TongLen is a meditation done in conjunction with
one's breathing, and in relation to one's parents, friends and enemies, to all
beings gathered around oneself. As one breathes out, imagine that with the exhalation
out goes all one's happiness and all the causes of happiness, all the good karma
that one has, in the form of white light rays. These light rays go out to all
beings to touch them, so that they obtain present temporary happiness and the
cause for the ultimate happiness of buddhahood.
With inhalation one imagines that all the suffering, the causes of suffering and the bad karma that beings have are drawn into oneself with the incoming breath, in the form of black light rays. These black rays enter and merge into oneself, so one thinks that one has taken on the suffering of all other beings. Thus this Sending & Taking meditation involves giving away happiness and taking on suffering, in combination with one's breathing.
What does this meditation accomplish? Generally, happiness & suffering occur as a result of karma, one's good or bad actions. If someone has done a good action, then naturally from that there will come a result of happiness. That person will receive the result of happiness that cannot be denied him or her. Likewise, suffering occurs as the result of bad actions. If someone has done a bad action then the only result that can be obtained from that is suffering, which cannot be avoided.
In doing this meditation one changes the attitude of seeing oneself as more important than other beings; one will come to consider others as more important than oneself. The normal attitude that people have is to think that it does not matter if other beings are not happy, it does not matter if others are suffering, but it is important that oneself is happy & free from suffering. One normally considers oneself, takes care of oneself first, regarding oneself as more important than others. Through doing this sending & taking practice it is possible to change one's attitude so that it does not matter if oneself is unhappy or suffering, but it does matter that others are happy & free from suffering. Thus one develops the attitude that one is able to take on the suffering of other beings.
Some people new to this practice get worried because they think that by doing the practice they will have to lose happiness and experience suffering, which makes them fearful. However, there is no need for this anxiety because whatever happens to oneself is solely a result of one's karma. Doing this practice does not bring suffering.
Other people do the practice with great expectation, with great hope. They think of a friend who is ill, unhappy or otherwise suffering and they visualise this friend during the meditation in the hope that they will remove the suffering. When they find it does not work they lose hope and become disillusioned. This also is not what the practice is about. The point is to cherish other beings as important, rather than regarding oneself as important. So there is no need to have worry, fear or expectation.
However, it is not true to say there is no result from the practice. In the immediate present one is not able to bring happiness or remove suffering, but by doing this practice one will gradually cease to cherish oneself over others. Instead, one will develop the wish to practise in order to benefit other beings, eventually leading to the ability to help beings, teach and train them in the Dharma, and so forth. Consequently, one will be able to give them happiness and relieve them of suffering, and offer them whatever qualities and abilities that one has. This is the relative bodhicitta.
The ultimate bodhicitta is approached by pacifying concepts and dualism: all one's thoughts are calmed; one's clinging to dualism assuaged; one just rests in the state of peace, of meditation. One dissolves into emptiness and just rests in the true nature of the mind. This is the ultimate bodhicitta.
Arya Avalokitesvara and the Six Syllable
by Venerable Shangpa Rinpoche.
As a result of our grasping to a "self-ego", defilement such as pride, jealousy, desire, ignorance, miserliness and hatred arise. Due to these wrong views and emotions, sentient beings perform negative actions that bind themselves to sufferings in samsara, which is the cycle of birth, aging, sickness and death.
All the Buddhas including Shakyamuni Buddha appear in this world to show us the path of release from this suffering. To reach the goal of Enlightenment, a practitioner needs to develop the wisdom and qualities of the Buddha. During the development stage, the aspiring Bodhisattva relies on the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas for their teachings, blessing, support and empowerment. Through the perfection of the six paramitas, these Great Beings or Bodhisattvas accumulate tremendous merits, compassion, wisdom and qualities, which enable them to help all sentient beings.
One of the most revered Bodhisattva in Tibet, China, Japan, Korea and the South East Asia is Arya Avalokitesvara. He is known as Chenrezig to the Tibetans or Kuan Yin Pu Sa to the Chinese.
Avalokitesvara's Miraculous Birth in the Pure Land of Padmawati
According to Mani Kabum text, in the pure land of Padmawati, there was a universal monarch called Zangpochog. This King wished for a son. He made many offerings to the Triple Gems to grant him his wish, and for each offering, he would send his servants to gather lotus flowers.
On one occasion, a servant found a giant lotus at the lake. The size of its petals was like vulture's wings and it was about to bloom. He rushed back to inform the King. The King felt that this is a sign that his wish for a son would be granted. He went with his entourage of ministers to the lake with many offerings. There they found a giant lotus blooming. Within its petals, there was a boy of about sixteen years old. His body was white colour and he was adorned with the physical marks of perfection of a Buddha. Lights were radiating from his body. The boy exclaimed, "I feel pity for all the sentient beings who are suffering so much!"
The King and his entourage made many offerings and prostrations to the boy, and invited him to the palace. The King gave him the name "Lotus Borne" or "Essence of Lotus" because of his miraculous birth. He also consulted his master, Buddha Amitabha on this matter. The Buddha told the King that this boy is a manifestation of all the Buddhas. He is also the manifestation of the hearts of all the Buddhas. His name is Avalokiteshvara and he is to fulfill the purpose of all sentient beings as vast as space.
Avalokiteshvara's mission and the manifestation of the six Buddhas in the six realms of beings
One full moon day, the King made great offerings to the Triple Gems and Avalokiteshvara. At that moment, Avalokiteshvara recollected his mission. He had to liberate all sentiments beings from their sufferings. With his great compassion, he gazed at the sentient beings within the three realms of the desire, form and formless. He saw their defilements and sufferings. He saw that "their desires are like the waterfall; their hatred is like a blazing fire; their ignorance shrouding them like clouds of darkness; their pride is as solid as the mountain, and their jealousy is as rapid as the wind. The chain of self or ego ties each and every sentient being to the cycle of birth and death. The sufferings they experienced are as if they have fallen into the blazing fire".
Great compassion arises and tears flowed from Avalokitesvara's eyes. He made great offerings and prostration to the Buddhas of the ten directions and prayed for their guidance on how he could benefit all these suffering beings. The Buddhas responded in unison," If you wish to benefit all these sentient beings, you must be motivated by loving-kindness and compassion. Do not be tired of this work. Do not give up." Again he asked, "How shall I develop loving kindness and compassion?" Buddha Amitabha appeared to instruct Avalokiteshvara on the practice, and empowered him to fulfill his mission. With this blessing, Avalokiteshvara aspired further "from each and every pore of my body, may I manifest Buddhas and bodhisattvas according to the needs of all sentient beings. With these manifestations, may I liberate all sentient beings without leaving anyone behind. If I have self-clinging, may my head crack into pieces". Amitabha Buddha praised him, "Well done. The Buddhas of the ten directions and three times and I have also developed the same enlightened attitude as you. We have made this aspiration and attained Enlightenment. I will assist you". Buddha Amitabha blessed his aspiration and empowered him further.
Manifestation of Six Buddhas in the Six Realms
Avalokiteshvara then radiated six lights from his body to the six realms of beings. Each light manifested as one Buddha.
The six Buddhas are:
1. Buddha Gyajin in the gods realm to subdue the pride of all gods and relieve their suffering;
2. Buddha Thagzangri in the demi-gods realm to subdue their jealousy and relieve their suffering of constant fighting and warfare;
3. Buddha Shakyamuni in the human realm to subdue their desire and relieve them from birth, old age, sickness and death;
4. Buddha Sangye Rabten in the animals realm to subdue their defilement of ignorance, and relieve their suffering of being hunted, eaten and tortured;
5. Buddha Namkhazod in the hungry ghost realm to subdue their defilement of miserliness, and relieve their suffering of hunger and thirst;
6. Buddha Chokyi Gyalpo in the hell realm to subdue the defilement of hatred, and relieve the suffering of extreme hot and cold and other intense sufferings.
Countless sentient beings were thus liberated.
Manifestation of the Thousand-Armed Thousand-Eyes Avalokiteshvara and the six-syllable mantra
After some time, Avalokiteshvara thought that he would have reduced significantly the number of suffering sentient beings. When he gazed with his wisdom eye from Mount Meru, he was disappointed to find that the numbers had not decreased. He radiated his lights to the six realms another three times to liberate the sentient beings. When he checked again, he was disappointed. With despair, he thought, "Truly as what the Tathagatha has spoken, space is infinite; so like-wise sentient beings are also infinite. I have liberated so many beings and yet their numbers have not decreased. Samsara has no end. I must liberate myself."
With this degenerate thought, he broke his bodhisattva vow. His head cracked into a hundred pieces. With great repentance, he cried to Buddha Amitabha and all the Buddhas for help, " I have not accomplished my purpose and sentient beings' purpose, please help me". Buddha Amitabha appeared, collected the hundred pieces of cracked skull, and transformed them into eleven heads. He blessed ten of them with peaceful appearances and one with wrathful appearance in order to subdue those who could not be subdued by peaceful means.
Buddha Amitabha then instructed, " There is no beginning to samsara. There is also no end to samsara. You must benefit sentient beings until samsara ends."
Avalokiteshvara requested " If I need to benefit all the sentient beings until samsara ends, may I have one thousand arms, and one thousand eyes. May these one thousand arms manifest as a thousand universal monarchs, and the one thousand eyes manifest as a thousand Buddhas". Buddha Amitabha granted him his wish with one thousand arms and one thousand eyes, each eye in the palm of each hand.
Amitabha Buddha then further instructed him " If you want to relieve the suffering of the six realms, you must propagate the Six-Syllable Mantra "OM MANI NI PAD ME HUM" which will stop the rebirth and sufferings of the beings of the six realms. Each of the syllabuses will eliminate the cause and condition to be reborn in one of the respective six realms. " OM " will eliminate the cause and condition to be borne in the gods' realm. " MA " will eliminate the cause and condition to be borne in the demi-gods realm. " NI " will eliminate the cause and condition to be borne in the human realm. " PAD " will eliminate the cause and condition to be borne in the animal realm, " ME " will eliminate the cause and condition to be borne in the hungry ghost realm. " HUM " will eliminate the cause and condition to be borne in the hell realm. You must engage, keep, recite and absorb this. This will empty the six realms. "
The Coming of Avalokitesvara into this World
Amitabha Buddha manifested the six syllables of "Om Mani Padme Hum" in the form of light, which came into this world to Mount Potala. He also instructed Avalokitesvara to go there to liberate all the sentient beings. Heralding Avalokitesvara's coming, the whole world was filled with wondrous signs and brilliant lights, which surpassed the sun and moon.
During that time, Shakyamuni Buddha was giving a teaching at Mount Malaya. One of the Bodhisattva noticed the brilliant lights. He kneeled down and asked the Buddha for the reason. Shakyamuni Buddha replied, " From here to the West beyond the countless universes, there is a place called Padmawati. At that place, there is a Buddha known as Amitabha, and he has a Bodhisattva called Avalokiteshvara. This Bodhisattva has come to this world to Mount Potala where he will benefit countless sentient beings. He is the most perfect amongst all the bodhisattvas. He manifests one thousand Buddhas pervading the whole universe in order to liberate all sentient beings. "
The Teachings of the Six-Syllable Mantra by Shakyamuni Buddha
On one occasion, Shakyamuni Buddha was dwelling at the monastery of Anathapindika, in Jeta Grove, near Shravasti with his entourage of disciples. He introduced this remarkable bodhisattva and the Six-Syllable Mantra to the assembly. A Bodhisattva by the name of Sarvanivaranaviskambhim made a request to the Exalted One. The Bodhisattva paid homage and cried, " For the benefits of the beings in the six realms, please advice me how I may obtain this Great Mantra that is the wisdom of all the Buddhas, which will cut the roots of the samsara. May Buddha please bestow me this teaching. I offer the whole universe as Mandala. To whoever who wishes to write this Six-syllable Mantra, I offer my blood as ink, my bones as pen and skin as paper. Please, Lord Buddha, grant me this teaching of the Six-syllable mantra.
Shakyamuni Buddha then gave the teaching, " This is the most beneficial mantra. Even I made this aspiration to all the million Buddhas and subsequently received this teaching from Amitabha Buddha."
The benefits of the Six-Syllable Mantra
The merits of the Six-Syllable Mantra are immeasurable and cannot be fully described even by the Buddhas of the three times. Some of these benefits are:
1. Whoever keeps this mantra, his body will transform into the vajra body, his bones will transform into the relics of the Buddha and his ordinary mind will transform into the wisdom of the Buddhas.
2. Whoever recites the mantra for even one time will obtain immeasurable wisdom. He will be born as a universal monarch. He will achieve the irreversible stage of the Bodhisattva and finally attain Enlightenment.
3. If this mantra is carved onto rocks and mountains, and human or non human beings comes into contact and sees the mantra, he will develop the cause to be a bodhisattva in the next life, thereby relieving his sufferings.
It is said that the sand of the Ganges and the drops of water in the ocean can be counted but not the merits from the recitation of this Six-Syllable Mantra.
The Six-Syllable Mantra is the speech manifestation and the wisdom energy of all the Buddhas. It purifies our impure perception of sound. It is also a means to protect our mind from its deluded thoughts. It cuts off one's ignorance and opens up one's wisdom. It augments immeasurable blessings and peacefulness can be obtained. It can save and alleviate beings from hundreds and thousands of suffering and difficulties.
This may sound inconceivable to some people. The Bodhisattva, however, has made great aspiration and accumulated countless merits, wisdom and skilful means to help sentient beings. He has the "hook" to liberate beings. If we have the sincerity and deep faith in him and exercise effort in our practice of Dharma, we are likened to having " a solid and unbroken ring." With our ring of faith, Avalokitesvara will be able to "fish" us out of our sufferings.
Therefore, we should respectfully bring Avalokiteshvara to mind, and sincerely and clearly recite the Six-Syllable-Mantra. All our worldly and beyond worldly needs will be fulfilled.
Avalokiteshvara In Tibet
At one time, Lha Thothori Nyentsen, a Tibetan King, was residing in the Yumbu Lagang Palace. A casket fell from the sky upon the palace roof. It opened and revealed the Sutra of The Rites of Renunciation and Fulfillment (spang-skong phyag-brgya-pa'imdo), a mould engraved with the Dharani of the Wish-fulfilling Gem (Cintamanidharani), the Sutra of the Cornucopia of Avalokitesvara's Attributes (Aryakaranda-sutra), the Six-Syllable Mantra, and a golden Stupa. The king did not know what they were, but understood them to be auspicious. The king had a visionary dream that the meaning of the "auspicious objects" would be understood after five generations.
The fifth monarch after Lha Thatori was King Songtsen Gampo. He married the Nepalese princess Brikuti and the Chinese Tang princess Wen-Cheng. Each of them brought a statute of Shakyamuni Buddha to Tibet and introduced the Buddhist culture to the country. The King felt the importance to bring the Buddhas' Teachings to his people. He sent Thonmi Sambhota to India to study grammar and writing. Thonmi Sambhota later invented the Tibetan alphabets and grammar based on the Sanskrit. The first Buddhist text that was translated from Sanskrit to Tibetan language is the Twenty-One sutras and tantras of Avalokiteshvara. Subsequently, many other important Buddha teachings were also translated.
The King and his people engaged in the practice of Avalokiteshvara. The scriptures of the teachings were collected and hidden in separate treasures. The accomplished masters Ngodrup, Lord Nyang and the teacher Shakya-O later recovered these treasures. The treasures are renowned as the Collected Works of the King concerning the Mantra "Om Mani Padme Hum" (mani bka-bum).
Many past and living great masters in Tibet propagate the teachings of Avalokiteshvara to their devotees. There are a number of sadhanas composed by such great masters who had personally received the teachings from the deity in the course of their practice. Many Tibetan practitioners follow these methods of practice to accomplish the state of Avalokiteshvara and liberate themselves from the sufferings of Samsara. They also lead others to this perfect path.
Many monasteries and nunneries also conduct yearly purification retreats (Nyungne), Grand recitations of the Mantra for the ordained and lay people. The masters also encourage the casting of the Six-Syllable Mantra on prayer wheels, etc to create merits. The Tibetans believe that all these actions will support them in the progress of their spiritual path. They believe that Avalokiteshvara is their savior and protector, while King Songtsen Gampo was an emanation of Avalokiteshvara, and his two consorts were emanations of the two Taras.
Avalokiteshvara In China
Although Buddhism came to China since the Eastern Han dynasty, it became very widespread and influential in the country only during the period of Tang dynasty. Many followers of the religion made pilgrimage to India to learn from the source of the Teachings. The most famous of these Tang pilgrims is Master Hsuan-Tsang. It was recorded that during his journey to India, he lost his way in the desert but managed to find his way out by calling upon the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara for assistance.
In Chinese Buddhism, there are two main schools concerning the teaching and practice of Avalokiteshvara. The Tien Tai School teaches the Saddharmapundarika Sutra or Lotus Sutra. In one of the chapters of "Pu Men Pin", Shakyamuni Buddha related that this Bodhisattva has the ability to manifest everywhere and in any form in order to save beings from sufferings. He readily responds to those who are facing dangers such as dangers caused by the weapons, fetters, fire, demons, cliffs and water. The Buddha also related that if there is a woman who desires to have a child, then she should pray to the bodhisattva with reverence and respect, and in due time she will give birth to a child of her choice endowed with blessings, virtues and wisdom.
The other is the Jing Tu (Pure Land) School, which propagate the teaching of the Amitabha Sutra. According to the text, Amitabha Buddha has created a Buddha Pure Land out of his boundless compassion and love for all sentient beings. He vows that anyone who has absolute faith in him and the Pure Land will be reborn there. In that Pure Land, Avalokiteshvara who is his assistant is ever ready to go anywhere to lead the faithful to the land of purity and bliss. The simplicity of this teaching appeal and touch the heart of those who are seeking for peace and happiness. With the spread of this school of practice, Amitabha Buddha and Avalokiteshvara become even more popular. There is a Chinese Saying, "Amitabha in every place; Kuan-Yin in every house".
The worship of this Bodhisattva is now very much merged with the Chinese tradition and beliefs. This can be evidenced from the change of the gender of the Bodhisattva from male to female. The paintings from Dun-huang portrayed the Bodhisattva as a male with a moustache. He is also sometimes depicted with eleven heads, a thousand eyes and a thousand hands. However, after this period the Bodhisattva is shown as a female clad in white called Pay-Yi Kuan Yin. It is possible to justify such a change for the Mahayana sutras teach that a Bodhisattva could assume any form and shape to assist sentient beings.
Great Practitioners of Avalokiteshvara
The biographies of great masters are always a continual source of inspiration. Their enlightened activities benefit countless beings. We introduced here two such great masters who had practised the Avalokiteshvara's teachings and attained Enlightenment.
One of the great masters is Gelogma Palmo (or bhikunis Lakshimi) who lived in the tenth or eleventh centuries C.E. She was born in a royal family of an Indian Kingdom, and was ordained in her youth. She received many teachings from the great masters of her time and practiced diligently. Due to the ripening of her past karma, she contracted leprosy and was cast into the forest by the people. She had a vision of Kind Indrabodhi who advised her to practice Avalokiteshvara.
She recited the mantras of Avalokiteshvara and subsequently performed the continuous Nyungne retreat before the image of Avalokiteshvara. Through devotion and diligence in her practice, she was able to recover from leprosy. She also developed great love and compassion for all beings. She became an enlightened nun and guided many disciples in the practice of Avalokiteshvara.
She was credited for passing down the practice of Nyungne retreat, a very effective practice for purification and developing loving-kindness and compassion for all beings.
Another great practitioner of Avalokiteshvara is Thangton Gyalpo (1385-1509). He was born in upper Tsang in Tibet. One day, while he was practising the Six-Syllable Mantra, the sublime Avalokiteshvara appeared before him to guide and empower him.
Through his diligent practice, he became a realized being. Based on his practice and achievement, he wrote the sadhana "For the Benefits of Beings as Vast as Space" to guide others in the practice of Avalokiteshvara. This text is found in all the Tibetan schools of Buddhism.
He was able to recall his previous life as Gelong Padma Karpo (or bhikhu White Lotus). During that lifetime, from the age of 20 to 80 years old he consistently practiced the Avalokiteshvara Nyungne Retreat. He could even remember how he had supplicated to this great bodhisattva. This supplication was recorded in the Buddhist prayers and passed down to this day.
After, he was enlightened; he also recovered many concealed treasures of the doctrines, and introduced the Buddha teachings to many people. He produced uncountable images, books and stupas representing the Buddha's body, speech and mind. He built more than a hundred ferry-crossings and iron suspension bridges to benefit the people. In order to encourage virtuous conduct in the people and to support the cost of the construction works, he depicted the lives of past bodhisattvas, religious kings, and others in folk operas. All his activities were inconceivable in his time.
According to the Buddha Teachings, it is extremely difficult for one to receive the teachings of Avalokiteshvara and the Six-Syllable Mantra. However, due to our accumulated merits, we are able to learn about Avalokiteshvara, his development process, his great mission and his accomplishments. We also learn about the inconceivable merits of the Mantra, we should rejoice and cherish this.
If we recite this Mantra, which liberates all the beings from samsara, we will be able to purify our misdeeds, clear our obscurations and perfect our Bodhicitta.
Thus we should:
Take the Arya Avalokiteshvara as our Yidam (deity),
Recite the Six Syllables as the essence mantra,
Be free from the fear of going to the lower realms.
With this I complete my short article on the Arya Avalokiteshvara and the Six-Syllable Mantra with a stanza from the Thirty-Seven Practices of A Bodhisattva :
Due to the virtue arising from this, may all sentient beings
By means of the supreme and conventional Bodhicittas,
Become the Protector Avalokiteshvara who does not abide in the
Extremes of cyclic existence and solitary salvation.
Dedication of Merits
As it is said,
" The Buddha Dharma has no owner
except for those persevere in it."
May the merit from this gift of Buddha Dharma be shared by all beings.
May all those who have the affinity with Arya Avalokiteshvara
be able to come into contact with his teachings,
and may all develop his great compassion
and love for all beings.
May all be able to follow his footsteps
To Complete Enlightenment.
Praise to Arya Avalokitesvara,
To hear his name and see his form
Delivers beings from every woe.
This teaching was originally available as a small printed booklet from the Karma Kagyud Buddhist Centre, Singapore.
Avalokiteshvara - bodhisattva of compassion
by Ken Holmes
Avalokiteshvara is known as Chenrezig to Tibetans
Universal love and compassion are the very foundation of every bodhisattva's spirituality yet nowhere are they more evident than in Chenrezig. In many ways, he is the archetypal expression of compassion, which is the sine qua non for attaining enlightenment. He occurs throughout mahayana Buddhism, either as a specific being or, more commonly, as an archetypal bodhisattva who is the quintessential expression of every Buddha's love.
The legend of Chenrezig as a specific being
Whether it be plain fact or apocryphal legend, the story of Chenrezig as a specific being is also the tale of compassion as it develops in the mind. Compassion is first born through a sincere wish for enlightenment and a vision of life's meaning which puts others first. The initially heroic approach towards helping others mellows and deepens as the infinite vastness of the task unfolds and the underlying nature of samsara becomes clear. One also comes to recognise the diabolical skill of ignorance in eluding the truth and thwarting attempts at its destruction. This forces one to learn how to tackle it from many angles simultaneously. After long experience of the battle between good and evil, one finds a need to draw closer to the real heart of the problem and to befriend and understand it rather than attacking it. For this, one must learn how to mobilise both the masculine and feminine aspects of mind's innate loving compassion, and be both dynamic yet responsive in one's dealings with the myriad manifestations of mind. These steps are all reflected in the traditional story:
"Countless ages ago, a thousand young men vowed
to become Buddhas, each offering up a different resolution. One resolved to
become Gautama Buddha, in what was a far distant time in the future and which
has now become our era. Another, Chenrezig, resolved not to become enlightened
until all the others had succeeded, promising to assist them all in their task
and to be the servant of any being wishing to attain enlightenment, anywhere
in the universe. He would both teach them and put questions on their behalf
to the Buddhas, as humans often find it difficult to formulate their enquiries
Feeling great compassion for all beings, he made many journeys into their various domains of existence, from the highest realms of the gods to the most pitiful hells. The more he saw of the confusion and suffering that predominated everywhere, the more he longed to be of help. He prayed to the Buddhas, May I help all beings. Should I ever tire of this great work, may my body be shattered into a thousand pieces. Subsequently he visited the worst hell (avici hell) and liberated as many beings as were receptive to his teachings. Progressively he worked his way up through the worlds until he reached the deva realms. Surveying the universe, he saw that although he had released thousands from the sufferings of the three lower realms - animals, spirits and hell-beings - thousands more new entrants were pouring in to take their place. Distressed by this and despondent, his resolve waned and he flew into a thousand pieces, like the seeds of a pomegranate. He cried out to all the Buddhas who, like a fall of snowflakes, came to his rescue and made him whole again through their beneficent influence. Thereafter, he had a thousand arms and nine heads, to which Amitabha Buddha added a special head along with the blessing of his higher wisdom. Then Bodhisattva Vajrapani added a wrathful head symbolising the special powers of all the Buddhas. This is why Chenrezig is sometimes depicted with a thousand arms and eleven heads.
In his new form, Chenrezig became even more powerful than before but he was still moved to tears by the manifold sufferings of samsara. Again he took a solemn vow before all the Buddhas, May I not attain enlightenment until every last being has been liberated. At one time, his tears of compassion fell to the ground and caused two lotuses to spring up. From each of these emerged a form of the female Bodhisattva Tara, one white and the other green. Tara (dölma in Tibetan) means the Saviouress, the One Who Carries Across the Ocean of Samsara. The two Taras pledged to be Chenrezig's sisters in dharma and to help him bring beings to enlightenment."
The mahayana scriptures also recount that Chenrezig offered his mantra Om mani padme hung to the Buddha, who advised him to use it a a very special means for liberating beings. The Enlightened One blessed the mantra, pronouncing that it embodied the compassion of all the Buddhas combined. At that time the gods rained flowers on the worlds, the earth quaked with soft rumblings and the air was filled with the sound of celestial beings chanting the mantra.
Chenrezig - the guiding light of Tibet
It is not unusual for one buddha, or even bodhisattva, to be placed centre stage by a particular sect, as is the case, for instance, with Buddha Amitabha in the teachings of the Japanese Pure Land school. But the fact that a whole nation - possessing the greatest diversity of Buddhism found anywhere on Earth - considers itself to be guided and protected by Chenrezig is a tribute to him indeed.
The early kings who brought Buddhism to Tibet are believed by Tibetans to have been emanations of Chenrezig and Mañjushri. Since then, some of the greatest reincarnate lamas, such as the seventeen generations of Karmapas and, more latterly, the fourteen Dalai Lamas, are also considered to be his emanations. More strikingly, almost every Buddhist in Tibet recited Chenrezig's mantra om mani padme hung on a daily basis, to such an large extent that a popular saying recounts that Tibetan children pick up the mani mantra before learning to say mama or papa.
Chenrezig the cosmic bodhisattva
Mahayana Buddhism offers a wealth of techniques for transmuting the negative into the positive. At the heart of them all is compassion. Chenrezig the bodhisattva is the symbolic expression of all these forms of compassion in action. As the Discourse on Chenrezig's Realisation says:
Were one thing and one thing alone to represent every enlightened quality, as though it were in the palm of one's hand, what would it be? Great compassion.
The light of compassion shines wisely and with timeliness. It illuminates things appropriate to a particular disciple. It shows the family person how to bring peace, wisdom and harmony into the household. It shows the solitary meditator how to relate lovingly yet firmly to the complexities of his or her own mind. It shows the ruler how to govern and the afflicted how to cope with their suffering. Some of the techniques of compassion are superficial and remedial. Others are extremely profound and radical. Of the more profound techniques, Chenrezig is particularly associated with the use of the power of sound as a gateway to liberation.
The Suramgama Sutra tells how, in ages long gone by, the bodhisattva followed a certain Buddha Avalokitesvara, from whom he took his name, who instructed him to focus his meditation on the faculty of hearing. By analysing what at first seemed to be two things - external sound and the inner faculty of hearing - the bodhisattva soon recognised their inseparability; their non-duality. Neither could be found to have existence on its own and hence each was devoid of existence. By then pursuing this voidness, with direct awareness rather than intellectual analysis, the bodhisattva understood the whole question of consciousness and attained successive degrees of enlightenment, thereby acquiring extraordinary powers to help others. We find these powers, which are embodied in his mantra om mani padme hung, also mentioned in the Lotus Sutra. They enable him to manifest to anyone, in forms having direct relevance to their needs. He appears as the Buddha to teach bodhisattvas, as a disciplined monk to those seeking the Four Noble Truths, as a mighty dharma warrior to those wishing to protect the weak, as a wise civil elder to those wanting to learn government, as a nun to women weary of their worldly lot, as a powerful Brahmin to those wishing to master natural energies and so on and so forth.
Praying to Chenrezig, reciting the mani mantra and practising profound meditation on the nature of sound is believed to save people in dire situations, such as shipwrecks, fires and armed attacks. Some hold that reciting a million such mantras can enable the blind to see. Sometimes such claims are meant to be taken at face value but fuller explanations show them to be more reasonable, since they work over a period of lives. The general theme of such explanations is that misfortunes are caused by bad karma and that such karma is more often than not habitual, and therefore likely to produce the same misfortune in future lives. Meditation on Chenrezig and his mantra not only radically ruptures these negative habits but also opens the inner floodgates of compassion, spontaneously giving rise to their opposites, replacing aggression with love and tolerance and so forth.
Chenrezig takes on many forms in the tantras, having one, three, five, seven, nine, eleven and so on up to 84,000 faces, with two, four, six, eight, ten twelve and so on up to 84,000 arms. Some of his forms are gentle, kind and merciful. Others show the wrathful face of compassion. The extraordinary quality of the most common form - that with one face and four arms - is to be the only tantric practice which bears no element of risk and which can be practised by anyone and everyone. In general, mahayana Buddhists believe the grace of Chenrezig to be so powerful that even one sincere recitation of his mantra or one open-hearted look at his kind face is enough to sow a seed of future illumination in the mind.
Also widely practised is the eleven faced, one-thousand-armed form associated with the two-day uposita fasting ritual, known as nyungné by Tibetans. Involving an austere first day and total abstention from food or drink during the second day, this ritual is one of continuous prayer, humility and generation of compassion. It is aimed at helping wretched ghosts and spirits and, in the process, eliminating some of the participants' bad karma, caused through greed and avarice. More wrathful than this form is the red standing form of Chenrezig known as 'He who shakes the very foundations of existence'.
by Venerable Khenchen Konchog Gyaltshen Rinpoche
Ngöndro Program 2001
Ratnashri Meditation Center, Sweden
In the next few days, we are going to discuss in detail on taking refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. The basic purpose of taking refuge or to get involve in the study and practice of the Dharma is to purify all our obscurations. It says in the Prayer Book: "All mother sentient beings, especially those enemies who hate me, obstructors who harm me, and those who create obstacles on my path to liberation and all knowingness, may they experience happiness and be separated from suffering, and I will quickly establish them in the state of the unsurpassed, perfect, complete and precious buddhahood." As we ourselves desire to free from suffering and to gain happiness, in the same way, all other sentient beings have the same desire. Our Dharma study and practice is to purify all our mental obscurations. Mental obscurations arise when we encounter something negative. We get upset when we do not like something. That is why the prayer mentions "enemies". When we look at enemies, our mind shakes and cannot stay in one place. Aggressiveness rises up. At that time, Dharma practice has to be applied. When everything goes well, we do not need special Dharma practice. There is no problem. We need to do Dharma practice in order to free ourselves from different types of sufferings and obstacles both on a day-to-day basis and in the long run. In order to free ourselves completely from suffering and to attain buddhahood, we take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. For example, when we are hungry, we take refuge in the food. We rely on the food. When we are thirsty, we take refuge in a bottle of water. When we feel cold, we take refuge in the heat either by wearing warm clothes or by turning on the heater. When we feel hot, we take refuge in the cold by using air-conditioning or staying in the shaded areas or swimming. So, that is the idea of taking refuge. Here, we take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha because in the samsara, where we are now, there is no real happiness. Even if we take refuge under the tree when it is hot, that only helps temporarily, but it cannot help us to solve all our problems. We take refuge in the food when we are hungry, but again that does not help us all the time. There comes other fundamental problems, especially our mental obscurations. No matter how much we take refuge in the outer materials, outer technology, they cannot help us to free from all the suffering. Because of that reason, Buddha worked to attain complete Enlightenment, buddhahood, to free completely from suffering.
'Buddha' is a Sanskrit word translated into 'a fully enlightened one', the one who fully perfected in all the purification. In Sanskrit, Tibetan or in other languages, the word was translated long time ago. People do not use the word 'Buddha' so much as nowadays. In Sanskrit or Tibetan, we say 'sang-gye' which means the fully awakened one. Sang means fully awakened from ignorance and gye means fully blossomed, like a lotus, knowing the suchness, the reality of all phenomena. Nowadays, the word 'Buddha' is popular in the world and we say Buddha everywhere. Basically, a fully awakened one does not confine to a specific Buddha or a specific person, but rather it can be achieved by anyone. We use the word 'Buddha' to refer to a specific Buddha, the historical Buddha once appeared on this planet and taught Dharma teachings. In fact, there are many Buddhas, hundreds and thousands of Buddhas. Anybody who achieves that state fully can become Buddha. Anyone whose mind is completely free from all obscurations and attain absolute peace, the absolute reality, that person can be a Buddha. Anyone can take refuge in that individual when he attains that absolute state. So that is basically what Buddha is.
Mind is very profound and complex. Because of its complexity, we are capable of producing lots of things in a complex way. Like computers, we make such a complex computer nowadays. We need to think so much, put all the necessary mechanical things together, put lots of knowledge and information together to make it works, isn't it? Like aircraft, automobiles and machines, all are mind-created. Every year, something new - new features or new in design, is made and put into the market. If you do not make something new all the time, people would not be interested. Mind can create such complexity. However, our mind is too much externalized right now. We project everything from outside. If one can internalize the mind and realize the complexity of the mind, one can become a Buddha. Due to the fact that there are many different levels of the mind, there are many stages of Buddha. Buddha manifests in Nirmanakaya, Sambogakaya and Dharmakaya form according to the individual's level and ability of the mind -from ordinary level to those who are accomplished in their meditation and to those who attain the ultimate state of Buddahood, the Enlightenment state. Of these, Dharmakaya is the most profound state that we have to actualize within the mind. Only Buddha can actualize this state. Then from that state manifests Sambogakaya and Nirmanakaya. So Dharmakaya is the base to manifest the other two. The analogy is like when there is mind, there is thinking and from thinking there is physical actions. If there is no mind, we cannot talk and we cannot have any physical movement.
The historical Buddha, who was born as a person in this world, called Siddhartha who lived in a powerful Kingdom in Northern India. His father was a very successful and powerful man. When Siddhartha was very little, he was a little special when compared to other ordinary people. Then he grew up in the Kingdom, went to school and studied all the different aspects of knowledge. He was a little smarter, a little faster and gentler, more peaceful than other children. People admired and respected him. He grew up that way. Since he was the only son in the family, his father had very high expectation that he should stay in the Kingdom and rule the Kingdom. He grew up in the perfect environment. All the positive things, education etc were present there. He stayed in the Kingdom until he was 29. He learned every knowledge. He was gifted physically and mentally. Sometimes he went for a retreat and meditated and his father became worried and wondered why he wanted to meditate when his life is alright. Even nowadays, we may think that way that if somebody meditate, that person may have some problems or imbalances. His father sent a minister to ask him if Siddhartha had a problem. The minister said that he did not have any problem. He just wanted to do that. Siddhartha could stay under the tree for a long time meditating.
One day, he saw a man who was very old and had difficulty in walking and seeing. The man was shaking his head. Siddhartha had a very sharp mind and with such discriminating wisdom, he asked one of his attendants, "What is this? Does this happen only to some individuals?" The attendant explained, "This is normal and can happen to everybody." Siddhartha continued, "It looks like it is a very uncomfortable experience. You cannot see well, cannot walk well. You have to use a walking stick to walk. Why do we need this?" The attendant explained, "It happens." Another day, he saw a person who was sick, physically full of pain. The man could not tolerate the agony, but had no choice. He was watching the person and perceived all the difficulties and suffering. He asked, "Who is he? What is happening to him?" Attendant explained, "He gets sick. When people get sick, they went through these experiences. Medicine may help a little, but otherwise, they do not have so much choice but have to go through these." Another day, he saw a person who was dead. His body was carried out to the road. His relatives were crying and screaming, "Don't leave us behind. Please come back. I cannot take this. What should I do?" They were in pain. Siddhartha was very shocked to see these things. He asked his attendant, "What is this?" "This is called death. When a person dies, he or she goes this way. Relatives and friends have difficulty in accepting this. That is why they are crying," replied his attendant. Siddhartha was thinking about these things seriously as a king of the country. He thought, "When people go through these, how can I help them? Is there any solution to free from this kind of suffering?"
Yet another day, he saw a monk who was walking peacefully, calmly and gently. Siddhartha asked, "Who is that person?" Attendant answered, "He is a monk." "What is he looking for?" "He is looking for nirvana, the Enlightenment." "What is Enlightenment?" "Enlightenment is the solution to all the suffering." He was inspired and thought, "I must go this way because there is no other choice. Even though right now I am so powerful and I can give order and can get anything I want in this country, but I cannot order people not to get old, not to get sick, not to die. This is the most critical time. I must do something to help all the people in the world who are suffering." He was thinking like this day and night, "This beautiful palace will not last long. It will become an illusion even though it does so much at the time. Life is like a dream." Because of that reason, Siddhartha renounced the Kingdom. This was very difficult for an ordinary person to understand because everything was in perfect conditions. They could not find anything unpleasant around him. They tried to do everything to make him happy. Many people were confused. His father was very upset and depressed.
Siddhartha left the Kingdom and searched for the Dharma teachings - the solution to how to encounter all the delusion and suffering that sentient beings had. For six years, he was practicing and meditating, under great hardship, not eating food and not drinking. He ate only one grain per day. He found out that that was not a solution neither - just enduring hardship was not the solution to free from suffering. What then was the solution? He achieved a very high state of meditation, a very high state because, otherwise, he could not have sustained his life by eating only one grain per day. Still, he was not satisfied with the achievement. He continued to seek. He finally realized that the mind is the one. When we do not know how to relate to the mind, we suffer. When we know that, the real peace is just there, within the mind. With that realization, he went to Bodhgaya and meditated there. "On this very seat, I will stay until I actualize the complete result with all my effort. I am committed to this. Even when my whole body crumbles, disintegrates, I will sit here. With this kind of determination, strength and critical insight, he sat there. With one-pointed mind, he attained Buddhahood. He was then called Buddha.
This happened more than 2500 years ago. So attaining Buddhahood was not some kind of a creation of religion, culture or tradition, but rather it was something that he went through, investigated, scrutinized and finally realized the complete nature of mind - the Enlightenment. At that moment, Buddha said, "I reveal such an undefiled ambrosia which is so profound. So profound because the ordinary mind, the duality mind cannot penetrate through. The mind needs to be free from duality. That is why meditation becomes so important. It is in total peace because all delusion is dissolved in that state. It is unfabricated and completely free from all elaboration, like space. Space is free from all elaboration. The mind is of that nature, of luminosity nature, meaning that all the excellent qualities such as great compassion, great wisdom and all the knowing qualities are just there. Just like when a candle is lit, it has all the brilliant qualities to dispel the darkness. In fact, all sentient beings have that nature.
For forty-five years from age thirty-five to eighty, he walked on this planet with people talking to people, teaching, instructing and helping as many as he could. He taught all sutra teachings. When people had delusion, they went to him for help. For example, one time, a woman suffered a lot because she lost her only child. She could not accept that. She went around and asked people for help. She said, "I want to get the child's life back. I cannot accept this. Why do I deserve this? I do not want this. If my child is not coming back, I will die with the child." She went to many different places, meeting many spiritual masters. Of course, nobody could help to bring back the life of the child. So finally she arrived to Buddha. She gave the body to Buddha and cried, "I want this child's life back!" Buddha, knowing all the conditions, with great compassion, said to her, "I understand your feeling and what you are going through. Maybe we can do something. You leave the child here and I will watch the child. You go to this small village and visit from house to house. If you can find a handful of mustard seed from a house where nobody died, maybe we can do something about your child." She was very excited and replied, "Yes, I will look for it. She just went around from house to house, from door to door. At that time, there was no general hospital available. All the children were born in individual's house and all the people died in their house. She went around the whole day and could not find any house where nobody died. They told her that their parent died, their brothers and sisters died, their children and relatives died. By the end of the day, she was totally exhausted, but felt much relieved. She realized that it was not just her child died, but rather, everybody died. Some died when they were young, some when they are old. Everyone lose their relatives, friends and family. Without much choice, she came back to Buddha and said, "I could not find any house where nobody died." Buddha said, "It is not just your child. All died. Even suppose we could bring back the life of your child, he would die sooner or later. One day I will die. One day you will die. We cannot do anything about not to die, but we can train ourselves to face death, when it comes, in a positive way. We do not have to die with delusion, but we can die peacefully and joyfully. We can do that much. Her mind was awakened by this insight and said to Buddha, "I need to take refuge in you and please give me the path and instructions on how to die peacefully and joyfully." Buddha said, "Sister, just follow me."
Like that, Buddha walked on this planet, living with people and eating with people. People perceive something special about Buddha. Buddha walked very peacefully, spoke very softly and gently. People admired him. People took refuge in him in order to achieve the enlightened state to free from delusion. One time, a wild elephant came through. Through Buddha's great compassion and great wisdom, he realized that elephant was also suffering as we human beings do. He pacified the great neurosis, the great negative thoughts. Even that wild elephant took refuge in the Buddha. So people and sentient beings took refuge in the Buddha is to free from delusion and suffering. However, only a few had the opportunities to meet Buddha physically. Therefore, the teachings of Buddha (Dharma) and our Dharma practices become important. Dharma practices are methods to open the mind.
We are born in this world, growing up in different ways depending on system in different countries. We make effort to survive in our lives and then at the end, we die. Everything is impermanent, of transitory nature. It comes and goes. Look at today's flower, so fresh and beautiful. Next day, it faints and decays. Today we buy a fresh flower and after a couple days, we throw it in the trash. Today, we pay a lot to buy a new computer and after some time, we throw it away because it is no longer useful. While living in the delusion and having all our negative thoughts, we make so much effort and suffer unnecessarily. When the negative thoughts are purified, we feel free, relaxed and happy. But when negative thoughts arise in the mind, we feel so much suffering. Everything seems negative, "I do not like this and that." When the negative thoughts disappeared, everything seems fine and nothing seems to matter much. You would say, "It is okay." So that is universal. Buddhas' teachings, the Dharma helps us step by step to purify our delusion and negative thoughts and to realize our own nature of mind.
First, it is important to see that as a historical Buddha, he realized that nature. Buddha went through all the steps since the day he was born, growing up in the Kingdom and dealing with people. He left the Kingdom, went through great hardship and finally attained Enlightenment. He went through all the procedures in life to show us that we, too, can do the same thing. He did not use magic to solve the problem, but rather he showed us the practical way and laid out all the steps for us to follow. For example, when dealing with the mother who had a child, as mentioned before, he just showed her the practical thing in the life. She had so much grievances from what she went through. Buddha showed her the way. Through her own wisdom, she accepted the situation even though her child's life was never brought back. There are ways to accept things in life even though things may go wrong, even when we cannot replace them. That was how Buddha taught. Usually in our lives, if something cannot be replaced, we cannot accept it. Instead of fighting with that, we learn how to accept that. Buddha taught in this marvelous way. We learn to purify our delusion and negative thoughts. That is why we take refuge in the Buddha.
I take refuge in the Buddha means that I want to become Buddha. I want to attain Enlightenment. I will practice the Dharma until I have perfected my mind. This does not mean how much new things we are going to learn. When we study and practice the Dharma, we tend to look for new things, new information all the time. There are not so many new things to be learned. It depends on how much we practice and how much we purify our negative thoughts. This is what counts. It counts when we put the Dharma teachings into practice, when we bring the teachings into our mind and exercise it thoroughly. This is how we take refuge in the Buddha.
Buddha used his wisdom mind to purify all the obscurations. There are two types of obscurations-obscurations of afflictive emotions and subtle obscurations. First, obscurations of afflictive emotions like ignorance, attachment, pride, jealousy and hatred. When any of these are in our mind, it takes away all our peace, joy and happiness. So Buddha purified these negative thoughts. But just that much is not enough. Just by reducing a little bit, those deeply-rooted bad negative thoughts are bound to manifest in the mind. We have to totally uproot them. To uproot them, we have to purify all our subtle obscurations before we can attain Enlightenment. So Buddha purified both of these obscurations. When you meditate, your mind becomes calm and peaceful. Then there is clarity. When there is clarity in the mind, then critical insights come. Through critical insight, you can penetrate the reality of the mind. In this way, you will see the nonexistence nature of afflictive emotions. They are just like cloud. When you see the cloud at a distance, you see that it looks like a mountain that you can be held on to. But when you are inside a cloud, can you grasp the cloud? No. Negative thoughts are like that. When you have some critical insight, you see a glimpse of the true nature. Then you make effort in order to purify obscurations repeatedly. It is not enough to do one or two times. We have to dedicate ourselves to do it the rest of the life. This is crucial because there is no other choice. Jus like what Buddha did, he purified all the obscurations without exception.
Then he revealed the two great wisdoms - knowing the nature of phenomena and knowing everything. Knowing the nature of phenomena is like the nature of water in the ocean. The water in Indian Ocean and the water in the Pacific Ocean are the same, isn't it? There is no difference. But there is a difference in locations and names. Indian Ocean belongs to some countries while Pacific Ocean belongs to some other countries. Sometimes people from different countries have argument over the territories. But for the water, there is no difference. Like sky, you can say, "This is the sky of Sweden. Nobody is allowed to come here without our permission." Then you cross the border, enter into the Danish sky and you need permission. But for the sky itself, there is no difference. Buddha came to know that everything is in that nature, as it is. It is unfabricated, unelaborated. We fabricate it, elaborate it. This is this and that. We made a lot of boundaries. Through delusion, we make all the fabrication and complication. Buddha realized that everything is in that nature, as it is, precisely without any mistake. There are many different types of trees, sentient beings and so on. Their appearance is due to the result of many different causes known as karma and can be distinctly identified without any mistake. So Buddha can develop and manifest this kind of wisdom. This is what Buddha is.
Buddha's compassion manifests to every sentient being without exception. Buddha's compassion is not greater to the buddhists than to the non-buddhists. It is impartial to human and non-human, to buddhists and non-buddhists. Buddha's compassion is like sunshine. When the sun shines, it shines everywhere - to the snow mountain, down to the valley, to clean places and unclean places. Buddha's compassion is impartial and complete therefore everyone can take refuge in the Buddha.
Here is a story. At the time of Buddha, there was a king, Bimbisara, who was very devoted to Buddha and his followers. He himself was a great practitioner. He achieved a very high level of realization in spite of his busy life as a king. His son was a very aggressive person. He had a bad friend. Together they put his father to prison. His father died in the prison. Not only that, he harmed Buddha and together with his friend, they divided the Sangha, the Dharma practitioners. Because of all the negative deeds and such great negative thoughts, he got very sick. He got lots of pimples on his body. The whole palace smelled puss that was produced by his sick body. Many physicians in that area came and treated him, but no one could help. The best physician came to him and tried to treat him. At the end, the doctor advised him to take refuge in the Buddha. The king was desperate to do anything, but since he had harmed Buddha and his followers in many ways, the king thought that Buddha would hate him. That was why he never thought of seeking help from Buddha. He told the physician that he did not think that Buddha would help him. The physician said that if the king took refuge in the Buddha, Buddha would help him. The king hesitated and asked the physician again, "Are you sure that Buddha would really help me?" The physician replied, "Yes, I am sure. You should go and ask for help and he will help you." At that moment, the king got some prediction that he would die within a couple of days. So he was very afraid and desperate. The king prepared the elephant to rid on and set off the journey. He asked the physician to sit next to him to help him just in case something might happen. Together, they went to see the Buddha.
At that time, Buddha was teaching high up on the mountain in a temple with thousand of monks listening to the Buddha's teaching. At a distance, when the King saw Buddha, Buddha said, "Welcome the King." The king thought that there must be some great king coming. The king just looked around because he did not think that the greeting was for him. He proceeded. When he came closer, once again Buddha said, "You king, welcome!" Still, he thought that there must be some great king coming from another country, maybe from god realm or some other places. He looked around and proceeded. When he came very close to Buddha, Buddha called his name and said, "Welcome, the King!" The king became very emotional because he harmed Buddha in so many ways and seeing Buddha having such great compassion and also he had such a great sickness. With all these emotions, he fainted and fell down from the elephant to the ground. All the people rushed to help him. When he awoke, he got such great devotion to the Buddha. The king perceived that Buddha had no resentment, no aggression to him. Buddha said to him, "Now, you go and purify all your negative karma." The king replied, "Yes, I will purify not only all my negative karma, but the negative karma of all sentient beings." He became such a great Dharma practitioner. This is how Buddha helped those who harmed him and his followers. Buddha had no resentment. That is why we take refuge in the Buddha. The king took refuge in the Buddha and practiced the Dharma sincerely and achieved a very high realization and purified all his obscurations and negative karma.
Sometimes we may think that Buddha has passed away for more than 2500 years ago. We do not have a chance to see him but yet his Dharma teachings are still very fresh, very applicable. To that, it is very important to understand that Buddha cultivates his bodhicitta (mind of Enlightenment) unceasingly to free all sentient beings from suffering and delusion. Since sentient beings are still not free from suffering, Buddha's wisdom and compassion continue to manifest even during this time. Therefore, when we now study and practice Dharma, we get much benefit. When you sit down and meditate, take refuge in the Buddha, say some prayers and bring the Dharma teachings to your heart, you get much benefit. That comes from Buddha's blessing. Infinite Buddhas' activities are manifested unceasingly, therefore, we need not go to some special place or rely on some material things in any physical form. All we need is our pure motivation, interest and effort.
In samsara, within the six realm in this universe, everything is of cyclic existence. Cyclic means going around and round. This is due to our delusion. The analogy is like a fly flying from this corner to that corner thinking that it has flown a long distance. Then it stays there for some time and then flies to a new place. So, from there, it flies back to here thinking once again that it has flown so far. Sometimes it flies up in the ceiling and stayed there for a few moments until it is disturbed. Every time, it thinks that it flies to a different dimension, different place. However, no matter how far the fly goes around, it is still inside this tent. Likewise, we go around in this world just like the flies fly around this tent. Nowadays, because of the good transportation system, you can easily fly from here to Hawaii to have a vacation, to enjoy the beautiful islands. However, if you stay there for too long, you will experience suffering there too. It is not a place where you can stay all the time. If you are buddhists, you may like to go to India to see Buddha's birth place, or Bodhgaya, Buddha's enlightened place. When we go there, there are lots of suffering too. If you live in India, you may think, "Let's go to the western countries which are highly developed and can see many wonderful things at many wonderful places." You made lots of efforts and there too has lots of suffering. This is what samsara is, in cycle, back and forth. If you do not get out of this cycle, there is no permanent place of peace and happiness. That is why we take refuge in the Buddha. It is not because we are trying to make people buddhists. If you do not practice Dharma, just becoming a buddhists does not make much difference. The most important purpose to practice the Dharma teachings is to purify our negative thoughts, our delusion and to develop and manifest good qualities in the mind so that our mind becomes more peaceful, calm and clear. Then we do things more precisely, less mistakes. This is the purpose of taking refuge in the Buddha.
Buddha's twelve great deeds outline his life:
1. Descending from Tushita heaven to the human realm.
2. Buddha being conceived in mother's womb
3. Birth as a prince
4. Receiving all-round education: studying and learning all kinds of knowledge like arts, astrology, philosophy, sciences, physical education and military skills.
6. Renouncing the Kingdom
7. Six year of hardship in search of truth
8. Proceeding to Bodhgaya
9. Subduing all maras and demons during his meditation
11. Giving Dharma teachings
12. Passing away
Buddha was born when his mother was walking to Lumbini (nowadays, Napa). There were lots of stories about how his mother proceeded to Lumbini. After Buddha was born, he was taken back to the Kingdom. He stayed in the palace and many great masters came to see him. When he was a young child, he went to school and studied all different aspect of knowledge. He then married. By seeing the nature of samsara, he renounced his Kingdom. He underwent six years of hardship. He then realized that mind is the most important. Because of that he proceeded to Bodhgaya to practice meditation. The remaining subtle inner delusion manifested into maras and demons. He meditated with great loving-kindness and compassion to all the maras and demons. With one-pointed concentration, he subdued all the maras and demons and purified all delusion. After that, there is no obstacles left in his mind. By the power of clarity and one-pointedness, he perfected his wisdom and compassion and attained Buddhahood. After that, out of his wisdom and compassion, he taught the Four Noble Truths - the truth of suffering, the truth of the origins of suffering, the truth of the cessation of suffering and the truth of the causes of the cessation. For forty-five years he gave the precious Dharma teachings. When he was eighty years old, he went to Kusinagara and he passed away there. He showed us that we all have to go through this journey. We are born, live the life and then die. But Buddha passed away with great peace and joy. He gave his joy and peace to others impartially. Therefore, we follow that path. How fortunate we are to have the opportunity to study and practice the Buddha's teachings and follow Buddha's footsteps! We need to have great determination and devotion to purify all your negative thoughts and bring forth all the good qualities within the mind just as Buddha did. This is what we called taking refuge in the Buddha and cultivating bodhicitta. From that time up to now, hundreds and thousands of people got much benefit by studying and practicing the Dhamra teachings. We are following just that path. We should feel fortunate and dedicate our lives to follow Buddha's footsteps.
There are three qualities concerning Buddha's wisdom, compassion and ability:
1. Buddha's wisdom penetrate into all knowledge
2. Buddha's compassion reaches all sentient beings and
3. Buddha's ability is there when we study and practice the Dharma, which has the ability to purify our delusion and to manifest all good qualities within our mind. Buddha's activities have the ability to awake our primodial wisdom.
The study of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha is most important at the start because it is like opening the gate towards Enlightenment. It is also most important in the middle because we read many books, practice and progress on the path to Enlightenment. It is most important at the end because we become perfect, become Buddha. We embody Buddha's wisdom and compassion, embody all his Dharma teachings. Historically, Buddha went through the life experienced and realized the cyclic existence of samsara and then renounced samsara. He renounced the causes of suffering delusion, but not the sentient beings. Renounce does not mean not eating food, not wearing clothes or going to mountain. These are primitive way of renouncing. The actual renunciation is to renounce the cause of suffering. By knowing what suffering is universally and the causes of suffering, we understand that suffering does not just happen to us but to everybody. The only way to get out of that is to renounce and purify the causes of suffering. This is called renunciation. Buddha did this historically and taught us this teaching.
As mentioned before, due to the different levels of the mind, Buddha manifests in Nirmanakaya, Sambogakaya and Dharmakaya form according to the individual's level and ability of the mind - from ordinary level, to those who are accomplished in their meditation and to those who attain the ultimate state of Buddahood, the Enlightenment state. Historical Buddha came to this planet in Nirmanakaya form. People had seen Buddha, lived with Buddha and received his teachings face to face. This is also called the manifestation body or the emanation body. Sambogakaya, the enjoyment body who possesses all the perfect qualities. Buddhas wearing silken robes and jewel ornaments like Chenrezig and Tara are manifested in this form. They can be perceived by great bodhisattvas who are highly accomplished in their meditation and has purified most of their obscurations. They possess pure vision. Dharmakaya is the ultimate buddhahood which is formless. When one achieve total, complete perfection, buddhahood, one achieve Dharmakaya. The ultimate nature of Nirmanakaya, Sambogakaya and Dharmakaya is the same. But the appearance of Nirmanakaya can be seen by ordinary people, while Sambogakaya is seen by great bodhisattvas who are high accomplished, while Dharmakaya is seen directly by Buddha himself. Dharmakaya is like space, no form, free from concept and form. Look at the mind, mind has no form. Sambogakaya is like a sun or moon in the sky manifest in an insubstantial form and Nirmanakaya is like the reflection of the sun or moon on the ocean water. The reflection in the water can be seen directly in short distance. To see the sun and the moon, we have to look up higher not so close. Bodhisattvas are very close to the sun and the moon while Nirmanakaya is close to the reflection of the sun and moon. These are just analogies for us to understand.
Buddha has special qualities called the ten powers, four fearlessness and eighteen unequal qualities.
The ten powers or strengths are:
1. Knowing right and wrong completely and perfectly
If we practice virtue, the virtuous actions will manifest into peace and happiness. Through the virtuous practice, suffering will not come. Buddha knows that directly, exactly and perfectly. It is because through the virtuous practice, its benefit is enjoyed by all the sentient beings in the six realms and can help sentient beings to be free from the samsara. It does not create any undesirable conditions. Thus suffering will never come. Usually, we do not have this knowledge. For example, when you go to the river and see a fish, you immediately made an association to a nice meal. We are not so aware of the suffering it brings to the fish. But Buddha perceives that directly.
2. Directly perceiving karma cause and result
There are so many varieties of karma causes in all the six realms. In the human realm, there are so many different types of human beings. Each individual has its own cause and each cause manifests result. Then there is animal realm, hell realm and so on. Buddha can directly perceive them all.
3. Knowing the ability of each individual directly
When Buddha taught, he could perceive each disciple and being directly. Individuals have different abilities: some can receive very profound teaching, some are just beginners. He knew precisely how much devotion, perseverance and the power of the mind each individual had. For us, it is a very hidden and mysterious subject. We do not know who has ability and of what level.
4. Power to perceive directly the constitution of the mental elements, seeing the profundity of the mind.
5. Power to see all the wishes of each individual without any mistake.
Different people have different wishes and they all make wishes in a different way. We cannot perceive that. We know only our own mind what we wish. Even there were millions of people out there, Buddha had the power to perceive all directly without any mistake.
6. Buddha has perfected the practice of all the vehicles and paths
Therefore, he understood and knew all the different paths each individual was walking on -in the six realm, beyond samsara, path of Shravakas, the hearer path, Pratyeka Buddhas, the solitary realizer path and the bodhisattva path. Buddha perceived all and gave teachings accordingly.
7. Buddha perfected all the paths of meditation
Because of his achievement, he could perceive all the causes of suffering, all the different levels of the causes and how to purify each of them and how to proceed towards Enlightenment.
8. Buddha never forgot any teaching he had studied
Because of that, he had limitless recollection to his past lives. We do not know even this life. Buddha could recollect limitless lives before.
There was a story. During Buddha's time, a baby girl was born wearing a white robe. When she grew up, she did not have to buy any clothes because the clothes she had grew with her. After some time, she saw the suffering nature of samsara so she renounced samsara and became a nun. Her white robe was transformed into yellow and soon she achieved the arhat state. Lots of monks were very inspired and wondered why she was so special. Buddha said:
At the time of Buddha Akshobhya, there was a poor couple. They had only one set of clothes to wear. One time, Buddha Akshobhya visited this town and a monk was sent to go around to inspire people to come to see Buddha. He went around announcing loudly, "Buddha is here in town. Anyone would like to make a connection to the Buddha, receive teaching, make offering and so on, it is the best time to do so now." The woman asked the monk to come to their home and gave the only set of clothes to the monk and asked the monk to offer that to the Buddha. They could not go to see the Buddha. The monk took the set of old, filthy clothes and offered to the Buddha. The Buddha took up the offering in his hand and explained that that was the best offering he received that day. There were many people there and some of them were very rich. They thought that the clothes were so old and filthy wondering why Buddha was so happy with that. They came forth and asked the Buddha. The Buddha explained how pure motivation and great devotion that couple had making this offering. It was not the thing that count, but rather their supreme motivation. So they asked Buddha where the couple were and Buddha said that they lived down in the village. They were so poor and had nothing. People became curious and made them clothes and brought them to the assembly. This nun is a rebirth of that wife.
So Buddha could see and recollect the past so clearly and precisely. That is why when we have purified all our negative thoughts, the clarity of the mind enables us to meditate well and our memory becomes better, and better. That is why meditation is so important. Many great meditators or practitioners have such a clear, fresh mind of a young child. We could not meditate because our mind is completely occupied with all the negative thoughts and it takes away all mental peace and clarity. Because of that, we forget so much and some even become senile. Meditation brings back freshness and clarity to the mind. Sometimes, people think that people do meditation because they have problems. In reality, those who can meditate have much calm and peace in the mind. Those who are mentally disturbed or busy-minded cannot meditate. Those who can meditate are those who have mental strength to keep the clarity and peacefulness in the mind. So we have to change our perception. Doing meditation is the best kind of vacation we can have. If you can meditate both in the morning and in the evening, that would be the best. We do not have to go anywhere for vacation, just stay wherever you are and it is the best place to rest the mind.
9. Ability to perceive what kind of rebirth each individual will have
Because of the clarity in Buddha's mind, he could perceive what rebirth every individual would have, whether the individual would born as a human being, an animal, in the god realms or beyond samsara.
10. Power of knowing the exhaustion of all afflicting emotions.
The ten powers are like the indestructible vajra - its nature cannot be destroyed by others and its nature destroys all the delusions and obscurations which pile up like big mountains. Even though some bodhisattvas may partially have these ten powers but only Buddha has these powers completely and perfectly. To have these powers, we need to have a very strong meditative concentration to purify all the mental afflicting emotion and all the subtle obscurations, to attain complete Enlightenment.
Buddha has four fearlessness:
1. When Buddha said that he attained Enlightenment or Buddhahood, nobody could disagree with that. Nobody could prove that Buddha had not attained Enlightenment. Buddha is free from this kind of fear. Nobody could create obstacle for him.
For us, even when we have received a Ph.D. degree, we are not so confident. Even if we are successful in business, still we are not confident. We need to work hard to secure what we have.
2. When Buddha said that he had purified all the obscurations including all afflictive emotions, all the gross and subtle obscurations, nobody could say that he had not done so. So he was free from those fear.
3. When Buddha said to his disciple, "If I gave this meditation instruction and if you practice accordingly, you will achieve such and such realization." Nobody could argue that what Buddha said was not true. Buddha knew so clearly and precisely from his wisdom. So he was free from that fear. For us, we usually say we hope, we guess and we cannot say for sure.
4. When Buddha said to a person, "When you involve in this kind of negative thoughts under this kind of conditions, you would face obstacles." Nobody could oppose to that.
This is called the four fearlessness. We take refuge in the Buddha because he has this kind of great wisdom, great compassion, great power and great ability. The four fearlessness is like a lion.
" Lion is the king of the beast. Lion roams fearlessly in the forest. Likewise, Buddha has no fear for anything or anybody.
" Lion does not depend on any other animals because there is no other in the animal world that excels lion. We have to depend on somebody because we are not complete. We cannot do everything all by ourselves. Lion has all the abilities and qualities in the animal world. Likewise, Buddha knows all the qualities and all the teachings. So he does not have to depend on anybody.
" Lion has a lot of physical talent. When other animals like elephants come, lions have no fear because they have the capacities to fight. All lions have that ability. Likewise, Buddha has all the capacities to subdue all the negative forces through mental strength. Therefore Buddha's fearlessness is just like a lion having no fear in the animal realm.
Buddha possess eighteen unequal qualities:
1. Perfect physical movements
Buddha performed all actions peacefully and gently. Anyone who perceived that admired such physical discipline. There was a story:
Buddha had a disciple called Gadayana. Gadayana walked with much physical discipline. Anyone who saw him admired him and developed great devotion. Before Shariputra (Buddha's great disciple) met Buddha or became a Buddhist, he had been a great teacher with many great disciples. One day, he met Gadayana on the road and Shariputra perceived Gadayana's great physical discipline and greatly admired that. Shariputra thought that he must be a special person. Shariputra asked Gadayana what he practiced and Gadayana replied, "All the phenomena come from the cause and that cause is explained by the Buddha and Buddha explained also how to cease the causes of suffering in samsara." As soon as Gadayana said that, Shariputra thought that he might be Buddha and asked Gadayana, "Are you Buddha?" Gadayana said, "No, I am not Buddha. I am a disciple of Buddha." Shariputra was so impressed because even Buddha's disciple had such great qualities. Shariputra asked, "Can I see Buddha?" Gadayna took him to the Buddha. On the way, Gadayana explained "All the phenomena comes from the cause and that cause is explained by the Buddha and Buddha explained also how to cease the causes of suffering in samsara." As soon as Shariputra heard that he was awakened. When Shariptura met Buddha, he took refuge in the Buddha and followed the Buddha. So Buddha's physical actions and all the bodily movements are always performed with consciousness, mindfulness and there is no fault in them.
2. Buddha possessed unequal speech
Buddha always gave the right speech with the right amount in a clear and precis manner. His speech would stay in the mind of each individual. There is no empty speech or gossip.
3. Buddha's mind always can remember and he never forget anything.
4. Buddha's mind is always in meditative state, always stayed completely at the present moment.
5. Buddha has no duality thought
Buddha has no duality thought like good or bad, like or dislike. His mind is always in equanimity with no attachment or aversion. Mind is completely clear just like wind that can be blown to any place, not just stay at one place. We should look at wind as an example to remind ourselves to free from attachment and aversion when we go through place to place. Buddha has no attachment to nirvana or aversion against samsara. Buddha actualized the equanimity nature of mind.
6. Whatever Buddha did, Buddha did it consciously
Buddha did all things full of awareness. Buddha met every individual, taught and did all things full of awareness. That is why he knew every individual precisely without any mistake.
7. Buddha's interest in all sentient beings never decrease
We sometimes may loose interest in doing things or practicing the Dharma. We may think, "This is so boring. Why am I sitting here? Let's go out and do something else. It's better to work instead." Unlike us, Buddha's interest in helping every sentient being never decrease.
Buddha's joyful effort in benefiting sentient beings continued like the stream of water that never stop. If Buddha see anybody who is successful in purifying suffering and delusion, Buddha would feel so happy, indescribably happy.
9. The power of mindfulness presents all the time.
10. The brilliant wisdom, the wisdom that pervades all knowledge always exists in Buddha's mind.
11. Buddha is free from all obscurations.
12. Buddha always possesses the wisdom which is completely free from all the obscurations. That wisdom never declines. Buddha never forgets the wisdom that generates consciousness of the primordial wisdom.
13. Buddha's activities related to the body, speech and mind were always run by wisdom awareness. Through that, Buddha could benefit sentient beings through walking from place to place, through sitting in a big assembly with hundreds and thousands of disciples. Even when sleeping and eating, Buddha did them with wisdom awareness in order to benefit countless sentient beings.
14. Buddha possessed unequal quality of speech
Buddha gave teachings to thousands of disciples. Every word that he used had profound great quality and could be understood by every individual regardless of background or levels of practice (newcomer or advanced practitioner). Everybody got benefit according to individual's capacity. Buddha did not need any translator. He spoke one language and could be understood by all people who might speak completely different languages.
Great bodhisattvas like Milarepa have perfected such power of speech. One time when Milarepa was out in the forest, there was a hunter whose hunting dog was chasing a deer and the deer came to Milarepa. Milarepa gave teaching to the deer and after that, when the dog came by, both the dog and the deer could understand what Milarepa said and especially the meditation instructions.
15. Buddha's mind is infinite like space. Because of that, infinite wisdom activities can be manifested.
16. Buddha's primordial mind perceives infinite lives from the beginningless time.
17. Buddha's primordial mind perceives the future endless time.
18. Buddha's primordial mind perceives the present. Buddha's primordial mind perceives all knowledge everywhere any time horizon without any obstruction.
So Buddha processessed ten powers, four fearlessness and eighteen unequal qualities. Unequal means unequal even to the achievement of the great bodhisattvas. Therefore we take refuge in the Buddha. That means that I would like to become Buddha and achieve all these great qualities in our body, speech and mind.
Here is an example illustrating how Buddha's physical body has no limit. Nobody can really measure Buddha's body. Maudgalyayana, Buddha's disciple, always stayed with Buddha whenever Buddha walked, sat or stood. Since Buddha was a little taller than regular people, Maudgalyayana could not see the top of Buddha's head. He would like to see it because the top of Buddha's head had a sign of the perfection of bodhicitta (as one of the 112 attributes of Buddha's physical body). Possessing the most medical power, Maudgalyayana flew in the sky and tried everything hoping to see that. As he flew higher, Buddha's body grew the same height. At last, Maudgalyayana was exhausted and he could not find out how big or small Buddha's body really was. There was no measurement. It was limitless. Another time, Maudgalyayana was sitting next to Buddha who was giving teachings to hundreds and thousands of disciples. His speech could be heard very clearly and precisely - neither too soft nor too loud. Maudgalyayana looked down to the gathering of thousands of people who were listening to the teachings and wondered how Buddha's voice sounded at a distance. Out of curiosity, Maudgalyayana walked to the end of the gathering. To his surprise, he could hear just as good, not soft and not loud. He went farther to the Indian Ocean. He flew above the Ocean. No matter how far he went, he could hear just as good. So he could not find any limit to Buddha's speech. It was limitless.
Here is another related story. When Maudgalyayana's mother died and he was looking for his mother's rebirth. He looked at all the six realms in this planet, other planets, everywhere, but he could not find it. He recalled Buddha said that all sentient beings who were reborn were born from other previous lives and all sentient beings who died will reborn in the next life. Since Maudgalyayana could not find his mother's rebirth, he thought that maybe his mother did not have any rebirth. So with doubt, he went to Buddha and asked Buddha where his mother's rebirth was. Perceiving that doubt, Buddha led him to the place where his mother was reborn. From where Buddha was, to the north, countless planets beyond, in a particular place, Maudgalyayana's mother was reborn. Maudgalyayana still had doubt because he could not see it. So, through Buddha's blessing, Buddha asked Maudgalyayana to looked right there. Maudgalyayana looked there and he found his mother's rebirth right there. Sometimes, we wonder where the beings on this planet comes from. They can be from another planet and we may go to another planet. So this is some basic understanding on Buddha's wisdom body, speech and mind to whom we are taking refuge in.
What is the real meaning of taking refuge in the Buddha? When we look at the picture or statue of the Buddha, we say that this is Buddha. Then we describe as we did here all the supreme qualities of the Buddha. The real Buddha is not the physical external body or object, the real Buddha is all the qualities that it embodies from the mind within. Taking refuge in the Buddha means that I want to actualize all these supreme qualities of the Buddha so that I would be free from suffering and delusion just like Buddha did.
How do we know that Buddha manifests activities unceasingly until samsara ends? From there, we can understand how Buddha manifests activities to benefit countless sentient beings.
First of all, Buddha has practiced Dharma teachings for three limitless eons or kalpa (one complete age of this planet is called one kalpa). It is not a simple thing to do to create such a vast cause. For us, going to school for sixteen to twenty years seems to be a long time and then working for the rest of the life. Then we die and do the same thing again in our next life to create the cause for the lives to come. For three limitless eons, Buddha practiced the Dharma teachings. This creates a complete cause to benefit sentient beings continuously. When Buddha was practicing Dharma teachings, sometimes, he received Dhamra teachings even at the risk of his life, wealth and body. Through that, he accumulated all Dharma teachings and practices. This is the kind of cause he created. Buddha is benefiting sentient beings now and will continue to benefit sentient beings because samsara does not end. For three limitless eons, Buddha cultivated bodhicitta in order to free all sentient beings from suffering until samsara ends. So Buddha's activities continued, never exhausted.
Sometimes, we may wonder how Buddha can manifest all these activities and we worry that maybe Buddha loses interest in helping sentient beings.
Buddha has purified all the obscurations - gross and subtle. Therefore, Buddha always has a clear and pure mind to benefit all the sentient beings. When our mind is deluded, through obscurations, our interest swings up and down. But Buddha never loses interest in helping sentient beings. Buddha has the ability to continue his activities because he has achieved the complete, excellent and perfect qualities to manifest beneficial activities unceasingly. Therefore, we take refuge in the Buddha.
Buddha never gives up sentient beings. Sentient beings are indispensable in his heart. For us, when we understand samsara and nirvana, we would not like to stay in samsara and would like to reach nirvana. Buddha transcends that duality thought. He has purified all the duality of thoughts. That is why you hear some teachings saying, " If you harm or hurt sentient beings, it is the same as hurting the Buddha. As you respect sentient beings, you respect Buddha too." It is because all sentient beings are in Buddha's heart. Buddha's mind is solely for the benefit of all sentient beings. Especially when you practice bodhisattva's path, to train the bodhicitta mind, Buddha and sentient beings are of equal importance. Buddha taught us how to practice the Dharma teachings with the help of sentient beings. Without sentient beings, we cannot practice the Dharma. We cannot develop compassion and loving-kindness to a piece of rock or to a piece of wood. So sentient beings give us the opportunity to cultivate loving-kindness and compassion. So for that reason, sentient beings and Buddha are of equal importance. In fact, Buddha attained buddhahood thanks to sentient beings. Therefore, sentient beings are indispensable factor for attaining buddhahood. So when somebody gives you a hard time, you should feel grateful that that person gives you opportunity to practice patience, loving-kindness and compassion. If you know how to practice Dharma well, you can get benefit from all sentient beings whether in favorable or in unfavorable conditions. Since Buddha attained buddhahood in the Dharmakaya state, all the excellent qualities pervade equally in both samsara and nirvana. From that point of view, Buddha benefit all sentient beings unceasingly and limitlessly.
Moreover, Buddha's activities manifested effortlessly like the sunshine. When the sun shines, it shines everywhere. Without sunshine, nothing can grow. When there is sunshine, everything grows. The sun does not have to think about shining. It happens effortlessly. We just need to stay in the sunshine to get the benefit. As long as the grass, flowers and plants are in the sunshine, they just bloom without conceptual thoughts. When the sun is obstructed by clouds, it cannot shine well. When the plant has some disease, it cannot grow even when there is sunshine. Since Buddha has purified all the negative obscurations and perfected the complete wisdom and compassion, his activities like the sunshine just manifested effortlessly. Even though Buddhas' activities are always there, if we are not connected to such activities, we cannot get benefit. In order to get the benefit, we, individually, must create causes and conditions to purify our delusion, to understand the teachings and to experience Buddhas' activities. So we have to take full responsibility to study and practice the Dharma teachings in order to get the benefit.
You may think Buddha suffers just as we do. This is not true. Buddha has purified all the causes of suffering. Since there is no cause of suffering, Buddha never experiences any suffering or discomfort in samsara. Buddha has all the good qualities to maintain peaceful and clear mind at all time. Like a piece of gold, it will remain as pure even when it is put in the mud for hundred of years. The mud will not affect the gold. Similarly, while the lotus grows in the mud water, its flower blooms brilliantly above the water, stainless. In the same way, Buddha and bodhisattvas are not affected by the samsaric faults. They are committed to stay to continuously benefit all sentient beings.
The nature of Dharmakaya pervades everywhere, beyond all the conceptual thoughts, with all the excellent qualities. It appears after the maras of death has transcended. Dharmakaya is the complete nature of our own mind. Every sentient being is embodied with the Buddha nature, the seed of Enlightenment. That seed has every potential to grow into a great bodhicitta (mind of Enlightenment) tree. If the seed does not have potential, no matter how much we try, it will never grow. When we study about the Buddha, you maybe overwhelmed by all the abilities and qualities that Buddha has and wonder if you can ever achieve that. You may think that you are so limited in many ways. However, it is inconceivable that a small seed has the potential to grow into a giant tree. If you plant the seed at the right place, fertilized the ground and provide moisture and all the necessary conditions, slowly, slowly it will grow into a tree after some years. It grows until it reaches its maximum. Likewise, we have planted our seed of Enlightenment in the Dharma field. When we make effort, put our interest in the study and practice of the Dharma, we are building our courage, inspiration and all the necessary conditions to grow the Enlightenment mind bigger and bigger. From that, it can grow to the maximum. For the time being until Enlightenment, we need all the causes and conditions. But in reality, all the excellent qualities are always there, pervading in our own being. Just like the oil in the mustard seed, that oil is not worse than the oil being produced. The oil being produced is not better than the oil in the mustard seed. But as long as the oil is in the mustard seed, we cannot use it as oil. We say that it is a mustard seed and not oil even though oil is already there, completely pure from the beginning. So see that nature. Our interest in the Dharma study and practice is like producing oil from the mustard seed. All those husk has to be taken out from that seed. We take refuge in the Buddha because Buddha gives complete explanations in great details.
Buddha came to this planet in order to teach all sentient beings that we do not have to suffer. We have every ability and quality to attain that. We just have to go ahead and make effort. Here is an example. A very poor man was settled on a piece of land where underneath the land, there was a great treasure. He did not realize that so he thought that he was so poor having no food to eat and no clothes to wear. Then a miner came and did some examination on the ground. He detected that lots of treasure was buried underneath the ground. So the poor man made every effort to dig underneath the ground. While he was digging, he found indeed endless treasure. In fact, he was already rich from the beginning having all the treasure underneath. But until he recognized that, he felt that he was so poor. Likewise, we have all the enlightened qualities as Buddha, because of our delusion, we feel that we are so limited, so poor with peace and loving-kindness and that make us suffered. Buddha explained that we do not have to suffer that way. Buddha gave all the instructions and explanations on how to study and practice the Dharma teachings until we actualized them. This is the way to bring real peace and joy.
Milarepa said, "If you do not experience the joy from within the mind, you cannot get joy from outside no matter how much you try. Searching joy and happiness outside is like chasing mirage." If you see mirage at a distance, you think that there is running water. You chase the whole day, day after day. You cannot get anything even when you are totally exhausted. Instead, we should use our energy to explore within the mind, purify all the negative thoughts. That is why we need to meditate. If peace and happiness can be got from outside, we do not have to meditate. Since it is coming from within, we have to meditate to internalize within the mind and be friend with our mind. This is the best friend that can stay with us day after day, life after life.
That is why when we have purified all our obscurations, the total nature of our own mind, the absolute buddhahood, the Dharmakaya reveals itself from within our mind. We take refuge in the Buddha to help us to remove our delusion. Just like looking at the oil which is produced from the mustard seed, we admire the good quality of the oil and want to know all the characteristics and usage. We are inspired to produce more oil from the mustard seed. We feel that it is worthwhile to make effort to produce the oil. In the same way, we take refuge in the Buddha because we admire the absolute, perfect qualities and ability Buddha has. Buddha has purified all the obscurations, delusion and duality thoughts and reached the Dharmakaya state, the ultimate unweaving nature of the mind which is absolutely trustworthy. We are inspired to become Buddha to attain those qualities. Then we read Buddha's life stories and we practice the Dharma. When we receive the benefit from the Dharma, we practice with joy feeling fortunate.
We feel fortunate when we looked at Milarepa, how much he suffered when he could not receive any Dharma teaching. He was so desperate and he looked for Dharma everywhere. Marpa did not give teaching easily. Later when Milarepa received Dharma teaching, he was completely joyful and satisfied. Even though he had such hard times finding food and clothes, still, he felt that he was the most fortunate people in the world. It was worth all the effort. When he was in the mountain with no clothes to wear and his body was like a skeleton, people who came to visit him and thought that he was a ghost. Milarepa said that he was not a ghost but a human being, a Dharma practitioner. People thought that he was so unfortunate living in such poor conditions with no clothes and no food. They thought that Milarepa could do better than that. Milarepa felt that he was most fortunate. So, like that he made effort joyfully. Nowadays, there are people risking their lives jumping high from snow mountains just to have excitement. So why not make similar joyful effort to the practice of Dharma? Feeling fortunate because we have such a precious human life and have the opportunity to meet the Dharma teaching and have the leisure to study and practice the Dharma. Feeling fortunate is very important. Peace and happiness that you are looking for cannot be found from anywhere. So, having the opportunity to study and practice the Dharma to bring out the peace and happiness from within is the most worthwhile thing to do. Feeling fortunate itself is peace and happiness. There is no need to attach to happiness.
The perfection of Buddha nature is like space, uncompounded. Space is uncompounded because we cannot make space and space cannot be changed or not be changed. Space cannot be obscured by anything because space is still space. Buddha nature is like space. It continues until the end of samsara. Its nature is uncompounded because there is no beginning like space and no disappearing like space. No one can say that there is a beginning or the disappearing of space. The beginning, the middle and the end of space has no difference. Yesterday's space is the same as today's or tomorrow's space. Likewise, Buddha's qualities never change so that all the excellent qualities as well as all the activities are spontaneously established by itself effortlessly like sunshine. The total undefiled peace is spontaneously established and we have to realize it by ourselves just as Buddha did. The historical Buddha realized that nature by himself in Bodhgaya said, "I found such a nectar, undefiled nectar. It is uncompounded, so profound with great peace, free from elaboration, in luminosity." Such profound nature, we have to actualize it through our meditation. With strong devotion and confidence to Buddha, we have to make effort to purify our delusions. So these are the three great qualities are Buddha:
1. The uncompounded nature
2. The spontaneously established qualities and activities and
3. The excellent qualities can only be actualized by yourself, not by other cause or conditions. That means that you yourself have to make the effort. Nobody can give that to you. We have to first study it and then experience it from within the mind. It is inexpressible means that nobody can communicate to you how it is like. Just like tasting honey, until you put the honey into the mouth and taste it, you do not know how the taste is like no matter how much you have heard about it. So the description of it that you have heard and the actual experience may not be the same. When you put it on the tongue, then you say, "Oh! This is how it tastes like." There is no word to explain directly the taste. You just have to taste it. It is inexpressible. Complete Enlightenment is just like that.
We went through the teachings on Buddha briefly. Of course, Buddhas' qualities are inconceivable, inexpressible and inexhaustible. In some text, Madhyantavibhaga mentioned that suppose Buddha had to describe about Buddha's qualities, it took Buddha himself hundreds and thousands of years and still could not finish. Buddha's qualities are limitless like space. We have no ability to express Buddha's qualities fully.
May all sentient beings gain the flavor of supreme victory and ride on omniscience; never turning back;
May all sentient beings gain the flavor of entry into the truth of the nondifference of all Buddhas,
and be able to distinguish all faculties;
May all sentient beings attain increase of the savor of the teaching
and always be able to fulfill the Buddhhas' teaching of nonobstruction.
by Venerable Khenchen Konchog Gyaltshen Rinpoche
Ngöndro Program 2001
Ratnashri Meditation Center, Sweden
Three things are important when it comes to the study and practice of the Dharma (Buddha's teaching), namely, cultivating altruistic thought, the actual action and dedication at the end. First, cultivating the altruistic thought means that the motivation for studying and practicing the Dharma is for the benefit of all sentient beings. It resembles cooking. Before we cook, we have to think about why and to whom we are cooking for. We need to have some motivation. Say, in your mind, you want to cook a delicious meal for your friends. Then you have to think about what you are going to cook. You gather all the ingredients and then perform the actual cooking. Then at the end dedicate the delicious meal to all your friends. Likewise, to study and practice the Dharma, first we need to have altruistic motivation -- for the benefit of all sentient beings. Then we have to know what Dharma is, what to study and practice and how to practice. This is called preparation. Preparation is essential because if you do not have any idea of what to study and practice, you cannot put it into action. Then to accomplish the motivation, you need to do the actual study. Like cooking, just thinking in the mind will not bring about the delicious meal. Likewise, we need to do the actual Dharma study and practice in order to get the benefit that you have planned. At the end of our Dharma study and practice, we dedicate whatever merit, virtue we have gathered. We do not keep it all by ourselves but dedicate it to all sentient beings who desire to gain peace and happiness and free from suffering. We share all so that we are not attached to what we have practiced. So motivation, actual action and dedication are important.
Buddha is most important because without Buddha, there is no Dharma teaching. Without Buddha who attained the perfection of wisdom and compassion, enlightenment, he could not give us methods to free ourselves from the suffering. Buddha renounced the powerful Kingdom because he was not attached to himself. He wanted to do something for all other sentient beings. To him, the Kingdom was the best place to stay because he could enjoy the power, wealth, all kinds of services and luxurious things. However, just staying in the Kingdom is not sufficient to help other sentient beings. He renounced the Kingdom, went through the hardship and finally attained enlightenment and then started giving teachings.
Basically what Buddha taught was that right from the beginning, avoid any form of non-virtue - physically and mentally. It is because non-virtue is a cause of suffering for all sentient beings, whether we know it or not. For example, telling lie, everybody in the whole world, regardless of religious or cultural background knows that it is not good. Even if you do not belief in anything, still, people think that lying is not good. It is universal. Buddha seeing that nature, taught us to avoid all non-virtues because they create delusion or negative thoughts.
Taking refuge in the Dharma means that I do not want to create any types of non-virtue which is the cause of suffering and engage in the virtuous actions and thought because they are the cause of peace and harmony. If you are speaking the truth all the time, you have self-confidence and have no fear even when somebody accuses you. When you lie, you have fear because you have to think about how you should hide this and that, one after another. Suffering follows from that. Even if other people do not know, deep inside your heart, you feel fear insecure. If you tell the truth, not only do you feel confident, but also when other people see that you always tells the truth, there is a trust and there is harmony. This is the reason why he told us to avoid all non-virtue and develop all the virtuous thoughts and actions. After that, Buddha explained what are the non-virtues and what are the virtues. Through that, the mind is totally tamed. Our mind is like a wild elephant. A wild elephant can be very dangerous and can destroy the whole field. Likewise, a wild mind can destroy all the field of peace and harmony. Then we feel miserable. We do not realize how we did it by ourselves, but we blame other people. So, it is important to tame and train the mind. This is Buddha's teaching. This is why we take refuge in the Dharma. Buddha revealed completely the true nature of the universe and from that state of wisdom, he taught these Dharma teachings Therefore, Dharma is good right at the beginning, in the middle and at the end.
When you study Dhrama for some time, you may hear some very high-level teachings like mahamudra teachings and instructions. Those are for advanced practitioners whose mind has already reached a high state of realization. At that state, there is nothing to give up and nothing to achieve. In order to realize that, we have to start with avoiding all nonvirtues and develop all the virtuous actions and thoughts. With that, we build the strength of the mind. When the mind has strength, it is unwavering. When the mind is stable like a mountain, it is clear, calm and peaceful. In that state of mind, there is nothing to purify, nothing to give up and nothing to accept because you have everything in your mind. Sometimes, people missunderstand and project outward thinking that there is nothing to give up from the outside and nothing to gain from the outside.
Buddha, in the state of mind of knowing the complete nature of all the phenomena in the whole universe, taught these Dharma teachings. Dharma is always good, right from the beginning, in the middle and at the end. Dharma is like medicine. Buddha performed so many activities in his life, but Dharma teaching is one of the most important activities. Dharma teaching has carried on now for more than 2500 years. Still Dharma is so fresh today, so relevant. More than 2500 years ago, non-virtue was non-virtue, still now, non-virtue is non-virtue. It is still a cause of suffering. Virtue was virtue at that time and was a cause of peace and harmony. It is still true. The law of universe never changes. Like fire, it has been hot right from the beginning. It is still hot right now and it will still be hot in the future. There isn't any time that fire gets cold. This helps us to open our mind fully to see that universal nature. It is very important to understand that.
When we study Dharma, we do not study Dharma from the culture point of view. From the culture point of view, there are lots of material things and activities. We have to study Dharma from the universal prospective to see why Dharma is relevant to everybody, everywhere and all the time. Buddha gave Dharma teaching in India, but then Dharma went to all over Asia. In the second century, Dharma was popular in all the Asian countries. It went to Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Russia, Southeast Asia etc. Nowadays, you can still find Buddha's statue in those countries.
Suffering like aging, sickness and death is universal. We called that suffering because we perceive it as suffering and we dislike that. Our aversion brings suffering. Otherwise, aging is neutral and sickness is also neutral. How much pain we get depends on how we perceive it mentally. That is how mind is powerful. Mind can significantly change your perception. Dharma helps us to understand that. For example, the suffering of aging. Buddha taught us to avoid all the nonvirtuous thoughts like attachment and hatred. When you purify all the non-virtuous thoughts, when you age, you do not suffer. It is just a process and is neutral. There are some great teachers who age joyfully and when they die, they die happily. For those great Dharma practitioners, dying is enlightenment. It is just at process, like growing crops in the field. First, the seed is being sown, then the crop grows and finally ripes, ready for harvest. It goes on and on. Like that, we are born one day, grow up and then get old and die. Going through life is just a process. But from the cultural point of view, it depends on many conditions, for example, which society you belong to and then comes many different ways of life, depending on which emphasis you have. Then when you get old, you get depress because you are thinking from the prospective of the people in the country. You have to think about the reaction of the people, status, and there comes your own grasping and duality thoughts one after another. Like that, we suffer. Dharma helps us to transcend all these. So you see how Dharma is important and precious to all of us. That is why we take refuge in the Dharma.
We have three basic delusion - ignorance, hatred (or aversion or anger) and attachment (or desire). These are the three basic mental delusion, obscurations and negative thoughts that everybody in the samsara has. Whether you are American, German, English, Swedish or elsewhere, we are dominated by these negative thoughts. In fact, all of these three have to coexist. It cannot exist one without the other. For example, if I am ignorant on the interdependent causes and conditions on the existence of this instrument bell. Through ignorance, I perceive that this bell is something solid and concrete. I do not realize that there are many other coexisting causes and conditions. In that state of mind, because of delusion, when I look at this beautiful bell, it is so wonderful and I am attached to it. So, attachement comes. If somebody steals it, I get very upset and angry. However, if I am not attached to it, even if somebody steals it, it would not border me so much. This is how these three are related to each other. This is just an example, but it applies to all things and to anybody. When I perceive myself as solid, concrete or someone very important. Then I am making boundary for "my". This is my family, my belongings, . Because I am so attached to all these, if somebody takes it away and hurts that, I would not like it and get angry. All the confusion arises from there. This is universal. Even when it comes to religion. We say, this is my religion. I am so attached to my religion that if somebody says some bad things about my religion, I will try all I can to protect it saying, "Why do you say this? My religion is perfect." This is what Buddha was trying to break that and purify that. Even though Buddhism is good, there is no reason to attach to it. You just have to practice it and realize it. Sometimes, when we do not practice and say buddhism is so good. You are so proud to be a buddhist and you fight back and forth with others. Buddha saw that and said, "May be I should not give any Dharma teachings. I give Dharma teachings for people to practice to free themselves from suffering and not create more suffering. There is already enough causes of suffering in the world. Why should religion be yet another cause of suffering?" So Buddha felt sad about that. Talking about attachment, sometimes even monks get attached to the robe. Buddha order the robe to remind themselves the renounication of samsara. Sometimes we become monk or nun and like to wear the robe. Instead of releasing attachment, we attach to the robe. I am sure you have heard about the life story of Milarepa. He was a great teacher who came to Tibet around the 11th century. His life stories are extraordinary. He trained his mind so vigorous that he attained enlightenment in one lifetime. His life stories are so inspiring and popular that they are translated into twelve to thirteen different languages and have inspired lots of people. Milarepa wore just one piece of very old white cloth. Some people came to visit him, saw his poor lifestyle and asked him what he was practicing. Milarepa practiced sincerely and realized perfectly what Buddha taught. He transcended and destroyed all types of delusion. Therefore, we need to understand thoroughly the meaning of Dharma, its purpose and then practice it as much as we can. This is most important.
When we bring Dharma into our heart, meditate on it and practice it sincerely, it brings calm and purity. Dharma means peace in Sanskrit. It also means to protect the mind from non-virtuous thoughts. Dharma means also means virtue, virtuous practice and peaceful practice. In order to purify the three basic delusion, namely, ignorance, aversion and attachment, Buddha taught these three categories of teachings - Vinaya, Sutra and Abhidharma. Vinaya teaching emphases on avoiding all nonvirtuous thoughts and actions. It deals entirely with discipline - how to discipline the body, speech and mind. Sutra teaching emphases on engaging in the practice of all virtuous thoughts and actions. It deals with how to meditate and all the meditative states of the mind. Abhidharma teaching emphases on totally taming and perfecting the mind. It explains the wisdom side of the mind.
There are three trainings to these teachings. Moral ethics or discipline called Shila; meditation or meditative concentration called Samadhi ; and special insight or critical insight called prajna. At the beginning, we need discipline - physical and mental discipline. It is like going to school, there is discipline for us to follow. You are allowed to do this and not allowed to do that. Discipline is necessary because through that, one can learn to take responsibility and take on to different rolls. When it comes to Dharma practice, discipline is to avoid all non-virtues and perform all virtuous actions and thoughts. Buddha knew and realized that non-virtues are the causes of our suffering. Therefore, he taught us to avoid all non-virtues. Avoiding all non-virtues through physical discipline includes not taking life, not taking things from others which do not belong to us and not engage in sexual misconduct. Verbal discipline includes not using harsh words, not telling lies, no idle talk nor no divisive talk. Using harsh words are like using knives, they pierce the mind and cut into the heart. They destroy peace and joy in the mind and the result will eventually bring back to us. We have already discussed how telling lies brings fear. Gossiping is not good. Sometimes we talk so much especially when we do not feel so good after our work and we do not know what to do, we just pick up the phone and talk for a long time. After all that, you still do not feel good. Your mind is so busy thinking, "I have said this and that. He said this and that. I should not have said these things " Mind is occupied with all that one after another. At that moment, mantra is so useful. Instead of talking on the phone, you chant mantra like "OM MANI PADMI HUNG" or "OM AH HUNG". It is like talking and you are releasing your tension by chanting. Saying things to divide people bring no peace and harmony. Disciplining the mind includes avoid greediness, harmful and negative thoughts and wrong views. These are some of the disciplines that Buddha made. These discipline serves as an outline on how we should train ourselves. Like in school, the teacher gives us outline, some idea of what and how to do things. Buddha made those outline. It is universal. If everybody has interest in keeping those discipline in a country, how peaceful the country will be regardless of what religion or culture we are in.
In order to keep the discipline well, we need to train our mind to be mindful. Whenever we have mindfulness, we are in meditative state. If you just say, "Keep these discipline!" without training, it is very difficult. It is like trying to put a wild poisonous snake inside a narrow bamboo. Since the snake has not trained well in the mind, the snake will never be able to settle down and be peaceful. So the second training is called the meditative state or meditation. Meditation is not just close the eyes and sit there. Meditation means training the mind, bringing antidote to the mind, practicing it well and finally actualizing and experiencing it. Training the mind, for example, when we are talking about I or myself, strong ego comes in and starts making boundary. First examine where ego exists. It is just a notion in the mind, it does not exist in the body. If it exists in the body, is it on the hands, head, legs, chest or other parts. So it does not exist in the body. It does not exist by my name either because the name you got after you are born. Your name was given by somebody else. So if somebody calls your name and says bad things, you should not be upset because your name is just a sound, it does not exist substantially. The name itself is neutral. It can be changed and it does not hurt anything, so let go. Name is temporary. The mind, I do not see where it exists so how come I have so strong attachment to the ego. It is just level, just name - me, mine etc. So try to relax and release the grasping of ego because such strong attachment to ego is the cause of all suffering. Since I do not want suffering, I have to learn to release this attachment and grasping of ego. This is called the training of the mind. In this way, mind gets peace. When the mind is peaceful, we can keep the discipline better. They support each other. So when somebody causes you to be angry, that person suffers too. As I am deluded, that person is also deluded. So the person who is deluded and suffering is a subject to compassion, not a subject to anger. If I develop anger, instead of reducing suffering, it brings more suffering. Suffering to that person and suffering to me, so it serves no purpose and it is not right. Release anger and attachment to ego. This is an example of how to train the mind to be in the meditative state to bring mindfulness. See the impermanent and transitory nature in all things. Like at day-break, the sun shines and at dawn, the sun set. It goes on everyday without stopping. So in the morning when you see the sunrises, it is a sign of impermanence, constantly changing and never stopping, it goes down towards the west. Then darkness comes and night again is a sign of impermanence, it never stops. The same way, we are all marching towards death since the day we are born. So I will definitely die one day. This is not being negative, but rather, it is a special method of contemplation to reduce attachment, delusion, hatred and anger. One day I will die so what the benefit is to fight for all these, what the benefit is to attach to all these. I create suffering unnecessarily without much benefit. Further, he taught us how to free from suffering by releasing attachment and to appreciate and rejoice whatever you have. "I am so fortunate to have this." "OH, I have a lunch." Just rejoice and appreciate what we have make us feel good. When you rejoice and appreciate everything around us, there will be less hatred and anger in the mind. When the positive side gets release and stronger, the negative side gets less and less and delusion becomes less. When negative thought arises in the mind, as soon as it arises, instead of you being with it, immediately bring all these practices to the mind. If I can change the situation, I should make effort to change the situation and make it better. So there is no reason to be upset. If the situation cannot be changed, there is no benefit to be upset. It only brings suffering. It is useless. This is called meditative state - the way how to contemplate and practice the Dharma.
This is the Dharma teaching that Buddha taught. When we practice this way, we are taking the refuge in the Dharma. So just meditate on this. This is called the meditation training.
The third training is prajna. Be able to know right or wrong. This is right things to follow and practice while those are wrong things to avoid. Seeing that nature and having clear insight in the mind is called prajna or discriminating wisdom, critical insight. When you have a special insight and a clear mind, you have the ability of knowing and penetrating into how things exist.
If we make effort on these three training - moral ethics, meditative state and special insight, delusion has no space to abide. This shows that delusion and negative thoughts have no foundation. This is how Buddha taught the Dharma teachings. Buddha was enlightened in Bodhgaya and then at the Deer Park, he taught the Dharma teaching, the Four Noble Truths. The Four Noble Truths are the Noble Truth of suffering, the Noble Truth of the origin of suffering, the Noble Truth of the cessation of suffering and the Noble Truth of the path to the cessation of suffering. First, why is it called the Noble Truth of suffering? Noble, because we ordinary people only experience suffering, but we do not know the suffering and we do not know what suffering is. We just suffer. That suffering is only known by the noble beings who are enlightened. The enlightened beings know what suffering is and that is why it is called the Noble Truth of suffering. The truth of suffering means suffering is suffering for everybody and suffering is never joy for anybody. Even if you believe that the nature of suffering is joy, it never lasts long. Buddha taught that the original suffering, or suffering itself is not independent. It does not arise without cause or condition. It is not just randomly manifested. All different types of suffering has its origin (causes and condition). This is called the Noble Truth of the origin of suffering. Then how can we free from suffering? Generally, in the world system, it seems that we cannot get away from suffering. Like a very successful business person, he or she owns all the companies in the world and you can ask if that person is free from suffering. A leader in the country being elected to be a leader, there is nothing higher to achieve and just examine to see if that person is free from suffering or not. Being so powerful, still that person is not free from suffering. Buddha having achieved complete enlightenment realized that there is a cessation of suffering, nirvana. He taught the Noble Truth of the Cessation of Suffering and then how to achieve cessation, i.e. the Path to the Cessation of Suffering for us to follow.
These three training are the path to the cessation. First, buddha laid out the discipline which sets the boundary for us to stay in the right direction. Then to keep that discipline, we have to have meditative state. We have to know how to train the mind and how to practice the mind to develop that mental quality. Then special insight or critical insight brings into the mind to practice. It is called the thirty-seven branches of enlightenment which are organized into five paths - path of accumulation, path of application, path of insight, path of meditation and path of perfection. This thirty-seven branches of enlightenment is related to these three training. The Four Noble Truths are very vast. It is the foundation to all the teachings. On the basis of that, you develop all the mental qualities of meditation practices. Then there is the Four Foundations, or the Four Preliminaries or the four ways of turning the mind from samsara to enlightenment - impermanence nature of all phenomena, precious human life, the suffering nature of samsara, and the karma causes and result. These four are common to all the buddhist systems, whether tanavada system, mahayana system or vajrayana system. These four are important to all buddhist practitioners. Everyone accept this and there is no disagreement. On this basis, we take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. We study and practice the Dharma and do meditation. In the Tanavada system, they do meditate on selfness nature of all things. Like this bell, looks very substantial. But if you divide the bell into parts, it is all illusory nature and none of the part exists by itself. We purify that illusion in this way. Tanavada system practice mindfulness and individual liberation. They achieve arhat state. In mahayana system, there is lots of emphasis on bodhicitta (mind of enlightenment). Even though Tanavada system study and practice loving-kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity, they do not put emphasis on bodhicitta, the thought to attain enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings. To cultivate bodhicitta, the four limitless or immeasurable thoughts are very crucial. Based on the four limitless loving-kindness and compassion to all sentient beings, everybody feels joy, peace, happiness and harmony. Mind has enough space for everybody. So instead of being jealous to successful people whom we do not like, you feel rejoice and happy for their success. Normally in the world in that situation, we do not feel happy and our mind becomes so narrow. We feel so miserable thinking, "They should not have that!" Instead learn to rejoice and that brings the real peace in our mind. Even say some prayers wishing "May their happiness lasts long! May they always be successful!" In this way, no matter where you are, you will always be happy. In the Tanavada system, they practice all that, but they do not encourage to achieve enlightenment buddhahood in order to benefit all sentient beings. This is however very much emphasized by the mahayana system. They practice bodhicitta to attain enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings. They continue to reborn as bodhisattvas life after life to benefit all sentient beings until the end of samsara. They practice bodhicitta to attain enlightenment, buddhahood for all sentient beings, not just for themselves. I am just one single person. It does not matter so much whether I suffer. If I am happy just by myself, it does not matter so much because it is only one single person. However, all sentient beings are important. It is countless. That is why the democratic system is established. The leader is elected by the majority and ruled by the majority. The leader has to make all the people happy all the time. If you put bodhicitta into practice, saying, "I desire to carry out such and such program to help all the people in the country or all over the world." If you can practice bodhicitta in this way which is wonderful. This is the mahayana system. Based on that, the vajrayana or the tantra system emphasis on non self-cherishing thought. The Four Foundations are so important for the vajrayana too. Without that, you cannot practice the Dharma well. Your mind cannot fall into the Dharma. Once again, they are the precious human life, the impermanence nature of all phenomena, the suffering nature of samsara and the inexorable nature of the causes and result. Inexorable means unyielding, uncompromising nature which cannot be ignored. The four limitless thoughts - loving-kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity are also very important. Based on all these foundations, the vajrayana system perform deity or tantra practice. You visualize yourself as en enlightened deity like Chenrezig or Tara and everybody is manifested in the form of deity. You meditate in that state and at the end everything is dissolved into emptiness. It is called arising and completion stage. That is what Buddha taught. We arise into the deity, enlightened state in order to purify our ordinary body. We purify our attachment to this body, our anger, hatred and so on and we see all beings as enlightened beings. With that vision in our mind, we purify attachment, hatred, ignorance and delusion of oneself and others. Then there comes a danger that when one is in that state, one gets arrogance. We may attach to that. In order to purify that, we dissolve everything into emptiness like space. The whole universe is manifested from the space and dissolved into the space. So this is the outline of Buddha's teachings and what we are taking refuge in in order to purify all our suffering and delusion.
Milarepa, as mentioned before, was a great Dharma practitioner around the 11th century. His lifestory was most inspiring. He practiced the Dharma so sincerely that he attained enlightenment, buddhahood within one lifetime. Here is a story about how much Milarepa received benefit from the study and practice of the Dharma. He was born around the 11th century in Tibet. In the village Kyanga Tsa where he belonged to, his father was very successful. Because of that, his family was one of the richest. Unfortunately, his father died when he was very young, about seven years old. His sister was even younger. Milarepa's paternal uncle and aunt had moved to that areas from other places because Milarepa's father was so successful. At the time when his father was going to die, he called in this uncle and aunt saying, "I am going to die. My son and daughter are so young. Please take good care of them until they grow up. I have much wealth and processions like houses and animals. So please take charge of them and make wise decisions." The uncle and aunt pledged to do their best to help the family until Milarepa grew up. When the father died, the uncle and aunt suggested to the mother that they should keep the wealth because her children were so young and she had no power. They promised to give the wealth back to the family later. The family did not have much choice so they went along with that because the father asked them to keep and so they did. Before long, the uncle and aunt treated Milarepa and his sister like slaves. They went through that without much choice. They lived in such a poor condition. Their heads are full of laces and they wore worn clothes and had hardly anything to eat. People in the village had much sympathy towards them. Before they used to be respected so much and now everybody looked down on them. Milarepa's mother was a very strong person. Eight years later, when Milarepa was fifteen, she thought that his son should get the house and the wealth back. So she organized a feast inviting the head of the village including the uncle and aunt. She fed them well and during the feast she said, "Eight years ago when Milarepa's father past away, he left the advice that the uncle and aunt should take care of the wealth until Milarepa grew up and they have promised to give it back to us. Now, Milarepa can do things by himself so I ask today, uncle and aunt, please give back all the wealth that my husband asked you to keep. All the witnesses are now here. Please support me to do these things." As soon as she said that, the uncle and aunt were so furious saying, "What kind of wealth you are talking about? We fed all of you for all these years. We gave you food, clothing and lodging. We do not remember that much wealth that you have!" All the people were powerless and they could not do or say much. They had great sympathy to the family. The uncle and aunt went on charging her, "You do not have gratitude how much we helped your family. You are shameless. If you have power, you just do anything you want. If you start a war, you can fight with us. If you have power to spell black magic, you can do whatever you want!" Then they left. Because of that Milarepa's mother sent Milarepa to a teacher to learn writing, reading and all that. Milarepa started studying and reading all the classics. One time, in that area where Milarepa's teacher was, there was a festival. So the teacher organized some drink and Milarepa had some beer. He was a little drunk. Because of that, he lost his awareness. He came singing songs. His mother heard sounds from a distance that are very similar to his son's voice. She looked through the door and he came singing. She was very furious. She lashed him on his face when he entered into the house. She said, "I cannot believe this. How can you do this? We are so miserable. Uncle and aunt treated us like dirt. Under this situation, how can you sing like that? You must go to the center of Tibet. I heard that there are some teachers who can teach you black magic and how to spell. I will organize all the provisions, food and clothes. You must go!" They discussed for a long time. She found somebody who also went to the central Tibet. So she sold some of the land and got some gold to buy food and clothes for Milarepa. She said to Milarepa, "Now you remember that you are in a different situation than others. Other people go there just for knowledge. They read and drink. But you are not going there not only for knowledge, but also to take revenge, to get us out of this difficult situation." "Yes, mother, I will do my best," Milarepa replied. He made the journey. When he came to the teacher, he asked, "Please give me such kind of teaching because, unlike others, I come here to deal with such kind of situation. Please give me the powerful teachings to fulfill my mother's wish to give my uncle and aunt a lesson." The teacher said, "I understand your situation. You are so poor." Then the teacher taught him the complete black magic spell. One day, one of uncle's elder sons was going to marry. They organized the marriage ceremony in a big house and invited all the best friends and family members. As soon as they went into house and started the ceremony, Milarepa performed the black magic. Suddenly, like earthquake, the ground shook violently and the whole house was broken into many pieces. What happened was that during that time, both the uncle and aunt were busy doing something outside the house. So, unlike all other thirty-five people who caught inside the house and died, they were not injured at all. When Miarepa's mother heard that they were all dead in the house, she went to the roof and proclaimed, "I got such a great son who could do all these. I am the happiest person in the world. I could take revenge." Having heard these words, the uncle was very upset and proclaimed in front of all the local people, "I am ready to kill her and her son! You are one of the most wicked people who always gave us a hard time and now all my thirty-five people died because of you." The local people advised him, "If you kill Milarepa's mother, her son will destroy the whole village. Do you dare to do that?" The uncle hesitated. Anyhow, there were lots of rumors about killing Milarepa's mother and son. Milarepa's mother sent a message to his son, "Now, they are ready to kill us. I heard that there is another magic that uses hell storm and it is capable of destroying the whole village. You better learn that; otherwise, you are going to be killed." Milarepa received the message and once again asked his teacher for instructions of how to bring forth a hell storm. The teacher said, "I do not have those instructions, but I will send you to another teacher who had them." So Milarepa went there. He gave all the offerings and asked for the instructions. He then meditated for seven days and achieved all the abilities to perform the spell.
He went closer to the village during the fall just a few days before harvest. Everybody was preparing for harvest. It was the best crop-growing season ever. Everybody expected a record harvest. Milarepa and one of his friends went to a cave that was located very close to the village. Together, they made a hell storm. All the crops were washed away completely. Milarepa became so famous. All the villagers were very furious and were ready to kill Milarepa. Milarepa could not see her mother because it was big risk that he would be killed. So he left the village and went back to the teacher. Now he remembered vividly all the negative karma he created. He had such a great remorse. He was thinking that if he had to die with all the negative karma, he would directly be reborn in the hell realm. There was no other alternative. He was very desperate. He could not sleep nor eat. His mind was burning desperately to find a solution. At that time, his teacher had a good friend who was rich and he greatly supported his teacher. One day, the friend was sick and Milarepa's teacher went to the family and did some special prayers. Within a few days, the friend died. The teacher was very sad. He said to Milarepa, "My sponsor died. Everything is impermanence. During my life, I did spell and I taught you and you did all that. Life is so impermanence!" He felt so depressed. Milarepa said, "I heard that there are some special meditation practices and teachings that can help those who are dead. Do you have those teachings?" The teacher said, "I know some rituals, but I do not have the ability to do the complete way." Milarepa said, "Either I study and practice the Dharma or you go and study the Dharma and I take care of the temple." The teacher said, "You are younger, maybe you go and study and practice the Dharma teachings and I will support you. In that way, you can help me and yourself." Milarepa was so pleased and immediately, he accepted the offer. The teacher told him that in such and such place there is such a great teacher and that teacher had such powerful teachings. He advised Milarepa to study and practice with that teacher. So he gave Milarepa enough food and clothes and Milarepa went.
As soon as Milarepa met the teacher, he said, "I come from western Tibet. I am a very simple person. I have created lots of negative karma and I am coming to ask for the instructions to free from all those negative karma and delusion." The teacher said, "I have such a profound teaching called Dzogchen. If you receive the teaching during the day and study during the day, you will achieve enlightenment during the day. If you receive this teaching in the evening, you will achieve enlightenment at night. Those who are fortunate enough, they will achieve enlightenment even without practice." Milarepa thought that he was so fortunate meeting this great teacher and received those teachings. He received all the teachings and he thought that he might not need meditation, so he slept. After a week, the teacher came and asked him what his experience was and Milarepa said, "Nothing." Then the teacher suggested that he should practice it. Milarepa practiced seven days in the retreat and the teacher came and asked him again. Milarepa had no experience. Then the teacher said to Milarepa, "It looks like I cannot help you. There is a great teacher called Marpa, a great translator, who went to India three times and met his great teacher Naropa and received all the great vajrayana teachings. Maybe you go and see him. Maybe he can help you." As soon as Milarepa heard the name Marpa, his whole body felt chilly and shaky. He immediately had such strong devotion and felt inexpressible joy in his mind. He felt that he must see the teacher. So the next day, he made the journey to see Marpa. Next day when Marpa was going to meet Milarepa, Marpa got such a strong and powerful dream. In his dream his teacher, Naropa, came to him and gave him a golden vajra and said, "You just clean this golden vajra and put on a banner. That light will radiate to all directions." Marpa cleaned and washed the golden vajra on put it on a banner. Lights radiated in all the ten directions. All sentient beings' darkness was dispelled by those lights. Marpa looked around. He saw many Buddhas and bodhisattvas making prostrations to this golden vajra and they respected Marpa. Marpa got such confidence because even Buddhas and bodhisattvas paid their respect to him. With this state of mind, he woke up in the morning. He thought someone very special was coming. He went out to the field, brought the ox and all the necessary equipment, including a jar of beer and starting ploughing. He took a break after ploughing half of the field. While Marpa was resting, Milarepa came. Milarepa asked Marpa, "I heard that in this valley, there is a great translator called Marpa. Do you know him?" Marpa said, "I do not know such a great translator called Marpa, but there is a man called Marpa down there. I will help you to meet him. Meanwhile, you just drink this beer and plough the rest of the field. I will send someone to meet him." Milarepa, after travelling for so many days, the beer was very sweetening and helpful. He drank all and was very grateful to the man. He ploughed all the rest of the field. Then a child came and said, "You are asked to see Marpa." Milarepa followed him.
He saw Marpa, the man he saw before, sitting in front of him. Just seeing Marpa made Milarepa feel fearful, chilly but joyful at the same time. Marpa said, "It's me. I am Marpa right here. Milarepa did three prostrations and said, "I came from western Tibet. I am a very simple person and I have created such negative karma. I come here to purify all the negative karma. I offer my body, speech and mind. Please give me the Dharma teachings to achieve enlightenment, food and clothes." Marpa said, "If you created negative karma, it is your responsibility to do the purification. It has nothing to do with me. Whether you achieve enlightenment within one lifetime or not depends on you. If you want Dharma teachings, you must get food and clothes from outside. Or if you want me to give you food and clothes, you must get Dharma from outside. You make a choice." Milarepa said, "In this case, I will ask you to give me all the Dharma teachings. I will search for food and clothes from outside." After a few days, Marpa gave him some basic instructions on Dharma. Marpa then told some life stories about himself and his teacher, Naropa, who went through great hardship under Tilopa. Naropa underwent twelve great hardships. Marpa said, "If you want to practice the Dharma, you have to purify those negative karma." So he gave Milarepa instructions to build the houses in the east, west and north. Each time when Milarepa had finished building the house, Marpa asked him to put all the rocks back to where they belonged. Milarepa was desperate to receive the teaching instructions. So he bagged Marpa, "Please give me the instructions." Every time Marpa told him, "If you build this house and finish it, I will give you Dharma teachings." After three constructions of houses, Marpa asked Milarepa to build a house right in the middle. Marpa said, "This is the last house that you have to build. The house should have nine floors. You should not ask anybody for help. You have to do this by yourself." Milarepa started carrying rocks on his back and his body was badly wounded. At one point, Milarpa felt that he could not stand it any more and he left. He thought that he could never receive the Dharma teaching from Marpa. Somehow, he came back. He did this three times. At the end Milarepa was suicidal and thought, "It looks like in my life, I cannot get this precious Dharma teachings. What should I do? Maybe. I should die and get a better rebirth to receive Dharma teachings. But on the other hand, if I do not get Dharam teachings, maybe I will go to the hell realm because of all the negative karma I have created." Milarepa was so desperate and suicidal. At the end, Marpa accepted to give Dharma teachings to Milarepa. Milarepa said, "I do this for the Dharma, not for my own benefit. If I do this for my own benefit, I could have done it peacefully and nicely." Milarepa was so desperate to receive the Dharma teachings.
Finally, Milarepa finished the construction. Marpa gave him the first teaching and empowerment on Chakrasamvara. He taught Milarepa to build the mandala on the ground and explained to him all the deities what they signified. After that, Marpa showed him Chakrasamvara from the sky and said, "This is the real Chakrasamvara!" At that time, Milarepa was so happy. He thought that it was a dream. He said, "If this is a dream, may I not wake up from this!" He felt such kind of joy and happiness. After receiving all the empowerment and meditation instructions, Milarepa went to the mountains and meditated for eleven months on one seat. After eleven months, Marpa came to Milarepa and said, "You did such a wonderful meditation retreat for eleven months sitting on the same seat. It is wonderful. Now please come out and tell me all your experiences." Milarepa came out and explained all his experiences. Milarepa said, " I realized how the precious human life is difficult to obtain. Even if one obtain this precious human life, it is impermanence, of transitory nature, so fragile. Within impermanence, suffering in the samsara is so powerful. Everyone is suffering in the samsara, one way or another and that suffering came from negative karma through delusion and negative thoughts. For that reason, I understand that we need to take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Because without taking refuge in these three jewels, there is no other way to free from all the suffering. I understand that after taking refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, I need such a great teacher to receive all the teaching instructions. After receiving the instructions, I understand that I need such a powerful diligence to experience all the teachings." Marpa was very pleased and happy and expressed that he had great hope that Milarepa would fulfill his wishes.
Milarepa went home. At that time, his mother died. His sister wandered endlessly. When his mother died, all that was left was a piece of bone. That reminded Milarepa of impermanence and suffering of samsara. He meditated a whole week on impermanence and helped his mother to free from samsara. He sang a sad song, "When my father was there, I am not here. When I am here, my father was not here. When my mother was here, here son was not here and when here son is here, the mother passed away. When the house was here, the owner was not here and when the owner is here, the house is broken. Even when the house, owner, mother and father all are here, there is not much benefit. I must study and practice the Dharma." This reminded him strongly of the Dharma teachings and reinforced it strongly. So he went to retreat by himself day and night, year after year. Because of that, he purified all his negative karma and achieved such a great realization of enlightenment. People started coming to him to receive teachings from him. One of his great disciples came to him to receive teachings and said, "You must be a reincarnation of a great Buddha or bodhisattva. It is because in the beginning of your life, you created such negative karma and now you went through such a great hardship and meditation practice and attain buddhahood. It is impossible for an ordinary person to do all that. You must have done something very special. You must be some great teacher in your previous lives." Milarepa said, "It is wonderful that you see me as a Buddha or bodhisattva. As I have created such negative karma, I saw directly the result of that karma. So my mind was completely into the Dharma. There is no second thought because I know that if I die with that kind of negative karma, the suffering is just there, so clear. By seeing that nature, I practice the Dharma so sincerely. If this kind of mind is born to every sentient being, everybody can do as I did!" This is a brief history of Milarepa. It shows how Dharma can help us to free from all delusion and negative karma and to achieve complete confidence.
The following story illustrates how Dharma can dispel darkness in our mind. At the time of Buddha, there was a man who was born in a Bramin family. At that time in India, it was not enough just to be born in a Bramin family to be considered as a Bramin, one had to learn to recite mantra. The man was not gifted. When he learned the first part of the mantra, he forgot the second part and when he learned the second part, he forgot the first part. He tried hard for some time. The family lost confidence in him and asked him to resign from the family. He left the family. He spent his time wandering on the streets feeling very sad. He had no place to go. Nobody could help him. One day, Buddha past by on the road asked him, "What happen to you?" He explained to Buddha how his family kicked him out because he was so stupid. Buddha said, "Would you like to follow me?" The man was delighted to accept the offer. Buddha took him to the temple and said to him, "You just clean the temple every day." Buddha brought him lunch every day. So he cleaned the temple. After a few months, his mind was clearer and fresher. Buddha asked him to keep chanting "clean the dirt, clean the dust" while he cleaned the temple." He could remember that easily and he kept saying it like a mantra "Clean the dirt, clean the dust". He did that for a few months. One day, when he was holding his broom in his hand, he said, "The dirt does not lie outside the mind, rather, it lies dirt inside the mind. The dust does not come from the outside, rather it comes from the mental afflictive emotions. If I cleaned the dust and dirt of the mind, everything will be cleaned." After some years of diligent practice, he achieved arhat state. This shows how Buddha was skilful in helping sentient beings and how Dharma can help sentient beings to dispel darkness in the mind. When the delusion is purified, light just shines out.
There are twelve interdependence or links according to the Dharma. There are twelve unenlightened or samsaric side and the twelve enlightened side of interdependent links. They are
2. Mental formation
4. Name and form
5. Increasing fields
12. Aging and death
We start with aging and death. In general, people do not like aging and death. When we die, our bodies are buried or cremated. However, death is not independent, it depends on aging. It is aging that leads to the death. If we do not like aging and death, we should not be born because birth is the beginning of aging and death. Birth is not independent, it depends on the existence and the karma cause. It is the karma that we created causes us to be born. So birth depends on the existence of the karma cause. Creating karma cause itself is not independent, it depends on craving. For example, when we like to go to a place, we like so much that we have strong craving wanting to get there. Craving depends on our attachment to that place. If you are not attached to that place in the first place, there would not be craving. But attachment depends on contact. If you do not have any contact to the place, to the people or the environment, there would not be attachment. So attachment depends on our feeling of joy and pleasant. Such feeling depends on our contact to objects. But contact is not independent. It depends on increasing fields like eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind consciousness. Without sense-consciousness (six increasing fields), we cannot have any contact to objects. When these increasing fields contact objects, it increases all our negative thoughts. These increasing fields arise when we are conceived in the mother's womb. These increasing fields arise from the existence of names and forms. Without names and forms, there are no objects for the increasing fields to contact. The conception of name and form come from consciousness. Without consciousness, nothing can be conceived. That consciousness carries a karma called mental formation. That karma is created by us through ignorance. If there is no ignorance, we would not create mental formation. So ignorance is the origin of all these. We wondered in the samsara through the interdependent links. We are born and die and again reborn through all the links. This is called the samsaric or unenlightened interdependent link. Through that, we wander in samsara as a wheel with no beginning and no end. When we uproot ignorance, the basic delusion, there is no basis to create karma and there is no consciousness which carries that and so on. It unlinks the rest of the process. This is called the enlightened interdependent link. To totally uproot ignorance, we need to study and practice the Dharma.
When we study and practice the Dharma, it does not help to struggle with aging and death. It does not help to fight with what we dislike. We have to understand where the origin is. Contemplate on that. There are different types of ignorance. Ignorance relating to knowing the inexorable causes and effect, of knowing the nature of all pervading emptiness, of knowing the discriminating nature of all phenomena and so on. Through ignorance, we create karma that come from mental factor. Mental factor means mental thoughts, different ways of thinking. All the mental thoughts are called mental factor that creates karma through delusion. Within that, there is positive mental thoughts which create positive karma and negative thoughts which create negative karma. So different karma is imprinted on our consciousness. In this way, consciousness follows according to the karma. Just look at our mind, when we see something, our mind just goes to that direction. The mind of itself has no idea, but there is a force that drives us around. So karma drives all our thinking. So when we die, our mind follows according to our what karma we have made in our lives. Karma is like a bird's shadow. When the bird is flying in the sky, it cannot see its shadow. But as soon as the bird lands on the ground, the shadow is there. Even though we do not see the karma, it follows with us. Consciousness follows the karma and eventually brings forth birth. Birth brings aging, sickness and death. So what we have to do in our meditation practice is to purify our ignorance, delusion and negative karma. It is not enough to fight with or dislike sickness and aging and the negative karma that we have. Therefore, we have to study and practice the Dharma sincerely to purify our negative karma and delusion.
The twelve interdependent links in the Dharma can be grouped into three categories.
1. Mind - ignorance, attachment and craving
2. Karma cause - mental formation and existence
3. Result - consciousness, name and form, six increasing fields, contact, feeling, birth, aging and death
It is not only mind that creates karma. For example, when we get sick, there come lots of mental emotions and negative thoughts. That creates the cause that drives us to carry out the actions and that brings the result. It goes around like that endlessly. These three become the wheel with no beginning and no end. If there exists only mind and result and no cause, then whatever you think will bring the result, but it does not happen that way. Sometimes, we think in such a good and positive way and we yield negative result. It is due to the karma cause. On the other hand, if result is absent, only mind and karma cause, there is nothing to experience in life. Lastly, if mind is absent, how can any result comes about. So all the three are interconnected. Therefore, when we practice the Dharma and face some undesirable conditions, we should see it as opportunity to purify that karma and not creating any more negative karma. That is the reason why we are practicing Dharma. Just knowing that is easy, but when it comes to real practice, it is not so easy. You may think that if we do not fight back when somebody hurts you, the other may think that you are so weak. At that moment, in your mind, you develop such kind of confidence. Knowing that this is a great opportunity for me to purify my negative karma, so instead of responding back, I have a feeling of gratitude of having such an opportunity. At that very moment, the negative karma we created in the past is purified. We do not have any more negative karma to experience. If, just the opposite that, when somebody hit you and immediately I get so upset and hit back, then while I am experiencing negative karma, I make another new one to be experienced in the future. This is just an example showing how mind, cause and result go around endlessly in the samsara. We suffer this way endlessly.
To study and practice the Dharma, it is very important to develop bodhicitta, loving-kindness and compassion. Loving-kindness and compassion both to ourselves and to others. That brings clarity to the mind. When our mind has peace and not disturbed, we are purifying our negative karma. It is not easy. Sometimes, it seems not so logical. We have to really convince ourselves and understand why it is important to practice the Dharma. Otherwise, people think that you are so weak because you cannot respond to others and people take advantage of you. But in your mind, you know that you are practicing the Dharma and you have confidence that it is not a sign of weakness, but rather a great strength in the mind. It is through this kind of reasoning and contemplation that brings out our mindfulness and awareness. Through that, we can keep our mental peace, calmness in our mind and not creating more negative karma.
Most people, even for some Dharma practitioners, do not have any idea that buddha nature, the seed of enlightenment, pervades within all of us. How can we know that we have the seed of enlightenment, not only human beings, but every sentient being including insect? We know that from our own understanding and experience that nobody like suffering. Not any sentient being like suffering. Everybody, including insects like peace and happiness. So from that point of view, we understand that buddha nature is peace and calmness. So peace that you have inside you does not feel comfortable with the suffering. The absolute peace, the buddha nature is very close to the temporary peace. That is why you can say that all sentient beings have the seed of enlightenment to achieve the absolute peace and happiness. Basically, no matter how much suffering we experience, we will never get used to it while peace and joy, no matter how much we experience, we do not feel sad about it. It applies to anybody independent of cultural background or belief system. Even for those who do not have any religion, as soon as there is peace in their mind, we would like to stay with them. That shows that all sentient being has buddha nature, the seed of enlightenment.
Since everybody has Buddha nature, the seed of enlightenment, it means that buddhahood is attainable. So we feel confident, joy and encouraged. Otherwise, there is no hope and we are discouraged and overwhelmed by the suffering in samsara - oh, I am such an ignorant person. I have so many negative thoughts. I am so limited in so many ways, how can I attend enlightenment? It is important that we feel good, joy and confidence about ourselves when studying and practicing the Dharma. Some day, I will attend enlightenment not just for myself, but for all sentient being. May they attend enlightenment. So in this way, we will never look down on other sentient being, but rather respect every sentient being equally.
When negative obscurations come, we have to remind ourselves of impermanence. They are just temporary delusion, not permanently rooted, just like clouds in the sky, do not exist substantially or permanently. Their nature is transitory and that is why they can be purified. In this way, we purify our delusion through wisdom. Because of our buddha nature, we have all the potential of developing all excellent qualities. We are so encouraged to study the Dharma, to develop bodhicitta, the great kindness and compassion and wisdom in order bring out our potential. The following six paramitas are the six perfections that help us to go beyond samsara to reach the shore of enlightenment.
Generosity is a special practice to open our mind and to build the strength in the mind. Generosity practice includes giving wealth, sharing your wisdom and skills, giving advice etc. When the mind is opened, it destroys all the boundaries that we created through delusion. This is generosity. Especially when you share some special teachings and instructions to free people from suffering, you are giving them opportunities and skills. There are so many ways of showing generosity, even saying nice words when someone feels sad, or just simply smile can make others feel so good. Sometimes when you are driving and someone rushes to get in front of you, just give that person a chance and that person would feel so thankful. Or simply cook a nice meal or even just boil a cup of tea is also generosity because you are giving up your energy.
2. Moral ethics
a) Avoiding all nonvirtuous actions, both physically and mentally, in order to keep the body, speech and mind in good discipline and be a better, more workable person. When you keep discipline well, people will respect you. Great bodhisattvas keep their discipline so pure and that is why they can benefit so many people.
b) Keep studying and practicing to develop all the good qualities by reading books, studying and practicing the Dharma in order to increase all the good qualities, skills, wisdom and compassion.
c) Benefiting sentient beings as much as we can.
The definition of patience is fearlessness. When you do not have fear, you have patience. When you have fear, you do not have patience. When we cannot accept the situation, that means that we are fear of something. Patience can be misunderstood. Sometimes we say "Please be patient!" it does not mean just sit there do nothing and wasting time. That is not real patience. Patience means that when mind has such a strength to endure the practice. For example, when someone uses harsh words and you have such a mental power to accept that. With loving kindness, compassion and wisdom, you have no fear. This is the practice of patience.
There is a story about a young man who was sat at the street corner the whole day. An old man passed by and asked the young man what he was doing. The young man said, "I am practicing patience." The old man said, "If you are practicing patience, you are a stupid fool!" The young man was so upset. It revealed that the young man had no patience. The old man was just testing to see if the young man has patience or not, so the young man had no patience and could not tolerate that. If he was really practicing patience, he would be so thankful for such an opportunity to practice patience. So patience does not necessarily applies only to very great thing, it can also apply to small things. Lots of things can happen in our lives and we need mental strength to relate to that. When we practice that way, our mind would be calm and peaceful. Moreover, it helps to purify lots of negative karma and obscurations in our mind. Patience is very difficult to practice sometimes. For example, when you are driving and you have to drive to a certain place on time and it's getting late. Then when red traffic light is coming up, you have to driver even faster to pass that traffic light. Then you realized that the car in front of you drive very slowly, you get so upset, isn't it? There are so many situations like that, at home, at the workplace, on the road and so on. So we have lots of opportunities to practice patience. So these are the Dharma practices we do in our daily life. If you learn and practice patience, you get such great benefit. Life will be much better, more peaceful. There are different types of meditation. Sometimes, when you sit down and meditate for five or ten minutes and your mind is not settling down, you thought that it is better to go out for a walk or to see something more attractive, at that time, you need to apply patience.
Sometimes when you set your mind to achieve certain goal and somebody comes and disturb that, you get so upset and angry. At that time, do not attach to the angry feeling, instead you do what is necessary to solve the problem. If you can achieve it, there is no need to be upset. If you cannot achieve it, it is no use to be angry either. See that nature, you should not have fear whether you achieve the goal or not. In this way, mind stays calm and peaceful. This is the practice of patience and fearlessness. For example, a friend called you and said, "Tonight, we will have a plan to go for a walk in the forest and have a nice dinner. I invite you to go to the forest around six." At about six o'clock, that person called and said that he could not go. You are so attached to the plan that you felt very frustrated. You did not eat much lunch just because you planed to eat a big, delicious dinner and now when that person changed the plan, you felt upset. You were impatience because you are so attached to the plan and are afraid to lose the control of your time and other arrangements in connection to that. You become desperate and upset. There come lots of emotions and suffering. On the other hand, if you are not attached to the plan, it is easier for you to find other alternatives. Then you can go on to do something else. If you are aware that everything is impermanent, then whether or not plan comes true or not, your mind is open and you would not attach to that. You can accept what that comes easily. This is just an example on how to practice patience. Of course, it is easier for you to accept the situation when that person explains the reason why he has to change the plan. "The situation is like this and I understand that it may cause you lots of trouble because you have planned all these. But I am terribly sorry that it happened to me so suddenly. Please accept my apology and I really feel bad about this. I really have to make this change." Sometimes when you start practicing the Dharma, you find the profundity in Buddha's wisdom, compassion and the strength of the great bodhisattvas, while other times, you feel overwhelmed and get impatience. At that time, remind yourself that you have buddha nature and you can achieve that. It is just a matter of time. So build the strength and free yourself from the fear and practice patiently.
Perseverance is very important because without perseverance, nothing can be achieved. If we are lazy and expect something will happen, it will never happen. We have to practice perseverance. It is not just doing it for a short time, rather we have to practice all the time. We say the prayer "Until I attain enlightenment, I perform virtuous deeds with body, speech and mind. Until death, I perform virtuous deeds with body, speech and mind. Until this time tomorrow, I perform virtuous deeds with body, speech and mind." We are so fortunate to have this life to be able to practice. This life is impermanent and I may die anytime. So whatever time I have for the rest of my life, I will continue to abstain from all the non-virtuous actions and thoughts and perform all the virtuous actions and thoughts. Meditate on that every moment. We cannot say, " I will practice Dharma when I retire. Now, I do not have time to practice." By the time you retire, you do not have much energy left and you have poor eyesight and cannot sit long because of pain and other physical problem. So whenever you are interested, that is the right time to practice the Dharma. We keep practicing the Dharma every day repeatedly. This is called perseverance. If we just sit and wait, we will miss the opportunity. So every moment is the precious time to practice the Dharma. Practice joyfully. Such joyfully effort putting into the study and practice of Dharma is the definition of perseverance. There are two aspects of perseverance. One is to purify all the non-virtuous actions and thought and put energy and effort in that direction. Another is to develop all the good qualities like loving-kindness, compassion and bodhicitta and so forth. In this way, the negative side will be purified and the positive side will increase.
5. Meditative concentration
It means to organize the mind to bring the mind together. When the mind is scattered in all directions, it has no power. Like the river that runs to all directions. None of them has much strength. When the water is organized in a narrow channel, water has great strength and power to perform tasks. Likewise, when our mind goes back and forth to all directions, even if we meditate, it does not bring much power. So we need to bring the mind to the right place one-pointedly. If we can stay with that, it has great power to destroy all our negative thoughts and delusion. It has great power to increase our good qualities.
6. Wisdom awareness
Wisdom awareness is the principal method to uproot delusion. One may have great practice on generosity, moral ethics, patience, perseverance and meditative concentration, if there is no special insight or wisdom awareness, we cannot be freed from the samsara. We will still be at the corner of samsara wandering in the samsara. However, to develop wisdom awareness without much support from these five other paramitas does not work either. The analogy is that we need eyes to see the road. We need feet to walk. If you only have eyes and no feet, you cannot walk. If you do not have eyes, you cannot walk to the right place. Wisdom awareness is like eyes that can see right from wrong and the causes of samsara, the causes of enlightenment. However the actualization of wisdom can only be attained through the practice generosity, moral ethics, patience, perseverance, meditative concentration and so forth.
We take refuge in the Dharma because of all great qualities it possesses. It is so precious and has great beneficial effects. Dharma is such a great medicine that heals our sickness and all our delusion, that no ordinary medicine can help us. No matter how much ordinary medicine we take, it will not help us to free from samsara. It will not help us to solve our mental delusion. Dharma is like sunshine that dispels all the darkness. Dharma is even more brilliant because it dispels the darkness of the mind that no sunshine can dispel. By seeing that nature, Dharma is your best friend, most reliable friend, that you can trust and stay along with life after life. You can always rely on Dharma even at the time of sickness or death. Dharma is there better than before because it gives us so much comfort and peace. If you need real medicine, take Dharma as the medicine. If you want real light, take Dharma as the light. If you need a real friend, take Dharma as your best friend. When we are young, when we are old, when we get sick, when we die, at all time, Dharma is there. So if you do not give up Dharma, Dharma will not give us up. See that nature. Dharma is the best wealth. The wealth in samsara can be lost or stolen, but the wealth of the Dharma only increases. It only gets better. If it is not stolen by the thief of our forgetfulness and mindlessness, Dharma will never be stolen by others. So it is of such great wealth. Seeing that great qualities and be inspired to study and practice Dharma. Dharma is a great bridge that no order ordinary bridge can help us to cross the big river of samsara. Therefore, we take refuge in the Dharma.
Some practical suggestions: study the ten non-virtues and to avoid performing them. Study the ten virtuous actions and perform them. This helps us so much to make the right decision and knowing what we should do and what we should not do. It includes physical, verbal and mental actions and thoughts. On top of that, doing meditation practice. It will help to stabilize the mind. We can do chanting meditation practice such as OM AH HUNG visualize yourself as Chenrezig or Tara on a daily basis. Reading life stories of great bodhisattvas like Milarepa, Marpa and so follow their examples. When you read those books, do not just read them through quickly. Read a couple paragraphs and then contemplate on that. If you read a few pages and contemplate on it every day, the meaning will bring into your mind and it will stay in your mind for some time. If you just read page after page quickly through, it may not stay in your mind so much. This is how to develop wisdom.
May all sentient beings gain the flavor of supreme victory and ride on omniscience; never turning back;
May all sentient beings gain the flavor of entry into the truth of the nondifference of all Buddhas,
and be able to distinguish all faculties;
May all sentient beings attain increase of the savor of the teaching
and always be able to fulfill the Buddhhas' teaching of nonobstruction.
by Venerable Khenchen Konchog Gyaltshen Rinpoche
Ngöndro Program 2001
Ratnashri Meditation Center, Sweden
We are living in the samsara, which means that we are in the state of delusion and confusion. We are tired and exhausted, but yet cannot get out of that state. Suffering is bound to come, one after another. Therefore, we are here to learn how to free from the delusion. We have studied Buddha and Dhamra and to conclude the study of taking refuge in the three jewels, Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, we are going to focus on Sangha. Sangha consists of Dharma practitioners who study and practice the Dharma teachings. If we take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha and then go on with the study of Dharma teachings, we become Sangha members. The opportunity to study and practice the Dharma is so precious and has inexpressible benefits. There is no better thing to achieve in life than to do this kind of practice. It is very difficult to hear Buddha's name in this world. It is very difficult to have a chance to hear Dharma teachings and it is very difficult to have time and leisure to study the Dharma. The reason is because we all are working hard, making ourselves so busy in this world in search for peace and happiness and to free from suffering. This is the basic idea of life and there is no end to this. Successful business people are not satisfied no matter how successful the business would be. They are still looking for more. It is because there is no ultimate happiness and peace can be achieved no matter how successful a person can be. For that reason, we come to study the Dharma teachings, which give us instructions on how to attain peace and happiness and how to avoid suffering. That is why Dharma teaching is so precious. For those who study and practice the Dharma, their lives are much happier even though they live in samsara. Life is meaningful and instructive. The person has much peace and contentment in life. This is not a matter of culture. We are not changing our lifestyle, but rather we are making effort to understand and reshape our mind. We purify our delusion so that the light or wisdom from within has a chance to reveal itself. In that way, we see how fortunate we are to have opportunities to study and practice the Dharma. Otherwise, we spend our time chasing mirage after mirage without meaning. When we come to the Dharma, it is to realize what we already have within me, not try to get things from the outside. We all have to work within our mind.
It is very precious to be Sangha. There are enlightened Sangha and unenlightened Sangha. Unenlightened Sangha are those who study and practice the Dharma but still need to work hard and make much effort. Enlightened Sangha is one who has achieved the first level of bodhisattva or bhumis. From there, there are many levels to achieve, which eventually lead to enlightenment, buddhahood. When we achieve the first bhumi, we have dispelled the basic delusion. We just practice right from where we are and we do not have to change anything. We do not have to change culture, clothes or language. We do not have to go anywhere else. We just need to change the way of thinking, purify our delusion, develop positive and altruistic thoughts and sustain that.
To practice that, we chant mantras like OM AH HUNG or Guru Padmasambhva's mantra OM MANI PADME HUNG or Tara's mantra OM TARE TU TARE TURE SATTSOHA. We chant these mantras to develop our wisdom and compassion. We take refuge in Sanghas like Tara or Chenrizig because they are highly accomplished practitioners and their wisdom and compassion are much stronger. Their mind is more peaceful, more organized and has more strength. It is because they train and discipline their mind in a powerful way. They organize their mind at the right place through proper causes and conditions. They are highly accomplished masters and we can take them as our example. This is called taking refuge in the Sangha. Sangha basically means one who is inspired and train the mind to achieve liberation - liberation from suffering and liberation to peace and nirvana.
There are lay people Sangha members and renounced or ordinance Sangha members. Lay people Sangha member should have at least the five precepts - not taking life, not telling lies, no sexual misconduct and free from intoxication. Sexual misconduct causes lots of confusion, hatred and resentment especially if you are married. One needs to take at least these five precepts and dedicate the life in the study of Dharma in order to become a Sangha. In fact, if you keep these five precepts, life is peaceful, free from delusion. Mind becomes clear and one knows what to do, what to keep and how to free from unnecessary suffering. If the family members keep the five precepts, there is so much peace and calmness. Those who do not keep the five precepts, there is lots of confusion, hatred and resentment. The second type of Sangha is the ordinance Sangha who has received the monks and nuns ordination. If you are interested, you have the opportunity to become an ordinance Sangha and if you are not interested in that, you can take the lay precepts for lay practitioners. In any case, you have the same opportunity to study and practice the precious Dharma teachings.
Sometimes, we feel that Buddha is too high up there, so unreachable while we know so little and our mind is so fragile. In order for us who are unenlightened, who study and practice the precious Dharma teachings, to see how much we are progressing in our practices, we look at those highly accomplished great Sangha members like Tara and Chenrizig who also practiced. Read their life stories to see how they first started the study and practice of the Dharma teachings and how they progress on the path. We look at those great practitioners who give us inspirations to study and practice in the same way. This is called taking refuge in the Sangha. We take refuge in them and affirm, "I will practice as they did. They have indivisible, complete, one-pointed confidence towards enlightenment, buddhahood. They got the experience through study and meditation practices. They are such great and inspiring Dharma practitioners. I must take refuge in them." This is the reason why Sangha is there for us.
There are two types of Sanghas - hinnayana (or Shravakas or Pratyekabuddha) school and the mahayana (or bodhisattva) school. There are five paths towards complete enlightenment- path of preparation, path of accumulation, path of special insight, path of meditation and path of no more learning or the perfect path.
" Path of preparation and path of accumulation - both are in the unenlightened stage. Practitioners who are in these stages are not free from the samsara. They study and practice the Dharma. They organize and accomplish their activities, but have not reached the enlightened quality yet. They need to study more to reach the next path.
" Path of special insight - Those great accomplished practitioners who have achieved the realization of special insight, are called "entering into the stream of enlightenment" or "stream entering". They practice and develop all the necessary qualities to enter the fourth path.
" Path of meditation - There are two classes, namely, "once returning" and "non-returning". "Once returning" because in case if they cannot progress fully, they have to reborn once more to accomplish their meditation practices. However, if they make enough effort within one life, they enter into the path of "non-returning" without reborn again.
" Path of perfection - those who achieved this path are called arhats. The four enemies and all the gross afflicting emotions are fully purified. We take refuge in them because they are free from the samsara.
In the mahayana system or the bodhisattva school, there are ten levels to achieve. After achieving the first two paths (path of preparation and accumulation), from the third path on, there are ten bodhisattvas' levels or bhumis to achieve. So we take refuge in them especially those bodhisattvas who have attained the eighth bhumis. They have great confidence and strength. They have purified all the gross delusions and only very subtle obscuration left to be purified. They have great skill, great mental power to transform things.
In order to be a good practitioner, to be a good Sangha, we study "The Four Foundations" or "the four ways to turn the mind" or the four preliminaries.
1. Precious human life
This kind of leisure and endowment is supremely difficult to obtain. When we obtain this body which is easily lost, do not waste it meaninglessly, but rather use it to attain the ultimate liberation, joyous result.
The precious human life has two excellent qualities - leisure and endowment, which is very difficult to obtain. Leisure means having time. It is difficult to have time to study and practice because we keep ourselves so busy rushing here and there. We have lots of commitments, obligations and are facing lots of pressure. In fact, leisure is difficult to find in the whole of samsara. It is even more difficult to find leisure if we are born in other realms. Beings who are born in the hell realm are constantly suffering. Thus, they do not have time to study and practice. The same is true for beings in the hungry ghost realm. If you are born as an animal, you have no power or wisdom. If you ask a cat or dog to sit down and meditate, or teach them virtue and non-virtue, they have no idea what you are talking about. Even though they may be very clever and smarter than some human beings, they do not have discriminating wisdom to know what virtuous actions are and how to practice virtuous actions and what non-virtuous actions are and how to avoid them. They spend time looking for something, just want to get something. That is why animals have no time and opportunities to study and practice the Dharma. In god realm, beings experience lots of joy and happiness temporarily. Because of such great peace and happiness, they are not interested in the Dharma study. When mind is completely peaceful and calm with no suffering or problem, they see no reason why they should sit down and meditate. They feel relaxed already. Beings in the god realm are of that nature, so they do not have the leisure to study. Even in the human realm, you can be born in a place where Buddha's name is not known. Some heard about the Buddha but are not interested in the Dharma study. Some do not understand or believe in the universal law of causes and result, that is, virtue brings peace and happiness while non-virtue brings suffering. They, too, do not have the opportunity to study and practice the Dharma teachings. Some do not have enough mental power to receive or to communicate Dharma teachings and to study and practice the Dharma. In all, we have to free from the eight unfavorable conditions. That is why having interest, time and conditions to study and practice the Dharma is so precious and rare.
Endowment is opportunities and good conditions. There are ten different types of endowments.
" One has to be a human being.
" One has all the physical and mental faculties - one can read, see, hear, talk and have the ability to understand.
" One has to born in a place where there is Dharma teachings.
" One is free from heavy negative karma
If one has committed heavy negative action, that negative karma will prevent one from freeing from samsara in one life time.
" One has to have inspiration, faith and interest in the Dharma study and practice.
The above five conditions are obtained from within oneself. If any of the five is missing, there is no chance to study and practice the Dharma.
" Buddha has to be in this world.
" Buddha must have taught.
" Buddhas' teachings must continue to be taught
" There are spiritual masters who can explain these teachings and there are practitioners who follow the teachings.
" There are dedicated and devoted supporters who support and organize teaching programs and facilitate the study and practice of the Dharma.
These five conditions come from the outside. If any of them is missing, we lose the chance to study and practice the Dharma.
Having these favorable conditions is rare like seeing evening stars during the day. There are only a few who have them. Look at animals, countless of them, living in the forest, in the oceans and in the air. If you were born as one of them, how can you study and practice the Dharma? At that time, no matter how much you suffer, you have to take it because there is no other choice. You do not have the chance to reason, to debate. We human beings have the right to go to the court to appeal; while in the animal world, there is no such opportunity. Moreover, they suffer so much when people torture them. They cannot defend themselves but to suffer. As human beings, we have the opportunity to look around, to find solutions to free from suffering. There are many ways even without Dharma. You can talk to your family, your friends and other people. You can move to different places. So you see how rare and precious it is to obtain the precious human life. So we cannot afford to waste life like animals do. Animals spend their time just to get food and shelter. They go from places to places to eat grass, to drink water. In that way, they die one day. If we do the same, we are like animals. Human beings can do much better than animals do because as human beings, we have great mental power and mental capacity.
There are three different levels of capacities - inferior, middle and superior capacities. Even when we are of inferior capacity, we still have opportunity to receive the Dharma teachings, to avoid non-virtues and negative karma to be reborn in the lower realms. Even if we are not free from samsara in this lifetime, we can make effort to be reborn as a human being again in the next life. However, if you constantly make negative karma, there is no way to be reborn as human again. When the mind is dominated by hatred and craving, we are making connection to the lower realm even in this lifetime. Our negative thoughts make us suffer miserably. But there is solution to that. Just look at the opportunity we have. Individually, we can achieve arhats to free ourselves from suffering. For supreme beings, they see suffering in the samsara and they want to free from suffering. They see also that all other sentient beings likewise desire to free from suffering. Thus, it is not enough just to free themselves from suffering. They cultivate altruistic thought to attain complete enlightenment for all sentient beings. There are many other ways for us to develop our capacities. For example, we can do the OM AH HUNG meditation to send wisdom and compassion to all sentient beings and to purify their obscurations. We can read the history and life stories of Buddhas or bodhisattvas who have helped countless sentient beings. They have that kind of capacities. Millions of people follow their path step by step. Thousands of years passed and they are still highly respected and admired. They study and practice according to the Dharma and they can achieve such high capacity. Seeing so many great opportunities we have, we cannot afford to waste time and energies but to develop ourselves to attain ultimate liberation. This is the only way to free from suffering and experience the ultimate peace. When there is no suffering, peace is just there.
Buddha gave an analogy showing how difficult it is to obtain the precious human life. Buddha said, "Suppose this whole world and planet is ocean. Underneath this ocean, there is a tortoise who is supposed to live for many thousand years. This tortoise is blind and only comes up to the surface of the ocean every 100 years. On the surface of the ocean, there is a yolk (a piece of log wood) which has one hole in the middle. The yolk is carried by the ocean waves. The tortoise has no eye to look for the piece of wood and the piece of wood has no mind to look for the tortoise. Every 100 year, the tortoise comes out to the surface for just a very short moment. The chance that the tortoise's head will meet the hole of the yolk is very rare. However, it is even more difficult to be born with the precious human life. There are countless sentient beings in the world, human and non-human. How many are studying and practicing the Dharma sincerely and with great devotion? Very, very rare."
So we should rejoice and appreciate the precious human life that we have. We must have done something good in our past life to be born as human and to meet the Dharma teachings. Dharma comes to the west for only the last 20 to 30 years. Before that, there is not much Dharma to study. Rejoice and cherish such opportunity. Remind and uplift yourself to study and practice the Dharma diligently. With all the opportunities that we can purify our delusion and to free ourselves from suffering. We cannot stay arrogantly because this life can be easily lost. We can die any day. Life is so fragile like a bubble in the water.
The nature of all phenomena is impermanence. Death is a certainty for all who are born. Death can descend any time like a drop of morning dew on a blade of grass. Quick! It is time to make effort for the essence of Dharma.
All phenomena, outer phenomena like oceans, mountains, rivers, sun and moon and all inner phenomena that lie within all sentient beings are impermanent. They change from moment to moment. The Rocky Mountains looks very solid but they are constantly changing. When earthquake comes, mountain collapses. When volcano erupts, the whole mountain is destroyed. All the rocks are dissolved into the fire. See how fragile everything is. When the fire becomes so strong, no matter how powerful rocks and metal are, they all dissolved into the fire like water. Everything is impermanent. Likewise, death is a certainty for all who are born. This is not being negative, but rather it gives us an opportunity to see what reality really is. Just look at ourselves, do we have the choice of not dying? Whether you believe in death or not, you will die anyway. That is why it is crucial to see the reality. We do not want to hear that because it is unpleasant and there is lots of suffering relating to that. If death is wonderful and pleasant, we would like to talk about that, won't we? At the time of death, we want peace and happiness. To obtain that, we need to prepare our mind already now. At this moment, we are sacrificing our time and energy for tomorrow's happiness. So, why not sacrifice our time and energy for the happiness and peace at the time of death.
To prepare our mind at the time of death, it is very important to know more about death or the experience of death. When we sit down and meditate, take a deep breath and contemplate this way:
Some day I will die. It is definite. But I do not know when. It could be tomorrow. At that time, do I have the confidence of dying peacefully and joyfully? When death comes, nobody can help. My best friends and relatives cannot help. My family members have always been so kind and loving to me. They do everything for me. At the time of my death, they too cannot do anything for me. I have to go through that all by myself. What kind of confidence do I have at that time? My body becomes corpse. My body, which I cherish so much, would be taken out from the house. No matter how important I used to be in the family, they cannot keep the body even for one day. No matter how dear those people around me are, they cannot keep me with them for one day. They will cry and scream. That is all they can do.
Just contemplate on that. That is why I have to practice the Dharma. The precious Dharma teachings can help us at that time. If we can study and practice the Dharma well, from the experiences and realizations from our practices, we can die peacefully and joyfully. Reflecting on impermanence this way inspired us to study and practice the Dharma, on a day-to-day basis, without delay.
This was what Milarepa did. He studied and practiced the Dharma every moment. He had no procession except just a clay pot which he used to cook his food (nettle). One day, he traveled from one place to another and he happened to fall down on the ground. The pot broke right a way. Just that moment reminded him so strongly of impermanence. He was so grateful to receive such a strong and fresh teaching. Normally, if we do not aware of impermanence, when the pot breaks, we would feel so sad and negative. "The only pot that I have is now broken. Oh! I am the unluckiest person in this world. Now I have to get another pot." We are not grateful to the fresh and strong teaching of impermanence. All phenomena are composite, especially this human life, depending on causes and conditions. We are living our lives moment to moment and we are moving closer and closer to death. The purpose of reflecting on impermanence is to release our attachment, hatred and anger. Everything is of momentary nature, why should I attach so much or hate that person so much? I am going to die and that person is also going to die. So what is the use of hatred? What benefit does that bring? Nothing! Just suffering! This is a very effective practice if we know how to apply it in the right way. If we hold on to our attachment, resentment and hatred in our mind, when we hear about impermanence, it is depressing. We would like to hold on to that. For example, we like the house very much. When the house is damaged by fire, flood or earthquake, we get very depressed. The reason is because we do not realize the nature of impermanence.
Milarepa possessed nothing living in the cave. One day, his sister, who was also very poor, came to see him after many years of separation. She was very depressed and said, "Brother, there is nothing in this place. You have no food to eat and no clothes to wear. I am your sister feeling ashamed seeing you like this. You can go and beg for food. We are the worst people that exist in this world. Can you do something better than this?" She tried to encourage him to go down to the village to make a better living. Milarepa said, "Sister, please do not worry about me. I am practicing the Dharma. Life is impermanence and my teacher told me to do this way. Right now, you feel that I am not successful in life, but in reality, I am the most successful person in this world. I met the best teacher and received the most profound teachings. I am fully dedicated in the practice. No doubt in the future, I will achieve the best result that you cannot imagine." Still, she could not accept that. "You are saying so nice things but practically, you have no food." Milarepa said, "It does not matter, I can live this way. I dedicate my life this way to purify my negative karma. Life is so impermanence and I have no time to waste, no time to go and wander around. Every minute is so important and precious. If you look at my place, it looks crazy because there is nothing. Even enemies come will have sympathy. But when Buddha sees my mind, Buddha feels so happy and rejoice." Milarepa practiced so joyfully. He felt himself as being the most fortunate and successful person. He had that kind of mental power. That is why he could sustain that.
It is important to reflect on impermanence in our daily life. See how quickly the cars passing by the highways. See how the watch is moving every second. Every moment is impermanent. Look at our mind, it moves so fast from thoughts to thoughts, never stops. See how impermanent all phenomena are. From there, we release all our attachment. Look at how fresh the flower is today; one day, it will dry out and fade away. That means that it is fading every moment. Look at people who are dying. I too will die one day. What should I do during that time? Everything is of illusory nature. So release all our negative thoughts to bring forth peace and calmness in the mind. Generate loving kindness and compassion and to inspire myself to study and practice these precious teachings. This is the purpose of contemplating on death.
Death can descend any time like a drop of morning dew on the blade of grass. In the morning, when you look at the grass, there are many drops of dew on the grass and as soon as the sunshine comes, they all fall down on the ground and evaporate. See how we are breathing in and out every moment. If you just breathe out and not breathe in, our lives will finish. I cannot prove that I am healthy and young. People may die at the time of birth. Some die young while some die when they are old. Eventually everyone goes. At that time, no matter how much we cry, how much we say, "I love you. Please do not go." All just finish like a dream. Look at the impermanent nature and mediate on that and develop positive thoughts.
It is time to make effort for the essence of Dharma. It is time because we have the precious human life and we have received the Dharma teachings and we understand them. Now is the time to study and practice in order to bring the teachings to the mind and to apply them. There was a great master who was so inspired to practice the Dharma teachings especially on impermanence. The master lived in a cave and there was a thorny bush at the door step which gave him a hard time to get in and out of the cave. His clothes were torn by the thorn every time he passed by. He thought, "May be I should clear this bush. But now that I got in the cave, I may not have time to get out. So what is the use to clear the bush? If I am dead inside the cave, there is no benefit to cut the bush. Forget it." He went on with his meditation practice. Then when he got out, the thorn again made it difficult for him to get out. So he thought, "May be I should cut this bush. Now that I am out, I may not have time to get in again. So what is the use of cutting this bush?" He was meditating like that all the time. When he achieved enlightenment, the bush was still there. Other people may think that he was so lazy because he did not cut the bush. But for him, it reminded him so much of impermanence. He was so inspired and so devoted. He was doing more important great things than just small causal thing. Contemplate on impermanence is very effective. We are living in the state of impermanence whether we believe it or not. Since impermanence is so close to us, we can reflect on it easily. It is so helpful and so useful to us.
3. Karma cause and effect
The fruit of one's positive karma is happiness. Suffering is the fruit of negative karma. The inexorable karmic causation is the mode of abiding of all Dharma. Henceforth, practice the Dharam by distinguishing between what should be practiced and what should be given up.
Karma is not a belief system. Sometimes, we say that we believe in karma or we do not believe in karma. If you do not believe in the karma, does it mean that there is no karma? Karma, in Sanskrit, means action. When you put action physically and mentally, that becomes a cause to bring the result. That is karma. In reality if we study carefully, karma is not just a belief system. Everything in this universe is constituted in the dimension of cause and result. We are creating cause every moment and we are experiencing result of our past actions. If it exists only within the belief system, which means that, if one belief in it, there is karma cause and karma result; if one do not belief in it, there is no karma cause and result. In that case, it is better not to believe it. Why worry about it at all since we are creating more negative karma than positive karma. It is better not believe in the karma. Just forget it and relax. Since this is not the case, karma is the cause that brings the result. In fact, we are experiencing the result and creating the karma cause at the same time. We do not know what will happen this afternoon or tomorrow because we do not know all the causes that we have created to bring the result that we are going to experience.
Knowing karma helps us to become more responsible and conscious of our own actions. We better not make any karma to be born in the hell realm or the hungry ghost realm because sentient beings suffer terribly there. Even in human lives, we cannot bear even a small physical suffering, so how can we bear and tolerate the suffering in the hell or hungry ghost realm? We should make every effort not to make any negative karma. Positive karma brings happiness and it is a result of virtuous actions, while negative karma brings suffering and it is a result of non-virtuous actions. So all the beings in the lower realms - hell, hungry ghost and animal realm are suffering because of the non-virtues that they have created. To be a human being like us, we must done virtuous actions. Now that we are born with a precious human life with all the good opportunities, we should make every effort to progress further. Individually, we have to take responsibility. Happiness and suffering are all created by ourselves. The inexorable karma causation is the mode of abiding of all Dharmas, means that the whole universe is constituted within this law of cause and result.
Henceforth, we should practice the Dharma by distinguishing between what should be practiced and what should be given up. Therefore, the ten virtues are the objects of our practice and the ten non-virtues are the are the objects for us to get rid of from our mind and our actions. When something goes wrong, instead of fear or worry, we should see it as opportunity to correct it and to apply the Dharma practice. See the impermanent nature of all phenomena. If I can fix the problem, I should try my best to fix it. If I cannot fix it, there is no use to worry about it. It is gone. This is the way to inspire and remind ourselves to keep doing virtuous actions and having virtuous thoughts. On the other hand, if we are not aware of impermanence, when something, which is not supposed to happen happens, we worry so much. We blame somebody else. When we do that, all the argument and negative thoughts arise from there. It creates such a negative environment.
When we are in samsara, we take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Samsara has no absolute peace. Suffering is bound to come. I do not want all these suffering but I have no ability to free myself from suffering. Therefore, I am depending on Buddha, Dharma and Sangha to show me the path how to free us from the suffering of samsara. That is what taking refuge means.
4. Suffering of samsara
In the three lower realms and even in the three higher ones, there is not an instant of absolute happiness. I will avoid the root cause of samsaric existence and practice the excellent path of peace to enlightenment.
The beings in the hell realm suffer constantly from extreme heat or extreme cold. Some beings stay alive inside a volcano. Under such hot temperature, even rocks and metals melt in the fire. So, you can imagine how much suffering those beings have. This is called the hot hell realm. They do not die because of the karma they have created. It shows the power of such karma cause. There are beings who live in snow mountains. Sometimes we see on the television how frogs freeze with the water during the winter and remain inactive until spring comes. Then when snow slowly melts away, the frogs shake their bodies and move again. Can you imagine staying frozen the whole winter, not able to move or eat? This is called the cold hell realm. Actually, the hell realm does not necessarily exist in a particular place. It can be anywhere.
There are lots of flies flying above the water but cannot land on the ground. They fly very close to the ground up and down the whole day. They want to drink the water because of the thirst, but they feel that somebody is preventing them to drink water. So they stay up and down like that the whole day. There are animals living in the middle of the dessert and cannot get any water for many days. They suffer from the lack of food and drink. This is called the hungry ghost realm.
Animals, as we can see, suffer so much from their stupidity. There is suffering the three higher realms too. Human beings are supposed to have much better lives and more opportunities, but still we suffer quite a lot. We suffer from sickness, aging and death. We suffer from not getting what we want and getting what we do not want. Even if we have good food to eat, good place to live, we still suffer. Suffering is bound to come. Seeing that nature, we must make effort to free ourselves from this cycle. Now that we have Dharma teachings and have lots of opportunities, we have to apply the teachings. When we suffer, we should understand that the causes of suffering we created by ourselves. Being depressed or sad does not help us to get out of that. We should renounce the cause of suffering and practice the Dharma sincerely. Dharma is the most precious thing we have in life.
The root cause of suffering in samsara is the ten non-virtues. We should avoid and renounce them. When we avoid all the nonvirtues, there is peace. For example, not taking life, when we respect our lives and protect other lives, we can live peacefully. Small bugs runs away from us in fear that their lives are endangered. If we can extend our protection to them, they too can live peacefully. When we harm other lives, it is like harming our own lives. The result of our actions will prevent our mind from having mental peace. Our mind is dominated by fear and suffering. When we protect other lives, we are protecting our lives as well. For example, when we do not pollute the environment, we are protecting the lives of all other animals as well as our lives. If we destroy the environment for some selfish reason, we have to experience the result of that too. Nonvirtue is not something that Buddha made up intellectually, but rather Buddha clearly see the consequences to both parties - for the one who does that and for the receiver and for both. When we do not engage in non-virtues, peace and harmony will come. When you see someone on the road and say, "Hi!" to that person, that person then smiles and say, "Hi!" back to you. Since that person get some benefit and he or she response back to you and as a result, you get some benefit back. This is how we can build a good environment, how the response goes back and forth. On the other hand, when someone comes by and you show an angry face, that person would probably not like it and response in an uncomfortable way. Thus, the environment becomes tense and uneasy. So this is about cause and result, virtue and non-virtue. It is simple, isn't it?
Buddha clearly knew and saw that the suffering nature in samsara. Therefore, he gave us guidance and teachings that deal mainly with how to heal our mind. When the mind is healed, our body is healed. When we know how to relax the mind, it relaxes the body. When we know how to build the strength of the mind, we know how to build our strength physically. When our mind is in the wrong place, very fragile and full of negative thoughts, that ruins our health too. So we have to heal the mind, build the strength of the mind, bring clarity and peace to the mind. In that way, our body would be in good condition. When you are angry and aggressive, the whole body becomes tense and uneasy, even our facial expression changes. When we suffer mentally, our physical body suffers too. This is called causes and effect. It happens from moment to moment. Like walking, the first step is the cause of the second step. Without the first step, there is no second step. The second step is the cause to the third step. Without the second step, there is no third step. This is what cause and effect is. The first moment you sit down and meditate, it bring peace in the mind to the second moment, then the third moment and so on, continue in the mind. The moment we have aggressive thoughts, they become a cause to bring suffering in the mind. Suffering continues until those thoughts disappear. All the mental formation are formed in this way whether in a peaceful or negative.
Chenrezig is one of the greatest and most popular Sanghas. Most people know his mantra OM MANI PADMI HUNG. Why do we take refuge in Chenrezig? If you study the life story of Chenrezig, you learn that he was a great Boddhisattva. Even though he is enlightened, he manifests as bodhisattvas life after life for the benefit of all sentient beings until all sentient beings are free from suffering. Therefore, we put Chenrezig on the refuge tree as part of the Sangha. When we visualize Sangha, we place Chenrezig in the center.
In the beginning, Chenrezig was, like us, an ordinary person who was aware of the suffering nature of samsara and was inspired to free from samsara. He took refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. He studied and practiced the Dharma teachings. His compassion developed more and more. Especially, when he saw the suffering all sentient beings, he was overwhelmed. He developed such great compassion that he promised to stay in the samsara to help all sentient beings until all are free from suffering. Like that, he practiced and cultivated bodhicitta in front of many buddhas, for hundred thousands of buddhas and especially in front of Buddha Amitabha. Chenrezig said, "I would not attain enlightenment until all sentient beings are free from samsara!" In this way, he benefited sentient beings. One time, he checked to see if sentient beings suffered less. When he saw that sentient beings' suffering was immense and that the number of sentient beings who suffer did not decrease, he was so overwhelmed that tears came to his eyes. The tears from the right eye transformed into Green Tara and the left transformed into wrathful Tara. Then Tara said to him, "You do not worry. We will help you to help all sentient beings in the samsara. Any one who need help, we will help them." Tara was called the daughter of Chenrezig. Tara inspired and encouraged Chenrezig. Chenrezig continued to benefit sentient beings one life after another. Then he cultivated such strong bodhicitta in front of Buddha Amitabha by saying, "If I ever only think of myself and my own peace, may my face racks into many pieces!" In another word, if his bodhicitta declined, may his head and face crack into many pieces. He created such strong commitment in practicing bodhicitta. Then after a long time, Chenrezig continued benefiting sentient beings, but suffering never decrease. Then one day, he thought, "I have worked so much and suffering is not getting less. It looks like it is not possible. May be I should just have peace for myself." As soon as he thought that, because of the precious powerful commitment he made, his face cracked into many pieces and immediately Buddha Amitabha appeared and said, "You do not think like that. I am here all the time to help you." So through meditation, Buddha Amitabha skillfully transformed his face into ten heads. On the top is Buddha Amitabha's head. Buddha Amitabha said, "I am here all the time with you. Not only that, you have one thousand hands and in each hand, there is an eye. Altogether, thousand eyes and thousand hands." Through Buddha Amitabha's blessing and Chenrezig's skill, Chenrezig could manifest thousand kinds of manifestations in one instance to help and benefit sentient beings. Like that, Chenrezig progressed and his bodhicitta grew stronger and stronger. Still rightl now, Chenrezig continues his activities. He has vowed, "I will not attain enlightenment until all sentient beings are free from suffering in the samsara!" Therefore, we take refuge in Chenrezig. We are inspired by his motivation and the strength in his mind. Chenrezig cultivates his great compassionate mind for all the sentient beings. Therefore, if we take refuge in great bodhisattvas, study and practice the Dharma, their blessings are always within us. We take refuge in the Sangha to cultivate our bodhicitta just like them and follow the path step by step just like they did.
Great bodhisattvas do suffer when they train themselves to cultivate bodhicitta for the benefit of all sentient beings. Gampopa, for example, was an historical being who lived on this planet in Tibet around the 11th century. He was the foremost disciple of Milarepa. Gampopa studied medicine and became a very famous doctor. He was a very important figure in the medical history. He was married and then after some time, due to some contagious disease, his wife and two children died. Because of that, he saw the suffering nature of samsara, he promised himself to study and practice the Dharma. He dedicated a third of his wealth to offer to monks, nuns and lamas everywhere. The rest he kept for his meditation practice. He went to monastery to become a monk studying and practicing the Dharma. That monastery belonged to the Atisha, Kadampa school. There, he studied lots of sutras. He took all the ordination and monks' vows. He studied during the day and meditated at night. He became such a great Dharma practitioner. All the teachers, monks and nuns in the school had high hope that he would become a great teacher. He studied all the vinaya, sutra system and vajrayana teachings. In addition, he received all the empowerments. He could meditate for days without eating food. He could breathe just once a day because his mind is so calm and peaceful. Everyone respected him. One day in the late afternoon, when he was in his retreat inside a cave, three beggars came. It was getting late and they were preparing a very simple dinner while discussing. "I wish we had a nice delicious dinner to prepare. Unfortunately, we do not have that." Another person said, "If you would like to make a wish, you should wish for something better than that. You can wish that you would be the King of Tibet who has the authority and power to rule over the whole country." Yet another person said, "That is also samsara. Being a king is impermanent. You should wish for something even better than that. You should wish to be like Milarepa, that is, to attain enlightenment in one lifetime. Then, like Milarepa, sometimes, you do not have to eat. You can fly and can manifest into many different forms. You should wish to be like that kind of person."
Gampopa, as soon as he heard the name, Milarepa, his mind and body were unsettled, trembling. He prayed and meditated the whole night. The next morning, he invited those three beggars to his meditation cave and he prepared a very nice meal as they wished. While they were enjoying the meal, Gampopa asked, "Yesterday, you talked about Milarepa, which I have not heard before. Where can I see him?" The man replied, "I have no idea where he is. I heard that he lives way up in the western Tibet. I also heard that many people go to see him." Gampopa asked, "Can you help me?" The man replied, "No, I cannot help you. I am not going there." Another man said, "I will help you. I am going in that direction, but I am not going to see him. You can go with me." Gampopa made all preparation. He went to all his teachers and asked for permission to leave. Some teachers said, "We do not really want you to go because we all have high hope and expectation that you would be a great teacher and we know that you will do a good job for the school and monastery. But we have no choice. You just go." He got permission from all the teachers and he set out for the journey.
Milarepa was eighty years old. He was giving teachings to all his disciples. Some disciples asked him, "Now that you are getting old, if you have to pass away, are there some special students that you can rely on, hold your throne and your lineage, as well as answer our Dharma questions?" Milarepa said, "I am a yogi. I do not expect that I have a special lineage. I have no throne and no monastery. But I will see tomorrow morning who will receive all my teachings." Everyone came the next morning. They looked to see who that person could be. Milarepa said, "From the center of Tibet, a great teacher is coming to receive all my teachings. He will take all the teachings and benefit all the sentient beings. He will promote Buddhas' teachings. He is coming." Gampopa was on the road. After some time, the beggar said, "I have to go this way. You go that way. If you do not know the road, you may ask people along the road to help you." Gampopa went on and on, he began to feel sick. He had no company walking in an unknown place. He was tired after traveling for so many days with his travel bag. He got sick and felt down on the road, fainted. When he woke up, a monk was looking at him. He said, "You look sick." Gampopa said, "I am not feeling well. May be I will die. Would you please give me some water?" Gampopa felt much better after he drank. During that time, Milarepa was giving teachings to all his monks. While he was giving teachings, he stopped, kept quiet for a while and then smiled. All the students wondered what he was doing. One of the monks stood up, did prostrations to him and asked, "Why did you smile like that? Something happened to the Sangha members? Maybe some negative thoughts that you saw?" Milarepa said, "I see none of these here. The great teacher from the center of Tibet I mentioned got sick on the road. He felt down. Then the monk came, gave him water and he felt much better. This was what I saw." Gampopa arrived. Milarepa welcomed him. Milarepa was sitting on a piece of rock. Two disciples, Rechungpa on the right and Charwura on the left, supported Milarepa. Milarepa welcomed Gampopa. Milarepa gave special welcome instructions to Gampopa and Gampopa offered his offerings. Milarepa said, "If you want to receive teachings and want to practice, you have to live like me. You have to follow my way." Like that, Gampopa stayed for three years with Milarepa receiving teachings during the day and meditated in the cave during night. During those times, there were lots of experiences. Sometimes, Gampopa saw the seven medicine buddhas, thousand buddhas. He went to Milarepa to tell him what he saw and asked what he should do. Milarepa said, "Oh! This is nothing important. If you see medicine buddha, it is fine. Just continue your practice. If you see a thousand buddhas, that is fine. Just continue your practice." Then one time, Gampopa saw Chakrasamvara's whole mandala vividly in front of him with all the deities. Again, Milarepa told him that that was not important. So he went back to continue his practice. Gampopa said, "Even though my lama said that it was not important. I felt good!" Gampopa stayed with him for another three years and received the complete teachings and meditation practice. One day, Milarepa said, "You saw buddha in nirmanakaya form with thousand buddhas. You saw buddha in sambogakaya form. Soon you will see buddha in dharmakaya form. That means that you will achieve enlightenment." Milarepa gave all the instructions to Gampopa and said, "You go to the mountain and meditate. Do not wander in the town. Do not talk too much with the people. Just stay by yourself and practice. After some time, you will see directly buddha dharmakaya. At that time, you will see me as a buddha, not like this old poor man. You will have a special devotion and then you can start helping sentient beings and start giving teachings." Gampopa left and he continued to do his meditation practices for some time. He actualized directly dharmakaya within his own mind, he revealed completely his buddha nature, directly and vividly. He made a special song at that time. He wanted to continue his meditation and he made promise and commitment to do another twelve-year retreat. At that time, a dakini appeared to him, "Instead of doing a twelve-year retreat, you better give teachings." Gampopa established his monastery there and started giving teachings. Thousands of students came to receive teachings. Since he had such great skills in teachings, many disciples benefited greatly from the teachings.
That is why we take refuge in Gampopa. By looking at his qualities and how he practiced the Dharma teachings, we are inspired to follow his path. Taking refuge in the Sangha means taking example in the Sangha. We follow their path in the study and practice of the Dharma. Since Sanghas like Milarepa, Gampopa were historical persons who study and practice the Dharma successfully and achieve high realizations, we can also do the same. We should be inspired, encouraged to develop and build such qualities.
Tara was like Chenrezig. Countless eons ago, there was a king, who was very devoted to Buddha and his disciples. The king has a princess who, like his father, was a devotee to Buddha and his disciples. For thousands of years, she did great service and cultivated her mind to achieve enlightenment by taking refuge in the Buddha , Dharma and Sangha. Because of her great deeds, some monks said to her, "In your life, you are in woman form. Next time, you should pray to be born as a man." The princess said, "Man and woman form are just illusory in nature. It does not matter. There are a few Buddhas who come in woman's form. I will cultivate boddhicitta in woman's form. I will practice Dharma and achieve buddhahood in woman's form. I will manifest all the activities in woman's form." Then she practiced Dharma and received teachings for thousands of years and kalpas. When she achieved high realization and saw the suffering of all sentient beings, her compassion and commitment was so powerful that she made promises, "If I do not benefit that many sentient beings, I will not eat breakfast. If I do not benefit that many sentient beings, I will not eat lunch." Like that, she dedicated her life to study and practice the Dharma. Lots of demons and maras were so afraid of her because she was so powerful. She got the name Tara, the liberator, who liberate all sentient beings from suffering. Dromla means she gave hard time to demons and maras. They were so afraid of her. She was a strong woman. She helped Chenrezig when he had a hard time helping sentient beings. She said to Chenrezig, "I will help you. You do not worry. If you need me, just call me and I will be there." Tara was known in the vajrayana system but not i Triyana system because of her bodhicitta practice was not emphasised i Triyana system. Of course, she was very popular i vajrayana system in Tibet and India.
Atisha was a great teacher in India in the 10th century. He is one of the prominent teachers at the Nalanda University in India. At that time, the university was the biggest in the whole world. Thousands of monks and great scholars were working there and Atisha was one of them. While he was in charge of the university, he had the opportunity to see Tara face to face and talked to Tara. When he went to Indonesia to receive bodhicitta teaching, he traveled by ship for thirteen months. On the sea, sometimes tornadoes arrived and all the ship went upside down and at that time, he prayed to Tara, "Please help me!" He composed some prayers and said them strongly. After he said those prayers, all the tornadoes were pacified. He became very successful and went to Indonesia. Indonesia was at that time a very big buddhist country. Suvarnadvipa Dharmakirti was the great master of bodhicitta who gave the teachings. Atisha went there to receive all the teachings of bodhicitta. The lineage came from Asanga. He came back to India. Then he wanted to go to Tibet. Many great teachers at the Nalanda University asked him not to go because they needed him to teach there. Some said that he should go. Atisha asked Tara what he should do. Tara said, "You should go because you will benefit so many sentient beings. Even though your life will be a little shorten if you go." So Atisha followed Tara's advice. So Tara was popular in India among all vajrayana practitioners. Because of that, she became popular in Tibet. There were many great teachers who saw Tara face to face and received teachings to free from obstacles in the meditation practices. Tara was a great bodhisattva. Therefore, we take refuge in Tara as a Sangha. There are Green Tara, White Tara, Red Tara, in peaceful form as well as in wrathful form.
It is important to understand that we take refuge from where we are. Do not think that something magical will happen. There is no magical thing. We look at our weaknesses and use the Dharma teachings that we received to purify all our weaknesses. We purify all our negative thoughts and suffering without expectation. Just bring the Dharma to the heart and study with confidence. We follow enlightened people's life and examples. We should feel fortunate to have such precious opportunity. We bring peace to our mind, to our family and our work place, and be a good example. In that way, we can help many sentient beings. We should do this without expectation. If people appreciate it, it is wonderful. They understand the meaning of what you are doing. If they do not respect you and do not understand, that is fine too. It does not matter so long as your mind is peaceful. That is most important. We do not have to change other's mind. If they ask for help, we try our best to share our knowledge, methods, skills and wisdom sincerely without expectation. This is the best way to practice.
As we have already discussed, buddha nature is the primary cause to attain enlightenment, to free from samsara. To awake the mind, we first have to attain a spiritual master and Sangha who provide a good environment to study and practice the Dharma teachings. Then we get interested in the Dharma teachings. It is crucial to have Dharma connection from our previous lives. If you do not have such a seed to get interested in the Dharma, no matter how much you give good Dharma teachings to that person, he or she feels that the teachings do not make much sense. Then you may wonder why? That is because that person has no connection from other lifetimes. That is why it is so precious that we have interest in the Dharma teachings. Our mind will not die and this kind of interest has to come from within. We must have aspiration and motivation from previous lives, like this, "May I be born as a human being and may I meet the Dharma teachings. May I make such a connection to free from samsara to attain enlightenment." That kind of strong aspiration prayers we made. In addition, we have done good things in this life to avoid all the unfavorable causes, and put together all the favorable conditions. We are not here without any causes and conditions. So we see that and acknowledge such great opportunity that we have. Dharma is good because it not just tell us what to do and avoid, but it also points out directly to us the universal law, the reason why and how we should do things. Dharma gives so much descriptions, so many reasons to why and how. That gives us wisdom to follow on the path.
There are three faiths or three confidences in the Dharma.
1. Trusting faith or confidence
It means that one has faith in the universal law of karma causes and effects. One understands that positive karma will bring all the peace and harmony to lives and the negative causes will bring suffering. We see that through delusion, non-virtues is the cause that bring suffering in the lower realms while virtues is the cause to be born as human being and in the god realm. Follow the meditation path, we can achieve enlightenment, free from suffering of samsara. See that nature, investigate and understand that thoroughly. Faith and trust develop in this way. This is the faith of trusting. This is crucial because without knowing some sense of causes and conditions, causes and result, we do not have foundatation to study and practice the Dharma teachings. Everything depends on the cause, and that cause will bring the result. This is called trusting faith or confidence.
2. Clear faith or confidence
Seeing Buddha, Dharma and Sangha how much enlightened qualities they have - wisdom, compassion, skills, methods. Seeing the nature of their mind is so profound and vast, one develop clear confidence and faith in taking refuge in them.
3. Longing faith or confidence
One yearns to free from all negative thoughts and non-virtuous actions. One longs to actualize the good qualities of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha - loving kindness and compassion.
These faiths and confidences are very important in order that we study and practice the Dharma successfully.
We look at the highly achieved Sangha, great bodhisattvas, like Chenrezig, Manjushri and Tara. See what kind of qualities they have, what kind of realizations they have. They have the realization of knowing all sentient beings. The buddha nature that we have is free from all obscuration. For example, when the sun is covered by clouds, the cloud does not mix with the sun. The sun itself is never obscured no matter how thick the cloud is. But the clouds obstruct us from seeing the sun. Like that, our buddha nature itself is not obscured by any means. When the strong wind blows away the cloud, the sun appears. Likewise, through meditation practices, we clear up all the temporary obscuration. When temporary obscuration goes away, compassion and clarity manifest. That is why when we meditate. When the mind is calm and peaceful, good qualities will come up in the mind. When our mind is obscured by negative thoughts and delusions, we do not feel those good qualities. Great bodhisattvas have the ability to see that all sentient beings have buddha nature. They have very, clear, sharp mind and awareness. Their mind is free from obscurations and afflicting emotions like attachment. When you have attachment, mind gets so stuck and it does not go beyond that. When I am attached to this bell, all my attention focuses on the bell. Great bodhisattvas' mind is free from such kind of gross obscurations. Their mind is free from subtle obscuration. When all the subtle obscuration is purified, their mind is so precise that they can see each and every individual's mind clearly free from all karmic obscurations. They know all different nature of karma. Great bodhisattvas, who have the quality of such clear mind, have achieved the eighth bhumis. Efter the tenth bhumis going on to the eleventh bhumis, they become buddha. Great bodhisattvas do not have all the complete qualities like buddha has, but they have such good qualities with great critical insight and awareness and are free from obscurations. Therefore, we are taking refuge in the Sangha who have those qualities.
When we practice the Dharma, we are called Sangha members. We support each other, help to inspire each other. If we make mistake, we acknowledge our own mistake and limitation. If you acknowledge it, all the confusion dissolves. If you do not acknowledge that and show our arrogance, more conflicts will come and problem will arise. If we respect and support each other, we all can get much benefit from our practices. Being a good example is much more powerful than saying thousand words. You can say so much, but people do not pay too much attention. But if you set good example, people know what you are talking about. This is called Dharma practices. It is not just chanting mantra and closing eyes and meditating, we have to practice and purify our weaknesses every day.
Buddha is like a physician, a medical doctor. Dharma is like medicine and Sangha is like a nurse. The doctor needs to have good qualities to diagnosis the problem. If the doctor is confused, he cannot diagnosis correctly. If the doctor is qualified, any patient comes, the doctor can see clearly the problem. Buddha completely perceived and realized all the qualities of enlightenment and the nature of samsara. He described all the details about samsara. So the patient takes refuge in the doctor and follow the instructions given by the doctor. When we are sick, we take refuge in the medicine and the doctor. The doctor diagnoses the problem and subscribes the medicine. We are taking refuge in the doctor and the medicine. We take the medicine. In the hospital, there are nurses who give medicine to the patients. We follow their instructions and take the medicine accordingly. So buddha is like the doctor. Dharma is the medicine and Sangha is like nurses. Taking the medicine resembles the actual practices. Buddha describes all the outer causes of suffering. We have this kind of suffering because we have this kind of negative karma and obscuration. To free from that, buddha, like a medical doctor, taught all the Dharma teachings, ten virtues and non-virtues, loving kindness and compassion as well as bodhicitta. These are like medicine. Then Sangha members, inspire each other, are like nurses. Practicing Dharma is like actual taking the medicine. Practices like chanting mantra, meditating with mindfulness will reduce our limitation. Doing purification practices and other Dharma practices is called practicing the actual refuge.
We called Buddha, Dharma and Sangha as three jewels. In Sanskrit, the three jewels are called three ratna. These three jewels are most precious, not like ordinary jewels. Historically, there was a powerful jewel called the wish-granting jewel, that is, if one gets that jewel, it grants all things that we desire for. So some great bodhisattvas went to the ocean and talked to the nagas (nagas are servants who lived under the ocean) and gave teachings to them. The nagas, having received such great Dharma teachings, offered such a precious jewel called the wish-fulfilling jewel. When the wish-fulfilling jewel was brought on shore, within thousands of miles from there, people received whatever they wish for. So that wish-fulfilling jewel had such great power.
The wish-fulfilling jewel has the following characteristics.
1. It is very difficult to find
2. It is very pure.
3. It has the ability to grant whatever one desires.
4. It is the ornament of the whole world.
5. It is superior to an ordinary jewel.
6. Its supreme qualities never change.
Likewise, Buddha, Dharma and Sangha is like the
1. If we do not have enough virtue, we cannot hear about Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. We have accumulated much merit to have the opportunity to receive the precious Dharma teachings. That opportunity is rare and not everybody has that. There are some planets for many kalpas have no name of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.
2. Buddha, Dharma and Sangha are free from all obscuration - obscuration of the gross like afflicting emotions and all the obscurations of the knowledge. Therefore they are very pure.
3. Ordinary jewel can only give us wealth, but Buddha, Dharma and Sangha give us the qualities and the ability to completely free from samsara and attain enlightenment. This is what one can wish for.
4. Buddha, Dharma and Sangha are the cause of the altruistic thoughts. By studying and practicing the Dharma, we can expand our mind as limitless as space. Since it has such great qualities, it is the ornament of the world.
5. Buddha, Dharma and Sangha are supreme to all sentient beings both in samsara and nirvana. Wherever there is Dharma teachings, there is light and hope to free us completely from delusion and obscuration. That is why they are superior to any other thing.
6. The supreme qualities of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha never change.
This concludes the teachings on Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.
May all sentient beings gain the flavor of supreme victory and ride on omniscience; never turning back;
May all sentient beings gain the flavor of entry into the truth of the nondifference of all Buddhas,
and be able to distinguish all faculties;
May all sentient beings attain increase of the savor of the teaching
and always be able to fulfill the Buddhhas' teaching of nonobstruction.
by Venerable Khenchen Konchog Gyaltshen Rinpoche
August 21, 1997
Ratnashri Meditation Center, Stockholm, Sweden
There are many different understandings of the subject meditation. Some people think that to meditate is simply to close the eyes, think of nothing and totally empty the mind in order to have some mental relief from their problems. Of course, unless one is totally enlightened, everybody, even the most successful businessman or politician has some problems or negative thoughts in the mind. Buddhist meditation practice is a special technique to eliminate negative thoughts or confusion in the mind -- not just a temporary relief. Meditation practice needs not to be religious, nor to be confined to sitting meditation. In fact, you can meditate anywhere, any time, or all the time. The great yogi Milarepa said, "I meditate while I am walking, I meditate while I am eating, I mediate while I am sitting, I wish every sentient being can do this." Meditation means to be here and now with your mind. Most of the energies or thoughts are spent on what we have done in the past and what we shall do in the future. As a result, we cannot concentrate on whatever we are doing at that single moment, whether reading a book or saying prayers.
When we meditate, be here with our mind. Body should be where the seat is and mind should be where the body is. The mind should be relaxed. Relax means to be here at this moment. When the mind is in the present moment, it is very effective. No matter whether we are reading or planning, we will be able to understand or organize everything very precisely. In Buddhist philosophy, the ultimate goal of meditation is to totally free ourselves from the suffering of samsara and to attain enlightenment. Great mental capacity and confidence are needed in order to achieve that. Analytical meditation and mind-stabilizing meditation (samatha meditation) are two very fundamental and helpful meditation methods that can be practiced by anybody.
To do analytical meditation is to analyze and to investigate how things function universally. First, meditate on the precious human life. It is precious because it has every possibility and opportunity to transcend and purify all the negative thoughts, delusion and to attain the complete quality of enlightenment. There are individuals who feel so depressed and hopeless that they cannot do anything. Depression creates great obstacles for our well being and happiness. In order to overcome that we look at the supreme qualities and possibilities of the human brain and human life. The presence of the Buddha nature and the seed of enlightenment pervade every single sentient being, in particular human beings. Since this seed of great quality is within us, if we make enough effort, have great dedication and patience, we can definitely be able to totally free ourselves from the suffering of samsara and attain enlightenment. It is just a matter of time. So rejoice and appreciate such an opportunity. The precious human life is the vehicle, the primary cause for attaining Buddhahood. The contributory cause to achieve this excellent quality is having the spiritual master to help us to understand and guide us along the path.
Second, meditate on the impermanent nature of all phenomena. We need to make great effort ourselves. Revealing from within us, the impermanent, transitory and momentary nature of all phenomena. On the one hand, it may seem depressing since we are constantly aging. When we are especially attached to something, we do not want it to change, but things change anyway without our choice, so it seems depressing. On the other hand, it provides such a great positive opportunity. Just because everything can be changed, every negative thought can be purified, every bad habit can be removed. When we are depressed, we feel that things are so concrete and cannot be changed so there is not much hope left. At this moment, just think of impermanence, things are subject to change. It is just a matter of time. We are all living within impermanence whether we are aware of it or not. Therefore, do not attach to the past, or anticipate the future. Past is past, everything is transitory and momentary in nature. Grasping and craving for the past would not bring benefit at this moment. Similarly, future has not come yet so there is no need to anticipate. Here, right at this moment, work as sincerely and diligently as we can. Whether we are experiencing happiness or suffering, it is just at this moment. At the next moment, it becomes just a recollection of the past or a memory. The clock is ticking every moment, and even our grasping and attachment to the past itself are also passing away. Not a single moment can stay in one single moment so just see that nature and meditate in this way.
Milarepa, a great Tibetan yogi, always meditated on impermanence. This great yogi had to often move from place to place and at that time his only food was nettles. Since he needed a clay pot to cook the nettle, he carried a clay pot with him wherever he went. One day, he walked from one place to another and on the way, he tripped over a rock and the pot broke. He was then totally awoken by the power of impermanence. The pot was the only thing he had and it broke there. It symbolizes that every composite phenomenon is transitory in nature and anything can happen at any moment. He related particularly to this precious human life which is so fragile. The life force of sentient beings is impermanent like a bubble. No one knows when one will die. So he said to himself, "If I work for meaningless worldly things or activities for this lifetime, I will be unable to pass beyond the causes for suffering. Now I must make greater effort to practice the Dharma." The breaking of the pot gave him such a powerful teaching and reinforced his practice on impermanence greatly.
There was once a great master who did his meditation in a cave. In front of the cave grew a big bush that caused him great difficulty to walk in and out of the cave. "It is so difficult to get out, maybe I should cut the bush," he thought. "But I am already out so why cut the brush? After all, I may not have time to get in, so what is the use of cutting the bush?" When he came into the cave, he said to himself, "This bush caused me great difficulty to get in, may be I should cut the bush. But now I am already in, I may not have time to go out so what is the use of cutting the bush?" So he meditated in this way. By the time when he achieved enlightenment, the bush was still there. Other people may think that he was so lazy, he could not take care of the bush which caused him great difficulty, but for him the bush provided him great opportunity to practice mindfulness and impermanence.
Third, meditate on the interdependent nature of every phenomenon. Everything is constituted as a result of causes and conditions. Because of that, every phenomenon arises in the relative state, conventional state. Let us look into our mind and see how we perceive a person. When you have a wonderful friend, even if he / she makes a substantial mistake, you do not mind. You would say, "That is okay. It happens to everybody." You still think that that person is wonderful. However, suppose you have changed the perception and he /she becomes your enemy, now no matter what that person does, you would not like it at all. Even if that person does wonderful things, you would still not accept it. The relative or conventional state of an outer phenomenon does not exist independently. Rather it is just the projection of our mind. Everything is momentary, insubstantial with no essence. Thus believing that the outside object is something real and concrete, and attaching to it lead us to suffering. In fact, it is just a label that we put on it in order to relate to it conveniently. There is nothing to attach to or hate. Since everything is in a relative and interdependent state, friend or enemy arises when certain causes and conditions are present. Therefore, there is no absolute friend or absolute enemy. The projections of our mind, the habitual attachment to such projections arise as the reactions (or the ripening of the fruits) of whatever actions we have done previously. Therefore, in order to free ourselves from suffering and break the streams of continuity of our habitual patterns, it is very important to eliminate all non-virtuous actions and perform as much virtuous actions as we can. On the basis of that, in order to purify the delusion of our mind and to bring out the seed of enlightenment, meditating on loving kindness and compassion to every sentient being, including small insects, is helpful. The altruistic thought, thought of enlightenment, the desire to attain complete enlightenment for the benefit of every sentient being is such a precious marvelous thought that it transcends every negative thought into the golden path of enlightenment. Gradually, we would see everyone as our friend or our close relative. Thus the causes of suffering due to anger and hatred would be reduced and are replaced by peace, joy and harmony.
Fourth, meditate on loving kindness and compassion. The meaning of practicing loving kindness and compassion to every other sentient being is the special thought, the mind that has the desire for everyone to have happiness and the causes of happiness. Just examine how we treat our best friend or our own child. We naturally would like them to have all the happiness. Therefore, we create the causes for bringing happiness to them. We would like to support them as much as we can. Just like parents send their children to school wanting them to have a good education and a good future. In the same way, look at all other sentient beings, they also desire to have happiness and the causes of happiness. There is no difference. Meditate on compassion means cultivating the genuine desire for every sentient being to be free from suffering and the causes of suffering. Examine how we treat our close friend. When that person suffers, we do everything to try to free that person from suffering. When that person is free from suffering, we feel so happy. In the same way, consider all other sentient beings, everyone would like to be free from suffering and the causes of suffering. So cultivate loving kindness and compassion to all sentient beings in this way. Some people think that love and compassion mean that we have to give away something immediately or we have to sacrifice yourself to every individual. It is not necessary. We can cultivate that in our mind wherever we are, at home or in the office. The moment we develop such thought, peace and harmony arise. So for your own benefit, that mind is crucial. In contrast, when we have hatred or anger, there is no peace, no harmony. At that time, forcefully cultivate loving kindness and compassion to the person who makes us miserable or who irritates us so much, and genuinely wish that person to have all the happiness and be free from all suffering. This is an effective method of uprooting our ignorance due to hatred or anger. Just change our attitude: instead of thinking that the person should have all bad things, wish that person to have all the happiness and be free from all suffering. The moment when we meditate sincerely in this way, there is great peace and joy. We can achieve this in our mind, it has nothing to do with Buddhist or non-Buddhist. There are many life stories of great masters who used this meditation method to transform all negative thoughts into positive thoughts. It is very precious. It is a source of wisdom, peace, happiness and confidence that arise within us. We may say that we cannot cultivate loving kindness, compassion to that person because we hate that person, however, there is no benefit of hating at all. Hating will not give any happiness and peace, rather, it destroys our appetite, health and well being. Therefore, until we can achieve this effortlessly, we have to make effort.
Another type of meditation is the calm-abiding, stabilizing meditation or the Shamata meditation. There are many ways of doing the calm-abiding meditation. One easy and effective way to calm the mind is to watch the breath. Sit on a cushion or chair, relax and breathe normally. It is easy because we have to breathe anyway so we just need to be aware of it. Our breath and mind become inseparable. When the mind is somewhere else, just simply bring it back to the breath and meditate. There is no need to push, chase or feel upset. It is important to relax and do it without expectations and worries. When we have high expectations wanting to achieve all the good qualities in one session, at the end of that session, we may feel depressed. There is nothing to achieve. There is no need to achieve anything. Just be yourself, relax and sit for half an hour or so. It is just a method to train to be with our mind. When thought arises, just look at it, let it go, and not attach to it. Thinking that you have no thought is itself a thought. Thought is something very subtle and can come at any time from any direction. So there is no need to cling to it or chase it. Just be aware of it. Place our mind, without consciously adopting or abandoning, in a fluid, natural state of being here and now. Be mindful in the ever-present moment and not to wander at all from this state. When we have a sinking mind during meditation, we need to uplift ourselves by, for example, moving the head more forward instead of downward, turn on some bright light or do some walking meditation. Shamata or the calm-abiding meditation is the cause as well as the result of analytical and insightful (vipasyana) meditation. It is so because without a calm mind, no matter how much we investigate, it may not do much. However, without careful investigation, doubt would arise and thus difficult to establish a peaceful mind. After practicing shamata and analytical meditation for some time, doubt or hesitation reduces. Certainty and confidence are important in order to stabilize the mind in the equipoise, meditative state during the vipasyana meditation. Without such clarity, peaceful and calm mind, there is no possibility of having a direct, intuitive realization of the nature of the mind and to enhance that realization.
On the basis of calm-abiding and analytical meditation, we expand our investigation. Gradually, our awareness increases. However, if one would like to purify all delusion, transform and purify all negative thoughts and to uproot our ignorance, it is necessary to train the mind more vigorously. In particular, we can engage in some Vajrajana Buddhist meditation practices, such as the preliminary practices (ngöndro) under the guidance of a well-qualified spiritual master and to receive empowerment (transformation) from the master. Such training helps us to purify our gross and subtle obstacles and accumulate some merit so that we will have less hindrances and more chance of success. Only through exerting the right effort can we achieve effortlessness, the natural nature, the uncontrived state. Right now, we do not know how to exert effort in the right way, therefore we will feel exhausted easily. Vipasyana meditation (insight meditation) is a special method to uplift the mind. Special insight is needed in order to penetrate into the nature of your mind, to penetrate into the nature of the body self and the phenomenon self. Such direct insight can purify and eliminate the delusion and ignorance in our mind. The actualization and realization of special insight bring us to the first bhumi. From that point, there are ten levels of bhumis. After reaching the ten levels of bhumis, one becomes a Buddha, with the maximum ability to benefit others. The all prevailing mind, the uncontrived state cannot be perceived without meditation. It is inexpressible like the taste of honey. If you have no experience of the taste of honey at all, when you hear others talk about how sweet and delicious honey is, you would think that honey is something wonderful. When a spoon of honey is finally placed on your tongue then you can directly realize what honey is. Similarly, we can only perceive the pure mind through shamata and vipasyana meditation. Therefore, until we are free from all delusion, we have to make effort to practice and apply the practice diligently to our everyday lives. Since the habit of our laziness and delusion is so powerful, we must make extra effort to eliminate all non-virtuous actions, to increase all virtuous actions and to cultivate the enlightened mind, Boddhicitta, based on wisdom and compassion. Thank you and good evening.
May all sentient beings attain the flowers of concentration of the Buddhas,
able to cause the teachings to bloom;
May all sentient beings become as pleasing and endlessly delightful to all they meet, as the Buddhas are;
May all sentient beings be satisfied by what they see,
and be free from disturbance and agitation;
May all sentient beings fully carry out far-reaching pure works;
May all sentient beings always remember good associates, their minds unchanging;
May all sentient beings be like all-curing medicine, able to remove the toxins of all afflictions.
Teaching by Lama Zasep Tulku Rinpoche
September 1998, Vancouver, BC, Canada
Tonight we will discuss the concept of shunyata wisdom, and we will also discuss meditation on shunyata.
First I would like to lead meditation on shunyata, or emptiness. When we meditate on shunyata, first it is very important to meditate on the emptiness or shunyata of person. Shunyata of person, or emptiness of person, or no-self. So according to tradition it is always suggested that one should do meditation on shunyata and start the meditation with analytical mind. So first we ask question to ourself, "Who am I?" We should ask question, "Who am I?" So I'd like you at this point to ask question to yourself, "Who am I?" and find out what kind of answer you can find, or is there answer or no. So please ask this question, "Who am I?" [Meditate.]
We ask this question to ourselves, "Who am I?" So perhaps you find many answers: "I am man. I am human being. I am a Canadian. I am a teacher. I am a photographer. I am a writer. I am a singer. I am a musician. I am a cook. I am a driver. And I am a nice person, and so on and so forth. You can label, you can find lots of words, "I am this, I am this, I am this, I am that." What does that mean? Why do I say, "I am a photographer" and what does that mean? So this is a label, this is a word. This is a concept. We include this label. It is not much different than saying, "This is a table. This is a book. This is a watch. This is a bell. This is a teacup." It is all labels. And so when I say, "I'm a photographer," o.k., what does that mean?
O.k., I'm a photographer, but what makes me a photographer? Now where is the photographer? I can't become a photographer without having camera, and I have to have a camera. Camera itself alone can't become a photographer. I alone without a camera can't be a photographer. And so, me having a camera alone doesn't make me a photographer. I have to go take photos, shoot pictures and produce photo and then I'm called photographer. So there's so much involved there: photo and taking photo and act of making photo and so on and so forth. These are all activities. But what is photographer?
Or when we say, "I am a man," or "I am a woman." So where is the woman? We need to search and we need to go through. Look and look and look on ourselves, try to find where is me -- me or self or I. Those are different concepts -- me, self or I. All those concepts are different concepts. Then you practice, you do analytical meditation. Where is me?
The photographer, individually -- like, I look at the photo, the camera -- that's not a photographer. This body -- that's not the photographer, body alone. What about the mind -- mind alone is not the photographer. If you look, you meditate step by step, one by one, dividing me and part of me, then you look. You cannot find, you can't find, me or self. Except this concept of me or I, this person, human being, man or woman, or photographer or writer. Whatever you're called -- a concept. And this concept, this label and all these different parts. Other than that, you can't find one self, or what we call independent self. Person is, we call empty of substantial and autonomous existence.
Person is empty of substantial and autonomous existence. Because when we look, when we meditate on this way, we cannot find. So that vacuum, that emptiness, is called "emptiness of person" or personality. That is called shunyata or that is called no-self. So that is important. That is an important realization. When you realize that, then you realize emptiness. You realize also, then one will realize egolessness, egolessness. No ego. No self. So therefore, ego-grasping and self-grasping will diminish, will dissolve, because one realizes, one got realization: "There is no self. There is no me."
So when you realize there is no me, no self, no inherent existent self, no independent existent self, that realization is called the wisdom of no-self. And that wisdom is called, in Tibetan, "ne lug tog pen sherub." (??) "Ne lug" means "the true nature." The true nature, the true nature of self. "Tog pen sherub" means the wisdom of realizing the true nature of self. The true nature of self is empty. No inherent existence, no independent existence. And this realization is very important.
Lama Tsong Khapa said, "If you do not have the wisdom, that wisdom that understands the way things exist " This is the way things exist. Everything exists this way. Like I, myself, do not exist inherently or independently. Likewise, others. And likewise, all phenomena. This realization is important. If you do not have this wisdom, you cannot eradicate the root of existence. This means one cannot eradicate the root of samsara. One cannot get rid of the root of all the defilements. One cannot get rid of ego-grasping. We cannot get rid of, eradicate, self-cherishing mind and one cannot get rid of self-grasping. One cannot eradicate attachment and anger, jealousy, envy, and so on and so on. And therefore, one cannot eradicate karma. If one cannot eradicate karma, unwholesome karma, then one cannot eradicate the cyclic existence, like the death and birth and old age, sickness and all the suffering of samsara.
Lama Tsong Khapa said, "Despite your acquaintance (?) with renunciation and bodhicitta, thus work hard at the means to realize the interdependence of things." Despite you may have realization of renunciation, you may have realization of the bodhicitta and you may have profound realization of renunciation. You may have these strong feelings of renunciation, you know. You realize the life, you realize the human life, the essence of the human life, the value of life or life in general has no really meaning, no greater meaning than temporary benefit, creating temporary happiness, solving temporary suffering, and so on and so forth. And there's not great meaning. Therefore, one realizes that Dharma realization is most important, most beneficial. So you have this strong feeling, feeling of yearning to be liberated from samsara, from cyclic existence. Wish to be free, free. So this realization is called renunciation.
You could have that realization and you have this strong desire to practice meditation and Dharma day and night, day and night. And when someone has a very deep renunciation, realization of renunciation, he or she sometimes forgets so many things, forgets worldly things. The worldly activities are no longer important. Sometimes they meditate and forget about food, like dinner, and just keep practicing, meditating, meditating. It happens so easily.
For example, when you love gardening, when you have so much passion for gardening, you are out there in the garden digging and planting flowers, herbs, and taking out weeds and landscaping, and you forget how the time went so fast. You forget the time. All of a sudden you realize you spent six hours in the garden. You forgot lunch. When you have so much love and passion. Similarly, when you are hiking or doing whatever -- fishing, painting, singing or dance, whatever you do. Likewise, when you have so much love or kind of like passion toward nirvana and free oneself from samsara, one gets into this kinds of state of mind. You even forget about eating lunch, and all these mundane things are not important. So one can have all these kinds of realizations.
Also one can have strong realization of bodhicitta, loving kindness, love toward all sentient beings, unconditioned love, impartial love. So much compassion and love you dedicate your life and your time and energy for the sake of others. One can have those realizations. But if one does not have the realization of shunyata, emptiness, then it is not possible to cut the root of samsara. You cannot eradicate the root of cyclic existence, as I mentioned.
So there's still self-grasping and self-cherishing, self-grasping and even now the self-grasping, the grasping of personality, will arise. So the realization of shunyata is considered very important, and the realization of shunyata -- once you have a taste of shunyata, a glimpse of realization of shunyata, or emptiness -- that realization is very powerful. And it will eradicate all kinds of defilements.
And one of the famous Buddhist Mahayana scriptures called the 400 Verses by Aryadeva, it says, "Even those with few merits have no doubt about this Dharma. Even those who still have their doubt will tear existence to tatters." So it means those people who have little merit and does not have doubts about shunyata, doubt does not arise, in other words question does not arise. This means in order to have some question or understanding or arising question, you ask question, "What is shunyata? What is no-self? What is the doctrine of no-self? I'd like to find out about this question of emptiness." But in order to have that kind of question arise, be able to have that kind of question arise, one must have some merit, some virtuous mind, because this question is a very profound question.
And once you have that question, "I want to know what is emptiness? What does that mean? What does shunyata mean? Is shunyata and emptiness are the same thing, or different? What does that mean?" If you have questions -- if you're questioning, if you're questioning and analyzing, doing some sort of analytical meditation, read, think and discuss and debate, having doubt -- that in itself is very meaningful. He said because of that mind will make samsara, the power of that mind makes samsara become -- how shall I say? English word tatters -- like you have a piece of cloth, you chop it down, make it become pieces. Or chopping vegetables, become small pieces. Chop a brick, make little bricks. Crashing rocks, become little rocks. Like that. When you have doubts about shunyata, this is good doubt. Doubt is good and actually there are different kinds of doubt. This kind of doubt is questioning doubt.
Normally we don't even have doubt because we are so caught up with worldly things and worldly existence. And we have this thick kind of mind, you know, black and white mind, good/bad, absolute good and absolute bad, right and wrong, and so on and so forth. When you arise questions, when you ask questions, "What is right? What is wrong? Is there right or wrong, and what does that mean?" Anyway, questioning about shunyata is very powerful. It says it is very meaningful. It is worthwhile to investigate, spend time on studying and meditating.
So it is not easy to understand. Sometimes we think, "Why do we make such a big deal about this shunyata, this so-called emptiness? If it's all emptiness, why bother?" We do know everything's impermanent. At some point everything disappears, everything falls apart, deteriorates, degenerates, or gone. Everything becomes history -- life, society, and wealth, possessions, family and one's own body, and so forth. Everything becomes history, we know. We know intellectually, but knowing intellectually is different than knowing what you feel.
So we ask this question, "What is this emptiness? Why is it so important? What is the big deal?" So we ask questions, but it's difficult to understand. That's why there are so many interpretations about shunyata according to different schools of thought, schools of Buddhism. And according to Buddhist history there are two main Mahayana schools and two main Hinayana schools and they all have different interpretations about shunyata. And within those two Mahayana schools, they also have slightly different interpretations of what is shunyata. And then within Tibetan tradition, we have four different lineages or sects, and each lineage or sect has a little bit different interpretations of shunyata. Within one sect, also, there are also a different interpretation according to different lamas or different philosophers.
So why are there so many different interpretations? Because this topic is very difficult to understand, and therefore, according to teaching, according to lineage, suggests that one should study this teaching very carefully. One should study first intellectually, find the right kind of text and commentary. Read and read, over and over, and then ask some explanation on these topics. And one should take teachings and commentary from a qualified master or teacher. And then one can have some intellectual understanding about shunyata.
And intellectual understanding alone is not enough. One has to experience. Conceptual understanding alone is not enough. One has to experience. Therefore, it is necessary to practice the preliminary practice. It is necessary to do preliminary meditation. It suggests that one should do foundation practice, such as Vajrasattva practice, prostration, and so forth. Also one should rely on guru and yiddam -- the deities. One should make request and ask them to, when you need help, to purify our mind. And we need to accumulate merit, accumulate virtue.
So it is necessary to do those practices and then meditate on it. Meditate on emptiness. According to teaching, first one should first do meditation on emptiness of self, as I mentioned before, like the meditation that we did.
So you meditate and ask the question, "Where is me?" or "Where is I?" So you go through and let's say you look at yourself, look at your body, slowly go through from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet. And where is I, where is me? You look at your face, your body, your skin, your hands, your arms, your stomach, your shoulder, your chest, your thigh, your knee, your feet, your toes. Is this me? Is this so? This is body. This is my body. This is only body. This is skin, this is human skin, this is flesh and bone. This is not me. Otherwise, there's too many self, too many "I" because we have so many parts. Our body has so many parts.
The human body is very complicated. There's so many things in the body, the way the body is made. It takes so long to study, to know about human body. You have to go to school and study. Then especially if you want to study about the brain and it takes so long to understand, perhaps you never understand how it works. Similarly, the heart and organs and so forth. So if this body is me, there would be so many me's so many self, so many I's, that's not possible. There's only one self, one "I", one so-called "I". So this body, it can't be me. I don't think this is me. This is not me.
So when you find out the body is not me, then what about feelings or perception, or the mind? So you break down, and you study intellectually and analyze logically. You study each individual skandas are not self, not me.
What about mind, then? Maybe mind is me. The mind who says, "Me" is me, must be me. Again, mind is even more complicated than the body. So many types of mind: positive mind, virtuous mind, non-virtuous mind, according to Buddhist philosophy there are fifty-one secondary minds and ten virtuous minds, twenty non-virtuous minds and so on and so forth. So many different mental events, mental factors. We have six major, what we call basic defilements or delusions, like ignorance, attachments, anger, jealousy, and doubt and wrong view and so forth. Like that, so many types of mind. So if the mind is me, or self, there will be so many again me and self. And that's not possible. So mind is also not me.
So then, where is me? And finally you can only say, "There is not really me. I'm not absolutely sure there is no me, but I can only say there is not me, because I can't find me. I don't know what happened to me. [Laughter.] I always believed, I always felt there is me since I was a little child. Begin to talk about, begin to say Mommy, Daddy, puppy, cat, and then me, me, me. Since then I always say me, and I, and self, and I always thought there was self, there's a me. But now I find out there is no real me, no real me. Me is only concept. I realize something now." So why do we call me then? If there is no me, why do we fool ourselves? Why do we call ourselves me, me, or you? Why?
We have to because we have to communicate on a conventional level. We have to put labels on so many things, labels like table and watch and clock and teacup and book and so on and so forth. We have to put those labels in order to live and function, to survive, and so putting labels on things -- she, me, you, he, and five people, three people. Like, I heard, according to Australian Aborigine, certain tribal people, they don't have many numbers. After five, then there's no numbers. So, "one person, three people, five people," then after that, "many people." "Many people." So I guess they don't need to count ten people, twenty people, fifty people. They didn't need to count people. And numbers are not so important. Just say, "Many people or few people. Some people." So it's a concept. So we put this label of "self", "me", but when we meditate on self, there is no self.
Then we meditate on others the same way. If I meditate on certain person, likewise the same way I meditate on myself, I turn around, meditate on, "There is no real he or she inherently existent." So then what is different between I and you, she and me, he and me? On a relative level we are different -- we are different persons, different beings, different human beings -- but what is really different? We have separate bodies; otherwise, what is different? Likewise, all things are like that.
Then after we meditate on emptiness of personality, and when you go up the realization, some realization of emptiness of personality, or emptiness of person or emptiness of self, then you meditate on emptiness of other things, other than person. One should meditate on emptiness of other phenomena. You will find it the same way. Then you could also meditate on emptiness. What about emptiness itself? Does emptiness exist inherently or not? Then you find emptiness does not exist inherently. Emptiness is also empty. There's a book I think I saw called, "The Emptiness of Emptiness."
So then, ultimately, everything is one energy, one essence. At the same time, on a relative level, there are many. So when we meditate on emptiness, shunyata, we need to ask questions. Emptiness does not mean nothingness. Shunyata does not mean nothingness. So now we have a lot of confusions about this thing. Like, many people understand intellectually. Many people have a good understanding about shunyata. Many people have a sort of, how should I say, intuitive understanding about shunyata, or emptiness, but they don't have intellectual understanding. They don't know how to express. They don't know how to express. A lot of times we do have deep, inner, or what we call innate understanding, sort of intuitive understanding of emptiness. We don't know how to communicate or how to say. Sometimes we don't find the words, right kind of term. When we find some kind of term, when we try to say it, then it becomes funny. And then it's confused, confusing. Then you feel it's better not to say anything, just experience, just feel.
And some people have so much intellectual understanding, but no feeling inside, no intuitive understanding. Doesn't really have much deep feeling. So some people have a glimpse of understanding, some people have no clue, no understanding at all, and no foggiest idea. And some people are completely wrong. So there are so many questions.
That's why it's suggested one should do analytical meditation, and that's why it's suggested one should debate, so here I'd like to talk about debating a little bit, according to Tibetan tradition. You have seen videotapes of lamas debating. You have seen those monks who came to Vancouver and did tour, chanting tour, and at some point those monks are debating. One monk sitting on the floor and three monks jumping on this one monk and clapping their hands and laughing and shouting and you don't know what they're talking about. You've seen these pictures. You saw, right? You have seen, some of you. And some of you have been to India, went to the monasteries and saw monks and nuns are debating in Dharamsala, and you have seen, perhaps in Tibet, too, in Sera Monastery and Ganden Monastery. And so we don't know what they're discussing.
We have a funny -- I'd like to tell you a funny story. Most Tibetan people, lay people, who haven't really studied Dharma, they don't even know what these monks are debating, what they're talking about. And because they're using philosophical terms, they're not using ordinary words. They do use sometimes, use ordinary words, but its meaning is different. So one nomad man, fellow, came visited Sera Monastery. He went there and he saw these two young monks debating and arguing, very seriously arguing, for hours and hours, sitting on the rock and in hot sun, summer day, you know. And they are sweating and debating. So he overheard they're talking about, they're arguing about "vase". We call "Bumpa" in Tibetan.
So one monk is asking, "What is emptiness of vase?"
And the other answers, "This is emptiness of vase."
"Tell me what is the definition of vase according to the Parasangyimika Madhyamika school?"
And so on. They were just debating. So this man thought, "Why are these two young monks arguing about this vase? What a waste of time! Strange. I thought all the monks sitting, meditating, chanting, praying, sitting like very holy man instead of arguing, yelling and jumping around and clapping their hands. It looks like they're swearing to the Buddha and looks very, sort of uncivilized and aggressive sometimes, even aggressive." So he was kind of sad. He was a little disappointed. He didn't know what was going on. So he went back to Lhasa.
The next day he came back again, the same two monks debating about vase. So then he thought, "This is not good. They should stop arguing. Not right. They should go in temple, prayer in front of shrine."
So he went up to the monks and said, "Excuse me. Yesterday I came here and you two were arguing about the vase. Today I came and you two argue about the vase. Yesterday you argued for four hours. Today you've been arguing for four hours. I feel very sad. Please don't argue. Tonight I'm going back to Lhasa. And tomorrow I'll buy each of you a vase! Stop arguing about vase. Forget about vase!" [Laughter.]
Now about debating at a monastery. Debating is maybe the right term, maybe is not always the right term. They are not always debating. I think the style of debating is different than I think the style of debating in the west. Actually according to tradition, when you debate there is no loser; there is no winner. It is also not really a competition. You are not competing. And there's no loser or winner; there is no good guy or bad guy.
And it is more like sharing the knowledge, sharing understanding. What I have studied, what I know, I'd like to share with you. What you have learned you share with me. We discuss. And find out differences. Maybe you learn something different. You have studied more about certain philosophical point of view. Maybe you have studied about interpretation of shunyata according to a particular Madhyamika school, like Parasangyimika. Then I study a different school a different school of Madhyamika, or you have studied a commentary on shunyata and a certain lama according to the Gelugpa tradition, and I study different. Or maybe you studied Kargyu tradition. I studied Sakyapa traditon, so here we sharing the differences. And certain things are not different. We share that as well. Sharing and trying to exchange views, now, and sharing knowledge and trying to help each other. Help each other so you will not forget. See, after debating, it helps you not to forget. You always remember.
And now, when you do formal debating, very formal, for example examination, and when you are receiving a degree, like a what we call Geshe degree, or there are many degrees. One can receive degree or recognition or like certificate, a certain degree. And then there is a formal debate. So there is a judge, there is a witness, like the abbots and the higher lamas or philosophers. They are the judge, and they will judge you -- the way you debate and the way you answer and the way you question. So then they will decide who has the best understanding, who gave the best answer, who asked the best question. Then according to the abbot or the judges of the monastery will give degree to certain monks, like first degree, second degree, third degree. But that's sort of like recognition, it's not a competition.
But most of the time when we're debating in a debating class, you share what you have learned. See, before you actually debate a topic, what you're going to debate, according to tradition you have to memorize the text. Necessary you have to memorize the root text, maybe fifteen page, twenty page, thirty page, certain kind of text, or maybe 100 page long. You have to memorize the root text. Then you have to memorize certain outlines. So there's a lot of memorizing. You have to memorize. When you debate, you're not allowed to bring a text and read, or when you ask questions, you cannot read a text. And when you answer the questions, you cannot read the text. Because anyone can read text. You have to memorize, then you have to say, "Nargajuna said, according to text called Madhyamika Mulamademika Karika, in verse 15, chapter 2, 'Dada dada '" You have to repeat or recite those verses and then you give a commentary. And you ask commentary.
Let's say I am the debater. I am a person who is asking questions, let's say to Cyndy. So I already memorized the verses, one or two verses, whatever, and before you go debate, that day or the day before. Maybe could be long ago, maybe I memorized the whole text. So I recite several verses or one paragraph. I recite, then I say, "Could you please give commentary. I would like you to give a commentary." So then if you don't know the commentary, if you're not prepared, not sure, then you can say, "I cannot give you commentary on this." So then I have to move on. I have to recite another verse or another paragraph. "What about, maybe you can give me commentary on this." If you know, or are not sure, you can kind of guess. "Well, I'm not sure, but o.k., I'll try." And, "O.k., what did you say? O.k." And then you give a commentary.
So this way I'm listening. I learn something from you, the way you give a commentary. You may have more understanding than me, and so I learn something from you. So now, also, you will find something more than when you try to give your own commentary, your own interpretation. That is different than what you read. That will be different than commentary written by certain lama, even a great scholar. It's your own commentary, it's different, right? I learn something from you.
So if we both agree that you are not sure, your commentary is not clear and not completely accurate, then I will try to help you. Say, "This part of your commentary is good, but this part is not very correct. I would like to give a commentary." I could be also wrong while I give the commentary to you. So then, at that point, another monk jumps in and says, "No, you're wrong. You both are wrong, and that's not the way it is. This is how I think. This is what a certain teacher like Nagarjuna said," and you give another commentary.
So the dialogue goes on and on. So that is the style of debating, certain style of debating. There's many things you can debate about. In other words, it's a discussion. And then I could also ask question, definition. This is a very important one. "Could you give me definition of shunyata?" or "Let's change the subject. Let's talk about generosity. According to Dharma it says there are three types of generosity: generosity of Dharma, generosity of material aid, generosity of fearlessness or generosity of protection. There are three types of generosity. So I would like to ask you, what are those three generosities? So I would like to ask you to give me commentary, or first I would like to ask you to give me a very precise definition of what is generosity of Dharma? Then you tell me what is definition of generosity of material aid and what is definition of generosity of protection." So you tell, you explain the definition. You don't have to know exactly, you can just say what you think.
And then another topic is you ask divisions. First you discuss definition, then divisions. Ok, how many are there? Are there different types of generosity of Dharma, or not? And how many divisions? How many types of generosity are there generally, divisions. So like that. It's discussion, lots of discussion, and then division and then subdivision. Then subdivision of subdivision. And sometimes you count with mala, fifteen different types of this, ten different types of this. Sometimes they are not very exciting. They are kind of tiring, boring. At some point you don't have the energy for clapping hands and jumping around, decide to sit down and start counting using pebbles and rocks. [Laughter.] And using mala. I even, one time I saw a monk with an abacus keep counting -- fifteen different types of mind, three types of delusions, like an accountant, counting. There's all kinds of ways of debating.
And also literal meaning, you can debate about literal meaning, meaning of certain things, certain Dharma. And also the real meaning. There's different kinds of literal meaning, real meaning. And interpreting and un-interpreting teachings. Certain teachings cannot be interpreted, has to be followed literally. Some teachings, sutras, has to be interpreted. One must not follow it literally.
I should actually ask question to you, or let you ask question. I think it's important we should have discussion. So if you have any questions regarding style of debating, or shunyata, most welcome.
Melody of the Eight Types of Nonduality
By Gyalwa Götsangpa
The precious Lord embodies enlightenment's five dimensions.
I prostrate to and praise this Precious One
Who dispels the darkness of wanderers' suffering
With nondual, great, everlasting bliss.
Wonderful visions of yidam deities and
Fearsome apparitions of obstructing demons are
Not separable within the pure expanse-
So! How joyful! How happy! Sudden Victory!
Obtaining high rebirth or liberation and
Falling into the three unhappy destinations are
Not separable within the pure expanse-
So! How joyful! How happy! Sudden Victory!
The mind busy with perceived and perceiver and
The peaceful state of nonconceptuality are
Not separable within the pure expanse-
So! How joyful! How happy! Sudden Victory!
Complete happiness and comfort and
Overwhelming pain and suffering are
Not separable within the pure expanse-
So! How joyful! How happy! Sudden Victory!
Being well-respected and worshipfully served and
Being derisively laughed at and beaten are
Not separable within the pure expanse-
So! How joyful! How happy! Sudden Victory!
Wandering alone in mountain retreats and
Traveling the countries of the world are
Not separable within the pure expanse-
So! How joyful! How happy! Sudden Victory!
Having the finest food and drink and
Living in hunger without nourishment are
Not separable within the pure expanse-
So! How joyful! How happy! Sudden Victory!
Not crashing the ground with your skull and
Taking birth again and again are
Not separable within the pure expanse-
So! How joyful! How happy! Sudden Victory!
This is the melody of the eight types of nonduality;
I have but a mere understanding of what true union is;
Not falling into confusion is very important.
Under the guidance of Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamptso Rinpoche, translated by Tony Duff in January 1996, and edited by Ari Goldfield, June 18, 1997.
Right attitude for practice
Lama Gendun Rinpoche
Practice, in a sense, is the same as any kind of work. If we really want to succeed at something, then we have to put effort into it day after day. And if we want to reach the goal of the Dharma, then we must also apply ourselves to it day after day.
Our practice should not weaken but on the contrary develop further and further as time goes by. If our practice is careless, then there is no blessing really transmitted, because when we are practising, our mind is already distracted and thinking about other things. Even when drinking tea, we are not really enjoying the tea but thinking of what we plan to do, rather than being really mindful and concentrated on the fact that we are drinking. This kind of attitude gives rise to many desires and feelings related to the future, as well as a lot of frustration, because we are constantly projecting ourselves into a future which is as yet unclear, only creating a lot of desires about something that often doesn't even happen. Concerned about the future, our mind is continually occupied by our plans and projects and there is no room to think of our present practice. We get carried away more and more by carelessness.
A lot of defects start to develop without our noticing it. We forget about the practice we are doing, our mind is not concentrated, it just jumps from one thought to the next. We then lose our enthusiasm and aspiration for Dharma practice. As our meditation is not developing well, we feel more frustrated than before and we have more negative feelings of anger, pride and jealousy. We forget to be aware, to remind ourselves constantly of the need to practise with diligence without expecting any result. We should see how this kind of careless attitude only serves to bring even more hope and fear in its wake.
We must reflect very carefully on this because this is the biggest defect that a practitioner can experience. Basically it comes from pride. Because we have practised for some years and done this and that practice, we think that we have become someone very special, a person with invaluable experience and knowledge about the Dharma. We are sure that we are much better than before. In fact, the less we practise and develop spiritually, the more we think we are someone very good and important. We feel really pure, and see that others are not so pure, that they are unskilful, that they are wrong while we are right. We develop the feeling that we have a really good understanding of the Dharma and genuine realisation. In the end, we think we know better than the lama himself. He is very kind, but does not really see what we see, he is not really aware like we are. We think that we are now enlightened, a Buddha, and that the lama doesn't understand us. This is how our pride gets bigger and bigger, until we get totally carried away by it. We are convinced that we are right and others wrong, but we don't notice that we are becoming more and more unstable, getting more and more into trouble, our mind more and more disturbed by the angry feelings we have towards others and even towards the teacher and Dharma practice itself.
This is not really rare, it is a very common situation among practitioners, because pride is always there so the danger is always there as well. It is a great risk for the practitioner.
Meditation in the Theravada and Mahayana Traditions
(Edited) - Published in Buddhism Today, Volume 7, 2000
Once you connect genuinely with meditation practice,
you will develop a true passion for it and your practice will begin to mature.
If you do not understand the essence of meditation, it is because you have not
properly experienced it. Only when you experience its essence does meditation
really become interesting.
Mind is not used to being in balance. Rather, we are much more used to the state of constantly arising thoughts, uninterrupted streams of thought. We are distracted, confused, and restless. We are comfortable with this habitual state of mind. Because our mind is addicted to being restless, constantly in motion, meditation feels unnatural. Meditation runs contrary to our familiar experience. Therefore we must put effort into the meditation. It requires more than just having a spontaneous or momentary interest in it. What we need is diligence and patience. To make progress, diligence is especially required, along with the knowledge of how to meditate. This combination will bring results. But the path can be misunderstood. Meditation brings one-pointedness, a mind that is stable and clear, not distracted or confused. It is not about entering into a special state where you have visions, see lights, or experience fantastic things. Some people might think so. They take LSD or play music and they are just manipulating their experience. This has nothing to do with meditation, since mind is still distracted and confused. The 8th Karmapa meditation is often misunderstood in this way, because one visualizes different Dakinis flying through the sky. Many people in the early seventies asked for explanation of the 8th Karmapa meditation, then they took LSD and meditated on the 8th Karmapa. This is not what I want to pass on to you.
So what is meditation, really? It enables us to experience the mind as it is, in its original nature. What happens in our mind now is that thoughts occur uninterruptedly, hindering us from experiencing mind's true nature. You can distinguish two levels of thoughts: outer and inner. Sensory experience is one such outer level. Mind continuously orients itself towards outer experiences, such as smells, forms, sounds and so on. Mind keeps itself constantly busy experiencing outer objects, thus creating the outer world. It feels like it is beyond our control to keep the mind resting in itself. Why? Because the mind is absorbed in its inner experiences - the second level that underlies our perception at each moment. Since our mind inwardly constantly follows its thoughts, we are also not able to control the sense impressions when the mind focuses outward. When we manage to control our inner thoughts, the outer level will no longer be a problem. When the inner distraction disappears there is no way to be disturbed when experiencing sense impressions. So meditation is about getting control over the constant stream of thoughts, practicing concentration in order to keep the mind focused. Winning this kind of concentration, you can get deeper into much more calm states of awareness. At that point, the mind is quite vast and rests in itself. It is as if you have opened a gate, a gate that in turn opens many other gates to go further and ever deeper. One develops a profound appreciation for the actual quality of mind.
For this reason, in the Theravada tradition, practitioners sleep only six to seven hours and meditate all day long. People meditate this way to achieve inner calm in a short period of time. Furthermore, they do not eat anything after lunch. They are allowed to drink only beverages that do not have any real nutrition, like water or tea. This benefits meditation in that the mind is clearer and less sleepy. Everybody who practices intensive meditation should do this.
It is also the custom to go to bed early, at about nine or ten, and then get up early, at about five in the morning. One's life is focused completely on meditation. Today a schedule like this may not be practical. The reason people adopted this meditation schedule during the time of the Buddha is that the Buddha taught that samsara is suffering, and that one cannot accomplish anything while trapped within it. Therefore, complete retreat from samsara to focus exclusively on meditation has become the special focus of the Theravada tradition. However, the motivation of the Theravadans is not particularly for the benefit of others. Of course they are not opposed to others who try to benefit all beings, but this is not their goal. Their goal is solely to concentrate on meditation in order to reach liberation as quickly as possible. But we are Bodhisattvas. We eat in the afternoon and in the evening. Since Bodhisattvas do not think so much of themselves, they are not in such a hurry to reach their own goal. Bodhisattvas are not afraid to be reborn again and again; they are willing to keep coming back. This is why they do not practice a form of meditation that simply cuts off the world, as do the Theravadans. Following the Theravada path, even if you wanted to, you would not be able to be reborn anymore.
Through the concentration states the Theravadans reach in their meditation, they can analyze their state of mind. Whatever disturbing emotions arise such as anger, attachment, jealousy, or envy, based on their ability to concentrate, they are able to analyze the nature of their emotions in subtle detail. This can be compared to a dream where after you wake up, you find that your dream was not real; it was not actually happening. Similarly, practitioners who have accomplished the Theravada path can see that their disturbing emotions are not truly existent. They understand the true nature of emotions and then, on the basis of this understanding, they remove the basis or cause that otherwise would automatically lead to a rebirth in samsara. After they have removed the cause of rebirth in samsara, they will not be able to be reborn again. This is the logical consequence of this form of meditation. The usual word in Tibetan for meditation is gom. There are other very precise terms in Tibetan, such as tingdzin which is a translation of the Sanskrit word samadhi. Ting means depth, as in experiencing the calm depth of mind. Dzin means to hold, as in to hold the unwavering quality of mind. Tingdzin also has other meanings. The Tibetan term samten is another word for meditation. Samten means stable, to experience a stable state of mind. Again there are several different stages of samten. In the Theravada tradition you progress through these stages: first the stages of samten, of concentration meditation, and then the stages of tingdzin. Similarly, Bodhisattvas proceed through stages in their meditation. When a Bodhisattva has reached a stage of samadhi or deep insight, he has the ability to use this inner calm to help beings. Here the stages or bhumis are primarily based on the increasing ability to benefit beings, while in the Theravada tradition they are entirely focused on reaching the state of liberation quickly.
It is very powerful to apply analytical meditation to our experience. The point is to carefully analyze every movement of mind. Through recognizing thoughts as such, you will reach an understanding concerning the true nature of mind. Therefore you will not be distracted by thinking, but will recognize thoughts as they are to see the inherent inner stability of mind. Analyzing thought reveals the nature of mind. Gradually, you develop certainty regarding what is otherwise hidden within the ongoing stream of thoughts. Analyzing thoughts brings about the ability to experience their nature, which is of course the nature of mind itself. Buddhism precisely describes negative disturbing emotions like anger and jealousy. Analyzed as products of our mind they are like all the other mental contents, simply thoughts and feelings. They are negative in the sense that they trigger negative consequences. Thoughts have different karmic propensities. For example, if you notice the carpet and think, "this carpet is blue;" this type of thought is neutral. It does not create a positive or negative result. Thoughts like anger, or jealousy, originate in the mind in the same way. However, they differ in that they bring about strong negative results. So through analytical meditation, we first recognize all kinds of mental activity, and then through this method learn to avoid their negative results. There are two benefits to this kind of meditation. The first is the control of mind by recognizing mental processes and then slowly uprooting negative emotions to uncover the nature of mind. The second benefit of this practice is a reduction in attachment and clinging to sense impressions. To develop concentration, it is helpful to refrain from excessive sensory input. If you are strongly outwardly oriented and also project great expectations onto the world, it will be difficult to calmly concentrate the mind on itself. Automatically clinging to outer sense impressions creates useless distraction. Conversely, when the mind observes itself, you experience a calm and peaceful mind. At this stage meditation becomes effortless. This is because all the neurotic movement of mind, which used to be the subject of analytical meditation, has been so greatly reduced.
Quite possibly the meditator could become attached to this state of total inner peace and start clinging again. This attachment hinders us from progressing to more profound experiences. At this point, one again needs further insight. The antidote here is, as before, an analytical form of meditation with the focus on this attachment to peace. Analytical meditation on subtle feelings of attachment is the key that opens the door to further development.
These are the phases of the development of concentration. Meditative experience is difficult to describe, because of the limits of human language. Good practitioners of the past have coined terms to describe their actual experience. They were probably able to communicate very well, however, in our case it is not so easy, since we do not experience what stands behind those terms. It is essential to experience for oneself what is meant in order to understand realized states of mind. The Buddha once taught the Samadhiraja Sutra in which different stages of meditation are described. Nowadays, who can actually understand the descriptions? But why then did the Buddha teach them? One can be sure that at the time of the Buddha, he had disciples who had all those different experiences and thus understood what the Buddha was talking about. Today we still have this sutra so we also have the opportunity to come to that point where we can understand the meaning. So how should we proceed? We must work with what we have as human beings to understand the meaning of these precious teachings. Bodhisattvas progress through different stages of developing concentration and at the same time preserve a certain attachment to the human form, the physical form to be able to be reborn in samsara. So on the one hand, one proceeds as the Theravadans in attaining levels of concentration, and on the other hand, one uses inner peace to create a cause to be reborn in samsara for the benefit of beings. These two qualities define a Bodhisattva: the combination of courage to be reborn in samsara, and the ability to control the illusion of samsara. These two aspects must be combined for the benefit of others.
Madhyamaka philosophy explains how the whole world and all beings are an illusion. Everything stands in the context of cause and effect and exists only in reciprocal dependency. Since everything is interdependent, things do not have independent reality. Things are not truly existent in and of themselves, because they are dependent on each other. Bodhisattvas understand this very precisely. They see the illusory nature of the world, so they can see illusion and can work with it. In this way, Bodhisattvas skillfully work for the benefit of beings entangled in samsara.
The Authentic Dharma
- in the words of Dzogchen Ranyak Patrul Rinpoche -
Authentic dharma. What is 'authentic dharma'? It is the remedy for the afflictions in our mindstream. Why is it that we need a remedy for them? Because they are the cause of our suffering and they are the suffering itself.
For example, when strong afflictions arise in the mind, the body as well as the mind will experience pain and discomfort. The only relief we can find is in the authentic dharma. If we place our hopes in other things, like alcohol or tobacco, entertainment or routine, or even in our friends and associates, they will never really be able to help us. They can only give us slight relief that lasts but for a short time, and then our suffering will surely come back. They can never get to the root of the problem for us.
If, on the other hand, we rely on the authentic dharma, it means that we are really applying the very best remedy to the afflictions. And if we do this, we will find that the pain and discomfort we experience in body and mind will decrease. This is because of the very skilful means of the authentic dharma
What does 'authentic dharma' mean? It is the union of wisdom and loving kindness, compassion. Wisdom understands the cause of the suffering and loving kindness, compassion, eliminates it. The result is the true nature of mind. What does 'true nature' mean? It is peaceful and blissful, without any suffering, completely pure, self-existing and primordially spontaneously present. It is the essence of mind and the essence of each and every phenomenon.
For example, if we take two glasses of water, one dirty and one clean, the true nature of each glass of water is the same, and because it is the same, the dirty water can be purified and drunk. If the essence of both the clean and the dirty water were not the same, then the dirty water could never become clean. It is only because the essence of the water itself is the same that it can be made dirty or clean.
The true nature of the ground, which is the true nature of mind, and the realisation of the true nature of the ground, are not one and the same. Why not? It is because one is realised and the other is not. This is like the difference between gold that has not yet been refined and gold that has been fashioned into a piece of jewellery. The basic gold of each is the same, but their qualities are different. Once mind has realised the true nature of mind, then delusion and impurity are banished forever. This is the state beyond suffering, and in particular, it is the appearance of primordial wisdom.
All mind appearances, the sufferings of the ocean of cyclic existence, are transformed into true nature, the vast space of wisdom appearances. This is a state of perfect ease, of complete relaxation and of great spaciousness. We must all realise appearances like these, as well as the bliss that accompanies them, the bliss that is beyond all pain and discomfort. It is attained through our own mind and not given to us by anyone else. Neither is it realised anywhere else but in our own mind.
Guru Rinpoche said: 'Look at your mind. Look at your mind. Again and again, look at your mind.'. If we continually look at our mind, we will find true nature, the mind of enlightenment. Apart from the mind of enlightenment, there is no truth; there is no bliss; there is no buddha. If we realise the mind of enlightenment, we have found truth, bliss and buddhahood. It is in the palm of our hand.
Whatever physical, verbal or mental virtue we accomplish brings us closer to the realisation of the mind of enlightenment; so, whatever physical, verbal or mental activity we do accomplish must be enhanced with the mind of enlightenment. If there is one supreme practice, then it is the mind of enlightenment. For me, a miserable pauper, who accomplishes neither the dharma nor worldly activity, it is the one and only practice.
The Manifestation of Compassionate Activity
By the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa
Tibetan Dharma is based on Mahayana Buddhism and in Tibet there is a special Mahayana tradition. Centuries ago, Indian Mahasiddhas collected the essence of the Buddha's teachings which were subsequently brought to Tibet. Down to this present day, it is still possible to study these same teachings at an educational institution. In addition, you can actually come to experience the effect of what you have practiced. I have confidence that you all are capable of experiencing this fruition of Buddhahood.
The heart of Mahayana teaching is the practice of experiencing Bodhicitta, or the enlightened mind. Bodhicitta can be seen from two aspects - the aspiration to benefit oneself and to benefit others - but when you are truly doing the practice then you generate Bodhicitta that includes both yourself and ALL other beings. As accomplishing some task, if you do it with the intention of benefiting others and with the understanding of cause and effect, then you generate trust in people and they can have complete confidence in what you do.
The skillfull means of Bodhicitta allow you to be effective in helping others. Bodhisattva activities activities are divided into four kinds:
- Pleasant speech
- Beneficial conduct
- Consistency of word and deed.
In practicing generosity, a Bodhisattva may see someone who is poor , spontaneously they would give food, clothing or whatever may be needed. Bodhisattvas also know that people will not listen well to words spoken in anger.They are sensitive to each person's situation and understanding this, they speak without abruptness, smoothly and calmly so that the other person feels comfortable. Bodhisattva conduct allows a Bodhisattva to adapt the Dharma to many different situations.
If you consider Eastern and Western religions, you can see that the faith in religion can be the same even though the religions themselves are different. If you consider philosophy, however, you will see that there is a difference. In Western countries, therefore, teachers must speak according to Western thought patterns so that the seed of Dharma can fully enter into the experience of Western people. This is the way in which the lamas speak.
Because we are in a fortunate time, America, Canada, Europe, the whole world receives the light of the Buddha's compassion. People now want to do practice and it gives them much joy. But in order to do the practice, you have to meet with the right situation and this meeting itself is the extraordinary blessing of the Dharma. Once having received this wonderful blessing, it is the responsibility of the Dharma practitioner to pass the teachings on to those who are ready for them.
The root of the Dharma is precious Bodhicitta.
As I said in the beginning of this talk, the root of the Dharma is precious Bodhicitta, and Bodhicitta is compassion for others. This is the essential meaning of everything I have spoken of today.
Some people think it is very difficult to receive this teaching. Further, they to receive this teaching. Further, they believe that even though they have received the teachings, they are extremely difficult and take an inordinately long time to realize. Perhaps this is true. For example, as in this world it is difficult to get what you want, so it is not easy to achieve the profound, secret teaching of Mahayana Dharma. Through practicing Mahayana, it is not easy to achieve the state of bliss or enlightenment. But all this depends on your mind. Actually, you should follow the Dharma, practice and keep precisely in mind the workings of cause and effect. If you do this steadfastly and confidently, perhaps realization might not take a long time, nor be difficult. It is said in the secret Mahayana :
In a moment, something becomes special;
In a moment, Enlightenment is attained.
Nevertheless, whether there are Dharma practitioners or not, this era is a hectic one, filled with distracting activity. During such a time, what kind of practice should we be doing? As an example, we can take the situation of our own needs - whatever we might need, so will others. With this benefiting others - that is the core of Dharma practice.
We ground ourselves in this thought of benefiting others. If we have confidence in the workings of cause and effect, whatever work we do will have an excellent result. To take another example: IN this world we say "these are my parents, this is my country, this is my property," etc. But from a Dharmic standpoint, we look on all beings and deeply wish that they be relieved of their suffering and achieve Buddhahood. Generating Bodhicitta in this way, we practice benefiting others. This thought is absolutely essential not only for Dharma activity, but for any activity in our lives.
If we maintain the thought of benefiting others and recite only one 'Om Ma Ni Pad Me Hung' that will help liberate them from suffering and help raise them to the level of Buddhahood. I would like to extend to you thoughts and blessings in whatever you may do and offer many wishes for your long life.
Two Facs of the Mind
To develop love and compassion, we first need to understand our current situation. In order to develop authentic love and compassion, it is necessary to look at our emotional processes, and at the disturbances that arise in our mind. We should take our time in becoming aware of that which occupies the mind. In Tibetan, the word for "disturbing emotions" points to a mind that is continuously disturbed. It is not a question of having only one emotion in one moment, but of all the emotions with all their effects and consequences.
The disturbing emotions
The disturbing emotions are : jealousy, attachment, anger and all the different states in which we find ourselves. We have these emotions, but we would like to get rid of them. When they come up, we fight against them. We do not want to be disturbed. However, we need to understand that emotions are not completely negative. If they disturb us, it is because we do not know how they function or what to make of them. Nevertheless, the emotions are an integral part of the dynamic processes of life.
Mind has two aspects : yeshe and namshe, in Tibetan. Yeshe is a dimension of wisdom, of clear thinking which recognizes itself and which recognizes the emotions as being a part of itself.
Namshé is a consciousness that is limited, separated or disconnected. We are now in this consciousness which is full of confusion and disturbances. But yeshe and namshe, wisdom and confusion, are two aspects of the mind. Therefore, even if we wanted to, we could not get rid of the emotions, we can neither stop them, nor give them up.
What is relevant, however, is to understand how the emotions function, how they come up and from where they come. For example, when jealousy arises, we need to see it, to be aware of it. Try to see its cause and its effect. Not only do we need to see the aspect of emotions that affects us internally, (that is to say, how it is in our mind/consciousness, how it makes us feel) but also, we need to be aware of what it makes us do, the actions that are motivated and initiated by jealousy, for example.
If we look carefully in the moment when jealousy arises, we will see that we choose a side, and obviously our side is always the best. It is the others that are on the wrong side. It is a little like the football matches in France : before the match starts, we have already chosen "our" team. We know it is the team we will root for while watching the game on television. But if we are travelling and find ourselves for instance in Asia or Latin America watching a football match on television, we cannot grasp very much at the beginning. There are the two teams, their shirts are different in color. But very quickly, without even realizing it, we will choose a color and a team. We will then cheer on our chosen team and criticize the other.
This holds true not just for football ; this same process applies in very many situations, taking sides, encouraging one and criticizing the other. Most of the time we carry this posture of judgement : "He is wrong, his attitude is erroneous. It is obvious that he cannot be right, I am right." We are constantly talking to ourselves like this and we are absorbed in duality. We always choose the best aspect and the best side; and the best team is obviously our team. We have to be right. We are like judges ever presiding over who is wrong and who is right. We act like the high magistrate of our existence.
Often, we cannot look at ourselves, because it is
too painful to do so, or because we are unceasingly judging ourselves. Rather
than saying, "I cannot accept that", or denying the situation in which
we find ourselves, we really need to look and see, to be aware of what is happening.
Being able to see or be aware of our emotions does not mean that we will be able to live the emotions in a right way from day to day. We should not expect immediate result, neither should we make the mistake of thinking like this : "I am jealous, I know it well, and I will never be any good !" It is not a question of culpability by admitting that we are bad. Guilt or culpability has no place in consciousness or in vigilance. Rather, it is a question of seeing who we are and what is right. If we are aware, our thinking becomes clearer, then it is possible to see the emotions in the instant they arise. As a result, our mind will be increasingly free. We release the mind of any obstacles. This fruit or result will not come up directly because we cannot liberate ourselves immediately of all obstacles. Just because we have resolved to see the emotions does not mean that we can see them. Nevertheless, little by little, we will come to recognize the true balance that is within us. We will recognize who we really are. We will in turn realize that others are in the same situation as we are, that they have the same emotions and experience the same confusion.
Take the example of a baby who suddenly cries because we have left him on his own. We are not angry about it. We might be a little irritated, but no hatred is aimed towards the baby. We excuse the baby for crying because he is too young to understand.
On the other hand, when faced with an adult with the same reaction, immediately we would form an opinion about him. We will directly reduce him to our vision of things and our perception. If only we can get pass our subjectivity, if only we can manage to be more and more aware of what is happening within ourselves, then, instead of seeing the defects of others, we will pacify our own minds. We will be much more at ease and peaceful. Given any situation, we experience it not from the point of view of the defects of others, but from the perspective of seeking a possible solution that is positive. Instead of being judgmental, we think: "How can I help him find a solution to the situation that is positive both for him and for me?" Gradually, we will soften from within - from the harshness of the ego we arrive at the softness of compassion.
Towards the Supreme Illumination
(Song of the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa)
Remain within this profoundity, undistracted
No need to discipline body or voice,
All will come spontaneously.
There is nothing in This to realise:
Understand that whatever is apparent is
All phenomena are egoless
and Dharmadhatu, the mind realm,
is completely free of thought.
The great transcending knowledge beyond duality
is the Holy Spirit in which all is sameness.
As the Great River flows on
Whatever meditation sitting you do silently
there is virtue in it.
THIS then is always the Buddha's nature -
The word just isn't there
and all us the great Bliss.
All Dharmas, every single thing,
is void in essence,
and being void
cannot be grasped by the mind.
we are cleansed of attachment.
within the mind nothing arises.
This is the Path of all the Buddhas,
Composed by His Holiness Gyalwa Karmapa in the
Monastery Wreathed in a Thousand Rays of Rainbow
Ligth, Runtek, The Dharma Centre of Sikkim,