing Dharma now, we can avoid creating the causes for the heaviest sufferings of samsara, those of the lower realms - the hell, hungry ghost and animal realms-and the sufferings we go through in the upper realms, even as humans-illnesses such as cancer and AIDS, aging, death, everything-and thus avoid having to experience them.
By practicing Dharma now we can purify the already created karma of such results. Here is where the whole answer to our problems lies - purify the negative karma already created; do not create any more. This is the reason we take precepts such as the refuge vow, the five lay precepts, not to mention the ordination vows taken by monks and nuns. You don't even have to take all five precepts. You can take one, two, three or four-whatever you can manage. Of course, there are countless negative karma, but at least you can vow not to create certain kinds.
By practicing Dharma today we also create the causes for our own happiness-the happiness of this life, future lives, liberation and enlightenment. This is something we can do right now. Therefore, it is essential to create as much good karma as possible, while we have the chance. We should take every opportunity to create even the tiniest merit. Since we want even smallest comfort, we have to create its cause. Similarly, since we don't want to experience even the smallest suffering or inconvenience, we have to avoid creating even the tiniest non-virtue. As it says in the Vinaya teaching, Dulwa lung, "Small drops fill a big pot." Therefore, we shouldn't think that small merits are useless. Try to collect as many as possible. It also says, "A tiny spark can ignite a huge forest." Therefore, don't think that small negative karma won't bring results. Avoid them too. Here is where we must direct all our effort. This is the Buddha's fundamental advice.
The above teaching extracted from VIRTUE & REALITY - A compilation of Rinpoche's teachings edited by Dr. Nick Ribush and published by Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archives.
Teaching by Lama Zasep Tulku Rinpoche
September 1998, Vancouver, BC, Canada
Tonight's talk: the subject of the talk is Guru Yoga. I thought tonight I'll talk about Guru Yoga, tomorrow night I will talk about the concept of sunyata, and Friday night I would like to talk about bodhicitta.
These topics are most important, very important, according to Lam Rim teaching and according to various sutras said that Guru Yoga is the root of the realizations of the path. So I think we have something to think about and maybe something to debate about. And you could ask questions: Is it really true? Guru Yoga is the root of the spiritual realization? You could also ask question to your Dharma brother or Dharma sister: Is it possible one can become enlightened or one can become Buddha without the guru or lama or master? Is it possible or not? You could ask question.
Now if you do need guru and establish guru-disciple relationship, if it is very important, if it is very, very necessary, then how long does one need guru and how long does one need guru-disciple relationship? For couple of years, three years, or six years, or many, many years or rest of your life -- how long?
So this sort of question I think is very important. Also, can one have few gurus, or more than one guru, or can one have many, many gurus or not? This can be also a good question for us. It says Atisha had 157 gurus, and so one obviously can have many, many gurus. It's almost as if you need to have a monogamous relationship with one guru, and maybe it's not very healthy and maybe you don't learn very much. And sometimes if you have this kind of guru-disciple relationship, one guru, then sometimes you're not sure who's guru and who is disciple and you become one. Sometimes, like a couple, together for so long so they become like one person and they say anyway -- I don't know, I haven't been with someone so many years. People say even if you been with a pet, dog, you become like the dog and you even have a similar kind of personality, even looks similar sometimes. Sometime when you see man walking down street with his dog, they look similar, the way they walk, and so one can ask questions. I think it's good to ask questions.
Also, is it possible or permissible to end spiritual relationship with one guru and start another one, and keep changing? Is it possible or not? Like male-female relationship, is it possible? So, I think these questions are important to ask and I think some people are not sure and they're reluctant to ask questions. I think these are important. I shouldn't talk too much.
So, in Lam Rim teaching it says, and in the sutras it also says that Guru Yoga is the root of the realizations of the path. It is necessary to have guru if oneself is committed to the path of enlightenment, or Dharma path, or Buddhist path, or Mahayana path, or tantra path, it is important to have a guru. If one wish to really cultivate realization, if one believes in the progress and one to become Buddha.
If you are only studying Dharma for the sake of study, sake of development of your understanding of Dharma, if you are only studying Dharma intellectually, just intellectually on intellectual level, then I don't think you need a guru-disciple relationship. And also you can study with all kinds of teachers. It's like going to university. You study with different teachers or professors, and you go on, you move on. But if you wish to commit yourself to the path, then it is necessary, because one needs to know how to accomplish the realization, how to practice the Dharma.
It says in the Lam Rim, even ordinary things, when you want to learn something good, something thoroughly, like art or music, crafts and woodwork, stonework, pottery and so on, or carpet, thanka paintings, weaving and so on and so forth. What we normally would call worldly matters, worldly things, it is necessary to have a teacher and to establish close relationship with authentic teacher.
Let's say if you want to study thanka painting, Tibetan traditional thanka painting, it is necessary, it is beneficial to have a close connection and a relationship with one master, authentic thanka teacher, thanka painter, master, so you study with this person for seven years, six years, eight years, whatever. It depends on how much you need. Then one can learn a lot. Also, like if you're studying astrology, numerology, or Tibetan medicine. According to Tibetan medicine and astrology, it says one should study minimum seven years under one teacher, master. Then you could become a good medicine man and one can become a good doctor. So it is like that.
Now, Dharma practice, meditation, is much, much more deeper, and these spiritual realizations that we are trying to cultivate, trying to accomplish, it is very profound and delicate. Therefore we do need master or teacher or lama or guru who can show us how to do the practice properly and correctly. So therefore we can learn easily and without confusion and without wasting time and energy. And also one can gain realizations faster and one can develop confidence in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha faster. Therefore it is necessary to have guru or teacher.
Then Lam Rim says -- teaching says -- Lam Rim teaching talks about benefit of having teacher, spiritual teacher or guru. So I'd like to go through this, the benefits.
One of the benefits, first benefit, is if you have a guru or spiritual teacher, one can become closer to the buddhahood. One could achieve buddhahood in this very same lifetime due to the kindness of guru, due to the guardianship of guru, advice of guru and the help of the guru. There are many great people who become enlightened in one lifetime by the kindness of the guru, help of guru, when working together as a guru and disciple. Famous yogis like Milarepa and Lama Tsongkhapa, Sakya Pandita and Dromtopa, the disciple of Atisha, and so forth. We have many authentic sources and stories, life stories.
And in the tantric sadhanas we have a prayer, or sort of like a request, or you could say praise to guru. It says, "By your great kindness I can attain enlightenment instantly." Now is it possible one can attain enlightenment instantly? No, not possible, no way. But then, so why do they say, "By your great kindness I could become enlightened instantly"? So this means by the kindness of the guru, teacher, working with the teacher, one can become enlightened in this lifetime or next lifetime. In this lifetime or next lifetime. Maybe two lifetimes. In one hand, that is a long time. Let's say you become enlightened or become Buddha after thirty years of studying and practicing, meditating, and you can say, "Oh, that's so long -- a long, long time. A long, long time -- I didn't know it takes so long to become enlightened. I didn't know one has to sacrifice the rest of one's life, or half of the life." It is not a question of actually sacrifice. When we practice Dharma, we practice with joy and with love and with happiness, with excitement, great pleasure. It's not some sort of obligation or sacrifice.
So if I become Buddha within one lifetime, within thirty years, or forty years, whatever, that time, that chunk of time -- if you compare that time with how many lifetimes in the past we wander around in the samsara, life after life, birth after birth, death after death, bardo after bardo, we travel so many times in the past. We haven't achieved really anything significant, spiritual realizations. And we could still travel if you don't have Dharma in our lives, if you don't have guru in your lives, if you don't have a Sangha in our lives. We could still travel in samsara, reborn again and again, go through death, birth, old age, sickness, dissatisfaction, suffering and happiness, up and down, over and over. We can go on and on for thousands of lifetimes, hundreds of lifetimes. So comparing to that much time that we have to go through, if one become Buddha within thirty years, then that is like, almost like instant. This is the meaning, why they say, "By your great kindness I can become enlightened instantly." If says in the sadhanas like Yamantaka sadhana, Vajrayogini self-initiation, usually in the self-initiation or sadhana it always says like that.
Time goes so fast, see. For example, if you think about your own life, some people here have been doctor for thirty years, some people here have been a psychologist for thirty years, some people maybe here who've been a nurse for thirty years. Some people here been school teacher for thirty years. I have been myself teaching Dharma in the west for twenty-one years. In India, little bit here and there, altogether probably twenty-five years. When I look back now, it's -- wow -- I don't remember ever seeing what I did and where I went. And it's like a dream, it went so fast. So it just goes so fast. Time goes so fast and suddenly we realize I'm getting old, and we have to change our attitudes. We have to go to another existence. So therefore, it is like an instant.
Therefore we say guru's kindness, a guru's kindness is very special, or like treasure. Now you can see, therefore, we need a teacher, we need a guru. Some people might think, "I think there are people who never had a teacher or guru, never established formally a student-teacher relationship and who become Buddha. What about Jesus? What about Mohammed? What about Buddha himself? Who was Buddha's guru? Did he have guru? Did he ever become disciple?" And people have questions, lots of questions. Buddha had a guru, Buddha had teachers. And I'm sure Jesus and Mohammed had teachers. I don't know their teachers, the names of their teachers and their gurus and where they learned their path. And I'm sure they do have, from our Buddhist point of view and also from the Christian, many Christians, early Christians, their point of view, Jesus was reincarnation of a highly realized being, bodhisattva, I believe myself.
So it is necessary to have guru, to find a guru, to meet guru, but it is also necessary to find and meet guru, teacher, that we have special karmic connection. And you meet many teachers, gurus. Sometimes you don't feel there's a connection, there is no connection. Sometimes you meet high lamas, high teachers -- they are very high, very special, very holy, wonderful teachers, they are living Buddhas. But sometimes you might personally feel you have no connection. Sometimes you meet a lama who's not a famous lama, or guru who has hundreds and thousands of disciples, but a very highly enlightened being. And you meet, and sometimes you don't feel connection.
When you meet the teacher or lama, you have that karmic connection and a karmic connection in the past. And you know from your heart. You don't need explanation. Nobody has to tell you the qualities of the gurus. These are the qualities of the guru. Qualities of the great teachers, or qualified gurus -- you don't need to explain. You don't need to go through this list of these things. You feel these. You feel, "This is my guru." You feel very special. So it is important, Lam Rim teaching says it is important to study with guru that you feel there is a strong connection. That's a very important one.
The second benefit of having guru is, it says if you have guru, if you have guru, if you established good teacher-student relationship or guru-disciple relationship it will be so beneficial. It will fulfill the wishes of all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas because the Buddhas come to the world as a teacher, as a guru, as a master. Comes to the world as a human being. Because we as human beings, we don't have the capacity or ability to receive teachings directly from dharmakaya, the Buddhas who are in the dharmakaya level, in the dharmakaya aspect.
We don't have also the opportunity to receive teachings from sambhogakaya Buddhas, because we are not in that level, we're not Bodhisattvas. In order to receive teachings directly from sambhogakaya Buddha one has to become Bodhisattva. We are not ready, not on that level. Even to receive teachings directly from nirmanakaya Buddhas one has to have lots of good karma. In other words good luck or you could say good karma. If one has very little karma, obscurations in our mind, defilements, then one could see nirmanakaya Buddhas, one can receive teachings from nirmanakaya Buddhas directly.
So, many people are not on that level. Therefore it is necessary to have a teacher, guru who is accessible for us and we can relate as human-to-human, and one-to-one, and on very human level, and necessary. For that reason, the Buddha and Bodhisattvas reincarnate as a human being and what we call avatar or reincarnations or as a human being. Not necessarily the teacher is some kind of reincarnated lama, or recognized by some group or association or lab-rung or monastery. But Buddhas and Bodhisattvas do reincarnate all the time as a normal, ordinary human being in order to guide and help and teach sentient beings. We can relate on a human level, one-to-one.
It says in Tibetan word, [Tibetan word]. "??" means myself, "??" means like same level, equal. Even Buddha and Bodhisattva reincarnate as a human being, more or less same level, so then you can talk, you can share your pain and suffering. And even the guru will say, "I have pain, too. I am human, I have sickness, I have cold, I have flu and I have lung problems and stomach problems and so on. I can't stand these kinds of pollutions and noise and so on and so forth. I'm hungry, I'm thirsty, I need sleep." So just like any other human beings. Then you can share.
Guru on the one hand as a human being, like ordinary person. At the same time, very same time, this guru is, or can be, a fully-enlightened one, the Buddha or can be Bodhisattva. And so if we are on the same level, I don't mean spiritual attainment, of course, we're not the same level. This is why we go to a guru, right? If you are on the same spiritual level, spiritual matter, then what is the benefit of going to somebody? Or you could share as a Sangha, as a friend. But on a spiritual level it is not the same. But on a human level it is as the same, so that you can share.
It says, "All the Buddhas and Bodhisattva reincarnated as a human," and that's the second benefit.
The third benefit is if you have a teacher, guru, and if you have a good and healthy spirit relationship with guru, good guru-disciple relationship, healthy one. If you have good relationship, then your Dharma practice will increase and your merit will increase and, Tibetan word is "sonam", your sonam will increase.
Due to the blessing of guru and good energy and inspiration of guru one cannot be harmed by maras. Mara literally means evil spirit, but this kind of mara is different. It says here, "You cannot be harmed by mara," which means defilements, delusions, and also one cannot be harmed by unwholesome karmas and obscurations.
And also one cannot be influenced by people who mislead you into the wrong direction, wrong path, and into wrong livelihood. Because if you have good teacher, because of the kindness of the teacher and skillfulness of the teacher, skillful means of the teacher and good influence you always have awareness, mindfulness, good energy, clear mind. So you won't have confusion, you cannot be easily influenced by others -- people who mislead into wrong path, or into involving wrong livelihood or unwholesome action and unwholesome karma.
The fourth benefit of having guru is the defilements, delusions and unwholesome actions of the body, speech and mind naturally more or less automatically, or naturally, subside, naturally decrease. Because due to the influence of the teacher and kindness of the teacher, guru, and one develops wisdom of skillful means. You know how to avoid unwholesome karma, unwholesome speech, unwholesome mind, unwholesome thoughts, and so on and so forth.
And one also learns skillful means and one learns how to collect virtues and cultivate virtues through our body, speech and mind, exactly and precisely and properly. And also due to the good influence of the guru and teacher, one learns how to practice patience, inexhaustible patience and perseverance. For example, if you look at certain lamas, their patience, perseverance, it's unthinkable.
I heard once, Lama Zopa had interviews, one weekend he had interviews with fifty-five people in Australia in one weekend. Fifty-five people in one weekend! Some people, when you have an interview it takes a long time, maybe an hour. You know, because some people have so much to talk about, they have so many problems. So you can't say, "Go away now, that's enough. Go away." You can't say, "Buzz off!" [Laughs.] "O.k., go on. Tell me more. Then what happened?" You have to listen.
So some people when they talk about their stuff, like their Dharma practice, their problems with Dharma or problems with their life, and so on and so forth -- so complicated. Very complicated people, extremely complicated. Sometimes it's hard to understand what he's trying to say. What he's asking. Is he asking questions or telling me his life stories? What is he trying to say? Go around in a circle, don't get into the point. So finally, after forty-five minutes you get into the point of the question. Some people are so complicated. And some people I found, they don't know how to ask questions, and you try to figure out the question. "Do you mean this way?" And then we try to make question. "Do you mean this way? I think so. If you mean this way, then I think this might be the answer. If this is maybe your question, let me think about what is the best answer." So it takes so long, takes so much energy. It's quite exhausting.
So you can imagine like having interview with fifty-four people in a weekend? So think about the patience of lama like Lama Zopa, the perseverance and devotion to the Dharmais unthinkable. He's doing this for the sake of sentient beings. I heard people say to him, "Are you tired? Lama, are you tired?" And he says, "For the benefit of all sentient beings, I am not tired. I never get tired." And you don't consider this work. This is part of life, this is a part of my life, part of my life. And I'm so glad -- it's my pleasure to serve the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, and people, and help. Of course, you are born to the world for this purpose, see. So the kindness is unthinkable.
So when you think about he kindness of the guru, they you naturally feel, "I have to be kind, I have to be patient, I should have perseverance." So you learn. And this is the kindness of the guru, this is having a guru.
It also says that when you're around with the guru, being around with guru, sitting with guru, talking with guru, and due to the influence of the guru it naturally decreases your bad habits. I know myself. I studied my teachers for so many years, I know. And because of the kindness of our teachers, and our habits and unwholesome thinking actions naturally decrease. And one of the sutras called "..." if you are protected by the guru, your practice or your meditation on bodhicitta will increase like the moon, like the new moon. Unwholesome karmas, unwholesome mind, delusions, ego, defilements cannot come, cannot slip into your mindstream. There is so much benefit having teacher, having guru.
And also, according to oral transmission of Kadampa tradition, and Gelugpa tradition, it says one learns actually the real Dharma, practical Dharma practice one learns from teacher, being around teacher, spending time with teacher, working with teacher, travelling with teacher, serving the guru, and one can learn the real practical Dharma. One can learn more than listening formal teachings and discourse from gurus. Because formal teachings are very formal. We are not always formal. When we receiving formal teachings, lot of time we don't know how to integrate these formal teachings into our everyday life. But if you have a good connection or close relationship with a guru or gurus, then guru is an example so that you learn so much from observing, through your observation. And the way the guru deals with people, talking, teaching, helping, guiding through skillful means, sometimes becomes very wrathful, sometimes peaceful and so on and so forth. And one can learn real, practical Dharma teachings, the practice, the path. This is the benefit of having guru.
The fifth benefit, it says because of the kindness of guru, having teacher, good relationship, the path will increase and realizations will increase. Insights will increase, one's own siddhi will increase.
So there are many stories. We have many stories. Atisha's disciple, famous disciple called Dromtonpa. There was also another disciple called Ami Jangchub Renchen. So Dromtonpa had very high realizations right from the beginning when Atisha met Dromtonpa. And people are wondering why Dromtonpa had so much realizations before he even met Atisha. Because Atisha knew through his psychic mind and clairvoyance, and Atisha said that Dromtonpa practiced perfect guru devotion. He had another guru called Lama Setsun. Dromtonpa, when he was young, he served Lama Setsun, and he received teachings and he practiced perfect guru devotion with the Lama Setsun. Therefore he accomplished high realizations.
And so we have many stories about the guru-disciple relationship and also benefit of serving the guru. For example, Dromtonpa was great disciple and example of disciple or yogi who practiced guru yoga perfectly. And there is a story, for example, when Atisha becomes very old and he was quite ill and he couldn't get up from the bed and he couldn't go out to field to pee, and he couldn't go to the outhouse. So Dromtonpa took his pee pot out and he even scoop up his feces by his hand and he did service for his guru. It says one day he was taking out Atisha's pee pot and walking down the steps, and all of a sudden Dromtonpa achieve, accomplished a very advanced clairvoyance because due to the power of serving guru purify obscurations of the mind. So there are lots of stories like this.
There is also a story of Sakya Pandita, the great scholar and great tantric master, teacher according to the Sakyapa tradition. He was serving his guru and Dyalpa Gyaltsen was also his uncle, and so they have a not only relationship of teacher-student, but they have uncle-nephew relationship. So sometimes Sakya Pandita felt there was some kind of obstacles. And he found out the obstacle was he felt somehow he couldn't have a deep feeling or devotion to his uncle Dyalpa Gyaltsen as a Buddha. Because Dyalpa Gyaltsen was a fully-enlightened one, he achieved the holy state, enlightened state of Vajrayogini and Chakyasambara Heruka because these lamas are in the lineage of Heruka and Vajrayogini tantra. So he couldn't really accept Dyalpa Gyaltsen as a fully-enlightened being, Buddha, because he felt always in part of his mind says, "He is my uncle. We have same blood, we are in the same family." He felt too close, and somehow he couldn't accept as a fully-enlightened one.
Then he was serving, and one day this obscuration was gone, and of course he knows Dyalpa Gyaltsen was his uncle, but same time he realized that when you're very, very close, when you have blood relationship and when you grow up in the same family, sometimes, too close, you don't see the greatness of this person. Like sometimes children don't want to ask help from their mother or father, even mother or father can be great psychologist or philosopher. They feel they have to go to somebody else, because they feel too close. Even lamas, highly realized beings, have these kinds of human feelings. These things become an obstacle. So one day these obstacles is gone. And then Sakya Pandita become great scholar and great yogi, enlightened one. Like that, there are so many stories, we don't have time now to talk about. You're going to study the text, Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand, and then you can have the pleasure to study and to do analytical meditation.
The sixth benefit of having guru is serving guru and having guru, is in the future you will never feel lack of teacher, lack of spiritual guide. Because if you have good spiritual teacher-student relationship, if have guru, because due to that good karma, continual karma. So that in the future lives one always find the right teacher, because you are creating this condition to meet other teachers from same lineage, from the same path.
The seventh benefit of having teacher is, it says that if you have a teacher, one will not experience sufferings of lower migrations and lower rebirth, or suffering like being in the lower realms, being reborn in the lower realms. And because of the power and kindness of guru, will purify those karmas. Because if one finds a good teacher, enlightened teacher, because of the skillful means of this guru's conduct, and whatever the guru is doing to you becomes a teaching, becomes an enlightening experience.
There was a great Kargyupa lama called Dongun Sanpa Gyargye, great Kargyupa lama, great yogi, saint. He was a very famous poet, like Milarepa. He said when the guru is beating you, hitting you, you feel like you're receiving great initiation. And you feel you're blessed, totally blessed. When my guru is scolding at me, I feel like I'm receiving new mantra, and I'm receiving lung of transmission of new mantra, therefore all my obstacles on the path to enlightenment will immediately disappear.
So, I'm not sure you'll find a guru who will beat you, and who will scold you. I'm not sure we will find one like this, that kind of guru these days. It will be a difficult one. It is also difficult for the guru. And in today's North America society, if guru is beating disciple, or scolding, then guru could be charged for abuse and mental cruelty and physical abuse. Guru could end up in jail. [Laughter] I don't think there are many gurus who dare to do that. Even if he wish to do that, thinks it's good to do this, I think one has to be actually kind of enlightened disciple, one has to be enlightened guru, both, if you're willing to take that kind of chance or challenge. Or you have to be back in Tibet, go back to Tibet, and live in the mountains somewhere and you have to have a real blind faith and say, "Please hit me, Lama! Teach me, Lama! I can't meditate. I want you to hit me four times. Yesterday you hit me, and my meditation was so good. Please hit me more! I like having lumps on my head. [more laughter] I feel so good after you scold me. I feel so good. All my defilements went and I feel uplifted, I feel almost I was going to levitate."
So, it's part of our culture, maybe a little bit of blind faith mixed up, whatever. See the thing is, it doesn't matter if it's blind faith or whatever. If you do really have devotion, you have that kind of mind, faith, I mean trust. If you have a good teacher who is teaching you from pure heart, totally selfless, guru who has unconditioned love, compassion for you. If he thinks it's important to hit you, then that kind of hitting, it is like an initiation, it is like blessing.
When I was young, I was small, I was teenaged, my guru beat me. Sometimes hard when teacher hitting, and then sometimes I see the difference next day, my meditation is better. I can memorize text really fast! So I feel, I wish he will come and beat me again, and sometimes I feel, "I should create conditions and maybe I should make him mad, and then he will come and hit me. But then if I make him mad, then it's bad karma making guru being mad, that's not good. So what kind of attitude is this?" [Laughter] It's a guru-disciple game.
They say when the guru and disciple become very close to each other, and build up so much faith, so much trust, so then some teachers have a lot of confidence in certain students. So the teacher knows this student has so much confidence and faith, so therefore if he scold, if he hit, it doesn't matter. This disciple has so much faith. So, and it is fine, and therefore it is ok to do that, then they do it. Sometimes the teacher who is very happy with certain student, the more he is happy the teacher is more scolding the student. You see this kind of thing in our tradition, in Tibet. And still happens in India, in the monasteries and meditation places, retreats. It happens like this.
The last benefit of teacher, it says that one can achieve all the temporary goals and ultimate goals. Temporary goals of Dharma practice, or aims of Dharma practice, and ultimate in goals of Dharma practice. And one can achieve the realizations, the siddhis of temporary and ultimate. There's a quotation in this book from "The Prayers of the Stages of the Path" by Lama Tsongkhapa, "The path begins with strong reliance on my kind teacher, source of all good. Oh, bless me with this understanding to follow him with great devotion."
I'd like to now ask a question to you, that you might have questions. Do you have questions regarding Guru Yoga? I am sure you have questions. I'm very happy to answer as much as I can.
Q: Some of the questions you brought up at the beginning of the talk, you were talking about the ability to have one or more gurus through the course of your study, and you used Atisha as an example of someone who did have many gurus.
I was also wondering, there being students involved with certain teachers whose conduct caused the teacher-disciple relationship to dissolve. Perhaps the student didn't feel supported or didn't feel the relationship was such that -- even though he took refuge with this particular teacher and took vows with this particular teacher -- perhaps the conduct of that particular teacher left that particular student with a sense of not having fulfilled the expectation the student had of proper conduct. So the student dissolved the relationship between the teacher and student and it also left a lot of students floundering, lost, very damaged actually by the process. And I am wondering how does one begin to rebuild that relationship with another teacher. Very cautiously, no doubt. I am wondering, perhaps you could speak to some of those questions between the guru-disciple relationship where difficulty arises. And perhaps you could cite some other examples where it had occurred in the past with other teachers and other students.
Rinpoche: I think that maybe you have two questions here. First thing is you raised the question about Atisha having many teachers. I think Atisha was exception because Atisha himself was a very highly realized being, right from the beginning. He was known as an emanation or manifestation of Manjushri, and so forth. He was a Bodhisattva; he was born as a Bodhisattva. He was exception, I think.
He received initiations and teachings from various teachers, like altogether 154-155. And he did trainings and so forth because he felt he had a great responsibility to preserve the Dharma. To hold the various lineages, keep them and then preserve them and then introduce them to places like Tibet. So he become the founder of Kadampa tradition. And also, he was in many ways also indirectly the founder of Gelugpa tradition as well. So, because you have responsibility, take all kinds of initiations to save the lineage of the initiation, I think that was the main reason. It's not because he needed 157 gurus. It also doesn't mean that he was implying to people that people should have lots and lots of teachers, lots of gurus.
I think it also says in the teachings, and I think it's our own experience, we know it's hard when you have so many teachers, too many teachers, different teachers. Especially when teachers come from different background, different training, different sect, different lineages. So these practices are quite different, and since they are so different, or quite different, we don't know how to encompass, put it together and make one path. Therefore, it also suggests one should not take too many teachers, and better not to take too many. It's easier to have few teachers. So I think, as I mentioned before, it is important to meet a teacher, have a teacher that you feel there's a karmic connection.
But also, you don't need a lot of teachers, because sometimes we have this grasping -- we want more teachers, more initiations, more practice, more is better. It's part of grasping mind. People do Dharma shopping, guru shopping, initiation shopping, shop, shop, shop. [Laughter.] And so it's better to have fewer teachers.
And I think for guru it is also very hard, difficult, big responsibility having so many students. This is one of the problems, perhaps the problem that you were talking about. When the teacher has so many students, then how can teacher fulfill the wishes and expectations of so many students? It is very difficult for teacher to fulfill their expectations. Teacher has very little time.
Basically you are a human being. I think what happens is, when you have so many students and if the particular lineage and the teacher has so many Dharma centers, big organizations, then the teacher doesn't know really what is happening a lot of times down there. And then, you have below you, other teachers, like junior teachers and meditation instructors, and there are lots of secondhand teachings and third-hand teachings. Different interpretations, people says, "Guru says this, guru says that. Lama said this and that." There's all kinds of interpretations, and then people confused.
And when the teacher has so many disciples, you have to wait for interview sometimes six months. I know, I heard from certain lamas, if you're a student of certain lamas, you have to wait, sometimes six months for interview, sometimes one year. How much can you really talk about, how much can you really say? And how do you really establish relationship? It's very hard.
Then sometimes due to the problem of so many students, so many things going on, there's also problems -- personal dynamics problems. As a Dharma student, ordinary people, we have so many ego problems, delusions, power, competition, jealousy. It's human. There's so much happening, and the teacher doesn't know these things. There's Dharma politics going on, and these become a problem. Sometimes you get confused and sometimes you don't know what the teacher is saying, or the second teacher, or the third teacher's saying. You are not really sure what is going on here. So it is very confusing.
That's why in Tibet some lamas have fixed disciples. They'll say, "Only seventy students. Or only twenty-five students, no more. Can't do it anymore. Too many students no good. Quality is better." I have seen certain Hindu gurus, they have only twenty disciples, maybe twelve disciples. I know one of my teachers only had, only really heart disciples. He gives public teachings, but he won't really formally accept many students. He had only fifteen to sixteen students because then you can work together closely, you can have good quality. You can produce good disciples, good yogis and yoginis. So it is very confusing, difficult. Then due to so much going on, teacher gets old and sometimes becomes sick, and then dies. Then disappointments -- the disciples feel they're abandoned and ignored and unanswered wishes and expectations, and things are falling apart. And then you need to go and find another teacher. So this normally happens because of too many students, too much big organization.
But at the same time, we have to think about also teacher -- it's up to them, up to their choice how many students to have. Students, it's up to their choice how many gurus they want -- or no gurus, it's your choice. Also, many teachers feel it's their responsibility to teach the Dharma to as many as possible. Some teachers prefer to have many students for the sake of the Dharma and Sangha. They want to spread the word of the Buddha as much as possible. Even you can spend very little time, you want to teach and help.
And sometimes -- it's again, as I said before, it's a karmic connection with a certain teacher, and even if you don't see this teacher for years and years. Maybe you see him or her once every three or four or five years, just glimpse of contact, physical contact, maybe have an interview once every four years, sometimes that's good enough, that's all you need. It depends on the karma, depends on your personal connection. It's hard to say exactly what you need.
Like in the Hindu tradition, they have this, what they call in India "darshan." Sometimes the guru doesn't talk, he's silent for thirty years. So he's sitting there -- you go up and he's sitting in front of you. Who is he? Guru sits there, smiles, and so you make contact. You receive darshan, blessings. And you have a heart connection, you have devotion, and by the power of guru, by his presence you are blessed, moment you see him sitting in front of you. And that meeting, just eye contact, just sitting together for hour or half hour, whatever, it itself becomes initiation, without performing rituals, saying words. And that's good enough. So various students have various needs.
So, like your question, like you said, there's bitterness. There is confusion and problems because of conduct of teacher. Whatever the problem was, maybe it could come from the organization, the people under the teacher, or maybe could be problem come from the teacher. Whatever has happened, if the teacher is gone now, so in order to find inner peace and happiness, what we need to do is -- what I would like to suggest is the teacher is gone now, so you should always remember, always be thankful for what you have learned from the teacher, from him or her. We are disappointed because we need all the time teacher's advice. Sometimes we feel we are abandoned, like children when the parents die suddenly, the children can't accept it, feel abandoned. So lot of times teacher-student relationship is like father-son relationship or mother-daughter relationship, similar. There is always this needy thing.
So we have to let go, accept that's the way it is, law of impermanence. Teacher goes. Disciple goes. We all go. Buddha Shakyamuni himself passed away. He left so many disciples behind. He said, "I'm going now. This is teaching. This is teaching. But you have a teacher. I taught the Dharma forty-six years, all the teachings. That's your teacher now. I have to leave this body. This body is like that old tree, it's rotten, falling apart, falling down, and I'm expired." So that we have to accept. Teacher is gone.
Whatever there is problem, we don't really know what the problems are, where the problems come from -- maybe from organization, maybe from teacher, maybe a lot of times our own mind, our own confusions, because we are confused. Normally we are all confused. Because as a samsaric person, if we don't have realization of shunyata, actually bodhicitta, I can say we are all confused. I don't mean all the time, but we are usually, generally, confused. The Tibetan word is called "turpa" -- means confused. We don't have direct perception of shunyata and life is like a dream, an illusion, and we are confused. So there is much confusion happening.
Also the guru's conduct -- if he appears immoral or unethical, whatever happened -- maybe guru who passed away, maybe he had a problem. That also happens. See the thing is, guru -- in one level, he is enlightened being, on a spiritual side. But then a part of guru, you are still human. There is still passion, still desire, still some kind of rigid mind, and fear and maybe insecurity due to childhood upbringing, environment, society. Because being a human, you still have problem, like short circuit, and confusion happens. Even with enlightened beings, it appears they have some problems. But at the same time, also very enlightened, great teacher. He helped so many people, liberated so many people.
So we have to accept it, that's the way it is. So it is unhealthy to keep kind of negative feelings -- "That guru wasn't very good for me. He cheated me, what a rip-off! I had so much faith and I felt I'm cheated. I feel so bad!" So that's unhealthy for us. What we need is we have to find peace. Most important thing is, whatever happened is gone. Now it is finished. So now, "I like to be thankful all the teachings, so many things I learned from you. Thank you very much."
Also, it's possible if you study Lam Rim like the "Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand" it says that certain gurus are emanation of Bodhisattva, emanation of Buddha. And because Buddha and Bodhisattva reincarnate as a human in order to relate to human beings, as I mentioned before, they have to be on a human level. So they help human beings. So some gurus act like they're mad, act like crazy, act like strange or a little lunatic, act like a drunk and does weird things.
You've heard the story of the divine madman of Bhutan. There's this book written by Keith ? and translated, we call Dropa Gelig (?) He was a divine enlightened being, but he appeared like a madman. So we don't know what is really happening. Hard to say what is happening there. Whether this person is divine enlightened being or a madman? Is he a divine enlightened being acting like a madman or is just a madman? [Laughter] Acting like enlightened being! We don't know. Hard to say!
Q: If you have a good relationship with guru, he'll be able to purify karma for lower rebirth. So how does guru then purify, at the time of death, the negative mind, and lower rebirths?
Rinpoche: Like it says, the guru's kindness, power of guru, one can liberate from the lower migration, and rebirth of lower realms, and also liberate one's own mind, state of mind that is like being in the lower realms, right? So we can have these kinds of minds, comes and goes. Sometimes we have minds like a hungry ghost and like sometimes we have a mind like an animal. We wake up in the morning and we don't want to meditate, go back to sleep, and hungry, eat, eat, go back to sleep, forget about practice. We have animal mind, like pig-mind, dog-mind, horse-mind, eating all the time, or we have a monkey-mind, always running around all over the place. We have tiger-mind, grizzly bear-mind -- arrgh! -- always very mad. We have a snake-like mind, cobra-mind.
See the good influence of the guru, and kindness, and the skillful means -- the influence of the skillful means of the guru and we learn how to deal with our negative emotions, we know how to apply the remedies. So we can eliminate our passion, aggression, ignorance, and so forth. So we can liberate ourselves from that. Also, when we say the guru mantra -- when we do Guru Yoga we say the guru mantra -- then, all of a sudden you can feel the guru's energy, and you can even hear words of the guru, the teachings. The wholesome energy comes into our mindstream. So then, more or less automatically the defilements subside or decrease.
So that's why at the time of death it is crucial and it is important -- we have a prayer called "Calling the Lama from Long Distance." [Laughs] Actually it's called "Calling the Lama from Far Away," but you could say "long distance." It's a prayer, so if you're dying, if your lama is far away, most likely he is far away on a physical level, physical presence. So if you recite these verses, the Tibetan word is Lama [??]. ?? means "calling." You recite that verses, or guru mantras, invoke the guru and visualize, then suddenly all the energy, blessing comes to you. And it comes in your dreams so your mind is filled with peace and joy.
Let's say even the guru passed away. You can still have contact this guru in your dreams. Like I see my guru in my dreams. My guru passed away. I have seen many times in my dream, still sitting on throne giving teachings, receiving initiations. Sometimes I feel so much joy and suddenly I wake up! I can't go back to sleep -- I feel so happy, and then I sit there and meditate, and saying mantras and do my meditation, and so much energy, like charged, like I can't go back to sleep. I feel like how can I go back to sleep? My guru appeared in my dream, he gave me these teachings. It's a great opportunity. I should continue to practice. And sometimes when you wake up, you feel so joyful. Sometimes you have questions, thoughts, and then guru is answering questions in your dream, even if the guru maybe passed away a long time ago.
Q: What part of your guru is answering your questions? If he's passed away and having rebirth?
Rinpoche: Whatever important questions that you have in your mind, if you have a special connection with the guru, the guru can appear in your dream and he can actually tell what you have to contemplate on. I had a dream like my teachers Ling Rinpoche and Trijang Rinpoche, a long time after they passed away, from time to time dreams. I see them sitting somewhere, or walking towards me, talking and giving teachings, answering questions. Always there's some teaching happening.
Q: If there's been damage in a relationship with teacher, how do you advise to repair the damage, or if it's broken, or you broke it, how do you advise to establish a healthy one with another teacher?
Rinpoche: What do you mean by broken? That you can no longer work with that teacher, lost faith in that teacher? The relationship with the teacher is broken, but not the Dharma.
I think first question is if there's damage, you can repair. Just like anything else, you repair. Find a good hammer, saw and find good glue. Put it together, fix it. If there's damage, like you say, you haven't lost faith and you wish to continue to follow or have the relationship, it is important to have dialogue, request interview. You have to be very direct. Say, "Because I am very confused and due to my negative mind, confusion, lack of understanding Dharma and especially guru-disciple relationship, and Guru Yoga, I'd like to apologize and ask for forgiveness." Then you can fix this problem. Guru has compassion and gurus always know students. We have this kind of problem as a human. There is lots of room. So damage can be fixed, but you have to be very direct.
Now if the guru is not accepting the apologies. I don't know, some cases I've heard some teachers, I don't know why, they don't accept an apology. They throw student out. I feel it's very unfortunate. You start to think, "What happened? Where is the compassion?" This, I think, is unfortunate, because that means violating Bodhisattva vows, like abandoning disciple, what they call abandoning faithful one who has faith in you. Saying, "Go away, don't come near me. I don't want to be your teacher." It's actually violating Bodhisattva vow, but then again, we don't know exactly the intention of the guru. He may say, "Go away, I don't want you to be my student." That could be also another teaching. Because maybe teacher needs to tell student to go away, don't come to me, because maybe he has to figure it out himself. This is all that you can really do at the time.
Because sometime we have a karma to study with teacher for a certain amount of time, then sometimes there's a kind of time limit, the time or karma has expired. I don't mean the karma expired to have a teacher-student relationship. But there's a time to be with and to study, when that expires, the student is still grasping the teacher. The teacher says, "You are finished with me now. You go and study with somebody else." That doesn't mean he's abandoning you. So we don't know the intention of the teacher. But if the teacher's intention is careless due to some kind of politics, part of his own problem, saying go away, then it's sad. So we don't know. In that case, damage can be resolved. That's the first question.
Second question is broken. You said "lost faith," right? If you lost faith and broken the commitment and then you have to figure out yourself. Think about it yourself, why did you lose faith? Is it because of what has happened? Has it been from your side or teacher's side? Sometimes you never find an answer. It's very complicated. But in any case, as I said, if you feel you lost faith or trust, therefore you don't have the confidence any more to study with the same teacher, if you don't want to study that's your choice, your wish. So if you want to stay away from the teacher, it's up to you. It's like fire, you don't want to be too close, it will burn. You stay away from fire, like that, but it's your choice. Nobody forces you to study all the time.
Actually, guru do wish ultimately for you to go away, learn fast, become enlightened quickly, that's the whole purpose. So sometimes guru has to do that, say to these people, "Go away, don't come to me." You have to grow yourself. So we don't know.
But, in any case, it's important not to blame teacher, not to say bad things about teacher, not have this negative mind carry on, walking around. That's unhealthy for you and also negative, unhealthy for other people, other students. It's bad for the general karma, and also, of course, bad for the teacher, too. So as I said, always you should remember the kindness of the teacher. I saw this when His Holiness the Dalai Lama, many people ask the same question. He always says you keep distance if you want, you don't want to take teachings that's up to you, but you should always remember the kindness, what you've learned from him or her.
Q: What does one do when you realize how the mind works? (Inaudible) What is the next step?
Rinpoche: You're talking about, like Mahamudra meditation, I think. You first develop awareness of mind, observing mind, being witness of your own mind, thoughts arising. Then stay there, then ceasing, then keep coming, going. So you are observing your thoughts, so you see all kinds of levels of minds, emotions, thought patterns, delusions, and virtuous mind. All kind of mental events -- comes and goes, it's like the waves, comes and goes. So you watch and observe.
So you actually gain great realization from that, observing your thoughts, emotions. You gain realization of impermanence, you can gain realization of emptiness. You can gain realization of non-attachment and renunciation, also compassion perhaps. And so you continue. But if at some point, if you feel you're stuck, then you need advice from teacher, where to go.
Q: On the last line of the first stanza of "One Hundred Deities of the Land of Joy" does that mean sons and daughters, what does that mean?
Rinpoche: Well, it means sons. We have a thanka painting of Lama Tsong Khapa, and he has two chief disciples called Gyeltsap Je and Kedrup Je, so usually in visualizations, he usually has two disciples next to him, kind of like attendants. They're also emanations. One is emanation of Chenrezig, the other one is emanation of Vajrapani. Himself is emanation of Manjushri, so when we do sadhanna, we request him to come down with his two disciples, or sons.
Q: Did he have any disciples who were women?
Rinpoche: Tsong Khapa? Oh yes, many. His mother was also his disciple and his teacher as well. His mother was actually a highly realized lama. And she reincarnated many times until recent times. His mother's incarnation was called (??). Last one died in Chinese prison during Cultural Revolution, in Shanghai.
I had the good karma to see the skull of Lama Tsong Khapa's real, actual mother. The last time when I went to Khombu monastery. I was going around in temple. The tour guide said, "Don't tell anybody, I'll show you something. Come up quietly." He took me upstairs in top of the temple to the inner room. He said, "Come here." He said, "I'll show you Lama Tsong Khapa's mother's skull." On his mother's skull, on the top of the skull, there is OM letter appeared. The bone itself has the OM letter, it comes out, like what do you call? Embossed, in relief. It's sticking up, you can touch the OM. After meditating OM, OM, so many years, the bone is changed. Actually OM is sticking up, you can see the OM. It was a wonderful experience.
Q: Was there a time when there were a lot of enlightened females, is it a cycle?
Rinpoche: Long time ago there were a lot of female teachers. In India and in Tibet as well. There were always female teachers, and one problem that we have is that most of the female teachers, their life stories are not recorded. There is no books, no texts. One reason for this is that the female enlightened beings, they didn't have a lot of disciples. The reason is, many female teachers and enlightened beings, a lot of them had children, they lived at home. They didn't really give formal teachings. They're occupied with having children and so forth, but they were highly realized beings. They were recognized by other lamas -- "She is emanation of Tara. She is emanation of Vajrayogini, so on." So they didn't have disciples. This is one reason.
Also, there were female teachers, like yoginis, who were wandering around, themselves living in caves and villages. Also, it's partly because of society, you know, male chauvinist society. So the people always go to men teachers, lamas who have many disciples, they don't go to female teachers. And also female teachers are modest and humble, so they just don't care if they have disciples or not. They just do their own practice. So there was none recalled in stories, unfortunately. But there was many teachers, enlightened ones. And long time, of course, there were more female teachers. I think it's possible, it's true, there will be more women teachers in the future.
O.k., I'd like to end here, now.
The Preliminary Practises
Summary: a practice is beneficial if it helps the student to develop deep faith and devotion and sustain a beneficial relationship with a teacher.
A student asks:
"About the Ngondro - did you do this practice? Do you consider it helpful?"
Yes, I did it three times.
Yes, it is helpful, but it was not the most helpful thing I could have been doing at the time. There were not many choices in those days because nobody spoke English and I only knew a bit of Tibetan. I was getting most help and inspiration from talking to Bokar RInpoche and the nuns I was living with. Doing the Ngondro was an important part of relating to the whole situation. But I didn't really know enough for the Ngondro itself to help my faith grow as much as other practices would have done had I known of them. What made my faith grow was working on the formless mediation using the pointing out instruction I got from Karma Thinley Rinpoche and Bokar Rinpoche.
"You once said to me that I did not need to do these practices."
Yes. You don't need to do them in that particular way. The essential elements are included in a whole range of related practices. I think familiarising yourself with the essential elements in whatever way you can, in whatever way helps them sink in, is the main point here. For some people maybe simple repetition is the best approach. For others this way of practising is not the most inspiring and doesn't produce the desired effect which is deepening faith and devotion.
There are two issues here. One is whether doing the practices is helping your faith and devotion grow and the other is how to work with your teacher. If your teacher takes it as a mark of commitment simply to finish the 100,000s, then just to complete them has a purpose, whatever the effect. But of course, if they have the effect of reducing your faith and devotion, there is no point because that will have an adverse effect on your relationship to the teacher.
These days Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso often tells people to practice 'Progressive Stages of Meditation on Emptiness' as a ngondro. Personally I think reading the Samantabhadracharyapranidhana 100,000 times would do very well for purification and accumulation (which is shorthand for what the ngondro is supposed to be for)!
I sometimes wonder if the Samantabhadracharyapranidhana is a bit difficult for people to understand. However, the so called ngondro assumes one understands that and much, much more besides. It is not that Tibetans necessarily understand all that. They are likely to have a head start in terms of familiarity with the whole thing and the absence of certain ways of thinking that make it difficult for Westerners.
Tibetans make up for what they don't understand by having lots of faith in the whole context of the thing due to cultural conditioning. Westerners don't necessarily have this advantage but have other advantages instead. For example, they are trained to have enquiring minds and have easy access to lots of Sutra material to fill in those cultural gaps.
Hope this answer helps.
Editor's Notes: Ngondro (Tibetan) Preliminary practice: the practice of saying 100,000 times each, prayers for taking Refuge, generating Bodhicitta, Purification, Mandala Offering, Guru Yoga, and prostrations.
The Samantabhadracharyapranidhana (Sanskrit) is the pranidhana (wishing prayer) "to be able to carry out the activity of Samantabhadra, whose name means total goodness and whose activity is the totally good activity of all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas in all directions and throughout all time." (Quote taken from the booklet of the same name published by Longchen Foundation.)
The teachings on Buddhism Connect are selected from advice that Shenpen gives in response to questions asked by people studying with her in the Awakened Heart Sangha, a spiritual community formed by her students. Unfortunately, because of the demmands on her time Shenpen is not able to answer questions from members of the public.
If you are interested in working more closely with Shenpen - including asking her questions like this and getting personal advice - then we suggest you enrol on Discovering the Heart of Buddhism, a comprehensive training in Buddhist study, contemplation and meditation taught by Shenpen.
The Six Paramitas
From a series of seminar at Dhagpo Kagyu Ling, 2002
"Paramita" is a Sanskrit term, which means "perfection" - perfection in attitude, action and practice. The accomplishment of these perfections will result in the achievement of the ultimate perfection of wisdom that is enlightenment. Enlightenment is perfect discrimination. It is perfect wisdom that discriminates everything clearly and precisely without any distortion. "To discriminate," means to understand through one 's own seeing, and wisdom.
At the moment, our mind perceives and follows everything in a tainted way. While we are here in samsara, our perception and actions are inevitably influenced by the many conditions that hold our mind. Nevertheless, we feel, that how we think, or how we act, is perfectly normal. There is nothing wrong and so we follow in all our usual ways. In fact, we think there is no other way. This is why it is important to train in the Six Paramitas because the training allows us to see a different way, and a better way. It reveals to us how the conditions of samsara obscure the mind. Moreover, it also happens to be the most direct way to develop and apply Bodhicitta, while we are on the Bodhisattva Path.
Before we embark on the training in the Six Paramitas, we have to really wish to benefit sentient beings, our reason to achieve enlightened mind. This mental resolve is very important for without it, the training will be very difficult. An understanding of the fundamental teachings of the Buddha, such as the Four Noble Truths, or Bodhicitta, is indispensable. We have to truly appreciate the basic tenets of the Dharma, their meaning, and not only the words. We introspect earnestly to find out what the Dharma is telling us. We look at sentient beings around us, their conditions and surroundings, and see if we could connect our own observations to what the Dharma says. Is what the Buddha said true? Are sentient beings helplessly caught up in suffering? Do we all wish to be free from suffering? When we can relate directly to the truth of the Dharma, we will feel compelled to be connected with it.. We will begin to appreciate the inspiration of Bodhicitta. "Inspiration" means to feel, to wish, and to need. And Bodhicitta is the profound wish to be beneficial to all beings.
to discover what is important
We should understand the purpose of the Dharma, why we need it, and why it is so important to us in the long run. We should scrutinize the essential points until we are convinced that they ring true. In general, we just keep going until we are stuck. We tend not to exert ourselves unless we can't cope anymore. Only then do we look for a way out. Once a problem has passed, we again slip into our comfort zone. We forget that we were in trouble, what got us into it in the first place, or what got us out. We have, in this way, lost many precious opportunities to learn and to improve over the years. For example, you have a toothache so you look for a remedy. Once the pain is gone, you don't think about the tooth anymore. This is very common in most people. To pursue the Dharma as remedy for our problems requires, however, a totally different approach. Naturally, in the beginning, we go looking when we feel,
" Oh, I feel so anxious," or
" I don't understand," or
" I feel something is missing."
We must first know exactly what it is that we need, what is really important in life. But how do we know? This is a very important question.
Suppose I tell you,
" You have to think like this, or you have to follow this."
Immediately, your reaction may be,
" Yes, you are right, but I can't do it. I don't know what to do."
You have a strong inner resistance so you can't listen properly. But if I use an example about someone else or about a situation quite removed from you, then you will probe further,
" Well then, what about me? How does it work for me?"
It is easier to observe others and their conditions. By using the Dharma as your reference, you can gain insight into other people's conditions while shedding light on your own.
What we don't know usually doesn't matter to us. It also makes sense that the more we know, the better we can attend to the needs of people and situations. At the same time, it is also true that we may become more anxious. Suppose I am sick with a serious disease. I'd probably feel anxious enough to go for treatment immediately. My understanding the seriousness of my illness tells me not to put it off another day. Only when I am oblivious to its severity, or reluctant to acknowledge it, would I dismiss it as nothing.
" Oh, it doesn't matter. It is nothing. I'll ask the doctor next week."
I might also be hesitant to receive a rather uncomfortable treatment. I'd wish the sickness to go away somehow on its own. This is human nature. Therefore, we watch out for blinders we put on ourselves.
Seasoned practitioners fully appreciate the meaning of the Dharma so they are committed to the Bodhisattva Path. But someone who does not see clearly still has to be convinced. Otherwise, he cannot follow on his own. He has to care to change. He must first study the basics of the Dharma and see for himself his real conditions. If he decides that he'd like a way out of samsara, his vision, his attitude, and his action will start to change.
An authentic practitioner sees clearly his own mind's conditions, and is determined to improve them without delay. He is like the sick person who goes for treatment right away. Obviously, when you can't see your own problem, you won't seek a solution. This is why for some people, their Dharma practice is always delayed and interrupted by all kinds of activities whereas others can actually integrate the Dharma into their daily lives. How we see our own lives, and how clearly we see the urgency of our situation directly impact on how we live our lives. This is a very important point. Suppose I tell you,
" I am engaged in an authentic practice of Dharma to reach Enlightenment."
You may ask me, "Why do you seek Enlightenment? Why are you interested in it, or what is your reason exactly?"
" Because it looks very interesting, very nice, very wonderful. I like it and I'm intrigued by it."
My rationale shows that I have not really understood the Dharma. But if my reasoning is,
" The Dharma is absolutely essential and important to me," then this means I have understood the truth of the Dharma.
From a series of seminar at Dhagpo
Kagyu Ling, 2002
to practise out of necessity not just interest
As the previous example illustrated, you seek a cure when your life depends on it. You seek help not out of curiosity or interest in a remedy. You act in accordance with what you have discovered and understood. Likewise, you must thoroughly examine the Dharma and decide whether you absolutely need it in your life. During this period of inner introspection and reflection, more precise answers and a clearer understanding will gradually appear to you. An authentic practitioner practises out of necessity and not out of interest. To him, the Dharma is indispensable. He is not going to get bored and give it up. The Dharma is not a leisurely sport like skiing where you can get bored after some weeks and decide to go sailing instead. Ask yourself why you are interested in meditation, or working for others? Do you actually feel that they are both essential in your life? You may enjoy the practice yet it can be quite difficult. But even if the Dharma training proves very challenging, when you see, little by little, the real situation that you are in, no matter how hard it gets, you will put in the effort.
Therefore, reflect carefully, and question your true motives behind your commitment to the Dharma. First try to arrive at some understanding that your current way of perception and experience fall under the illusion of samsara. Use the Dharma as your reference. The Buddha told us that we are in an endless cycle of existence rooted in karma. Try to observe and deduce if karma, the law of cause and effect does play a role in your life or other people's lives. Only you can judge for yourself. If you can see very clearly your conditions then you will want out. And the Dharma affords you the way out of confusion. This insight will come step by step. You will then understand why the authentic Tibetan practitioners spend so much time in meditation, why they have no attachments to worldly forms of entertainment, or material things.
begin with yourself
To really find sense and meaning
in life, start with yourself! Unaware of how we function, we always think,"
Oh, things are like this now and that's just the way they are. Everything is
This is called, "not knowing". But to see very precisely and clearly is really not that easy. The problem is when we know the Dharma very well we may sometimes feel more disturbed. Here, "disturbed" means in the sense that the mind is actually more delicate. Because we see more clearly, we actually feel apprehensive about our situation. When you don't know so much, more often than not, you feel that things are just normal.
" It is like that!" you tell yourself.
For example, if you know the real condition of the food you eat, you will be concerned. Not knowing, you are ready to try everything, and you enjoy eating. The Dharma shows you your real conditions. You can no longer turn away and pretend you don't know. You will feel concerned. The clearer you are, the more you realize the urgency to change. You will actually feel you must practise the Dharma. You can no longer continue in the same old ways.
a misconception: we are just the way we are by chance
The authentic practitioner understands
how to use his present conditions to affect the future. He knows how he is subject
to the endless cyclic process of samsara. This life is limited to this body
with a given name. But the body is impermanent, while the mind is more permanent.
In this respect, "permanent" means continuing on indefinitely. The
mind will continue after this life. But we tend to think," Oh, I am like
this right now, and I will have a next life where I will be a different human."
We can only imagine in this very vague and limited way. But if you know more, you will understand that what you do today is the cause that will yield a tomorrow similar or corresponding to it, be it weeks, months, or years later. According to what you do now, a resultant condition will appear to you. Your present is the link to your future. This is the fundamental principle of karma, the root of samsara. If you can see how conditions are linked without exception, you will then appreciate how important it is to take care now.
The problem is a common misconception that most people have. We think things just happen to us, that we have no choice. An example, an ambassador of a country is sent to a foreign country on a diplomatic mission. The foreign country happens to be a very nice and comfortable place. However, after three years, he is asked to transfer to some place quite harsh like Bangladesh, or Africa. Like it or not, he has to go. Most of us feel that we are like the ambassador. Situations and conditions happen to fall on us. We have to play a certain role in life. We feel that we have been slotted into some sort of mission or job and we just have to go along. True, our mind has been transferred to this body now. After we die, we will transfer to another body, good or bad. If we are not careful now, we may end up in a life full of hardships. Then we would really feel trapped. We think we fall into bad circumstances quite haphazardly. This is a misconception. It is our own past that has brought us here to this point. The good news is that at this point, we also hold our own future. We are shaping our future now, and so we can make it a good one. If we understand karma, the chain of cause and effect, we will understand that by acting positively and planting good seeds now we can build ourselves a better future. To work hard in Dharma practice is not easy. It is quite difficult. But, it is really worth our while to do so.
avoid wishful thinking
Another misconception that we should
be aware of is wishful thinking. In the face of difficulties, we often think,
" I am like this right now. Things are a little difficult but better circumstances may be ahead so I'll wait and see."
As a result, we don't change. We always think subconsciously, " Even if I don't act properly today, it doesn't really matter."
We give ourselves excuses so we don't have to change our behaviour," I feel sick in my stomach today. I ate too many chocolates, but tomorrow I'll be well again so it doesn't matter."
We harbor such notions as we live every day. It is also the reason why we always do the same things over and over again. We commit the same negative actions, and entertain the same negative thoughts repeatedly. Because we cannot see clearly, we believe that the problems will go away naturally by themselves, or we believe that the consequences are insignificant. As a result, we don't take care to avoid the harmful things. And we don't change.
It is quite difficult to analyse how we are doing. Nevertheless, you can try. Take one day and analyse it. Ask yourself," How am I using this day? What am I thinking? What am I doing? How often am I positive during the day? How often am I negative?"
If you try to see, you will find that you are probably more negative than positive.
Actually, on our own, we don't know what is negative. That's why we try to learn from the Dharma what are the negative causes, and what are the positive ones. The Dharma instructions may tell us how to behave, what to do, and we try to follow the given criteria. But actually, if we really try to look, we will see that sometimes, we have our own feelings about things. During your analysis of a day, you will be more aware of what they are. You will see a little clearer than usual, and more open. Very naturally, you will see by yourself, it is not forced.
karma and the idea of self
What is our idea of "self"?
There is the physical body, and a given name.
" Who am I?" you may ask.
The answer is, "My name is and this is my body."
But actually, your name and body are both only your temporary attributes. When you try to look at where the self is, you will never find it in the physical body. We feel that there is a self. It is what we call "consciousness". But can you then say that your consciousness is "you" in your physical form? Can you say that your name stands for your consciousness? You will answer "no" to both these questions. Your name is the identification connecting it to your body when you were born. But when you try to reflect, of course, you will feel that,
" I am my physical body. I have physical strength and capabilities, and I can do many things." But everybody knows that the body is impermanent. The body is sure to die one day. Then, does the consciousness die, too? If you say that the consciousness is not physical, but that it is like air, then could this "air" be just anybody? When I teach, is it "air" that is giving the teaching? When you die, does the "air" leave the body? Of course, the answer is no. The Buddha discovered that we have mind. As a result, we always feel, and we can choose. But in order to choose, there must be some kind of capacity or potential there. Otherwise, what or who is choosing? We could continue to probe like this. When we don't know, and we don't reflect, then everything seems very simple. But when we delve a little deeper, then everything becomes quite complex.
We know we are not able to do everything. Many conditions prevent and limit our capabilities. For instance, our negative emotions often get in our way, and we find ourselves saying things that we don't mean or acting contrary to what we think is right. Karma enters into the equation of what is possible for us to do. It can be thought of as a measured capacity or limitation of an individual. A person may have a strong digestive system. He can eat as much as he wants. Others see him as very strong. Another person may have a weak digestion; he is careful with his diet. Overeating will make him fat and compromise his health. Just as we live with different physical capacities, we also live with different karma. It is karma that gives us certain potentials in our nature that influence us. Our actions in turn determine our future. Therefore it is karma that connects us to our future the same way our past actions have brought us to the here and now.
independent means we create our own karma
Our upbringing and education mold
our view of life. We may believe that humans have been created. We may feel
that we are on a mission. We may feel that our fate is pre-determined. But actually,
if you really look, you will find that these are wrong concepts. The Buddha
said that when your really look, you will see that we are all independent individuals.
We create our own karma. For example, if you work on your garden, it will grow
well. If you don't, your garden will not grow. Likewise, if you clean your house,
it will be nice and clean. If you procrastinate instead, your house will never
be clean. So "independent" means that if you do something, a result
is possible. If you don't do anything, nothing will happen. If you do right,
everything will go right. If you do wrong, everything will go wrong. This is
cause, action, and result - generally refer to as "karma".
Everything depends on oneself. Try to observe your own actions in one day. See what kinds of seeds are planted through your thoughts and actions. You can guess at what kind of results they might bring. You cannot judge exactly of course, but you can make an educated guess. The teachings tell us that we have certain notions or tendencies. One example is our "constant wanting".
" I need this, I want this."
It is "grasping", and we generally accept it as normal. In one way it is, yet the grasping comes with many strings attached making it a source of many more concepts, ideas, and conditions that disturb us. Without this constant wanting, our mind will be balanced, and problem free. I could claim that my mind is just like that. The desire appears on its own. I have nothing to do with it, yet at the same time, it is I who acts under its influence. This we can all observe about ourselves. If we look without the Dharma as our reference, we will be at a loss as to what to make of our observations. Our "not knowing" will remain as it is, and will continue its hold on us. We are constantly bombarded by our own ideas, perceptions, and definitions. But the Dharma presents us with the truth. We should try to connect with this truth. Step by step, our understanding, about how we feel will become clearer.
recognize the need to change
Ignorance is a state of illusion.
It refers to a state of mind that follows without knowing. An "illusion"
is a very subtle state that is temporary yet it holds us. As a result, we believe
in whatever is happening to us and we simply live the illusion. We follow along
without seeing clearly. We are entrapped by concepts and ideas from our confused
mind causing the emotions to arise in us. We then feel disturbed, we suffer,
and are further confused. Acting under such conditions we create more negativity.
Inevitably more suffering awaits us. Thus the chain that produces the suffering
actually originates in ignorance, or not seeing properly. All humans are subject
to it so the confusion of mind and suffering are universal. Because we are creating
the causes continuously, the cycle of samsara is endless. To cut this endless
process, we really have to reflect carefully to see differently so we can have
a chance to change our course.
To make a fire, we gather dry wood for burning, and as we all know, the more the wood, the bigger the fire. In our context here, samsara is the fire, and the causes we create is the dry wood. Veiled by ignorance, we keep throwing in more dry wood. The fire gets ever bigger. But we can stop the fire by not feeding it anymore. We can put a stop to the confused way we have lived thus far. We have to see this need to change, to avoid repeating the same old ways, and to learn a better way. This is not just an idea but a real possibility. It is up to us to recognize the need to change.
Not only do we need to first recognize a problem, we also must learn how to correct it. Then we put in the necessary efforts in applying the remedies. These three components must converge to solve a problem. Look at the effort people are putting in to contain, reduce, and cure AIDS. Countries with the know-how and the financial means are implementing measures to contain the disease. They are successful whereas countries lacking in these means are failing.
the aspiration of Bodhicitta
Everything we do begins first as
an aspiratiWon, a wish. The development of the Bodhicitta-aspiration is no exception.
This aspiration has to come from an inner acknowledgement of love, compassion,
and of suffering. We have to understand that suffering comes from action without
clearly knowing. It comes from action where the underlying motivation is a basic
desire/grasping and ignorance. This understanding enables us to feel Bodhicitta
- compassion towards others' suffering, and a wish for them to be happy that
is love. If you catch yourself thinking,
" I like him so I want to help him, or I don't like him so I don't care." it shows that you have not understood reality.
Bodhicitta is non-discriminating where all beings are equally worthy of our support. To understand this, you have to truly appreciate the fact that everybody is subject to the same conditions of ignorance, and of a fundamental craving and attachment. We are all in the same boat! You will then feel it important to do something to help. This is the positive attitude that is the aspiration of Bodhicitta.
To be able to really train in the Paramitas, to do the practice that is authentic practice, you must have the aspiration of Bodhicitta. Without it, you will have no reason to stay in the mountain to practise and develop yourself. From the perspective of a city-dweller, a mountain retreat seems so peaceful and nice, but actually, it is very hard work. A retreatant eats only tsampa (or some very basic sustenance), and drinks hot water. He has to make do without heating. It takes time to develop the ability of "tummo", or "inner heat" so that he can withstand the cold. For many years, he has nothing until very slowly, his capacity develops. There is nothing interesting about the harsh mountain conditions. What keeps him in retreat is his absolute conviction that only by meditation practice can he find the solution to help others break free of the miseries of samsara.
If you really try to look, little
by little, you will also understand what really matters. Otherwise, you don't
see so much. You are always drawn to the seemingly important tasks around you
in everyday life. Try to be more concerned about your conditions in the long
term. Try to go beyond what is only temporary as in today, tomorrow, one year,
or ten years. If you can consider the future life by life, then your perspective
will change. How you perceive your present conditions, the people and things
around you will all take on a different meaning. A whole new perspective will
gradually open to you and your attitudes and actions will follow accordingly.
The Six Paramitas is the Path of the Bodhisattvas, or Bodhicitta. It is very important that you first lay the basic foundation for this practice, which is a proper orientation in your attitude and motivation. What has been presented so far is a brief synopsis of what is necessary with respect to your inner inclination. When you are at a monastery or Dharma centre, you can ask the monks and nuns there why they became ordained and live as they do. Is it because they wanted to escape or avoid worldly life? What is the purpose in living as an ordained person? You can find out what they think individually? It is important to question in this way. There are many concepts, both in the Dharma, and in everyday life. By asking questions, your understanding will grow. You will acquire some basic knowledge making it easier for you to apply all the instructions that you'd receive, and to practise effectively.
The Six Paramitas train and develop our mind. In one respect, they are the basic qualities of mind, our basic potential. The perfection of all six together will give a perfectly clear mind, and the accumulated obscuration and habitual tendencies of mind through countless lifetimes will be totally purified. In their explanation, the Six Paramitas are presented distinctly one by one. In actual practice, they are interdependent, and are developed together. The first five are "generosity, ethic, patience, effort, and meditation", leading to the development of the sixth called, "wisdom", which is our natural state of the mind, or our Buddha nature mind.
The focal point in all Dharma teachings is our Buddha nature, a basic wisdom inherent in every living being. We cannot really see it, but we can feel it because we are not in total darkness. But at the same time, we are influenced by our karmic conditions. They veil and obscure our mind ever sustaining our habits, disturbing emotions, and tendencies. In order to clear these veils of mind, we have to change our habits. We have to develop a clearer way of thinking and acting, away from the confusion of the emotions. We apply our energy and effort somewhat differently than what we are used to. Gradually, we will be able to realize our own Buddha nature.
to counter ego clinging
Of the Six Paramitas, we can practise generosity, ethic and meditation together as the three main ones. First, we look at generosity. Everyone already understands the meaning of generosity as giving. Generosity as a Paramita means to share what I have with others. The practice of generosity is therefore to learn how to share with others. You may ask why we have to learn this. It is because we have a tendency to keep things for the self ever since when we were very small children, perhaps due to past karma. This negative tendency is universal in all living beings including all animals, or any being with a mind. Basically, it is rooted in ego clinging, and a desire/attachment fixation. On the other hand, generosity does not mean to throw everything away either. Rather, it is a way to express the truth in what we do. It is an expression of our natural state of mind in all our actions. On the surface, we learn to share but fundamentally, generosity is a transformation of our attachment, our desire, and our ego clinging - this is the point.
We feel it natural to grasp the many things and concepts. We don't take the time to stop and see more clearly the condition of our mind. We feel we cannot help but have very strong attachments. We are never at a loss when it comes to self-justification. We are ever rationalizing all our wants and desires. But the Dharma tells us otherwise. We are again reminded of the basic principle of cause and effect. True, we feel strongly about our own needs, even though this feeling is only a notion in our mind. The downside is we are unable to share with others. We are afraid to let go of our desire. Why do we have to let go? It is because suffering comes from desire. Things get complicated and problematic because of our wanting. While we may not wish to suffer, we refuse to let go. So we suffer. The desire is the cause, and the suffering its effect.
The Dharma tells us that there is a fundamental state of mind where such self-centred notions are naturally absent. This is why to be free of suffering means to go back to this fundamental mind. The way to do it is through inner reflection and genuine absorption of the meaning of Dharma. Generosity comes first as an idea, then it is applied in action. This means to think, and behave a little differently, away from self-centeredness. It comes about not by force but through a natural process of change in your state of mind where your desire is slowly turned in a different direction. Talking about generosity is at a superficial level. It only becomes a true result, a true quality, when your mind is actually able to share what your have, and what you know with other beings. This ability comes through the release of your desire.
two levels: relative versus the
We study first the benefits of each Paramita. We learn about the qualities, or results that can be achieved through each one. Within the context of the Mahayana and the Vajrayana, the Six Paramitas are the practices, or the methods to be applied at our level now, generally referred to as the "relative" level. Training in the Paramitas will enable us to achieve many significant qualities and results leading ultimately to complete Enlightenment. However, it is important to distinguish two levels of Bodhisattva. One is the achievement of an accomplished Bodhisattva perfect in selflessness, which we call the "ultimate", or "absolute" level. He is someone whose way of thinking, attitudes, and actions are focused exclusively on the welfare of others. The other is our current level now, the "relative" level, as ordinary human beings in training to become a perfect Bodhisattva. We are obviously not matching the ideal yet, and we must not confuse the two, either. While we are still in training, we will sometimes think for our own benefit. This is natural. We cannot just shut ourselves off even if we wanted to. The point is to make a sincere effort to include others, and to think more for their well being. By learning, and training to think and act like the Bodhisattvas, we will be able to gradually develop all the good conditions necessary to perfect the qualities.
Generosity has to take root in our mind. Its results actually appear as natural conditions in our normal everyday functioning. There is nothing spectacular, or outstanding about them. Generosity becomes part of our basic functioning very much like our karma, which underlies who we are. In fact, many cultures, philosophies, and religions extol it as a virtue in an individual beneficial to society at large.
giving without expectations
A mind capable of giving has a deep understanding of the need of all other living beings. It naturally precludes selfishness. It is an open mind ready to share with others whatever is obtained or achieved. It makes us considerate, and tolerant of other people. We do not insist on our own views and ways of doing things. If you find yourself holding on to what you have accomplished, earned, or created, then your mind is not yet really generous. On the contrary, this self-grasping brings up your negative emotions swaying you into negative thoughts, actions, and behaviours.
" I built this, so I want to keep it. I don't want to let others have it."
This line of thinking only strengthens your inner desire. Your pride, and attachment follow suit, and inadvertently, so do your aggression, anger, and other negative behavior. This whole process unleashes itself quite naturally from the original grasping.
away from grasping
The point is to move away from self-clinging.
" I made this because I need it, but at the same time, I can share it with others. They don't have to give me something in return. I just help them."
What often happens in real life is we expect a payback, consciously or unconsciously.
" I do this, and help others as well. Why not? I can actually stand to gain more by doing so," or
" I help others in order to get more for myself."
Real generosity is helping without any expectation of getting something back.
" I do this and I share the results with others. I keep one part for myself because I need it, and I share the rest with others because they also need it."
This kind of attitude and its corresponding action we call generosity. If we have this notion in mind, we will be able to apply it. It is a state of mind. We are less hateful towards others, less angry, and so we don't suffer so much. Suffering comes from our grasping, desire and clinging. Loosening our grip, we can be more considerate, tolerant, and accepting of others. As a result, we feel we are able to give and share even our valuable things.
In any society, people are always learning, copying, and influencing one another. Those who start out not "grasping" at things might eventually learn this behaviour from others. And so samsaric conditions are ever multiplying among people. To be first introduced to the term "generosity" is the first step towards positive change. We then learn the meaning of generosity as a concept. Next we develop it as an attitude in our thoughts. Eventually, we will be able to apply it in our actions. In time, generosity becomes a habit of mind naturally finding expression in our speech and actions. A change in our nature is implicit. It is not that we have lost anything. In general, our deeply rooted attachment is felt as a constant need to hold on to things, to get things. We feel all the while anxious lest we should lose something instead. So we grasp on tighter than ever. Our mind is thus distracted, and aversion grows inside us. Even the loss of a tiny thing can cause us great unhappiness - someone using what is ours counts as a loss! For example, putting up a fence around a piece of property is a wish to keep people and animals out. While telling everyone to stay away is neither done nor feasible, the fence conveys the message. Any trespassing can be distressing to us as if something has been lost to us. This kind of notion infiltrates one's feelings, and thoughts at a very subtle level.
You can choose to see differently. You can choose to be more open-minded. As in the example of the fence, you can accept the fact that from time to time, some people or animals will come onto your property. Immediately, your grasping loosens. Your anxiety diminishes considerably. Your mind is accepting. It is relaxed. Why is it relaxed? It is because you have prepped yourself to share. This correlation is simple, obvious yet basic. We are not talking about achieving Enlightenment, or anything deep and complex. On any given day, how we perceive things in relation to the self is influenced or shaped by our attitudes, habits, and tendencies. These inner conditions set the stage for all our experiences. They make all the difference.
Therefore, to be generous at our relative level means to really develop an inner feeling that it is important and necessary to share with others. We live this open mindset. It does not necessarily imply "giving everything away" either. No question, the very accomplished Bodhisattvas could do it but we practise generosity at our level now, and our capacity will grow in time. We have self-clinging right now so we have to put in much effort. As we practise opening ourselves to others, generosity becomes increasingly natural and spontaneous. It comes with practice.
good actions bring good results
When we practise generosity through
positive actions, inevitably, our surroundings and life situations become more
favourable. This is what the Dharma tells us. We can see if this is true. Our
evaluation very much depends on our ingrained habits and cultural upbringing.
For example, in Asian countries where Buddhism and Hinduism are widely practised,
there is this notion that when a person is in a difficult situation, be it financially,
or in his relationship with others, it is due to his lack of merit, or sönam.
The converse is also true. When everything goes very well for someone, it is
also because of his store of merit. It follows then that a person who believes
in the efficacy of merit, finds sharing much easier than a non-believer. In
the Muslim faith, there are pillars, or attitudes that its followers embrace.
One of them is generosity - in theory, a Muslim is to give half of what he earns
to the people who are in need. In Buddhism, we don't necessarily tell people
that they must give. But practitioners understand the importance of sharing
and so they make offerings to help people in need and to the Dharma centres.
Sharing is understood as a necessary and natural process to bring about a common
good while clearly rewarding he who shares. Individually, you should reflect
carefully to see if this is a valid view.
To reiterate, when you are generous, the result always comes back to you, and so everything comes easy to you. This positive effect happens not only in this life, but in future lives to come. Things will go smoothly for you. Many regular practitioners do not hesitate to share whatever it is that they receive. One reason is because they can fully appreciate the needs of others. Another reason is their understanding that by sharing, their own conditions will also improve through the accumulation of merit. Of course, true Bodhisattvas do not expect results for themselves. Nevertheless, the outcome of generosity is as described, naturally giving benefit to the giver and the receiver. Understanding this cause and effect is therefore important. It explains why some people always enjoy good circumstances while others experience a lot of difficulties in their lives. It is also why siblings lead very different lives as grown-ups even though they experience similar conditions in childhood. Similarly, children from very poor families could become rich, and children from very wealthy, or powerful families could become impoverished later on in life and have to face many hardships. It is all based on individual merit.
Generosity is not a mere concept. It is a virtue that really works. Just as the Buddha explained, if you take the time to look at the karmic conditions of the mind, you will find that when the mind is grasping with desire, it is closed. Negative thoughts grow increasingly stronger. On the other hand, when the mind is open and relaxed, we can think and act much more clearly. Negative emotions are kept at bay enabling us to be positive and useful thereby creating better karma. Nobody wants to be miserable. Everybody wants to be good, healthy, and comfortable. It is by sharing with others that we create these positive conditions for our current and future lives. This is what we call the relative value of practising generosity.
If you find yourself thinking,
" I find it really difficult to relate to the meaning of the Dharma," or
" I try so hard but I just cannot find the time to meditate in my very busy life," or
" Even when I try to sit quietly, my mind is so distracted," or
" When I am in the presence of a very great Lama, I just don't know how to relate to him," or
" It seems such a waste that I do not make use of this precious opportunity."
These are all examples that you may be lacking in merit. You may dismiss these feelings and think that they are normal, and that everyone probably feels the same way. The next time when you have such thoughts, reflect carefully on your inner conditions. Try to be more aware, and you will perhaps understand more.
In "The Jewel Ornament of Liberation," the reference, "ordinary beings", does not mean regular people. Though not explicit, it refers to people who have relatively less positive karma. They cannot be open even if they are in front of a Bodhisattva. Their minds are closed because they lack merit. Therefore, it is good for them to first learn from ordinary teachers. When they can act more positively, they will accumulate merit, which will help improve their understanding of the Dharma. They could then start to practise the Paramitas. "The accumulation of merit" is always linked with this practice. The net result is a connection to the deeper meaning of the Dharma. It will also lead to meaningful and beneficial exchanges with the high Bodhisattvas.
generosity yields two accumulations
If we wish to have the ability to do Vajrayana practice, the opportunity to meet the Bodhisattvas, and the ability to understand the meaning of the Vajrayana, and the Dharma, then we have to prepare. And the right preparation consists solely of two things. We call them the two accumulations - "merit and wisdom". Merit, as explained already, refers to an individual's storage of positive deeds reflected in his overall quality or character. Wisdom is linked with merit and has to be developed through practice. Wisdom has to do with a state of meditation, which is very profound and natural in us. We could say that wisdom is an expression of the emptiness nature of mind yet these words confuse more than they are able to clarify. To explain it can be rather delicate. Just using common language can often be misleading and the meaning of wisdom misunderstood. When you do the practice, you will understand. You will go beyond the terms and ideas. The actual meaning will appear in your mind, this is to really know the meaning. Indisputably your success rests on your accumulation of merit and wisdom. And the practice of generosity gives you precisely these accumulations. Now that you know, you can choose to improve your own conditions.
For the accumulation of merit, we always make the effort to share our good conditions with people who are in need. We help others who are in difficulties in whatever ways we can. It is important to just try to share without grasping, without expectations of others in return. For the accumulation of wisdom, we usually link our practice with the wisdom of Buddha Amitabha, or the Bodhisattvas like Chenrezig, or Milarepa, We can also participate in "Tsok", offerings to the enlightened ones. Of course, through our own practice, "through wisdom", we will come to understand how the accumulation of merit works. Therefore, in general, we start with the accumulation of meirt.
two types of benefit we could give
We can practise generosity in two ways with respect to the object of giving. Gampopa explained that there are two categories of help or benefit we could give to others. The first encompasses all that we need. It means to give whatever it is that living beings need, be it help, or material things. The second category is knowledge that we give others to enable them to understand the true nature of everything. In other words, we give the Dharma - the teachings, and the explanations. It means to support others through our own understanding of the Dharma. In short, it means to share the Dharma with everyone.
To give people material things and help is obviously good, but how much more important it is to give people the gift of Dharma cannot be overstated. The reason is because the Dharma can help an individual to develop positively and to change for the better. Only then will he accumulate merit by himself, which will in turn give him a better future. A person, who understands the meaning of the Dharma, is able to disengage himself from negativity. When we don't know the Dharma properly, even if we are very nice people, we are engaged in much negativity more often than not. For example, someone who doesn't know precisely the meaning of life, and karma, even if he is very nice, may not care for the lives of mosquitoes, ants and insect larvae. He would kill them without consideration. He thinks they don't matter, and he has no feelings for them. On the contrary, someone who knows the Dharma does not kill. This is why giving the Dharma is so important. We are not saying that we have to convince people to believe in the Dharma. Rather, we stand ready to share our knowledge of the Dharma with other people where appropriate. At the same time, we are careful with the life of every living being ever aware of the infallibility of karma. We know what is really important, and avoid harmful actions that would bring suffering. We share this kind of knowledge with others. This is the sharing of Dharma, which is more fruitful, and more important than ordinary generosity.
a Bodhisattva's perspective
When we apply the meaning of the Dharma as we understand it now, in action through generosity, gradually, we will experience its true meaning. We will be able to follow the way of the Bodhisattvas, their concepts, and views. This is actually how an ordinary person becomes a Bodhisattva, through a step-by-step process. There is no other way! We do not become Bodhisattvas because we have been assigned this role from someone higher up. A Bodhisattva is not an emanation from a certain source either. He is not a special kind of being, or an extraordinarily talented, or gifted individual. A Bodhisattva is a conscious being whose understanding of the Dharma is fully developed. Therefore, he lives in the Dharma, he acts in concert with the Dharma completely free from the conditions of samsara. There are many ways one can train to become a Bodhisattva. One example is someone who starts out the same as you and I. He follows the Dharma practice precisely step by step. Gradually, his desires are all extinguished. Worldly materials and pursuits are no longer important to him not because he has grown tired of, or lost his taste for them, but because they no longer hold any meaning or importance for him; so very naturally, he is released from all attachments.
Whenever you find yourself thinking, " This is very nice, or this is not so nice," you are in fact grasping at the "nice" things. You are pushing away, or not caring for the "not so nice" things. For the Bodhisattva, these kinds of notions are absent in his mind because he sees very clearly. Things are really not so important with respect to him. He neither grasps at them nor runs from them. For some of us, we are completely occupied by our lives. We are blocked. Everything seems very important to us, and we try to make sense of everything from our own perspective, and with respect to our own self-interest. But to a Bodhisattva who really sees the meaning of life, everything is important, and yet at the same time, nothing holds importance for him because everything is as the Buddha said, impermanent and ever changeable. Things are not so solid, and in this context, nothing is important. But then, we all exist, following along in life, and we suffer, so it is important to try to help one another and those who are troubled. The emphasis is on our readiness, and our willingness to help one another.
The notion of sacrifice is also relative. When you read a story about a Bodhisattva's actions, it is from your perspective. You see them as sacrifices. Actually, there is nothing sacrificed. For instance, a Bodhisattva gives his water to someone else. It is a simple act of giving water to someone who is thirsty. There is not the notion of any sacrifice in the mind of the giver. Your perceiving it as a sacrifice means that you are grasping. Grasping makes you feel as if you have to give something up to try to share with others. But water is water. It has no special value, and I can give it to someone. Gold is gold, and so I can give it to someone. The concept of value in something comes from self-grasping. When released from clinging, I can give anything, all the many different things including the things that I want, I can simply offer. Just offer. Seeing clearly and precisely the actual condition of everything, grasping disappears.
Our grasping is due to our not understanding properly. We feel that things are important relative to our own interest. When you begin to train in the Bodhisattva way, you should try to share, try to practise as instructed. Then, step by step, you will connect more to the wisdom or wisdom. You will understand more. You will see more clearly. And you will be able to do more. As a result, you will turn away from worrying about yourself. Basically, you will see no reason to worry. Right now you worry because your attachment causes you to worry: the lesser the attachment, the lesser the worry. Then, one day, you will feel and understand that there is really nothing to lose. Actually, in a way, you gain something. Gain or loss is relative. Because the Bodhisattva harbours no such relative concepts, to him, there is nothing to lose, and nothing to gain. It depends on your own inner understanding.
The generosity practice, and the other Paramitas, is a step-by-step training program that enables you to achieve the state of the Bodhisattvas. This is why the Paramitas are actually the application of Bodhicitta. As the meaning of Dharma deepens in us, our understanding of generosity in terms of its purpose, and emphasis also becomes clearer. The relative benefit of gathering merit for self-interest is no longer the main purpose. The Bodhisattva practice is ideally without any self-interest. And a Bodhisattva is a person just like you and I just but more developed. This means that we can be Bodhisattvas, too. We don't have to be particularly gifted, or possess any extra special conditions. For the moment, we start by making a conscious effort to practise. We begin to live our lives in the same direction as the Bodhisattvas.
Implicit in the practice of ethic
is discipline. Ethic encompasses, in general, three aspects of discipline.
1.To abandon negative thoughts, and actions.
This means to guard against all negativity. We are careful not to follow our negative habits, and thoughts. In all our interactions with the world, we try to be very proper through our thoughts, words, and actions.
2.To link our mental attitude with the Bodhisattva ideal.
This means to embrace Bodhicitta in our mind. We train to develop a mind of Bodhicitta. It therefore complements the first discipline.
3.To apply the Bodhicitta mind towards all beings.
This means to do whatever is necessary in the application of Bodhicitta towards every living being.
The distinction between these three aspects is very important, even though on the surface they appear to be quite similar. One could regard the first discipline as a form of Vinaya, a prescribed moral code or discipline. The second relates more to becoming a Bodhisattva, while the third is the Bodhisattva ideal in application. We begin always with our current set of relative conditions, and then through our practice, we train in ethic taking one step at a time - the same as our training in generosity.
ethic as basic ground
In the "Bodhicitta aryatara" and also in "The Jewel Ornament of Liberation," the Paramita of Ethic is likened to the fertile ground to grow the proper seeds. Ethic therefore nurtures and shapes our basic capacity into the realization of a Bodhisattva, or Buddhahood. We have to prepare our potential through our own efforts. We have received the instructions, and we do the practice. But if we don't conduct ourselves ethically, we will never achieve any results from our practice. This is why following proper ethic is so important.
ethic protects against suffering
Ethic as taught by the Buddha is the Vinaya, a code of discipline and behaviour. In general, we think,
" If I have not committed myself to anything, then I don't have to be careful. If I have not promised to do something, then I am free. I don't have to feel obligated, or restricted."
In our context here, commitment may mean the taking of the Refuge vow, a monk's vows, or a layperson's "genyen" vows. Somehow, we think that if we have not taken a vow, then we are not liable. We don't have to be guarded. We do have this kind of notion. But actually, we really need to understand that the vows give us the guidelines to protect us. They show us the right actions that will lead to positive and beneficial results for everyone. The ultimate benefit is of course to become realized. Proper living is therefore the road out of our suffering. It supports and facilitates our efforts to become free of our ignorance and confusion. How we conduct ourselves does matter, whether or not we have committed ourselves to an ethical code. The results from our actions will surely mature for us one day regardless of our belief, or commitment. The reason why some people take the outward forms of vows is because they feel that through their serious and earnest commitment, they will more likely be successful to change, and to keep the discipline. They might be more effective and strict with themselves in difficult times when they could not otherwise cope.
not to harm others
The main challenge is not to follow our habits, attitudes, and ideas and act in a way that will harm other beings. We exercise care and awareness in whatever we do. That in-itself, is already helping others by not creating negativity. Therefore we have to first understand ethic, otherwise, we won't know what are the harmful actions to avoid. Committing harmful actions is a double-edged sword. Not only do I hurt myself and others, the negative karma thus created further obscures my mind so I am unable to understand or to see clearly. The obscuration blocks my connection to my mind's wisdom or my Buddha nature. The less the obscuration, the easier it is to see precisely and to recognize the right thing to do. Therefore, ethic is the proper ground that will make it easy for our practice to be effective and productive.
The basic advice is not to harm other beings. We should not lie, and make others believe in a falsity. Lying could easily be habit-forming; it is a bad habit producing negative actions. A special emphasis is not to lie about spiritual matters, which might cause others to believe and follow the wrong path as a result. This is a much more negative consequence of lying.
We should not steal. In general, all societies treat stealing as a criminal offence. We all live by this law. But actually, it is very important not to steal even without the legal prohibition. For example, if you ask, " How can I be healthy?"
The advice is to eat healthy, exercise regularly, and get proper rest. We are not forced to follow it exactly. There is really no right or wrong. If I want to be healthier and to live longer, then this kind of advice makes sense. Similarly, acting ethically makes sense because it directly impacts our basic state of mind, which will affect our future. Even when my mind now is not so clear, or well, and there is a lot that I don't understand, acting positively will give me the good opportunities later on. The good karma is translated into mental clarity to really grasp the meaning of the teachings, and instructions. While it is true that everything depends on you, on your knowledge, and effort, at the same time, everything is also linked with karma. Therefore, in order for things to turn out properly, we must act properly. We take care of our state of mind, our speech, and our actions. We are committed even in the face of difficulties. We try to really understand why acting positively is actually very important for us. All living beings, but human beings in particular, live our lives very much driven by our desires and attachments. Of course, we cannot sever our grasping even if we wanted to, because it is immensely difficult, next to impossible. But we can try to not follow the wrong actions, and wrong attitudes! This is ethic, this is discipline.
engage in ethic during hardships
Actually, ethic really comes into
play when we are confronted with difficult situations. When there is nothing
wrong, there is no need of a remedy. When you are on a spiritual path, as a
monk, a nun, or a layperson, real engagement is when you are faced with hardships.
Can you still adhere to the principles to get over the difficulties? This is
why the Vinaya spells out in detail all the codes to help us deal. In general,
as explained already, we live with our desires, we live with our attachments.
Due to this, we harbor misconceptions, misunderstanding, and we misuse our opportunities
for temporary selfish gains or pleasures. We may think certain things pleasant
when they may not be. Nevertheless, our wants of these things make our mind
unethical, dishonest. We cheat a little, we lie a little in order to get what
we want. Otherwise, we don't need to lie, we don't need to be dishonest. Our
negative actions come about due to our desires. We are not only referring to
the very obviously negative crimes but the more subtle negativities that always
appear in our minds. We try at times to ward off their negative influence on
us. Sometimes we are deterred by our fear of being found out.
" I cannot do this because somebody would find me out. If nobody is going to know, then it's alright."
This kind of wrong concept can also appear. Why? It comes from desire, desire for one's good name, or image. It is ego clinging.
" I don't want to be a bad person. I want to be right, I want to be nice in the presence of others." Due to this desire, we always cheat a little, and we are slightly manipulative.
Generally, we don't see what we are like. We are so used to putting up a front because we do it all the time. We think we are normal. There is nothing wrong with it. Of course, there are the harmless little things we do when we socialize with others. They are not actually bad per se but if we are not aware of them they too can slowly turn negative. For example, we want a certain result, in order to get it, we become manipulative to get our way. We all know this but if we are not vigilant, our manipulative demeanour can grow stronger and stronger. Nobody kills just out of the blue. The aberrant aggression probably took root in some form of negativity, seemingly harmless in the beginning. Then slowly, it turned into a total disregard for others. The basic ethic is not to harm others. We cannot be inattentive, or slipshod about it.
" Oh, I know what I am doing is not quite right but I have these problems and things are just so hard for me. But let me get out of my problems first, then tomorrow, I will try harder. Yes, I will try to be good tomorrow."
This letting go of our principles is not acceptable. We always have difficulties. We will always have problems. We have to be ever conscientious and vigilant. We always connect with ethic, and apply it in everything we do.
be aware of negative tendencies - harmful mind, presence of desire, wrong view
There are certain negative tendencies or notions that are present in our mind. We should try to be aware of them. Three negative tendencies worth noting are harmful mind, mind in the presence of desire, and wrong view. Harmful mind is a state of mind that is thinking of doing harm to others, or hurting others. How not to harm others have already been presented.
The "presence of desire" points to a mind that wants. What is the cause of the desire? It is the feeling that I always need something, a kind of envy. Though it does not mean that we have to cut this desire, but if we are not aware of it, then our mind will never be peaceful. The peace of mind ends where a lot of negative causes appear. Therefore, we listen to the teachings, and we try to look at the self.
" How am I doing?"
You might think like this, " but I'm alright, maybe the problem is with the other people."
This means you are not seeing really clearly. Try to analyse if this applies to you,
" I think I have desires, and I feel envious of others. Maybe this is why my mind is always restless. I am constantly searching, always restless. Even when I don't need anything, I am still somehow restless..."
Actually in everyday living, this "searching-for-something" state of mind is dominant. When we read the newspaper, or magazine, we are constantly looking, even when we don't need anything. Mind is always searching and restless. As a result, though maybe not all the time, we usually do find something because we put so much effort into it.
The next time you find yourself just browsing through a clothing, or furniture catalogue, try to be aware of your state of mind. You might notice that some restlessness is there though it is not necessarily negative. The problem is if we are not careful and aware, it may become the start of a problem. If you are aware, no harm will come from your browsing. You understand that you are just looking and you don't let yourself go further than that. You keep your balance.
Another negative tendency of mind is "wrong view". Actually it means a state of mind unwilling to seek the truth and so rejects it. The word, "truth", sounds very important, and rather serious. But in our context here, the truth points to our regular ways in which we deal with everyday life. Simply look at how you manage the day-to-day things, not necessarily the big projects. You don't have to feel ashamed of your inner wanderings either. Shame is harmful, in a way, it is a form of rejecting the truth. Be aware of yourself. Much like when you try to understand why someone did something really negative, for instance. You try to figure out his motives, or the circumstances that he was in that drove him to it.
contentment is one aspect of discipline
To be content is very important. While it is understandable that everyone wishes to have a comfortable and good life, but on the other hand, to know contentment is essential. It is the way of ethic. We can practise or apply contentment in our monitoring of our food intake. The Buddha explained that when we eat, we should eat until we are three quarters full. This is not a restriction. According to the Vinaya, generally, we can eat everything. But at the same time, we are cautioned as to the amount we eat. Not that eating is bad but if we are not careful, our eating can harm our body. Our stomach needs air and room to digest its content so it's good to allow our stomach to be one quarter empty. This helps our digestion which will keep us healthy. Similarly, the Buddha said that we should take care of our physical, and mental health. We should not harm our body. We pay attention to what we eat. We eat nutritious food and we watch the amount. This is what discipline means with respect to the proper intake of food. It should make good common sense. It does not mean to deprive oneself of nutritious or delicious food. Neither does it mean to starve oneself.
we can reflect at eating time
Another aspect of eating can connect us to the Paramita of generosity. When you eat, mentally, you can dedicate the food and all the good conditions that produced the food to all sentient beings. The food is made available to you through the effort of many people. Think of them, and how they have contributed. As well, reflect that all food comes from the suffering of many beings. For example, think of where the meat, or vegetables, or grains come from. Even in the case of water, the Buddha said that animals are disturbed by the way we obtain our water. So it is this kind of idea that we should be aware of. Our awareness is through clear understanding in place of a strict and rigid observance of rules. We know and we are not uncaring or careless. We are aware of both the good and the bad. We therefore dedicate the good, and we purify the bad through our conscious prayers and wishes. The purification is not only of our own karma, but also of those beings that suffer. Try to pray for them and accept them into your prayers as part of your practice. This is a discipline we should all try to engage in.
use discipline to keep negativity at bay
Whenever you are with people, to apply ethic means to engender a proper attitude. While it is natural for you to focus on your own work and results, it does not preclude you from being concerned for others as well. Other people are also working for their goals. The proper thing to do is to try to consider both sides. Your words, and actions will then have this proper lean. You don't have to lie, or cheat to get your way. Even when you really cannot help it, you can still try to limit your negative behaviour to a minimum and not let it get any worse. This is discipline. Actually, if you can already stop all negativities, then you don't need discipline. To be ethical, and disciplined imply an inability to stop negativity thereby warranting the practice of restraint.
Having desire can be likened to drinking salty water where one's thirst is actually more aggravated. For example, if my slightly negative act produced a good result, I would feel somewhat gratified. Based on this gratification, I judge the behaviour not so bad and would therefore most likely repeat it in the future. When repeatedly the negative behaviour gives me a favourable result, I would deem it a good method, its negative side ignored and forgotten. Ethic is the discontinuation of something negative. You need to be aware so you could discipline yourself.
Some sutras tell of the Buddha comparing ethic to staying in the shade in a very hot desert. If you maintain step by step, proper ethic and action, you will feel as if you are under a shade in a desert. Lacking discipline is likened to being always under the hot sun, exposed and very hot. A step-by-step process to change is to first understand the many conditions that distract your mind. Then, stay ever aware and vigilant of these conditions. When they arise, remember to remain "content" cognizant of the fact that it is the antidote to the disturbances. Then very gradually, your mind will be increasingly relaxed. You will then be able to rest in the presence of mind, quiet and peaceful.
At the moment, relatively speaking, we have less negative karmic conditions so it is important that we seize this opportunity to lay the groundwork for our future. The positive results of our preparation and discipline now are not immediate, but they will come. Without discipline, our mind is always distracted. There is therefore no peace of mind. On the whole, depending on the circumstances, we are creating more negative causes than not. And the negative results continue to appear. If we know, if we are mindful of proper ethic, then everything becomes smoother and more positive for us, because our mind is the basic ground from which everything arises. If the mind is linked with desire, then all the thoughts and actions will follow in this vein.
stop the first concept
In Tibetan, we have a term that is translated as, "first concept" - it is what we first feel. If left unchecked, this feeling/concept will continue to further define and shape our state of mind. A first concept may be,
" Oh, this is very nice. I want to have it; or I want to be like this!"
If we are not careful, the feeling will carry us away in its direction. Obviously, if it is a positive thought, then it is quite alright. But a negative one undetected can gradually develop into a bad habit. And we wonder why it is so hard to change. We can all appreciate how important "awareness" is when dealing with a first concept. We have to grow accustomed to being aware. We always watch carefully our inner conditions. If we can recognize this first concept right away, then immediately it is changed. Why? It is because we can see the quality of our feeling, the quality of our focus. We can see that it does not bring us any benefit. As a result, we will not be led into a second concept. There is a Tibetan expression which captures exactly this idea. Its exact translation is to "close" the negative "first concepts". By being aware, we can choose not to follow the negativity. In time, we are habituated to this type of vigilance and we will improve. We close, or stop our negative thoughts, and actions. But then, you have to see for yourself what "close" really means!
It goes without saying that you can only see and act according to what you experience. A simple example is if you are cold in a room, you close the window to keep the cold air out; and vice versa, when the room is too warm, you open the window. Similarly, with respect to all the distractions of mind, first, we must know their causes. When a distraction appears, we don't focus on it. This will stop it. We find out what brought it on, and we don't follow it. This is the first of three aspects of discipline, introduced earlier, in our practice of ethic.
to embrace Bodhicitta
The second aspect of discipline is "to embrace Bodhicitta". It means to engender the positive while abiding in the truth of the Dharma. It is essentially the Bodhisattva attitude and action. It is our commitment to help others while following the Dharma ever connected to its meaning. For example, a dog is very hungry. I catch a fish to feed it. I killed a fish in order to help a dog - an obvious breach of the Dharma. I've created karma that is mixed with both good and bad through an ignorant state of mind. We should be careful that the help we give is in keeping with the Dharma. Otherwise, we could be causing more harm than good. Try to remember the link to the Dharma, then we will remember to apply it, where positive intent is followed up with positive action. This is the Bodhisattva way, or Bodhicitta attitude, an earnest commitment to do everything in a pure and proper way while benefiting others.
application of Bodhicitta
The third is "the application of Bodhicitta". It means to actually help and pay attention to all beings equally. Of course, each being's conditions and situations are different so our help will be given accordingly. "Equal" in our context here means that every being without exception is important. One being is important, just as a few beings are important, and likewise many beings. We therefore try to help, support, and attend to any number of beings according to their individual needs. From the Tibetan, the meaning is to do something beneficial for all beings, in very important things as well as in very simple things. An example is giving water to someone who is thirsty. We do not dismiss the act as,
" Oh, he needs a glass of water. But that is so trivial. I am going to offer him something much better and important."
To the thirsty person, water is very important at that moment. We should try to express our Bodhisattva commitment and help in appropriate ways.
Sometimes you may find yourself thinking, " Oh, he is very difficult to deal with. I am so busy already with many important things. It's alright then for me not to care too much about him."
This is not right. To a Bodhisattva, every single being is considered very important. You will see that it actually makes sense when you start to apply it. Generally, we have a sense that things and people directly linked to our pride and desire are very important. As a result, those outside of our self-centredness get ignored. We don't care about them so that gradually the defects and wrong views start to appear in our mind.
Normally we feel that everything is alright, yet at the same time, our emotions are quite strong and distracting. Our mind is thus agitated and interrupted. Many complications appear and with them, more confusion. Even though we don't actually go around and describe ourselves as confused, we are actually confused. If we take the time to really look at how we are we will see that we don't know really where we are stuck, and what we have to do. This is confused mind. And we just follow it. We live like this with many things unclear to us. There is really much confusion. We may not necessarily be suffering a lot, but on the whole, we experience pressures, discomfort, and unpleasantness. And we don't understand.
By using the Dharma as our reference point, we can begin to reflect carefully and precisely. Like doing an experiment, we take the Dharma as hypothesis and test it out in daily life to see if it works, to see if it is true! Then, slowly, the meaning and significance of the Dharma will become simple and obvious to you. Your state of mind will become simple. Simple does not mean stupid. Neither does it imply that people are simple. Simple means it is easy for you to understand. It is a state of mind where you can understand so much better. You can then better cope with situations when there is less confusion, less trappings due to the emotions and distractions.
On the other hand, each individual situation is actually good. It is workable and useful yet neither is it appreciated nor utilized. The point is to really take the time to reflect carefully. All the teachings emphasize this point. Careful introspection will gradually allow us to see that the things that distract us are not really so important. Often, we first focus on the distractions. We magnify them, and make a big deal of them. Then, we follow them like sheep in a flock following one another when startled, without knowing really where they are going or what startled them. It is the same as when a little interruption appears and it distracts you yet you don't know why you are disturbed but you follow the distraction. You do live like this. If you could try to be a little more aware, everything will become clearer. You can apply the right ethic in situations. And you can relax. You will feel happier with your conditions. You'd be able to do very nice things for others, which will make you even more relaxed. As explained already, this is a positive karmic chain leading to good merits or results. This directly causes your practice to go well and you will achieve the good results. In the "Bodhicitta aryatara", or "The Jewel Ornament of Liberation", ethic is described as the fertile field from which good crops will grow. For our practice to blossom and mature, ethic is fundamental, and indispensable. It prepares us by reducing our obscurations so that increasingly, we are able to be "in the moment".
awareness is key
In a way, it is very easy to connect with the Bodhicitta ideal. Our mind and action both can normally maintain this connection except when we are not aware, when we cannot see. Therefore, we have to try to be aware so that we can still pull back when we have gone off. The same as when we are driving too fast, we slow down. We apply this same principle and adjust accordingly our speech, our action, and our thoughts to keep proper ethic. We do not make excuses or try to cover up by thinking, " Oh, I am not really doing anything wrong, so everything is O.K."
Actually, we are always engaged in the little negatives. Therefore, "to slow down" in our context means to try to reduce these small negatives. If you can do this, you will see better and you will not make so many mistakes. You will see what you are thinking and how you behave. Mistakes can be avoided. When we are always careful, everything will become proper.
This engagement in ethic is a lifetime commitment, a spiritual path. There is no urgency to change everything all at once, but we use the Dharma as our guide. While it is almost impossible to be very strict all the time, yet to completely ignore any discipline is also not recommended.
" I cannot do it, I don't need to follow it," this way of thinking is not good.
Try to improve the discipline little by little. At times, you are more vigilant while at other times you can relax. Like this, you will go back and forth, adjusting yourself by being careful and then relaxing. When things are not so easy, your awareness will help you cope. Afterwards you can relax again. If you could do this, then slowly this vigilance and ethical behaviour will become a habit. Actually, things will no longer appear difficult for you, and you will be able to deal with them quite easily.
to counter anger
The third Paramita is "patience". In "The Jewel Ornament of Liberation", it is explained that patience is often applied to counter anger, a negative emotion that causes many conditions to appear thereby greatly distracting us. When that happens, our good karma and qualities dissolve.
Anger is normal yet changeable. A person with a very short temper has developed this habit or personality. In fact, being in samsara, emotions such as anger are very naturally triggered when our mind is faced with certain circumstances. We are completely taken up by this negative emotion. There is no room, or time left for anything else. But where does the emotion come from? It is from our very subtle consciousness, which holds the notion of "I" giving rise to all the disturbing emotions. Anger is an obvious one. Temper can quickly flare linked with this basic self-grasping. You may wonder why anger is singularly noted here. It is because the many teachings on the Bodhisattva Path expressly cautioned that anger could destroy everything. Of course, we think anger is natural. By carefully monitoring your own inner feelings, perceptions, and thoughts, gradually, you will come to understand the causes of anger in you. You could then start to change your internal patterns. This is the reason why the Patience Paramita is introduced to help you realize this change.
The first of the two Paramitas help us to gather and keep positive merits. We have been reborn as human beings. This favourable condition comes from merit. Things are readily available to us. By practising generosity and ethic, we prepare a fertile field where everything would grow well. In our context, the crop is our merit. Our conditions will become better, easier, and less difficult for us; in short, a better karma. As explained already, it is also merit that gives us all the good conditions for spiritual development. We are able to receive the Dharma, we have time for practice, we are connected with a proper spiritual teacher and when we receive the instructions, we can understand and apply them. Being ethical guards our mind from accumulating negative karma.
It only makes sense that we would wish to keep and increase our storage of merit. However, as stated in the many Buddhist texts, very strong anger could destroy, or damage all our merit. Try to reflect deeper to get to its exact meaning. The metaphor used to describe anger is that of a very strong fire that burns away everything, all the qualities, and merit that we have carefully developed. If you really try to analyse it yourself, you could actually conceive your anger causing you damage, in addition to hurting others. Therefore, to develop patience, to stop or counter anger is very important.
three types of patience
In general, the development of patience can be discussed from three perspectives.
1.When someone or something disturbs you, you do not think or feel anything of it. The translation of a corresponding Tibetan expression is "Whatever happens, do not think, do not feel." You can leave it, or let it go. Of course, it is not so simple to do. You should not expect that you could do it tomorrow just because you know you ought to. You have to learn to be "patient", otherwise, you cannot do it.
2.Second, you accept all the difficulties or sufferings voluntarily. You willingly take on all the problems and hardships.
3.You "properly search" the meaning of the Dharma. When our mind is impatient, we try to do everything very quickly and so we don't actually get the proper meaning. To "properly search" means to take the time to investigate what precisely is the Dharma telling us and whether it is true. To train in the Paramita of Patience involves many trials of holding up to the difficulties and resisting negative tendencies. We cannot force ourselves to be patient. It might work for us for one day, but it's gone the next. We have to train ourselves through experience over time. In this way, we will come to understand much more clearly the meaning of the Dharma. When we really get the clear and precise meaning, then we are sure. We will feel less irritated or bothered by things and people. We will then be able to work with others and all the conditions, following the Bodhisattva Path.
Each of these three points presented contains many elements and aspects just as there are many ways of expressing and explaining them. A more simple approach is to use a few examples to illustrate these essential points.
If someone disturbs or harms you, don't make anything of it. In Tibetan, we say,
" Don't think so much and don't feel so bad!"
Ordinarily, when someone harms you, and you are very sensitive, your breathing quickens and you turn serious. In short, you are disturbed. You feel a little bit hopeless as in,
" What's the use?" so you don't react immediately.
This is not patience, but a feeling of futility. Sometimes, we react to release some of the internal tension while at other times we don't, depending on the situation. For example, you drive into town and see a parking spot. Just then, someone else takes the spot. You feel a little unhappy and upset yet you feel that arguing over it would lead nowhere so you decide to just drop it. But your anger/distraction still lingers inside. When it happens to you a second time with a different parking spot, you will be much angrier. This kind of inner tension is in us. Under certain circumstances, we express and release the tension in our actions. When certain situations do not allow us to express it, we just hold it in. This holding back is therefore not considered exercising patience.
In general, we suppress very small
pressures without really registering them. We use an example to help illustrate
the point. You come home from work and your spouse has not done what you have
expected. You feel your dissatisfaction inside but you don't say anything about
it. This kind of small tension we have all experienced. You feel somewhat unhappy
yet you are not clear as to why. Then maybe after twenty, or thirty times of
holding it in, you react or pop like a champagne bottle, yet without realizing
exactly what is happening or what it means. It is therefore very important for
you to see clearly your inner condition. This is the key. Then you will understand,
and you will have no need to explode. As soon as the distraction comes, you
see it, and you understand it. Therefore, you will not necessarily feel tense
or your stomach knotted.
a gradual process
It is difficult to say exactly how we go about starting the process of letting go. Having a clear perception and a proper understanding is a start. Then, we have to adopt the Bodhicitta aspiration and engage in its application. The aspiration comes from our understanding that everything comes from ignorance leading to suffering. The suffering is not just temporary but it is ever present as the endless cycles of samsara. If I am really clear about this fact, then even if I am not yet free, I recognize and feel that all samsaric conditions are unsatisfactory. They are not good for all living beings, myself and everyone else included. In order to solve this problem, and to change the conditions, I start first with myself. I try to support others. I try to put the Bodhicitta ideal into action. Then, because I become clearer, step by step, I will be able to train in the Paramitas.
to be aware of ego clinging is fundamental
To be aware of our own ego clinging is a must. We are in samsara on account of our self-attachment. Characteristic of samsara are the many problems we encounter. We may know how to solve a few problems but not all of them. Many things are quite difficult. We feel at a loss as to what to do, so we feel trapped. Therefore we always have to come back to our basic being. We have to be aware of our ego clinging. We have to realize that this constant grasping is not good for anyone. This recognition gradually turns our focus towards other beings. We become more considerate of them. This caring and concern for others is the proper attitude indispensable in the practice of the Patience Paramita.
Consider the following observation and see if you could expand it with your own experience.
The next time you meet some people, try to see how you perceive them. At first, you may find them very nice, and sincere. Then when you next have an opportunity to work with them, you may start to see that everything is not so nice after all. You become more careful otherwise you may run into trouble. When this concept comes up, ask yourself, " Why are the people not really as nice as I thought them to be?"
It takes time to probe like this but you will begin to see that it is due to a combination of factors.
We have ego clinging. This strong desire or attachment is very natural. It is not necessarily negative or positive but it accounts for the very strong pride in all of us. In general, pride is quite evident in other people, but to see your own pride is not that straightforward. You probably don't know you have it. You may deduce that you must have it since everybody seems to have it. But, you don't know how your pride functions in you. Most people don't. This is why they do not act quite properly. Even the people who can see their own pride, they are at a loss as to how to be free of it. They want to change but they can't. They feel taken over by it. Why? It is because pride is a deeply ingrained habit linked with so many feelings, thoughts, and concepts. It cannot be seen immediately, so it cannot be changed immediately. Even for some people who think they know, but they don't really know its depth clearly. This is why pride is so hard to change.
to see with right understanding
Because we have ego clinging, we are distracted as we follow our disturbing emotions. It is a distracted state of mind flushed with jealousy, pride or hatred drawn by desire/attachment. Our mind is like this all the time, and so all our planning and goals take on a negative tilt. We are misdirected and at our worst, should we lose control to the negative state altogether, we could really act negatively with dire consequences for everyone. Through our own seeing and understanding that ignorance, or self-grasping is universal in all beings, we become more accepting of others. We are not bad on purpose but rather, we understand that we are totally caught up in ego clinging, pride and hatred. This is why our speech, our actions, and our attitudes are somewhat defensive, vengeful, and dishonest most of the time. These ways come very naturally to us. This is why we often react very strongly. We may not be heavily negative, however, some negativity is always there.
By knowing that this basic negativity is there, then you can begin to work with it. Even if someone harms you, you can just let it go, or accept it. It does not mean you just let him harm you either, or do nothing about it. You should still speak and act sensibly ever conscious of the fact that the person is acting out of an inability to see clearly and therefore he cannot help himself. There is a misunderstanding that to be patient means to not do anything, and to just leave things as they are. Patience means to not let anything disturb your mind, or your own nature. Why this is so important is because if you are disturbed, then you could get very angry. Unconsciously, you will think to retaliate, or revenge. But if we understand clearly, then there is no reason to strike back.
For example, walking on grass could attract ticks. You know that they suck your blood and cause you some irritation. But somehow, when you see clearly that ticks also has a wish to live, too, you don't really get angry at them. Your awareness brings in the understanding. This is what we mean by "the meaning of the Dharma appearing in your mind". And you exercise your wish to follow the path of the Bodhisattvas and you refrain from killing. You see the reason behind a particular situation, or event, so you could then cope in an ethical way. You don't get angry, neither are you afraid. You don't let the ticks feed on you either. You simply remove them, and place them elsewhere. But if you only consider ticks a nuisance, a pest, then you will immediately feel the urge to kill them. Similarly in all of life-situations, we should try to see the basic condition as in the example of the tick. Of course anger arises in us easily. Often, we are so used to it that we no longer notice it when it is there. In fact, there is always a tiny bit of anger in us making us very judgmental. But if we can see clearly, then we will be able to work with it, and so our anger will decrease. Therefore, to see properly with the right understanding is very important. Otherwise, "not to think, or feel anything" is near impossible!
While we are on the Bodhisattva Path, in each moment, we make the effort to be clearer and more precise our understanding. We could make the anger either stronger, or weaker. It is up to us. If we really take the time to listen carefully, to reflect and validate the meaning within our own experiences, then abilities such as "not to think about it" are doable. We may not necessarily be highly-realized beings immediately, but more importantly, if we have the capacity to learn and understand ever connected to the aspiration of Bodhicitta, then, we too, will become highly-realized beings.
When you try to see the precise meaning of the Dharma, you listen properly without letting your concepts, and ideas obscure your mind. This means to not follow your preconceptions, habitual thoughts, and patterns of thinking. It is also a form of patience when you take the time and effort to see clearly; over time, this exact seeing becomes your ability.
patience precedes and guides our
We use the term, patience. The term affords us an idea, an easy reference to remind ourselves but we have to subsume patience so that it becomes our nature. It will come with training. At the moment, we believe and we understand but we are not used to being patient. As a result, we are not able to act properly. We forget and so we follow our habits and tendencies. Everybody is like this. Patience has to precede and guide our reactions. For example, when you drive, you are aware of the speed limit. On the one hand, the rule gives you some pressure, but on the other, it is a reminder to drive carefully. Especially when your car has the power to go very fast, the limit is there to deter you. Similarly, when you are used to being patient, even when your anger, or another strong emotion takes you over, your reaction is still connected with patience and the degree of negativity thus limited.
patient with all beings equally
Our everyday life is a fertile training ground. It affords us many minor incidences when we find ourselves distracted, and irritated. That is the time when we should remind ourselves to apply the meaning of patience and try to see the point of view of others. Try to see their conditions. As explained already, "don't feel". In the beginning, we will see that we are constantly judging. In general, we find that intelligent people with good conditions do not need our special consideration. And we tend to be more considerate to those who are lacking in knowledge, or who are in adverse conditions. In this way, we discriminate between the "have's and the have not's". Gradually, we will come to realize that all sentient beings live under the same confines of samsara. The individual conditions may differ due to karma. This realization renders you more available to others equally. It enables you to follow the Bodhisattva Path eventually gaining liberation from samsara.
accept all difficulties
There is a Tibetan expression, which means "to accept your suffering". It means more than to accept. A Bodhisattva is actually happy with his lot in life because he has gone beyond a mere acceptance of his given conditions. Ordinarily, patience is needed when there is some unpleasantness. We try very hard but sometimes our effort goes unnoticed. Others may be too tired to notice, or too busy to acknowledge it. We feel discouraged because there is no response, and we feel we shouldn't have to put up with the suffering any more. Disappointed, we give up trying. We become careless because we think it makes no difference. Apathy sets in, and a feeling of futility appears. This is why we have to learn to accept things voluntarily on our own without any expectations.
When you really engage in applying patience, everything is of course not so smooth. There are distractions, and disappointment. We are dealing with people. People are people. The task can be both time consuming and tiring. People do not really see what you are doing. In the meantime, you are also in the suffering as well. But if you see without expectation of results, the meaning of our relative, nevertheless normal, samsaric conditions will become apparent. The conditions are then easier to handle. Without the support of the correct view, being patient is really challenging and there is much suffering. But Bodhicitta in action is to work very sincerely without wanting even in the face of distractions and suffering. There can be no disappointment. Everything comes by your very decision to try to help others. Therefore you are able to deal with all the hardships. As soon as the concept, "this is difficult" appears, immediately it is recognized and accepted as necessary in the scheme of things. And you deal with it quite earnestly, as best you can.
With respect to the human state of mind, it is very complex. And so is the training in patience, which is multi-faceted. We cannot possibly cover all the many facets. However, we could begin to relate to them little by little. We work with the three points of patience presented. If we are able to reflect carefully and make a connection to the meaning of those points through our own experiences, then we will become clearer. The meaning will come through our interactions with others, through experiencing our own feelings, our own emotions, as well as experiencing what other people may feel, and how they live. This is what is meant by "properly searching the meaning of the Dharma", the third kind of patience. It calls for the precise understanding of the meaning of the Dharma beyond our preconceptions, prejudices, and biases.
What I have explained I feel is very important. But it is my own judgement. Yet we live in samsara influenced by our concepts and ways of thinking and feeling. This is why so much emphasis is given to use the Dharma always as our reference. When you are trying to be patient, and you find yourself caught up in what you would like it is an indication that you have not yet grasped the full meaning of the Paramita of patience. But if you could expend a little time and effort, and work with the difficulties, then in time, you will understand more and so you could change and adjust your concepts and perceptions. In daily life, you don't simply connect to the parts that suit you, or what you would like and care only for them. You cannot practise patience without distractions. There will be distractions, difficulties, and suffering. They are viewed as such from your point of view. The perceive problems vary individually according to the way you practise, and the way you deal with things. Because everything comes from how you hear, and how you reflect, then if you are connected to the proper way, you will get the meaning. Distractions will still keep arising for sure because we are human. Their number will however decrease. The important difference is when a distraction appears, you will be able to spot it immediately and you will not follow it anymore.
The third Paramita is effort.
Actually, it is a combination of effort and diligence. These two qualities are necessary to assure "continuity" on the Bodhisattva Path.
two aspects of effort
1.First is "engagement". Effort is required to actually engage in something.
2.Next is "to continue without hindrance". It means to apply effort in order to continue where nothing can block the way. Whether the progress is quick or slow is not a concern here. We can readily see how effort is integral to the practice of patience. In order to cope with the hindrances, we have to "to resist". We work hard to resist all the problems and obstacles so we don't veer off the Dharma Path. Yet at the same time, we appreciate the fact that the distractions and hardships afford us the chance to obtain a better understanding. This is why we have to have strong effort and perseverance to stay on track.
Effort is indispensable if we wish to reach Enlightenment. It propels us towards greater understanding through engagement in the practice. Effort is connected with all the other Paramitas like meditation, generosity, ethic and patience. We train in each Paramita with effort. In fact, we live every day with effort. As the saying goes, "With right effort, even your finger can make a hole in the stone." The right effort can get us through any difficulty. Generally, what you consider "difficult" is not so difficult. It is your desire, tendencies, and emotions, which govern you. They take up most of your time. You then find yourselves unable to have time for what is really important. You find it difficult to practise. Even when you believe in the Dharma, and you want to practise, your other pursuits occupy all your time. You then find it difficult to follow the Dharma. "Difficult" in the sense that you feel the time is passing, and you have not engaged in what is really important to you. This is why you have to first "engage".
Effort comes from our commitment to reach a certain result and it enables us to achieve our goal. Along the way, we will have to persevere through all the difficulties much like the Tortoise in "The Tortoise and the Rabbit", a story well known to all people. Whatever Dharma practice you happen to engage in, it is your normal tendencies and habits that get in your way. They block you from the habit of practice. There is somehow a little gap. The gap is a lack of discipline to sit silently, and to stay with it. It is not so easy because you are not used to sitting like that. Also, meditation does not fetch you any "interesting" things. You meditate in order to become realized. Therefore, you have to train to develop this new habit. It takes time and it takes discipline. You will also need many support and conditions such as merit and proper understanding of the meaning of the Dharma; otherwise, you will not be able to stay alone in meditation retreat.
hardships are training grounds
Even when you are alone in a room, the most difficult is to have first an interest in the practice. You have to feel a need to practise, and to value the result you will achieve in doing so. You can find this out easily enough but you have to know very clearly at the outset. Then the second step is to be able to do the practice. You may have the opportunity to practise but you are unable to do it. For example, you are free the whole day yet you cannot just do the practice the whole time. The reason is because you don't yet have this habit. Even if you wanted to, you cannot do it. You may find yourself needing some kind of support without which it'd be impossible for you to stay. The support, for example, varies with each individual. It may be reading, watching TV, or doing some form of work. The bottom line is you are not able to engage with the practice continuously. These kinds of problems are there for people who do have the time and yet are unable to take full advantage of it. Of course, many people are very busy. They wish to have the time to practise.
Therefore, in order to really engage and to continue in the practice, we need some hardships to train ourselves. We use them to learn self-discipline and how to resist the distractions so we stay on track. This is the way to form a new and better habit. We are strengthened every time we get through a hardship. The difficulties challenge us and train us to apply our own efforts. In the process, we learn many things and we gain more understanding. Hardships are therefore really important because they can serve us well. We exercise more diligence when they confront us. We move ahead a little and get closer to the meaning of the teachings. When we do, we will find it easier to continue to follow the Path.
These are the very basic points about the application of effort and diligence. We develop and apply these qualities while we are on the Path. We have received all the teachings and meanings of the Dharma and so we must follow through by a willingness to live and practise what we have learnt. We also know now the value of supporting others, so we train in putting effort into changing our past habits into different but useful ones.
The purpose of meditation, the fifth Paramita is to train the mind. At the moment, our mind is often not under our control. It is "untamed", which means undisciplined. "Not under our control", means that we are unable to cope with all the mental conditions. They influence and destabilize us. We get confused and ignorance is further developed. Here "ignorance" does not refer to the ignorance right from the beginning, but to the "not seeing" in this present moment. Of course, as humans we know a lot, but at the same time, we are very unclear. This is why we need to meditate.
the meaning of meditation
The proper meaning of "meditation" conveys a stable mind, not only stable, but a mind that is conscious, and aware. This stable mind is at the same time unchangeable, indestructible and capable of remaining within itself. It is a mind that can stay with the all the mental conditions of mind. If we are used to this stable mind, then conditions such as distractions, and emotions will not destabilize us. As we know, attachment, jealousy, and pride are the main causes of disturbances when they escape our detection. However, this does not mean that when we are aware of them, the emotions will simply dissolve. Rather, they will still appear yet their presence no longer disturbs us. This indicates that our mind is getting clearer. You see clearly, and undisturbed, you can then cope on your own. Clarity is the result of a stable mind. Due to this clarity, everything appears very simple, neither distracting nor disturbing.
Meditation originally means a stable mind. But nowadays, the term "meditation" is widely used to describe a method of sitting for a various purposes. In Buddhism, we "meditate" to achieve a stable mind with all the qualities that have been described. The methods we follow are according to the Buddha's instructions. This distinction is important to keep in mind as we study and practise the meditation instructions.
three essential points to follow
With respect to the Buddhist methods of meditation, there are many different varieties and forms. The Buddha taught them all. To understand more precisely the stable mind requires us to actually engage in meditation. In this regard, three points are emphasised.
1.We have to follow the proper instructions. The instructions have to be given by someone who not only has theoretical knowledge, but must also have gone through the actual process of meditation himself. He is then qualified to give meditation instructions because he has "first hand" experience in achieving the results.
2.We must train under an experienced teacher, and come to some understanding of the meaning of "wisdom" through our own experience. Here, wisdom points to a kind of intelligence, which is a result of meditation. Otherwise, the instructions in words remain only as concepts to us without any experience to back them up.
3.We also have to learn how not to get caught by the meditation, which is the third point. A quote from the "The Jewel Ornament of Liberation" advises against "grasping the peaceful state of mind". Gampopa warned not to be trapped by the peaceful mind because it prevents you from attaining the wisdom of mind. Of course, you will feel good, a relative benefit of a peaceful mind. But it will deter you from further progress and from achieving the results of meditation.
the view of Dharma and Bodhicitta form the basis of meditation
The problem is we are in samsara, so we are attached to all kinds of conditions. This attachment is a handicap blocking our ability to employ the methods to reach Enlightenment. The Six Paramitas opens us to Bodhicitta-mind, without which meditation will be very difficult. Bodhicitta counters our self-attachment. Anyone can meditate but mind will always grasp the peace of mind. While you are training in meditation, you don't need to reject the peace right away. You will get attached to it but at the same time, it helps to know that you must extend the meditation beyond a mere peace. You will then apply the right effort when the time comes. You will feel the need to improve. You will want to develop more clarity of mind rather than abiding in the peacefulness.
The same effort to be more clear can be applied at all times, under any condition, not only in meditation. In one way, it is very difficult yet it does not have to be. The difficulty lies with your mind. If you cannot understand the meaning of generosity, ethic, the basic conditions of samsara, or suffering, as the Buddha expounded in the Four Noble Truths, then the practice can be difficult. But grounded in our understanding of the Buddha's teachings, we will begin to feel from within a genuine concern and need to search deeper in order to reach beyond our current conditions. Our meditation will then progress.
To reach a "stable" mind as described, we meditate. We follow through many steps. Meditation is not easy. First, we have to get used to it. We have to learn how to be quiet, and simple. "Just be in the moment". We need to train to be in this kind of mind. To train means to use the methods, to follow the methods. The primary meaning of meditation is to sit uninterrupted. But there are always a lot of interruptions. We train ourselves to be aware of them, not to follow them. Like the taming of a horse, you have to know how, then you have to do it. You learn how not to be too rigid yet not completely undisciplined. In meditation, you learn how to be balanced, how to adjust yourself so you are neither too tight not too relaxed. At the same time, you are careful that bad habits don't form. Step by step, your mind is aware and less disturbed by the distractions. You will be able to remain somewhat free of the interruptions. Mind will stay, conscious and stable. It is difficult to express or to describe the meditative mind. But when you sit and meditate, then you will understand what these adjectives mean.
We learn, we practise, and we get used to meditation. Like doing exercises, we do it regularly. We attune our mind to the meditative state, a state of mind markedly different from what is usual for us, following all the thoughts - not knowing where our mind is, how it is, or what is happening in the present moment. But when you meditate, you will know, and feel, "I am clear." You can see and feel clearly what is happening in the present moment. You are aware and you can stay with it. You are able to continue without being distracted. This is learning the process of meditation. Step by step, you will be able to remain in a balanced state of mind for a long time. It is important to remain in the awareness for as long as possible. When you can, your meditation will continue.
The Buddha said that everything is really our own projection. Our mind now is obscured by certain conditions. As a result, we can only see a little bit. We feel and live as we do now. We carry on with our lives. But suppose your eyeglasses are dirty, you cannot see properly. Similarly, though not exactly the same, when your mind is not very clear, everything appears to you unclear. Everything goes through your mind's filter. But when the obscurations start to clear in your mind, you will understand so much better. Right now when you read the teachings, your understanding and reflections are nestled in your own inner conditions of mind. Your perception is thus marked and also limited as a human being. You are in a way stuck, unable to understand exactly what the teachings really mean.
To change, we cannot force it. We have to go through a process to change. A Tibetan expression describes meditation as that process whereby "through the wisdom, you will be able to discriminate between illusion and reality". The meaning of the statement is profound, and difficult to express exactly in English. We could say that an unclear mind could not discriminate precisely. Here, "unclear" does not mean "stupid". In our context here, even clever people do not see precisely. This means when we try to analyse our mind, or when we try to focus on it, we can see only what we know. There is a barrier. But while we are here within the human experience, we can only be as we are now. Even if we were to try to alter the way we talk or to talk differently, we could do it maybe for a short while, but we cannot really do it. We always have to come back to how we are now, in our current conditions. We may get the idea that there is more to what we know, or do. We may believe that there is a better way to be. But knowing still does not mean we can actually do it. For example, if you were born without legs, and you wanted to walk, you couldn't. You could see how others walk; yet you could not have an actual experience of walking, what it'd feel like. Your concept of walking is from your own imagination. If somebody said, "Oh, my leg hurts," you could not relate to that experience.
So everything comes back to your own feeling. Similarly, the Dharma teachings are copious. They are difficult to understand without actual experience of their meaning.
In the opening chapters of "The Jewel Ornament of Liberation," the conditions of samsara and nirvana are both described as states of mind. Basically, the nature of mind is emptiness. Emptiness does not mean that we do not exist; rather, it is a matter of cognition. Samsara is a condition of mind. Therefore samsara itself is also empty of existence. Cognition is a condition of samsara resulting always in experience. And in samsara, experience is a condition connected always to suffering. On the other hand, nirvana, which is a condition of mind, is also emptiness in nature. However, nirvana is a state of perfect clarity where there is no suffering as opposed to the confused state of samsara. Nirvana can also be described as a state of perfect wisdom. Wisdom is the result, or achievement of meditation and the perfection of wisdom is the sixth Paramita.
What is wisdom? It is the result, of meditation. We can use it, we can think with it, but at the same time, we cannot perceive it. For example, you are told that someone has wisdom. But when you look, you realize that you don't understand what that wisdom actually is. It is also not something that you could get. But you can talk or read about it as described by Gampopa. You can get some idea about it. But to really feel wisdom is so difficult yet we all need it. As it is with everything we learn, we have to first work hard to learn it. We integrate the learnt results within us so we really know it. Only then can we feel and experience the results. We approach meditation in this same way. We practise and develop our meditation. In this way, our wisdom in us will naturally expand. As this wisdom grows, increasingly, we will be able to discriminate and to understand clearly. This is why meditation is so much emphasized because it enables us to understand the Dharma. Meditation gives us the capacity to understand. We can say that the capacity is wisdom. We have to learn properly abiding by all the requirements. Then we will begin to see differently than what we have been used to.
To avoid getting confused, we try to keep things simple. We ask ourselves,
" Where do all the problems come from?"
We find that problems arise when things get complicated.
" Where do the complications come from?"
The term "ignorance" comes up in all Buddhist teachings. Ignorance is the root of self-grasping, which gives rise to all the complications, and problems. Naturally, we want to know how to resolve or remedy this problem of self-grasping. We have to "work" to understand and to realize that there is no "self" for us to grasp in the first place. And to "work" is to meditate. The non-existence of a "self" is universal.
" What will happen when I realize that the self does not exist? Will I then be lost, or disappear?
The answer is,
" No, you will still exist, but you no longer cling to a self."
In other words, self-grasping has changed into wisdom, or enlightened mind. You will not dissolve or disappear. However, your cognition, your qualities, and your knowledge will be totally transformed. They will be completely different from what they are now. At the moment, we always think and feel,
" I am here me, this is myself"
It is this view, or concept that is in fact blocking you so that the qualities of Buddhahood cannot appear.
is there a "self"
Practically, while we are human beings, we cannot perceive that things do not exist or they are empty in nature. From our point of view, the world exists, we exist. Your research may lead you to conclude that there is no form, or composition of matter. Yet you cannot help but see forms everywhere. In order to see the meaning of emptiness, the teachings tell us to develop our mind's wisdom. It is not simply thinking that things do not exist. It is not enough to simply accept that everything is empty in nature. It requires real understanding. You have to really see, feel, and realize that "self" does not exist. Then you will be able to solve any problem, whatever its complexity. Meditation can give us this real understanding. It can expand the scope of our view and knowledge. We will understand exactly what the Buddha taught.
The Buddha, before he was enlightened, studied extensively and became very knowledgeable in philosophy and spirituality. But when he reached Enlightenment, the main focus of his teachings was how an individual could attain liberation. This means how one can become free of the notion of a self, how to become purified of self. Where there is no self, knowledge reaches its fullest extent as perfect wisdom. What happens if we do not reach Buddhahood? Then, we will always be within the six realms. Gampopa said that our perception or our illusion now is a condition of samsara. We experience ourselves, for the present moment, as human beings. "Human beings" is just a term. Actually, there is no human being really existing singly and absolutely. This is why we say, "emptiness". But due to our illusion, due to our self-grasping, due to causes and conditions, we perceive ourselves as humans.
illusion continues through form and reincarnation
Two factors are needed to sustain our illusion. First is form, or composition though it is essentially non-existing. The second is reincarnation. When we die, our mind or consciousness leaves the perceived human form. At the same time, our perception, that of a human, expires. Then, according to our past tendencies, our past karma, we will acquire another type of perception. If we were to be reborn as a human being, we would again take on the human perception. If we were to go to a different realm, we'd acquire the corresponding perception.
We may think that after we die, other humans will continue to live here. Of course, each being follows his own illusion. When karma is similar among beings, then collectively, they share similar conditions. For example, human beings here on earth share a collective illusion. But at death, the mind leaves the body form and continues on. Another form or appearance manifests still within the confine of samsara and mind is again attached. The form is determined by karma. Gampopa said that this process of rebirth is repeatedly endless. It is not good, or bad per se, but is infallibly subject to the maturing of karma. And without exception, in samsara, there is always suffering. Even now, we can observe that suffering is universal among human beings and animals alike. We can discern what suffering is because we all experience it. The suffering could be physical, or mental, involving all kinds of conditions. Actually, suffering comes from our mind. If you really examine it precisely, you will be able to witness this for yourself.
To grow our mind's wisdom, we meditate. "To grow" in this context is to "enable" the appearance of precise and clear understanding in our mind. Then, we will know. In order to succeed in "growing" our wisdom, what is important is to prepare the "soil" in which this growth will take place. When we meditate, there are many obscurations in our mind disabling our meditation. Therefore, preparation is very important. It's not necessary to go somewhere to prepare. "To prepare," means to acquire knowledge by yourself, to be conscious of yourself, and to properly apply this awareness in all situations and opportunities in daily life.
THE RIGHT SOIL
We conclude the teachings on the Paramitas by a brief examination of the ways we could prepare the "soil" to grow our understanding of the Dharma.
Some simple examples have been presented in these teachings to help illustrate the various ideas. It is important to start with relatively simpler explanations so that you could easily catch the meaning. Whenever we read, we tend to be blocked by our own limited vision. We cannot go beyond it. For example, when you hear the word, "emptiness", you think," It's empty, it does not exist."
This is just your idea of it. When at anytime you are doing something, then things are not empty to you. Everything is quite solid. Everything does exist. Everything is as it appears to a human mind. The same can be said of the term, "Enlightenment". We have some idea about it, but we don't really understand or see it exactly. As a result, during the practice of meditation, whatever we feel, we actually think that something is going on. But actually, everything is somehow just our feeling.
You are encouraged to use the opportunities in your daily life to expand your understanding. Opportunities refer to the many simple things we do every day. By keeping proper ethic and by applying generosity, we will be able to work with patience and effort. Generosity and ethic you can apply throughout the day because you are always with people and you can help each other. The converse is also true: if you are not aware, you could also hurt others thereby creating more negative karma and consequences for everyone.
Take for example, you live together with your family. Every day, you do simple activities such as cooking, or looking after the children. You may regard your cooking as a duty and an obligation. But it does not have to be like that. You can "turn" cooking into an application of generosity. You don't regard it as something you have to do. Rather, you are aware that you wish to be useful. You look upon cooking as work that will make others happy, not only happy, but that it will also bring them good health, and good conditions. Of course, in the beginning, such an attitude may not come naturally to you. You do not yet feel its exact meaning. But if you try to be aware, and put effort into examining and understanding your inner attitude, step by step, you will understand that your work can become an act of generosity motivated by your wish to be happy together with others. You want them to be happy with all the good conditions.
With respect to ethic in daily life, we could look at how we should refrain from lying, cheating, and using others. When we are told, " Don't lie and cheat, and don't manipulate others," it feels quite severe.
Though we feel we know already not to behave like that, somehow, when it comes to actually refraining from these acts, it's not that easy. Our habits are strong. You may feel that you have no choice but to use and manipulate others. "Use" in this context, means to just want to get some advantage or benefit from someone. You may even think that you are doing it to protect your family and to provide for them. You may think that if you didn't use people, you would not be here today in your present circumstances. These thoughts reflect your very strong self-grasping, or attachment. Some people in hearing that they should not use each other would immediately think, " Oh, then there is no point in coming here!"
Having listened to the Dharma, it is always good to reflect more about the conditions of samsara, of karma, and of all the beings. Because when you are in a temple, or a Dharma lecture, you listen and you feel that everything sounds very nice. Everything is very nice. But back in your own home, everything seems again quite heavy. You have to really look at your own situation, and see what the teachings really mean to you. You can learn a lot from it. It is a step-by-step process of exercise and practice, of trying to apply what we understand in daily life. In this way, we will become clearer. At the moment, we don't really understand why the teachings are telling us to be a certain way. There are many things we cannot accept or understand because of the obscurations in our mind. Step by step, whether it is one person who is in need of my help, or whether it is many people in need, I am able to generate in my mind a proper attitude, and to follow through with the appropriate action. I am really doing something beneficial for others - this is generosity.
The problem is always the presence of anger. Anger brings with it a defective or faulty vision thereby unleashing many judgements and criticisms even towards our loved ones. When faced with our censures of others, we have to question ourselves, " Why am I judging like this? What is really the reason behind it?"
If we try to backtrack a little, and try to look deeper, then we will see all the basic problems. The teachings tell us they stem from our own desires, pride and expectations. Of course, we think that these feelings are normal. But, they are the causes of suffering and inevitably all sorts of negative conditions appear and we find ourselves harming others. The Dharma tells us that desires, pride, and expectations are not normal. They are bad habits, which propel us deeper into the conditions of samara. By being aware, and trying to work a little bit at a time, we can loosen their grip on us. We are here in samsara where suffering is prevalent. We cannot escape because the door is closed to us. Even if we do, the bad habits, or conditions come with us, so the problem remains. But, if you try to work with the negative conditions within yourself, then very slowly, you will be able to see clearer. You will understand more, and you will find what used to be difficulties are no longer really difficult. This you will see for yourself. You will not feel that, " I am difficult, I can't accept, and I don't understand."
You will find the many problems actually quite workable. They are really not such a big deal.
Generosity, and ethic are the references to help us wade through the many experiences in daily life. They make it possible for us to work with the negative conditions. As a result, our basic perceptions, and concepts will change. We will find ourselves more open, and available. Things are easier to deal with, and more understandable. Then when you meditate, you will be able to do it. You will be able to do meditation properly, and achieve the results. At the moment, your karma and your very heavy emotions block your meditation. Of course, you can sit quietly but you are not able to really continue the meditation. This makes the appearance of wisdom almost impossible.
Everything depends on what we do today and our own concepts. Gampopa said that the obscurations in our mind are blinding us, and so we cannot make use of the methods to reach Enlightenment. If we could learn to work slowly with ourselves, by making use of all the conditions, and applying the meaning of the Dharma, we will be able to sow more favourable conditions. Gradually, we will be able to understand and work with any condition. Over the course of the next few days, try to apply what has been presented here on the Paramitas in your own life. You will appreciate more the meaning of generosity, ethic and also effort and patience. Just holding them as ideas and attitudes is not enough; you will still feel everything heavy and unworkable. But then, if you try to remember the teachings, how important patience and effort are, you will begin to train yourself in a different direction.
The forty-six auxiliary
To eliminate obstacles to the far-reaching attitude of generosity and obstacles to the moral discipline of gathering virtuous actions, abandon:
1. Not making offerings to the Three Jewels everyday with one's body, speech and mind.
2. Acting out selfish thoughts of desire to gain material possessions or reputation.
3. Not respecting one's elders (those who have taken the bodhisattva vows before oneself or who have more experience than oneself).
4. Not answering sincerely asked questions that one is capable of answering.
5. Not accepting invitations from others out of anger, pride or other negative thoughts.
6. Not accepting gifts of money, gold or other precious substances that others offer to oneself.
7. Not giving the Dharma to those who desire it.
To eliminate obstacles to the far-reaching attitude of moral discipline, abandon:
8. Forsaking those who have broken their moral discipline: not giving them advice or not relieving their guilt.
9. Not acting according to one's vowed trainings as it would generate or sustain faith in others.
10. Doing only limited actions to benefit sentient beings, such as strictly keeping the Vinaya rules in situations when not doing so would be of greater benefit to others.
11. Not doing non-virtuous actions of body and speech with loving-compassion when circumstances deem it necessary in order to benefit others.
12. Willingly accepting things that either oneself or others have obtained by any of the wrong livelihoods of hypocrisy, hinting, flattery, coercion or bribery.
13. Being distracted by and having a strong attachment to amusement, or without any beneficial purpose leading others to join in distracting activities.
14. Believing and saying that followers of the Mahayana should remain in cyclic existence and not try to attain liberation from delusions.
15. Not abandoning negative actions which cause one to have a bad reputation.
16. Not correcting one's own deluded actions or not helping others to correct theirs.
To eliminate obstacles to the far-reaching attitude of patience, abandon:
17. Returning insults, anger, beating or criticism with insults and the like.
18. Neglecting those who are angry with oneself by not trying to pacify their anger.
19. Refusing to accept the apologies of others.
20. Acting out thoughts of anger.
To eliminate obstacles to the far-reaching attitude of joyous effort, abandon:
21. Gathering a circle of friends or disciples because of one's desire for respect or profit.
22. Not dispelling the three types of laziness (sloth, attraction to negative actions, and self-pity and discouragement).
23. With attachment, spending time idly talking and joking.
To eliminate obstacles to the far-reaching attitude of meditative stabilization, abandon:
24. Not seeking the means to develop concentration, such as proper instructions and the right conditions necessary to do so. Not practicing the instructions once one has received them.
25. Not abandoning the five obscurations which hinder meditative stabilization: excitement and regret, harmful thought, sleep and dullness, desire, and doubt.
26. Seeing the good qualities of the taste of meditative stabilization and becoming attached to it.
To eliminate obstacles to the far-reaching attitude of wisdom, abandon:
27. Abandoning the Pali scriptures or practices described in them as unnecessary for one following the Mahayana.
28. Exerting effort principally in another system of practice while neglecting the one one already has, the Mahayana.
29. Without a good reason, exerting effort to learn or practice the treatises of non-Buddhists which are not proper objects of one's endeavor.
30. Beginning to favor and take delight in the treatises of non-Buddhists although studying them for a good reason.
31. Abandoning any part of the Mahayana by thinking it is uninteresting or unpleasant.
32. Praising oneself or belittling others because of pride, anger and so on.
33. Not going to Dharma gatherings or teachings.
34. Despising the spiritual master or the meaning of the teachings and relying instead on their mere words; that is, if a teacher does not express him/herself well, not trying to understand the meaning of what he/she says, but criticizing.
To eliminate obstacles to the morality of benefiting others, abandon:
35. Not helping those who are in need.
36. Avoiding taking care of the sick.
37. Not alleviating the sufferings of others.
38. Not explaining what is proper conduct to those who are reckless.
39. Not benefiting in return those who have benefited oneself.
40. Not relieving the sorrow of others.
41. Not giving material possessions to those in need.
42. Not working for the welfare of one's circle of friends, disciples, servants, etc.
43. Not acting in accordance with the wishes of others if doing so does not bring harm to oneself or others.
44. Not praising those with good qualities.
45. Not acting with whatever means are necessary according to the circumstances to stop someone who is doing harmful actions.
46. Not using miraculous powers if one possesses this ability, in order to stop others from doing unwholesome actions.
The Seven Point Thought
the virtuous spiritual friend of the Kadam tradition.
Om Svasti: Homage to great compassion.
The essence of this nectar of advice
is in continuity from Serlingpa.
First train in all the preliminary practices.
Having gained stability, receive the secret (teaching).
Consider all phenomena as a dream.
Examine the nature of unborn awareness.
The remedy itself is released in its own place.
Place (your meditation) on the nature of the
foundation of all: the essence (of the path).
In the meditation break be a creator of illusion.
It is like a diamond, the sun and the healing tree.
When the five degenerations flourish,
transform them into the path to full awakening.
Banish the one object of every blame.
Meditate on the great kindness of all.
Practise a combination of both giving and taking.
Commence taking progressively from your own side.
Place these two astride the breath.
There are three objects, three poisons, and three sources
Remember this by repeated recollection.
Practice every activity by these words.
When the container and its contents are filled with evil,
change this adverse circumstance into the path to full
Utilize every immediate circumstance for meditation.
Possess the four preparations, the highest of means.
Gather together the abridged quintessence of this advice.
Blend the practice of one life with the five forces.
The instruction for the great vehicle transmigration
of consciousness is to apply those very five forces,
lying in the perfect position.
All dharma collects into one intention.
Retain the two witnesses of foremost importance.
One is always accompanied by only joyful thoughts.
A reversed attitude indicates a transformation.
One is trained if one is capable, although distracted.
Always practise the three general points.
Change your attitude while remaining natural.
Speak not of the shortcomings of others.
Think not about whatever is seen in others.
Purify first whichever affliction is heaviest.
Give up all hope of reward.
Abandon poisonous food.
Do not serve the central object leniently.
Be indifferent towards malicious jokes.
Do not lie in ambush.
Never strike at the heart.
Do not load an ox with the load of a dzo.
Do not compete by a last-minute sprint.
Do not be treacherous.
Do not bring a god down to a devil.
Do not inflict misery for possession of happiness.
Practise all yogas (or activities) by one.
Practise every suppression of interference by one.
There are two duties: at the beginning and the end.
Endure whichever situation arises, either (good or bad).
Guard both points more preciously than your life.
Practise the three hardships.
Attain the three principal causes.
Meditate on the three undeclining attitudes.
Possess the three inseparables.
Always practise with pure impartiality on all objects.
Cherish the in-depth and broad application of all skills.
Always meditate on those closely related.
Depend not upon other circumstances.
Exert yourself, especially at this time.
Do not follow inverted deeds.
Do not be erratic.
Do not underestimate your ability.
Be liberated by two: examination and analysis.
Do not be boastful.
Do not retaliate.
Do not be fickle.
Do not wish for gratitude.
Before practising I examined my expanding actions;
(then) because of many of my wishes,
having undergone suffering, insults and criticism,
I requested the instruction for taming self-grasping.
Now if I die, I have no regrets.
Translated by Brian Beresford for Wisdom Publications, London.
The Three-Year Retreat
This interview was given in August 1996. The interviewer was Deborah Price-Janke
Question: Rinpoche, when I talked to some of the people going into 3-year retreat I was amazed at their joy -- it was as though they had won the lottery. Yet, for most Americans the idea of being sequestered and engaging in rigorous meditation practice for three years is not a very entertaining prospect, so where does their joy come from?
Lama Lodu Rinpoche: Your question requires a two-part answer: the people you met had been students of the Buddha/Dharma for many years. They had listened again and again to the teachings and over time through practice their experience was transformed from an intellectual understanding to a genuine understanding. So they view 3-year retreat as an opportunity to free themselves from suffering and realize perfect Buddhahood to benefit sentient beings. Faced with such an opportunity they experience great joy. Secondly, although many Americans have heard the same teachings and have even practiced what they've heard, their karmic relationship with 3-year retreat is not as strong. The people you met had some past-life connection with 3-year retreat, had followed the lineage, had practiced -- and so all these habitual tendencies, this familiarity gave them the feeling of coming home rather than going to some tortuous place.
Q: The 3-year retreat is very prescribed, it is very precise -- could you please tell us the nature of this particular 3-year retreat you started in Mendocino County.
LLR: Actually, all 3-year retreats are essentially the same but each school has unique traditions, unique ways to transmit and practice. Our Mendocino retreat follows the tradition of the Shangpa/Kagyu lineage -- the lineage holder being his Holiness Kalu Rinpoche. So we are following in his foot steps.
Q: What is the Shangpa/Kagyu lineage?
LLR: Shang is a region not far from Lhasa. The founder of this lineage practiced in that area. He built a big monastery there and gathered many accomplished students. So the lineage Shangpa/Kagyu comes from Shangpa, the region, and Kagyu which means oral tradition.
Q: Who was the founder of the Shangpa/Kagyu lineage?
LLR: The founder of the Shangpa/Kagyu lineage was the Tibetan great master Khungpo Naljor. Khungpo was his family name. Khung means magic bird. You see, an extraordinary bird laid eggs on the roof of a certain house. The eggs hatched -- five different young boys. Many generations later the great master Khungpo Naljor was born into the Khung family. This is the same family Milarepa and many other great yogis come from. Naljor means yogi. So Khungpo Naljor means yogi from magical bird family. Khungpo Naljor was a Bonpo, a practitioner of the White Bon religion. He completely accomplished the Bon teachings and became abbott of the Bon Monastery. Yet he wasn't satisfied with these accomplishments since the Bon religion did not come from the Buddha. So he began studying the Nygingma tradition of Buddhism and again became a well-known accomplished teacher. Although the Nygingma contained hidden spiritual treasure and he received great benefit, he concluded after some research that there was something unsatisfactory in continuing with this tradition, so he came to the Kagyupa practice. One day his Kagyupa master said, "Khungpo, you are equal to my realization." Khungpo Naljor's reaction was that since he, Khungpo Naljor, had no realization, he needed to move on and look deeper. So having availed himself of all the Buddhist teachings in Tibet, he decided to travel to India, to Nepal, the birthplace of the Buddha where there were many great yogis and the teachings were alive. When he left Tibet for India he was already 50 years old. In India he studied with 150 different teachers. He learned the language; he studied with great care, and he practiced in accordance with the yogi tradition. Eventually he became a well-known yogi in India. Although he had 150 teachers, his root guru, his principle guru was Niguma, Wisdom Dakini, who received teachings directly from Vajradhara/Dorje Chang. Another female guru of Khungpo Naljor was Sukkasiddhi -- who also fully transformed the ripening Karmic body to Wisdom body and was a great accomplished Mahasiddha. He received teachings from the great Mahasiddhas, Rahula Gupta, and Maitrepa. Those four were his root gurus. Among them, however, Niguma, was the most important guru for him, for his realization. He lived in India for 50 years studying, learning, practicing. After 50 years he returned to Tibet to spread the Dharma. At that point he was 100 years old, and had almost 100,000 students who had accomplished true enlightenment. For seven generations from Niguma to Sangye T'npa these Shangpa/Kagyu teachings were "a whispered transmission" passed from one teacher to one perfect disciple. At the end of seven generations Sangye T'npa's disciple, Tsultrim Gompo, compiled the teachings into a text which is now available throughout the world. Whoever is connected karmically can receive them. And of course Tsultrim Gompo was an incarnation of Khungpo Naljor himself.
Q: Rinpoche, you worked very hard to create a 3-year retreat facility for 5 nuns and 5 monks, and yet people might question the benefit of only 5 men and 5 women practicing.
LLR: Now we only have 5 men and 5 women because these people are completely refined students who really want to practice, and really desire to do 3-year retreat. So, I thought since their desire is so strong, and if they will practice thoroughly and become truly accomplished, and deliver these teachings in the world, then even though the number is small they will create great benefit, beyond what I can accomplish by myself. I felt the future benefit outweighed the short-term sacrifices involved in creating the conditions for this 3-year retreat.
Q: What qualifies a person to enter 3-year retreat? Is it just a matter of requesting permission?
LLR: Well, if someone comes and just expresses the wish to participate I probably would not allow it since they do not know the teachings and the lineage, do not know me as a teacher, which could create many obstacles, confusion and misunderstanding. And also if I don't know them, don't understand them, I won't know how to teach them. So the knowledge has to be on both sides. The people presently on retreat have known and studied with me for 12-13 years.
Q: So 3-year retreat depends not just on the connection with the lineage but with yourself, the Vajra Master?
LLR: Yes, you can use the term Vajra Master or Du B'n which means chief of the retreatants, head of the retreatants. But I don't identify with any title like that. I am not Du B'n; I am nobody. I just do my best.
Q: In glancing through Jamgon Kongtrul's retreat manual, it said even if you have just a flash of disrespect or doubt of the teacher, this can create great obstacles for one's retreat.
Q: What did he mean by that?
LLR: Well, the teacher is the one delivering, transmitting the teachings of the Buddha. These teachings can bring enlightenment. If one distrusts the teacher, one defiles the teachings you are receiving. If a doctor gives medicine to cure your illness and you don't listen how to administer this medicine, what to eat and not to eat while taking the medicine, if you ignore his instructions, the medicine meant to cure you could kill you. This is somewhat analogous to the retreatants' relationship with the teacher. The teachings are coming from the Buddha but one is receiving them from a human teacher. Three-year retreat follows the Vajrayana system and in the Vajrayana the teacher is the Buddha, the one who gives realization. So anything the teacher teaches must be received respectfully with confidence. Without this confidence the teachings are poisoned and one will not be able to accomplish what one wishes to accomplish.
Q: One thing that seems to awe people who hear about 3-year retreat is the rigorous routine retreatants experience. For example, getting up at 3:00 a.m., and sleeping sitting up. Do people get used to these practices?
LLR: The physical obstacles are not so difficult for people. After one week people have no problem with fewer hours of sleep. After several weeks the pain of sitting cross legged is overcome. The physical obstacles are not the problem; physical problems we can control. Mental problems are more difficult to control. It is very difficult to discipline the mind. No matter how much discipline you have, when a thought comes you have no power to stop it, unless you can employ very powerful effective techniques to cut off those thoughts.
Q: Are these techniques only available to people on 3-year retreat?
LLR: People outside 3-year retreat have no time to employ these techniques. First of all you have to tame your mind, make your mind soft and gentle, and then you can utilize more active techniques. Without this taming of the mind the techniques are not useful, and could even bring lots of difficulties. It is not so much that people outside 3-year retreat cannot learn or be given these techniques it is just they have no time to apply them. They have to make a living, there are lots of distractions, and this type of distracted mind is not good for the profound teachings you learn in 3-year retreat. Also during 3-year retreat the teachings are given in sequence, not all at once. When one teaching is complete another is introduced.
Q: What kind of obstacles are faced by people on 3-year retreat?
LLR: At the beginning they face the obstacles of being away for the first time from the samsaric world. When one is on 3-year retreat one is really cut off from samsara which at first makes people uneasy, and depressed. But actually by experiencing these emotions one learns more, one is taught more, and then gradually one settles down.
Q: So the afflictions are helpful. But how do you use them?
LLR: Outside 3-year retreat these afflictions make one more afflicted. But in 3-year retreat the afflictions deepen our understanding of the teachings because one has time to consider the afflictions, watch them carefully.
Q: What if someone on 3-year retreat is completely overcome by negative emotions? Although they do their best to transform these emotions, they feel compelled to leave 3-year retreat, to give up. Would you advise them to leave?
LLR: If he or she has Karma with 3-year retreat the situation as you describe it may not occur. But even if the karma is there, many obstacles may arise. I will examine that person and say, "Don't worry about it. Just practice. It's okay," and use some skill to comfort them and make them do better. If they have karma with me and I have karma with them they will change their outlook and be cured. If he or she has no karma in the first place, they will never enter (3-year retreat). For example I have two students who two or three times now have attempted and failed to go into 3-year retreat. They are close disciples and very devoted, but karma for 3-year retreat is not there.
Q: In talking about these results...when I am around you, Rinpoche, for example, I am amazed by the breadth of your activity, how much you accomplish even in an ordinary sense -- how many people you see, how many people are drawn to you for help. Is this the kind of result we are talking about? What is the result -- the aim of the 3-year retreat?
LLR: I think the aim is to escape from samsaric suffering, to cut off the causes of suffering, the root of suffering, to attain full awakening. When you have rooted out the causes of suffering and attained full awakening naturally, spontaneously benefit comes for sentient beings. So the aim is two fold: (1) to free ourselves from the causes of suffering, and achieve full awakening, (2) to free all sentient beings from suffering so they have everlasting happiness. This is the aim generally of Mahayana Buddhism and particularly the teacher should have this attitude. This is what I teach.
Q: Before going on 3-year retreat people must have completed Ngondro, and yet is it true that they begin these practices again from scratch after they go in?
LLR: For the first seven days they do the Vajrakilya practice to remove the obstacles from the path. Then they go to Ngondro practice -- normal preliminary practice: prostration, Vajrasattva mantra, Mandala offering, and Guru Yoga for six months. After that, particular to this lineage, they do Milarepa guru yoga practice for a month. After that, Seven Point Mind Training for one month, then Calm Abiding practice, and Insight practice, and then they go to the Four Deities practice, and so on.
Q: All of this is taught in Tibetan, all the texts are in Tibetan?
LLR: It has to be Tibetan. There are no translations.
Q: So in order to participate in 3-year retreat you have to have a good reading and writing knowledge of Tibetan?
LLR: It is very helpful if you are ready for it -- reading, writing and understanding Tibetan is very helpful.
Q: So if you don't have this knowledge...?
LLR: You will miss many things.
Q: Are there still whispered transmissions?
LLR: Although whispered transmissions are now written down those who can receive them must still be chosen. The teacher has to know the student is ready to receive them. So it is not the student's decision. These whispered transmissions are still very secret. Recently, for example, we gave an empowerment to 15-20 people. Certainly if this teaching had been open to the public thousands would have attended but it was limited to a select group of students we knew well who may go into 3-year retreat in the future.
Q: Are you speaking of the Five Golden Dharmas?
Q: What is the significance of these Five Golden Dharmas to the 3-year retreat?
LLR: The Five Golden Dharmas are the main body of the Shangpa/Kagyu lineage transmission. They express the Shangpa/Kagyu practice in five different categories which together create the image of a tree. So the root of the Shangpa/Kagyu practice is the Six Yogas of Niguma: 1. heat yoga, 2. Illusory yoga, 3. dream yoga, 4. clear-light yoga, 5. Bardo, and 6. Powa. The trunk of the tree is Mahamudra. This Mahamudra practice is called "Chag-chen Ghau-ma," the "Mahamudra of Amulet."
Q: Why is it called Mahamudra of Amulet?
LLR: During Kungpo Naljor's time the Indian people were very concerned that their scriptures were being stolen and smuggled out of India into Tibet. They were very possessive and jealously guarded them. Knowing this Kungpo Naljor wrote the Mahamudra teachings on a leaf of the Bodhi tree and put it in his blessing box, his amulet, which he carried past the border guards into Tibet. This is why we call it the Mahamudra of Amulet (blessing box). The branches are referred to as "carrying the three into the path." The three being: carrying the guru as path, carrying the deities as path, carrying the afflictions as path. The flowers of the tree are red and white ones who enjoy space (Red and White Dakinis). The fruit of the tree is the result being the attainment of deathlessness and birthlessness.
LLR: In my time with Kalu Rinpoche one received the Five Golden Dharmas in sequence; first one, then the others. But when Bokar Rinpoche came to our retreatland in July 1996, I asked him to give them all at once. These empowerments require learned assistants, and it would have been very difficult for me alone to give them without this skilled help. Since Bokar Rinpoche was traveling with several lamas, they were able to assist him with these very complicated empowerments.
Q: Why are they called the Five Golden Dharmas? Why Golden?
LLR: Khungpo Naljor brought gold from Tibet which he offered to his teacher. So now it is traditional for students receiving these empowerments to give a small piece of gold. But when we received these teachings from Kalu Rinpoche we did not even have food to eat, much less gold, so Rinpoche gave us a piece of gold to give back to him as a symbol. This is what happened when I received the Five Golden Dharmas. Western students are more fortunate and most of them are able to make a small offering of gold--this is not necessary, but symbolically by giving the same offering as Kungpo Naljor they will gain the same realization.
Q: The Five Golden Dharmas came directly from Niguma?
LLR: Yes, directly from Niguma.
Q: Recently I spoke to one of your students who had entered 3-year retreat and what surprised him was how little leisure he had during the day -- less than 1/2 hour free time? Why is there so little free time during 3-year retreat? Why is the practice so intense?
LLR: Because this is the reason they are in 3-year retreat. Outside the world is intense and our involvement in that intensity causes suffering and pain. When you realize you only have these 3 years you want to use every moment of this leisure in the proper way to lead you in the right direction. If you become lazy during the retreat there is no benefit. You might as well be outside. So, in retreat every moment is consumed in positive activity. If you have a lot of free time you have time for confusion and negative activity.
Q: Does someone come around to see if you get up at 3:00 a.m.?
LLR: Actually, that's my responsibility! Not all the time, but once in awhile I check up on everyone.
Q: You have led lots of different people in 3-year retreats. Is there a difference between Americans, Europeans, or Asians?
LLR: Europeans and Americans are the same but students from Bhutan, Sikkim and Tibet are slightly different in that they have memorized most of the texts because it is their scripture, what they have grown up with. Most of them retain the rituals very well and it is easy for them. But for Europeans and Americans it is difficult because they have to learn the language and read scriptures and learn the Mudras and chanting. All of these things together make it a bit more complicated than for the Tibetans or Sikkimese. Yet the Westerners have great intelligence and diligence and if they want to learn, they will learn thoroughly and precisely. However Western people are somewhat undisciplined in that they always sit in chairs, drive cars, drive when they could walk. In Tibet, Bhutan and Sikkim people walk miles and become used to physical hardships such as no electric light, no heaters, no air conditioners. During my 3-year retreat we relied on a small candle for light, had no heat and no coolers. But, so what. When the weather is hot, it is hot, when it is cold you put on more clothes. Nothing more than that. Here people cannot live like that. They like electricity for heat and light, coolers and so on. Also, in Tibet and in Sikkim I never taught women.
Q: So women usually only have women teachers?
LLR: Usually there are women teachers for women and men teachers for men, and my experience in the East was teaching only monks. However, certainly men can teach women, and women can teach men. And when I began to teach women it was an amazing experience because I saw the different qualities men and women have.
Q: How different?
LLR: The women have great faith, devotion and intelligence. They learn more easily than men and teaching women is easier. They are very intelligent, diligent, and open. The men may be intelligent but they don't use their full intelligence at times.
Q: What does that mean, use their full intelligence?
LLR: They don't work as hard -- give 100%. They use their intelligence up to a point but don't put extra effort in. This is my experience, at least, with Western men. They also learn more slowly compared to women. The only weakness in women is when they experience emotion one has to counsel them -- use many skillful means to remove their emotion. The men, athough they don't have as much intelligence and diligence, never give up. This is my experience. The women at a certain point, even if a little problem arises, may say, "okay I can't do this." But when the teacher's advice is available to them they, without exception, will respond, "Oh, yes. Oh, okay. I get it. Thank you," and the problem is overcome. Of course six months later one may face the same situation. Not all men and women fit in these categories I have described. I am speaking of general observations.
Q: Why does the retreat have to be 3 years? Why not one year or two years?
LLR: If one can live 3 years, 3 months, 3 days, in a positive state with the mind not influenced by negativity, one is then purified enough to realize full enlightenment according to the tantric system. This is a complicated subject to discuss here today. There is a sequence of teachings that have to be completed before your question can fully be answered and understood.
Q: But what about stories where people experience instant enlightenment?
LLR: Oh, I see. These people who realize instant enlightenment have in a past life practiced much longer than 3 years. They may have lived their whole life in a mountain practicing so in this life they just have to come back to this body to finish and instantly are enlightened. By his/her karma with the past life guru, other karmic connections with the guru and disciple, his/her familiarity with the teachings -- all of these causes create instant enlightenment. So this does not mean that such and such a technique will bring enlightenment in an instant. The technique did not bring enlightenment. He/she was karmically ripened already.
Q: Is 3-year retreat the only means to enlightenment?
LLR: Well, there are many other ways to enlightenment. Milarepa took twelve years, Buddha took six years. We have 3 years through the blessings of Milarepa and the Buddha. So, yes there are other techniques besides the 3-year retreat. You can practice outside if you are ready for that. But if you don't go into 3-year retreat usually your worldly activities do not allow you to practice. In 3-year retreat you are committed. Everything settles down. You just have to concentrate on practice. If you are outside, today you go on retreat, tomorrow you come out because something happens. But people on 3-year retreat are committed. They can't come out. They are protected by their commitment.
Q: After some students read this they may feel, "I missed my precious opportunity to go on 3-year retreat. I must not be a worthy person." Is this the right attitude?
LLR: Not everyone who comes to Kagyu Droden Kunchab goes to 3-year retreat. They can still do good things which will help them on the path both in this life and the next life. Some people will want to go on 3-year retreat but conditions will not allow them to do so. I have had many students who have wanted to go on 3-year retreat for a long time but were not able to do so because of obstacles.
Q: It does sound as though if one is serious about practicing the Dharma one should think about going on 3-year retreat and work toward that goal -- that 3- year retreat is the best, the fastest and most useful technique in benefiting beings and reaching enlightenment?
LLR: In 3-year retreat one completes from beginning to end the whole vision of the lineage, the practice, what the lineage offers. Yet, just because a person doesn't plan to go on to University doesn't mean she shouldn't finish high school. So, similarly if someone were to say, "If you don't go to 3-year retreat why bother being Buddhist" -- that's nonsense. Even a little knowledge of the Buddha/Dharma teaches you how to live positively in the world.
Q: Is it possible to come to complete awakening and understanding while living in the world?
LLR: Many Mahasiddhas lived in the world. They were farmers, they were dice players, they grew figs. Through these activities, these pursuits, they became enlightened. The thing to remember is the action does not bring enlightenment. The view brings enlightenment. Playing dice in an ordinary way does not bring enlightenment but the Mahasiddha who gained enlightenment playing dice had one-pointed, unwavering contemplation. When we see him we see a dice player; but we don't see inside, we don't see the yogi. So there are ways to become enlightened through ordinary activity. Some yogis sleep for twelve years, wake up and (Rinpoche snaps his fingers) are enlightened.
Q: So is enlightenment a true understanding of the dream like quality of existence?
LLR: Yes, that's the understanding, but you have to stay in that state of mind for twelve years, completely accustomed, completely habituated. Asleep, the state of the yogi's mind, was clear light. Staying for twelve years in clear light removed ignorance completely and when he came back to reality he became enlightened. But these are examples beyond the reach of ordinary people. Those yogis demonstrated enlightenment in one lifetime through simple actions, but that lifetime was a culmination of countless lifetimes of effort toward enlightenment. For those interested in the stories of the Mahasiddhas there is a book entitled, Buddha's Lions, The Lives of the Eighty-four Siddhas, Dharma publications. There is a saying which says, "A tiger can jump from mountain to mountain but if a dog tries to jump he will fall off the cliff and die." If you are a tiger you can jump; if you are a dog you should find a bridge to walk over. There are some like Milarepa who can practice alone, outside of 3-year retreat, but most people need the protection of the commitment which is the 3-year retreat.
Q: What if one of your students said they want to go off on their own and practice for 3 years?
LLR: If I know them well enough I could trust them, yes. But if I don't know them then no. Karma is very important in relation to 3-year retreat. I have students who for 13 years worked hard and thought of nothing but 3-year retreat. They wanted to do it. I put all effort into making this happen for them as quickly as possible but I wasn't able to finish. But as soon as they left all the conditions for the 3-year retreat were accomplished immediately. This indicated there was some unfortunate karma.
Q: I remember Kalu Rinpoche speaking at length of the value of going on 3-year retreat, but he spoke of it very matter of factly like suggesting the value of going to Europe. For many of us it still feels like a huge undertaking, a huge commitment.
LLR: Yes, if the karma is not there it is a huge commitment, very scary. But if you have this karmic connection 3-year retreat will seem too short. Many people after completing 3-year retreat will do 6-year retreat, 9 years of retreat. In Canada there were many people who after completing one 3-year retreat went on to do more because in their last life they were mature enough, ripened enough, so in this life when the door opened they did not hesitate.
Q: Do you think in the future there will be a 3-year retreat American style, in English and a little bit easier?
LLR: (Rinpoche laughs) I'm afraid I'm not authorized to make it any easier for Americans. A great Tantric master came to teach an American audience comprised of people interested in Tantric Buddhism. He was scheduled to teach early in the day but he was not on time. The audience became quite angry, "I paid for these teachings -- so where is the teacher. This is unfair -- this shows no compassion, why should we have to wait." Yet all along the teacher was examining the audience to see if they had sufficient patience and devotion to receive these very rare and profound teachings. Finally he appeared and said to those assembled, "I am sorry, I hoped to offer you these basic tantric teachings which came from Milarepa who sacrificed and labored to receive them. Yet you could not wait patiently even 2 hours. Clearly you are not fortunate enough to receive them. So, I am sorry but I am leaving now."
LLR: We have many students who want teachings, but unfortunate karma prevents them from gaining them.
Q: That seems sad.
LLR: It is sad, but what can we do? It is karma. if you are sad it doesn't help. Better just enjoy whatever happens.
DBJ: Thank you very much, Rinpoche.
LLR: You are welcome.
The Three Principles of
by Je Tsong Khapa
Reverence to the Holy Gurus!
I will explain as best I can
The essential import of all the Victor's Teachings,
The path praised by all the holy Bodhisattvas.
Best entrance for those fortunates who seek freedom.
Listen with clear minds, you lucky people,
Who aspire to the path that pleases Buddhas,
Who work to give meaning to leisure and opportunity,
Who are not addicted to the pleasures of cyclic life.
Lust for existence chains all corporeal beings -
Addiction to the pleasures of the life-cycle
Is only cured by transcendent renunciation.
So seek transcendence first of all!
Leisure and opportunity are hard to get,
And there is no time to life; keep thinking on this,
And you will turn off your interest in this life!
Contemplate the inexorability of evolutionary effects
And the sufferings of life - over and over again -
And you will turn off interest in future lives!
By constant meditation, your mind will not entertain
A moment's wish even for the successes of life,
And you will aim for freedom all day and night -
Then you experience transcendent renunciation!
Transcendence without the spirit of enlightenment
Cannot generate the supreme bliss
Of unexcelled enlightenment - therefore,
The Bodhisattva conceives the supreme spirit of enlightenment.
Carried away on the currents of four mighty streams,
Tightly bound by the near-inescapable chains of evolution,
Trapped and imprisoned in the iron cage of self-concern,
Totally wrapped in the darkness of misknowledge,
Born and born again and again in endless life-cycles,
Uninterruptedly tormented by the three miseries -
Such is the state of all beings, all just your mothers -
From your natural feelings, conceive the highest spirit!
Even though you experience transcendent renunciation
And cultivate the spirit of enlightenment,
Without the wisdom from the realization of emptiness,
You cannot cut off the root of the life-cycle -
So, you should strive to understand relativity.
Who sees the inexorable causality of all things
Both of cyclic life and liberation
And destroys any sort of conviction of objectivity -
Thereby enters the path pleasing to Victors.
Appearance as inevitably relative,
And emptiness as free of all assertions -
As long as these are understood apart,
The Victor's intent is not yet known.
But, when they are simultaneous without alternation,
The mere sight of inevitable relativity
Becomes sure knowledge rid of objective habit-patterns,
And the investigation of authentic view is complete.
Further, while appearance eliminates absolutism,
Emptiness eliminates nihilism,
And you know emptiness manifest as cause and effect -
Then, you will not be deprived by extremist views.
When you realize the essentials
Of the three principles of the path,
Rely on solitude and powerful efforts,
And swiftly achieve the eternal goal, my son!
The Three Stages of the
Teaching by Lama Zasep Tulku Rinpoche
September 1998, Vancouver, BC, Canada
Good evening. I would like to welcome you tonight. This night is very special time, special occasion. We are starting the seven-year study program of Sutra and Tantra. I would like to welcome you, and also I like to thank you to all of you showing great interest, wanting to know what we are going to study. I'm not sure all of you are going to study or not. But I know many of you are going to study, and many of you done lots of study before, and done also lots of practice: Dharma in general, and particularly Lam Rim, and Vajrayana path. And showing your interest, it is very wonderful, and I like to thank you, and I appreciate your coming here.
Tonight I would like to speak a little bit about the study program. I won't talk very much, because Cyndy already gave a very wonderful description, how we're going to study, why we're studying and so forth. As Cyndy said, this kind of study program is one of my wish, long-time wish. And I always felt it is important to people to study Dharma step-by-step, and have a long-term kind of vision. Because Dharma is very vast. Dharma is so profound. The Buddha's teaching is very profound and vast. So we cannot study, we cannot accomplish the result of studying, or we cannot achieve the result of Dharma practice in such short time.
And it is important to study for long time and practice long time, and have a vision and goal and dream, and also perhaps a kind of fantasy. And I had this vision that it is important to study Dharma for years, because I myself studied Dharma for many years, I can say. Even though I'm not a great scholar. I never been a good scholar. Since I was little I always prefer to meditate, somewhere in the mountains or in the caves. Many times when I was little, I request my teacher. I said to him, "I like to go into the mountains. Meditate." I was told my previous incarnations are Kargyupa lamas. And many Kargyupa lamas, most Kargyupa lamas are great meditators, practitioners. But also my teachers ask me to study. And also my teachers told me my previous incarnation made a will, and he said that he would like to study as well, in the Gelugpa monastery. So that's how I end up become a Gelugpa. And I also still have very deep, intimate feelings and devotion, connection, love and passion with the Kargyu lineage. Especially Karma Kargyu lineage. Because my monastery is Kargyu monastery in Tibet, and many of my family members are Kargyupas, and also Gelugpas.
Anyway, so because of my background, studying in the monastery, I saw how it is wonderful to study Dharma step-by-step. To study, and read, and discuss, and have a dialogue, and debate, and then meditate. Then discuss and debate and study. So then the Dharma gradually soaks deeply in your mindstream, within your mindstream. And also Dharma kind of soaks into your body. Not only mind, body -- in your heart, in your brain, in your liver, in your ?? And so you become a real Dharmic person, and your whole body language and mental attitude, everything becomes a Dharma person. It is possible one can become a good Dharma person and good practitioner, if he study for long time and meditate and practice.
So I felt it is important to study Dharma step-by-step and Lama Tsongkhapa said, this is very famous words, what he says in Tibetan, [Tibetan words here] means: first in the beginning, or in early age as a Dharma person one should study Dharma and listen to teachings. Take teachings from the masters, different masters, thoroughly, as much as possible. And that is very important. [More Tibetan words here] Then, in the middle, after that, in the intermediate state, at some point in your life, in your mid-life perhaps, then one can see. One can see the Dharma, one can have a good Dharma understanding. What is really Dharma, how the Dharma works. The teaching of the Buddha, the whole path, and the goal, and everything. You can see very clearly. Like looking at a good map. Good map -- looking at a good map, like that, you can see very clearly. And you have deep confidence in the Dharma, in mid-life, mid-Dharma-life, I should say. [More Tibetan words here]. Then at the end, one should practice, day and night, day and night. Now then he said, [more Tibetan words]. Then the Dharma, and the teaching of the Buddha, and the realization of the Dharma will bloom and increase within your mindstream, inside of you. Tibetan word is "??" "??" is the teaching of Buddha, and "??" means "to bloom." The realization will bloom within you.
So what Lama Tsongkhapa was saying is it is important to study Dharma. If you don't study Dharma, just sort of go right into meditation, so you only know maybe one formal meditation. Maybe you know some, one or two, three or some aspect of Dharma, maybe you're good. You maybe can do very well. But you don't have a good basis. And also, one cannot have the confidence to actually to give Dharma, and to share the gift of Dharma to others and for all sentient beings. That's why it is important to study Dharma, and then meditate. Study and meditate, study and meditate. Meditate and study.
And Lama Tsongkhapa is known as an incarnation of Manjushri. There were three great lamas who were incarnation of Manjushri: Sakya Pandita, Lama Tsongkhapa, and Long Chenpa -- he was great teacher according Nyingma tradition. And Sakya Pandita was great teacher and master according Sakya tradition, and Tsongkhapa was the founder of Gelug tradition. Now all the four sects of Tibetan Buddhism have Lam Rim teachings, and all the four sects of Tibetan Buddhism and Buddhist tradition we have Lam Rim. According Gelugpa tradition we call "Lam Rim." According Sakyapa tradition call "Lam Dey." According Kargyu tradition there is a wonderful text called "The Jewel Ornament of Liberation" by Gampopa. And that text is Lam Rim. According Nyingmapa tradition there is a text called "??" which is also Lam Rim.
The Sole Means of Pacifying
by His Eminence Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche.
In this world of ever-intensifying unrest, hostility and violence, myriad peace-promoting groups have emerged from amongst the concerned sections of society the world over. Although these commendable efforts will certainly yield some positive results, particularly by raising the general consciousness about the dire implications of continuing the negative trend, the sole means of pacifying samsara os for all sentient beings to attain the full liberation of Buddhahood.
The intermediate step is for all those who are already on the Path to strive with diligence to live strictly in accordance with the true meaning of the Buddhadharma - to develop the enlightened attitude of compassion and loving-kindness towards all sentient beings, the Bodhicitta; to respect and revere all the Buddhist traditions alike since the teachings are all those of our common master, Lord Shakyamuni Buddha, while focusing one's devotional attitude and practice in the Kagyu Order, as it is the primary responsibility of the disciples of His Holiness the Gyalwa Karmapa; and to channel one's altruistic ideals by actively praying for peace in the world.
There exists in some circles an erroneous notion that Buddhism is an Eastern religion i.e. comprising of the beliefs and cultural trappings of certain ethnic communities if the Eastern hemisphere. In particular, the system of Buddhism which was transmitted from India to Tibet and flourished there is sometimes mistakenly labeled 'lamaism'. This type of discrimination is pointless and potentiates disagreement between religious groups and individuals which defeats the purpose of spiritual discipline.
The essence of the Buddhist Path is the transformation of mind, which obviously is not governed by the outward symbols employed by each tradition. The Dharma can permeate all cultures, but culture cannot permeate the Dharma. The essence of all the Buddha's teachings is one and the same, and if disciples practice with this view, then the fruit of the Path will definitely be realized.
H.E. Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche
Following the Dharma and
Tsenzhab Serkong Rinpoche
New Delhi, India, December 7, 1979
translated by Alexander Berzin, edited by Nicholas Ribush
lighted revised by Alexander Berzin, 2003
Originally published as
Tsenshab Serkong Rinpoche. "Renunciation." In Teachings at Tushita,
ed. Glenn Mullin and Nicholas Ribush. New Delhi: Mahayana Publications, 1981
The Sanskrit word Dharma, chö (chos) in Tibetan, means to hold or to uphold. What is upheld or maintained? The elimination of suffering and the attainment of happiness. Dharma does this not only for us, but for all beings.
The sufferings we experience are of two types: those immediately visible to us as humans and those we cannot see without extrasensory powers. The former include the pain involved in the birth process, the unpleasantness of occasionally becoming sick, the misery experienced with growing old and aging, and the terror of death.
The sufferings that come after death are not visible to an ordinary person. We might think that after we die, we will probably be reborn as a human being. However, this is not necessarily the case. There is no logical reason for us to assume that such an evolution will occur. Nor is it the case that after we die we will not take rebirth at all.
As for the particular type of rebirth we will take, this is something very difficult to know, something not presently within our sphere of knowledge. If we generate positive karma during this life, it will naturally follow that we will take happy forms of rebirth in the future. Conversely, if we create mostly negative karma, we will not take a happy rebirth, but will experience great difficulties in lower states of being. This is certain. Rebirth functions that way. If we plant a seed of wheat, what grows is a wheat plant. If we plant a seed of rice, a rice plant is produced. Similarly, by creating negative karma we plant seeds of rebirth in one of the three lower states as a hell creature, a hungry ghost, or an animal.
There are four different states or realms of hells (joyless realms): hot, cold, neighboring and occasional hells. To further subdivide these, there are eight different hot hells. The first of these is known as the Reviving Hell. This is the one of least suffering, relatively speaking. To understand the extent of the misery experienced here, the pain of a person caught in a great fire would be very slight in comparison with that of beings in the first hot hell. Each hell below the Reviving Hell has an increasingly intense degree of misery.
Although the sufferings of hell creatures and hungry ghosts may not be visible to us, those of the animals can be seen with our eyes. If we wonder what would happen if we ourselves were to be reborn as animals, we can just look at the street animals and beasts of burden around us here in India and think what it would be like to have their conditions. Dharma is what holds us back and protects us from experiencing the suffering of these lower rebirths.
The entire wheel of rebirth, the whole of uncontrollably recurring existence (samsara), has the nature of suffering. Dharma is what safeguards us from all samsaric suffering. Moreover, the Mahayana Dharma, the teachings of the Great Vehicle, brings protection not only to us, but to all limited beings (sentient beings).
Taking the Safe Direction of Refuge
In Buddhism, we hear a lot about the Three Jewels of Refuge - Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. The first of these includes all the fully enlightened beings, who teach the Dharma. Buddha Shakyamuni, who first turned the wheel of Dharma at Varanasi by teaching the four noble truths, is most significant to us. The last of these four truths - true paths - is the Dharma to be practiced in order to achieve liberation. This is the refuge object of safe direction called the Dharma Gem.
Dharma practice entails two things: recognizing the root of samsaric suffering and eradicating this root. What is the root of recurring existence? It is the grasping for a truly existent self and for the true existence of phenomena. We need to develop a repulsion for this grasping which brings us all our sufferings. We must develop an understanding of the antidote to grasping at true existence. This antidote is the wisdom (discriminating awareness) of selflessness or identitylessness. It is this understanding of selflessness that will bring us liberation from suffering.
The sufferings we experience in samsara do not occur without a cause. They are caused by the disturbing emotions and attitudes (delusions) and by the karma created by them. The root of all disturbing emotions and attitudes and of karma is the grasping for a self. When we understand this, we aspire to obtain the antidote to this grasping for a self. Why have we not yet developed the antidote in our mental continuums? Why don't we understand selflessness? One reason is that we are not sufficiently aware of death and impermanence.
Death and Impermanence
The only possible outcome of birth is death. We are inevitably going to die. There is no living being whose life did not end with death. People try many methods to prevent death's occurrence, but it is impossible. No medicine can cure us of death.
Just to think, "I'm going to die," isn't really the correct way to contemplate death. Of course, everyone is going to die, but merely thinking about this fact is not very powerful. It is not the proper method. In the same way, just thinking of the fact that we are going to disintegrate and degenerate, that our bodies are going to decompose, is not enough. What we have to think about is how to prevent our downfall.
If we think about the fear that comes at the time of death and about how to eliminate that fear, then our meditation on death will be effective. People who have accumulated a great deal of negative karma during their lives become very frightened at the time of death. They cry, tears run down their cheeks, their mouths dribble, they excrete in their clothing, and are completely overwhelmed. These are clear signs of the suffering that occurs at the time of death because of fear caused by negative actions performed during life.
Alternatively, if during our lifetimes we refrain from committing negative actions, the time of death is very easy for us to face. The experience is one of joy, like that of a child going home to its parents. If we have purified ourselves, we can die happily. By refraining from the ten negative ways and cultivating their opposites, the ten constructive actions, our deaths will be easy and as a result we won't have to experience rebirth in a condition of suffering. We can be assured of rebirth in more fortunate states. By planting the seeds of medicinal plants we obtain trees with medicinal powers, by planting the seeds of poisonous trees we produce only harmful fruits. If we plant the seeds of constructive actions on our consciousness, we will experience happiness in future rebirths. We will have fortunate situations both mentally and physically. This basic teaching of the Dharma - avoid destructive deeds and cultivate constructive ones - is given not only in Buddhism, but also in many other religions, including Christianity.
How do we contemplate death and impermanence? As mentioned previously, just thinking, "I'm going to die," is not very beneficial. We need to think, "If I have committed any of the ten destructive actions, at death I will have a great deal of fear and suffering to face, and as a result I will devolve to a rebirth of intense misfortune. On the other hand, if during my life I have created positive force (merit), at death I will not experience fear or suffering and will be reborn in a more fortunate state." That is the correct way to contemplate death.
This meditation need not be merely the gloomy, pessimistic thought, "I'm going to die and there is nothing I can do about it." Rather, we need to think in terms of what will happen when we die. "Where will I go after death? What sort of causes have I created? Can I make my death a happy one? How? Can I make my future rebirths happy? How?"
When contemplating future rebirths, we need to remember that there is no place in samsara that is reliable. No matter what body we take, it must eventually pass away. We read in history of people who have lived for a hundred or even a thousand years. Yet, no matter how fantastic these accounts are, there is no case of a person who did not eventually have to die. Any type of samsaric body that we gain is subject to death.
Nor is there a place to where we can go in order to escape death. No matter where we are, when the time comes, we will have to die. Then no amount of medicine, mantras, or practice will help. Surgical operations may cure certain types of diseases within our bodies, but there are none that can prevent death.
No matter what type of rebirth we gain, it will be subject to death. The process is ongoing. Contemplating the long-range effects of our actions and how the process of birth, life, death, and rebirth is continuous will help us generate much positive karma.
Although we sometimes plan to practice the Dharma, we usually plan to do so tomorrow, or the day after. However, none of us can tell when we will die. If we had a guarantee that we definitely had one hundred years left to live, we would have free space in which to arrange our practice. But there is not the slightest certainty when we will die. To put off our practice is very foolish. Some humans die in the womb even before they are born, others die as small babies before they learn to walk. It doesn't follow that we are going to live a long life.
Our bodies are very fragile. If they were made of stone or iron, perhaps they might give some feeling of stability. But if we investigate, we will see that the human body is very weak. It is very easy for something to go wrong with it. It is like a delicate wristwatch made from countless tiny fragile parts. It is not something to be trusted. There are many circumstances that can cause our death: food poisoning, the bite of a tiny insect, or even the prick of a poisonous thorn. Such small conditions can kill us. The food and liquid that we use to extend our lives can become the circumstances that end it. There is no certainty at all as to when we will die, or what circumstances will cause our death.
Even if we feel certain that we will live for a hundred years, many years of that span have passed already and we haven't accomplished much. We approach death like a man sleeping in a railway carriage, constantly getting closer and closer to the destination, yet unaware of the process. There is little we can do to stop this process. We just constantly come ever-closer to death.
No matter how much money, jewelry, houses or clothes we have accumulated during our lives, it will make no difference whatsoever at the time of our deaths. When we die, we will have to go empty-handed. Not even the tiniest material object can be taken with us. The body itself must be left behind. The body and the mind separate and the mind-stream continues by itself. Not only is it impossible to take a possession with us, we cannot even take our bodies.
What accompanies the consciousness after death? If we have to leave our bodies, our friends, and all our possessions, is there any helper or anything that accompanies our consciousness to a future life?
There is something that follows the consciousness after death: the karmic legacies (seeds) that we have built up during this lifetime. If we have committed any of the ten negative karmic actions, a negative karmic legacy or karmic debt will accompany our mental continuums as they go on into our future rebirths. By killing other beings, stealing others' possessions, or indulging in sexual misconduct, negative karmic legacies from these destructive actions of the body are placed on the mind-stream. By lying, slandering others and causing disunity among people, harming others with words, or speaking meaninglessly, the negative karmic debts of these negative actions of speech will travel with us at the time of death. If we have had many covetous thoughts, often wishing to have the possessions of others; if we have had ill-will toward others, wishing that they be harmed or that something bad would happen to them; or if we have thought in a distorted antagonistic manner, such as "there are no past or future lives," "there is no such thing as cause and effect," "there's no such thing as the safe direction of refuge," these destructive actions of mind will generate negative karmic legacies that travel with and direct our minds into future rebirths.
The reverse is also true. If we have performed positive actions and turned away from creating negativity, the karmic legacies of such positive energy will travel on our mind-streams and produce better circumstances in our future lives.
When we really think about the situation we are in, we will resolve to try in every way to generate positive karma and eliminate its opposite. We need to try to cleanse ourselves of as much negativity as possible, not leaving even the smallest karmic debt to be repaid in our future lives.
We need to look at what type of reactions can happen within the law of cause and effect. There is the account of a person who had very many good qualities, but was harsh in his speech. He abused another, saying, "You talk like a dog." As a result, he himself was reborn as a dog five hundred times. A seemingly small action can have a very large result.
Similarly, a very small positive action can produce a great result. There is the account of a young child who made a humble offering to the Buddha and, as a result, was reborn as the great king Ashoka, who built thousands of Buddhist monuments and performed countless sublime activities.
Renunciation and Compassion
Contemplating the various types of destructive actions that we have committed and their results is a very effective way of ensuring our welfare and happiness. If we think of the suffering we ourselves will have to experience as a result of our negativity and thus give birth to a very strong wish not to have to experience this type of misery, we have developed what is called "renunciation."
Acquainting ourselves with this type of thinking in itself is a form of meditation. First, we need to develop mindfulness of our own suffering; then we need to extend this mindfulness to all living beings. Consider how all beings do not wish to have any suffering, yet are caught in a suffering predicament. This type of thinking leads us to compassion. If we do not develop the wish to be free from all our own suffering, how can we develop the wish for other beings to be free from theirs? We can put an end to all our own suffering, yet this is not ultimately beneficial. We need to extend this wish to all living beings, who also desire happiness. We can train our minds and develop the wish for everyone to be completely parted from their sufferings. This is a much wider and more beneficial way of thinking.
Why do we need to be concerned with other living beings? Because we receive so much from others. For instance, the milk that we drink comes from the kindness of the cows and the buffaloes, the warm clothing that protects us from the cold and wind comes from the wool of sheep and goats, and so forth. These are just a few examples of why we need to try to find a method that can eliminate their sufferings.
No matter what type of practice we do - the recitation of mantra or any kind of meditation -we need always to retain the thought, "May this benefit all limited beings." This will naturally bring benefit to us as well. Our ordinary life situations can give us an appreciation of this. For example, if someone is very selfish and always works for his own gain, he will not really be liked by others. On the other hand, someone who is kind and always thinks of helping others is usually liked by everybody.
The thought to be developed in our mental continuums is, "May everybody be happy and may nobody suffer." We must try to incorporate this into our own thinking through recollecting it again and again. This can be extremely beneficial. Beings who in the past have developed this type of thinking are now great Buddhas, bodhisattvas, or saints; all the truly great men and women of the world based themselves on it. How wonderful if we could try to generate it ourselves!
The Karma of Harming Others to Protect Our Loved Ones
Question: Are we advised not to defend ourselves when somebody tries to harm us?
Rinpoche: This question introduces a very extensive subject. If someone hits you over the head with a club or stick, the best response is to meditate that you are experiencing this because of your own past negative actions. Think how this person is allowing this particular karmic legacy to ripen now, rather than sometime in the future. You need to feel gratitude that he has eliminated this negative karmic debt from your mind-stream.
Question: What if someone attacks my wife or child, who are under my protection? Do I defend them? Would it be a negative action to do so?
Rinpoche: As it is your duty and responsibility protect your wife and child, you must try to do so in as skillful a manner as possible. You need to be clever. Best is to protect them without harming the attacker. In other words, you need to find a method of protecting them whereby you do not inflict any harm.
Question: He can harm my children, but I cannot harm him? Isn't it our duty to defend our children against barbarous and cruel acts? Shall we just lay down our lives?
Rinpoche: In order to handle this situation skillfully you need a great deal of courage. There is an account about a previous life of the Buddha, in which he was a navigator who went to sea with a group of five hundred people in search of a buried treasure. There was one man in this party who had very greedy thoughts and, in order to steal all the jewels for himself, was plotting to murder the five hundred. The bodhisattva (Shakyamuni Buddha in a previous life) was aware of this and thought that to let the situation develop was incorrect, as one man would kill five hundred. Therefore, he developed the very courageous thought to save the five hundred by killing this one man, willingly accepting upon himself the full responsibility of killing. If you are willing to accept having to be reborn in a hell in order to save others, you have a greatly courageous thought. Then you can engage in these acts, just as the Buddha himself did.
Question: Under such circumstances is killing still considered a negative action?
Rinpoche: Nagarjuna wrote in his Friendly Letter that if one commits negativity in the name of protecting one's parents, children, Buddhism, or the Three Jewels of Refuge, one will have to experience the consequences. The difference is in whether or not you are aware of the consequences and are willing to take them upon yourself in order selflessly to protect your wife and child. If you harm the enemy, you are going to experience a suffering rebirth. However, you need to be willing to face this by thinking, "I will take that suffering on myself and then my wife and child won't suffer."
Question: Then according to Buddhism, it would still be a negative act?
Rinpoche: To protect your wife and child is a positive constructive act, but to harm the enemy is negative and destructive. You have to be willing to accept the consequences of both.
Question: You said that if one creates negative karma one will suffer in the future, but if one does good, happiness will follow. Can these good actions lead to complete salvation, in the sense of not having to experience rebirth?
Rinpoche: If you wish to achieve salvation, you have to follow the teachings completely and precisely. For instance, if you are following the Christian path, you must follow the teachings of Christ perfectly. Then Christian salvation is possible. Jesus alone cannot save us from our sins; we ourselves have to do something. Otherwise, why would Jesus have said not to sin? If we ourselves follow correctly what Jesus taught, I think that Christian salvation is possible. If we follow correctly the teachings of Buddha, Buddhist "salvation" - liberation - is possible.
Karma Kagyu Lineage &
Teaching by Mingyur Dorje Rinpoche given at
Kagyu Samye Ling, August 2003. Translator Chödrak
Karma Kagyu Lineage
The subject of this teaching is the Lineage and Guru Yoga. So we are going to discuss the lineage of the Karma Kagyu. Generally there are many types of lineages in Tibet, but I don't have time to talk about all of these. The talk is going to be particularly about the Kagyu. In the world the first Kagyu lama was Tilopa, an emanation of Dorje Chang and Korlo Demchog. For the benefit of sentient beings and especially for the benefit of meditation practice, out of skilful means, Dorje Chang emanated Tilopa.
When Tilopa was a young boy he looked after cows. He took them around the fields and through the woods. One day, when he was walking around with the cows amongst trees, there were a lot of different lights moving around and lots of different sounds. A dakini, Dorje Phagmo, appeared in the midst of the swirling lights and took Tilopa up to Urgyen. That's the Dorje Phagmo's and Khorlo Demchog's pure land. When Tilopa met Korlo Demchog face to face he received all the oral instructions of the Kagyu Lineage.
When he returned to earth he started teaching Dharma. A lot of people questioned Tilopa and said: "Who is your lama, who is your teacher?" Tilopa replied: "I don't have a human teacher. My teacher is Dorje Chang and Korlo Demchog." People doubted and said: You can't have it like that. You are telling us lies. Maybe you have received the blessing of the demons. So we are not going to listen to you." Generating a great compassion, and out of this compassion using skilful means Tilopa started to take teachings and supplicate other lamas and teachers who were around, so people could have the faith that he was also taking teachings from human teachers.
His essence is the same as Dorje Chang and Khorlo Demchog, he is actually a totally realized Buddha, but he went through the motions of going to teachings and taking instructions and behaving as a very humble person who didn't really have much knowledge. Gradually over time he showed people the method of how to take teachings and instructions and how to practise them gradually and how to have realisation in one's practice. Although he didn't need to do this himself he did it for others.
He went to all four directions and took teachings from all teachers who were residing in the four directions and condensed all these teachings in the four lineages into one. For example from one direction came the teaching of the tummo or the internal fire, and one was the clear light, one was dream yoga and one was the illusory body. So the four lineages came from the four directions in India and became the Kagyu Lineage or the lineage of oral transmission.
The second in the lineage of the Kagyu is Naropa. In the beginning Naropa was a person who went to Nalanda University and he was very skilled in debate. He was able to defeat many people in debate and give them answers immediately, so after sometime he generated some pride in his achievements. One day he sat on the roof top of the Nalanda Monastery with a text which he was reciting in the sunshine. All of a sudden, while he was looking at the text, a big dark shadow of a person appeared and he couldn't see anything. It covered all directions, so he looked upwards. When he looked up he saw a really ugly old lady with missing teeth and very long hair looking down at him and chuckling: "Ha ha ha." He said: "Who are you?" and she said: "Who are you?" "I'm Naropa." "What are you doing, what are you reciting? What do you know?" He said, "I know the text." The old woman questioned Naropa and said: "Do you know the words or do you know the meaning of the words?" Naropa thought about it and replied: "I know the words." "Ha ha ha!" The old lady became really happy and danced around. She was going up and down in space, flying around, going down to earth and then flying up again.
Naropa thought to himself: "If she gets so excited about me saying I understand the words, what is she going to be like when I tell her I understand the meaning as well!" So he said to the old lady: "I don't just understand the words, I understand the meaning of the words as well." She said: "You understand the meaning of the words? U huu." She burst into tears and was sobbing. Very, very sad. She put her head down and her hair was drooping down. Naropa then questioned the old lady and said, "When I told you I understand the words you became very happy, but when I told you I understand the meaning you became very sad. What was all that about?" The old lady said, "You are telling me a lie, that's why I became sad." Naropa said, "What lies did I tell you?" "You don't understand the meaning of the words. You just know the words. Because you lied to me and told me you understand the meaning of the words, but you really didn't, that's why I became sad." Then Naropa said: "Who in the world now understands the meaning of the words?" The old lady replied: "My younger brother Tilopa, he knows the meaning of the words." Naropa, when he heard the word "Tilopa", all his hair stood on end and tears streamed from his eyes and he felt great natural devotion arising. He asked, "Where is Tilopa?" The lady said: "He is in a cemetery quite far off." All of a sudden the old lady disappeared. Naropa thought: "I really must go and meet this Tilopa."
In Nalanda monastery there were many monks' apartments and in the night time he got up and ran away. He searched and searched but he couldn't find him. He experienced many types of difficulties and problems trying to find Tilopa. Finally he found him. When they met, Tilopa wouldn't teach Naropa anything. He started to give him more problems. But Naropa had great faith and whatever Tilopa said he listened to.
One day Tilopa and Naropa went to the top of a very tall building, maybe nine storeys high. Tilopa was just looking around from side to side. Looking into space he said, "Hmm, if I had a student with faith, if I told him to jump off this 9-storey building, he would just do it!" Naropa looked around him and thought: "There is nobody here except me." Tilopa continued, "If somebody had faith in me they would just jump off immediately." Naropa looked around again in case somebody else had arrived and he thought: "I'm here just on my own. Maybe Tilopa means me." So he immediately just threw himself off the building. When he hit the ground he broke all his arms and legs. Tilopa came down - slowly. "What happened to you? Are you in pain?" "I'm not only in a lot of pain, I'm almost like a corpse!" Naropa replied. In that case I'm going to call you Naropa." In Tibetan na signifies illness, ro is a name for a corpse and pa means a person. So Naropa means the person who is sick like a corpse. Tilopa said, "No problem, doesn't matter." and put his hand over Naropa's body. In one second he jumped up and his body was even better than before. Tilopa then gave Naropa 12 difficult things to do but he still wouldn't teach him any dharma.
Having completed all the difficult tasks that Tilopa had given to him, Naropa came to him one day, offered a mandala and supplicated him saying: "Please, please, give me the teachings." All of a sudden Tilopa grabbed his shoe off his foot and grabbed Naropa by his hair and said: "You can't understand the nature of mind by words, you need to recognize it yourself." and he hit him with the shoe across his face. Naropa just collapsed and became unconscious. When he came out of the unconscious state, immediately he had a vast and open realisation of the nature of mind. So then Tilopa and Naropa became alikel, of the same nature. The realisation was the same level. They didn't become the same person but their realisation of the nature of mind was the same.
Naropa became a powerful and accomplished siddha. The striking of the shoe across Naropa's face was Tilopa giving him the lineage of the meaning. After Naropa was unconscious and woken up, he gave him the instructions of the meaning of the word, all the transmissions. So then, why did Tilopa give 12 difficult tasks to Naropa? It was like his preliminary practise or his ngöndro, he was purifying all the different things that Naropa needed to purify. Because he purified all his negativities with the 12 difficult tasks, in one moment he could realise the nature of his mind.
Naropa passed his lineage to Marpa Lotsawa. Marpa stayed with Naropa 12 years and 7 months. Naropa bestowed on Marpa the entirety of the transmissions. Marpa also had to go through some difficulties, though. Then Marpa bestowed all the teachings to Milarepa. Milarepa also had to endure some difficulties and do some work. One day Marpa told him to build a house in a triangular shape. Then he said: "Destroy it, I want to make a round house." Then he wanted to make a rectangular house. After completing all these difficult tasks Marpa gave Milarepa the lineage of the meaning and all the oral instructions. Milarepa gave all the instructions to Gampopa, but Gampopa did not have to go through too many difficulties. He was very lucky! (Just joking.) Gampopa stayed with Milarepa for three years and gradually Milarepa passed down the lineage to Gampopa.
From Gampopa the lineage spread out to various other lineages. Four main ones and eight minor ones. The four major ones are the Kamsang Kagyu, Baram Kagyu, Phagdru Kagyu and Tsalpa Kagyu. Those are the four main lineages of the Kagyu. You have Drikung Kagyu, Drukpa Kagyu, Taklung Kagyu, Marpa Kagyu etc. These are the eight smaller ones. 1. Drikung 2. Drukpa 3. Taklung 4. Yasang 5. Trophu 6. Shuksep 7. Yelpa 8. Martsang These days the Karma Kamtsang Kagyu is the predominant one. There are few Baram Kagyu people around but the majority of the other Kagyu lineages have faded away.
Out of the eight minor lineages the Drukpa Kagyu, Taklung and Drikung Kagyu are still present, the rest of them, the other five, have disappeared. So the branches of the Kagyu are three. There is one called Shangpa Kagyu, there is also Surmang Kagyu and Nedo Kagyu, but they don't come into the calculation of the four major and eight minor, they are like separate branches, but they are Kagyupa lineages. That's the explanation of the lineage.
Within the Kagyu tradition, the main point, the main practice is the practise of meditation. What came down most predominantly in the tradition of the Kagyu are the instructions of how to practise, how to meditate. In the Gelukpa tradition the main aspect is studying of the texts. But the Gelukpas still have to practise. In the four major lineages of Tibetan Buddhism they all have their own particular specialities or something very particular to them. It's said that the Kagyu lineage is called the lineage of blessings. This is because based on lamas' pure intention, devotion and faith connected with the interdependence of the pure lineage, there is great blessing to be obtained. So that's the explanation of the lineage completed. Now we will talk about Guru Yoga.
Within the Hinayana Tradition the lama, teacher doesn't really come into it, rather they have somebody who is like a learned spiritual friend, who is like a normal human being but spiritually more advanced than oneself, a friend. In the second case, when one is on the Mahayana path, one's perception of the teacher is like somebody who is on the bodhisattva levels and he has spiritual accomplishments. The teacher is like a doctor, you are the sick person and they give you medicine. That's how you perceive the teacher to be at the time of the Mahayana and bodhicitta practice. When it comes to the Vajrayana viewpoint of the teacher, then the teacher is viewed as Buddha. What is the reason for that? It's because if you view the teacher as Buddha you obtain blessings. Why is the swift accomplishment of blessings obtained? It's because between ourselves and the lama there is a connection. A very good, positive connection.
What are the three very good connections? They are the blessing of the empowerment, the scriptural transmission and the explanations. For a practitioner there is no better connection than these three. Also we can see the lama, we can hear his teachings. Because of these things mentioned we can say there is a very good positive connection with the lama and interdependence. So then, if we supplicate the lama with faith, it's like all blessings of the Buddhas come together united into the lama, and we receive the blessing of the lama, so therefore we also obtain the blessings of all the Buddhas.
Buddha Sakyamuni and Buddha Dorje Chang are very important but if we were to supplicate Sakyamuni or Dorje Chang directly and we also supplicated the lama, then supplicating the lama would be more beneficial to us and it bring blessing more swiftly. So the lama is more important. Why is that? We've never received empowerments, instructions or scriptural authorisations from Dorje Chang or the Buddha Sakyamuni, we've never heard their speech, we have never heard their teachings. We have from the lama, so the lama is more important to us.
We are given an example of what it's like for all of the blessings of the Buddha passed to the lama and thento us. For example the sun shines all over the United Kingdom. I have piece of paper in my hand. If you want to burn this piece of paper and place it on the grass in the sunshine, it will be difficult to burn it. But if I bring along a magnifying glass, and I place it by the paper, the sun's rays will be concentrated onto the paper and it will burn very quickly. It will burn immediately. The Buddha's blessing is like the sunshine. One's lama is like the magnifying glass and through him comes the sunlight, which is the blessing. Having connected with the lama's lineage, one obtains all the blessings of the Buddhas through him.
The main technique or main practice for us as practitioners in the Vajrayana is that of the practice of Guru Yoga. If we practise Guru Yoga we will swiftly obtain all of the blessings. Then one attains enlightenment very quickly. If you remember when we were doing prostrations and refuge practice we had the objects of refuge and the lama there who is the embodiment of all of the objects of refuge. When you are visualizing in the Dorje Sempa practice the Dorje Sempa deity upon your head, he is inseparable from your own guru. Then one does the yidam practice of the development stage and one feels that the yidam and the lama are inseparable. Then one is practising the dharma protectors' practices and one feels that the dharma protector and the lama are inseparable.
Based on these things one will swiftly obtain the blessings and the levels of enlightenment. What is the reason for that? It's based on having a very strong positive connection between ourselves and the lama, because we have had the empowerments, the scriptural transmissions and the instructions. Even if we don't receive all these three from the lama, if we receive empowerment from him or just instructions or just scriptural transmission, even each of them separately, will still give a very positive connection.
So then, when we supplicate the lama, whether we obtain the blessings of all the Buddhas and the lama depends on our faith. If we don't have faith, even if our teachers were Dorje Chang and the Buddha Sakyamuni and we were next to them all the time, without faith in them, no blessing would enter us. As an example, Buddha Sakyamuni had a monk called Gelong Legpe Karma. He stayed with the Buddha for 25 years but he didn't generate devotion for the Buddha therefore he didn't receive blessings. So if we perceive our lama to have the lineage, even if he is like a normal person and he doesn't have very high realisation, if out of our faith we perceive him to be a Buddha then we will get all the Buddha's blessing completely. So generating faith for one's lama is very important.
What type of faith we have to generate? We have to have faith that the lama and the Buddha are inseparable, they have the same qualities. There are two reasons for that: one is based on the relative truth and one is connected with the ultimate truth. The one related to ultimate truth is that the lama has Buddha nature and the Buddha nature is Buddha. Therefore the lama and all of the Buddhas have identical nature. So the lama really is the Buddha. Not only the lama is Buddha, the student also is Buddha. Why is that? It's because the student also possesses Buddha nature. If you understand that, it's called the ultimate guru yoga. It's like the lama's mind and your mind are meeting. When we say the lama's mind and the student's mind are united and become mixed, it's not like you have to pick some substance in your right hand and some substance in the left hand, grind them and mix them up together. It doesn't mean that. The first thing to understand is that one's nature and the lama's nature are the same. Understanding that one also understands that all the Buddhas' nature is identical. If you understand correctly, one's own lama, his mind and your own are inseparably mixed. That's the reason relating to the ultimate truth.
What is the reason connected with the relative truth? The Buddha said that generally all the Buddhas possess compassion and skilful means. For all the vast number of sentient beings the Buddhas do what they can to help each individual being appropriate to that being's nature. We ourselves have negative karma and illusions. Because of our impure perceptions we cannot perceive pure perceptions. Right now this moment Dorje Chang is present before us. We can't see him. We can't hear his teachings. This is due to one's own negative karma and negative or impure perceptions, illusions. So, what are we able to see? We can see somebody who is rather similar to us, somebody of flesh and blood who suffers. Who appears to be like us because they have suffering and mental defilements. That type of person we can perceive. So then the Buddhas in their infinite wisdom, compassion and skilful means emanate beings who look like us; like Karmapa, Tai Situ Rinpoche. In the world now there are many beings like that. They look like us, they appear to be the same. They need to eat food. They become sick, they need to take medicine from time to time, and they also manifest death. And sometimes they make a few little mistakes.
So they appear to be like us and because of that we are able to see them and relate to them. and we are able to listen to the teachings they give. But truly their real nature is that of the Buddha because they are emanations of Buddha. If a lama has all the characteristics and he possesses the true lineage, he is an emanation of Buddha. That's the reason for relating to the dimension of relative truth. So then, putting it in brief: one needs to have faith and supplicate the lama. The root of the blessing depends on our generating faith for the lama, devotion. In Milarepa's lifestory it tells you what he did and what kind of experiences he had, how he generated faith etc. One day one of Milarepa's students approached him and said, "You know, when you were with Marpa, he gave you all those difficult things to accomplish and you did all those things, you practised and finally you became enlightened. Surely you aren't a human being like us, we can't hope to do this kind of thing. Maybe you are an emanation of Dorje Chang or maybe another Buddha, would you please tell us, whose emanation you are?
Milarepa replied, "For you to think that I am an emanation of Buddha is a very good thing, but as far as I'm concerned, I don't know whose emanation I am. If I happen to be a rebirth of a hell being, because you perceive me as an emanation of a Buddha, that's very beneficial for you. So then we can see that everything depends on the generation of one's own faith and devotion. If you understand that the nature of the lama is Buddha but that the lama's kindness is greater than that of the Buddha, then one will naturally give rise to faith and devotion for him. That's the explanation of showing us that the nature of the lama and the Buddha is identical. That's finished.
Now there is a little bit of discussion about how it is that the lama's kindness is greater than that of the Buddha's. Even though Dorje Chang and Buddha Sakyamuni are very important and great beings, you are not able or fortunate enough to hear their teachings, to obtain empowerments or scriptural authorities from them, you are not able to meet them even. But we can actually meet the lama physically, hear his speech and receive his teachings, empowerments and instructions. If we were to meet the Dorje Chang Buddha in person and ask for teaching, if he was going to liberate us and lead us to enlightenment, what could he give us? He could give us the instructions of how to practise and liberate ourselves within one lifetime. Higher or better teachings than that he wouldn't be able to give us. He couldn't just pick us up and threw us into a Pure Land. And this type of instruction one's own lama can give: how to liberate oneself in one lifetime and become enlightened. We are not able to perceive Dorje Chang but we can perceive our own lama. So, who is more kind to us, is it Dorje Chang or the lama? It's the lama. If you understand that point, faith and devotion will arise. This is why in the Vajrayana tradition the practice of Guru Yoga is respected as something very important, the main point. That's the general meaning of Guru Yoga.
How do we practise the Guru Yoga actually? How do we do it? If we have understanding and appreciation that the lama's mind and the Buddha's mind are identical and that the lama is in fact a Buddha, then we can meditate on his body. If one is not able to generate that strong faith, then one feels that the lama manifests as Buddha Sakyamuni or the Buddha Dorje Chang, not the way he normally is. And you also think that his manifestation contains all of the essence of the Buddhas. One supplicates one's lama and ask that I myself and all sentient beings may be free from suffering; temporary suffering now and all suffering up until the point we reach the end result, perfect enlightenment. And then please give me the blessing so that I will have the realisation of the mahamudra, please give me all the blessings. You make a prayer like that.
Some people like to meditate on their lama in the form he normally has, how he normally appears and that's okay for them. But some people don't like that. Rinpoche knows someone who was practising the Guru Yoga but he didn't enjoy it. The reason was that in real life he was constantly coughing, so when he visualized the lama on top of his head he was uncomfortable because the lama kept on coughing. There is another guy, who had unfortunately a very pointed head, so the lama couldn't sit on the point of his head, he kept on falling off.
Before in India one person had an experience - when he tried to meditate on the form of his lama upon his head he kept on falling off from side to side. So he went to the teacher and asked what he could do. The lama said: "Oh, you put the lama at the bottom and you sit on top of his head!" So then he meditated like that. It became very clear, he didn't move. He said to his lama: "I meditated as you instructed and it was very clear, very good." Then lama said, "Now you need to revert back to what was originally there, you on the bottom and the lama on the top. He did this, and this was also very clear. The reason why he couldn't achieve this in the first place is because he had a very tight grasping idea that he had to have a very clear visualization of the lama. Because of his intensity and grasping for that, his mind became very tight and then the lama fell all over the place. When he turned it around with him on top and the lama on the bottom, he didn't really have appreciation of that, because he didn't quite like that position, as he wasn't grasping, it became very clear. Afterwards he understood the meaning of what had happened, and could meditate very well.
If one can meditate the form of one's lama and form of Dorje Sempa as inseparable, one has got the meaning of Guru Yoga as it's explained in the ngöndro. When one is practising the refuge and the prostrations, one is visualizing one's guru in the form of Dorje Chang in front of one. So that is the meaning associated with ngöndro.
What is the main part of the practice of the Guru Yoga? It's the receiving of the empowerments. The empowerments are four in number. The first one is from the lama's forehead a white light emanates and touches one's own forehead. One feels that ones physical obscurations, defilements and impurities are completely purified, and one receives the blessing of the body of the lama. That is classified as the vase empowerment.
The second part is that from the lama's throat a red light emanates and touches one's throat centre and one feels that all of one's impurities, obscurations and defilements related to speech are completely purified and one has received the blessing of the speech from the lama. This is called the secret empowerment. The third thing to happen is that from lama's heart centre a blue light radiates out and strikes one's heart centre. One feels that all of the defilements, obscurations and impurities related to mind - our mental impurities - are completely purified and one has received the mind blessing of the lama. This is called the wisdom-knowledge empowerment.
The fourth empowerment: one imagines simultaneously white, red and blue lights coming out and striking one's three places. One feels that all of the body, speech and mind impurities, defilements and obscurations are completely purified and one has received in totality all the body, speech and mind blessings of the lama. This is called the word or mahamudra empowement. Finally the lama dissolves into light and this dissolves into oneself. The meaning really is that in the end the lama and oneself become inseparable and their essence is identical. So you need to understand that. And then you relax. That is the absolute true Guru Yoga. When one is visualizing the lama external to oneself and supplicating him, that part is related to relative truth.
When one has done the visualization of the lama dissolving into light and the light dissolving into oneself, you recognize that the lama's mind's essence and your essence are identical, the same, and relax in that. That's the ultimate truth Guru Yoga. That's the end of the explanation of the Guru Yoga. Do you have any questions?
We have had new information coming in: Marpa spent 16 years and 7 months with Naropa.
Question: Due to Naropa's misconception that Tilopa was asking him to jump would he have had the same result whether he jumped or not? Was it wise for him to jump at that point because he wasn't told to do so directly?
Rinpoche: It is true that Tilopa did not directly instruct Naropa to jump, but he did indirectly, because there wasn't anybody else there on the roof with them. If he didn't have wisdom, he wouldn't have listened to the lama's instruction. B ut he had wisdom because he listened to the instructions.
Q: There wasn't any instruction.
R: It was an indirect instruction, because there was nobody else standing there and he took the meaning to be that I'm a person who has faith, so it must be me because there is nobody else here, so I jump. We have an example of indirect instructions or meanings in many places, not just that.
Q: If one has faith and devotion
to several lamas, does one put them all into one form of the main lama and think
they are all the same?
R: That is what was told yesterday, yes. That's fine. One doesn't have to think: "Oh, this lama has got blessing and maybe this one has more. If you have faith in many lamas, you put them into one, think that their essence is identical.
Q: My lama was the 16th Karmapa and he passed away long time ago. I wonder if I can still see him as my lama.
R: Of course.
Q: Could Rinpoche explain the idea of tsawe lama (root lama)?
R: There are two types of root lama. The real meaning of the root lama is the lama who points out the nature of one's mind. At the point one understands that, one has the instruction and meeting together like that. That's one's true root lama. But before we get to the point of having pointing out instructions, we have to have various lamas giving teachings. You can also perceive the root lama to be somebody whose is within a pure lineage unbroken and they have all the characteristics of a proper pure teacher, and one has connection and faith and devotion for them, then one can also perceive them as a root lama. But when one is doing the Guru Yoga though, it is more beneficial if one can feel that the lama who is giving you the empowerments and instructions and all transmissions, his essence is really there, he is the main one.
Q: Which were the four types of teachings held in different directions?
R: Tummo, clear light, dream yoga and illusory body are just an example of the four types of teachings, which were held in different directions. But there are many, it is not just those alone.
Q: What does it mean for the guru to become the path?
R: Guru Yoga is the path. We don't say that the lama himself is the path. It's the Guru Yoga. Oneself practising the Guru Yoga, that is the path.
Q: At the very beginning of teaching today we heard that Dorje Chang manifested to Tilopa. If he was so clever, why didn't he manifest to somebody in every country of the world speaking every language and get it done much quicker?
R: If he could do that then he could just pick us up and throw us to the pure lands. Because of individual sentient beings' karma appearances like those don't come about. If it were like that we wouldn't have to stay in samsara now. We would have been Buddha a long time ago.
Q: Would you tell us about Maitripa?
R: Marpa received three types of mahamudra teachings. There were the sutra tradition, tantra tradition and essence of mahamudra tradition. Maitripa gave Marpa the sutra tradition; mahamudra transmission and the other two were bestowed by Naropa. Marpa had various teachers: Maitripa, Kukkuripa and so on.
Q: As westerners we often have suspicions associated with figures of authority, not like in the east where in India or Tibet people naturally have faith in parents and lamas and they maybe take authority figures better than us. So from time to time we have doubts and obstacles related to these figures of authority. How do we deal with that?
R: It is important and necessary for one to follow the dharma instructions and advice that the lama gives you. But if it relates to everyday worldly life then one can be a bit more neutral about that. Sometimes we might not listen to some of that advice. You can check it out like this: these days when the really true and straightforward lamas talk to people and give advice it's not based on their own benefit. They are thinking solely of the benefit of the person they are talking to. But there are also present in the world lamas who have some idea of mixing their own benefit in with that. So the second one is not beneficial and you need to check that out. But when one's lama is perceived to have Buddha nature and to be really the Buddha in essence, you can supplicate like that. But if one comes into contact with kind of false lamas who are really mixing up their own benefit in their teachings, one abandons them. That kind of advice and connection, you leave it. If one encounters a false lama, it's better to abandon them.
Q: There is a special connection between His Holiness Karmapa and Tai Situ Rinpoche. Could we have some explanation of that?
R: This comes about because of Chögyur Lingpa's prophecy, where he gives a prophecy about the connection between the 12th Tai Situpa and the 17th Karmapa. Tai Situ Rinpoche and Gyaltsap Rinpoche were students of the previous 16th Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, and now the 17th Karmapa has taken birth and is a young person. Gyaltsab Rinpoche and Tai Situ Rinpoche became his teachers. T his is based on the lineage: one is young and the older people look after them and then it changes around from time to time. Generally, there is a prophecy, which is a statement of connection, and also from his side His Holiness Karmapa has a genuine faith in Tai Situ Rinpoche. This is based on the teachings and transmissions that the Karmapa has faith arising for Tai Situ Rinpoche and Gyaltsab Rinpoche. The lineage goes in such a way that the Karmapa bestows all of the teachings on his main students, but then when the Karmapa takes rebirth, although he has all the teachings in their entirety because he is Buddha, he has to go through the motions of taking instructions from human beings and human teachers. Now he has manifested as 17th Karmapa and his teachers will be Gyaltsab Rinpoche and Tai Situ Rinpoche. They in a way symbolically give back all the teachings that they received from the previous 16th Karmapa. The Karmapa himself already possesses them, but because of the students, in order to show how to do it, then they go through the motions of giving him back everything.
Q: Who is your personal guru (tsawe lama)?
R: Tai Situ Rinpoche.
Q: We have noticed that lamas wear special hats from time to time. What do the hats and crowns signify, black hat in particular?
R: Generally speaking when one wears the crowns on the head, it's the sign of respect to the nature of reality and respect to all the gurus. Generally the teaching comes or is connected with the individual being's own perception. In olden days a king could give somebody respected a crown to wear, the idea of that crown is a token of respect, so there is this respect associated with wearing a crown. Another reason for wearing it at that time was that when sentient beings saw the crown it gave them joy.
And why does the Karmapa have particularly the black crown? Before the arising of the first Karmapa Dusum Khyenpa, a long time before he manifested as Karmapa he was meditating in a cave. Along came a great gathering of dakinis and they said to him: in the future you are going to manifest as a being who will be of immeasurable benefit for sentient beings, because of that we have great faith and devotion for you and we want to make offerings to you. So they all pulled lots of their hair out and they wove a crown and placed it on the Karmapa's head. "Now you become like the king of Dharma." So the nature of this crown placed on the head was rather like a rainbow, insubstantial and most people can't see it. It's with the Karmapa always, where ever he goes. He doesn't have to take it on and off, it's always on his head. And then the Karmapa at one time went to China. At that time the emperor of China was an emanation of Manjushri. Immediately when the Karmapa came the emperor perceived the crown on the Karmapa's head. The emperor said, "Oh, that crown on your head, everybody needs to see it, so we are going to make a copy of it, a visible copy. So the emperor of China made a replica of the crown which was on Karmapa's head and he offered this to Karmapa. When he put it on his head, everybody could see, because it was a physical object. Because of the interdependence of the self-existing hat and the one made as a replica, blessing can be obtained from seeing the hat.
Q: In the Dorje Chang tungma there is a line that says: "Grant me your blessing that uncontrived devotion may arise in me." In that context, what does blessing mean?
R: It is a particular type of power. Various medicines have various types of strength or power. Water has a power to wet things and clean things. Fire has a power to burn. When we put water in a field it helps to grow flowers or crops. All phenomena have a particular power associated with them. Through the power of interdependence, when we ask for the blessing, blessing comes as a particular type of power. What happens is, that one receives that power, the blessing, and one's defilements and obscurations are purified and dispelled. If one gives rise to devotion and faith and supplicates, then one has the blessing connected with arising of faith and devotion.
Commentary on the 21 Praises of Tara
This talk was given by the Venerable Bokar Rinpoche, successor and heart son of the Lord of Refuge, Kalu Rinpoche in November, 1991. He had just been welcomed to Maui, Hawai'i with an offering of sacred dance. Rinpoche's talk was translated from the Tibetan by Ngodrup Tsering and has been lightly edited.
This is Bokar Rinpoche's first tour of America. All of you receiving him in this way brings such a sense of joy. Rinpoche would like to express his appreciation for welcoming him in this way.
The dances led by Prema, the Offering Goddess Dance, the supplication to Guru Padmasambhava and particularly the Praises to the 21 Taras are very significant. From the point of view of spirituality and the Dharma, it is a very healthy, a very special way of expressing artistic talents. It creates auspicious conditions to have this evening's teaching preceded by such an auspicious way of creating the environment; a sense of healthy outlook for all of us. Rinpoche feels it is very clarifying and auspicious. He would like to thank Prema and all for graciously offering these dances.
Buddhas and Bodhisattvas express their enlightened activities in manifold ways. Incomparable among all the deities, Tara is the embodiment of the enlightened activities of all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Tara, as an enlightened being vowed to experience the awakened state of mind in the feminine form. She vowed to continuously manifest in the feminine form, inspiring, benefiting and liberating beings. The importance and benefit of the practice of Tara, the integration, the inspiration of bringing her into one's life as practice is emphasized in many of the Buddhist treatises, texts and teachings.
Many enlightened practitioners in India and later in Tibet practiced Tara as their principle deity of practice. As the embodiment of enlightened activity she is very immediate and very swift in clarifying, in subjugating various obstacles in our lives including natural calamities, epidemics, war and all kinds of danger, harm and fear. This is particularly valuable in the world situation in the times we live in. Any way we can communicate the inspiration and the qualities of Tara is certainly a source of benefit. Bokar Rinpoche and Khenpo do Tara practice as their main and daily practice. Thus this evening to witness the sincere aspiration of the dancers encouraging all of us to aspire to the activity of Tara is of ultimate significance. Rinpoche thoroughly appreciates such significant display.
Rinpoche personally feels that because of the very essential nature of Tara, those with a genuine heart who express the enlightened qualities and activities of Tara through dance can be so inspired that obstacles, hindrances in their own personal lives can be clarified, giving rise to longevity, and as well from an ultimate point of view, become endowed with the unconditioned wisdom inspiration of Tara.
This is not just a regular common performance. Those of us who are witnessing such activity are thus inspired by the manifold qualities of Tara. We allow our own rampant upheaval of conflicting emotions to subside. There is at least temporary and momentary clarification from confused preoccupations. At the same time there is the possibility of clarifying hindrances particularly in pursuing the path of spirituality in ones own life.
Essentially we need to develop experience of the unconditioned stability and harmony of mind, the source of well being and wisdom. The activities of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas manifest in varieties of inconceivable ways in accordance with the relative propensity and capabilities of beings. They fulfill the various mental modes and needs of beings.
In the traditions of the Buddha Dharma the inspiration of the enlightened activities of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas have become manifest through various ritual dances and performances. But in our present Tibetan tradition there isn't ritual dance in connection with the praises to the 21 Taras. Prema has a very rich background in Indian ritual and temple dances as well as Nepalese Buddhist ritual dance. She has received guidance and instructions from many teachers and lamas about the symbols and meaning of Vajrayana rituals. Thus, she has created a vehicle in a very wholehearted and complete way, communicating the inspiration and enlightened activities of such an important deity as Tara. This is a very healthy contribution.
The Third Gyalwa Karmapa was responsible
for introducing the Dzogchen teachings into the Kagyu lineage.
He was also one of the main teachers of the great Dzogchen Master Longchen Rabjam.
The Aspiration Prayer of Mahamudra, the Definitive Meaning
Composed by The Lord Protector Rangjung Dorje The Third Gyalwang Karmapa
Gurus and yidams, deities of the mandala,
Buddhas of the three times in the ten directions and your sons and daughters,
Please consider us with kindness and understanding, and
Grant your blessing that these aspirations may be accomplished exactly as we ask.
Sprung from the snow mountain of pure intentions and actions
Of myself and all sentient beings without limit,
May the river of accumulated virtue of the threefold purity
Flow into the ocean of the four bodies of the Victorious Ones.
So long as this is not accomplished,
Through all my lifetimes, birth upon birth,
May not even the words "evil deeds" and "suffering" be heard
And may we enjoy the splendor and goodness of oceans of happiness and virtue.
Having obtained the supreme freedoms and conjunctions of the precious human existence, endowed with faith, energy, and intelligence,
Having attended on a worthy spiritual friend and received the pith of the holy instructions,
May we practice these properly, just as we have received them, without obstacle or interruption.
In all our lives, may we practice and enjoy the holy dharma.
Hearing and studying the scriptures and reasoning's free us from the obscuration of not knowing.
Contemplating the oral instructions disperses the darkness of doubt.
In the light born of meditation what is shines forth just as it is.
May the brightness of the three Prajna's grow in power.
By understanding the meaning of the ground, which is the two truths free from the extremes of Eternalism and nihilism,
And by practicing the supreme path of the two accumulations, free from the extremes of exaggeration and denial,
Is attained the fruit of well-being for oneself and others, free from the extremes of samsara and nirvana.
May all beings meet the dharma, which neither errs nor misleads.
The ground of purification is the mind itself, indivisible cognitive clarity and emptiness.
That which purifies is the great vajra yoga of Mahamudra.
What is to be purified are the adventitious, temporary contaminations of confusion.
May the fruit of purification, the stainless Dharmakaya, be manifest.
Resolving doubts about the ground brings conviction in the view.
Then keeping one's awareness unwavering, in accordance with the view, is the subtle pith of meditation.
Putting all aspects of meditation into practice is the supreme action.
The view, the meditation, the action -- may there be confidence in these.
All phenomena are illusory displays of mind.
Mind is no mind -- the mind's nature is empty of any entity that is mind.
Being empty, it is unceasing and unimpeded, manifesting as everything whatsoever.
Examining well, may all doubts about the ground be discerned and cut.
Naturally manifesting appearances, that never truly exist, are confused into objects.
Spontaneous intelligence, under the power of ignorance, is confused into a self.
By the power of this dualistic fixation, beings wander in the realms of samsaric existence.
May ignorance, the root of confusion, be discovered and cut.
It is not existent -- even the Victorious Ones do not see it.
It is not nonexistent -- it is the basis of all samsara and nirvana.
This is not a contradiction, but the middle path of unity.
May the ultimate nature of phenomena, limitless mind beyond extremes, be realized.
If one says, "This is it," there is nothing to show.
If one says, "This is not it," there is nothing to deny.
The true nature of phenomena, which transcends conceptual understanding, is unconditioned.
May conviction be gained in the ultimate, perfect truth.
Not realizing it, one circles in the ocean of samsara.
If it is realized, Buddha is not anything other.
It is completely devoid of any "This is it," or "This is not it."
May this simple secret, this ultimate essence of phenomena, which is the basis of everything, be realized.
Appearance is mind and emptiness is mind.
Realization is mind and confusion is mind.
Arising is mind and cessation is mind.
May all doubts about mind be resolved.
Not adulterating meditation with conceptual striving or mentally created meditation,
Unmoved by the winds of everyday busyness,
Knowing how to rest in the uncontrived, natural spontaneous flow,
May the practice of resting in mind's true nature be skillfully sustained.
The waves of subtle and coarse thoughts calm down by themselves in their own place,
And the unmoving waters of mind rest naturally.
Free from dullness, torpor, and, murkiness,
May the ocean of shamatha be unmoving and stable.
Looking again and again at the mind which cannot be looked at,
The meaning which cannot be seen is vividly seen, just as it is.
Thus cutting doubts about how it is or is not,
May the unconfused genuine self-nature be known by self-nature itself.
Looking at objects, the mind devoid of objects is seen;
Looking at mind, its empty nature devoid of mind is seen;
Looking at both of these, dualistic clinging is self-liberated.
May the nature of mind, the clear light nature of what is, be realized.
Free from mental fabrication, it is the great seal, Mahamudra.
Free from extremes, it is the great middle way, Madhyamika.
The consummation of everything, it is also called the great perfection, Dzogchen.
May there be confidence that by understanding one, the essential meaning of all is realized.
Great bliss free from attachment is unceasing.
Luminosity free from fixation on characteristics is un-obscured.
Non-thought transcending conceptual mind is spontaneous presence.
May the effortless enjoyment of these experiences be continuous.
Longing for good and clinging to experiences are self-liberated.
Negative thoughts and confusion purify naturally in ultimate space.
In ordinary mind there is no rejecting and accepting, loss and gain.
May simplicity, the truth of the ultimate essence of everything, be realized.
The true nature of beings is always Buddha.
Not realizing that, they wander in endless samsara.
For the boundless suffering of sentient beings
May unbearable compassion be conceived in our being.
When the energy of unbearable compassion is unceasing,
In expressions of loving kindness, the truth of its essential emptiness is nakedly clear.
This unity is the supreme unerring path.
Inseparable from it, may we meditate day and night.
By the power of meditation arise the eyes and supernormal perceptions,
Sentient beings are ripened and Buddha fields are perfectly purified,
The aspirations that accomplish the qualities of a Buddha are fulfilled.
By bringing these three to utmost fruition -- fulfilling, ripening, and purifying -- may utmost Buddhahood be manifest.
By the power of the compassion of the Victorious Ones of the ten directions and their sons and daughters,
And by the power of all the pure virtue that exists,
May the pure aspirations of myself and all sentient beings
Be accomplished exactly as we wish.
Vajrayana and the significance
of the Empowerment
by Yongey Mingyur Dorje Rinpoche at
Kagyu Samye Ling, August 2003. Translator Chödrak
The teachings this morning are going
to be an introduction to the Vajrayana and also an explanation of the significance
of the Empowerment in Vajrayana tradition. Within Tibetan Buddhism we normally
describe what are called the three Vehicles or the Three Paths. These three
different vehicles are the Hinayana Path, The Mahayana Path and the Secret Mantra
- Vajrayana Path. The day before yesterday I gave you an example. The example
was - if you remember - three different ways of coming from London to Samye
Ling; by walking, in a motorcar or in a plane. In Tibetan Buddhism we think
that the Hinayana Path is rather like somebody walking to a destination. The
Mahayana Path is rather like driving a car. The view of the Secret Mantra Vajrayana
is rather like an airplane. So which one do you like best? If you walk you get
Generally speaking we are presented with many options in our life, but this time we don't have to worry about which one to take. Nowadays in the modern world if we are not able to have the choice we want or we can't always decide what we want, then we worry, because we can't decide which thing to do. There are so many options. This time you do not have to worry, because you can practise all three! You can do whatever is easiest for you.
If you think, "Well, there are these three types of vehicles, which am I going to practise, maybe it's going to be difficult for me." You don't have to worry. You might be worried that there isn't just one path to practise but there are three altogether. You don't have to have this kind of worry. Actually having the choice of three vehicles makes it all easier, because you don't have to just stick with one, which might be difficult for you. You have a choice of three. As a practitioner you don't have to make a choice between the three vehicles, one does a union of all three together.
In the morning you are doing Tara practice, aren't you? For those who do, in the beginning of Tara practice there is refuge. That contains the Hinayana type of practice. Also the refuge recitation has the recitation of bodhicitta, so that's the Mahayana aspect. Further on in the practice there is the front visualization and also visualizing oneself as the deity. This is to do with the development stage of the Secret Mantra Vajrayana. That's the meaning of the development stage. When you finish the practice and the deity dissolves into oneself, and one's mind and the deity's mind are inseparable, that's the completion stage. Because there is the union of these three paths, three options, it becomes very easy to practise. That was the explanation of the differences between different yanas.
If you want to divide the three paths into two, we can put Hinayana and Mahayana together and that will be sutra. You have one left, Secret Mantra Vajarayana and that belongs to the classification of tantra. Generally speaking, with the teachings of Hinayana and Mahayana, which belong to the sutra, one practises with the cause. What does that mean? Enlightenment, which the Buddha has, is the cause of practice. First we are practising fully the result of the wisdom and enlightenment of the Buddha, that is the purpose of the path. The tantra path is called the Path of Fruition. Why is that different, why is it called the Path of Fruition? It is because all the qualities, enlightenment and wisdom which the Buddha possesses, we also have at this moment. Yesterday I said that the wisdom and the enlightenment that the Buddha has, we have the same. Within this practice of the path, which is practising the fruition, it is like visualizing oneself in the development stage as a deity. For example "I am Dorje Sempa, all the qualities and wisdom which Dorje Sempa possesses, I also possess. This is an example of practising the path of fruition.
In the sutra tradition, which is the path of the cause, we do not have a direct method of realizing Buddha nature or enlightenment, because this depends on the experience of total understanding of emptiness and bodhicitta. That is not within the sutra. Within the tantra path, the path of fruition, we have a direct method with which we can realize our nature of mind through emptiness and bodhicitta. Those are basically the differences between the sutra path and the tantra path.
Within the Secret Mantra Vajrayana path there are two divisions. The first one is the path of skilful means and the second is the path of liberation. If we explain further what the path of skilful means is, there are various methods through which to realize directly our nature of mind. It is revealed to us through these various types of practice. With skilful means we go indirectly to realize the nature of mind, we don't come directly to that realization. In the sutra tradition they don't have these skilful means. They don't have such methods as visualizing oneself as a deity: I am Dorje Sempa or another deity; they don't have that type of skilful means. Their point of view rather is that the deity and you are separate, the deity is above you and you are down below and you are supplicating to the deities. So there is a big difference: there is a higher and a lower.
Within the skilful means there are also two divisions: the development stage and the completion stage. What does the development stage mean? It means to realize the wisdom of the Buddha and to practise visualizing ourselves as a deity, the buddha body relates to the visualization of the physical form of the deity one is practising. The speech aspect is the mantra recitation. The mind aspect is to do with visualizing in the heart centre various objects. Sometimes it's a letter: hung or hri, it can be a Dorje and so on. These aspects together define the development stage practice. The wisdom of the Buddha has no shape or colour, however, we practise with shape and colour.
Some people like this method. If people feel positive towards this type of practise, then they should do that. But some people don't like that kind of practice. For people who don't feel drawn to this type of practice, they shouldn't do it too strongly, just a little bit. That's the explanation of the development stage.
What does completion stage mean? Within our mind we have wisdom and awareness the same as a Buddha, and our body is also the same as the buddha body. When we are practising the completion stage we have the idea that our body is the wisdom aspect of the Buddha. Then we practise with the body, we train with the body physically. Having trained physically, the channels and the wind energy and the essence which travels around in the channels are slowly transformed. Because our physical nature is transformed, our mind also becomes transformed. The main point is practising with one's body. So then, if one is training with the wisdom wind which moves through the channels and the precious drops, then one adopts the posture and holds the vase breath and does the trulkor or the yoga practice and it's very physical. When one gradually over time purifies the impure winds, impure channels and impure drops, then all of one's defilements and obscurations are purified. One will naturally give rise to recognition of the nature of mind. That's the explanation of the completion stage.
Now we have the second aspect of the Vajrayana which is the path of liberation. When we practise the path of liberation, we have a direct method to realize the nature of mind, but there is no shape or colour for that. This is the mahamudra. We all possess what is called Buddha nature. All beings have it, people have it and also animals have it. All beings within the six realms of existence possess Buddha nature. westerners have it and easterners have it. Fat people have it, thin people have it. People who follow a religious path, they have it and people who don't, they also have Buddha nature. So we have to realize that we possess Buddha nature. We don't have to have an image of it; we just realize that we possess this. We don't have to feel at that point: I am the deity, I am Dorje Sempa. One doesn't think like that. There is no image for the nature of one's mind, Buddha nature. No image goes along with that. You don't have to do like you do on the path of skilful means: holding the breath for a long time and then doing the trulkor, which is physical yoga. One doesn't need to get tired out doing that kind of thing. With this direct approach in the mind one doesn't base it on the body, the physical, so much. It is based within the mind itself. Then one has a relaxed body.
Generally speaking we can say it is very, very easy to do this. Everybody can. You don't have to visualize it or meditate about it. You don't have to practise it; you don't have to abandon it. You just have to have recognition. Easy, isn't it! But, why it's difficult is because it's so easy, too easy. Because it is so easy you think: "Can't be like that, I can't have confidence in that, I don't believe it. [Rinpoche says in English:] It's nothing special. I need meditation! Relaxation, clarity: oh, this is nature of mind, now I see it! [Translator:] So, some people think they have to do that, as just described: stay relaxed when one is not relaxed. [Rinpoche:] Peaceful!! (Laughter)
The Vajrayana path can be divided into three sections. There is the development stage, completion stage and path of liberation (kyerim, dzogrim and drollam). Within these three paths one can decide whatever one likes to do, whatever one is feeling positive towards. But the best actually is the path of liberation. Practising the development stage, one can quickly get to the completion stage; and based on practising the completion stage, one can get quickly to the path of liberation. Do you have any questions?
Q: Can many methods be used simultaneously?
R: Whatever you like and feel positive towards. The final result of all of the different methods is the same. Because the end result is the same, one is allowed to change and alternate the methods. For example: this watch is the level of enlightenment and I am a long distance away. Then I need to practise a path of meditation, one method. So I get that far. If one becomes bored with that practice, and there is no clarity in it, then one is obstructed at that point, and cannot go any further. If you change your method, you can go a little bit further. Then if you get blocked at that point and it's boring again, then you try another method. You go very slowly, bit by bit, changing the methods. But what it means is - you get closer and closer to your goal. One might think: "Well, I'm practising shine meditation", but then it becomes quite boring, you come to a block. So you think: "Now I am going to practise development stage." One doesn't need to think: "I'm practising the development stage; maybe the shine is going to be harmful for that." It is not - actually shine is very beneficial for the practice of development stage.
Q: Is the path of liberation rather like mindfulness?
R: Actually, when you are practising the path of liberation, it is kind of directly introducing one to the nature of one's mind, but one starts out by practising shine. With the practice of shine you definitely need to have mindfulness. If you can realize the essence of your mind, sometimes you could put a label to it and say: "This is mindfulness." But the mindfulness at this point has no subject or object. It is just labelling something "mindfulness".
Q: Regarding liberation and recognition, when you are doing the practice, can you focus more on the lhaktong aspect?
R: The recognition is lhaktong. Lhaktong means clear seeing.
Q: It still has stages related to visualization.
R: How is it different? What does lhaktong mean for you?
Q: Almost like identified with the clear light..
R: What kind of clear light? Is it like sunlight or like electric light? Does it have a colour?
R: Where does it come from?
Q: That's the question I had.
R: That is the real question then. You have to ask yourself: "Where is this light coming from?" You said that when you are doing lhaktong, you have this light and you also have the questions. So, what kind of questions? Not all of the methods you described are lhaktong. With lhaktong one doesn't need to think anything about light. And if there are many questions, that's not particularly good. In the beginning, when one starts to practise lhaktong, a few questions are okay, but then later on, one doesn't have to have questions. Just have recognition.
Q: Rinpoche, you said it is good to change practices if you get stuck, to go further, but it is also said we always want to change, it would be better to stick with one. So how do you know when it is good to change and when it is good to stick with one practice?
R: The answer is related to using the development stage as an example. You are practising a deity and you have a visualization of a deity. Within the practice time sometimes one is visualizing or concentrating on the form of the deity and we can change that to concentrating on the recitation of the mantra. Then again, you can change that to resting on the nature of mind. Other times we can just relax. Within that technique of following a single practice with one deity, there are many changes that you can make. But it is not being suggested, that if you get a bit bored, you just throw away the development stage practice and yidam practice altogether. That is not being suggested here, but within one practice you can change the technique or focus.
To illustrate the difference between sutra and tantra, here is an example. There is a man who is carrying stones. The man is walking along and he throws his stones at a dog he sees. He also sees a lion and he throws his stones at the lion. So what does the dog do? When he threw the stone at the dog, immediately the dog tried to bite the stone or chase it. The man throws another stone at the dog. The dog tries to follow the new stone and bite it. This guy has got a big pile of stones, so his stones are not going to finish any time soon. The dog becomes very tired. Then he throws one stone at the lion. The lion won't look at the stone. He looks: "Where did that stone come from? Who threw that stone?" He sees the person who threw the stone and jumps on him. So then he can only throw one stone.
It's said that when one practises the sutra path, which we already said was the Hinayana and Mahayana path, it takes three limitless kalpas to arrive at the state of complete enlightenment. So it is quite a slow path. But the Secret Mantra Vajrayana path is rather like the lion immediately recognizing where the stone is coming from, we are working and practising with recognition of one's natural state, the nature of one's mind. Based on that, one can swiftly come to the level of complete enlightenment. It is said that in one lifetime, one body, one can reach enlightenment. That's using an example. Our practice within the Vajrayana is based on the emptiness of phenomena and compassion. Based on these two and using skilful methods one can swiftly reach the level of enlightenment. That's the explanation of the Vajrayana.
Within the Vajrayana teachings the giving of empowerments is a particularly special thing. The empowerment is like a seed planted on the path. This seed bears fruit and that's the result of our practice. The seed, which bears the fruit on the path of fruition, which is the path of Vajrayana, is the empowerment.
In a field, if we want to grow something, whatever it is, we need to put a seed in the ground first. We actually possess all of the qualities of a Buddha and we have Buddha nature, but we don't recognize it. From beginningless time we have been travelling in samsara and the reason for that is because we haven't practised successfully so far. The seed, which is on the path, it can be likened to an empowerment.
We have two things: the wang (empowerment) which brings fruition and the liberating instructions. And the lung is the scriptural authority, a companion or friend on the path. The Buddha Sakyamuni practised for three immeasurable kalpas following the sutra path and then, when he came to Bodhgaya, all the Buddhas of the three times gave him an empowerment of light. After receiving that he was placed on the path of Vajrayana. Then very swiftly he became enlightened and then he taught.
So, what is the foundation or cause of all of these things coming about - complete enlightenment and realization of the nature of mind - it all depends on the basis, which is the nature of one's mind, one's Buddha nature.
There are four points that relate to purification. We can use the example of a big lump of crystal obscured by mud. The crystal is what we call an object. The mud, which is obscuring the crystal, is what is to be purified, and the method of purifying or cleaning away the mud is soap and water. The result of these three is the complete cleansing of the crystal and its true nature is revealed. The object - the crystal - if we relate that back to ourselves, our crystal is our Buddha nature. What is our mud which obscures our crystal? Our Buddha nature is obscured by illusions. The illusions cover everything. They include impure body, impure speech, impure mind and the impure external perceptions. The purification process is our path of practice. There are two paths: the sutra path and the Vajrayana path. The fruition of cleansing is complete enlightenment. If you understand this, you understand everything.
Dorje Sempa empowerment
Now follows a brief explanation specifically about the Dorje Sempa empowerment which you will receive this afternoon. Generally speaking there are many types of Buddhas. We can say there are a hundred types of Buddhas and also they can be divided into seven types and twenty one types. But if one brings them all into the smallest division it will be five types or the five Buddha Families. If you want you can reduce that into one, it will be Dorje Sempa. Dorje Sempa is actually the union of all of the different types of Buddhas.
If you want to understand what Dorje Sempa looks like, he has a white body, he holds a dorje in his right hand at the heart and a silver bell on his knee. If you were to look at him, that's how he appears to you. But that's what we call the visualised shape. The real meaning of Dorje Sempa is one's own nature of mind. If you want to perceive that externally, then he appears as described. Basing our practice on the external Dorje Sempa, our internal Dorje Sempa will be purified. Within the Vajrayana practice, the empowerment of Dorje Sempa is considered extremely important. The empowerment I give you this afternoon is a very brief empowerment. There is not very much in it, but the meaning is very good.
So there are four types of empowerment. There is the vase empowerment, secret empowerment, wisdom-knowledge empowerment and the word empowerment or mahamudra empowerment. What's the reason for having four types of empowerment? To remove the body's impurities and defilements and to purify and liberate oneself from physical illusions one needs the empowerment of the vase. So when one has received this empowerment of the body and purified all the bodily illusions, one is empowered to practise the development stage.
The secret empowerment relates to speech and this purifies all the illusions of speech. Within the body there are many types of wind. Based on the wind is speech. Having received the secret empowerment which is related to speech and the winds, one is empowered to practise what they call channel and wind and secret drop practices, such as trulkor and breathing exercises and so on. So we can do the vase breathing as demonstrated.
The wisdom empowerment is related to the mind, and this purifies the obscurations and illusions of mind. One is empowered to do the practice of bliss and emptiness.
The fourth empowerment is that of the word or mahamudra. It's like talking or pointing out instructions with the words. But the meaning is mahamudra. So then one practises with the essence of one's mind. This is the complete removal of all of the mental illusions. So there are these four types of empowerments. If you want to reduce all the empowerments into just one, it will be the last one, which is the word or mahamudra empowerment. That's finished.
So I'm going to tell you a little story. It's about empowerments. In India there was a great siddha. This great siddha or yogi was able to fly in the sky and walk through walls. One day the siddha went to town and met the king. The king said to the yogi, "Who are you?" He said: "I'm a great yogi." "If that's the case, you must have a method to become immortal. Could you give me this method of freeing oneself from death?" Yogi said: "Yes, fine." "How are you going to do it?" "Bring me a bumpa (vase)." He brought a big vase. Inside the vase was empty. He said to the king, "Now you look at that vase very closely." Then the yogi put his hand inside the vase and pulled his hand out. He said: "Inside, here is something: emptiness! That's the method to avoid death." The king thought: "There is no meaning to that; maybe he is trying to fool me." So he put the yogi in prison. He made the yogi stay in jail for six months.
Six months later the many students of the yogi, quite clever themselves, thought: "Where has our teacher gone?" With their clairvoyance they realized he was in jail. They all got a bit annoyed and jumped up into the sky and started flying all over the place. "We are going to get our teacher." They were all in space above the king's palace, flying around. The king saw them. "They must be great yogis." He lit lots of incense and said: "Please come down." They all flew down in front of the king. The king with great devotion said, "Please give me a method for avoiding death." They agreed. They made a very big mandala. On top of it they made a sand mandala. On top of this they placed many parasols and victory banners and many types of various offerings. They made it very beautiful. The king saw this preparation and how nice it all was and he thought: "Wow, I'm really going to get the method of avoiding death this time. Just look at that!" The yogis all gave an empowerment in a very beautiful way, very nice. They gave the vase empowerment, the secret empowerment, the wisdom-knowledge empowerment. Then they said to him, "Now, the fourth empowerment is the most important one. The true method of avoiding death is this fourth empowerment. So, now I'm going to give it to you. Give me a vase." The king came and offered a big vase. They said to the king, "Now you watch that vase really well." One of the yogis put his hand inside the vase. Then he said: "Inside in my hand is something: it's emptiness. That's it." The king said: "Oh, that method is such an important method, I didn't realize before. This yogi six months ago, he gave me the same thing. I threw him in a jail." "I think that's a bit of a mistake." "What can I do now?" "Go and get him out of the jail and bring him here."
He brought the yogi, who had been in prison for six months, before the king. The king asked the yogi: "What was the meaning of the contents of the vase, you tried to tell me? First he said: "The vase was a round shape, wasn't it?" Within that was a sphere of space, I put my hand in and pulled it out. It was empty. The emptiness has no birth or death. Within the vase is emptiness but the external appearance is of a vase. That's clarity. So then, the union of the two, the external appearance of the vase, which is clarity, and the internal emptiness, is the union of appearance and emptiness. And your nature of mind is like that. So then the king realized the meaning. Then the king made many apologies and confessions to the yogi. The yogi said to the king, "You don't need to make any confession to me, because I have had six months in jail, and because of my previous karma I had to go to jail. Then the king turned around to all the students of the great yogi and said: "You have done very well, you made a very beautiful mandala and you gave me an empowerment, but actually the real empowerment came from the yogi from before." That's the end of the story.
Q: You gave the example of three different ways to reach Samye Ling from London. If I take a plane, I won't see the views. If I walk I will see the scenery and it will be a more direct experience. Are we lacking something if we go very quickly?
R: You can put it like that, yes. But the final result is the same; you all end up in Samye Ling. When you get to the final result, which is total enlightenment, you become omniscient, you know everything. All experiences are contained within that.
Regarding the sutra path and the tantra path, the sutra path is very slow and you gradually go higher and higher through the various levels. When one reaches the first bhumi or the first level in the sutra path, that gives rise to many qualities in one's mind. In the Vajrayana path one is introduced to the nature of mind very quickly, but regarding the qualities and having some experience of the nature of mind at that beginning point, then externally looking at it, the sutra experience of first bhumi is a little bit more than the tantric experience.
For example what one can do on the first bhumi level is that one can multiply one's body a hundred times. In the vajrayanan way, when one reaches the first level, one is not able to emanate oneself in a hundred bodies. There is a difference. But the final result of both sutra and tantra is buddhahood, enlightenment. There is no difference.
The essence of Buddhist
by His Holiness Drikung Kyabgön Chetsang Rinpoche
September 30, 1998
Ratnashri Meditation Center, Sweden
Good evening my friends. I am very pleased to be here tonight to share the Dharma talk. First we are going to talk about the essence of Buddhist practice. In Mahayana Buddhism, the important essence in all traditions is bodhicitta practice. Why is bodhicitta important? It is because the past, the present and the future Buddhas come from bodhicitta for the benefit of all sentient beings. There are different kinds of practice in Buddhism and the goal is to completely free from suffering and attain Buddhahood. If we do not have bodhicitta, the seed, it is impossible. Therefore bodhicitta is the central practice and it is included in all the 84 000 categories of Buddhas' teachings. Bodhicitta can be divided into two - absolute bodhicitta and relative bodhicitta.
Absolute bodhicitta, the highest essence of our practice in Buddhism, is the realization of our Buddha nature or the nature of our mind. This is the Mahamudra practice or the practice of Dzogchen. In order to do that, it is important for us to practice relative bodhicitta. Relative bodhicitta can be divided into two - the aspiration bodhicitta and action bodhicitta. Aspiration bodhicitta, from the explanation of Nagajuna's tradition, is the wish for all sentient beings to be free from suffering and attain Buddhahood. For example, we wish to go to Bodhgaya to pay pilgrimage. Similarly, we wish for all sentient beings to be free from suffering and attain Buddhahood. Action bodhicitta is to put into action. For example, you have to personally buy air ticket and have to go to Bodhgaya to pay pilgrimage. To accumulate merits, we practice the six paramitas - the practice of generosity, moral ethics, patience, perseverance, meditative concentration and wisdom. This is an important practice in Mahayana vehicle.
The cultivation of bodhicitta is of different capacities and attitudes. For low capacity, we can practice like a King. That is, you become a king or president then you can serve and rule the country. Likewise, you have to first attain Buddhahood, then you can help other people. For middle capacity, you can practice like a sailor. The sailor by sailing the boat brings the passengers to cross the ocean. Likewise, we help sentient beings to cross the ocean of samsara. For high capacity, we practice on totally benefiting other sentient beings, whatever you practice, whatever you do. This is like a shepherd. Shepherd protects the herds of animals and do everthing for the best of the animals, for example, bringing the best grass and choosing the best place to perform his duties during the day. Some people can pick up this kind of attitude and practice bodhicitta. Whatever we currently practice and do, may be one session of meditation, or go to do social work, we must have good attitude first, totally for them, not any benefit to yourself. You have to do it with a pure mind. This is very important.
In Ladakh, there is a medical doctor who is a very scholarly learned. But his medicine is not very beneficial to patients. His mind is not pure because he is thinking mostly about money. Another doctor, he is not a scholar, but he is very sincere and helpful to the people. His medicine is very powerful and helpful to patients. Therefore, the mind attitude is very important. Bodhicitta has great healing power. Whatever we practice, the practice of bodhicitta is very important. Whatever good deed we would like to do, we must have good attitude first. Then during our practice of Buddhism, whatever we practice during that time, we do it with concentration and lastly, we dedicate the merits for the benefit of all sentient beings to uproot their suffering and to attain Buddhahood. This kind of practice is a very important essence in Buddhist practice.
The essence of Buddhist practice is to eliminate our three poisons, mainly our ego. Why are we in the samsara? We have some strong self ego, This I is very strong, then sometimes we do not think of others. Through five senses and objects, I and my. I want this very much, so we have very strong attachment. Then someone makes some obstacles to you, because of attachment, you will be angry and hatred comes. So this attachment and hatred bring us to samsara and bring us suffering. Then how to solve this problem? We do not know. We like peace, happiness, everybody wants that. You wish that, but your way brings opposite result. The problem cannot be properly resolved and you get very angry and causes lots of suffering. This is called ignorant - do not know how to solve this problem properly. Desire, hatred and ignorance bring us suffering. To practice, mainly we have to purify and to eliminate these kinds of habits. The main important essence in our practices is to first investigation ego.
Where is our ego? You have to find out and where your body and other things are. Not intellectually, but through your practice, try to sort out each and everyone where it is? When we practice in this way, we find that ego does not exist. Our past lives having some tendencies. Some people have stronger tendency than others. When some causes and conditions arise, our five senses and objects are attached to that. Actually, causes and conditions do not exist independently. They depend on many other inter-related factors. In this way, the practice of emptiness, the realization of emptiness is helpful. When you realize and do not identify with these things and lesser you have ego and attachment. Therefore we practice emptiness.
When we talk about emptiness, it does not mean empty of house, of cups, not that. Emptiness means, for example, when we look at this cup, this cups come from some clay, some water and some other elements and put it in a model of cup, then it needs fire and burning, paint and many many causes and conditions. After all that, it comes the cup. Actually, we are giving the name, cup, but where is the actual cup, you look at each part and you cannot find the cup, the cup does not exist independently. This is the meaning of emptiness. The cup is emptiness and emptiness is also a cup. It does not mean that the cup is empty inside or outside. The cup itself is empty. Form is there and because of our delusion we see the outside form, but here we look into the nature of the form. The nature of the form does not exist in that state of emptiness. This kind of practice is important, not just intellectually. We need many different kinds of practices and through these practice, we have the realization of this thinking. This is about the causes and effects. In Sutra, it says that this realization of emptiness (cause and effect) properly depends on many years or lifetimes in the two merits. The accumulation of merits and the wisdom of merits. Until we complete these merits, there is no ground to properly understand. Therefore, it requires lots of accumulation of merits including the six paramitas.
The essence of Buddhism is explained by the Tibetan words name of Buddha. Buddha is translated as Buddha Shakaymuni, but in Tibetan, Buddha means much deeper. It explains the whole essence of practice. In Tibetan, Buddha is Sang-gye, Sang means clear and bright, something like a sky and is covered by clouds. When the clouds are cleared away then sky is clear and the sun is shining and bright. Gye means developed. When the clouds is cleared, the sun can radiate and fully develop its nature. It means that every sentient being have Buddha nature, many texts, especially the Lotus Sutra mentioned that. There are many different kinds of practice but the essence is the realization of the nature of mind itself. In Vajrayana, the fruit vechicle, work more directly with this nature of mind.
There are many different steps - first is empowerment. In Vajrayana, there is empowerment but not in Sutrayana. Of course, when one reach the tenth bhumis, all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, they have light empowerment and then at the level of complete enlightenment, they have also empowerment . But here, we talk mainly about the vase empowerment, secret empowerment, wisdom empowerment and the forth empowerment. The essence is also the realization of the nature of mind. We are always thinking that we are very ordinary people, very low and Buddha and the realization is very high and we think that the distance is too far and we cannot communicate. In order to achieve the realization, we need to do lots of purification. The meaning of empowerment, wang, in Tibetan, wang means authorize. Vase empowerment, in early India, during the ceremony, the King was put on the throne. Then they bring in a vase with water and the hat and went through the ceremony so that he becomes a real king. Similarly, here the meaning is different but the profile is the same. Here the vase has certain enlightened deities in it that. We visualize and also through the meditation and mantra and the wisdom nectar, then through putting it on our crown, we received the empowerment. Then after you received this, you already become not ordinary, you become an enlightened deity. As an enlightened deities, you can practice. So you are not ordinary person, you have Buddha and bodhisattva of certain stage. This is the real meaning of empowerment of Tibetan.
There are different processes of empowerment. First, vase empowerment, we are always ordinary, too low and many negatives, then we cannot communicate and achieve the realization of our mind. To achieve that, we receive the vase empowerment through the crown come to the head chakra, then you purify all the negativities of your body and you receive the vase empowerment, to plant the Buddha nirmanakaya seed. Then go further down, your secret empowerment, purify all the negativities of speech, then plant the seed of sambogakaya Buddha. Then the wisdom empowerment purify all the negativities of the mind and plant the seed of dharmakaya body of Buddha. The forth empowerment, the word empowerment is the actual introduction to the nature of mind. Through these, our body, speech and mind is purified and is inseparable of the negative karma and then achieve the nature of mind. All these steps go deeper, deeper and deeper, higher and higher and achieve the realization of our mind, Buddha nature. Therefore, empowerment is within the essence of wisdom practice.
After empowerment, we practice certain enlightened deity in the generation stage and completion stage. In generation stage, we have to visualize certain enlightened deity. In the beginning of every sadhanna contains OM SVABHAVA SHUDDHA SARVA DHARMA SVABHAVA SHUDDHO HAM. This is to visualize emptiness. This is to transform the ordinary body into an enlightened being form. The nature of your mind is transformed into that of the enlightened deities. This is the practice. You already have some steps for purification. You have the authorization to practice this. You are now an enlightened being practicing this. This practice also contains purification practice. First, step by step visualize yourself as a deity. This is called samaya body. We always think that we are ordinary body even we have gone through many steps but still we think that we are ordinary. Samaya body is still not a complete wisdom body. In order for you to become a wisdom body, we have to from the body, speech and mind send lights to the pureland bringing another wisdom body. For those who already have certain realization of this nature of mind, you do not need to invite another wisdom body because you are already in the wisdom stage. For others who do not have such realization, we have to do that. You have to invite the wisdom body for purification. In the inseparable stage, then you can become the wisdom body. Still may be because of our the habitual tendency is very strong, we still have lots of negativities, then we have to bring in another empowerment deity. The steps are similar to that of taking the empowerment. Every sadhana have that. There are different practices -- purification, do visualization, offering. This is the outer essence we have to practice. We think that we are ordinary and at that time, you have very strong self with you and whatever you see, touch is ordinary feeling there is ego and attachment, hatred always there. When we practice as an enlightened deity, in that form, you are now not ordinary, but in the meditation state of, for example, avalokistisvara, with this wisdom, during that practice, your ordinary mind being selfish not existing, it is already transformed into the enlightened. This is the way to transform or eliminate our ego. This is an essential practice. This sadhanna if you really understand this, you will see that as clear light, seeing forms and body but the nature is still emptiness. The most important thing is to get used to this. When the wisdom body of the enlightened deities practice stronger and stronger, then the negative thinking is less and less. This is the way to transform and reach the wisdom path and reach the enlightenment. Without practicing this, just intellectually knowing, some few empowerments, instant enlightenment is not really possible. Therefore, you have to go through all these steps. You have to eliminate the inner obstacles and practice this. This is the essence of Buddhist practice.
There is the completion practice. This is part of the accumulation of merit. This is particularly the wisdom part of practice. If you have certain experience of realization of mahamudra, you can combine the generation and completion wisdom practice. Actual wisdom and completion part of practice is to during the generation stage, dissolve outside light into all sentient beings and then light from all sentient beings dissolves into our body and our body dissolves into heart mantra and then dissolves into the syllables of the mantra and the syllable, for example, HUNG dissolves from bottom up into emptiness without seeing or visualizing anything. Then within this emptiness we sit and meditate. This is the start of the completion practice. Completion practice has different practices -- shamata (calm-abiding) practice which is mainly the concentration of our mind. The distinct feature of this concentration of mind is that the five senses remain very clear and open, not close. If it is closed, we cannot go further to the insight meditation and realization is impossible. The five senses are clear but not wandering. It is free from the outside disturbances. Then within the practice is to step by step search and find out the nature of mind, how the mind is connected, but not intellectually. It is necessary to have confident answers in each step of practice. This is the meaning of the practice. Then there are teachers who introduce to you the nature of mind. In order to have realization, you have to take steps to stabilize the practice and there are many different ways to do. The word Buddha, in Tibetan, sangye, means to purify all the negative things and at the same time develop our nature. This explains everything essentially. This processes the main path of bodhicitta. This is the main goal to achieve.
In Tibetan Buddhism, there are many deities and methods. It does not mean that we have to practice all that. There are different practices because people are different. Teachings are like different medicines curing sickness. For different disciples, Buddha gave different levels of teachings - sutrayana, Mahayana, vajrayana teachings. Depending on what people feel more comfortable and confident with, people choose the deity to concentrate on to practice. This is very important, otherwise, you loose the goal. Many Tibetan Buddhists have this problem because there are too many methods and they finally could not achieve. On the contrary, in the Indian circle, they practice one yidam and get achievement. Of course, we can practice different but it is important to have the main, essential practice. Certain knowledge is necessary. Also not just listening to the Dharma, we have to apply it and investigate to get the realization within ourselves. It is very beneficial to discuss and study together in study groups. We can ask questions and through discussion, we can clear things. When we organize such group, we have to set up specific time regularly so that people gather together during those time. Otherwise, sometimes, we feel like doing it and sometimes, we do not. May be weekly, once or twice, whatever in order to study and discuss together. Then together, we invite some teachers. Organizers can bring benefit to many other things, social work for example, through the practice of the six paramitas.
May all sentient beings gain the flavor of supreme victory and ride on omniscience; never turning back;
May all sentient beings gain the flavor of entry into the truth of the nondifference of all Buddhas,
and be able to distinguish all faculties;
May all sentient beings attain increase of the savor of the teaching
and always be able to fulfill the Buddhhas' teaching of nonobstruction.