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Rinpoche's Speech

  Hot blooded kindness is what roots us in this precious human rebirth / Ngak'chang Rinpoche's talk on the six realms New York, 28th of March, 1994

  In 1993 His Holiness the Dalai Lama said that he no longer believed in the existence of the six realms as actual locations. Maybe now we can all relax. Maybe now we can explore this subject in terms of our own patterns and projections. This might offend the more traditionally minded; however, from whatever position you may wish to adopt - even from the point of view in which the six realms are actual locations - it needs to be understood that they are all contained within each other. Even from the medieval point of view there are six realms within each of the six realms and so on into infinity. That's the bad news. Merely being human doesn't make my rebirth a 'precious human rebirth' - it rather depends on whether I entrench myself in conditioning, or whether I allow my constructs to be challenged. However, there is some good news: you don't have to die physically to be reborn and gain a precious human rebirth. This can be attained at any moment - by recognising that we're trapped in a web of patterns; and that at the very least, we're ambivalent about whether we want to remain with those patterns or not.

  I don't believe that any of you have actually come here to learn how to see reality in terms of a medieval Indian model, however quaint or colourful that might be. For example, according to Indian cosmology, there is some kind of paradisical venue called 'the god realm'. Then there's 'the hell realm' - a scenario in which all kinds of horrific torture and unimaginable pain are taking place. These worlds, as distinct locations, are not very useful to those who have already been introduced to hell in childhood - by whatever means . . . But as models of mind-states, the six realms are actually very useful indeed. Hell is actually here and now. You don't have to look very far to find it either. You only have to look at the newspaper to find hell. You only have to look at the advertisements to find the god realm [laughs], or at least the insinuation that it's possible to coax it into existence . . . I would like to explore with you what these six realms actually are in terms of human experience - because they are actually very real. They are totally alive in all of us, in terms of different ways of reacting, or conjuring with duality. They are different speed settings on the circular self-defeating mechanism of samsara.

  Hell is a state where, in an attempt to avoid pain, you cause yourself as much pain as possible. We can witness hell happening in the world. It's in the news and in the streets every day. It's taking place all the time. Hell, in the Buddhist sense, is subdivided, like a mall or a department store - we can select our torture in excruciating varieties. We get to use all our credit cards with impunity, because in hell . . . buying and paying back are instantaneous. We pay for pain with pain; and there's always more pain in the account to pay for as much pain as anyone wants to buy.

  There are a lot of different types of hell; but mainly, they divide into the hot and cold hells. The hot hell, being the worst type, is where we're in so much pain that we lash out at everything. But in lashing out, we only succeed in hurting ourselves further. And the more we hurt ourselves, the more we lash out. It's as if you were being boiled alive . . . apart from the fact that you're not being boiled alive - it simply seems that way. Then, as soon as you get used to being boiled, the bottom falls out of the cauldron and the next boiling cauldron is a hundred thousand percent hotter. This hell condition is one in which the experiential situation becomes so intense that the only response to it is to create further intensity. The intensity feeds on itself and becomes searing . . . then it becomes more searing . . . then it becomes more searing . . . and just when you think that it can't get any more searing . . . it gets more searing! The more searingly intense it becomes, the more intense the response has to be. We're battling with our own intensity, but we don't realise it. We feel as if it's the outside world with which we're battling. You feel that the intensity is on the outside coming toward you, rather than that you're creating it. It's a situation of intense paranoia. It's a situation of intense fear. 'Hell' is when our reaction to intrinsic space becomes highly claustrophobic. Everything becomes a threat. Anger is projected onto the outside world and it reflects back. We react to our environment as if it were hostile, and immediately it becomes hostile.

  Q: Can you get to this place through any of the five elements in terms of obscuration?

  NR: Well . . . from one perspective, you could say that hell is the result of an intensification of the water element neurosis, the result of anger. Anger is the root of the hell realm, but really all the elements manifest within it. You can't really split the six realms into locations according to element because they all contain all of them.

  Q: So . . . the claustrophobia of hell is all this shit coming at you from all directions?

  NR: Indeed . . . to use a fecal analogy . . . It's when it hits the fan - all of it, the consequence of every samsaric bowel movement you've ever had in all your past lives. How hard it hits depends on the speed at which the neurotic element patterns are cycling. With hell it's not just experienced as the tepidly evacuated feces of day to day frustration; it's molten burning feces - but it might not actually be there at all . . . It's merely that we might perceive it as being there. It may appear as if it's coming at us from all directions, because we're throwing it.

  Q: So everything we look at poses a threat, because we perceive the phenomena of our experience as threatening?

  NR: Yes. We react with aggression to protect ourselves, but our aggression simply creates more fear and more threat. We begin to treat everything as a threat; and whatever we treat as a threat, becomes a threat. The world begins to reciprocate our fear and aggression in more and more overt ways.

  Q: Can you give an example, Rinpoche?

  NR: Well . . . I think someone is going to do or say something to hurt me - so I act towards them in such a way that they start wanting to do something to hurt me. In this case the aggression might not have been there in the other person; I may have just created it out of my own paranoia. If I have a feeling that someone doesn't really like me, and start to act toward them in a suspicious manner . . . if I continually over-react to any slight jest with hostility - whoever it is, is probably going to start disliking me. So . . . I have this sense of my own reality and I project that personal reality onto life. And then . . . life starts to reflect it back to me. Hell is when that process becomes a closed loop. Then the closed loop becomes a tourniquet . . . Hell, isn't it? But we've all been there in one shape or form. It's when you trip over and hurt yourself, and you feel as if life has done it to you on purpose, so you hit the wall with your fist or kick a hole in the back door and hurt yourself further. Then you get distracted by the pain and bring your head up under the cupboard door that you left open. The sharp corner gashes your forehead and a trickle of blood runs down onto your clean white shirt - the only clean shirt you have left, and you're supposed to be going to a business meeting. You try to sponge it off but the dishcloth is full of coffee grounds and now you've got a massive brown espresso stain. You rip the shirt off to wash it but you do it with such violence that you tear it. Then in utter frustration and incredible fury you smash your head through the window and end up having to go to casualty to get stitched up [general laughter apart from Ngakpa Rinpoche who doesn't even smile]. Actually, this really happens. A man told me this story about himself - people really do this kind of thing.

  Then . . . there's the cold hell. In the hot hell, there's a frantic and frenzied lashing out; but in the cold hell you become catatonic - completely and utterly frozen. You become exhausted. You cannot fight anymore. You just lie there almost paralysed and inert. To some degree pain has become the norm, and so however terrible it may be, it has some quality of infinite duration that lets you know very clearly that you've lost. There's no winning at all. At this point it becomes possible to slump onto the ground, even though the ground itself is full of pain and fear. This is a lesser degree of psychological pain where you just don't move, because any kind of movement is going to cause more pain, even the movement of your paranoid mind-moments. Any kind of openness to any possibility of anything at all simply shuts down. You shut down from all possibilities because all possibilities contain pain. You cut yourself off from your own projections of pain by refusing to move. The projection remains, but you cease to interact with it. The pain appears to be 'out there' and you can either attempt to fight with it or not. So you choose not to fight, because fighting merely causes pain.

  With the hot hell the pain seems to be encroaching without any kind of remission, so you have to attack it - as you would if you were being boiled alive. But with the cold hell the pain simply sits there staring at you like a beast of prey. It's just there . . . a vast brooding presence. It cannot be escaped; you can only contract into yourself. The pain has become a static landscape in which you are frozen and motionless. It's still pain, but there's worse pain out there, that can be escaped by avoiding all interaction. There could possibly be better positions you could adopt, but you're never sure if other positions just contain worse pain.

  Q: Is this the pain of isolation?

  NR: Any kind of pain at all really. But this is largely the pain of not being able to cope with anything. Because however you try to cope causes pain.

  Q: Can that be physical as well?

  NR: Yes. But physical pain happens as a result of our painful projections. Naturally if you're in a state where something really horrible is happening to you, and you get so completely frightened by it that you start lashing out at everyone, then that is going to cause you physical pain in the end. Or if you're in physical pain, and you actually thrash out; you rip the skin off your hands, and have to be restrained. You're actually lashing out in order to fight off pain, but in the attempt to escape pain, you end up with more pain. Not only do you have the physical pain of whatever your condition happens to be; but, you also have your bleeding knuckles where you've been punching the wall.

  These realms are all either greater or lesser experiences of pain. They are the process of the dualistically distorted elements as self-defeating cycles, either speeding up or slowing down. The most terrible hot hell is 'instant karma', and the god realms are interminably deferred karma. With the god realms the self-defeating cycles of the dualistically distorted elements are very, very slow. You don't experience any repercussions in terms of how you are for a long, long, long time. In the lower realms you experience these repercussions faster and faster. The six realms are six versions of the five cyclic elemental neuroses. They cycle faster or slower depending on the degree of intensity of your commitment to proving that you're: solid; permanent; separate; continuous; and, defined. In the god realm the elemental cycles are enormously protracted. In hell the elemental cycles are practically instantaneous. In looking at the elements, it's crucial to understand how it is that they undermine themselves.

  Q: Can you give an example?

  NR: Well, say you see this very, very nice thing in a shop. You lust after it, because it's the most fabulous whatever that you've ever seen. What makes it so delicious is that you can't really quite afford it. So you have to think about it a lot. You have to think about how much more perfect your life would be if you had this wonderful thing. The more you think about it, the more wonderful it seems, and the drabber your life seems without it.

  So you save up for it. You cut back on your expenditure in certain ways, or you just go wild with your charge card and hang the consequences [laughs]. You go and get it. Then it's yours! But as soon as it's yours . . . it's not quite the same. You want it because you feel some kind of fundamental isolation inside yourself, and you need to unify with some focus of comforting or lascivious proximity . . . You want to unify with this object of desire; but as soon as you have it - it disappears. It disappears because you own it - it has entered your world and has therefore become you, or become part of you. What made it so desirable was that it was not you; it was other. So as soon as you draw it into your world - vvvvvttt - it's gone. But it does take a little while for it to disappear. At first it's a joyful thing - the leather jacket; the cowboy boots; the car; the lover; the bagel; the leopard-skin pillbox hat; the Buddhist book; the Irish wolf-hound; the Gieves and Hawk shooting coat; the Mississippi gambler's vest; the .44 Colt Anaconda; or whatever it is. You're in blissful union with it, you're dancing jubilantly with it, but after a while it just merges back into the grey nondescript fabric of daily appearances. It lasts for a period of time, then it 'disappears'.

  In the hell realm everything is instantly gone. As soon as you have anything at all, it's gone - and it bites you savagely as it goes! It disappears immediately it's glimpsed and leaves you with emotional third-degree burns. The aching need for any thread of respite is a tortured craving that is punished continuously in the cruellest possible manner. All hope disintegrates immediately in its arising. Every possibility of alleviation of pain is brutally crushed. With each of the elements that function in the hell realm the self-undermining process speeds up to an unendurable pitch, in which there is no option but endurance. And the endurance is a continuous battle in an attempt to suffer less, even for a fraction of a second. In the hot hell it becomes terminal velocity. So these six realms are six different styles of acceleration or deceleration.

  Q: Is there a 'why', to why they speed up?

  NR: Certainly. Speeding up is caused by struggling - by fighting reality in order to suffer less, or in the attempt to return to some lost peace or pleasure. Slowing down is caused by relaxing - by giving up the fight with reality, and letting go of the need to regain anything. Struggling causes acceleration; relaxation causes deceleration. And that choice always exists in the moment. When you have a situation, you can either react to it in terms of trying to manipulate it or control it, or you can go [sigh] okay I'm not going to react to this with my first idea. I'm not going to break your nose for asking this question. This is immediately what I want to do but I'm not going to do that, I'm going to sit with it for a while, and I might even give up my response. That's a thing that is always there. The way that one moves between the realms is always through struggling, which means manipulating or trying to control; or relaxing and accepting the situation, actually giving the situation space. The idea of acceptance isn't always quite so helpful. Because it sounds like the way to improve, or the way to become liberated is that you just accept everything that happens. Maybe a better word than acceptance is allowing space. You might decide to act on something, but you might not act immediately. The desire to act immediately on something that you feel is threatening is always out of habit, because that's the first thing that comes up. You know: this arises so I destroy it; I've got to get rid of this threat.

  You can't say, well maybe this isn't a threat. Or maybe it's a threat that is okay. Maybe this person is asking me a question and it sounds threatening but maybe I can answer it. As soon as you have a 'maybe', there's space. When it's definite: 'This is an attack on me, I'm just going to destroy this person, I'm not going to answer this person, I'm going to humiliate the person instead so that they won't ask me another question.' There's that quality there of vvvvtttt! It's just there - and that instantaneous response may be very close to an aspect of realisation. You could say it's like spontaneity. But it's the total opposite of spontaneity: it happens immediately but it's not spontaneity, it's complete claustrophobic habit. There's no space in which there could be any other possibility. So saying 'maybe' or 'I wonder what this is' or 'how should I respond to this' - all those reactions are straightaway a space in which you can feel what you're feeling and you can have a choice of how you're going to react to that. This happens all the way up and down these realms.

  So that's the hot hell and the cold hell. Then there's the hungry ghost realm. These realms are a lot easier to understand when you view them in terms of acceleration and deceleration. So now we're decelerating. What happens takes longer to come back. The hungry ghost state arises out of the cold hell. You eventually have to relax from the position of being frozen, or of maintaining rigidity. You relax because you can no longer relate to how you are maintaining your rigidity. When you relax out of the hot hell you stop lashing out and as soon as you stop lashing out you feel better. But then you freeze, because you dare not move lest you provoke that ever-escalating intensity again. You don't venture into any other fields of experience that present themselves, because they all look like pain. So you freeze everything in order to survive. You maintain the tension of that frozen state by refusing to move even if there's a good possibility that some situation might be preferable. You don't move into it because you've learnt that freezing keeps you safe. Naturally it's an effort to remain frozen, because opportunities are always arising. The enlightened state is always flashing through, even in hell! And whenever this happens one has the opportunity to respond - to move or cooperate with it. When you relax in that sense of opportunity, something new always opens up. It always starts out feeling like a big risk. But when you first sense that there is some opportunity that seems more nurturing, you enter into the hungry ghost realm. You taste something different and become very hungry for positive experience. The problem is that it's a completely self-obsessed state. You have no interest or respect for what you're going for; you just want to devour things. Because there's no basic respect for what is being devoured, there's no compassion in the relationship with it. When there is no compassion in your relationship with phenomena, whatever you devour turns into poison. Whatever you drink turns into something disgusting; traditionally you'd say it turned into liquid fire. This is the kind of analogy that's given of the hungry ghost, the yidag. The yidag is a being with a huge mouth and a very thin neck. It can get a hell of a lot into its mouth but it can't swallow anything.

  Whatever it sees looks good, so it eats it - but then it always turns out to be bad. It turns out to be really vile! It turns out to be bad because of how it's crammed into the mouth. It's a little bit like going to some amazing restaurant where the food is wonderful but you slather all over the table cloth and dribble on the waiter's arm. Then when the meal arrives you stuff it into your mouth so fast that you choke on it. You end up spitting it across the room and vomiting on the carpet because you want to stuff it all down at once. Bits of half-digested food get lodged in your nostrils, which makes you choke even more. You'd probably die if someone didn't beat you on the back. No matter how tasty it was, it would cause you pain because that's what happens when you turn into some kind of human vacuum cleaner. You can't possibly swallow food as quickly as you'd like to swallow it. There's so much in your mouth that you can't swallow, but you can't take it out either, because you're starving. So this is the quality of being a yidag. I nickname yidags 'intellectuals' because that's what intellectuals do - they gorge themselves on information and then regurgitate it all over each other.

  Q: Is that a little bit like the fire element would you say?

  NR: In one way yes. All the elements are contained within each of the realms - and like all the elements, the fire element eventually exhausts itself. When the hungry ghost state exhausts itself, you have the opportunity to stay with that space of exhaustion, because exhaustion means that habit stops for a moment. Then at that moment you can either just regenerate the habit or you can remain in that space. So it's important to look at this in terms of opportunity. There are always opportunities for realisation. And these are built into the process of exhaustion and struggle: you struggle for a while until you can't struggle anymore, till you become exhausted, and then there's a space. And you either retract from that space and regenerate the same pattern or you can just rest in that space for long enough to realise there's something else. If you stay in that space what usually happens is you get addicted to your style of relationship with that something else. Because it's preferable to where you were. You needed the space to see it, but having seen it, you don't dance with it but instead you grab it. And that forces a new kind of distorted relationship on you, or you create it from your experience of what is preferable.

  Q: I've lost track of what the 'it' is in there . . .

  NR: 'It' is the possibility of a new kind of relationship with phenomena. In the hot hell it is just terrifying, everything is burning, everything you touch burns you. Not only does it burn you but it's the sense in which you can't stay away from these areas of fire. They seem to be coming toward you, so you seem to have no choice but to fight with them in order to fend them off. So 'it' is how you perceive yourself in relation with the phenomenal world, in terms of your existence and non-existence. 'It' is your relationship with your own reality. 'It' is not just the external world but also your inner reality. 'It' is how you relate with yourself . . . in a sense. 'It' is how you perceive yourself to be, in the context of your entire environment. This is the 'it' . . . and there are six different possibilities of how that relationship works.

  Q: So the thing that you get addicted to is the style of relationship of the realm that you're going toward and that's how you get stuck there?

  NR: Well . . . yes and no. It's either the one you're going toward or the one you've just left - but somehow you can't really see either properly. One is made possible through relaxation, and the other you lose through struggle. Everything exhausts itself . . . and always, at the point of exhaustion, we can either relax or start to struggle again. That may sound mysterious in some way - but you can find that moment every time you meditate. That is actually what meditation is.

  Q: What is exhausted in the god realm?

  NR: The pleasure exhausts itself - in terms of its very even texture. That evenness of texture cannot last forever, because it is antithetical to any kind of roughness or disturbance. And if you then enter into struggle to regain that silky seamless-stocking sensation, you lose it. Trying to regain it automatically puts you back into the jealous god realm. Trying to get there puts you somewhere else. That's important to understand: going for pleasure, or circumstances that you latch onto in terms of experiencing pleasure, is fine. But these circumstances only last for a certain period of time, then they exhaust themselves. If you attach yourself to them when they're dissolving, then that state of mind automatically creates a lower realm of being, a more painful or accelerated aspect of experience. When the hungry ghost realm - this yidag realm - exhausts itself, you have a moment in which you can say: "Yah fine, whatever I eat gets stuck in my throat, whatever I drink burns me, it's all the same - I'm going to stop chasing it and whatever comes along, if it comes along I might look at it a bit longer and well, I won't stuff it down as quickly because I know it's not going to do me any good." Then this is called the animal realm. There's no sense of humour about this realm, really. Because you know it's going to taste horrible whatever it is so that's not very amusing. It's not even ironic - there is no irony in the animal realm.

  You slow down at the level of textural comparison - you don't really want to know much about your sense fields in terms of esthetics. The sense fields are just there and whatever comes into them comes into them. You respond to what comes into them purely according to volume. There is no space for mixed messages. If you receive mixed messages they just remind you of pain - you become frightened and have to attack. But you're not addicted to that, you can also just lie there. If nothing frightening comes along you don't attack - things are rather black and white. The form of exhaustion that is typical of the animal realm is terminal boredom. There is so little coming out of anything that exhaustion occurs purely because you're not fed by the pain of contrast anymore. Everything tastes the same, so the fear falls away from the idea that everything is going to turn into pain. It becomes possible to distinguish between things: certain things actually do taste better than others, and if you sample them slowly enough you can decide what you're going to spit out. You don't actually have to eat it whatever it is - there are things that are preferable. That's called the human realm. There's some degree of choice in the human realm - and it increases in variety the more it is explored. And with the human realm arises a sense of humour.

  Q: What is the connection between distinguishing taste and sense of humour?

  NR: Sense of humour is basically the ability to juxtapose, so distinguishing is saying, well this is green and that is blue, and you see them together and there's a choice about which one you'd like. Then when you see someone going for the one you don't like, that's immediately amusing in some way. When it's possible to eat lox and bagels and someone's eating porridge, that's really rather funny. Because you can see someone going for what they think is pleasure - it's pleasure for them but not for you. Humour comes out of that disparity. That's an intrinsic irony. Humour comes out of being able to discriminate. Because there's not only you discriminating, there's everybody else discriminating and you're aware that they all know that they can discriminate.

  Q: So this is discriminating awareness . . .

  NR: No, just discrimination. Basic discrimination on the level of: "I like it!", "I don't like it!" In the animal realm you don't really want to be bothered to make some kind of philosophy out of your preferences - that is far too sophisticated. But in the human realm it becomes possible to make philosophy out of discrimination, which then becomes the basis of relating to your world. Then you associate with those who share your philosophy. We communicate and miscommunicate at the same time; and this is where humour comes into the picture. The juxtaposition causes a shift in thought patterns - a momentary disorientation. That's why communication can be very amusing to humans in the human realm. Humour is very useful because it creates a certain sense of space - the more humour the better! We can even laugh at ourselves. I can say: "I just did something really stupid! I fried my cravat along with the tagliatelle." But I have to have the space to see that as funny. It's also a relief, because hey, I don't have to pretend I never do things like that, and these people laughing about my error are not mocking me. They're laughing with me, because they also do things like that.

  The human realm is the place where we can begin to practise, and where we can realise the non-dual state. There's not too much pain, and not too much even-textured pleasure. If there's too much pleasure, and its silky pervasiveness becomes somehow idyllic - in an almost sickly sweet manner - there's no sense in which we can practise. There's no sharpness; no bitter-sweet; no astringent variation . . . there's no alternation; no pungent whiff of cordite; no visceral poetry . . . We need that in order to practise. Also . . . when there's too much pleasure, there's not enough humour. Humour disappears when things become too easy and uniform in their tranquil mellowness. This is why a lot of humour comes out of unpleasant conditions - there's irony there. Humour is a natural part of establishing constructs. When we work with constructs, we get let down by them. Then we create more sophisticated constructs because we realise that the previous construct had flaws. The previous construct was too simple - it didn't work very well. We have to make our constructs more sophisticated in order to get the pleasure we want. So we think: 'Ah, it's not as simple as just having a relationship with a man or woman; I have to be more specific than that. They have to be even-tempered.' So we find someone without a bad temper but then discover that they're depressed. So we think: 'Right . . . they've got to be both even-tempered and cheerful. That's the answer!' And then we find they've got some other problem. They're even-tempered and cheerful, but they don't like our tastes in music, furniture and decor. So we think: 'Right . . .' And so it goes on. We have to specify more and more exactly what it is that's going to give us pleasure. We create more and more sophisticated concepts for how to make life work. In the human realm we really feel that it is possible to make it work.

  But the human realm also exhausts itself. The exhaustion arises out of the sense of success. We discover that we can make life work pretty well - then we can begin to get a little tricky. We stop working so hard, but we begin to strategise and theorise about the long-term prospects of the truly impossible dream. We're aware that there are people who really have done this. They've really worked the number out very well, and we can't quite understand how. It would seem that they've just totally given up and yet they got to the god realm by giving up . . . But that seems utterly implausible; because when we try to give up - nothing happens. The god realm doesn't happen. The Cadillac doesn't pull up and take us off to the private jet; the bank account is not unlimited. So we have to work out a policy of pretending to give up, whilst engaging in a lot of highly furtive manoeuvring. And it becomes very tricky. The gods seem to be saying: "Well . . . in order to be successful, just be yourself. That's what I did." And we say: "Is that really what you did? You were just yourself and everybody loved you? They gave you all this money? They bought your book? They bought the film rights? And all you did was be yourself? You didn't try?" So we're looking at the god realm - we have a view of the god realm - but we don't quite understand how the gods got there. This gives rise to a sense of very deep suspicion about everything - that something very, very subtle has to happen for us to move from 'here' to 'there', and no matter how carefully we examine the situation, we can never get any closer. The god realm is always a thousandth of an inch beyond the dimension of all our constructs . . .

  Q: So we'd be suspicious about our pleasure too?

  NR: Yes. Because everyone's telling us to relax: "Hey . . . just relax, kid . . . it'll be all right." And we think: 'Damn! If I relax it's going to be terrible!' But we see that they're so relaxed . . . How can we get to that relaxed place by relaxing; there must be some other way of doing it than by relaxing - because when we relax, we just miss opportunities! We can't quite believe that relaxation works that way. There's this kind of paranoia that comes in with the jealous god realm, because we think there must be some very special trick to the god realm. So we spend a lot of time furiously analysing everything. We look at the god realm from outside wondering how to get in there. Exhaustion is merely realising that we can't get in there. And, what is more, there's no purpose at all in trying to get in there. Then - to our surprise - there we are. Getting there is achieved simply by giving up trying to get there. When we give up struggling we find that everything is, actually, delightful . . .

  But it's still in the realm of duality, because 'I' had to give up on getting 'there'. The god realm is the slowest point in the samsaric cycle of decelerating elemental patterns. This is almost complete and utter deceleration; which is why the god realm is so protracted. You just remain there with everyone agreeing with you . . . because you're so fantastically wise, so fantastically untouched by anything. Nothing you do seems to rebound in an unpleasant way . . . You've watched yourself achieve enlightenment. You have followers, devotees, and they all think you're wonderful. They think you're wonderful, because you know that you're wonderful. You know you're wonderful because everyone around you says: "Hey, you're wonderful!" And you say: "Gee thanks. Well . . . I always knew that - but charming of you to notice, I'm sure." You say wonderful things to people, and they say: "That was wonderful!" And you say: "Yes, of course, that's because you are wonderful too, if only you could see it as I see it. Everything is wonderful!" They think that's very, very wonderful, and they say: "That's really the most wonderful truth we've ever heard!" And you say: "Yes, the wonder of everything is reflected in me because I see that I am no different from this wonderfulness." Then they say . . . [Rinpoche yawns in a deliberate manner]

  Q: The danger of the god realm then is boredom?

  NR: No [yawns] because everything's wonderful.

  Q: There's a danger there though, isn't there?

  NR: Oh yes [laughs] a very wonderful danger! It exhausts itself because you get totally intoxicated with how wonderful you are, with how wonderful everything is. What happens in the traditional god realm analogies is that one day you start to smell a trifle ripe. When that happens, the other gods start looking at you and saying: "Phew . . . your celestial deodorant is wearing thin." They really don't like that, because if they associate with you they might start to smell too. The other gods start shunning you. Your devotees leave in droves, and suddenly - instantly - you're in the jealous god realm again. Then you struggle to get back, not realising that struggling is what characterises the jealous god realm.

  Q: If you'd had the realisation to say: "So I smell - fine, that's wonderful, this smell is great, everything has the same taste . . ."

  NR: Then you would be a yogi or yogini, rather than a god realm bliss kid. But you're not actually realised so there is the very strong possibility of things not being wonderful. You bathe in everything becoming more and more wonderful, and that can begin to seem as if you've attained enlightenment . . . But then there's impermanence . . . and things aren't so wonderful anymore. They could even start looking terrible. You create a cocoon out of your own sense of 'realisation'. You take your own wisdom seriously and you have this feeling that you deserve all this, whatever this is, that you are as wonderful as everyone says you are. You believe it. And because you believe it, you reflect it outwards. You look more wonderful because you've accepted your own wonderfulness. And everything is nice and perfect and flowing and nothing is ever . . . rough or hard or spiky.

  Q: So in all the realms, there's this energy that is subject to entropy, dissolution, like all of a sudden you're a god and then there's something where you begin to dissolve and there's an odour that's almost self-arising in itself . . .

  NR: It has to be. It's within every level of the samsaric dimension of experience. Samsara is entirely based on projection, and all projection has a finite duration. You see, the feeling of being wonderful comes from the fact that we project it outward onto everything else. Once we do that, it's projected back to us, and we relate to it as if this 'wonderfulness' or seemingly perfect pleasure was the ground of being. So if people stop regarding us as wonderful, we start to feel some slight doubt about our wonderfulness . . .

  Q: So in the god realm there's still karma?

  NR: It's a realm of samsara, so there's always karma.

  Q: And chance?

  NR: Sure. There is always chance. Karma is form, and chance or chaos is emptiness. If there were no chance . . . there'd be no emptiness. If there were no chance, then karma would mean predestination. If karma were predestination then enlightenment would have to be the result of karma. If that were true then there would be no purpose in practice. So . . . you can create a seemingly ideal situation and you can be seemingly ideal within that seemingly ideal situation but it doesn't last forever . . . nothing does. Only emptiness is forever [laughs]. But then there's form, and if form is not emptiness, then the six realms start all over again.

  Q: What would happen if you took the attitude that you were going to play things as they came along rather than grasping - playing. Would that just be another form . . .?

  NR: Yes . . . but when you do that you can seem to succeed. Life becomes better and you move into the god realm and then you begin to take 'yourself' seriously.

  Q: So you couldn't play with the god realm . . .

  NR: No. The only way you can play is from the realised state. You see, when you begin to relax . . . when you just deal with everything as it comes along . . . the process of karmic deceleration simply follows from that. Then, as you move to higher realms, you gain some sort of very amorphous wisdom. You create fewer negative situations. But your 'wisdom' still exists in duality. There's a concept of who it is that has becomes enlightened: 'I' have become enlightened! The god realm is defining yourself according to the outside world, which temporarily reflects your sense of 'enlightenment'. I become 'God' in a sense, the creator of the universe, because everything is a reflection of 'Me'. So instead of being responsive to everything, which means I'm not central - 'I' become central. Wherever 'I' look it's Me. And everything is perfect, until it stops being perfect. It's the closest you can come to enlightenment without being enlightened. The god realm is when 'I' become enlightened. You say: "I am now enlightened and here 'I' am observing 'Myself' in the whole universe out there . . ." It becomes My creation, because My relationship with every aspect of it is Me. But it's not particularly interactive because every

  Q: In what way is everything perfect, if it's not perfect?

  NR: Because beings appear to experience suffering. But from the god realm you see beings experiencing suffering and you just smile a trifle wistfully, and say: "Ah, the world of illusion . . . How perfect that whatever is happening, is simply happening."

  Q: What's the difference between this attitude and: 'Whatever happens - may it happen', one of the Three Terrible Oaths that are spoken of in the Dzogchen tradition?

  NR: 'Whatever happens - may it happen'. When you say: "Ah, the world of illusion . . . How perfect that whatever is happening, is simply happening" - you're saying: "Whatever happens - may it happen - out there in My universe where nothing effects Me." I think that is the big difference. In the god realm you would really be saying: "Whatever appears to be happening - may it continue to appear to happen, because illusory suffering and illusory bliss are all the dream of Brahma."

  Q: So in the god realm there's very little space for compassion because there's very little space . . . or there's too much space?

  NR: Both. There is space, because there is always space. But in the god realm, space is not really experienced as space - but as an expanded sense of the extensiveness of Me. The neurotic claustrophobia of samsara has become vastly attenuated . . . There's a great deal of 'spaciness' in which one can become some sort of cosmic 'space-case'. This is not creative space; rather, it's the space of self-orientation. It's the space of relaxed yet almost unbounded self-obsession.

  Q: In what way can that be space? It sounds like some sort of enclosure.

  NR: Sure. It's some kind of enclosure. It's just a very, very large enclosure. The enclosure has become so large that it feels infinite. You simply can't see the horizons anymore. You can travel around in this space almost endlessly. You can view everything within it.

  Q: So where is the problem?

  NR: Well . . . as 'God' . . . you're always coming from the central headquarters of your own realisation of being 'God'. You eventually realise that you can't control space. It just takes a long time for that to become apparent. As 'God' you cannot relate to space outside the concept of it being 'My realisation' or 'My enlightenment'. Being 'God-realised' is referred to as being the subtlest of all delusions. If you become 'God-realised' then everything becomes 'God', and then of course . . . everything becomes you. Until . . . you realise it isn't you. And later . . . you realise that you aren't even you. Then you start getting worried . . . [laughs]

  Q How do the six realms relate to the elements? Trungpa Rinpoche identifies the realms with the elements, but there are five elements and six realms . . . How does that work out?

  NR: The realms do have qualities of the elements but you can't divide them exactly into the elements. There are realms where certain elements predominate, but each realm contains all five elements. The five elements perform their cyclic patterns in each realm. The difference between the realms is more a question of the speed at which the elemental patterns cycle. When I talk about the cyclic pattern of the fire element - there's an object of desire. You go after it. You grab at it. You pull it towards you . . . And then it disappears because 'I' own it - it has becomes 'me' through becoming 'mine'. That obviously doesn't happen immediately - it takes a period of time, and that period of time differs according to the realm. For the psychologically average individual - if you see something you like, you go out and buy it. Then you enjoy it for a while. Then gradually the novelty wears off. But in the hungry ghost realm you see it, you go for it, and vvvvvvp! immediately it changes into a source of pain and disappointment. The cycle speeds up. That is a quality of the fire element operating in the human realm and in the hungry ghost realm. Then there's the hell realm, which manifests more of the water element of anger. In the human realm anger manifests in this kind of way: someone makes me angry. They make me so angry that I get into a fight. It may turn out to be grievous bodily assault, but the police won't get me immediately. Maybe it takes a while for due process of law to take place. But in the hell realm you lash out and hurt yourself immediately! Then you lash out again as a way of getting over the pain - but in doing so you hurt yourself again! With the hell realm the pain escalates until the only reality you know is intensity. So you create greater, and greater, and greater intensity.

  In comparison, the god realm is incredibly diffused. You never laugh in the god realm. You never cry in the god realm. You just grin - very, very, softly. And there's New Age music playing . . . But let's get back to hell. There's the hell of the locked ward, where you're in a strait-jacket to stop yourself damaging yourself. That's obviously an extreme state, and maybe most people won't be able to relate to that personally. But there's also the hell of having an argument with somebody you love - where you cause yourselves more and more pain through hurting each other in order to be happy . . . That's also hell. But we're not locked into these hell states all the time. We pass through them . . . they exhaust themselves, and maybe we get some sense of space. Then we're happy again because we've been distracted from the claustrophobic intensity of our patterning. We pass through the six realms minute by minute - hour by hour - day by day . . . We continually cycle through the processes of relaxation and struggle. If we recognise these patterns as they arise, we can begin to develop some degree of suspicion about them. If we can entertain the discomfort of this suspicion - there's immediately some sense of space there.

  Q: How can we stay in the human realm and avoid either falling into the intensity of lower realms or floating into the sort of blissed-out disconnection of the god realm?

  NR: We stay in the human realm by allowing ourselves to be touched by the pain of others . . . and by not becoming too spiritual so that we lose the ability to laugh. Hot-blooded kindness is what roots us in this precious human rebirth.




Loving-Kindness and Compassion
  Loving-Kindness and Compassion play such an important role in the Buddhist approach to spirituality that we can say that a genuine practice of the Dharma is actually based on the development of these qualities. The teachings always emphasize that, unless we practice and integrate these qualities into our everyday lives, it will be utterly impossible to attain enlightenment and liberation. Moreover, without such an integration of loving-kindness and compassion, not only are we failing to benefit others, we are actually harming them, whether directly or indirectly. In the same way that water can never be used to make things dry, and fire cannot be used to make them wet, aggression and harmfulness can never cause enlightenment.

  Loving-kindness and compassion are also the cause of accumulating the merit to be born in the higher realms, including this human realm. If we had not practiced these qualities in the past, we would not have been born as human beings, and there would be no chance to be born into any of the higher states of experience. Therefore, loving-kindness and compassion are karmically very significant, and we should make them the core of whatever Dharma practices we do.

  These positive qualities should be like the life force within us, like the mind in a living being. A body without a mind, or a life force, would not be able to perform actions like a real human being. Instead, it would be only an empty reflection or effigy. In the same way, spiritual practice without the core practice of loving-kindness and compassion could only be a parody of genuine spirituality.

  Unenlightened beings suffer continuously from the neuroses of attachment, aggression, and ignorance. These emotional upheavals develop because of a lack of compassion, kindness, and open concern for the well-being of others. Lacking such positive attitudes and feelings, we continually indulge ourselves, developing these three mental poisons further, and thus bring added suffering and confusion to ourselves and others alike. Conversely, a person who has fully integrated loving-kindness and compassion has transcended the three poisons. For such a kind, gentle, and compassionate person, the upheaval of aggression has ceased. Gentleness and compassion cannot coexist with aggression and hatred toward others. Therefore, in treading on the Buddhist path toward the experience of enlightenment, the essential basis of development for both beginners and advanced practitioners is the practice of loving-kindness and compassion.

  Without the basic ground of the qualities of loving-kindness and compassion, the Vajrayana would not exist. It simply would not make any sense without a genuine practice and ongoing experience of loving-kindness and compassion towards all beings. In addition, the bodhisattva vow could not be taken without a sincere commitment to generate such an attitude. The enlightened bodhisattva attitude embodies the complete letting go of oneself for the benefit and enlightenment of all sentient beings, without exception. Without this attitude, therefore, there would not be much use in taking the vow. It would be meaningless--just another label, a label that is as laughable as a blind man claiming to have good vision. Such a person would be ridiculed, or else pitied for his stupidity. Therefore, the bodhisattva vow is to be taken with a sincere concern for the benefit of all sentient beings. Having taken the vow and developed loving-kindness and compassion, the three mental poisons are transcended because there is no room for aggression and hatred when the mind is filled with these qualities. With the realization of the importance of these two supreme qualities, and the desire to benefit all beings, great clarity and understanding develop. That clarity and understanding is itself the transcendence of ignorance, attachment, and passion--all of which arise because of the insatiable thirst for selfish attainment and success. Whoever has given priority to benefiting all beings is able gradually to let go of such negative patterns.

  For all these reasons, a sincere and proper understanding of loving-kindness and compassion is very important. Having that understanding and an appreciation of the need to integrate these qualities into daily practice, you will experience frequent moments of leisure and calmness when you can take advantage, as a beginner, of the opportunity to practice loving-kindness and compassion. In this way, the gradual integration of these qualities comes about, so that in times of frustration, fear, and aggression, you are able to transform the situation. On the other hand, if we do not realize the practice of loving-kindness and compassion, then when the need arises--for example, when the experience of fear or aggression suddenly occurs--it will be very difficult to achieve a state of gentleness and compassion because of the intensity of our habitual mental patterns. Trying to experience a state of gentleness in those circumstances might even increase the frustration and confusion, due to the intensity of the upheaval.

  Through the noble practice of loving-kindness and compassion, we can develop a very open relationship toward all beings. Such a relationship is one of respect, based on the idea that no matter what disparities may exist between different categories of beings, such as human beings, animals, or whatever, they all have equal capacities. Thus the practitioner tries to develop equal concern for them all. The mere sight of any living being--whether tiny or huge, whether our own kind or a different species --will arouse the feeling of gentleness and kindness. This is a very powerful feeling; in fact, it is the gateway to the experience of the perfect state of enlightenment. Having developed such kindness, gentleness, and openness of mind toward all beings, it is possible to genuinely feel the needs of others. A very true and honest concern for beings develops. Then, if at times a certain being projects aggression or hatred, the gentleness and kindness we have developed will help us feel and express an even stronger sense of compassion and gentleness. This is due to the understanding that in the past we have been caught up in the experience of samsara precisely because of the lack of such qualities of gentleness and loving-kindness. In addition, developing further aggression and ignorance in the present is only going to cause further suffering and entrapment in cyclic existence. If we cannot have a loving, kind, and compassionate attitude toward all beings, if we cannot experience tenderness and gentleness toward all beings, there is no purpose in life. Further, there is no purpose in being connected with the Dharma.

  The very purpose of the Dharma is to develop and integrate the practice of loving kindness and compassion. In doing so, we not only benefit ourselves, but others at the same time. Practicing and integrating these qualities brings about the possibility of the enlightening situation of openness and an experience of ongoing happiness within this lifetime; thus, there is a tremendous need to develop these qualities. People experience depression, confusion, and frustration because they make all kinds of categorizations. When we are with certain beings who have greater success than we do, a feeling of inferiority can arise. Evaluating things from this mundane point of view can give rise to a sense of jealousy, accompanied by a desire to inflict harm. Envy can grow in our minds, causing all kinds of frustration and confusion. Another situation can arise when everyone in a particular society belongs to the same class and is on an equal level: this can give rise to feelings of competition, of wanting to dominate others or to be better than others. Such wishes usually result in failure, and once again we are overcome by anger, frustration, depression, and hatred, and all kinds of neurotic projections take place.

  Then there are other times when we are with people and feel they are completely incapable, or at least that they are less capable than we are. In comparing ourselves with these beings, we feel they do not have this or that ability; we feel they are somehow lacking. This gives rise to feelings of superiority, and then there is the sense of wanting to neglect or overlook such people. If we have integrated loving-kindness and compassion, no matter what type of beings we are with and must adjust to, a sense of joyfulness and happiness will be present. There will be openness and communication and a sense of well-being toward other people. Other people can feel this and relate to us accordingly. In the same way, if we are in a situation where everyone is basically equal, a feeling of support for each other will grow, along with the wish that these people will become more successful, more comfortable, and happier in their life situations and relationships. Thus we create a situation of openness and communication, and we are able to concern ourselves with benefiting others who are less capable by helping, supporting, and encouraging them. With that kind of relationship, everyone feels respected and trusted and can rejoice in each others' progress. There is an experience of openness, happiness, and gentleness in all kinds of relationships, such as within families, between husband and wife or parents and children, and among relatives and friends. All kinds of relationships will have these positive possibilities.

  In contrast, the most destructive thing in our lives, the perpetual experience of great suffering, is brought about by our own egocentric clinging to selfish and insatiable pursuits. As long as this situation exists in our lives, it is inseparable from aggression. Clinging to ourselves and devoting all efforts to ourselves continually gives rise to aggression and perpetuates samsara's endless suffering. The transcendence of this suffering is possible only through the antidote of loving-kindness and compassion. Without these qualities, all kinds of destructive situations and suffering come about, because we have tremendous expectations. For example, we have expectations that we should be respected, arising from the selfish feeling that we are somehow the greatest person and, therefore, should be looked up to. We also have expectations that we should not be harmed in any way. We also have very unrealistic attitudes about others living up to our expectations. When these are not met, trouble develops between husband and wife, among relatives and between friends. Each of us believes that our wishes, our needs, and our notions of what is good must be respected by everyone else. Even though we may talk a lot about loving-kindness, inside we are still going through the same difficulties and experiencing the same suffering. If we really have a sincere experience of loving kindness and compassion toward others, we no longer need to say things like, "I have to work on my anger," "I have to work on my aggression," or "I have to work on my egotism. The feeling of loving-kindness itself liberates our egocentric notions and the other neurotic patterns that arise.

  It should be very clear that the experience of relative and ultimate happiness within this lifetime, as well as in future lifetimes, is dependent upon our practice and integration of loving-kindness and compassion now. A total dedication to the benefit of others is essential. This precious human birth is not obtained by chance, nor will it be obtained by chance in the future. Right now we are in the fortunate situation of being able to live happily in this life and to accumulate the seeds of future happiness. Now is the time when loving-kindness and compassion can be developed, progressively leading to more and more benefit to more and more beings. Such a possibility depends on our practice right now, within this particular lifetime. If we have no practice of loving-kindness and compassion, then even if we had the opportunity to teach a gathering of people, we might feel tremendous aggression toward that group. Such feelings of opposition or unfriendliness would lead to the desire to control others, to have power over them, which is the cause of harm and destruction. We can clearly see around us these days how such attitudes bring tremendous harm to us and to others and bring about many hopeless situations. Only the sincere development of loving-kindness and compassion can prevent or transform such situations. It enables others to live respectable and dignified lives, bringing them, as well as us, both relative and ultimate happiness.

  In thinking about these qualities, we also need to take into consideration the factor of karmic conditioning. When we are at the edge of a cliff, it is possible to be very careful and avoid falling off. But if we have not developed the ability to be careful and mindful, when we fall off the edge it is useless to start wishing for wings. In the same fashion, what we will experience in the future definitely depends on how we live our lives. If we practice loving-kindness and compassion sincerely and fully for the benefit of others, then in the future not even a very powerful being can prevent us from experiencing further happiness and well-being. Even if we have the notion that we really do not want to experience such happiness, it would still come about. On the other hand, if all we have done is accumulate the causes of further suffering, then at the moment when we are on the verge of experiencing such suffering and confusion, there is no chance to be wise, no chance to think twice about our past behavior. It is truly pathetic to see beings who sincerely want to experience happiness and well-being acting at the same time in ways that will bring them every imaginable kind of suffering, pain, and destruction (both physical and mental), not only in this lifetime but in lifetimes to come. This is the epitome of confusion and bewilderment. It is heartbreaking to see beings who desire happiness and well-being, who even desire the experience of liberation and enlightenment, doing the very things that totally prevent the possibility of such an experience. Such people are totally bewildered and confused. This is not to say that they are so ignorant they would not know how to eat, that they would use a hat for their feet or put their shoes on their head, but karmically it is a similar situation.

  As practitioners of the Dharma, we cannot ignore the state of confusion and bewilderment beings are going through. It is so obvious that we cannot ignore it. We also cannot afford to continue committing such actions of confusion and bewilderment ourselves, because the nature of the situation is so clearly obvious. It is not a myth or a legend, not a situation taking place only in far away countries like Vietnam or Cambodia. It is occurring right here and now. Everyone, in one way or another, and to a greater or lesser degree, wants to experience happiness and well-being. Instead, there is considerable bewilderment and confusion as a result of neurotic patterns. For example, we may try to obtain happiness and well-being by depriving others of their wealth, their power, their freedom, even their lives. Thus, in our confusion, we bring immense suffering both to ourselves and to others, yet everyone involved still hopes to experience happiness and well-being. What an unfortunate situation beings are in! For those in such a state of total confusion, the chance of achieving ultimate enlightenment or ultimate happiness is very slim. Therefore, as practitioners of the Dharma, we must realize the preciousness of our practice. We need to see what really causes the confusion of beings: doing the very opposite of what they should do. We should recognize that, since we ourselves are not going through such intense confusion and bewilderment, we have the opportunity to develop enlightened abilities and to relieve the confusion and bewilderment of others. There is no reason whatever not to seize this opportunity and practice with greater and greater exertion.

  With this commitment, the most important aspect of the practice consists of seeing the limitations beings suffer from and sincerely wishing to benefit all beings by removing these limitations and relieving their suffering. This practice involves helping beings attain complete liberation from confusion and suffering, not only from the ongoing experience of confusion and suffering, but even from the very roots of such experiences. We develop the aspiration time and time again to uproot the confusion and suffering of all beings with a sincere, honest, and genuine concern. Repeatedly, we train ourselves to be continually mindful so we will not cause harm or confusion to others, to be continually mindful of the need for a compassionate attitude toward all beings, not only when we are making a specific effort to do so, but at all times. If we do the necessary practices to develop compassion and loving-kindness on a daily basis, then we will surely be able to carry these qualities out of the practice situation and into our daily lives and to maintain a continual attitude of openness toward the limitations of various beings. However, if we are not engaged in such regular practices, a surface understanding of these teachings will not help at all. This is because even a slight negative reaction from someone would bring about a negative response from us, since we have not developed compassion and loving-kindness as an integral part of our being.

  With this in mind, it is important to maintain the attitude of loving-kindness and compassion, as well as the desire to benefit all beings, in whatever practice we may be doing--the visualization of deities, the recitation of mantra, prostrations, or any other form of practice. Even if it is only one prostration or one mantra, you can dedicate it totally for the benefit of all beings; you can give yourself totally toward that end. Eventually, such an attitude and aspiration will begin to come about effortlessly and spontaneously. As a result, loving-kindness, gentleness, and compassion will be present all the time, like an undercurrent to whatever practice you do. When that situation occurs and that experience becomes part of practice, the practice is fruitful: it becomes a worthy practice according to the path of the enlightened ones. On the other hand, you may do all sorts of different practices, but if there is no flavor of compassion or loving-kindness in them, they will not be beneficial either to you or to others. The great Indian mahapandita Chandrakirti said that all scholars, according to tradition, first do their prostrations to a particular deity before they write about the teachings. In his case, however, he made his supplication to loving-kindness and compassion. He explained it in this way: the Buddhas and bodhisattvas are the fruition, but without compassion, which is the cause, there can not be Buddhas or bodhisattvas. Thus, he did his prostrations to loving-kindness and compassion, because the possibility of attaining Buddhahood depends on the integration of these qualities; the practice of compassion gives birth to Buddhas and bodhisattvas.

  At first, formal practice is very important. We might be able to actively practice loving-kindness and compassion for the liberation of all beings, but due to our limitations it will be very difficult to actually fulfill the needs of all beings. Therefore, we first need to work on self-development. When doing practice, we must first have the attitude that we are going to do it to benefit all sentient beings. Then we must actually do it for the benefit of beings. Finally, we must dedicate the merit of the practice for the benefit of all beings. These are three very important steps which must take place in order to prevent practice from becoming a selfish pursuit intended only for our own liberation. With this kind of attitude in practice, individual development will take place, including developing skill in benefiting beings as well as completely ceasing to harm beings. At this point, there may be times when we do cause harm to others, but if our sincere concern is to benefit others, and it is simply because of our limitations and ignorance that we have caused harm, the harm has not been intentional. This is, in fact, quite an encouraging step, in spite of whatever limitations we still may have.

  Training ourselves individually is very important, because in doing so, we begin to develop some of the qualities that are important for working with others. These qualities include appreciation, which is a source of great joy in working with others, and patience, so that even if you have to do the same thing over and over until it works, you will not get tired of it. These important qualities can be developed through the practice and whatever other activities we may do. Patience, in particular, can be developed through the practice of loving-kindness and compassion. As well as benefiting others, patience is also a key to our own sanity and the gradual attainment of enlightenment. The emotional upheaval of the three poisons takes place because of the lack of patience, which can occur in many different ways. For example, suppose you have done favors or brought about good things for others, but without a positive attitude. As a result, certain negative emotional and neurotic patterns arise, such as feeling that you are not being shown the gratitude you deserve, and becoming very impatient and frustrated.

  Aggression is such a destructive force! If a person's mind is filled with aggression, many other unhappy and confusing situations may also occur. Sometimes, it gets to the point that they cannot even avoid falling asleep in an angry state. In that case, they wake up feeling worn out. The sleep has not been restful at all, having slept in a very unhealthy mental state in which the dreams may have been intensely negative, even nightmarish. The antidote for aggression, whether while dreaming or while awake, is gentle loving-kindness and compassion. People sometimes have the feeling that by going to a solitary place where the environment is quiet, they will experience peace and happiness. But if your mind is in a state of aggression, no matter where your body is--no matter how secluded or solitary the place--turmoil will always be present. For example, some animals are always by themselves, alone in the quiet of nature, yet they have a burning sense of aggression because they fear they will be killed and eaten or they think they are going to catch something themselves. Being in solitude is not going to help them experience calmness and gentleness.

  We must have the understanding that the most important thing to do is the practice; that we need to work toward the integration of what we hear and understand, and sincerely put both into practice. Of particular importance is the practice of Sending and Receiving: With the out breath, we send out all goodness and happiness, every possible goodness that we embody, toward all beings, so that everyone may experience goodness and happiness. With the incoming breath, we take in the negativities of all beings, all confusion, suffering, and neurotic patterns. Doing the Sending and Receiving practice in this way, both formally and informally, is very important. After doing the practice .of loving-kindness and compassion in this way for a while, the practitioner then tries to experience the true nature of the mind with nothing to let go of, nothing to receive--just the awareness of the mind, beyond any reference point. While doing formal meditation practice, training our minds with loving-kindness and compassion, we may be able to generate this attitude toward all sentient beings equally. However, in the daily course of our lives, when encountering different situations--which are sometimes more like confrontations--we may not be able to maintain the attitude of loving-kindness and compassion directed equally toward all beings. At such times, mindfulness of the practice of patience and the application of certain techniques will help us to continue generating this attitude. The next part of our discussion is concerned with how to continue to generate loving-kindness and compassion, even under adverse circumstances.

  Generally, it is quite easy to generate loving-kindness, compassion, and tenderness when we are in a situation of well-being, when everything is running very smoothly. The difficulty arises when someone is causing us harm. For example, if one of our friends is being abused or harmed for any reason, whether because of their class, their profession, or whatever else, we feel a sense of irresistible anger or hatred toward the perpetrators. That is the time when we should have patience. That is the time when we can and must truly practice compassion. The antidote at this time is to have patience, to be able to generate patience and gentleness. We project our neuroses in many ways. Sometimes we feel that we are in a position to defeat our opponents. In our pride or anger, we want to pay them back, "an eye for an eye," with a strong sense of revenge. Then, when we find ourselves incapable of defeating or causing harm to the other people or beings, we keep this hatred in our minds. We hold onto this hatred, thinking that at some future time we are definitely going to pay them back by causing harm to them.

  As practitioners on the path of sanity, trying to incorporate sanity into our lives, the key to all these situations is patience. We can use patience, as well as tremendous compassion, for beings when they are caught up in situations in which they have such negative attitudes toward others. These beings always experience negative feelings about everything they do, be it concepts or actions or situations. It is an unfortunate situation for them. Therefore, having patience, and at the same time generating compassion, is the right practice. Because of the way we have been brought up, because of the way society works, there is a strong feeling that if somebody is angry at us it is legitimate to pay them back with anger and aggression. That is in the pattern of society. As a result, you feel that it is impossible not to get angry when someone gets angry at you.

  The situation can be seen more clearly and simply, though, in a way that is more helpful to you and to others. For one thing, it is certain that this person, who is experiencing so much aggression and hatred, has not taken this position out of a sense of joy. Instead, he finds himself helpless in this situation, experiencing a great deal of confusion, sadness, discomfort, and disturbance. He might even beat someone, such as his friends or his children. He might pound on things or throw things around. He truly desires happiness, well-being, and comfort, and he knows very well that this is not the way to achieve those ends. These actions do not represent his true being, but suddenly this upheaval of neurosis has taken hold of him. His real being would not do this: he would know that it is not good or healthy to do this. Even if he does not know it might bring all kinds of suffering and discomfort in the future, he certainly knows it does not pay in the present situation, but he still gets caught up in such emotions. When you are able to see this, and to see from a state of openness, you should definitely be more able to extend kindness and compassion toward that person. Second, if people are projecting their hatred and neurosis toward you, you can be certain this is a karmic situation you must experience. This is a result of what has been accumulating--the harm and confusion you have caused other beings, or perhaps this particular being, in the past. Due to this conditioning, these are experiences you must have. The people or beings are not angry and aggressive indiscriminately toward all beings; instead, this anger is being projected toward you in particular. There has to be something about you that creates or stimulates this reaction. There has to be something negative about you, so your attitude should be that this is a situation you have to go through because of your karmic accumulations. Having created such projections in the past, you now have to go through the samsaric patterns resulting from them, and now that you have become the object of these negativities, further samsaric suffering could be inflicted upon other people in the future if you do not act appropriately. Therefore, a tremendous sense of sympathy toward yourself, as well as others, is in order. You have sympathy for yourself because you are truly caught up in a situation of confusion and limitations. You must acknowledge that this is so, and that therefore you are responsible for what is coming to you, so you go through it with a sense of patience. Understanding that in the past you have caused harm toward other beings, you see that the result is that you are again on the way to causing more harm and more confusion to others. This cycle must stop; it must not be carried on any further.

  Third, the past negative accumulations you have collected are born in a body full of defects, full of weaknesses and limitations. Your body is subject to all kinds of vulnerability that you may view as harmful and as threats of harm. In reality, no one is actually threatening you. However, you may feel you are the subject of threats or suffering because of the limitations of your body. If you were not subject to the pain of your body, there would be nothing to cause such pain. By analogy, if you hold a piece of rotten meat in your hand, all sorts of worms and maggots will be attracted to it. The more you try to get rid of the worms, the more attracted they are. You may get very frustrated because you cannot get rid of the piece of rotten meat. But if you were able to throw away this meat, you would not have to go through the frustration. This is because no one is forcing you to hold onto the rotten meat. Similarly, nobody is projecting aggression onto you. It is simply that your previous actions have put you in your present position where you are subject to this aggression. Had you obtained a better birth, had you not been so caught up in samsaric patterns, you would not have become the object of these limitations and suffering. It is you who is to be blamed, not for the sake of blaming, but because this is the rational explanation for your situation. When somebody says something to you, if you do not have the limitation of feeling pain, then you will not go through the projections and sense of defensiveness associated with that experience. Therefore, whatever problems result from your circumstances, you must go through the sufferings involved. Other beings are not to be blamed. Similarly, when other beings go through such projections and all the pain associated with them, you must have patience and extend kindness toward them and toward all beings. Another way to look at the situation is that one of the most efficient and powerful ways of attaining enlightenment is by practicing patience. If nobody is bothering you, there is no occasion to practice patience. Therefore, in Buddhist philosophy and teaching, it is said that even your enemies are to be seen as your most helpful friends. You should be most grateful to them because they have given you the best opportunity to practice patience. This is simply the instruction for the highest forms of practice, given in a clear and naked way so you may have a simple, direct relationship to them.

  Shakyamuni Buddha attained the perfect state of enlightenment in a very short period of time. Having reached the state of complete enlightenment, his activity--which brought about all-pervasive benefit for beings--was also the practice of patience. Life after life, time after time, with beings such as Devadatta trying to evoke anger, impatience, and all other kinds of neurosis in him--and this was very challenging, even for him--he had the commitment to go beyond such reactions. Thus, it is definitely true that our enemies are in fact our best friends. We should be grateful to them all the time because our "real friends" are not able to create that kind of situation for us. Therefore patience, compassion, and love are the keys toward our attainment of enlightenment. When these situations are provided by our enemies, or by the beings that we find difficult to work with, we can see these beings as bodhisattva emanations coming to us to give the highest instructions. In a sense, this is the heart of the instruction, because it is definitely going to cause enlightenment. Since we are to work for the benefit and enlightenment of all beings, how better to repay our debt to beings than with gratitude, compassion, and loving-kindness? This is all the more so because of the benefit these beings are causing: they are giving you the opportunity, not only to attain enlightenment, but also to benefit all beings. If you are afflicted by disease and a prominent physician comes, bringing the most modern and effective medical treatments, it would be incredibly foolish to try to get rid of him or to try to kill him. On the contrary, you should extend the warmest of welcomes toward him. If you train your mind with this understanding, you will find you have reason to be compassionate, and you can become truly gentle and kind. On the other hand, if you just think, "If I am faced with such situations, I will try to practice compassion at that time," it might be very difficult to actually do so. Now that you have seen how sane and important such training is, the healthiest approach is to become familiar with the methods involved and to train yourself with them again and again.

  Another way of looking at it is that the particular being who is causing you harm or projecting hatred toward you may have been your parent in a former lifetime. Perhaps that being has been of great benefit to you in the past, and will be in the future as well, but right now, in this lifetime, he or she is caught up in an insane situation. Maybe you are in a better position than that person to see the situation openly and, therefore, to benefit the person out of a sense of gratitude. You owe that person something from the past, and you might also owe him or her something again in the future. You now have the opportunity to do something to repay that debt or, at the very least, not to cause any further stimulation of negative feelings. The being who is bothering you actually can be viewed as your child, or as a friend whom you always loved and shared kindness with and who suddenly became completely insane as a result of some sort of intoxication or drug or sickness. In this insanity, this person started pouring all of his negativities onto you. When there was a normal exchange of love, kindness, and tenderness between you, the negativities were not there. But now, because the situation is not something the person wanted to create, you would naturally feel a greater sense of love for them, because you know them so well and you are sympathetic. He or she does not really mean to be rude, but is unfortunately caught up in this position. Your feeling for this person would therefore be very real and very sincere. There is no difference between that kind of feeling, which you would extend toward your friend or your child, and the kind of feeling you might be able to develop for anyone who causes you harm or difficulty.

  On a more advanced level, this situation can be seen as being, in essence, dreamlike. In reality, no one is causing anyone harm. There is actually no harm to be caused. It is like a reflection in the mirror. Therefore, it is not going to cause any harm, and there is no true intention of causing harm. This situation, which appears to involve the causing of harm and having to be subjected to it, is in its true nature unoriginated; it is unborn within the nature of the situation. On this more ultimate level, it can be seen that everything exists only in passing. Things that appear only do so moment by moment, and nothing is truly fixed, or substantial, or creating a real obstacle. It is important to practice patience through the understanding of impermanence, along with the fact that there is a definite upheaval of our own neuroses. For example, you may have the experience of wanting to cause harm to, or even kill, certain beings. At such times, perhaps you can realize how stupid it is to get into that neurotic state of mind. Why go through all the effort of such emotions when it is already definite that beings are going to die anyway, whether or not you make the extra effort of wanting to kill them. It is ridiculous and very stupid to see yourself as living a long life and another person as about to die; it is a very confused projection. In fact, you are going through all kinds of suffering, and the other person is going through all kinds of confusion. Why put your effort into creating even more harm when beings already are going through constant harm, suffering, and confusion? Instead, when the upheaval of discursive thoughts arises in your mind (such as wanting to harm beings), a different series of thoughts will be more beneficial. First, realize that this being is going through all kinds of suffering and confusion. Second, understand that whatever anger or aggression this being has projected will cause him or her to go through further sufferings. How could you add to that? To strengthen your attitude that no more harm should be inflicted, you should work on developing the attitude of patience, together with the realization that this being is helping you to practice. Therefore, you should feel grateful to this person and try to help them.

  The most essential and primary point in the mahayana approach is that, by entering the Buddha's path, we have made a courageous commitment by promising to work for the benefit of all beings and to reduce the harm we cause to them. Not only have we made the commitment to benefit all sentient beings, but we have even promised that we will get to the point where we will cause no more harm to beings at all. We must be inwardly sincere in this, honestly trusting in our ability and believing it is possible to go through such development. We must be honest with ourselves in believing that we are going to do something, in understanding that this commitment is sane and healthy and that we are going to live up to it. Therefore, we take on the commitment with a vow. With that commitment, we have to maintain a certain standard of dignity. We have to live up to it for the sake of so many friends who have done the same thing, or who are now trying to do so. Having taken these vows and promised to live up to the goal of a sane, wholesome, and dignified life and to benefit all, we must try to support our friends and never disgrace them in any way. If we reject even one person or one being, it would be a disgrace--a great defeat to our friends as well as to ourselves. This is because we have taken it upon ourselves to work on behalf of all sentient beings. We have committed ourselves by saying that we are going to work for their benefit, so we must continually remind ourselves of the sincere commitment we have taken upon ourselves--of the kindness that this commitment requires, and of how sincerely we must respect it.

  Therefore, when someone seems to be your enemy, maybe you should have this attitude: having taken on this commitment to benefit all beings, this particular person should be the foremost of your disciples, the foremost of the beings you should help. It is as if you have an assemblage of disciples, and the weaker ones must be given more attention. In the same way, sentient beings are going through all kinds of situations, but this particular being must be attended to first. Even if we cannot keep all of these different points in our minds at once, at least we can be mindful of just one of them. We can remind ourselves to be mindful, not just in a formal context, but by declaring it throughout our daily lives. It is possible to have patience, and it is possible not to pay back harmful things to others. It is worth repeating that if you do not actively maintain this mindfulness, it is just empty words to say, "If someone does something to me, then I will have compassion at that time." In that case, it will be very difficult, so it is most important to have patience toward all other beings and to accept that all beings are your friends. Your enemies can indeed be your friends, and the practice of patience is a very compassionate practice whether directed toward others or toward yourself.

  Thus, in practicing the Dharma, there is a tremendous need to develop kindness and compassion through the practice of patience. It is not always pleasant or easy to do this, so the practice of patience itself requires patience! Sometimes it can be terribly disappointing because it is so different from what we are used to. It does not fit with the demands made upon us by the society we live in, nor does it fit with the concepts and attitudes of the people around us. For example, having to sit for hours just listening to someone (such as when receiving teachings) is not necessarily very entertaining. Therefore, we need to develop patience and compassion toward ourselves in this situation. Meditation practice is not always blissful, yet we need to do it, so we need to be compassionate and patient toward ourselves while practicing. If you are trying to work with various situations and people from the point of view of the practice, people will not always understand what you are doing, and often you will not be able to communicate it clearly to them, which can also be quite difficult and disappointing. There can be the feeling of loneliness as well, of being very much on your own in the practice. In all these situations, patience is very important. It is not very easy to be compassionate and patient toward yourself, as you would be toward a person who is having major surgery--someone who is very sick and going through all kinds of pain. Yet you might be able to happily and willingly go through a surgical operation despite the pain, because you know where it is going to lead. Knowing why you are going through this extra pain, when you had already experienced a great deal of pain, you would be patient enough to go through with it, no matter which part of your body had to be opened up.

  In the teachings, it is said that we have to be warriors, victorious warriors. We must declare that we are victorious warriors--and we definitely are, we must be. Someone who has killed thousands of people may claim to be very brave and victorious, but to what avail? Still this person claims to be a brave and victorious warrior. Samsara is vast and filled with beings caught up in confusion and selfish pursuits, and yet this is not discouraging for a real practitioner. He or she is able to say that even if every situation they face is a barrier in their path, nonetheless, they will continue to work for the benefit of beings. Such a stance is not stupid; it is a very courageous and warrior-like position in which we can be victorious, both inwardly and in relation to others. Therefore, the practice of patience is essential. Doing the practice of the Dharma is a virtuous action, and through it, virtuous attitudes are being practiced. If you have the goal of being born into a noble family in your future life, surrounded by wealth and luxury and by many beautiful forms, it is possible that this aim might be fulfilled because of the effect of the practice. But one moment of aggression could completely throw you off balance and destroy whatever accumulation you have made. From this point of view, it is also very important to practice compassion and patience. Practicing patience means practicing compassion and loving-kindness toward all beings. If you are practicing compassion and loving kindness toward beings, there is no need for you to aspire to be born in a noble or influential family. You will simply be born into that situation, and as a result, you will be able to benefit beings. It is like the continuation of a greater and greater project. This is the situation with an incarnate bodhisattva who is born into a beautiful home in a beautiful setting: it does not happen out of attachment. An incarnate bodhisattva who wants to be born into a particular situation or a particular family is just born there. It is like the shade of a huge tree, which is just naturally there. There is no need to put any extra work into creating the shade.

  Whatever viewpoint you take on the practice of loving-kindness and compassion, the practice of patience is most important. There is not any doubt about it. The future buddha, Maitreya Buddha, will be born in a unique form. He will be tall and handsome, uniquely beautiful, with everyone looking up to him and asking, "Why?, How?" The truth of the matter is that he will be born in such a human form out of kindness. Because of the unique way he will appear, he will be able to benefit many human beings, and his appearance will indeed be due to his love and kindness. During this particular time in which we have been born, with the situations we experience right now in the world, there is an immense need for the practice of compassion and loving-kindness. A great deal of destruction and confusion is taking place everywhere in the name of living beings, which indicates a lack of sanity, of patience, and of kindness and compassion. It also reminds us every moment that as practitioners of the Dharma we have to be very sincere. Every day we get reminders from so many different things: from daily news stories and from the criticism, blasphemy, emotional turmoil, paranoia, and frustration going on around us. As an analogy, it is said that people who are blind will never be able to appreciate the beauty of form--of the distinction between different things. This is really a pity. We empathize with them and generate compassion toward them because they are in such an unfortunate situation. Similarly, people who are blind to the right view are also in an unfortunate situation and deserve our compassion. They cause more harm to themselves than to other people, because they do not understand the nature of their wrong view or the way in which their words and attitudes are misinformed and their actions misguided. Unfortunately, such beings often think the solution is another wrong view, another confrontation, or more violence. They might insist that you are being cowardly if you say that fighting back is no solution. Such things happen in politics and many other worldly situations all the time. As practitioners of the Dharma and followers of the Buddha's path, developing the attitude that we have been talking about toward our practice and ourselves--toward each other and toward all sentient beings--is most important at all times.

  To conclude this teaching, it is appropriate to take the attitude of dedicating the merit of this discussion on loving-kindness and compassion and on the Sending and Receiving practice. In addition, all meritorious accumulations everyone has made from beginningless time, we dedicate to all beings, particularly for the benefit of those beings who are caught up in war and hatred. May these beings awaken from such a situation of insanity. May the benefit of our dedication extend to all beings in the six realms, that they may experience total liberation.

  Taken from a transcript of a teaching given by Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche at Karma Triyana Dharmachakra. The transcript is available in its entirety from Namse Bangdzo Bookstore.



Working with Attachment and Desire
  Working with Attachment and Desire / by Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche

  To understand how suffering arises, practice watching your mind. Begin by simply letting it relax. Without thinking of the past or the future, without feeling hope or fear about this thing or that, let it rest comfortably, open and natural. In this space of the mind, there is no problem, no suffering. Then something catches your attention an image, a sound, a smell. Your mind splits into inner and outer, self and other, subject and object. In simply perceiving the object, there is still no problem. But when you zero in on it, you notice that it's big or small, white or black, square or circular; and then you make a judgment for example, whether it's pretty or ugly. Having made that judgment, you react to it: you decide you like it or don't like it. That's when the problem starts, because "I like it" leads to "I want it." We strive to possess what we perceive to be desirable. Similarly, "I don't like it" leads to "I don't want it." If we like something, want it, and can't have it, we suffer. If we want it, get it, and lose it, we suffer. If we don't want it, but can't keep it away, again we suffer. Our suffering seems to occur because of the object of our desire or aversion, but that's not really so; it happens because the mind splits into object-subject duality and becomes involved in wanting or not wanting something.

  We often think the only way to create happiness is to try to control the outer circumstances of our lives, to try to fix what seems wrong or to get rid of everything that bothers us. But the real problem lies in our reaction to those circumstances. What we have to change is the mind and the way it experiences reality.......... Our emotions propel us through extremes, from elation to depression, from good experiences to bad, from happiness to sadness: a constant swinging back and forth. Emotionality is the by-product of hope and fear, attachment and aversion. We have hope because we are attached to something we want. We have fear because we are averse to something we don't want. As we follow our emotions, reacting to our experiences, we create karma: a perpetual motion that inevitably determines our future. We need to stop the extreme swings of the emotional pendulum so that we can find a place of centeredness.

  When we first begin to work with the emotions, we apply the principle of iron cutting iron or diamond cutting diamond. We use thought to change thought. A negative thought such as anger is antidoted by a virtuous thought such as compassion, while desire can be antidoted by the contemplation of impermanence.

  In the case of attachment, begin by examining what it is you're attached to. For example, you might, after much effort, succeed in becoming famous, thinking this will make you happy. Then your fame triggers jealousy in someone, who tries to shoot you. What you worked so hard to create is the cause of your own suffering. Or you might work very hard to become wealthy, thinking this will bring happiness, only to lose all your money. The loss of wealth in itself is not the source of suffering, only attachment to having it.......... We can lessen attachment by contemplating impermanence. It is certain that whatever we're attached to will either change or be lost. A person may die or go away, a friend may become an enemy, a thief may steal our money. Even our body, to which we're most attached, will be gone one day. Knowing this not only helps to reduce our attachment, but gives us a greater appreciation of what we have while we have it. For example, there is nothing wrong with money, but if we're attached to it, we'll suffer when we lose it. Instead, we can appreciate it while it lasts, enjoy it and enjoy sharing it with others, and at the same time know it's impermanent. Then when we lose it, the emotional pendulum won't make as wide a swing toward sadness.

  Imagine two people who buy the same kind of watch on the same day at the same shop. The first person thinks, "This is a very nice watch. It will be helpful to me, but it may not last long." The second person thinks, "This is the best watch I've ever had. No matter what happens, I can't lose it or let it break." If both people lose their watch, the one who is attached will be much more upset than the other. If we are fooled by life and invest great value in one thing or another, we may find ourselves fighting for what we want and against any opposition. We may think that what we're fighting for is lasting, true, and real, but it's not. It's impermanent, it's not true, it's not lasting, and ultimately, it's not even real.

  Our life can be compared to an afternoon at a shopping center. We walk through the shops, led by our desires, taking things off the shelves and tossing them in our baskets. We wander around, looking at everything, wanting and longing. We see a person or two, maybe smile and continue on, never to see them again.......... That's what life is like. Driven by desire, we don't appreciate the preciousness of what we already have. We need to realize that this time with our loved ones, our friends, our family, our co-workers is very brief. Even if we lived to a hundred and fifty, that would be very little time to enjoy and utilize our human opportunity.

  Young people think their lives will be long; old people think life will end soon. But we can't assume these things. Our life comes with a built-in expiration date. There are many strong and healthy people who die young, while many of the old and sick and feeble live on and on. Not knowing when we'll die, we need to develop an appreciation for and acceptance of what we have, while we have it, rather than continuing to find fault with our experience and seeking, incessantly, to fulfill our desires.

  If we start worrying whether our nose is too big or too small, we should think, "What if I had no head? -- now that would be a problem!" As long as we have life, we should rejoice. If everything doesn't go exactly as we'd like, we can accept it. If we contemplate impermanence deeply, patience and compassion will arise. We will hold less to the apparent truth of our experience, and the mind will become more flexible. Realizing that one day this body will be buried or burned, we will rejoice in every moment we have rather than make ourselves or others unhappy. Now we are afflicted by "me-my-mine-itis," a condition caused by ignorance. Our self-centeredness and self-important thinking have become very strong habits. In order to change them, we need to refocus. Instead of concerning ourselves with "I" all the time, we must redirect our attention to "you" or "them" or "others." Reducing self-importance lessens the attachment that stems from it. When we focus outside ourselves, ultimately we realize the equality of ourselves and all other beings. Everybody wants happiness; nobody wants to suffer. Our attachment to our own happiness expands to an attachment to the happiness of all.

  Until now our desires have tended to be very short term, superficial, and selfish. If we are going to wish for something, let it be nothing less than complete enlightenment for all beings. That's something worthy of desire. Continually reminding ourselves of what is truly worth wanting is an important element of pure practice. Desire and attachment won't change overnight. But desire becomes less ordinary as we redirect our worldly yearning toward the aspiration to do everything we can to help all beings find unchanging happiness. We don't have to abandon the ordinary objects of our desires, relationships, wealth, fame, but as we contemplate their impermanence, we become less attached to them. Rejoicing in our good fortune when they arise, yet recognizing that they won't last, we begin to develop spiritual qualities. We commit fewer of the harmful actions that result from attachment, and hence create less negative karma; we generate more fortunate karma, and mind's positive qualities gradually increase. Eventually, as our meditation practice matures, we can try an approach that's different from contemplation, different from using thought to change thought: revealing the deeper nature, or wisdom principle, of the emotions as they arise.

  If you are in the midst of a desire attack something has captured your mind and you must have it -- you won't get rid of the desire by trying to suppress it. Instead, you can begin to see through desire by examining what it is. When it arises in the mind, ask yourself, "Where does it come from? Where does it dwell? Can it be described? Does it have any color, shape, or form? When it disappears, where does it go?" This is an interesting situation. You can say that desire exists, but if you search for the experience, you can't quite grasp it. On the other hand, if you say it doesn't exist, you're denying the obvious fact that you are feeling desire. You can't say that it exists, nor can you say that it does not exist. You can't say that it's "both" or "neither," that it both does exist and does not exist, or that it neither exists nor does not not-exist. This is the meaning of the true nature of desire beyond the extremes of conceptual mind.

  It's our failure to understand the essential nature of emotion that gets us into trouble. Once we do, the emotion tends to dissolve. Then we're neither repressing nor encouraging it. We are simply looking clearly at what is taking place. If we set a cloudy glass of water aside for a while, it will settle by itself and become clear. Instead of judging the experience of desire, we look directly at its nature, what is known as "liberating it in its own ground." Each negative emotion, or mental poison, has an inherent perfection that we don't recognize because we are so accustomed to its appearance as emotion. The true nature of the five poisons -- ignorance, attachment, aversion, jealousy and pride -- is the five wisdoms. Just as poison can be taken medicinally to effect a cure, each poison of the mind, worked with properly, can be resolved into its wisdom nature and thus enhance our spiritual practice.

  If while in the throes of desire, you simply relax, without moving your attention, that space of the mind is called discriminating wisdom. You don't abandon desire, instead you reveal its wisdom nature.

Questions & Answers
  Question: I'm not sure I understand what you mean by "liberating an emotion in its own ground.".......... Response: Our habit, when an emotion arises, is to become involved in analyzing and reacting to the apparent cause: the outer object. If, instead, we simply, without attachment or aversion, hatred or involvement, peel open the emotion, we will reveal and experience its wisdom nature. When we are feeling puffed up and on top of the world, instead of either indulging in our pride or pushing it away, we relax the mind and reveal the intrinsic nature of pride as the wisdom of equanimity... In working with the emotions we can apply different methods. When our mind is steeped in duality, in object-subject perception, we can cut iron with iron: we antidote a negative thought with a positive one, attachment to our own happiness with attachment to the happiness of others. If we are able to relax the dualistic habit of the mind, we can experience the true essence, or "ground," of an emotion and thus "liberate it in its own ground." In this way, its wisdom principle is revealed: pride as the wisdom of equanimity; jealousy as all-accomplishing wisdom; attachment and desire as discriminating wisdom; anger and aversion as mirror-like wisdom; and ignorance as dharmadhatu wisdom, the wisdom of the true nature of reality.

  Question: Can you say more about how contemplating impermanence reduces attachment?.......... Response: Imagine a child and an adult on the beach building a sand castle. The adult has never taken the sand castle to be permanent or real, and isn't attached to it. When a wave comes in and washes it away or some other children come along and kick it down, the adult doesn't suffer. But the child has begun to think of it as a real house that will last forever, and so suffers when it's lost. Like the child, we have pretended for so long that our experience is stable and reliable that we have great attachment to it and suffer when it changes. If we maintain an awareness of impermanence, then we are never completely fooled by the phenomena of samsara... If you contemplate the fact that you don't have long to live, it will help you. You'll think, "In the time that I have left, why follow this anger or attachment, which will only produce more confusion and delusion? If I take what's impermanent so seriously and try to grasp it or push it away, then I'm only imagining as solid what isn't solid. I'm only further complicating, and perpetuating, the delusions of samsara. I won't do that! I'll use this attachment or this aversion, this pride or this jealousy, as practice." Practice isn't only sitting on a cushion. When you're there with the experience of desire or anger, right there where the mind is active, that is where you practice, at each moment, each step of your life.

  Question: In contemplating impermanence I find my attachment lessening to a certain extent, but I wonder how far I should go in dropping things.......... Response: You need to be discriminating in what you address first. Eventually you may drop everything, but begin by abandoning the mind's poisons; for example, anger. Instead of thinking, "Why wash these dishes, they're impermanent?" let go of your anger at having to do them. Also understand that whatever arises in the mind that sparks your anger is impermanent. The anger itself is impermanent. Whatever someone said to you that's affected you in a negative way, that too is impermanent. Realize that these are only words, sounds, not something lasting... The next thing to drop is attachment to having your own way. When you understand impermanence, it doesn't matter so much if things are going as you think they should. If they are, it's all right. If not, that's all right, too. When you practice like this, the mind will slowly develop more balance. It won't flip one way or the other according to whether or not you get what you want.

  Question: Is there anything wrong with being happy or sad, with feeling our emotions?.......... Response: Reminding ourselves when we experience happiness that it's impermanent, that it will eventually disappear, will help us to cherish and enjoy it while it lasts. At the same time, we won't become so attached to it or fixated on it, and we won't experience as much pain when it's gone. In the same way, when we experience pain, sorrow, or loss, we should remind ourselves that these things, too, are impermanent, which will alleviate our suffering. So what keeps us balanced is our ongoing awareness of impermanence.

  Question: Is the self still involved as we expand the focus of our attachment to the needs of others?.......... Response: If you were bound with ropes tied in many knots, in order to become free you would have to release the knots, one by one, in the opposite order in which they were originally tied. First you'd release the last knot, then the second to the last, and so forth, until you undid the first, the one closest to you... We're bound by many knots, including many kinds of attachment. Ideally we should have no clinging at all, but since that's not the case, we use attachment to cut attachment. We begin by untying the last knot: by replacing attachment to our own needs and desires with attachment to the happiness of others.

  We need to understand that selfish attachment will sooner or later create problems. How? If you are attached to your own needs and desires, if you like to be happy and don't like to suffer, when something minor goes wrong it will seem gigantic. You will focus on it morning to night, exacerbating the problem. A crack in a teacup will begin to seem like the Grand Canyon after examination under the microscope of your constant attention.......... This self-focusing is itself a kind of meditation. Meditation means bringing something back to the mind again and again. If we repeat virtuous thoughts and rest in mind's nature, this can lead to enlightenment. But self-important meditation will only produce endless suffering. Focusing on our problems may even result in suicide, because we can become so preoccupied with our suffering that life seems unbearable and without purpose. Suicide is the worst of solutions because such extreme attachment to death and aversion to human life can close the door to future human rebirth.

  So we need to begin by reducing our self-focus and self-important thoughts. To do so, we remind ourselves that we aren't the only ones who want to be happy -- everyone wants to be happy. Though others seek happiness, they may not understand how to go about accomplishing it, whereas if we have some understanding of the spiritual path, we can perhaps help and support them in their efforts........... We remind ourselves that of course we'll encounter problems. We're humans. But though problems arise, we mustn't give them any power. Everyone has problems, many far worse than our own. As we contemplate this, our view expands to encompass the suffering of others. As our compassion deepens, our relentless self-focusing is reduced and we become more intent on helping others and better able to do so.......... If we are physically sick, it's useful to be attached to the medicine that will make us well. However, once we're cured, that attachment needs to be cut. Otherwise the very medicine that cured us could make us sick again. Now we need the medicine of attachment to benefiting others in order to cut our self-attachment. We use attachment to change attachment. Eventually, if we are to attain enlightenment, attachment itself must be cut.



  Training in Shamatha Meditation, the basic meditation practice, is very important and will bring many benefits. With consistent practice, we acquire calmness and clarity of mind as well as a sense of mental precision. We also develop a greater perception of space, and are able to view situations properly and more precisely within this experience of space. Yet, as we work with this technique and begin to appreciate the qualities that develop from it, we should begin to develop a greater vision of what we can accomplish for other beings, and how we can best apply what we have learned to the situations around us....... Although basic meditation is extremely important, it is not the only thing you should be content practicing. It does provide some sense of openness, and helps us to see our confusion more clearly and with less fear, but it does not uproot our confusion completely. Application of different stages of skillful means is necessary if we are to cut through the confusion, the paranoia, and the habitual patterns that we have developed. In this way, practicing basic meditation is like sharpening our minds, facilitating our ability to appreciate and work more effectively with situations and materials that exist around us. For example, when you sharpen an axe, if you just keep sharpening it and sharpening it for no reason, there is not much point to your efforts. But, if you use it for some purpose, like chopping wood, then it makes great sense to sharpen it....... In order to further develop and integrate skillful means on the path, the openness and the firm grounding cultivated in the basic meditation practice are indispensable. Yet, if we are content to practice only the basic meditation, after a while we will not be able to do without it, and it will become just another habitual pattern or attachment. Instead of developing greater vision and sense of space, we may be developing different kinds of claustrophobia. Therefore, while the mind becomes calm, clear, and precise, it must also be playful enough to utilize the skills it has developed....... Realistically, we must be aware that as our practices become more meaningful, continuous transformations are necessary to ensure progress. We must not get so comfortable at one stage of development that we are overwhelmed by any situations of transformation. Mentally, we may have advanced somewhat, but from an ultimate point of view, we still have not achieved perfect sanity. For instance, if you are tied up, it does not matter whether the rope is black or white; as long as you stay bound, you will remain in a state of fixation and stagnation. The important thing is to get free. The practices we work with are designed to help us understand the nature of ego so we can recognize the possibilities of cutting through or unfolding the patterns of ego clinging. And if our practice--be it shamatha meditation or any other practice--is not leading in such directions, then we are missing the point. Consequently, whatever skillful means we can exercise through the practice of shamatha will aid us in fulfilling our potential for greater sanity and wakefulness....... When we talk about cutting through ego-clinging, we must not misunderstand and think that there is something substantial and solid that needs to be transferred or taken out, or that somebody could take out for us. Instead, there is something very narrow and rigid about our attitude and the way we perceive the world, and readjustment is necessary. The practice we are going to work with demands a realistic concern, not simply about ourselves, but about the environment and the beings around us; it also demands a sense of responsibility for our past, present, and potential actions. We must develop a greater sense of openness in order to accommodate situations that might demand some participation or responsibility, no matter how unpleasant or how little they accord with our desires or expectations....... To begin to nurture this understanding and vision, we can consider the traditional teachings which elucidate the Buddhist view of the nature of samsaric beings. This outlook is that all beings have been entangled in various kinds of painful confusion and paranoia from beginningless time, and there is every possibility that this will continue into the future. Comprehending this, we desire to know (and we are not afraid to actually find out) how this situation has transpired, and if there is some way we could be more responsible about it....... In traditional Buddhism, we consider all sentient beings as having once been our mothers or having acted in some protective, caring capacity toward us. Given the interrelated nature of existence, this is quite conceivable. If we sincerely probe into the situation even further, we begin to realize that we are actually very responsible for a great deal of the pain and suffering that beings are experiencing. When these beings were our mothers, they did everything possible to try to possess us, to protect us, and to bring us up, with tremendous attachment and clinging. Because of this, they developed strong patterns of paranoia, confusion, and constriction, which constantly cause them intense pain....... If you examine the relationship with your mother within this lifetime, you can begin to appreciate the frustration, the embarrassment, the difficulties, and the suffering that you have caused endless beings. She had to go through a tremendous amount of embarrassment attempting to protect you, experiencing harm and developing confusion in subtle and gross ways. No matter how demanding and frustrating it was, no matter how inconsiderate and ungrateful you were, no matter how much turmoil and chaos you precipitated, still she continued to care for and attend to you when you were unable to care for yourself. Even now, when you are grown up, she continues to cling to you and wants to protect you from various situations of fear, confusion, and so on. Whereas, as far as you are concerned, quite frankly, you have not done anything very beneficial for her. On the contrary, you have always wanted more, thinking, "Well, she didn't do this or that for me, and she could have done a little bit better in so many cases." Obviously, we have been very ungrateful and inconsiderate....... It is possible that your mother is going through the deepest suffering and confusion as a result of the patterns that were built up and the circumstances that were undergone to guarantee your very existence. Therefore, you must awaken to the responsibility you need to take. Despite any unpleasantness and pain, you must acknowledge the suffering you have caused and develop a concern for creating an environment of sanity. If you can recognize this, then--although you are confused and have much to work through--there is still a sense of courage and a determination that it is time to take sincere action. We cannot always try to hide and pretend that we do not actually see the situation. It is important that you be sincere and honest with yourself in thinking about the confusion you have brought into being. At this point you should be responsible enough to actually bring about some positive changes and contribute towards the unfolding of confusion. We should train our minds with this understanding....... Some people might take the easy way out and brush it aside, saying, "Yes, for certain individuals I might have caused problems and created confusion, and maybe there are a few things for which I should be grateful and for which I should take responsibility. But, still, there is nothing I can do about it at this point." And there are those who might say, "Actually, those other people have been responsible for the difficulties and confusion I'm going through. They are the ones who should do something about it." This just means they have shifted accountability for their own lives onto somebody else and are not willing to become responsible people. For them, responsibility is a very scary thing to handle, or even think about. It should be quite different for someone who is a practitioner of the Dharma, having practiced meditation and having some sense of who we are. Through the meditation practice we should have a sense of openness towards ourselves and others, some precision of insight, and some clarity of mind. When we see the suffering and the confusion that beings are going through, we can actually open whatever veils we have created and see that there is confusion, it is real, and it is taking place. And because we have a sense of our true essence, we can actually do something to help eliminate this suffering. A genuine desire to sincerely participate arises....... Through the meditation practice, it is possible to develop a situation of friendship with yourself, from which you can radiate friendship towards others. Although a situation may look very frustrating and depressing, it is not necessary to remain in that state of mind, and maybe you can illuminate the situation with this friendliness and generate a warm and affectionate atmosphere....... As individuals we can make contributions towards the elimination of suffering and the creation of joy and happiness. In fact, if you had a true sense of who you are and what you could accomplish, it would be so overwhelming as to cause tears of joy and enthusiasm. Therefore, you should have confidence in your ability to make large and powerful strides. After all, it is not that you are really tied down or that you have to be so uptight....... As far as actually bringing about tremendous friendship and happiness in the lives of others, and eliminating all suffering and confusions, you may have a lot of patterns that you need to work out yourself, and may not immediately be able to perform such a service. For this reason, you should first train your mind with these possibilities until you begin to appreciate who you are and what you can do. When the mind has been trained properly, your body and speech synchronize with the responsibility that the mind has taken. Accordingly, in the sutras it is said, "Remain in the meditative state of loving-kindness," which means that you should train your mind with compassionate awareness and develop your ability to actually illuminate and radiate such friendship. In order for our body and speech to spontaneously appreciate and thus support the training of the mind, we use the traditional mind training practice of Tonglen, or the "sending and receiving" practice....... In the sending and receiving practice, the mind is trained in a meditative way, with a basic understanding of the friendship and the goodness that could be brought about. There is also a sense of responsibility towards eliminating the sufferings and the confusions of others. To begin with, we sit in the formal meditation position and follow the breath. With the outgoing breath, we send out towards all beings whatever goodness, health, and wholesome situation we have. As a result, all beings radiate with goodness, health and well-being, creating an environment of richness and sanity. You can also be more specific, sending out joy and health to a particular being, such as your mother or the person for whom you have the greatest concern. Whatever seems appropriate is fine. Then, while remaining confident in your ability to accommodate the negativities of others, you take in with the incoming breath all the confusion, limitations, and sufferings of other beings....... Working with the breath in this way, you train the mind by offering others all the wakefulness you have, and by taking all the confusion and paranoia of others on yourself. It is as if a bright light were going out with the breath towards all beings, representing your good and wholesome qualities. With the incoming breath, it is as if the embodiment of all suffering were coming towards you, which you then gladly take in. This giving and taking is, in a sense, what we have been trying to do in the practice all along, but up to this point we have not been able to generate true compassion or cut through the ego-clinging. On the contrary, everything has been for the purpose of self-gratification, for protection and security, and has only resulted in greater dissatisfaction. This is why it is necessary to change your attitude and the way you relate to the world at large....... Through this practice, we are able to see ourselves more clearly and let go of our clinging, loosening the state of fixation while also generating compassion towards others. Nurturing this attitude in our minds is important, because, although we often do some sort of giving and receiving, it is always incomplete because of the self aggrandizement we seek and the doubts and expectations we have. One moment we will be glowing with a bright smile, and the next moment we will be completely frozen, because we have not been properly trained....... To that end, a vital meditation practice will be consistent and will incorporate the Tonglen discipline of sending and receiving. It will also bring positive effects into post-meditation situations. If you understand and take your responsibilities sincerely, and meditate consistently, it is entirely possible that you will have the ability to produce these effects. You will feel that everyone, no matter who they are, is actually quite friendly and amiable, and that no one intentionally means to do harm. You will begin to understand that there may be great confusion in the surrounding world, but there is also some capacity for friendship. Whatever dissonance is taking place will not be seen as intentional, but will be recognized as a result of the confusion and limitations beings suffer, and this will only inspire you to take on even more responsibility. Furthermore, in all activities you will generate kindness, tenderness, and compassion; you will speak gentle and kind words accompanied by comforting body gestures. You will be constantly giving of yourself to others. There will be no sense of self-concern or selfish pride because you will identify with the responsibilities you have taken...... There may be situations where kindness shown towards beings who cannot appreciate it, will result in projections of further confusion. However, because of intensive meditation, and because of the understanding that has been developed, you will be able to accommodate that neurosis and perceive its unintentional nature. In this state of compassion, there is a sincere desire to benefit others however we can. Because of these sane intentions and activities, there will be a great deal of inner and spiritual development. Outwardly, you become a very decent, responsible, genial person....... We like to talk about the possibilities of a sane society where everyone is responsible and can generate a friendly environment and live in a dignified, or uplifted, manner. This is definitely possible in the ordinary world, as well as in terms of the spiritual realm and the experience of bodhisattva realization. It is not something out there beyond reach; instead, it is an inherent quality that is as close as home. It is simply a question of some work and integration. If you could become truly responsible for yourself and for others, if you could become responsible for your total liberation, then you could make a tremendous contribution to creating a very dignified and sane society. This is what the Tonglen training can bring into the world.

  Taken from a transcript of a teaching given at Karma Triyana Dharmachakra by Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche.



  As we go through our lives, we undergo tremendous struggles; yet we do not seem able to accomplish or achieve what we would like. In addition, there are a great many undesirable things that we would like to avoid, but we are unable to do so. As a result of these conflicts, we experience a great deal of pain and suffering. Yet the simple truth is that each and every one of us inherently possesses powerful resources. Each of us has the potential to experience true wisdom, or, for that matter, transcendent awareness; we have the potential to express gentleness and genuine compassion; we have the potential to generate great warmth and kindness towards ourselves and others; we have the potential to engender openness and patience. Nevertheless, we have misconceptions about ourselves and the world around us. We wrongly assume that that which we all desire--a true sense of well-being and contentment--comes from external situations, things outside of ourselves.

  Armed with this erroneous notion, we try to solve our internal conflict and dissatisfaction externally. But the truth of the matter is that no matter how much we try to manipulate external things to secure a complete sense of well-being for ourselves, we will never have complete control over external reality. All along, we have been working with the wrong tools, overlooking the actual, workable potentialities and concentrating on superficial things, hoping something genuine and unconditioned will come out of that. But whatever is superficial runs counter to that which is genuinely true. This seems to be our basic problem, confusing our external situation with our own potential for internal well-being and mental harmony. Another serious delusion we have is the unyielding primacy of our egocentricity, our "I for myself" attitude. We limit our perspective to our own happiness, our own satisfaction. We are concerned only with how we can make things better in our lives, and if it creates problems or inconveniences for anyone else, it doesn't matter, because we need this or that for ourselves. Thus we create a fence, or an enclosure, around ourselves. Once this egoistic mechanism has been constructed, it causes an upheaval of conflicting emotions, such as jealousy, aggression, and so forth.

  When we limit our minds to a selfish notion of happiness and well-being, obstacles of all kinds will seem to arise spontaneously in order to thwart our plans or destroy what we have created around ourselves. Consequently, we respond to these obstacles with aggression or with jealousy, feeling that our private enclosure is being threatened or jeopardized. And we know from personal experience that when conflicting emotions are constantly running rampant in our lives, there is no possibility of experiencing or even appreciating any sense of well-being, goodness, or true sanity. When we stop to think about it, we find our lives full of uncomfortable experiences. We all know certain individuals whose lives seem to be constantly plagued with problems, no matter where they are. Their relationships with other people do not work out, nor do their living or job arrangements. They try to find new acquaintances, or they move to another place, and that does not work out either. They find themselves in situations where it seems as if the world is isolating them. They feel as though they were excluded from the world, in some sense. In this way, wherever they go they have very painful experiences. This is caused by the tremendous expectations they have of others and of the world at large. Instead of recognizing that they have the inherent potential to experience this for themselves, no matter who they are or what their current situation is, it is as if they believe the world owes them the experience of well-being and goodness. Failing to acknowledge their own resourcefulness, they indulge in this deception and develop a sense of total deprivation about themselves. There are other individuals who seem to have an atmosphere of pleasantness or friendliness around them, who have endearing personalities and are well mannered and cultured. Wherever these individuals go, they feel good about themselves and have healthy, positive attitudes about things. They can generously extend genuine warmth and offer others a genial smile. They are able to do this because there is an element of stability and gentleness, maybe even clarity, about their minds.

  Our lives can be led in the same fashion. Since we basically experience our lives through the filter of our minds, the makeup of our minds will determine the quality of our lives. For instance, when we experience a very gentle, easy mind, we then allow ourselves to feel good about who we are, and the things that we do become enjoyable. We are able to enjoy the food we eat, and our interactions with others are very good. On the other hand, when we have a disturbed mind, a mind of aggression and jealousy, subject to the upheaval of conflicting emotions, we are not able to fully enjoy anything. Even if we are surrounded by the best of things--good companions, good food, and various other luxuries--we cannot enjoy them. In this case, it would not be too farfetched to say that our minds have flipped upside down, because all priorities are completely inverted. While we have the potential to be totally free from deception and to experience genuine love for ourselves and others, we still entertain ourselves with the illusion of limitations. We believe that our only resort is to change the phenomenal world outside of ourselves. Hence, while we strive for well-being and an experience of life that is free of suffering, as long as we are not free from conflicting emotions such as aggression and jealousy, we are never going to be free from dissatisfactions of one kind or another.

  As you begin to understand this predicament, you may start entertaining various solutions to it in your mind, thinking that perhaps you should retreat to a secluded place where you would be free of the objects that arouse aggressive and jealous tendencies. But this would not solve the problem. These conflicting emotions are mental patterns, and even if we go to a place of seclusion, we are going to take these habits with us. And just as we usually do, we will then open up a world of speculation (What went wrong in the past? What good or bad things might happen in the future?) and create a mental world that will become the basis for further intensification and amplification of these conflicting emotions. The solution to our problem is basically quite simple. Since the problem begins with the mind, we must go where the problem is, and work with the mind. As was mentioned earlier, although our minds have become weakened by conflicting emotions and habitual tendencies, we do have the potential to become completely self-liberated of these conditionings and to express our inherent freshness in the true, unconditioned heart of compassion and loving-kindness. Loving-kindness, or maitri, is a Buddhist term denoting the sincere desire for others to experience happiness and well-being. And when this happiness is achieved, there is genuine rejoicing.

  Most of us are vaguely familiar with this attitude, because we are able to feel that way when our friends or relatives experience good fortune, and when something is going well for them, we want it to continue. We are also familiar with the attitude of compassion in a general sense. When friends or relatives are experiencing difficulties, we genuinely wish for them to become free of these sufferings. We have these basic qualities, but our experience of loving-kindness and compassion is, shall we say, tainted. It is something like the toy we call a yo-yo: you play with it and make it spin, but there is always a string attached. Similarly, we can afford genuine sympathy, concern, and loving-kindness for these people because they are our relatives, our friends, because they somehow seem to fit within our territory. There is a string attached; the pull is back towards ourselves. Therefore, egocentric tendencies and fixations remain, so these experiences are contaminated and are not free from deception. Still, although we have not worked on developing these qualities, we have glimpses of them because they are inherent potentialities. At present, our experience of the mind has the shortcomings and defects of habitual conditionings. At the same time, our mind has the potential to become completely free of defects and limitations. The difference between the defects and the potential is great; the defects are entirely extraneous to the mind, while the potential is inherent. Therefore, no matter how serious our present limitations may be, we can work with our minds and achieve a state completely free of such limitations. To put it another way, as long as we are experiencing a defect like jealousy or envy, we cannot experience loving-kindness. And when we are experiencing loving-kindness, we cannot experience jealousy or envy. The two cannot happen at the same time. To be jealous is to desire someone else's well-being and success for yourself. To experience loving-kindness, on the other hand, is to be happy for others and rejoice when you witness their well-being and success, whether it be of a material or a spiritual nature. Jealousy runs completely counter to this disposition. In a similar fashion, when you experience genuine compassion, you cannot simultaneously experience hatred, anger, or aggression. As long as there is the one, it will displace the other.

  The Buddhist teachings instruct us to practice true loving-kindness and compassion, but, in order to genuinely do so, perhaps you should first sit down and allow yourself a few moments of reflection. Become aware of the fact that each day is spent in constant restlessness, constant striving, constant preoccupation. This is how it has always been, because you do not want to experience suffering, pain, or discomfort; you want to experience well-being and contentment. You want to feel good about your life, you want your life to be meaningful. Your experience of life is meaningful to you; that is why you are continuously striving, constantly busy. Just as you want to avoid the experience of suffering, and just as you want to experience happiness and well-being, so too does each and every being want to avoid suffering and to experience its own well-being. This is a fundamental truth, no matter what their way of life is or how it may appear. This being so, how could you then cause suffering to anybody else? Knowing that you would not like others to inflict sufferings upon you, how could you inflict suffering upon others?

  This is why it is necessary to work with the mind. You may not immediately be able to wipe away the sufferings of others on any grand scale, or immediately be able to permeate the lives of each and every being with happiness and well-being. But you can certainly cease to harm yourself and others. To brush it aside just because the results are not immediately tangible, and then continue to harm yourself and others, would reveal an attitude lacking in true understanding and compassion. As we have seen, the conflicting emotions jealousy, anger, aggression, and so forth--cause harm, and genuine loving-kindness and compassion bring about well-being and happiness. As is said in the teachings, "The best protection, for oneself and for others, is true loving-kindness and compassion." Again, since we have the potential, we must begin to work with our minds and use the mind's potential to free itself of defects. Furthermore, we have to scrutinize our lives and what we feel to be the purpose of our lives. Then, if we have achieved any level of clarity, we will realize that an adjustment of our minds is essential. We must become more thoughtful and considerate. We cannot afford to act on impulse, driven by the upheaval of conflicting emotions, causing harm to ourselves and others both in the present and in the future.

  It is not, however, easy to become victorious over our confusion and illusions. It is as if our minds have walled themselves in. We must begin to break through the barriers of our conditionings. In the teachings of the Buddha, the way to generate an accommodating, open mind is through the practice of sitting meditation, known in Tibetan as shinay. Shi means stability, tranquility, or harmony. Nay means to dwell or to stay. So, shinay literally means to dwell in stability, in tranquility. Although we may understand the importance of experiencing a noble heart of compassion and loving-kindness, when it comes to actually practicing it, our egoistic patterns will invariably obstruct or deflect our intentions. This is why we must first train our chaotic and constantly distracted minds through the practice of basic meditation. This will help us to develop a habitually centered and tranquil mind. One of the most seriously detrimental attitudes we can take is to view ego's negative habitual patterns as permanent aspects of our personalities, to attribute such defects as anger or jealousy to our natures. It is very harmful and destructive to make no effort, to simply say, "I can't do anything about it because it's my nature." From the point of view of Buddhist psychology, and even of basic common sense, this is faulty reasoning. The experience of anger, jealousy, or aggression is an experience of the mind. It arises because of habitual patterns, because of mental conditionings. When we say something is a part of our nature, it makes it seem to be a permanent, unchangeable thing. But the mind is the easiest thing to change. On the other hand, if we were talking about the body, maybe that would be harder to change. For instance, Rinpoche says, now that he has become an old man, no matter how much he wants to be a young person, it is not going to happen. It is difficult to change these physical things. But the mind is the easiest thing to change. As we know from experience, just one little thing can make someone extremely happy. And just one little thing can make someone raging mad. It does not take anything major to set the mind reeling in one direction or the other, because it changes so easily. So we cannot make excuses and claim that limitations are a part of our "nature," because they are not, and there is no way to prove that they are.

  Excerpt of a teaching given by Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche on December 16, 1986 at Karma Triyana Dharmachakra.



  The Diligent Practitioner of Dharma is always mindful of the transience of life, for we have no idea what is going to happen in the future or when we will die. By contemplating how or when death will come, we learn to appreciate the impermanence of life, and to develop a sense of renunciation. In this way, we become less involved in mundane attachments. It is like planning a move from one geographical location to another. A wise person cultivates an attitude that accepts the idea, then plans the change skillfully, doing important chores ahead of time, so that at his new house everything will be ready and waiting. Once he arrives, he will be less concerned about the home he has left and more able to concentrate on settling down.

  In the same way, realizing how short and temporary this life is allows us to devote more energy to practicing the Dharma. This is a more fruitful undertaking than being obsessed with material pleasures, for a time is going to come when none of these possessions can be claimed. Indeed, a time will come when we cannot take along even one strand of hair. Our friends may be willing to help us now, but in the future, not they, or any possessions or wealth will have a chance to help us. Our position as Dharma practitioners is very rare, for even famous and rich people may not have the opportunity that we have. Because our lives are limited, we should regard the Dharma and the spiritual master as very, very precious.

  The connection between the spiritual master and the disciple cannot be stressed enough. The Buddhas and bodhisattvas of the past related to the Dharma first as ordinary sentient beings, and only through proper guidance did they integrate the teachings and achieve enlightenment. From this point, they went on to indestructible omniscience and eternal bliss. Such a state of mind, and the ability to benefit others, comes only from a proper relationship with the master. It is essential to relate to the master in a sincere and genuine way, for he guides us to the proper understanding of the experiences that come with practice. This practice takes a long time to perfect, and we cannot expect fruition to come about in a day or two, or even a few years. The nature of the mind can be explained in three points: how we perceive, how we relate to these perceptions, and the nature of phenomena. Perceptions, projections, and phenomena are all inseparable elements of the mind. Without the mind we have nothing to perceive and no way to relate to what is happening. All shapes, even nightmarish forms, are there because of the mind. If there was no mind, there would be no form. Because a blind man cannot see, for him, there is no color. We perceive colors when our eye consciousness is working, and with this consciousness we distinguish and label the different colors. In terms of ultimate reality, there is no difference between color and mind, or between the labels we give a color and the mind.

  In the same way, sound is not an entity separate from the mind that hears it, and the ear consciousness reflects the inseparable quality of sound and mind. Likewise, the quality of each sense perception is embodied as a sense consciousness--sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch. Although sense experiences and their labels are not separate in terms of ultimate reality, we fail to take this perspective, placing what we sense and that which is sensing into different categories. If we acknowledge that there are no perceptions without the mind, we can understand that phenomena, too, are dependent on mind. Perceived objects do not exist independently and do not have a permanent quality of their own, and labels are just reference points that we devise to support the existence of our thoughts or perceptions. Labels such as good/bad, happy/sad, long/short, and hot/cold are created by the mind, and do not in themselves hold any inherent truth. Because everything is a function of the mind, phenomena are not things in themselves, but are what the mind is and how the mind relates to them. Acknowledging that phenomena are mental projections, we can achieve greater renunciation for there really is no point in getting attached to a situation that is not what it seems to be. Going further, we can actually look into our own mind and examine it. This is a fluid situation. We have identified the quality of knowing, but we cannot locate or label that quality. We cannot give our consciousness a fixed shape or color, for the nature of mind itself is insubstantial. That which identifies, relates to, and labels other things does not itself possess a fixed identity. This step-by-step method--examining the perceiver in relation to the perceived--can help us to realize the unborn and insubstantial quality of all things. We are working toward unfolding the nature of everything, which is sunyata or emptiness.

  Sunyata is not a vacuum or a state of nothingness. Indeed, an enlightened yogi sees the same things we do. At the same time, he or she appreciates the insubstantial and changing quality of everything, and understands that projections and perceptions can cause no harm or trouble. We, on the other hand, regard our projections as something substantial, and we believe that they support and sustain us. We think they are real; indeed, for us this is total reality. We fixate on our perceived reality and become attached to it. That is how we become trapped in our own projections. To go beyond intellectual understanding to a spontaneous experience of sunyata is to experience the nature of the mind as dharmakaya. This state manifests as an all-pervading quality of space. When a practitioner merges his mind with the dharmakaya, he or she continues to experience everything as before, but also sees the transience of all things. He knows at that point that his mind is insubstantial and non-compounded.

  The state of mind in which we see phenomena, yet perceive it without grasping, is called "the mind of great bliss." Although we do not categorize or focus attention on any fixed thing, we see everything that dawns in the consciousness distinctly, without mistaking one for the other. Such is clarity, and if we see clearly, we can sustain a blissful state without effort. In our lineage this is called "giving birth to the experience of mahamudra." As this awareness dawns, the quality of mind itself manifests as unborn and uncompounded. We construct our own confusion if we hold on to a fixed reality and label phenomena as entities separate from ourselves. In doing this, we inevitably crave some things and reject others, and this is bewildering. Thus, the boundary between enlightened beings and sentient beings lies not in what is seen (because enlightened beings see things too), but in the way they are seen. From the perspective of enlightened mind, everything is Buddhanature, everything is sunyata, and everything is insubstantial. To realize this involves a letting go, the letting go that is enlightenment. Those of us caught up in confusion, imprison ourselves by holding onto a fixed system of dualities. For example, when adults see a rainbow in the sky, they know what it is and understand that it is insubstantial. When a child sees a rainbow for the first time, he wants to catch it and make it his own. This is like the difference between enlightened beings and ordinary sentient beings. Realized beings, when they see anything, understand it as a reflection of the mind, and they get neither bored with it nor excited about it. Ordinary beings, thinking that what they see is real and permanent, run off with their perceptions and compulsively try to possess this and reject that. This is how confusion piles up. One of the highest experiences is to understand that reality is not fixed.

  It is also like this with dreams. Enlightened beings have dreams much like ours. Within our framework of habitual patterns, some dreams frighten us, and others please us. For a yogi, however, the dream experience is different. He recognizes that a dream is occurring, and he knows that it is insubstantial. He can catch the dream and play with it, doing whatever he wants to do with it. Unlike us, he recognizes that a dream does not have a fixed quality, and he can experience its fluid openness and space without becoming frightened or excited. Day-to-day life is like a dream, for we react to waking experiences as we do to dreams, with the same patterns or habits. Everything seems complete and real; some experiences make us sad and some make us happy. An enlightened being, however, has let go of everything, and regards all phenomena as insubstantial. Therefore, no one is hurt, nothing triggers excitement, and there is no cause for fear. The bardo experience can be encountered in the same way. Usually, we cannot see clearly at the time of the bardo because we have built such heavy habitual patterns, and our projections seem so concrete. We play a game of duality, including conflicts between ourselves and others, so we fight the bardo experience, and everything frightens and bewilders us. Yet, for an enlightened being who realizes the sunyata nature of all things, even in the bardo, whatever appearances may come, there is space, openness, and movement.

  The experience of sunyata is the essence of enlightenment. It is also the basis for bodhicitta, the motivation to benefit all sentient beings. This is because realizing insubstantiality--the sunyata nature of all things--makes the difference between sanity and insanity. A sane person sympathizes with the suffering of an insane person. He or she thinks, "I wish something better could happen to him," and in this way her bodhicitta grows. Likewise, a realized person sees that those who have not recognized sunyata clutch and hold onto fixed ideas, and knowing that this will lead the other person to further suffering, he or she wants to do all they can to help. Because a person with the experience of sunyata knows what the sunyata experience means to them, they know how much it would mean to others. Just having had the experience of sunyata brings benefit to others because now spaciousness is always present. We are no longer limited to doing only this much or that much, and because there are no limitations, there is also great ability and willingness. When there is no substantial blockage to our true nature, the experience of sunyata is immaculate. Without at least a beginning experience of sunyata, true compassion is not even possible. We will only be able to care genuinely when things go wrong for our own loved ones. This becomes a sort of possessive compassion. It is limited and discriminatory, and it is not the compassion of the bodhisattvas.

  The bodhicitta generated by bodhisattvas is directed toward all beings equally. Only with such non-discriminating motivation can there be the ability to benefit others. Great ability, or skillful means, extends everywhere because we have transcended a fixed state of reality and overcome all barriers. Regardless of the situation and regardless of which people are involved, we will have the ability to help. Learning about compassion is important, but it is the actual doing of practice that enables us to realize the profundity of the teachings and to integrate them into daily life. We are not talking about practicing for a couple of months or a few years, but doing it constantly and continually until we have great experiences. This is important because the greater our experience of sunyata, the greater and more spontaneous will be our ability to benefit all beings. At the point where we experience sunyata, practice becomes easy. When the sky is cloudy, the sun is obscured, but as the clouds evaporate, the sun's rays appear and become more and more radiant. Likewise, the more we let go of ego, the greater is the space created in the environment. Some people believe that persons who have realized sunyata become detached and aloof. This is not at all true. Indeed, with the experience of sunyata we become even more affectionate, respectful, and helpful toward others. We feel closer to everyone because the wish for them to attain enlightenment is also growing. Thus the greater our experience of sunyata, the greater our concern for all beings.

  The transcendental qualities of the great yogis are beyond belief. Once in Tibet, a great yogi was doing an intensive ritual practice and a robber crept up behind him with a knife. As the yogi played his drums and ritual objects, the robber cut off his head, which dropped to the ground. Nonchalantly, the yogi picked up his head, put it back on, and continued the ritual. The robber stared speechless until the yogi had finished, and then said: "Oh, I wanted to kill you so much! I really wanted to get rid of you." The yogi replied, "Well, will my death make you happy? If it will, I'll die right here. My prayer for you is that there may come a time when I will cut the neck of your ego." With that, he fell dead. This is an example of a total letting go. Of course, we do not actually want to drop dead, but the point is that the yogi acted effortlessly and spontaneously, and created for the future a connection between himself and the robber. In a later life, this robber became his disciple, and through this connection and his own prayers, he was helped toward liberation. Most of us have had dreams of effortless action. As you dream of a fire, for example, you jump into it, then realize that it is only a dream, and you are not burned. Or perhaps a huge beast lunges at you, yet nothing happens. It is like that for enlightened ones: being attacked is like being in a dream. Similarly, you may dream of finding a precious object, and your first instinct is: "Oh, wow! I've got a precious jewel!" But on second thought, you realize that this is just your dream, so you just play with the jewel and then let it go. This is what seems to happen to diligent practitioners.

  It is important to learn how to recognize sunyata so that we can realize that every perception is relative to our mind, and that the nature of labels, of phenomena--in reality the nature of all things--is insubstantial. We never reach a point where we can say that the mind is going in this direction, is located here, or comes from there--or for that matter that it has any particular color or shape at all. Understanding this, we can let go of our confusion, letting go of our ego and conflicting emotions as well. We can transcend our bewilderment and reach Buddhahood. A Buddha works so that others, too, may recognize sunyata, and may themselves become Buddhas. The main point is that someone who understands sunyata acts with naturally arising compassion for the liberation of all those who are suffering.

  When we build a house, we start by clearing away dirt, not by placing the completed building on bare ground. Digging the foundation is a part of the building process. In the same way, purification of defilements is part of the process of enlightenment, and it is necessary for our ultimate realization of sunyata. In helping you recognize the true nature of your mind, the teacher does not place a new mind in you, but just helps you to recognize how things really are. This is the profound instruction of the Kagyu lineage. It is a path of unbroken teaching because it is the same path that the great masters have followed. The teachings are not presented to you in a neat package ostentatiously wrapped, and just hearing about the Dharma is not enough. Methods such as visualizing deities, reciting mantras, and so forth provide the skill to purify all accumulated neuroses, and they engender the virtues that cut through obscurations. Dharma practices are the tools that we need to break through to the experience of sunyata.

  This teaching was given by Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche at Karma Triyana Dharmachakra. It was translated by Chojor Radha and edited by Sally Clay. It originally appeared in Densal, Vol. 11, Number 2.



  Buddha-Nature / by Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche

  Is my meditation correct? When shall I ever make progress? Never shall I attain the level of my spiritual Master. Juggled between hope and doubt, our mind is never at peace. According to our mood, one day we will practise intensely, and the next day, not at all. We are attached to the agreeable experiences which emerge from the state of mental calm, and we wish to abandon meditation when we fail to slow down the flow of thoughts. That is not the right way to practise....... Whatever the state of our thoughts may be, we must apply ourselves steadfastly to regular practice, day after day; observing the movement of our thoughts and tracing them back to their source. We should not count on being immediately capable of maintaining the flow of our concentration day and night....... When we begin to meditate on the nature of mind, it is preferable to make short sessions of meditation, several times per day. With perseverance, we will progressively realise the nature of our mind, and that realisation will become more stable. At this stage, thoughts will have lost their power to disturb and subdue us....... Emptiness, the ultimate nature of Dharmakaya, the Absolute Body, is not a simple nothingness. It possesses intrinsically the faculty of knowing all phenomena. This faculty is the luminous or cognitive aspect of the Dharmakaya, whose expression is spontaneous. The Dharmakaya is not the product of causes and conditions; it is the original nature of mind....... Recognition of this primordial nature resembles the rising of the sun of wisdom in the night of ignorance: the darkness is instantly dispelled. The clarity of the Dharmakaya does not wax and wane like the moon; it is like the immutable light which shines at the centre of the sun. Whenever clouds gather, the nature of the sky is not corrupted, and when they disperse, it is not ameliorated....... The sky does not become less or more vast. It does not change. It is the same with the nature of mind: it is not spoiled by the arrival of thoughts; nor improved by their disappearance. The nature of the mind is emptiness; its expression is clarity. These two aspects are essentially one's simple images designed to indicate the diverse modalities of the mind. It would be useless to attach oneself in turn to the notion of emptiness , and then to that of Ç clarity, È as if they were independent entities. The ultimate nature of mind is beyond all concepts, all definition and all fragmentation....... "I could walk on the clouds!" says a child. But if he reached the clouds, he would find nowhere to place his foot. Likewise, if one does not examine thoughts, they present a solid appearance; but if one examines them, there is nothing there. That is what is called being at the same time empty and apparent.Emptiness of mind is not a nothingness, nor a state of torpor, for it possesses by its very nature a luminous faculty of knowledge which is called Awareness. These two aspects, emptiness and Awareness, cannot be separated. They are essentially one, like the surface of the mirror and the image which is reflected in it....... Thoughts manifest themselves within emptiness and are reabsorbed into it like a face appears and disappears in a mirror; the face has never been in the mirror, and when it ceases to be reflected in it, it has not really ceased to exist. The mirror itself has never changed. So, before departing on the spiritual path, we remain in the so-called "impure" state of samsara, which is, in appearance, governed by ignorance. When we commit ourselves to that path, we cross a state where ignorance and wisdom are mixed. At the end, at the moment of Enlightenment, only pure wisdom exists. But all the way along this spiritual journey, although there is an appearance of transformation, the nature of the mind has never changed: it was not corrupted on entry onto the path, and it was not improved at the time of realisation....... The infinite and inexpressible qualities of primordial wisdom "the true nirvana" are inherent in our mind. It is not necessary to create them, to fabricate something new. Spiritual realisation only serves to reveal them through purification, which is the path. Finally, if one considers them from an ultimate point of view, these qualities are themselves only emptiness....... Thus samsara is emptiness, nirvana is emptiness - and so consequently, one is not "bad" nor the other "good." The person who has realised the nature of mind is freed from the impulsion to reject samsara and obtain nirvana. He is like a young child, who contemplates the world with an innocent simplicity, without concepts of beauty or ugliness, good or evil. He is no longer the prey of conflicting tendencies, the source of desires or aversions. It serves no purpose to worry about the disruptions of daily life, like another child, who rejoices on building a sand castle, and cries when it collapses. See how puerile beings rush into difficulties, like a butterfly which plunges into the flame of a lamp, so as to appropriate what they covet, and get rid of what they hate. It is better to put down the burden which all these imaginary attachments bring to bear down upon one....... The state of Buddha contains in itself five "bodies" or aspects of Buddhahood: the Manifested Body, the Body of Perfect Enjoyment, the Absolute Body, the Essential Body and the Immutable Diamond Body. These are not to be sought outside us: they are inseparable from our being, from our mind. As soon as we have recognised this presence, there is an end to confusion. We have no further need to seek Enlightenment outside. The navigator who lands on an island made entirely of fine gold, will not find a single nugget, no matter how hard he searches. We must understand that all the qualities of Buddha have always existed inherently in our being.



  Heart Advice on the Dawning of Awareness / Lama Tharchin Rinpoche

  It appears as though we have a strange karmic connection. Without making any plans, a very humble beggar yogi like me, Tharchin, came from another part of the world called Tibet. The winds of karma blew me here and my karmic glue has kept me here. My teacher has told me to stay here and serve beings. So now with pure motivation, I want to give what is left of my life to establishing buddhadharma in the west. This is my gift to you. Since it is not material, it will last forever, until you attain buddhahood and your enlightened buddha essence benefits countless suffering beings....... Right now it is time to wake up! Most beings experience nothing other than the heavy habit of materialism. They can even be materialistic about spirituality, grasping at it and making it into a solid object. Because they are continuously involved in a materialistic point of view, their only concern is for themselves or those close to them. Their limited viewpoints come from a lack of wisdom and compassion. If we do not have compassion, then we are concerned only with our own welfare, and if we have that kind of limited viewpoint, then we have no wisdom. If this is the case, when this life ends, what will we have? We will have lived our lives for nothing. A complete waste! That is why now is the only time to wake up! The wisdom teachings of the buddhadharma can show you how and you will begin to see the many qualities and capacities that you have at your disposal. The problem is that you don't know what you have and so you lack confidence....... Inconceivable wisdom qualities and enlightened essence exist within your being right now. From the beginningless beginning of your existence, you have never been separate from enlightened essence. Now is the time to find this treasure which lies within your heart. Your chance is now and it always be now. It is never lost in the past or to be gained in the future. It is always to be found now. In the eighth century, Buddhism was transmitted from India to Tibet and gradually it has moved to the West. This is a golden moment in time. You are extremely fortunate. Right now, without any hesitation, remove the heavy mental suffering of conditioned existence and aim for the enlightened state. Your turn has come to light and carry the wisdom torch through practicing compassion and wisdom. The practice of compassion and wisdom doesn't have any form. It is related to motivation. If your motivation is pure, everything is pure. Whatever motivation of you have, that is the result you will see. In our practice text, it says " I'm going to benefit all beings until suffering and conditioned existence is emptied." That is an example of the vastness we should be aiming for. If you have such a vast and impartial motivation, no matter what you do in life, you will plant the seeds of wisdom, compassion and knowledge in your own mind and that of others. The final results is inconceivable to us right now but we can say that we will continue to grow until all beings find release from suffering and lasting peace....... Right now we have the capacity to recognize our enlightened essence. We should keep your motivation vast and pure. Remember also that the Vajrayana point of view doesn't uphold any differences between meditating and daily life, but rather based on your motivation, everything is spiritual practice and anything can benefit all beings.



  Bodhicitta / Lama Tharchin Rinpoche

  Just as refuge defines Buddhist thought and practice, bodhicitta, the spirit or heart-mind of awakening, differentiates the Hinayana and Mahayana. When I spoke about refuge, I taught the various views of refuge according to the different yanas. The same can be done for bodhicitta. The sutra Mahayana tradition teaches relative bodhicitta -- the aspiration and practice in order to attain awakening for the benefit of beings, and it also teaches absolute bodhicitta -- the truth of emptiness. The tantric Mahayana tradition speaks of bodhicitta variously but before I go into this, I would like to make some general comments....... There are many perspectives or ways of presenting bodhicitta. The perspective of relative bodhicitta says that all beings are the intended recipients of bodhicitta, we are the ones who are arousing bodhicitta, and bodhicitta as loving kindness and compassion liberates all. Clearly, this is based on the concept of subject, object, and interaction. However, the perspective of ultimate bodhicitta as emptiness says that there is no separation between subject, object, and interaction. This might seem contradictory – maybe we feel that the former is about a heart feeling and the later about some intellectual understanding. But they are not contradictory. They work together as complementary definitions of a single reality – if you live with love and compassion, you will find the great wisdom of emptiness because they are inseparable. Mahayana bodhicitta teaches us to include all events and all beings in our life. Because it encompasses everything, it has the power to liberate all the six realms of existence. If we approach our practice with this expansive outlook, our results will also be expansive. But without bodhicitta, whatever profound teachings we receive, whatever deities we visualize, or whatever empowerments we receive, we are only building a more elaborate prison – a prison of concepts and falsehoods. To avoid this pitfall, always generate bodhicitta. It is the single factor that distinguishes samsara and nirvana. It’s as simple as that Bodhicitta...... Just as refuge defines Buddhist thought and practice, bodhicitta, the spirit or heart-mind of awakening, differentiates the Hinayana and Mahayana. When I spoke about refuge, I taught the various views of refuge according to the different yanas. The same can be done for bodhicitta. The sutra Mahayana tradition teaches relative bodhicitta -- the aspiration and practice in order to attain awakening for the benefit of beings, and it also teaches absolute bodhicitta -- the truth of emptiness. The tantric Mahayana tradition speaks of bodhicitta variously but before I go into this, I would like to make some general comments....... There are many perspectives or ways of presenting bodhicitta. The perspective of relative bodhicitta says that all beings are the intended recipients of bodhicitta, we are the ones who are arousing bodhicitta, and bodhicitta as loving kindness and compassion liberates all. Clearly, this is based on the concept of subject, object, and interaction. However, the perspective of ultimate bodhicitta as emptiness says that there is no separation between subject, object, and interaction. This might seem contradictory – maybe we feel that the former is about a heart feeling and the later about some intellectual understanding. But they are not contradictory. They work together as complementary definitions of a single reality – if you live with love and compassion, you will find the great wisdom of emptiness because they are inseparable. Mahayana bodhicitta teaches us to include all events and all beings in our life. Because it encompasses everything, it has the power to liberate all the six realms of existence. If we approach our practice with this expansive outlook, our results will also be expansive. But without bodhicitta, whatever profound teachings we receive, whatever deities we visualize, or whatever empowerments we receive, we are only building a more elaborate prison – a prison of concepts and falsehoods. To avoid this pitfall, always generate bodhicitta. It is the single factor that distinguishes samsara and nirvana. It’s as simple as that.



  A letter from Lama Tharchin Rinpoche to the Vajrayana Foundation Sangha / June 1999

  In general, I try never to interfere in other people’s business – it’s not my nature. However, at this time I feel a responsibility to reply to several letters-to-the-editor printed in the Winter 1998 issue of Tricycle Magazine. My motivation in writing this letter is to dispel serious misunderstanding of Dungsé Thinley Norbu Rinpoche’s interview featured in the Fall 1998 Tricycle. Without clarification, this kind of negativity causes divisiveness among different spiritual and Buddhist paths, particularly in this country, and creates an obstacle for transmission of pure Dharma.

  Having agreed to an interview, Rinpoche very generously and clearly answered Ms. Tworkov’s questions regarding a current movement among many Buddhist groups in America aimed at ‘diminishing the role of the teacher’ and reliance on the ‘collective wisdom of the sangha’. The interview was only partially published and heavily edited, demonstrating the weakness of our collective karma. I believe this caused confusion for many people. Through only having selected passages presented, many readers wrongly interpreted Rinpoche’s words and motivation, stirring strong reactions of judgment, confusion, and doubt. Rinpoche’s words of clarification were for the benefit of all beings and particularly for Western Buddhists and new practitioners unfamiliar with the deeper meanings of Buddhist tradition. While several of the letters imply that Rinpoche is merely insulting Americans, it is the duty of a teacher to point out our ignorance in order for us to recognize it and develop wisdom. The complete interview clearly displays Rinpoche’s love for Westerners and his wish that they develop their wisdom qualities. Without wisdom, compassion can be very stupid, not beneficial to anyone. Rinpoche clearly sees our particular propensity for confusion in the West, especially our strong, sometimes almost imperceptible nihilistic habits and aversion to guru yoga which are often difficult for us to recognize. He can show us what is actually Dharma and what is just worldly culture. There are also many comments defending the philosophical and political legacies of Western culture, and suggestions that Rinpoche is opposed to these. Clearly Rinpoche states that he is not opposed to these aspects, but rather that they should not be confused with the essence of Dharma. For instance, the idea of relying on the ‘collective wisdom of the sangha’ is dangerous because while sangha members are on the path, purifying their own minds, they are still rooted in dualistic thinking and confusion. So this Western idea of democracy – which relies on collective consensus from partial, worldly knowledge and opinion – is not the same as the wisdom mind of a teacher holding lineage and realization. We can see that this worldly approach never leads to unchanging consensus and happiness. Collecting the opinions of confused beings only leads to a larger pile of confusion. For example, Buddhas manifest throughout the six realms according to the needs of beings. We cannot vote for the Buddha who will follow our agenda. On election day in the hell realms, the winner of the popular vote could only be a supreme hell being, not a sublime Buddha.

  While it is true that the appearance of Buddhism naturally changes from country to country, its essence should not change. It is this essence which is so important to transmit by wisdom teachers who are not acting from confusion mind. It seems that people in this country are so eager to dispense with what they view as Asian culture and develop their own form of Buddhism that they do not recognize that they are holding strongly to their own culture. Reliance on a spiritual teacher is not cultural. It is essential. Rinpoche’s essential nectar or advice comes from his inexhaustible wisdom and compassion for everyone. Reading these negative letters about Rinpoche, I am reminded of someone trying to shoot an arrow at a target in a starless night. There is no aim, only confusion.

  I would like to take this opportunity to share my limited Dharma view and experience. In general, sentient beings’ afflictive emotions and karma are inconceivable. In the same way, Buddha’s wisdom and compassion are inconceivable. Due to the connection between these two, Buddhas and bodhisattvas emanate unobstructedly, impartially, and unceasingly for beings’ benefit. Buddhas appear in inconceivable forms according to sentient beings’ varying energies and mental proclivities. It is beyond the capacity of our limited minds to grasp the entire picture. In a famous Buddhist teaching, Buddhas were shown to appear as mountains, trees, water, a bridge, a boat, as the most revered sublime teachers, and as the most disdained butchers or prostitutes, emanating in whatever form is beneficial for beings in order to lead them to liberation. When I was a child studying Buddhism in Tibet, I could understand that many things could be an emanation of Buddha, but I could not imagine that this could be true of a butcher. My father, however, showed me that while for those with faith, teachers appear, for those who have no faith in Buddha, other emanations appear. He told me a story about one of his teachers, a Lama who emanated two tulkus, one a Lama and one a butcher. When it was time for the Lama to die, he asked his attendant to send a message to the town butcher to hurry up, that the Lama was waiting for him. The butcher replied, ‘Tell the Lama to wait a little. I’m expecting a special guest. As soon as I meet her, I will come immediately.’ As the messenger was leaving, a man brought a female yak to be killed. As soon as he killed her, the butcher himself died. When the messenger returned, the Lama had also died. Their life forces were connected in this way. This butcher was the emanation of an enlightened being with the power to liberate each being as it was killed. While the Lama and the butcher’s activity appeared to be opposite, actually it was the same – to liberate beings from samsara. I understood then that it is impossible from a limited point of view to determine what is enlightened Buddha activity. Our own confusion mind never ends, so we must rely on a teacher, someone who has himself gone beyond limited dualistic mind and can show us the path.

  Ordinary sentient beings do not have the innate capacity to choose enlightened teachers, like those uneducated in jewels don’t have the ability to distinguish between diamond and glass. However smart we are, it is impossible to use intellectual dualistic mind to realize non-dual wisdom mind. We must rely on a wisdom teacher because, although we have Buddha nature, ultimate wisdom does not exist in our dualistic minds. Samsaric ego always tries to protect itself, and will trick us into thinking that we have gone beyond dualistic mind when we have not. Although we intrinsically have Buddha nature, without a teacher, it is like churning water to get butter – it won’t happen. Of course, this teacher can be male or female, Asian or Western or from any country because realization is not related to culture. Before judging, we must know the appropriate qualities of a teacher and examine our own motivation as students. It is critical that the teacher holds pure, unbroken lineage, and has realization of wisdom and compassion for all beings impartially. These types of wisdom teachers often do not fit in our confused culture, so we criticize them. For example, although now we all claim to appreciate a teacher such as Milarépa, if he actually came to the West, we would quickly have him admitted to a mental institution! Even in Tibet, many people did not recognize Milarépa’s qualities and wanted to control him. This is still the case with many wisdom teachers when people with worldly habit view them. We often say that from samsara’s point of view, Milarépa is crazy, and from Milarépa’s point of view, samsara is crazy. If people had been allowed to vote on whether or not Milarépa should be allowed to teach, the answer would probably have been no. It was through karmic connection and developing their own spiritual view that practitioners could recognize the qualities of a teacher such as Milarépa, not through ordinary consensus.

  We should appreciate and respect that this kind of rare teacher, such as Thinley Norbu Rinpoche, exists for those who can make a connection, even if we ourselves cannot. Please keep this kind of wise view without partiality toward accepted custom and culture. Thinley Norbu Rinpoche always says we should have positive view, not criticize others on their spiritual path and particularly other Buddhists, since our own practice belongs to our own karma and our own capacity. Holding this view will remove a lot of confusion and disturbance in our own practice.

  Since I’ve spent my entire life practicing Dharma and surrounded by sublime teachers, I do have the capacity to recognize and choose a sublime teacher. Thinley Norbu Rinpoche is certainly a fully realized wisdom teacher. Whatever techniques he uses to awaken us, they are only beneficial and never harmful. It is like when a small child is about to fall from a cliff and one parent says gently, ‘Sweetie, don’t go,’ while the other yells sharply, ‘Stop! Don’t go!’; the point is the same.

  Likewise, whatever words Rinpoche uses and in whatever style he expresses them, they are only for our benefit, never for his own. Of course, most people do not like to hear the truth about their ignorance and egos as it can feel painful. There is a Tibetan story about a pack of self-centered, confused foxes full of afflictive emotions, entranced by their own culture. When they suddenly hear the wisdom liberation sound of a lion’s roar, they quake in fear unable to cope. At this point, however, they could remain in their paranoia and defensiveness, or they could follow their curiosity and decide to develop their own courageous sound of wisdom. Likewise, while we do have the same Buddha nature, we must make a firm decision to develop it, following a wisdom teacher, and one day become Buddha ourselves.

  One who is ‘fully realized’ is not like someone who merely has good intention. It means that they do not only teach us about the mind, which can be good, bad, or neutral; they teach beyond mind, to non-dualistic wisdom mind. This is possible because they hold wisdom lineage, which is alive and unbroken. Wherever Buddhism has spread, in Asia or elsewhere, whether Hinayana, Mahayana, or Vajrayana, it was transmitted through unbroken oral and written lineage from teacher to student.

  Vajrayana Buddhism originated from dharmakaya Kuntuzangpo; to sambhogakaya Dorje Sempa; to nirmanakaya Garab Dorje, Manjushrimitra, Padmasambhava who established Buddhism in Tibet, Sri Singha, and Vimalamitra, all of whom were from India; to the Dharma king Trisong Détsen, the great scholar Shantarakshita, the twenty-five main disciples of Padmasambhava, and on in an unbroken line of wisdom beings down to our own root lama. Dharma originated historically in India and appeared in countless other realms, and the lineage was passed through the Six Ornaments of the Universe, the Two Supreme Ones, the Five Hundred Panditas and Mahasiddhas, and so on. Tibetans had to respect and rely upon Indian lineage holders in order for Dharma to take root with Tibetan lineage holders. Still today we think with appreciation of this lineage, praying and receiving blessings.

  Our respect for this lineage is not partial to any country or worldly tradition, and it does not arise from stupid faith. Its value is demonstrated again and again by those who hold pure lineage and do pure practice. Their dualistic, afflictive emotional minds are exhausted into non-dualistic inexhaustible wisdom. This can be shown by how the gross elemental body is exhausted into the rainbow body. Countless practitioners in India and Tibet have achieved rainbow body. For example, at Kathog Monastery in Tibet, over 100,000 people have attained rainbow body up until now. In this century too, Dud’jom Lingpa had thirteen students who attained rainbow body by following his lineage. This is not only myth or ancient history, but is carried on through lineages that are vital today. This proves that lineage has great import and meaning. Without this, however smart we are, however culturally developed we are, we cannot achieve this state, instead staying always embroiled in the confusion of our limited dualistic minds. Thinley Norbu Rinpoche is one who holds this pure lineage and can lead us from our confused dualistic minds to wisdom mind. Of course, there are teachers of varying qualities and many different types of teachers, from sublime wisdom teachers to spiritual friends. Since Dharma is relatively new to the West, it is more difficult for Westerners to distinguish between these. There are many guides in Tibetan literature, which teach us how to examine teachers before making a commitment to them, and how to examine ourselves as students. The Words of My Perfect Teacher by Paltrül Rinpoche, for example, includes such a teaching and is excellently translated into English. You can find false teachers everywhere, not only in America. On a relative level, it is important to rely on a good teacher who has the ability to open our own wisdom and compassion. They will lead us on the path beyond dualistic mind, even beyond samsara and nirvana, to full liberation. Although Buddha nature is inherent in all of us, it has not blossomed due to always relying on our own dualistic mind. So we must develop the ability to choose teachers with wisdom and compassion, who are not teaching out of confusion or for their own fame or gain.

  However, our phenomena belong only to us, and whatever appears is only a gauge of our own mind. As Rinpoche points out in the interview, the absolutely crucial point is to examine our own minds. Although good or bad teachers may appear to you, you can only perceive them at the level of your own mind. If our minds are negative, then it is like someone with jaundice who will perceive a pure white snow mountain as yellow. The qualities and faults that we see in another person fully depend upon our own mental capacity. It is never necessary to reject or condemn others since we may later appreciate them with a different view. Practice actually means to purify one’s own mind until all phenomena are perceived as pure. Practice turns our usual focus on others around to focus on ourselves. Usually we take our own faults, which are like the size of a mountain, and try to hide them. Then we find others’ faults, which are like the size of a sesame seed, and display them for everyone to see and talk about. Instead, we should try to practice from a Buddhist point of view. Even though one person may have a hundred different faults, still they have at least one quality. Instead of judging the hundred faults, we should find that one quality and emulate it. Then we will be connected only with positive phenomena, not negative, which will lead us to greater purity. This is the Buddhist way. If we practice pure Dharma to purify our own minds, then we will recognize the qualities of pure teachers and not need to reject impure ones. This wisdom was given to me from my root lama Dungsé Thinley Norbu Rinpoche. Please take this heart advice and put it into sincere practice without thought of worldly gain or politics. I am old now, and neither Rinpoche nor I have any need to collect more students or fame. We only wish to give advice which will actually benefit beings and release them from their suffering and confusion.

  Lama Tharchin Rinpoche



  Buddhism in the West: A View from the Thunderbolt Bridge / by Ngakpa Rig'dzin Dorje

  "What is the difference between Tibetans and Americans? Tibetans have flat nose, Americans have Rocky Mountain nose. That is all." -H.H. Dungsey Thrinley Norbu Rinpoche.

  Buddhism in the west is a topic which seems to have very much scope for confusion. Although the subject invites speculation, it raises many questions which are not at all straightforward. For instance, whereabouts exactly is the west? When the globe is spinning without interruption, where then are east and west? Spin the globe, or open an atlas at random, and jab your finger down. Is that east or west? Or north, for that matter, or south? In these relative terms, how would we define the location of Ögyen, the land from which the Tantric Buddha Padmasambhava appeared? It was somewhere in the wild remoteness of the Karakorams, apparently, where India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Russia and Tibet all meet. But the end of everywhere and the middle of nowhere can only be somewhere if it's compared with elsewhere. It's only when we take compass-bearings, from reference-points which we call east, that we locate ourselves in a place called the west. Ögyen is an image of our own beginningless Wisdom-Mind, existing behind the manifestation of our physical senses. The world of our perceptions-and-responses, the world that we can actually inhabit, the cultural forms that we perceive and generate, our prefered style of Buddhist practice, all ultimately depend on the quality of our connection with Wisdom-Mind. Wherever the finger lands will certainly be a spot where beings of some kind are living. Where there are beings there is ordinary mind, which is our idiosyncratic expression of the Spacious Ocean of the Nature of Mind, beginningless realisation itself. My own lineage comes in Vision from the enlightened consort of Padmasambhava, Yeshé Tsogyel. Her name means "Queen of the Ocean of Divisionless Primordial Wisdom", not queen of the mundane 'this or that'. Spaciousness emanates and qualifies all the elements: the mantra of Yeshé Tsogyel includes the seed syllables of all the elements. Space is the meeting-and-departure point that underlies all the directions. It is the ultimate, referenceless, reference-point. To plot the non-dual path, the Middle Way, the karmic view of man-made satellite navigation can never be an adequate method. Strange, then, that we, the holders of Wisdom-Mind, should so readily choose to locate ourselves with reference to the Earth-globe spinning in space, rather than ultimate Space itself.......... There exists such a great diversity of styles of Buddhism that I wonder if it is even correct to embrace them crudely in an expression like "Buddhism is a world religion". Occasionally I have the happy experience of meeting at conference tables with many other representatives of different existing Buddhisms. What I have observed there is that Buddhism itself always guarantees to be more -or less- than the sum of its parts. An accumulation of forms, like a conference, can never define what is "neither form nor emptiness, nor both, nor neither". Hence, if such a conference tried to list and define the basics of Buddhism, it could only do so while simultaneously undefining itself as a perfect arbiter of Buddhism. The Thunderbolt Bridge, Dorje Zampa, is the non-dual relationship of form and emptiness: it is a way of refering to the realisation of the Path of Buddhist Tantra. When that comes to be expressed in the language of dualism, the result is always a paradox.......... Hence, Buddhism has always defined itself negatively, as a rejection of the four extremes, or heresies: monism, dualism, nihilism and eternalism. It follows that Buddhism must be essentially pluralistic: because the non-dual View could give rise to infinite different Paths of practice. An often-quoted expression of this is Chögyal Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche's remark about Dzogchen, the ultimate vehicle of Tibetan Buddhism: "There is a tantra of Dzogchen... that says that the Dzogchen teachings can be found in thirteen solar systems other than our own, so we can't truly say that the Dzogchen teaching belongs to this planet Earth, much less to any national culture. Although it is true that the tradition of Dzogchen...has been transmitted through the culture of Tibet that has harboured it ever since the beginning of recorded history in Tibet, we nevertheless cannot finally say that Dzogchen is Tibetan, because the primordial state itself has no nationality, and is omnipresent, everywhere." All the Buddhist schools that have ever existed, or may ever come to exist, can only be thought of as 'special cases'. They are cultural or trans-cultural forms which emanate from the vision of enlightened teachers. This is the way that the compassionate activity of these Buddhas supports the realisation, by particular audiences, of non-dual, non-theistical View. Compassion is distinguished by its appropriateness, which means that the colourful details of its activity are bound to vary dramatically, even from country to country within 'the west'. There was a prophecy which accompanied the revelation in my lineage of the treasure-teachings of Yeshé Tsogyel, to the Mahasiddha Aro Yeshé, the previous rebirth of my Root Teacher Ven. Ngak'chang Rinpoche. It said that these teachings were primarily for the future benefit of people in a far-distant part of the world. So, now that this has become a reality, does this mean that these are essentially Tibetan teachings or essentially western teachings?......... I think we miss the point if we base our conceptions of the future of Buddhism solely on speculations about form. What is form? Essentially empty. Form is only one foot of the Thunderbolt Bridge. Taking the example of a Tantric lineage, its emptiness aspect is the experience of inspiration or realisation that we receive from transmission. Over centuries, new schools of Tibetan Buddhism arose, and distinguished themselves from those that currently existed. But the realisation of their founders, which made these developments possible, depended on the experience of transmission coming through the existing forms. Manipulating the existing forms of Buddhism, without the vibrant experience of transmission, is not enough to generate the living Buddhisms of the future. H.H. Dungsey Thinley Norbu Rinpoche has written: "As it is said, 'However much sand is pressed, oil will never come.' For example, even though a prince is the son of a king, if he never ascends the throne, he will have no power to work for his own benefit or for the benefit of his subjects. Without empowerment, one has no lineage, and it is not possible to practice for one's own benefit or to teach for the benefit of others. If we receive an empowerment, we have the blessing and power to practice, and can then teach others."......... The alternative would resemble the materialist 'new age' rebirthing drama of Frankenstein's monster. This is the fantasy that the painstakingly collected remnants of corpses could mysteriously be reanimated by exposure to the powers of 'nature', to arise again as a living being possessing the qualities of wisdom and compassion. Not for nothing did this fantasy emerge at the height of the industrial revolution's humanistic optimism; but it is not for the likes of Buddhists. Buddhists have to be prepared to dance on the tightrope of uncertainty rather than schlumpen in the hammock of superstition.......... Whenever our thoughts turn to analysing the relative kinds of Buddhism, we can only locate them in terms of their emptiness qualities. Our optimism can only be sound if it is based on the possibility of renunciation, in Sutric terms, or transformation, in Tantric terms, or self-liberation, in Dzogchen terms; in other words, on an experiential reality that can only function on account of emptiness. Thus the unavoidable paradox of form and emptiness arises again. To plan for the future means embracing uncertainty, and that includes the uncertainty of indications given by the past. To establish a Sangha for the benefit of future generations means acknowledging the instability of existing forms. When we visualise our lineage-tree, in Tantric practice, it lacks solidity in the same way as a tree that stands by the roadside. The lineage from which we receive the ultimate, infinite and unrepayable benefit is itself a play of form and emptiness qualities: its form being the many student-teachers who gave and received transmission, of which the empty aspect is the realisation that was transmitted. If our lineages are to pass through us, then to that extent they will depend on the possibilities inherent in our time, culture and language; but what is it that actually passes?......... I once attended one of many Tantric initiations that I have been fortunate to receive from H.H. Kyabjé Chhi'med Rig'dzin Rinpoche, who is the Mind-Incarnation of Padmasambhava. At a certain point he asked the audience why they had come. There was silence. His translator insisted that Rinpoche was waiting for a response. As I was highly conscious of my own reasons for being there, I decided I ought to speak up myself, and put other people out of their embarassment, so I said "To receive some experience of transmission from you, Rinpoche." He gave a very characteristic wolfish grin, which seemed to indicate approval, but also the possibility of further inquisition. I was right: he continued "Transmit what? Transport where?", meaning, What is it that moves? Where does it come from? Where does it go to? I said "Simply, in Mind", and he gave me another grin. For the time being, the audience was off the hook. In Tantric terms, on a micro-scale, transmission means sharing the experience of the nature of the teacher's mind: nothing actually moves. The macro-scale, the form quality of the movement of Buddhism through the world and through history, is inseparable from this. Non-dual experience can be characterised in various ways, such as 'the union of great bliss and emptiness'. Finding through this experience the equal taste of emptiness and form, its practitioners will honour the manifestation of form and emptiness qualities in women and men equally. If it is authentic, it can be expressed in ordinary personal unpoetic contemporary language: that would be its natural compassionate activity. As a result, ordinary working family people will be able to understand that something real is being indicated, inviting them to have access to the teachings. When the emperor of China asked Bodhidharma what enlightenment was like, he said "Lots of space, nothing holy." Realisation is called in Dzogchen 'the natural state'; so its practitioners will be beyond the artifice of 'spiritual' personalities and the neurosis of competitive achievement. They will be able to inspire future generations by transforming anger and jealousy into clear simplicity; grasping and dependency into joyfulness; and neurotic confusion into free spontaneous ecstatic laughter. That would be my vision of a Buddhist sangha, in any time or place.

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