by His Holiness Sakya Trizin

We humans require many things, have many things to accomplish,
and so forth. But it is clear no matter how much we have or
wherever we are, there is not enough; always there is some more
requirement, always dissatisfaction. Through our experience the
truth is very clear in what Lord Buddha said about samsara's
entirety being nothing but suffering nature.

So what we can do? The one thing common to all is everyone wishes
to be free from suffering and wishes to have happiness. And for
the sake of this everyone is making effort in worldly spiritual
or other ways. But no matter what we do there is no end to
suffering and no gain of the happiness we seek.

So how can we get this? Lord Buddha teaches that every sentient
being possesses buddha-nature. The true nature of our mind is
pure. Right from the beginning it is never stained with
obscurations of any form. Therefore if we try we can attain

At the moment we do not see this buddha-nature, being completely
covered with obscurations. But the obscurations are not within
the nature of the mind. If they were they could never be
eliminated. For example the nature of coal is black, so no matter
how much you wash it, coal will never become white. Due to dirt
the whiteness of a white cloth is not seen, but with correct
methods we can wash then see the actual colour. Similarly the
obscurations in our minds are only at the outer level and with
the right methods, could be eliminated. Therefore if we work hard
following the Dharma path we can become fully enlightened

For these reasons, the most important thing is spiritual
practice, because all other things such as material wealth or
power are only beneficial within this lifespan. The day we
leave this world we have to leave everything behind - our
wealth, friends, even our precious body. Only consciousness is
left, and when it leaves all we can rely on is spiritual

When we face major problems, there is a vast difference between
the person who has spiritual ideas and the one who does not. When
the person without any spiritual assistance faces such
sufferings they are in a desperate situation and have to rely on
other very wrong methods, perhaps having to take extreme
measures. One of the basic teachings of Buddha is that everything
created by cause and conditions is impermanent. And any actions
connected with defilements are sufferings. So when we face such
problems it is obvious it is not something just happening to us,
but impermanence and suffering are the nature of existence

When one understands that, even though the problem may be the
same, the person who has spiritual assistance is ready to face
it because he knows it's the nature. Due to this it lessens the
mental burden. And when one's mental burden is lessened outer
physical suffering is also, because mind is the boss and the
body like a servant. If the mind is happy, even one could be in
the poorest conditions but still be happy. And if the mind is not
happy even one has the best facilities still one has a lot of
misery. So since the mind is the most important, to give us
strength to face the challenges of suffering even for this life,
the most important thing is Dharma practice.

Although we are all human beings, each one has a different mind,
different defilements and so forth. In order to suit every level
of our minds the Buddha bestowed an enormous amount of teachings.
One kind of teaching is not enough. Just as we require many medi-
cines in order to cure the different types of disease, similarly
in order to help the limitless sentient beings, the Buddha also
gave many many teachings.

Generally speaking there are two different types of followers -
the followers who wish to follow the smaller goal, and the
followers who wish to follow the greater goal. That is why we
have the two yanas of hinayana and mahayana. Although the
hinayana path has many teachings, what in essence is most
important is not to harm any sentient being. If one harms any
sentient being physically or mentally, it is not right.

The mahayana path is not only non-harming but also benefitting
as much as one can, because each and every sentient being is like
ourself. From our own experience we can learn how much we wish to
be free from suffering and wish to have happiness. From tiny
insects to the most intelligent humans up to the deva realms,
every sentient being has the same feeling: all wish to be free
from suffering and to have happiness. Therefore it is not proper
just to think of oneself, because oneself is one person and
others are countless. Between one and many which is more
important? The many is more important. Besides that, on selfish
thoughts good things never arise - only sufferings arise.

Shantideva said, "All sufferings in this universe came from
caring for oneself." If we think of ourself we have jealousy,
pride, stinginess, desire, hatred etc. All impure thoughts
arise, and any actions created with these impure thoughts create
only sufferings. Just as from a poisonous root anything that
grows is poison, similarly any actions created from these de-
filements are only suffering. So when we think of ourselves only,
all we can achieve is more suffering.

Shantideva also said that all the happiness in this universe came
from wanting others to be happy. If we wish others to be happy
then all the good things, all the qualities come, just as if a
root is medicinal, anything that grows from it is medicine.
Similarly on the basis of loving-kindness and compassion,
wanting to help other sentient beings, any actions that are
created are happiness. That is why the root of the mahayana
teachings is loving kindness and the compassion. Therefore we
must try in every way to cultivate loving-kindness and

However merely having compassion is not enough, we must rescue
sentient beings from suffering and put them onto the path of
happiness. But at the moment we ourselves are not free, we do not
have full knowledge or full power. We are completely bound by our
karma and defilements. So how can we help? The sole most effec-
tive way to help sentient beings is to attain perfect
enlightenment, because having attained perfect enlightenment then
even during a single moment we can rescue countless sentient

This perfect enlightenment does not arise without proper cause
and conditions, and that is following the mahayana path. First
is to have a very sincere wish to attain the perfect
enlightenment, then one practises, the main thing being method
and wisdom. In order to fly one needs two wings. Similarly in
order to attain enlightenment one needs two: the method to
realise the wisdom, and the wisdom itself. And they depend on
each other. Method means to accumulate merit like generosity,
moral conduct, patience, endeavour, and concentration. Loving-
kindness and compassion will only suppress faults because the
main fault is self-clinging, and these method practices only
supress self-clinging. In order to completely dig out the root of
self-clinging we require the wisdom that completely eliminates
it, and for this we must have concentration. With these two
together we will be able to attain perfect enlightenment.

Many people say it's very difficult to practise Dharma
particularly in big cities where there is so much distraction
and busyness. However, Lord Buddha gave many teachings, the
purpose of which was to tame our wild minds. It is due to our
wild mind being so involved with defilements, that from the
begining we have been caught in the realm of existence and
suffer. We've already suffered so much in the past, are still
suffering and furthermore if we do not work now we will
continuously experience suffering. So therefore the Buddha gave
teachings involving many different forms of practising, but all
these are to tame our minds.

The sanskrit word "dharma" has many different meanings but the
word generally means to change, to change our impure or wild
mind that is so involved with the defilements, to change it to
the right path. So every practice we do if it doesn't change,
(although of course even just doing the practice has benefit), it
is not so effective. In order to be effective, we must see
whether the practice we are doing really makes a difference in
our mind or not.

If it changes our mind, then if we use it in the right way we
could be the busiest person in the busiest city but still be a
very good Dharma practitioner because everything we see and do,
everyone we associate with, gives us a chance to practise Dharma.

For example when travelling in cities and noticing many changes,
that is impermanence. When we see so much suffering, we are
experiencing the Dharma that Buddha tells us, ie that
everything is suffering. The fact we actually see it with our own
naked eyes, means we also learn from that. When we associate
with people we have a chance to help, to practise compassion.
When people disturb or are angry with us, it gives a chance to
practise patience. So if we could utilize our everyday life, then
everywhere when we are travelling, at work or at home, we could
use it in practising Dharma.

From these different experiences it will help us to understand
deeper, and how important it is to practise Dharma. Higher
meditations like concentration and insight are very important.
But in order to reach that level, the basic foundations such as
the difficulty of obtaining the precious human birth,
impermanence and death, the cause of karma, and the suffering of
samsara - ie the four common foundations - are very important.
These you can learn from a teacher and read in books.

However to gain knowledge is not enough. If we have known it
for a long time but it hasn't made any change in us, we still
remain the same person. We still have anger, we still cannot
practise Dharma. Although we must have heard the difficulties
of obtaining the precious human birth a hundred times, if it
hasn't made any change - we are still in the same level, we still
have the defilements, we still are not practising. Why? Because
we do not experience it.

So, knowing it and through contemplation having the experience,
are two different things. One may know many teachings but if one
doesn't practise, if one doesn't use it in one's daily life, then
it is not right. For example the purpose of making delicious food
is to eat it. If you make but don't eat it there is no point!
Similarly knowing Dharma is to utilize it in our daily life. To
do this we have to use many different methods including our daily

With these basic foundations, if we could not only understand
everything we see as a teaching but have an inner feeling, inner
urge, then we would not waste our time. We would definitely make
every effort, just as people in prison have constantly only one
thought, "when can I get out of this? " When you have this real
sincere desire to practise Dharma your inner higher meditations
will generally arise.

First to have the basic foundations depends on our merit. In
past lives due to accumulating merit, we are born in this life
as human beings, have the good fortune to hear the Dharma, and a
chance to practise. Similarly in order to have real inner
feeling about spiritual practice depends on the merit we have. So
at the same time we must accumulate merit through prayers,
devotion to the Guru and to the Buddha Dharma Sangha, and through
practising loving-kindness and compassion to all sentient
beings. In this way when our merit increases also our wisdom
increases, and these two go together. When the merit is fully
built up the wisdom will also come, and with the merit and wisdom
together one will be able to succeed in the path.

(From a talk by His Holiness Sakya Trizin at
Jamyang Meditation Centre, 3/10/91)