A prayer composed by
HIS HOLINESS TENZIN GYATSO THE FOURTEENTH DALAI LAMA OF TIBET
Honoring and invoking the Great Compassion of the Three Jewels: the Buddha, the Teachings, and the Spiritual Community
WISDOM PUBLICATIONS BOSTON
First published, 1993 Copyright 1993 His Holiness the Dalai Lama All rights reserved.
Wisdom Publications would like to express its sincere thanks for the generous donations made by the Barry J. Hershey Foundation, the Nama Rupa Foundation, and the American Himalayan Foundation in support of this beloved prayer and its publication.
Poetic translation into English by Rabjampa Dupchok Gyaltsen and Peter Gold
DharmaNet Edition 1994
This electronic edition is offered for free distribution via DharmaNet by arrangement with the publisher. DharmaNet International P.O. Box 4951, Berkeley CA 94704-4951 Transcribed for DharmaNet by Myra I. Fox
INTRODUCTION Words of Truth was composed by His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama of Tibet, during the autumn of 1960, a year and a half after he was forced into exile in India. It is one of the most important prayers for Tibetans today. It is recited each morning with their daily prayers and sung to a medley of four lovely melodies on occasions such as the March 10 Uprising Day observance. For Tibetans there is no separation between the sacred and the secular. Accordingly, this prayer finds a place in both arenas. Words of Truth is dedicated to restoring peace, the Buddhist teachings, and the culture and self-determination of the Tibetan people in their homeland. It is also an invocation of compassion towards all suffering sentient beings: oppressor and oppressed alike. Prayer serves most immediately to focus the thoughts toward a specific end, in this case the preservation of Tibetan civilization and the goal of universal compassion. Prayer is also a refined expression of a state of mind, of an inner vision. Prayer is a crown jewel of speech. Speech is intimately tied to the breath, the coarse form of energy that empowers the mind's awareness. While all speech has such subtle power its basis, prayer (recited or sung) is a carefully crafted mode of speech -- a vital channel into the depths of the mind. Thus, one truly can appreciate the significance and beauty of His Holiness's Words of Truth. May its multifold repetition in the Tibetan, and now English, language contribute to the goal of compassionate liberation for all sentient beings. Peter Gold Dharamsala, India
WORDS OF TRUTH
A Prayer Composed by HIS HOLINESS TENZIN GYATSO, THE FOURTEENTH DALAI LAMA OF TIBET, Honoring and Invoking the Great Compassion of the Three Jewels: the Buddha, the Teachings, and the Spiritual Community O Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and disciples of the past, present, and future: Having remarkable qualities immeasurably vast as the ocean, Who regard all helpless sentient beings as your only child; Please consider the truth of my anguished pleas. Buddha's full teachings dispel the pain of worldly existence and self-oriented peace;
May they flourish, spreading prosperity and happiness through- out this spacious world. O holders of the Dharma: scholars and realized practitioners;
May your ten fold virtuous practice prevail. Humble sentient beings, tormented by sufferings without cease, Completely suppressed by seemingly endless and terribly intense, negative deeds,
May all their fears from unbearable war, famine, and disease be pacified, To freely breathe an ocean of happiness and well-being. And particularly the pious people of the Land of Snows who, through various means, Are mercilessly destroyed by barbaric hordes on the side of darkness, Kindly let the power of your compassion arise, To quickly stem the flow of blood and tears. Those unrelentingly cruel ones, objects of compassion, Maddened by delusion's evils, wantonly destroy themselves and others;
May they achieve the eye of wisdom, knowing what must be done and undone, And abide in the glory of friendship and love.
May this heartfelt wish of total freedom for all Tibet, Which has been awaited for a long time, be spontaneously fulfilled; Please grant soon the good fortune to enjoy The happy celebration of spiritual with temporal rule. O protector Chenrezig, compassionately care for Those who have undergone myriad hardships, Completely sacrificing their most cherished lives, bodies, and wealth, For the sake of the teachings, practitioners, people, and nation. Thus, the protector Chenrezig made vast prayers Before the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas To fully embrace the Land of Snows;
May the good results of these prayers now quickly appear. By the profound interdependence of emptiness and relative forms, Together with the force of great compassion in the Three Jewels and their Words of Truth, And through the power of the infallible law of actions and their fruits, May this truthful prayer be unhindered and quickly fulfilled.
This prayer, Words of Truth, was composed by His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama of Tibet, on 29 September 1960 at his temporary headquarters in the Swarg Ashram at Dharamsala, Kangra District, Himachal State, India.
This prayer for restoring peace, the Buddhist teachings, and the culture and self-determination of the Tibetan people in their homeland was written after repeated requests by Tibetan government officials along with the unanimous consensus of the monastic and lay communities.
Particular acknowledgment was given to the requests by Barzhi Phuntsog Wangyal; Lobsang Tendzin, treasurer of Lhatsun Labrang, and his wife, Tashi Dolma; and Lobsang Dorje, treasurer of Shelkhar Monastery. This translation was made in Dharamsala, India, during April 1992 by Rabjampa Dupchok Gyaltsen and Peter Gold, under the editorial guidance of the Ven. Lotsawa Lhakdor and Ven. Lotsawa Tendzin Dorje, with certain clarifications by the Ven. Lobsang Gyatso, Principal of the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics. It was made with the sincere intention of stimulating a broad understanding of the current condition of Tibet and its people, as well as of humanity as a whole, whose sufferings cry out for a compassionate solution. In today's interconnected world, no person or society stands alone. As such, the fate of Tibet is indeed the fate of the world.
His Holiness's Words of Truth bears an essential message to us all in this regard. May this translation aid in establishing peace and altruism among all members of the global family. Tashi Shok May Auspiciousness Prevail ENGLISH LYRICS This versification into English lyrics was made expressly for singing the prayer, Words of Truth, to its customary tunes. It was written by Peter Gold in Dharamsala, India during April 1992 and is intended to convey the basic meaning of the prayer in a manner appropriate to the medium of song.
Part I Buddhas and saints...and disciples throughout time, Having qualities, infinite as the ocean is wide, Seeing each being as your only child, Please heed my truthful and anguished cries. Buddha's teachings:...selfish peace, suffering's cease, Spreading joy and prosperity through the world; O scholars and great practitioners, May the Dharma's ten virtuous ways prevail. Humble beings...suffering torments without cease, Pressed completely by bad thoughts and deeds, Pacify their fears: war, famine, disease, To breathe an ocean of joy and peace.
Part II Pious people in the Land of Snows, Destroyed...mercilessly...through various means, By barbarian hordes out of darkness; Through compassion...may the blood and tears...quickly cease. Cruel people needing compassion, made mad by delusions, Destroying...themselves...and others too; Give them the eye of wisdom to know what to do; In a glorious...state of friendship...and of selfless love.
Part III So this wish for freedom in Tibet, It's been awaited for a long time; May the good fortune arise soon, Of spiritual with temporal rule. O protector, please look after them, Those who've undergone great suffering; Sacrificing lives and all their wealth For the nation, people, and religion. The Protector Avalokita Prayed before Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, To fully embrace the Land of Snows; May good things appear not through your prayers.
Part IV By the profound interdependence... of emptiness and relative forms, With compassion in the Three Jewels and Words of Truth, And through the infallible... law of one's actions and their fruits, Be this prayer unhindered and quickly fulfilled.
TIBETAN TEXT IN PHONETICS This rendering of the Tibetan text into phonetics is designed to aid in its proper pronunciation when sung or spoken by a native English speaker. [Note added for this DharmaNet edition: The umlaut is represented here by a colon preceding the vowel it affects.] Part I Tse mei y:on ten...gya ts:o pel nga zhing Nyam chung dro la bu chik tar gong pe D:u sum de sheg se dang lo mar che Dag gi den pe mei ngag di gong shig Si shi dung sel...yong dzog toob pe ten Dzam ling yang pe pen de pel du gye De dzin ke dang drup pe kye bu nam Ch:o j:o nam chu ja wa pel war dz:o Mi se le ngen...drak p:o yong n:on pe Bar me du ke nar wei nyam tak dro S:o ka ne ts:on mu ge jig pa k:un Shi ne de ga gya ts:o uk yung dz:o Part II Kye par gang jong ch:o den kye dro nam Nak chok... la l:o pung gi...tse me du Ngen g:u jom pe trag dang chi mei gy:un Nyur du...ch:o pe tug je...tu pung kye Nyon mong d:on gyi ny:o pe lang ch:o kyi Rang zhen...nyi pung gyi pe...nying je y:ul Mi s:un kye w:o tsog nam lang dor mig Yong tob...jam tse dza wei...pel la jor Part III Ring ne nying du nag pe d:o pe d:on Yong dzog p:o jong rang wang tsang mei pel Lh:un drub ch:o si sung drel ga t:on la Ch:o pe kel sang nyur wa nyi du ts:ol Ten dang de dzin chab si rang rig le Che pe l:u sog long j:o yong tang te Ka wa gya trag drub pe kye we nam Dur dzin g:on de tug je kyong war dz:o Dor na gon po Chen re sig wang gi Se che gyel wei chen ngar gang chen zhing Yong sung gya chen m:on lam gang dze pe Dre sang deng dir nyur du char war sol Part IV Nang tong ch:o nyid sab m:o...ten drel dang Chog sum tug je tu dang den tsig tob Le de lu mei den t:u...dag chag gi Den pe m:on lam geg mei nyur drup shok [The printed book contains the Tibetan text of this prayer and the musical score, the "Words of Truth Hymn"]
Wisdom Publications WISDOM is a publisher and distributor of books on Buddhism, Tibet and related East-West themes. Our titles are published in appreciation of Buddhism as a living philosophy and with the special commitment to preserve and transmit important works from all the major Buddhist traditions.
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Wishing Prayer for the Attainment of the Ultimate Mahamudra
Karmapa Rangjung Dorje
All rights reserved. No part of this arcticle shall be reproduced, stored in an retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the publisher.
You Lamas, Yidams and Protectors of the power circles,
You victorious Buddhas and your Bodhisattva sons of the ten directions and the three times,
Think lovingly of us and give your blessings
That our wishes may be fulfilled exactly as they are made.
Arising from the snow mountain of the perfectly
pure thoughts and actions of ourselves and all beings,
May the river of good deeds, unsullied by the concept of a separation into three,
Flow into the ocean of the four Buddha-states.
Until that happens, may we, in all lifetimes, from
one birth to the next,
Never once hear the sound of pain or suffering,
But instead experience oceans of radiant goodness and joy.
Having attained a free and fully endowed birth,
A precious human life with confidence, diligence, and wisdom,
Relying upon a spiritual teacher and receiving his Essential instructions,
May we then practice the precious teachings without hindrance in this and all future lives.
Hearing the teachings frees us from the veils of
Contemplating the Oral instructions removes the darkness of doubt.
The light arising from meditation makes clear the nature of mind, exactly as it is.
May the light of these three wisdoms increase.
May we receive the flawless teachings, the foundation
of which are the two truths
Which are free from the extremes of eternalism and nihilism,
And through the supreme path of the two accumulations, free from the extremes of negation and affirmation,
May we obtain the fruit which is free from the extremes of either,
Dwelling in the conditioned state or in the state of only peace.
The basis of purification is the mind itself in
its union of clarity and emptiness.
The method of purification is the great Mahamudra Diamond-practice.
What is to be purified are the transitory illusory impurities.
The fruit of the purification is the perfectly pure truth-state.
May this become realized.
Overcoming doubts concerning the fundamental teaching
gives trust in the view.
Protecting this view without distraction is the essence of meditation.
Correct meditation in itself is best behavior.
May we trust the view, the meditation and the conduct.
All phenomena are projections of the mind.
Mind is not a mind; the mind is empty in essence.
Although empty, everything constantly arises in it.
Through the deepest examination of the mind may we find its innermost root.
Self-manifestation, which has never existed as such,
is erroneously seen as an object.
Through ignorance, self-awareness is mistakenly experienced as an I.
Through attachment to this duality we are caught in the conditioned world.
May the root of confusion be found.
It is not existent for even the Buddhas do not see
It is not non-existent, being the basis for both samsara and nirvana.
It is not the opposites, nor both, nor something else, but rather their union - the middle way.
May we realize the true nature of mind, which is beyond extremes.
It cannot be described by saying, It is.
It cannot be denied by saying, It is not.
The incomprehensible absolute reality is not composite.
May we achieve certainty about the correctness of this ultimate meaning.
As long as this is not recognized, the wheel of
When this is understood, the state of Buddha is nothing other than that.
There is nothing that can be described as either existing or not existing.
May the nature of reality, the true nature of the Buddha mind, be recognized.
Appearance is only mind, emptiness is only mind,
enlightenment is only mind, and confusion is only one's own mind.
Arising is only mind; disappearance is only mind.
May every doubt and hesitation that concerns the mind be overcome.
May we neither be sullied by forced intellectual
meditation nor disturbed by the winds of everyday life.
May we skillfully hold onto our practice concerning the nature of mind.
May the immovable ocean of meditative peace,
Where the waves of subtle and gross thoughts come to rest through their own power, and
Where the waters of the unmoving mind remain in themselves,
Unspotted by laziness, sleepiness or unclarity, become stable.
If again and again we examine the mind, which cannot
We see that which cannot be seen, with total clarity, just as it is.
May the faultless mind, freed from all doubts about being and not being, recognize itself.
Through the examination of external objects we see
the mind, not the objects.
Through the examination of the mind we see its empty essence, but not the mind.
Through the examination of both, attachment to duality disappears by itself.
May the clear light, the true essence of mind, be recognized.
Being without intellectual concepts, it is called
the Great Sign, or Mahamudra.
Being without extremes, it is called the Great Middle Way, or Madhyamika.
As it embraces everything, it is called the Great Perfection, or Maha-Ati.
May we have the confidence that the experience of one is the experience of the meaning of all.
May we constantly and effortlessly experience the
never-ending highest joy, which is without attachment,
The clear light that is without categories or veils of obscuration, and
The spontaneous, concept-free state that is beyond intellect.
Attachment to pleasant experiences vanishes of its
Illusory and negative thoughts are in their essence pure, like space.
In that simple state of mind there is nothing that must be given up or developed, avoided or attained.
May the truth of the uncomplicated nature of reality be realized.
Although the true nature of beings is always the
Still we always wander in the ceaseless wheel of life, not understanding that.
May infinite compassion arise for the limitless suffering of all beings.
Although this infinite compassion is strong and
The truth of its empty nature arises nakedly the very moment it appears.
This union of emptiness and compassion is the highest faultless way.
May we meditate inseparable from it, the whole time, day and night.
May we attain the state of Buddha through maturity,
realization, and completion,
And develop beings through divine eyes and clear sight arising through the power of meditation.
May we realize the Buddha fields and fulfill the wishing prayer of the perfection of the Buddha qualities.
You Buddhas and Bodhisattvas from the ten directions,
Through your compassion and through the power of all the pure and good that exists,
May the pure wishing prayers of ourselves and all beings be fulfilled,
Just as they were made.
Extracted from: "Mahamudra. Boundless Joy and Freedom.
Blue Dolphin Publishing, ISBN: 0-931892-69-4. With kind permission by the publisher.
View, Meditation and Conduct.
Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche
The term view means the right understanding of the Buddhist path. Meditation is the actual practice, and conduct is the discipline necessary to stay on the path. The view is a very profound guide to meditation. Without proper knowledge of the teachings, many obstacles arise due to mistakes in the practice. Naturally, if you do not know anything about meditation you won't recognize them as mistakes. This is why before you start practicing, you should develop correct understanding. Then you can recognize obstacles and the meditation will progress. In this way view and meditation are connected.
Conduct is based on the understanding of karma. Right conduct means to ensure that actions, whether through body or speech, are not influenced by disturbing emotions. If actions are biased, negative karma is created. For example, we bring harm to people and possibly even kill others, if we let ourselves be influenced by anger. With the motivation of anger, a great deal of negativity and ill will arises. Right conduct means to be free of those influences and instead, let our actions be guided by positive qualities like compassion.
Like meditation, conduct is also influenced by the view because right understanding leads naturally to right conduct. Some people have problems with this. For example, if one understands the teachings with the right view but does not follow them, it brings about difficulties with one's own emotions. Even learned people can act negatively, because a person can have the right understanding without the right meditation. Meditation is the means to conquer negative emotions and right view provides the understanding of how to conquer them. If we want to become liberated, then our own negative emotions are our real enemy.
We can learn how to overcome disturbing emotions by studying the Abhidharmakosha. This text explains in detail how to overcome negative emotions, and even how long it will take. Such teachings can also be found in the Prajnaparamita and on the Vajrayana level, in the Sabmo Nang Gi Don. Here it is calculated that it takes three years, three months and three days to remove all samsaric problems through practice. To study such texts is to become a learned person and to understand the path. However, someone who has completed a three year retreat could be seated on a stage and recite everything by heart without necessarily being enlightened at all. In this case emotions are still stronger than knowledge because of not following the path personally. Emotions can overpower the view if the emotions are not overcome through meditation.
There are many different obstacles on the path. Through these you will find out what kind of Dharma practitioner you are. To meditate, you need the right understanding or you will make many mistakes. Meditation without understanding is very risky. You may know a little bit about meditation, but this is not sufficient to develop your practice over a long period of time.
It is not enough to simply imagine what is best. Overcoming obstacles is about cause and effect and the knowledge that things are connected. Conduct generally has to do with karma. The specific behavior to be applied depends on the developed level of practice. In Vajrayana, samaya is important. Beyond the meaning of receiving the empowerment and practicing a certain buddha aspect, samaya means proper conduct. It is concerned with avoiding any behavior that could harm one's own practice. For example, if you intensively practice meditation for calming the mind (Tib. shi-ne, Skt. shamata) while thinking that you would rather be doing a higher practice like Mahamudra, this is a mistake. It is not right conduct to practice something before having successfully built the foundation. Of course, it is a positive intention to want to practice a higher teaching like Mahamudra. But here it is a hindrance. You cannot successfully practice shi-ne now and even more so Mahamudra later. It is also said that you should not eat too much if you practice shi-ne intensively. If you eat a lot and get sleepy, you cannot practice meditation of calming the mind well. That is why the Buddha said that monks should not have an evening meal.
View, meditation, and conduct are therefore practically connected. Buddhism does not simply prescribe something to people but teaches practical things in order to achieve results. There are no arbitrary rules, for example, that you must wear a certain hat in order to be part of the religion, even if I do have a red crown (Shamar Rinpoches traditionally wear a red hat.)
Right view in the widest sense means to understand the meaning of the Madhyamaka. Madhyamaka is the essence of all the high practices of Mahamudra and Maha Ati. None of these high meditations can be practiced without understanding the Madhyamaka view. Perhaps there are other high meditations that I do not know about, but these are meditations which lead to Buddhahood. The Madhyamika first explains the right view. Based on this, special methods have been compiled and have been given names like Mahamudra and Maha Ati. These meditations are represented separately from the view of the Madhyamaka. For example, the ritual execution of the Chod practice* - how one actually plays the big damaru (a ritual drum) and so on - are not described in the Madhyamaka. But, without Madhyamaka view one cannot do this practice. There is more to it than just the music.
In Mahamudra and Maha Ati there is much said about the nature of mind. This means that when the meditator recognizes the actual meaning of Mahamudra or Maha Ati he will be enlightened on the spot. Just try to do that. We make jokes about it. Many people who study these teachings say, "Mahamudra and Maha Ati are the highest meditations. I have studied them for many years and now I know." But that would mean that they have been enlightened for a long time. To recognize the nature of mind is to become enlightened. In the teachings of Maha Ati it is said that to begin this practice in the evening one is enlightened the next morning. Starting in the morning then one is enlightened in the evening. That is only twelve hours, isn't it? If someone says that he knows it because he studied it for many years, but he is still not enlightened, then what does he really know? It is not so easy.
You may have heard that you should see the guru as the essence of all buddhas. Let's say I agreed to be your guru and to show you the nature of your mind. Maybe you would get very excited because it would be very direct and special. Afterwards you would go home and say, "Today I received a profound meditation from my guru." But look at yourself - what actually changed in you? You should then come back to view, meditation and conduct.
Milarepa received the teachings from Marpa and then practiced alone. His conduct was to practice twenty-four hours a day in his cave, fully concentrated. But he also sang many songs. Often he meditated and afterwards sang a song. Why did he do that? His knowledge of meditation guided his practice and so he sang songs often to remind himself. In the course of his practice certain methods were necessary at certain times so he composed a verse to rekindle his knowledge from memory. Although he never studied it, he was very good at composing poetry. Whenever it was necessary for his meditation he composed a precise poem. If you read the life story of Milarepa you will find that he sang songs at important junctures in his practice. When he had obstacles he recalled various methods from memory. In this way Milarepa's knowledge guided his meditation.
The Madhyamaka teaches precisely and logically that phenomena and beings don't really exist, what mental confusion consists of, and how illusion arises in the mind. It teaches how, if you practice, you can become free from neuroses, attachments, and the habit of believing in concrete existence. You can remove all this because you understand it very precisely within the Madhyamaka view. According to the Madhyamaka view of emptiness, all substantial phenomena are heaps (Skt. skandhas) composed of particles. Then, this is examined metaphysically by dividing everything up until you find that even the smallest particles or atoms don't have real existence. Then you examine mental projections in the same way. It is explained that mind itself is emptiness, that it is an accumulation of momentary thoughts, none of which exist independently but arise in dependence upon one another. Therefore mind doesn't have a solid existence either. That is how the Madhyamaka explains emptiness. But then, if we punch the wall, our hand still hurts. Although you understand through logic that there is no real existence, you do not yet experience what it really means. It is not about simply explaining everything as nonexistent. Logic alone is not enough to remove illusion. On the basis of the Madhyamaka view, meditations which build on one another in a certain way have to be practiced.
What will one achieve through this? The Madhyamaka explains that all things are empty. But we don't want to achieve sheer emptiness - what would be the benefit of that? What emptiness is all about is to achieve a deeper understanding of mind through Mahamudra, the core of the Madhyamaka. It is neither the outer world that imprisons us in samsara nor our body. Neither the universe nor our bodies are in samsara - our mind is. The point is to examine mind with the precise logic of the Madhyamaka. When you are oriented properly towards the mind, you have the correct view. To apply this view of the mind as practice, simply let the mind experience this very view. Then you have Mahamudra experience in one instant.
To experience Mahamudra, great concentration is necessary. That is why it is so important to practice shi-ne first. Without the stability of shi-ne the view of mind is like a flame in the wind. One moment it is there, the next it is gone. If you try to have the right view without mental stability, then perhaps a short insight arises but the untamed mind is unable to maintain it. Before you are able to hold the view without interruption, statements like "one can achieve enlightenment in one instant" make no sense.
Develop the view first, then on this basis develop direct experience of the mind and practice it without interruption. When the right view of mind is developed it is an awakening from ignorance. But the view must be held continuously. Without mental stability it will disappear again.
*A tantric practice for killing the ego by symbolically offering one's body.
BUDDHISM TODAY, Vol.3, 1997. Copyright ©1997 Kamtsang Choling USA
The Thirty-Seven Practices of a Bodhisattva
By Ngulchu Gyalsas Thogmed Zangpo (1245 - 1369)
Namo Arya Lokeshvara
I always respectfully prostrate
through my three doors to the Supreme Guru and protector Lokeshvara,
who although seeing all phenomena as a devoid of going and coming, Endeavours
one-pointedly to benefit sentient beings.
The possession of this human base, this precious vessel so difficult to obtain,
in order to liberate others and ourselves from the ocean of samsara,
allows us to hear, reflect, and meditate day and night without distraction. This is a practice
of the Bodhisattva.
Toward our friends and those we love run the waters of attachment,
toward our enemies burns the fire of aversion;
in the obscurity of ignorance, we lose sight of what should be abandoned and what should be
practiced. Therefore renunciation of one's country and home is a practice of the Bodhisattva.
When we abandon our harmful surroundings,
our illusions diminish, and because we have no distractions
our practice of virtue develops spontaneously,
leaving us with a clear mind.
Our trust in the Dharma grows.
To live in solitude is a practice of a Bodhisattva.
One day old and dear friends will separate,
goods and riches obtained by great effort will be left behind.
Consciousness, a guest of the body, this temporary dwelling, will depart.
From this moment on, to renounce all attachment to this life
is a practice of the Bodhisattva.
If we have harmful companions, the three poisons are increased,
our reflections and meditation becomes degraded; love and compassion are destroyed.
To abandon dangerous company is a practice of the Bodhisattva.
To rely on a spiritual friend who has eliminated all illusions,
whose competence in the teachings and practice is complete, and
whose qualities increase like the crescent moon;
to cherish this perfect guru more than one's own body is a practice of a Bodhisattva.
How could the gods of this world possibly liberate us,
being themselves tied to the prison of samsara?
Instead let us take refuge in that on which we can rely.
To take refuge in the Three Jewels is a practice of the Bodhisattva.
The intolerable suffering of the lower realms is said
by the Buddha to be the fruit of Karma; therefore,
to never commit unwise deeds is a practice of the Bodhisattva.
The happiness of the three worlds is like
the dew on the tip of a blade of grass, disappearing in an instant.
To aspire to supreme, immutable liberation is a practice of the Bodhisattvas.
Since beginningless time, our mothers took care of us with tenderness.
What use is our happiness when they still suffer?
To generate Bodhicitta in order to liberate infinite beings is a practice of the Bodhisattva.
All suffering, without exception, comes from the desire for happiness for oneself,
while perfect Buddhahood is born from the desire to make others happy.
This is why completely exchanging one's happiness for that of others
is a practice of the Bodhisattva.
If, in the grip of violent desire or cruel necessity,
an unfortunate person steals our possessions or incites someone else to steal them,
to be full of compassion, to dedicate to this person
our body, possessions, and past, present, and future merit,
is a practice of the Bodhisattva.
Even if we are beaten or tortured,
we must not allow any aversion to arise within us.
To have great compassion for those poor beings
who out of ignorance mistreat us is a practice of the Bodhisattva.
If, without reason, certain people slander us to the point
where the entire world is filled with their malicious gossip,
to lovingly praise their virtues is a practice of a Bodhisattva.
If in the company of several people, one among them
revels a fault that we would have liked hidden,
to not become irritated with the one who treats us in this manner but
to consider him as a supreme guru is a practice of the Bodhisattva.
If someone who we have helped and protected as our own child
shows only ingratitude and dislike in return,
to have toward this person the tender pity a mother has for her sick child
is a practice of the Bodhisattva.
If someone who is your equal or someone who is obviously your inferior
despises you or out of arrogance attempts to debase you,
to respect him as your master is a practice of the Bodhisattva.
When we are abandoned, overcome with sickness and worry,
to not become discourage but to think of
taking on all the wrongful actions committed by others and suffering their consequences
is a practice of the Bodhisattva.
When we enjoy good reputation, the respect of everyone, and the wealth of Vaishravana,
to see that the fruits of karma are without substance and
not to take pride in this observation is a practice of the Bodhisattva.
Unless the aggression of our inner adversaries ceases,
the more we fight them the more they multiply.
Similarly, until we have mastered our own mind, negative forces will invade us.
To discipline the mind through love and compassion is a practice of the Bodhisattva.
The nature of sense pleasures is like that of saltwater:
the more we drink, the more our thirst increase.
To abandon the objects toward which desire arises is a practice of the Bodhisattva.
All that appears comes from an illusion of the mind and
the mind itself is from beginningless time without inherent existence,
free from the two extremes of manifestation (externalism and nihilism)
and beyond all elaboration. To understand this nature (Tathata) and
to not conceive of subjects and objects as really existing is a practice of the Bodhisattva.
When we encounter an attractive object or something that pleases our mind,
we see it as beautiful and real, but actually it is as empty as a summer rainbow.
To abandon attachment toward it is a practice of the Bodhisattva.
Various sufferings are like that experienced from the death of an only child in a dream.
To take as truth that which is only a false appearance is
to uselessly exhaust the body and mind.
When we meet with unfavorable circumstances,
to approach them thinking they are only illusion is a practice of the Bodhisattva.
If he who desires awakening must sacrifice his own body, his precious human life,
what need is there to mention external objects to abandon?
This is why practicing generosity without hoping for a reward or a "karmic fruit"
is a practice of the Bodhisattva.
If, lacking ethical discipline, we cannot realize our own intentions,
to want to fulfil the vows of other beings is simply a joke.
To keep rules and vows, not for a temporal and samsaric goal but in order
to help all sentient beings, is a practice of the Bodhisattva.
For a son (or a daughter) of a Buddha who desires the rewards of virtuous merit,
all adverse circumstances are a precious treasure
for they require the practice of Kshanti (Patience).
To be perfectly patient, without irritation or resentment toward anyone,
is a practice of the Bodhisattva.
Even the pratyekabuddhas and the shravakas who are concerned only with
their own liberation make great efforts to obtain virya (energy).
To perfectly practice energy, the source of all qualities
for the benefit of all beings, is a practice of the Bodhisattvas.
In understanding that vipashyana (insight) in union with shamatha (calmabiding)
completely destroys kleshas (desires, obstacles),
to meditate on the dhyanas which are beyond the four realms
is a practice of the Bodhisattvas.
Without prajna, the five preceding virtues cannot be called "paramita" (excellent, perfect)
and are incapable of leading us to Buddhahood.
To have the right view which perceives that the one who acts, the act, and the one for whom
we act completely lack inherent existence
is a practice of the Bodhisattva.
To analyze our actions and feelings allows desire to arise.
To examine our errors and faults in order to separate ourselves from them completely
is a practice of the Bodhisattva.
To never criticize others or speak of the errors that
those who are on the path of the Mahayana may have committed
is a practice of the Bodhisattva.
In order to receive offerings and be surrounded by respect,
we fight among ourselves in the spirit of competition
to the detriment of our attention toward study; our meditation slackens.
To abandon all attachment to the gifts of those who care for us
is a practice of the Bodhisattva.
Harsh speech disturbs the mind of others, and our practice feels the effects of this.
To abandon all coarse and vulgar language, all harsh speech, and all idle chatter
is a practice of the Bodhisattva.
As we are accustomed to acting under the rule of our passions,
destroying them demands great effort.
Mindfulness of these (opposing force) is the weapon
that allows us to repel them immediately.
In short: whatever we do, in whatever circumstance or conditions,
to always be attentive to the situation that present itself and
to the reaction that it awakens in our mind;
with this motivation of amending our behavior for the well-being of all sentient beings,
is a practice of the Bodhisattva.
In brief, wherever one is and whatever one's behaviour.
One should always possess mindfulness and introspection
To examine the condition of one's mind.
To achieve benefit for others is the practice of the Bodhisattva.
To dedicate the merit that results from our efforts to obtain Buddhahood,
toward illumination through the wisdom of the view of emptiness
of the three realms of action and in order to overcome the suffering of infinite beings,
is a practice of the Bodhisattva.
Basing myself in the teaching of the Sutra, the Tantra, and the Shastra, I have grouped these
Thirty-seven Practices of the Bodhisattva for usage and for the benefit of those who would
like to follow their path.
Because of my limited understanding and inadequate knowledge, this composition lacks
the poetry and the elegance of the language that the scholars revived, but as these
teachings depend strictly on the Sutra of the Supreme, I think that they reveal the practices
of the Bodhisattva free from errors.
However, the immense course of action of the Bodhisattvas is difficult for someone of
my level of ignorance to understand and realize; I ask also of the Supreme Ones to
practice patience toward me and to pardon my impression and whatever contradictions
and inconsistencies may have crept into this text.
By the merit that I have obtained through this effort, as well as through the power of the two
Bodhicittas, the relative and the ultimate, may all sentient beings, without remaining within the
limites of samsara and nirvana, become like Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara.
Garland of Supremely Healing Nectars
A Dialogue between Karmavajra,
The Nyingma Master Lhobrag Khenchen,
And Bodhisattva Vajrapani,
In the Presence of Matibhadrashri,
Je Tsong Khapa
At Lho Brag in 1396.
Reverence to Vajrapani, Lord of the Esoteric!
"You who are the actuality of the mind of all the Buddhas of past, present, and future,
who are the great Vajradhara, Lord of the Esoteric, who are blessed by Buddhas as
numerous as the Ganges River's sands, since Your memory is like an elephant's, please
teach the uttermost pinnacle of all vehicles!
Since You have the ornament of goodness, please teach the authentic view that abandons
all abrasive and disagreeable views!
Since You are all-triumphant, please give a teaching that cuts wide open the net of doubts
regarding view, contemplation, and action!
Since You are a mine of precious gems, please give a teaching that generates in our life
the inconceivable samadhi of integrated quiescence and insight!
Since You have the message of truth, please teach the instruction that pours down the
great rain of Dharma that puts out the blazing fire of afflictive thoughts!
Since You are ablaze with flames of wisdom, please teach the profound precept that burns
the kindling of materialism and substantivism!
Since You are all beauty of form, please teach the instruction that fills the eyes with tears
born of the vision of the precept that generates uncontaminated bliss!
Since You are the precious wish-granting gem, please give the extraordinary instruction
that brings swift realization of the Buddhas' Body of Truth, concise in expression yet
extensive in meaning, and so clear that the person of acute intelligence ceases his doubts
and realizes the meaning, and the dumb cowherd can also get the words and understand
the meaning - for the sake of this request of Matibhadrashri and for the sake of this prayer
of mine, I, Karmavajra!"
When I had so petitioned, an extraordinary taste came from between my teeth and coiled
around my tongue until I felt completely ecstatic! It must be thanks to You, O Guru! Then
without manifesting His body, His unconquerable voice spoke as follows:
"Karmavajra! Bring thse esoteric words of mine to the ear of Matibhadrashri! It is the
intimation of Father Samantabhadra, the heart's message of Mother Samantabhadri -
this esoteric speech of mine, I Vajradhara! To achieve the great supreme medicine, the
uttermost pinnacle of all vehicles, seek out the clear light of the mind itself!"
I, Karmavajra, asked: "What is the actuality of the clear light?"
He said, "Karmavajra! The clear light (is explained by) three; actuality, nature and
Karmavajra asked, "When one meditates on the clear light, are there pitfalls? Or
He said, "Your question is extremely good! If someone does not understand, there are
pitfalls. I will explain four points: the pattern of error, the sign of error, its faults, and the
effect of error. First, the pattern of mistaking the actuality; in general, what we call 'actuality'
is the introspectively known reality which exists just like this, free from the adulteration of
present artificial consciousness, originally clear emptiness wherein nothing is (intrinsically)
established. When a person meditates on emptiness without focusing just on that, he falls
into the error of cutting off enlightenment at emptiness, by not freeing his mind from the
holding of emptiness. The sign of error is that thoughts arise such as that 'above there is
no Buddha, below there is no hell, the utter lack of establishment of anything is emptiness.'
The fault of the error is that the mind that thinks 'everything is empty,' on the positive side,
abandons all religious practice such as devotion, purification of perception, refuge-taking,
spiritual conception, love, and compassion, and engages in the enterprises of this life, and,
on the negative side, all his practice is contaminated in the activities of sin. For one who
thus engages in such perversion of the truth, there is no place to go but the Vajra hell. The
fruit of such evil activities is that, on the positive side, since such a one has distorted the
truth of the virtuous orientation, he conceives the nihilistic view of the fundamentalists, and
on the negative side, by distorting the orientation toward causality, he wanders in the ocean
of suffering. Karmavajra! There are many who say they realize emptiness, but there are
very few who actually realize the real condition of ultimate reality!"
"Karmavajra! There are four (points) to the pitfalls concerning nature. First, the pattern
of error concerning nature; in this clarity where in body and intuition have the intrinsic
brilliance of empty awareness, faces and arms have no categorical (intrinsic) status in the
body, and colours and signs have no categorical (intrinsic) status in intuition. When a person
settles upon the indivisibility of clarity and emptiness as merely the clarity aspect which is
the intrinsic brilliance of emptiness, and does not know the integration of the indivisibility of
clarity and emptiness, it is the mistaking of awareness as illumination. The sign of this error
is that all Dharma teachings go their separate ways. When you teach such a person the
expression of 'integration,' it does not fit into his mind. The fault of this error is that the mind
that thinks 'universal illumination is substantial' does not aspire to engage in any Dharma
practice, and, being too extreme in verbal adherence to theories, it departs from the path of
omniscience. There is no way this person will become liberated, since his illumination has
fixated. The effect of this error is that such a person becomes attached to a clear light that
appears externally and therefore is reborn in the realm of form. Now knowing his inner
awareness as clarity-emptiness, he migrates with his mind fixed in one orientation, and has
no occasion for liberation. Karmavajra! There are many who say they perceive the clear
light, but there are few who cultivate illumination-emptiness as integration!"
"Karmavajra! There are also four (points) in the pitfall concerning compassion. The pattern
of error; this constructive thought that arises as variety, not arising as the intrinsic brilliance of
clear empty awareness, no matter how it arises, never exceeds awareness-emptiness (indivisible).
A person who does not understand that, is said to mistake awareness as emptiness. The sign of
error is that he engages exclusively in the physical, verbal, and mental activities of this life. The
fault of this error is that his attitude that constructive thought does not arise in the Body of Truth
causes everything that arises to be bound by the net of constructive thought; he becomes arrogant,
and his virtuous exertions are dissipated. Since his practice emphasizes bad instincts, he only
achieves (the aims of) this life. Bound by the chains of dualistic suspicions and doubts, he himself
binds himself. The effect of this error; not knowing the pitfalls of constructive thought, he becomes
fixated in his instincts. Not knowing the evils of causality, he ends his life while still on the path of
vacillation, and after death he gets lost again in the three realms. Karmavajra! There are many who
say they have no constructive thoughts, but there are few who understand the criterion for the
liberation (of whatever) arises."
I, Karmavajra, asked, "There is no point in not avoiding those three pitfalls; how are those
three pitfalls avoided?"
The Lord of the Esoteric said, "Karmavajra! This emptiness, the actuality of awareness,
is not contrived by anyone, has no cause, no condition, but has been there from before the
ver beginning. It has no infraction or observance, it cannot be focussed on or mistaken -
it is Buddhahood in the realm of primal perfection. Likewise, this natural clear light is
effortlessly indivisible from beginningless emptiness. Its exercise is ceaseless compassion.
Whatever arises kacks intrinsically real status, so you must understand all three as the great
integration, Buddhahood in indivisibility!"
I, Karmavajra, again asked, "What are the pitfalls in view, meditation, and action?"
The Esoteric Lord said, "Listen, Karmavajra! First, there are the five pitfalls with regard
to view; the pitfall of view itself, the pitfall of place, the pitfall of companion, the pitfall of
affliction, and the pitfall of partiality. First, the pitfall of view itself: the yogi in this esoteric
Tantric system prefers naked direct perception to the view generally taught, accepted as
emptiness devoid of extremes. But there is no difference between those two if the ultimate
is realized. If it is not realized, then the general view is a verbal view held in the analytic
mind and does not hit upon the actual import; it is an erroneous view. Not trusting in the view
which is direct perception, but placing confidence in the verbal, analytic view, one thinks that
there is nothing to aim at, and that freedom from extremes is inactivity, and then one's actions
are corrupted with regard to the principles of virtue and sin. Thinking that there is no good
and bad evolution, virtue has no reward, sin brings no harm, everything is straightforward
equality, one stay content with ordinariness. This is called the "view that dallies with evil,"
and is the root of all erroneous views. Matibhadrashri must act in the profound integration
of the view, which is intrinsic clarity of non-dual direct perception, with evolutionary cause
"The pitfall of place: in general, one who realizes the temporary view should go to a
clear and solitary place such as a hermitage in order to enter the realm of the ultimate
view. Even though one has a temporary view one needs the discipline of retreat to
cultivate it. Bad places distort one's view. Tell Matibhadrashri! The temporary view
must be cultivated in retreat.
"The pitfall of friends: one who has the temporary view should associate with friends
who agree with the Dharma and do not increase afflictions. It is impossible not to be
infected by bad actions if one associates with bad friends. They lead one into (the concerns
of) this life and leave no room to cultivate the view. They are the root of the pitfall of
increasing the afflictions. Karmavajra and Matibhadrashri! If you do not want to fall into
this error, cut off all attachment to unwanted friends and stay in solitude.
"Fourth, the pitfall of afflictions: that person who has the temporary view, if he is not
motivated to overcome the arisal of afflictions, will be motivated into afflictions by
whatever external circumstance. Gathering evolutionary action even in an instant, he
will engage in bad evolutionary action for a long time. Bad evolutionary action will be
gathered through the influence of the five poisons with regard to all six kinds of apparent
objects. The evolutionary effect of that will emerge both temporarily and ultimately,
and when afflictions are generated, though mindfulness of instantaneity may hold them,
a loose awareness will let them go. Meditate on love and compassion for all living beings
controlled by such afflictions. Pray for blessings that they may be motivated into the path
of overcoming those afflictions. Especially, invoke the Guru from the depths of your
heart. Purify the seed of afflictions with mantras, and consider it essential to meditate in
the Mystic Deity. Afterwards, when you are naturally released in the view, make extensive
dedicatory prayers. If you move on such a path, you will attain virtues as a result, both
temporarily and ultimately. If you do not employ such a path, you will become stuck in
the mud of afflictions and your view will not become actuality. It is the great root of pitfalls.
Karmavajra and Matibhadrashri! If you do not want to fall into such error, employ the
remedies for whatever afflictions are generated. Put them into practice."
"Fifth, the pitfall of partiality: all persons who have the temporary view take refuge erroneously
in Scriptures (by fastening upon) the view given in the treatises of their own schools exclusively,
and divide things into 'self' and 'other', 'higher' and 'lower factions,' and 'good' and 'bad', and they
make Buddha's great extreme-free view into something to be grasped at and presumed upon by
(ordinary) persons. This is the root of errors. Karmavajra and Matibhadrashri! If you do not want
to fall into such error, you must realize the extreme-free view is a great vast emptiness!"
"Now for the second point, there are five errors with regard to meditation: the error of actual
meditation, the error of place, the error of friends, the error of faults, and the error of passions."
"First, the error of the actuality of meditation: although the Guru nakedly identifies actuality,
nature, and compassion, the disciple does not understand, and cannot decide about actuality,
nature and compassion. He falls into error by not understanding the indivisibility of clarity and
emptiness. Then, when he practices according to the method of his Guru, he falls into the state
of a human of the desire realm through his attachment to the merest particle of physical and
mental bliss; he falls into the state of the deities of the pure abodes through his attachment to
the mere absence of thoughts in his mind; he falls into the state of the deities of the form realm
through his attachment to mere thoughtlessness in clarity; he falls into the state of desire-realm
deities through his attachment to thoughtlessness in regard to bliss; and he falls into the state
of the formless realm deities through his attachment to thoughtlessness in regard to emptiness.
These are pitfalls in the three realms. If he continuously ceases sense-objects, he falls into the
realm of infinite space. If he ceases, without sensations, even the feeling of falling into deep
sleep he falls into the realm of absolute nothingness. If he ceases all clear illumination in his
consciousness, he falls into the realm of infinite consciousness. If he generates continuously
the mere shine of bliss in his clarity-awareness and utter nothingness in his perceptual awareness,
he falls into the realm beyond consciousness and unconsciousness. These are called the "falling
into one-sided quiescence." When one migrates via death from these, one migrates throughout
the three realms and the six species. Karmavajra and Matibhadrashri! If you do not know how
to eliminate the errors of meditation, (meditation) is unnecessary, since you will just return to
migration when the realms of dumb meditation are lost."
"Furthermore, if you accept body and mind as (really being) the way they are experienced
by the alienated individual, you fall into the error of the ordinariness of your own being. If
you adhere one-sidedly either to being or nothingness, you fall into the spiritualism or the nihilism
of the fundamentalists. If you accept the repudiation of all objects except for the mind, you fall
into the state of the Disciples and Self-enlightened Sages. If you accept animate and inanimate
things as divine, you fall into the error of the Tantrics. What is the use of meditation when you
cannot avoid the extremes of errors?"
I then asked for some method to avoid these pitalls.
The Esoteric Lord said, "If you want to avoid these pitfalls, then, like Matibhadrashri, first
broaden yourself by learning, then in the middle concentrate (the teachings) into the essentials
by means of the personal instructions identifying (realities), and finally, at the time of practice,
do not fall into the above errors, and, in spite of the fact that longing and attachment arise in
meditation, meditate like a rabbit lying in an eagle's nest or like an archer (waiting for his prey).
And you will not fall into any pitfalls, if you relax with regard to whatever appearances arises
in your experience, not negating or establishing any infraction or observance or doubts or
worries about whatever arises, and if you do not cling to any of it."
"Second, to show the pitfall of place and friends: the person who is meditating should meditate
in a solitary and suitable place. If he stays in a crowded monastery or a place that arouses the
passions, he will fall into error by the force of defilements, possessions, attachment and aversion.
If he associates with bad friends, his meditative growth and enthusiasm will be disturbed, and he
is buying his own suffering, it is urgent that you use forceful means to abandon the negative
influence of bad friends and bad places."
"Third, to show the pitfalls of meditation: when you cultivate your meditation, there are three
(faults), depressions, excitement, and distractions. There are (six) kinds of depression: because
of place, because of friends, because of food, because of posture, and because of meditation.
First, depression opn account of place; if one stays in a forest in a low or sunken place, or in a
country where solitude is disturbed or where defilements are prevalent, one's consciousness
will grow stupefied, one's subtle drop becomes unclear, one's awareness dull, sleep too long,
body heavy. One should perform ablutions and confessions and go to a high and clear place,
and meditate in an open place or let the wind blow in the window. Contemplate snowy peaks,
and meditate naked, and this (type of depression) will be dispelled."
"Second, depression on account of friends arises by staying with defiled persons. Make
purifications and ablutions, and this will be dispelled by protecting yourself from people who
have broken their commitments and are full of defilements. Third, seasonal depressions,
which come in spring and summer when you feel oppressive and depressed, are dispelled
when you meditate in high places as in the snowy mountains. Fourth, depressions caused
by food and clothing come from using the defiled food and clothing of people, and are dispelled
by avoiding such food and clothing. Fifth, depressions caused by posture occur for beginners
from meditating while walking, sitting, lying down, etc., and are dispelled by meditating using
the three postures or the Vajra posture, bringing intensity to the awareness and brightness
to the faculties by sitting erect and alert. Sixth, depression caused by meditation: when one
meditates, by meditating with one's consciousness (focussed) in the lower body, one becomes
sunken down in one's physical being. That is depression, and it is dispelled by carrying one's
senses, imagined as having the clarity of a lamp, through the sky, strengthening the awareness
by the intense brilliance of mind itself. Karmavajra! As for dispelling of obstacles of meditation,
it is not accomplished by anyone without strong energy."
"As for the pitfall of passions, there are many thieving enemies of one who practices
meditation. Generated by the root five passions, 84,000 passions arise, which leave no
room for meditation and lead him into cyclic life. One should be undistracted concerning
them, by imagining one is like a mother fearing loss of her only son; one should abandon
them as if there were a snake suddenly appearing in one's lap. One should hold them with
mindfulness which is vigilance, practicing as in the path-application (mentioned above) in
the context of the view. Otherwise, in an instant, bad evolutionary action is accumulated.
If you want not to fall into such error, you should exert yourself in careful choice of action,
never apart from the watchman of alertness. Again, until view and meditation are stable,
practice alone like a wounded deer. Especially, it is of the utmost importance to flee from
the passions, seeing them like poisonous snakes."
"There are two (points) to explain the faults of excitement, excitement on account of place
and excitement on account of conditions. Excitement on account of places: when one meditates
in a high and clear place, one's awareness become clear, one's consciousness will not stay still,
and constructive thoughts become excited and spread out everywhere. If one lets them loose
to spread as they will, they become influenced by passions, so awareness should be settled in
between tightness and looseness. If you cannot overcome it, subdue it by the gaze of the disciples.
Sometimes, it can be subdued by aiming one's consciousness toward one's sitting mat. In the
evening, lie down placing the mind within a black drop within an intestine-like vein in the center
of the soles of the feet. When the vapor of thoughts emerges, identify it and (seal it) with PHAT.
Hold the breath, and afterwards let it go in relaxation. Or else, it is dispelled by leaving thought
to run its natural course, leaving it to proceed on its familiar path."
"Second, excitement on account of conditions: thought picks up on any sort of external
circumstance, and spreads the mind excitely in the direction of the passions. Generate a
will, thinking, "What's the use, it is unnecessary," and practice with love, compassion,
aversion, technique, wisdom, respect, and devotion. Thereby, compel oneself along the
path-motivation (mentioned above) in the context of the view."
"Third, there are two points in the fault of distraction: distraction through misunderstanding,
and distraction on account of circumstances. First, distraction from failure to understand: not
knowing how to delimit the session of meditation, as much as one meditates there is no impact.
Wrong views are generated toward the Guru and the instructions. Not distinguishing between
realization and (superficial) understanding, one's meditation becomes dumb. For that, one
should invoke the Guru, generate certainty about the instructions, often delimit the sessions of
meditation, meditate powerfully without involvement in other affairs, and meditate by cutting
off fabrications at the times of clarity. Then, distraction is cut off, and one's experience will
increase from culmination to culmination. Second, distraction due to circumstances: here one
becomes distracted by external circumstances, becoming involved in the six kinds of objects
mixed with the five poisons, and one's vacillations cannot be contained by mindfulness. As
a remedy for that, if one applies it suddenly, one should cut off as a whole perception of
appearances, realizing them as illusory. Karmavajra! If you want to eliminate those pitfalls,
whack the pig on the snout with a club!"
Again, I Karmavajra asked the Esoteric Lord, "Do not the Tantras harness the passions
to the path?"
The Esoteric Lord said, "Of course they harness passions to the path. But none but the
peacock can make a diet of poison. That person who is able to harness passion to the path,
without abandoning them, is more rare than the Udumvara flower. Even the keenest person
experiences passions as friends, but in the end they will become poison for him, so it is
important he abandon them. If, however, he first enters the realm of their abandonment as
much as possible, then all passions and objects of desire arise as illusions, and lust and
attachment for them do not arise. If some emerge, it is not necessary to stop them, they
cause no harm. If they do not emerge, the mind to achieve them does not arise, there is no
wishing. Just that is the criterion for their becoming motivations of the path. If one harnesses
passions passions to the path before getting rid of intense attachments, it is like flying around
honey and becoming stuck in it. Karmavajra and Matibhadrashri! That is how you should
take the measure of the stages and paths!"
"Third, there are two pitfalls on the path of action, the pitfall of action at the wrong time,
and the pitfall of action in general. First, the pitfall of action at the wrong time: bee-like
action precedes learning, thinking, and meditation, it is action of a beginner, and goes wrong
when engaged in during the time properly spent under discipline. Deer-like action is action
at the time of practice and goes wrong when engaged in at the time of discipline, as one's
samadhi comes under other influences. Dumblike action is action when practice gets down
to essentials, and, if engaged in at the bee-like time, goes wrong when the verbal meanings
are not discerned. Actions like a dove entering its nest are actions at the time one's inner
experience is generated, and becomes obstacles to samadhi, and go wrong when there is
no intensity. Madman-actions are actions demostrating one's experience and when engaged
in at the time of partial experience being generated go wrong because the ultimate aim is
not discovered. Lion-like actions are actions when the view has become experiential and
go wrong if engaged in at a time (more suited) for (further) practice, because they do not
occur on the basis of reality but go wrong by being diverted through extraneous appearances.
Dog-pig-like actions are actions at the time of initiation and if engaged in at the wrong time
go wrong because of the interference of one's Daka. If your actions do not go wrong, as one's
inner perceptions arise as reality, external appearances are transformed into inconceivability,
and one can err in regard to the esoteric. One can achieve any kind of miraculous feat, since
one can master any kind of appearance that arises. To eliminate the above types of actions,
you should understand the pitfalls of action, (or else) the effect will not come forth. Karmavajra
and Matibhadrashri! You should act in accordance with the treatises on the general Dharma!"
"Second, the pitfalls of action in the context of the Dharma in general: although you may be
conscious about incidental acts, if they do not accord with the Dharma they do not contribute
to the path of Buddha and are called 'artificial,' being erroneous actions. Karmavajra! If you
do not want to err at the time of actions, you should do whatever action in such a way that it
contributes to the path of enlightenment!"
"Third, there are two types of pitfalls in regard to the final fruit, a temporary one and a
final one. First, the temporary pitfall: if you hold the ordinary fruit of the practice of the
profound instructions as supreme, your pride and arrogance are generated, and that is the
error that impedes the ultimate fruit. Although you have achieved a fruit, if you do not
terminate doubts, it is to mistake the fruit for a cause. Karmavajra and Matibhadrashri!
You should recognize that the cause of doubts is baseless!"
Again, I Karmavajra asked, "If this pith teaching about awareness is intuitively realized,
is the conception of the loving spirit of enlightenment necessary still? Or not?"
The Esoteric Lord said, "The Tantras of the Mahayana are very much distinguished by
the conception of loving spirit of enlightenment. Still, if you do not remember at all four
times the evils of the life-cycle of cause and effect such as death and impermanence,
everything naturally becomes a concern of this life (only). If you do not meditate on love
and compassion toward all living beings at all times, although you may norminally acclaim
the Mahayana, you have already fallen into the error of the Disciples and Self-enlightened
Sages. If you do not understand the moment by moment crisis of ethical choice concerning
the subtlest aspect of cause and effect, various sins will accrue, even though your realization
may be advanced. Karmavajra! If you want to live up to the Dharma honestly, you must
always relate those above (spiritual conceptions) to your realization!"
Again, I Karmavajra asked, "What is the greatest obstacle to the practice of the path?"
The Esoteric Lord said, "When you first enter the path, the obstacle is whatever
circumstance leads your mind in the wrong way. Especially, for a man, women are
most demonic. For a woman, men are the most demonic. For both, food and clothing
are very demonic."
Again I asked, "Most Tantrics nowadays say that the use of a consort has a tremendous
impact. How is it in fact?"
The Esoteric Lord said, "The consort who can elicit the impact of the path is more rare
than gold. Obsession with an inferior woman makes you into a sex-fiend! Purifying your
perception (in regard to such a woman) makes your heart suffer. Your accumulated stores
(of merit and wisdom) are offered to the sex-fiend. Your perverted lust is made into a
divine quality. If you can, you will unite even with a dog. Faith is generated from your mouth,
but abandoned from your heart. Your avarice and envy become enormous. You accumulate
no exalthing evolutionary action, but it drags you down like an iron hook. Any impact that
increases the Dharma is not brought forth, and you are led by the nose of lust and suffering.
You practice with the hope of liberation through desire, but it only becomes a cause of
increasing your passions. You hope it will be a basis of expanding your scope, but you get
carried off in a bag of loss and defilement. A consort who keeps no spiritual commitment is
I asked, "Who then is the only one fit to consort with?"
The Esoteric Lord said, "Someone who has none of the above faults. Especially, one who
is respectful to the Dharma, greatminded, persevering, great in faith and compassion, completely
endowed with the six transcendences, obedient of the advice of the Guru, devoted to the
practitioner, who holds the Tantric vows as dearly as the apple of her eye, with no urge for
sex at times that are not times of power, and who observes the rules of purity. If you find such
(a consort), she can serve as a friend of the path. As such is extremely rare, and as such has
the purpose of developing a desirous person, it is the especial fortune in Dharma of the keenest
practitioner. Ordinary persons, since their passions go their own way, must abandon any (such
ideas). If you enter the door of Tantra yet do not keep your vows, better not have any hopes
Again, I Karmavajra asked, "Since this kind of addiction about food, clothing, and body
harms one's Dharma practice, please give men an instruction for getting the mind free of these
The Esoteric Lord said, "Karmavajra! These bodies are (soon) destroyed. The length of
life has been determined long ago. There is no certainty, whether you are old or young. No
one gets out of death. I never saw anyone who failed to die because of their attachment to
their body, no matter how beautiful. Let go of all cherishing of the body and discipline yourself
in retreat. As for clothing, it is sufficient to wear even the poorest. As for food, grain and water
is enough. Human beings are not capable of (much) practice of Dharma. Now, if motivated
by the spirit of enlightenment of love and compassion, you accomplish some virtue, it has great
power. But it is extremely rare."
"These teachings of my esoteric words are the heart's message of the Dakinis. This esoteric
speech of mine, I Vajradhara, I have taught to Matibhadrashri who is blessed externally
by the Goddess Sarasvati, and internally by the Goddess Guhyajnaneshvari. And I seal this
instruction for three years, that it not be taught to anyone else. The name of this instruction is
"The Dialogue Garland of Supremely Healing Nectars." This medicine is as if unpalatable in
the mouth of faith of the beginning disciple; even if it goes in their mouth of faith, it is as if
vomited out. The application of this medicine has no superior in curing the plague of cyclic
life. Having first request this medicine, digest it without vomiting it out. If you can, you will
become liberated from the fierce plague of cyclic life."
Again, Karmavajra asked the Esoteric Lord, "What is the character of this Matibhadrashri?
Will he attain Buddhahood? Which Mystic Deity looks after him? Where was he born in his
The Esoteric Lord said, "This Lo Sang Dragpa is a person who has extensively gathered the
two stores. For seven previous lives he manifested the form of a Pandit and accomplished the
aims of living beings. In his just previous life, he was born in Kashmir near Shrinagar as the
Pandit Matibhadrashri, and he gathered an excellent circle of five hundred disciples. According
to the perception of ordinary people, he was renowned as having attained the path of application.
But even I Vajrapani cannot measure his excellences. He is looked after by the special deities
which are outer and inner Goddesses, as well as by the Protectors of the three types (i.e.,
Avalokiteshvara, Manjushri, and Vajrapani); these are his Mystic Deities. As to his Buddhahood,
I do not show that, it will be predicted by Avalokiteshvara and Manjushri. He is a person who
benefits when contacted by seeing, hearing, or remembering. Other persons cannot take the
measure of his character."
Again Karmavajra asked the Esoteric Lord, "How long will the Teaching remain in the Land
(The Lord said), "From now on, the present is the time of Scriptures, and within that the time
of Sutras. Along with the Discipline it will remain for thirteen hundred years."
Again Karmavajra asked the Esoteric Lord, "What will be the state of suffering or happiness
in this Tibet, the Land of Snows?"
(The Lord said), "The evil side will grow and defeat the side of good, and people from the
frontiers will come into the center. On the strength of that, the frontier gods and demons will
also come into the center. Then all the people in the center will go into foreign lands, and the
central deities and demons will also go into foreign lands. On the strength of that, the gods
and demons will not be at peace with the other gods and demons. Plagues and famines will
afflict many people, and living people will have no happiness. You, the responsible preserving
teachers must be compassionate. Now is the time when war comes from outside and overcomes.
The teaching can be restored by the scholars and monks even performing the merest portion
of necessary services. It is still possible to restore it if the techniques of reversing (the evil
process) are employed. By the power of the evolutionary action of living beings, this cannot
be delayed more than ten years. If the Community becomes divisive, samadhis of the supreme
vehicle, such as non discrimination, the experience of transcendent insight will be generated,
arising even more quickly if distinguished by the profound technique of compassion. If you
get to the essentials in the body through the profound techniques of reciting mantras, realization
will inevitably spring up in the mind, which means that the great compassion will arise, through
the presence of the inconceivable, supreme principle of profound technique. If there is no
learning, then only erroneous Tantras will multiply, so learning is extremely important at the
"However, nowadays, the method of spiritual conception through the blessings of contemporary
meditators, of what worth is it beyond generating the merest fraction of the experience of
transcendent insight? When they recite the mantras and spells of the profound Tantras, they only
get a few ordinary accomplishments. Rather than that, you should generate a deep adherence to
the supreme accomplishment. Thus, you must generate a purified perception toward everything.
And, to generate an experience of perfect transcendent insight, you must rely on a Guru who has
himself generated a perfect transcendent insight. If you do not generate a perfect transcendent
insight, you should study my esoteric teaching, for you will need to eliminate (innumerable) pitfalls.
Since the view is impeded in its range of understanding for those who have no quiescence, the
Victors did not say that transcendent insight by itself is sufficient. It simply does not happen. The
most excellent technique to elicit the experience of transcendent insight consists of the Six Yogas
and the Great Perfection, the extraordinary instruction of the Tantra. While it is true that in general
there are inconceivable various categories of causes of liberation and moniscience, they can be
condensed into three types. Among my esoteric teachings, there are many. Whether or not Dharma
practice serves as the path depends on the extent of the extraordinary spirit of enlightenment. The
actuality of the spirit of enlightenment is great compassion. Its function is to accomplish the aims
of living beings. It is extraordinary. The criterion for the perfect generation of the understanding
and experience of those three (spirit, compassion, and activity) is whether all selfish motivations
have ceased and exclusive thinking of altruistic concerns has been achieved."
I Karmavajra, asked, "Is this Great Perfection the perfect view?"
The Esoteric Lord said, "The Great Perfection is an exalted view, and also the elucidation
of the view by Masters Nagarjuna and Chandrakirti is without error. It is impossible to
generate transcendent insight without relying on them. Nowadays, in Dbus and Tsang, there
are inconceivable numbers of people who are able to terminate reifications about the path of
Buddhahood through the power of unerring references and reasonings, and then to teach others
the correct path. But there is no certainty that those who can teach this are in fact the ones
called upon to teach. If those who cannot teach this do the teaching, everyone including the
teacher go to the bad migrations! One has to feel compassion for them!"
Again, Karmavajra asked the Esoteric Lord, "What will be the length of life of this Lo Sang
Dragpa? What kind of followers will he have? Going where will his accomplishments increase?
In his future lives, where will he accomplish beings' aims? Please tell me."
The Esoteric Lord said, "His accomplishment of beings' aims will increase if he does not
stay in one place. His life span can be no more than forty-five, although if he spends his
time exclusively in practice, he can stay seventy-one years, or maybe seventy-three. To
accomplish beings' aims, his life will become that long if he practices the meditations of
White Tara, Amitayus, and Manjushri Raktayamari, since he has connection with Manjushri.
If he does not do that, there is the danger that the evil side will interfere with him. The above
practices ar extremely precious. Of his followers there will be three who will be outstanding,
and many who will enter the path of accumulation. As for his path, even the holy persons
cannot measure it from the predictions already made in his former lives. He will soon behold
the faces of the above-mentioned Mystic Deities. There are three ways in which he will have
these visions: the best is seeing them directly; the medium is seeing them mentally in meditation
practice; and the worst is when he beholds them in dreams. Before seeing the faces of Mystic
Deities, there will occur terrible miraculous events. Beings who are types of great demons
will emerge, manifesting as Mystic Deities. Confronting them then, stabilize your samadhi,
invite the Intuition-Hero and merge into the (apparent Deity). If it is a (real) Mystic Deity,
an intense brilliance is generated. If it is a demon, it disappears. Although there will be
inconceivable things such as this, that is all I can easily and understandably explain. I am not
inspired to discuss how he will have visions of the Mystic Deities. If I do, the demons will
carry it away!"
Again I asked, "This Lo Sang Dragpa, where will he be reborn in the next life?"
(The Lord said), "He will be born in Tushita, in the presence of Maitreya, as the Bodhisattva
Manjushrigarbha. Then from Tushita, he will wish to accomplish beings' aims in another human
universe, and he will be reborn there in the form of a Dharmaraja, an Enlightened King, from
which immeasurable benefit will emerge for the beings there. Third, in this universe's human
realm, he will be reborn in the Licchavi community in Eastern India as the Pandit Jnanashri,
where he will gather a following of two thousand, all of whom will attain the great accumulation
path and the application path."
(Thus spoke Vajrapani). Then Karmavajra said to Lo Sang Dragpa, "The words spoken
by the Esoteric Lord might not suit others' minds, so you should hide them. The greatness
of your body and your virtues, though I could extol them at length, you would not have time
to write them down, so I have only partly transmitted them. And the questions as I asked
them, and also what he said extensively on his own, as there is more than this little bit, that
I have recorded."
* * *
Best of Luck to All!
Here it is to be stated that in general there are many forms of correct interpretation of
the Great Adepts' deeds and instructions. Likewise, among the revelations of this Holy
Master, in the context of the view there are three different systems of interpretation: one
according to the Great Seal; one according to the Great Central Way; and one according
to the Great Perfection. Each has a definite intention according to the (needs of) the disciples.
Especially, this Supremely Healing Nectar is the best instruction given to Master Tsong
Khapa himself. Even the Dakinis said "The Supremely Healing Nectar is the Supreme
Medicine." And Tsong Khapa himself said that "The secret speech of Holy Vajrapani, free
of faults of excess, omission, and error - that is the Supremely Healing Nectar." He often
praised it in this way.
Translated by Prof. R. Thurman for Library of Tibetan Works & Archives.
The Bardo of Death and Rebirth
by Lama Ole Nydahl
When people speak of bardo they usually think of
the time after death. The term, however, reaches further. It refers to any "intermediate
state." All beings experience such intermediate states their entire lives
until enlightenment, when mind recognizes its own timeless clear light. Right
now at this lecture for instance, we are in the bardo of being awake - at least
I hope so. We communicate with symbols and words, and perceive the world through
our senses. At nighttime the bardo is that of sleep, of darkness and a lack
of consciousness. To those lucky ones who know the clear light meditation very
well, the experience is that of lying in an ocean of light.
There are also periods when stored impressions come up in different ways, such as in dreams. This is called the bardo of dreaming, and it probably includes most drug-induced conditions. Then we wake up again and resume waking consciousness. Evidently, everything mentioned so far is conditioned and changing and can be of no lasting help to beings. If we meditate, however, a state comes forth which is in essence timeless clear light, an awareness which is not dependent on anything. It is beyond birth and death, without coming or going. All Diamond Way practices aim to make radiant awareness always present. While alive, beings, both humans and animals, move between the three above bardos, waking, sleeping, or dreaming. At death, three further bardos appear.
First, comes the process of dying itself. Whether death is quick or slow there is a transformation. Afterwards, a period follows wherein mind continues its habitual flow from the previous life. After recognizing that one is actually dead, a process of restructuring takes place and, depending on the dominant state, mind enters a new realm among the six levels of existence. This has always been so. In the same way that space is without beginning, mind also has no starting point. Outside as inside it has constantly been playing, expressing and experiencing its richness in countless ways. These six bardos have always alternated; the three daily ones and the three which follow when non-liberated beings move into their next life.
You came here this evening in order to know the latter. In order to understand what happens at death, we need to first look at mind. In its essence mind is space. It has neither color, weight, smell nor size. It is not made of anything; it was not born; it will not die. It has not come from anywhere, so it will not go away. This space, however, is not a black hole. It neither implies disappearance, nor non-existence. Its nature is rich. It plays, expresses itself, dreams, lets things happen and then dissolves them again. It has great power and is at the same time unlimited. Wherever we look, there is no ending to it - always more things can happen. As this recognition dawns, no conditioned feeling can match it, and fearlessness, spontaneous joy and active, unsentimental and far-reaching compassion come naturally. If that were beings' constant state, if we were always aware of mind itself, everything would be easy. Then dying and being reborn would be like changing clothes. The clear light of mind, its radiant awareness, and the joy and power of its activity would never stop. Without any breach of consciousness, and seeing our bodies and speech ever more as tools, we would freely choose rebirth at places of maximum usefulness to others.
Of course, this is far from most beings' daily experience. Whoever does not meditate rarely glimpses mind's essence. Then it happens only by chance, such as in lovemaking or during the free fall before the parachute opens. Whether its eternal freshness manifests through a continuous process or accidentally, it is the total certainty and deep joy which appears when one forgets to hope, fear or to expect. It expresses itself as a love that has few concepts. Instead of mind's bright light or its more impermanent insights, however, unenlightened beings identify with its stream of impressions. They seek a lasting essence in the changing flow produced through their bodies and mental activities.
Though considered to be real, such situations and feelings cannot last. Their nature is like a river - though new water runs by constantly, there is still continuity, and people identify with it as a stream of awareness. There is a causality between a child of seven and the later adult of seventy. Without the former, there could be no latter, though every particle, every molecule is new.
At a certain point, this process can not be accommodated in the body anymore. When it can no longer hold the mind, that is death. Death looks very different whether one dies slowly, like from AIDS or cancer, or if one's body disintegrates due to stepping on a landmine, or having a high-speed accident. The process that takes place, however, is the same. Whether it happens in a flash or over a longer time, the energy which used to be spread over the whole body always moves towards its central axis. In the great religions of experience, the body brings forth varying energy systems. They depend on the goal sought, whether it is formless god states, a balanced long life, or mind's clear light. In Hinduism it works in the spine, in Taoism in an ellipse through the body, and in Buddhism the central energy channel lies between a point eight fingers behind the original hairline on the top of one's head and finishes four fingers below the navel. From this main energy tube in the center of one's body five different wheels spread out which branch into 72,000 channels. Being feminine, they are essentially intuition and space. Inside them lie potential male energies, which are only fully awakened at enlightenment. Their nature is compassion and joy. During the process of dying the connection to the outer senses first pulls back toward the center of one's body and then the five wheels collapse into the central energy channel. During this process one first loses power. A pressure is felt on the body and sense impressions become unclear. Then, one's control of the fluid element goes. One feels as if one is floating in water and drools from the mouth and nose. Following this one becomes dry, and cold enters from the extremities. Now, close to death, one's breathing is shallow and harsh and non-meditators lose the last ability to focus their mind. Depending on one's karma, the impressions absorbed during one's life, anything may appear, from the wonderful feeling of joyful meaning experienced after Phowa to states of great loss with fear and frustration. Here karma may already become very visible. In the end one takes three very long exhalations - and that is it. Though at this point people are pronounced dead, during the next 20 to 30 minutes an energy process continues inside the magnetic axis of the body.
This energy channel appeared when our consciousness from the last life met with the sperm and egg of our parents. The two cells, whose genetic information supplied the basis for our present bodies, additionally each carried an energy charge. In meditation the male essence is experienced as white and the female as red. As billions of cells formed into our human bodies, the white energy moved upwards and is now centered around eight fingers behind our original hairline on the crown of our heads. At the same time the red energy moved down and now rests four fingers below the navel in the middle of the body. Between these two poles lies an axis with the above-mentioned wheels and channels. After one stops breathing, during the following ten to fifteen minutes the white energy loosens its hold at the top of one's head and moves down towards the heart. On its way down, a beautiful clear light is experienced, like from the moon, while thirty three feelings, which have their basis in anger, disappear. Many hear the sound of a drawn-out HANG syllable and memory is so intense that one frequently sees beings who have died before one.
After that, a red light rises from the point four fingers below one's navel. The feeling is very powerful and the light is like a deep sunset. While it moves up to the heart, also taking ten to fifteen minutes, many hear the deep vibration AH. Forty feelings of attachment disappear at this point and an indescribable joy is felt. Twenty to thirty minutes after death these two energies have thus fused in the center of one's chest and everything becomes black. While this happens, seven veils deriving from ignorance dissolve.
Then appears a radiant light, totally beyond-personal awareness. If we can hold that state the meditation is called thugdam. It means that mind is bound at the heart in a condition which does not separate truth inside and out. Here, its open, clear and limitless essence pervades all times and directions; this is the awareness of lamas like Karmapa. It is compared to the meeting of a child and its mother and, if it can be held, there is real enlightenment. Every separation between space and energy, as between past, present, and future then falls away.
Whoever cannot hold that state blacks out. The Tibetan Book of the Dead mentions a period of three to four days of unconsciousness after death. In the case when dead people have come to me, however, transparent but otherwise looking as they normally did, it has always been after sixty eight hours. I think it is because they were all city people and very well educated. Thus their mental processes were very quick.
When one wakes up after death, there is the feeling that something is fundamentally wrong. However, even if one's body is preserved, one will avoid looking at it and instead try to get away. This state is highly confusing because, having no body, whichever place one thinks of one automatically is there. Also one's intelligence is so much sharper than when alive and though one can read the thoughts of the living, one cannot communicate with them. When one sits on a chair, people sit down on one and when one talks to them, they simply go away. In spite of so many signs beings do not want to know that they are dead. After the three days of unconsciousness, a week follows during which people continue inside the habit-world of their past life. Then, no one can any longer avoid the realization that they have no physical body. This recognition may solidify when one stands in front of a mirror and finds no reflection. Some discover themselves walking on fine sand without leaving any foot prints and others may put their hands in boiling water and not get burnt. At that moment, mind knows: "I am now dead, I do not have a body anymore," and this is such a big shock that one falls unconscious for a second time.
When one wakes up again, mind has moved into a new state. Here, the shared flow of one's surface consciousness has stopped and one's individual subconscious impressions surface as very strong experiences. Though they can best be compared to highly individual dreams, one also holds them to be real and feels hope and dislike.
While one continues holding on and pushing away as always, over the next not more than five and a half weeks (so that these three intermediate states are no longer than seven weeks in all), one's strongest tendency works its way through mind's other impressions. If no lama or habitual meditation practice is there to help, these tendencies decide the direction for one's next rebirth. Though the human realm provides a wide range of karmic possibilities, from the sufferings of Moslem women and people in Africa, to people in free and luxurious lifestyles in Western suburbs, also five distinct non-human levels of existence may appear from mind's stored tendencies.
Three kinds of god realms appear from the feeling of pride. If we have done good acts but with the feeling that "I am doing something to you," they are not liberating but, depending on one's intelligence, they will produce most pleasant levels of consciousness. Either desires are automatically fulfilled in the six "desire realms," or esthetic satisfaction in seventeen "form realms." Highest among gods are those in four conditions of intense abstraction. As the illusion of a separate self persists in all, however, once one's stock of positive impressions is exhausted the gods fall and another feeling surfaces with its corresponding environment. If jealousy manifests as the main feeling, beings discover themselves in weapon chambers. Formerly, they looked for swords, but today it would probably be machine guns. They are deeply disturbed by others enjoying more happiness than themselves. If confusion surfaces as the strongest disturbance mind may try to hide between rocks and bushes and, if animals go there to mate, one may run between them. Thus, beings end up with four paws and a beautiful fur coat both during summer and winter. It is also possible that greed becomes dominant and already during this life it makes beings visibly miserable. Though some people have everything, their possessions only imprison them. After death this general state condenses into a craving for food and drink. Some then think that their bellies are as big as San Francisco and their mouths like the eyes of needles. Others experience that any nourishment becomes fire or that unpleasant spooks take it away from them. Mind's worst pollution, however, consists of anger and ill will. These mature as the greatest pain. Today known as paranoia, one traditionally distinguishes eight levels of pain from heat and eight from cold. In addition, there exists a "neighboring" and a "sometimes" state.
As already mentioned, desires brought about this present human life and will continue doing so. But karma is sticky and has lingering effects. After deciding the realm of rebirth, it furthermore brings about the kind of body we get, into which environment we are born, and which kind of motivation we live by. As a human being, however, one has all controls in one's hands. Having a solid body and being able to know what is useful or brings harm, one may avoid sowing the seeds for eons of impermanent happiness or deep suffering in the four non-physical realms or for shorter periods of dullness as animals. Most important is the realization that this is no alternative to liberation and enlightenment. Gods fall down again. Half-gods are jealous and fight. Animals eat one another. Ghosts are always frustrated and hell beings always suffer. Even humans have the four basic problems of birth, old age, sickness and death. Also, the best years of one's life are not without the difficulties of getting what one wants, of avoiding what one doesn't want, of holding on to what one has, and of having to arrange oneself with what is unavoidable. As this has been going on since beginningless time it is imperative to find lasting values.
To cut the root of all suffering, Buddha advises us to focus on that which is beyond birth or death, which has never arisen and will never disappear. He points not to the pictures but to the mirror itself, shows us the ocean beneath the waves. No conditioned experience or outer situation can truly satisfy. Only mind's open, clear, and limitless light is totally blissful and absolute. His teachings, be it on life, rebirth, and what is in between, aim only to share this certitude. With the methods of the Diamond Way each of the above-mentioned after-death bardos become gates to enlightenment. They offer occasions for confronting mind with its true nature and setting it free.
During the last twelve years Lama Ole Nydahl has taught transference of consciousness, Phowa, to over 30,000 people around the world. He gave this lecture in San Francisco during autumn 1998 and later improved the English in Siberia in March 1999. As soon as his busy schedule permits, he expects to finish a book on the topic. It will include some methods which Diamond Way Buddhism utilizes to benefit mind during such momentous situations and also bring comparisons to some insights of western psychology. He will let us look over his shoulder and evaluate his reasons for being totally certain of the teachings given.
BUDDHISM TODAY, Vol.6, 1999
Copyright ©1999 Kamtsang Choling USA
THE ESSENCE OF SHENTONG
To explain the essence of Shentong, the ultimate Mahayana, we will:-
I. describe the general philosophical schools,
II. characterize Madhyamaka principles, and
III. refute criticisms by others.
I. General Philosophical Schools
While the views and doctrines of non-Buddhists lack a path to liberation, our Buddhist view and doctrine has such a path to liberation. And although non-Buddhists lack a path to liberation, some do have an exalted teaching leading to the higher realms like the Samkhyas, Jains, and other yogic non-Buddhists. By eschewing harmful actions and cultivating virtue, they are reborn as humans or desire realm gods. By meditating on the four absorptive states, they are reborn in the form realms. And by meditating on the four formless concentrated states, they are reborn in the formless realms. Others lack even a path to the higher realms, like hedonists and nihilists who underrate the law of karma and pursue violence.
The reason non-Buddhists have no path to liberation is this: they do not reject the attitude which fixates on a self, called self-clinging. From beginningless time in cyclic existence, the attitude of self-clinging has been strong and continuous. On top of that, some philosophical schools even affirm the existence of the self in many ways. They cultivate that idea! Because they have no antidote to self-clinging, they are unable to overcome it. And this self-clinging is the cause of all other disturbing emotions!
The noble non-Buddhists meditate on general impermanence of birth, old age, sickness, and death. They understand that this life and the desire realms are suffering. They regard gross material things like form as unreal. They develop contentment and have few desires. They are kind and compassionate. As a result of meditating on the equality of friend and foe, they possess equanimity. They refrain from the four root downfalls. Therefore, they have a positive view, meditation, and action, and they can reach the higher realms.
The Four Schools of Buddhism
The four schools of Buddhism are Vaibhashika, Sautrantika, Cittamatra, and Madhyamaka. The first two are Hinayana, or Shravakayana. The last two are Mahayana.
How does one categorize Hinayana and Mahayana? They are categorized according to whether they maintain the Shravakayana sutras as the final teachings of the Buddha or whether they maintain the Mahayana sutras and treatises as the ultimate teachings. Proponents of the Hinayana and Mahayana teachings are grouped in the Hinayana and Mahayana schools, respectively.
However, individuals in those schools cannot be determined as either Hinayanist or Mahayanist categorically. Individuals who cultivate Mahayana aspirations and practice in their mind-stream are Mahayanists. Individuals who cultivate Hinayana aspirations and practice in their mind-stream are Hinayanists. If they do not cultivate any aspiration or practice, then whatever scriptures they read or schools they follow, they are neither Mahayanist nor Hinayanist.
There are individuals who adhere to Mahayana tenets but actually practice the Hinayana path. There are also individuals who adhere to Hinayana tenets but actually practice the Mahayana path. There are individuals who adhere to and practice Mahayana tenets, and those who adhere to and practice Hinayana tenets. Many hold tenets but do not actually practice a path. There is hardly anyone practicing the path who does not adhere to tenets.
The Vaibhashikas hold that mind, divided into cognition and mental events, exists as objectively real. The arising and dissolving of the five sense faculties and five sense fields also exist as objectively real. Non-concurrent formations, the three uncompounded elements such as the sky, and the past and future of things, they assert that these elements truly exist. They also assert that gross objects and the continuum of objects are unreal. Consciousness arises out of truly existent sense faculties and objects. The eye directly perceives form.
The most refined Vaibhashika doctrines, like the Kashmir School, assert that all compounded phenomena dissolve from moment to moment and thus are impermanent. They maintain that the personal self is merely a mental designation and insubstantial.
The worst doctrines of Hinayana, like the Sammitiyas, agree that compounded phenomena are impermanent, because they eventually perish. However, they say that compounded phenomena do not dissolve moment to moment. Therefore, they assert that the continuum of phenomena is somewhat substantial. Although they do not view the self as independent, solitary, and eternal - as non-Buddhists do - they see the self as materially evident and thus real. With this faulty view, they have no actual path to liberation; but they have taken refuge in the Three Jewels and they do study, contemplate, meditate and practice morality. Therefore, they are motivated by the desire for liberation, and eventually they will achieve liberation.
The Vaibhashikas maintain that the Seven Books Of Abhidharma are the words of the Buddha. Because the sutras contain many teachings with hidden meanings and provisional truths, they believe it is necessary to rely on a commentary for the view and teachings, called the Mahavaibhasa.
The Sautrantikas say that uncompounded elements and non-concurrent formations are imputed. Since they are just mental designations, they are unreal. Furthermore, the continuum of objects, like form and so on, and the continuum of mind are unreal. The past and future of things are also merely imputed. However, momentary partless particles and the instantaneous flickering of mind are real. They assert that the eye does not perceive form and that eye consciousness also does not directly perceive form. What the eye consciousness sees is the reflection of form, which the eye consciousness recognizes as form. However, they maintain that appearances have an external basis of form, which gives rise to appearance.
The Sautrantikas maintain that the Seven Books of Abhidharma are not the words of the Buddha. Since there are mistakes in commentaries, such as the Mahavaibhasa, they say that one should follow the sutras.
According to both schools, the Shravaka Pitakas alone represent the Buddha's teachings. The famous Mahayana sutras like the Prajnaparamita, Ratnakuta, and Avatamsaka are not the Buddha's teachings. They say the difference between the Hinayana and Mahayana lies in the actions of individuals, not in different scriptures.
What those schools assert as real and their negation of Mahayana are the flaws in their doctrine. They are correct on all other counts, such as instantaneous dissolution and personal non-self.
According to Cittamatra, external objects, such
as form, are like dream images. They are mind itself, manifesting as this and
that; the appearances are not external. Take the example of form. What is known
as the eye faculty is the mind manifesting as the eye. Therefore, the eye does
not exist independently. Furthermore, what is known as form is mind manifesting
as form. So form also does not exist independently. From the eye faculty and
form, it seems the eye consciousness arises. It is a mistake to see these three
[sense faculty, sense object, and sense consciousness] as separate; they are
of one stuff, mind. When the eye consciousness perceives form, it sees itself.
What causes form to arise? Apart from mind, there is no real form which gives the impression of an external world. Without examining or analyzing, ordinary people believe that the eye sees form. But when analyzed, form cannot be established, but mind appearing as form can be truly established. Therefore, the nature of all consciousnesses can be truly established. Within that, the objective pole appears externally as the material world, and the subjective pole appears internally as consciousness. Within non-duality, consciousness is regarded as real.
The Cittamatrins find it sufficient to define non-duality as the inseparability of the subject and object. They regard the true nature of consciousness as primordial wisdom. They claim to refute duality according to their system, but when examined by a higher viewpoint, they do not fully refute it. When they propose that the subject and object are not separate entities, they must also assert that the mind exists in its own right.
The Cittamatrins regard consciousness as real and
consciousness by nature as non-dual primordial wisdom. They do not see the subjective
pole as just consciousness, but as the part which appears as separated from
the mind appearing as objects. These assertions are mistaken. Their other points
II. Madhyamaka Principles
There are two schools of Madhyamaka: general Madhyamaka and Great Madhyamaka.
The general Madhyamaka is known in Tibet as Rangtong. In both India and Tibet, that school is known by its view, 'free of inherent nature.' The masters of the Rangtong school are Buddhapalita, Bhavaviveka, Vimuktasena, Shantarakshita and their followers. There are differences among their viewpoints; however, they all agree that phenomena are relative. Phenomena include all compounded things - such as form, mind, and non-concurrent formations- and uncompounded elements such as space and non-entities. These phenomena are free of inherent nature. That is the ultimate truth for Rangtongpas. Relative and absolute are neither identical nor different. Their separation is merely a classification.
The nature of dharmata contains nothing at all; it is free from elaboration, illustrated by the example of space. Relative phenomena are empty of reality even as they appear. Their manifestation is unceasing, illustrated by the example of a magical illusion. On both relative and absolute levels, the nature of dharmata transcends reification, such as existence and non-existence, affirmation and negation.
They maintain that ultimate dharmata is merely transcending concepts, like space. They say that the Buddha's wisdom is relative, not truly existing, and that the ultimate truth also does not truly exist. The Prasangikas formulate a philosophical framework, but in order to avoid the contention of others, they make no assertions. They believe that one can reverse wrong views without developing certainty. These assertions are mistaken. They are correct when they assert that all phenomena, including the subjective and objective poles, are unreal. What is non-existent also is not real.
Cittamatrins and Rangtong Madhyamikas do not fully understand the self-luminous awareness of primordial wisdom, which is the real secret of buddha-nature. The Rangtong masters of the past never refuted Shentong. Their later followers made refutations, because they misunderstood the key points of Shentong.
In Tibet, the Great Madhyamaka, which is Yogacara Madhyamaka, is known as Shentong. It was elucidated in the scriptures of Maitreya, Asanga, Vasubandhu and Dignaga. It was also profoundly illuminated in Nagarjuna's Praise to Dharmadhatu. Shentong was the viewpoint of both masters, Nagarjuna and Asanga.
According to Shentong, all the following are regarded as compounded and transient and thereby unreal: the three uncompounded dharmas, regarded as unconditioned by all schools up to and including Cittamatra, but which are actually imputed and insubstantial; all basic samsaric dharmas such as external objects, the eight types of consciousness, and the fifty one dharmas of mental events; and everything included in the path and result, such as all newly arisen aspects within the fruition of Buddhahood and whatever appears to those yet to be tamed. From the vantage point of ultimate truth, whatever appears as sight and sound, all the phenomena within dharma and dharmata, everything included in subject and object, are compounded and transient and thereby unreal.
The ultimate truth is dharmadhatu and self-luminous awareness, which is non-dual pristine wisdom. This is called uncompounded dharmata. When examined by reason, nothing but this can be established as true. However, in the Rangtong way of comparing it to space, it is insubstantial; for that reason, they assert that it is not ultimate truth.
The Shentong school is faultless, endowed with all good qualities.
All Mahayanists accept Mahayana sutras as the words of the Buddha. However, Cittamatrins hold four sutras - Sandhinirmocana, Lankavatara, Ghanavyuha and Avatamsaka - as definitive and the rest of them as provisional. The founders of this school are the five hundred masters of the early Mahayana. The holders of the general Madhyamaka consider the Third Turning sutras as provisional and the Prajnaparamita sutras of the Second Turning as ultimate. The real founders of this school are Buddhapalita and so on as mentioned above. Their followers claim that the eight proponents of the 'free of inherent nature,' like Rahulabhadrika, and Nagarjuna adhered to their view alone.
The Great Madhyamaka bases its view on the sutras of all Three Turnings of the Wheel of Dharma. The view that establishes ultimate dharmata as true is presented in a general way in the following scriptures: Katyayana Sutra, Sunyata Nama Mahasutra and many other sutras from the First Turning; the Maitreya Pariprcchanama Sutra, the Prajnaparamita in five hundred stanzas, and many other sutras from the Second Turning; and also many sutras from the Third Turning including the four important ones mentioned above.
The most definitive presentation of this subject is found in the Tathatagatagarbha Sutra, Mahabheriharaka Sutra, Angulimala Sutra, Srimaladevi Sutra, Mahaparinirvana Sutra, Ratnamega Sutra, Prasanta Viniscaya Sutra and so forth. Based on these sutras, the subtle and distinct view reveals pure dharmadhatu as buddha-nature. In a subtle and distinctive way, these secretly whispered teachings describe pure dharmadhatu, buddha-nature, dharmakaya - permanent and unchanging - with all the ultimate qualities of the Buddha, primordially and naturally present.
Arya Maitreya was the author who elucidated the meaning of the sutras through his literature. In the Abhisamayalankara, he gave a brief and general explanation. In the Mahayana Sutralankara, Madhyanta-vibhanga and Dharmata-vi-bhanga, he clearly explained this view in detail. The extraordinary and most subtle view of these essential sutras is presented in the Uttaratantra. Asanga and Vasubandhu wrote commentaries on these texts. In Asanga's commentary on the Uttaratantra, this extraordinary view is utterly clear and elaborate. In their entirety, the commentaries of these two brothers are clearly Shentong Madhyamaka. In Vasubandhu's commentary on the Prajnaparamita in 20,000 stanzas and his commentary on the Dharmata-vibhanga, the Shentong view is extensive and exceedingly clear. His disciples, Dignaga and Sthiramati, and many other good students in his lineages taught widely the doctrine of general Shentong. The subtle Shentong, since it is difficult to fathom, was spread by ear to ear transmission only to the best students.
Later, there emerged many in India who confused the Shentong Madhyamaka and Cittamatra schools. For that reason, the majority of Tibetans misunderstood them as the same. In Tibet, a variety of scholars translated these texts, but translators like Zugawe Dorje and Tsen Khawoche, who were within Maitrya's meditative lineage, held the pure view. The omniscient Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen spread the lion's roar of the distinctive and profound Shentong across the land.
The Madhyanta-vibhaga says:
Impure perception exists;
That does not have both.
Emptiness is there,
And that is also there.
It is not emptiness
In that way everything is explained.
It is, it is not, it is -
That is the Middle Way.
While defining the relative truth, impure perception which gives rise to appearance exists on a relative level. Subjective and objective appearances which are manifested to that are just imputations of the mind. For that reason, these are not real, even at the level of relative truth. Therefore, relative truth is freed from both extremes. By accepting that conceptual mind only exists on a relative level, one is freed from the extreme of nihilism. By transcending the imputed subjective and objective poles, one is freed from the extreme of eternalism.
The primordial wisdom of emptiness is free of contrivance. It is truly and naturally present within our impure perception and consciousness. When dharmata is covered, obscured consciousness remains as temporary and removable, and the defilements are unreal. Therefore, it is said that ultimate truth is also freed from both extremes.
Because emptiness is truly established and all dharmas - like concepts within the range of subject and object - are unreal, ultimate truth is beyond the extremes of 'is' and 'is not,' eternalism and nihilism. Therefore, subjective and objective duality of the relative level are only deluded appearance. Because nothing is independently established, it is empty of self-nature. When divided into self and other, it is not possible to be another's nature. Therefore, it is never non-emptiness. The nature of primordial wisdom is ever-present and never changes. For that reason, it is not empty of its nature; it is permanent.
Generally, if it is empty and emptiness, it need not be empty of its own nature. Primordial wisdom is empty of all contrivance and dualism which is other than its own nature. That is why it is empty.
The three natures are the imaginary, the dependent, and the perfected.
Whatever is grasped by mental designation is the imaginary nature. Non-entities and the appearances of objects arising in the mind are imaginary. The relationship between name and object, such as grasping the name as the object or mistaking the object as the name, are also imaginary. Outer, inner, fringe and center, big and small, good and bad, space and time, and so on, whatever is grasped by thought is imaginary in nature.
The dependent nature is simply consciousness which arises as subjective and objective poles, based on the habitual tendencies of ignorance.
The perfected nature is self-aware, self-luminous, and free from contrivance. The synonyms of the perfected nature are dharmata, dharmadhatu, suchness, and ultimate truth.
The dependent and imaginary natures are equally false and relative. However, it is necessary to separate them into individual categories. The imaginary nature does not exist even on a relative level. The dependent nature exists on a relative level. The perfected nature does not exist on a relative level, yet it truly exists on an ultimate level. Therefore, imaginary nature exists by designation, and the dependent nature exists as tangible. The perfected nature does not exist in either of these two ways, rather it exists in an uncontrived way.
The imaginary nature is non-existent emptiness. The dependent nature is existent emptiness. The perfected nature is ultimate emptiness.
Lord Maitreya said:
If one understands non-existent emptiness
And likewise existent emptiness
As well as ultimate emptiness,
It is said that one understands emptiness.
The imaginary nature has no characteristics. The dependent nature has no arising. The perfected nature ultimately has no nature. These are the three non-natures.
All phenomena are revealed to be without nature
By establishing the non-natures of the three natures.
According to this system, all phenomena are permeated by emptiness and free of inherent nature; therefore, all phenomena are empty and non-empty. This is the Shentong view. And Shentongpas are the real exponents of 'free of inherent nature.' The Rangtong masters, like Bhavaviveka and Buddhapalita and others, are considered the main teachers of the 'free of inherent nature,' based solely on popular belief.
Is the perfected nature real? Does it arise, dwell, or cease? Does it come or go? Is it changeable? Is it space or time? Is it one or many? It is none of these. If all of those qualities are present, then the perfected nature would not be real. The perfected nature is unborn, non-dwelling, and unceasing. It does not come or go. It is not one or many. It has no cause and no fruition. Within itself, it is free of the characteristics, the qualities, and basis. It is beyond all space and time. Within itself, it is free of all relative phenomena. It is indivisible because it cannot be separated into distinct parts. Because it is the nature of all phenomena, it is ever-present and all pervasive.
The Meaning of the Great Madhyamaka.
Secondly, we will discuss the meaning of the Great Madhyamaka.
The Sutralankara states:
In all suchness there is no differentiation.
The Tatagatha itself is purified;
All beings have the essence of that.
Suchness and the Tathagata are of the same stuff which is called buddha-nature. The meaning of Tathagatagarbha, Sugatagarbha, and the essence of the Buddha is the same. That abides equally in the Buddha, in all phenomena, and in all sentient beings. In sentient beings, buddha-nature is present as a seed. In the Buddhas, buddha-nature is completely actualized. The ultimate Buddha is the same as the seed in the mindstream of sentient beings. Therefore, all sentient beings have buddha-nature.
The buddha-nature that is in sentient beings is called gotra and dhatu. If the buddha-nature in the Buddha is not like a seed and buddha-nature in beings is like a seed, are these not two different things? No. Buddha is suchness itself. Even when we talk about Buddhas as people, to them buddha-nature is not hidden and has become actualized. And when we talk about a seed, it gives a meaning of something hidden inside and therefore does not apply to the Buddhas. Although that suchness of the Buddhas always abides in sentient beings, because beings do not see it, it can be described as hidden or as a seed. When the seed is described as unchanging, then it can be said that Buddhas also have the seed of buddha-nature. For that reason buddha-nature is free from both entity and non-entity; that is why it is truly unconditioned and ultimately uncompounded.
In the most profound and subtle understanding, there is no dispute that the dharmadhatu of the Buddha is naturally present with all the qualities of the Buddha. That is inseparable from the dharmadhatu of sentient beings; therefore what is wrong if we say that buddha-nature, which is in sentient beings, is also present with all the qualities of the Buddha.
The Uttaratantra states,
"Luminosity is uncreated, inseparable and all-pervasive. Its limitless qualities are more numerous than the grains of sand on the banks of the Ganges."
Thus, if the seed of the Buddha is present with all the unconditioned qualities, it has all the qualities of the ultimate Buddha.
The wisdom of all-pervading space (dharmadhatu) entails only ultimate truth. Although the other four wisdoms are mainly ultimate because of primordial nature, they have certain aspects which are newly attained through the practice of the path and which are relative. The ten powers and the four fearlessnesses are similar. Physical qualities such as the major and minor marks, and the sixty attributes of speech, are relative and absolute in equal aspects. The svabhavikakaya is nothing but ultimate truth. The dharmakaya is predominately ultimate. As long as we do not differentiate real and imputed, sambhogakaya and nirmanakaya are relative and absolute in equal aspects. What appears to others as Buddha activity is relative. The potency and power of wisdom are absolute. The ultimate aspect of the kayas, wisdoms, qualities and activities is primordially present in buddha-nature. When an individual becomes enlightened, these are not newly attained; they are just freed from the stains that obscure them. Whatever is newly attained is the relative aspect. The ultimate aspect of the qualities of past and future Buddhas are the same nature. The relative aspect of those are also the same after one attains enlightenment, but at the time of enlightenment they are different. Therefore, it is impossible to say that the nature of relative qualities is the same or different.
What is newly attained, or generated by practicing the path, is called the 'generated result;' it is not real. The 'liberated result' occurs just by removing obscurations from the primordially abiding Buddha. It is not really cause and effect. It is just called 'liberated cause' of the path as a description. The liberated result is explained in the Abhidharma: "When intellect is exhausted, that is freedom." This is not the cessation of all mental activity. In the Dharanisvaraja Sutra it says, "It is primordially exhausted, therefore it is called cessation." This is the ultimate liberated result and the truth of cessation. If you ask: is removing obscurations the same meaning as 'exhaustion of intellect'? The answer is no. From the vantage point of dharmadhatu obscurations are not removed; removing is from the individual point of view. One may sometimes use the term 'exhaustion of intellect' to refer to the time of enlightenment, but actually there is nothing to exhaust. Dharmadhatu is primordially pure because it has never been stained; for that reason cessation is not newly created by mind. Buddha-nature which is non-dual wisdom permeates all phenomena equally. It is ornamented with all the ultimate qualities of the Buddha. The great perfected nature is unchanging and free from all contrivances; it is endowed with all aspects of wisdom. This is the only unmistaken reality. The wisdom of the noble ones is undiluted and truly established by experience. Since it is unchanging, it is permanent, stable, and enduring.
Buddha-nature and its qualities such as the marks and signs were taught in the tantras of the Secret Mantrayana in their entirety. Whatever is called relative, dualistic, and diluted appearance, or in short, all phenomena of sight and sound, can not stain the perfected nature. The perfected nature does not exist separately as untarnished dharmadhatu but really abides in relative truth. The imaginary nature is just diluted appearance. Since reality is like the hare's horns, it is unstained because there is nothing to be stained. Buddha-nature, the perfected nature, is never empty of itself. All that is other and relative is primordially empty. Ultimate truth, the perfected nature, is shentong 'empty of other' not rangtong 'empty of itself.' What is relative is empty of other-nature as well as empty of self- nature. What is ultimate is empty only of other nature. This way of teaching is called Shentong Madhyamaka.
In order to overcome the attachment to worldly dharmas,
we practice the renunciation of suffering and impermanence. To renounce selfishness
one should bring bodhicitta into the mindstream. In order to renounce gross
attachments to relative phenomena, we meditate on understanding relative truth
as unreal. In order to renounce subtle attachments we meditate on non-thought
by dissolving relative thoughts into space. Through practice we will gradually
see the face of buddha-nature, which is non-thought. Whatever path we practice,
the purpose is to see the perfected nature.
III Refuting Criticism
Now, we will refute the criticisms by others of Shentong Madhyamaka. Although criticisms are addressed in detail in The Ornament of Shentong Madhyamaka, here I include an abbreviated version. Others quote the Lankavatara Sutra to say, "If buddha-nature has all the marks and signs, how is it different from the 'soul,' or Atman, of non-buddhists? In reply the Buddha said, "It is not the same because of emptiness." Others interpret the sutras to say that buddha-nature is unreal; if it had marks and signs it would be analogous to non-buddhist traditions. Buddha-nature, they say, is insubstantial like space. To them we reply: to think everything which is empty is untrue, insubstantial and non-existent is a fault of attachment to your own inadequate doctrine.
The reason buddha-nature is not analogous to non-buddhist traditions is this: the sutras say the marks are empty, but they do not say that they are not present. To say that buddha-nature with its radiant, perfected marks and signs is provisional is nothing more than deception. Anyone who criticizes the proponents of 'the permanent nature' as non-buddhist likewise reject the Tatagathagharba sutras. It is also incorrect to say that the meaning of permanence refers to continuity. The continuum-permanence is even in samsara and duality. If permanence referred to continuity, then all compounded things would be permanent.
If you think that first it was defiled and later it became pure, it follows that it is impermanent. From the vantage point of dharmata, first it was not impure, later it did not become pure. Whether it seems defiled or pure depends on the individual's mind-stream. Just because individuals change their perspective, it is wrong to conclude that dharmata is changed.
If people find it unreasonable that sentient beings have the Buddha's wisdom in their mind-stream, they are contradicting the Buddha's direct statement "The Buddha's wisdom resides in the multitude of sentient beings." They also say: it is incorrect that sentient beings have the Buddha's qualities, because if sentient beings have the ten powers of wisdom in their mind-stream, then they should have the full power of discrimination. What they say is not correct, because we do not assert that everything in the mind-stream of sentient beings is Buddha. If buddha-nature and its qualities, remaining in the mind-stream of sentient beings, makes sentient beings omniscient, then the Buddha sitting on his throne, would also make the throne omniscient. Of course the eight consciousnesses, in the mind-stream of sentient beings, are not Buddha. The Buddha which remains in the mind-stream of sentient beings is not there as something within something else on a relative level. It remains there as its nature on an ultimate level.
Let's briefly review the Three Turnings of the Wheel of Dharma. First is the Turning of the Four Noble Truths. Second is the Turning of Emptiness. The Third is the Turning of Full Revelation. The First Turning consists of the sutras taught to the Shravakas, or the sutras of the Hinayana. The Second Turning consists of the root sutras of the Mahayana, but certain points are not fully revealed. The Third Turning is like the commentary of the Second where the most definitive teachings are fully revealed.
Each of three natures - imaginary, dependent, and perfected - have two aspects. The imaginary nature consists of the subjective and objective imaginary natures. The dependent nature consists of the impure and pure dependent nature. The perfected nature consists of the unchanging nature and the unmistaken nature.
The actual imaginary nature is the objective aspect. The actual perfected nature is the unchanging aspect and not the unmistaken aspect, though they are the same nature. The unmistaken aspect of perfected nature is included in the pure dependent nature. The subjective part of the imaginary nature and the dependent nature are identical. If examined by reason, the actual dependent nature is included in the imaginary nature but its natural state is the perfected nature. Therefore, all phenomena are included in the perfected and imaginary natures. All phenomena of samsara and nirvana are classified into the three natures or the two truths, relative consciousness and ultimate wisdom. Relative perception of form, sound, touch, and smell and so forth is unreal. The natural state of the sights and sounds are within the aspect of primordial wisdom. Therefore, they are real. In this way there is no contradiction between relative and ultimate truth.
As requested by some interested students, this was spoken by Taranatha at the hermitage of Cholong Changtse, the North Peak of the Dharma Valley.
May it be Auspicious!
Translated by the Tibetan IV class at The Naropa University under the guidance of Ringu Tulku.
May 1, 1999
The Purpose and Benefits of doing Full Prostration
By Sakya Pandita Kunga Gyaltsen
NAMO GURUBAE. The recitation of one mantra is transformed into 1,000 prostrations.
OM NAMO MANJUSHRI YE.
To Lord Manjushri I prostrate, NAMO SUSHRIYA.
To the incomparable glory I prostrate.
NAMO UDA DHARMA SHRIYE SVAHA.
To the most excellent glory I prostrate.
By prostrating to the most superior Triple Gems, defilements and obscurations of sentient beings and
myself are purified.
By clasping the 2 palms, may methods and wisdom be attained.
Resting the clasped hands on the top of the crown, may one enters the celestial land of Akanishta.
Resting the clasped hands on the forehead between the eyebrows, may the defilements and obscurations
of the body are purified.
Resting the clasped hands at the throat, may the defilements and obscurations of the voice be purified.
Putting the clasped hands at the heart, may the defilements and obscurations of the mind be purified.
Each time for unfolding the two hands, for the sake of all sentient beings may the two bodies be obtained.
When the two knees touch the ground, may the damnation of samsara be free.
When the ten fingers of the two hands touch the ground, may the ten bhumis and five stages be reached.
When the forehead touches the ground, may the eleven radiant rays shine everywhere.
By straightening and the bending of the arms and legs, may the four activities be all at once accomplished.
By straightening and bending the veins and sinews, all the knots at the veins are loosened without
By bending the sphine and central artery, may all the wind enters the central vein without exception.
To touch the ground and later to rise up, may liberation from samsara be attained.
After prostrating many times, may one becomes the guide of all sentient beings without attaching to
By the meritorious power of offering full prostration by oneself and others, may the conditions in this
life be freed from sickness and blessed with three auspiciousness.
During the time of dying, one is reborn in the state of bliss and quickly attain the state of a Fully
This is a preparation of Lord Sakya Pandita. After doing this full prostrations, if one reflects the reasons
and purposes, immeasurables benefits and results will be received.
Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche
The following interview with Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche was recorded on the 16th day of December, 1985, at Nagi Gompa, outside of Kathmandu.
When Rinpoche was asked if he would grant an interview for the Vajradhatu Sun, his reply was, "What is the use of the tiny light of a firefly when the sun has already risen in the sky?" referring to Trungpa Rinpoche's presence in the West.
Q: Can Rinpoche please tell us about his life, his teachers, and the retreats he has done?
R: I was born in Eastern Tibet, in Kham, in the area called Nangchen. The Dharma teaching of my family line is called Barom Kagyü. My grandmother was the daughter of Chokgyur Lingpa, the great tertön, so my family line also practices the Nyingma teachings. Since I hold the lineages of both Kagyü and Nyingma, my monastery in Boudhanath is therefore called Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling, The Kagyü and Nyingma Place for Teaching and Practice.
From the time I was quite small until the age of twenty-one, I stayed with my father who was a Vajrayana teacher and tantric layman. His name was Tsangsar Chimey Dorje. My father was my first teacher and from him I received the transmission for the Kangyur, the entire teachings of the Buddha, and also for the Chokling Tersar, "The New Treasures of Chokgyur Lingpa." Later, I studied with my father's older brother, Tulku Samten Gyatso from whom I received also, among other things, the entire transmission of the Chokling Tersar.
Later on I studied with an incredible great master named Kyungtrül Karjam and from him I received the entire Dam-ngak Dzö as well as Chöwang Gyatsa, the Hundred Empowerments of Cutting Practice. He also passed on to me the reading transmission for the Hundred Thousand Nyingma Tantras and the Jangter Gongpa Sangtal, the Northern Treasure of Unimpeded Wisdom Mind. In particular, I received from him a detailed commentary and clarification of the important treasure of Chokgyur Lingpa renowned as Lamrim Yeshe Nyingpo, the Gradual Path of The Wisdom Essence.
From the time I was eight years old, I received teachings on the nature of mind from my own father, and I was lucky later on, to receive detailed instructions in the form of "guidance through personal experience" from Samten Gyatso on the teachings of Dzogchen, the Great Perfection. From my other uncle, Tersey Rinpoche, who was a close disciple of the great siddha Shakya Shri, I was also lucky to receive teachings on Dzogchen.
Moreover, I again received detailed teachings on Lamrim Yeshe Nyingpo from Jokyab Rinpoche, a disciple of Dru Jamyang Drakpa. The body of teachings known as Rinchen Terdzö, the Precious Treasury, I received from Jamgön Kongtrül, the son of the 15th Karmapa. As for the other of the Five Treasuries, I received the Gyachen Kadzö from my third uncle, Sang-ngak Rinpoche, the Kagyü Ngakdzö from H.H. the 16th Karmapa himself, and the Sheja Künkyab Treasury from Tana Pemba Rinpoche. I addition, I have received the root empowerments of Jigmey Lingpa from H.H. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche several times.
In Eastern Tibet I spent three years in retreat just reciting the Mani. [Laughs]. Later on at Tsurphu, the seat of the Karmapas, I also spent three years in retreat and then again in Sikkim I was able to spend almost three years in intensive practice. Lately, I have been here at Nagi Gompa for a few years. That's my life story.
Q: What lineages does Rinpoche hold?
R: My family line is the holder of the Barom Kagyü teachings which originate from Gampopa's disciple Barom Dharma Wangchuk. His disciple was Tishi Repa whose disciple was called Repa Karpo. His disciple again was Tsangsar Lümey Dorje. His disciple, Jangchub Shönnu of Tsangsar, is in my paternal ancestral lineage. The line of his son and his son again, all the way down to my father, is called Tsangsar Lhai Dung-gyü, the Divine Bloodline of Tsangsar.
My incarnation line is called Chöwang Tulku. With that same name I am just the second. My past life was said to be an incarnation of Guru Chöwang. He was also said to be an emanation of one of the 25 disciples of Padmasambhava called Nubchen Sangye Yeshe, but who knows that for sure. [Laughs]. My former life, Chöwang Tulku, was a "secret yogi." No one knew how his practice was, but when he passed away his body shrunk down to the size of one cubit without decomposing.
Q: What does Dzogchen mean?
R: Dzog, "perfection" or "completion," means as in this quote from a tantra, "Complete in one - everything is complete within mind. Complete in two - everything of samsara and nirvana is complete within this."
"Dzog" means that all the teachings, all phenomena, is completely contained in the vehicle of Dzogchen; all the lower vehicles are included within Dzogchen. "Chen," "great," means that there is no method or means higher than this vehicle.
Q: What is the basic outline of practice according to the Dzogchen path?
R: All the Buddha's teachings are contained within nine gradual vehicle of which Dzogchen, the Great Perfection, is like the highest golden ornament on a rooftop spire, or the victory banner on the summit of a great building. All the eight lower vehicles are contained within the ninth which is called Dzogchen in Tibetan, Mahasandhi in Sanskrit [and the Great Perfection in English]. But Dzogchen is not contained in the lowest one, the shravaka vehicle. So when we say "perfect" or "complete" it means that all the lower yanas are perfected or completely contained within the Great Perfection, within Dzogchen.
Usually we say that Dzogchen, sometimes called Ati Yoga, is a Dharma tradition but actually it is just the state of one's mind, basically.
When it comes to combining these following two points into actual experience, we can use the statement of the 3rd Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje, "It is not existent as even the buddhas have not seen it." This means that the basic state of mind is not something that exists in a concrete way; even the buddhas of the three times have never perceived it. "It is not non-existent as it is the basis for both samsara and nirvana. This is not a contradiction, it is the middle path of unity." Contradiction is like having fire and water on the same plate. Its impossible. But that is not the case here. The basic nature is neither existent nor non-existent - these two are an indivisible unity. "May I perceive the mind nature free from extremes." Usually when we say "is" it contradicts "is not." And when we say "non-existent" it contradicts "existent." But this middle path of unity is devoid of such contradiction. When it is said "to attain the unified state of Vajradhara," that actually refers to what I discussed here.
This unity of being empty and cognizant is the state of mind of all sentient beings. There is nothing special about that. A practitioner should encompass that with "a core of awareness." That is the path of practice. Again, "the unity of being empty and cognizant with a core of awareness."
The special feature of Dzogchen is as follows: "Primordial pure essence is Trekchö, Cutting Through." This view is actually present in all the nine vehicles, but the special quality of Dzogchen is what is called "The spontaneously present nature is Tögal, Direct Crossing." The unity of these two, Cutting Through and Direct Crossing, Trekchö and Tögal, is the special or unique teaching of Dzogchen. That is how Dzogchen basically is. That's it.
Q: That is a very wonderful teaching. It seems like Dzogchen is very direct and doesn't seem to have a linear quality in terms of the way one would approach it. In the other yanas sometimes one would first do the set of preliminaries, then a yidam practice. tsa-lung practice etc., this and that. It seems like Dzogchen is very immediate, like the essence is already present, available. Is there any kind of linear path in the way one would approach these teachings or is it always direct, like this?
R: We do in the Dzogchen tradition have the gradual system of preliminaries, main part and so forth. But the special characteristic of Dzogchen is to introduce or point out directly the naked awareness, the self-existing wakefulness. This is for student who are suitable, meaning those who have sharp mental faculties. In stead of going through a lot of beating around the bush, one would introduce them directly to their mind essence, to their self-existing awareness.
Dzogchen is said to have great advantage but also great danger. Why is this? Because all the teachings are ultimately and finally resolved within the system of Dzogchen. This can be divided into two parts, resolving all the teaching through intellectual understanding and through experience.
To resolve through experience is what is the great advantage or benefit in the sense that having pointed out and recognizing directly naked awareness and simply makes that the main part of practice. That is the point when there is an incredible great benefit because that itself is the very direct and swift path to enlightenment.
On the other hand, the great danger is when one just leaves it as intellectual understanding, that "In Dzogchen there is nothing to meditate upon. There is nothing to view. There is nothing to carry out as an action." That becomes just a concept of nihilism and is completely detrimental to progress. This is because the final point of the teaching is conceptlessness, being beyond intellectual thinking. Yet, what has happened is that one has created an intellectual idea of what Dzogchen is and holds on to that idea very tightly. This is a major mistake that can happen. So, it is very important to take the teachings into one's personal experience through the oral instructions of one's teacher. Otherwise, simply to have the idea "I am meditating on Dzogchen" is to completely miss the point.
Self-existing wakefulness is present within the mind-stream of all sentient beings since primordial time. This presence is something which should not be left as theory, but should be acknowledged though one's experience. One first recognizes it, then trains and attain stability in it. That is when it is said that Dzogchen has great benefit. There is actually no greater benefit than this.
Great danger means that when this is left as words of mere intellectual understanding then one doesn't gain any experience but merely holds some concept about it and lack the nonconceptual quality. Conceptual mind is merely intellect whereas experience to remain in the continuity of naked awareness; growing used to it what is called "experiencing."
It is the same principle whether one talks of Madhyamika, Mahamudra or Dzogchen. As is said in the Bodhicharya Avatara, "When one's intellect holds neither the concept of concreteness nor of inconcreteness, that is the state of not conceptualizing." As long as one is not free from concepts, one's view remains as mere intellectual understanding and the Dzogchen view is then left as mere theory. One might then think "Dzogchen is primordially empty, it is free from a basis. There is nothing to meditate upon, no need to do anything If I meditate in the morning, I am a buddha in the morning. When I recognize at night, I am a buddha at night. The destined one does not even have to meditate."
Actually, Dzogchen is the way to purify the most subtle obscuration of dualistic knowledge - it is something quite in credible. But if one only imagines it, if it is a mere theory, thinking "I don't need to do anything, neither meditate nor practice," [one's has completely missed the point]. There has been many people thinking like this in the past.
Compared to straying into an intellectualized version of Dzogchen, it is much more beneficial to practice according to Madhyamika or Mahamudra where one goes along step by step, alternating theory and experience within the structure of theory, experience and realization. Proceeding gradually in this way one becomes more and more clear about what is to be resolved and then finally captures the "dharmakaya throne of nonmeditation." In this graduated system there are some reference points along the various paths and levels. But in Dzogchen the master will from the very beginning point out the nonconceptual state, instructing the student to remain free from concepts. It then happens that some student will think, "I am free from concepts, I am never distracted!" while walking around with vacantly gazing eyes. That is called straying into intellectual understanding.
Later on, when we have to die, mere theory will not help us whatsoever. Tilopa told Naropa, "Theory is like a patch. It will wear and fall off." After dying, we will undergo various pleasant and unpleasant experiences, intense panic, fear and terror. Intellectual understanding will not be able to destroy those fears; it cannot make confusion subside. So, merely to generalize that one's essence is devoid of confusion is useless. It's only a thought, another concept, which is ineffective at the moment of death when it comes to deal with one's confusion.
Q: What will help then?
R: One needs to recognize the view of one's essence. If one hasn't thoroughly acknowledged the correct view but only constructed it from concepts, this intellectual understanding will be useless. Its like knowing that there is a delicious meal to be eaten. Without putting it into one's mouth one will never know what is tastes like. Likewise, one needs to be totally free from the merest flicker of doubt concerning the state of naked aware ness. Jigmey Lingpa said about having stability in awareness, "At this point there is no need for 100 panditas and their thousands of explanations. One will know what is sufficient. Even when questioned by these scholars, one will not give rise to doubt. So the main point is to be stable in awareness through experience.
This awareness is not introduced through an intellectual understanding where one only has the idea of it. When a qualified master encounters a worthy student it is like iron striking flint creating fire immediately. When such two persons meet together it's possible to be free from doubt.
When one doesn't feel any doubt, no matter how much one may try, that is the proof of having recognized the mind essence. But if it's possible to start doubting, thinking "I wonder how it is, what shall I do?" that is the proof of having mere intellectual understanding.
This difference between theory and experience is what I basically meant by saying that Dzogchen has both great benefit and great danger.
When a practitioner is introduced to naked awareness he will be able to attain enlightenment in that very body and lifetime because in the moment of recognizing the essence of awareness, the obscuration of dualistic knowledge is absent. This is called "touching the fruition." In this respect there are three ways: taking ground as path, taking path as path, and taking fruition as path. Receiving the pointing-out instruction means that one takes fruition as path. That is why it is so precious. So don't let it stray into mere theory.
Experience is said to be the "adornment of awareness." Awareness is present within all beings; whoever has mind has awareness since it is the mind's essence. The relationship between mind and awareness is mind being like the shadow of one's hand and awareness being the hand itself. In this way, there is not one single sentient being who does not have awareness. We might hear about awareness and then think "I understand, awareness is just such and such." This mental construct is totally useless - from the very first the absence of mental fabrication is crucial. As is said, "Within the naked dharmadhatu of non- fabrication."
Introducing awareness means to point out the absence of mental fabrication. Otherwise it becomes an introduction to mere discursive thought. [Laughs]
Q: What is the difference between the practice of Dzogchen and that of the Anuttara Yoga Tantra in the system of the New Schools, (gsar ma)? It was taught that all the eight lower vehicles are contained within Dzogchen, so how does the difference come about?
R: In the system of the New Schools, there are first of all the four tantras of Kriya Tantra, Charya Tantra, Yoga Tantra, and Anuttara Yoga Tantra. The fourth is divided into Father Anuttara Tantra, Mother Anuttara Tantra and Nondual Anuttara Tantra. This correspond exactly to the structure of the Old School, Nyingma, in that father tantra of Anuttara is Mahayoga, mother tantra is Anu yoga and the nondual tantra is Ati Yoga, [Dzogchen]. However, there are no explicit teachings on Tögal in Anuttara. That is the main difference, whereas it is taught that there is no difference whatsoever between "essence Mahamudra" and Dzogchen in meaning - only in terminology.
Concerning the inclusion of the lower vehicles in the highest is "All phenomena of samsara and nirvana are included with the expanse of awareness." That is the meaning of "inclusion."
Q: There are many kinds of conceptual practices in Anuttara Yoga such as visualization and manipulations of the nadis and pranas. How do the fit into the Dzogchen system?
R: These practices actually belong to the systems of Mahayoga and Anu yoga. However, in Ati Yoga which should be effortless, free from fixation, these practices are applied as "means for enhancement." Q: From where does the tradition of giving the transmission of the pointing-out instruction originate?
R: The first origin is what we call the "mind transmission of the victorious ones." After that there was the "sign transmission of vidyadharas" and today we have the "oral transmission of great masters." First, the mind transmission of the victorious ones, was when the manifestation aspect of Samantabhadra appeared in a bodily form and the five families of victorious ones recognized dharmata by merely seeing this bodily form. This was mind transmission through simply manifesting as a deity without the need for any conversation. This mind transmission seems to have gradually degenerated. Following that, by means of the sign transmission of vidyadharas such masters as Garab Dorje, Shri Singha and Guru Rinpoche recognized the self-existing wakefulness of dharmata through a simply gesture such as a finger pointing at the sky. Finally, Guru Rinpoche, The Eight Indian Vidyadharas as well as the Tibetan King, Subject and Companion [Trisong Deutsen, Vairochana and Yeshe Tsogyal] and so forth gave teachings through oral transmission. This oral transmission which comes from India and is not a Tibetan invention, was originally imparted by whispering through a copper tube such as in the case of Vairochana into whose ear was whispered the sentence, "The single sphere of dharmakaya, self-existing wakefulness, inconceivable reality, is present within the mind of sentient beings. Oral transmission literally means "transmitted into the ear."
In the case of the Kagyü lineage, Tilopa stated, "I have no human masters. My master is Vajradhara himself." So, figuratively speaking, Vajradhara gave the teachings to Tilopa and Tilopa transmitted them orally to Naropa who then passed then on to Marpa. He gave them to Milarepa and he again to Gampopa from whom they were orally transmitted to the "four great and eight lesser lineages.
In the case of the Nyingma lineage, Guru Rinpoche, Vimalamitra and Vairochana passed the teachings on chiefly as an oral transmission to the Twenty-five Disciples headed by the King, Subject and Companion. Here Dzogchen was transmitted as the pointing-out of the expression of awareness; not to awareness itself but to its expression which is dharmata. From this point, the Twenty-five Disciples passed the teaching on to the Eighty Tibetan Siddhas and others such as the various oral lineages as well as the treasure lineages, so that this transmission has been uninterrupted down until our own root guru. If the lineage had been broken there would be no pointing-out and recognition
Q: Why is this pointing-out instruction considered so important?
R: That is self-evident. Isn't awareness the actual path for attaining enlightenment? There is nothing more important than recognizing it and become a buddha [laughs]. If you put all the riches in the world on one side and the pointing out of awareness on the other, awareness will be more valuable for enlightenment.
Q: Having received the pointing-out instruction and recognized, will that itself be sufficient or how should one train?
R: Once one has received the pointing-out instruction there is the chance of either recognizing it or not. But a student who has actually recognized will have enough for this entire lifetime in the "single sufficient instruction." The same goes for the bardo state. Yet, one can still apply the paths of Mahayoga and Anu yoga for enhancement and for clearing away hindrances. Once one has recognized one's essence, it is like a fire that only will blaze up more intensely the more firewood is added; the fire will never diminish with the adding of wood. Similarly, there will be benefit from applying the paths of Mahayoga and Anu yoga; even Hinayana practice will be beneficial.
According to one's ability one can apply what one feels inclined towards - like gathering honey from many different flowers. Or, simply to cultivate and practice the recognition of awareness alone will be sufficient for attaining enlightenment within this body and lifetime. All the different practices of Mahayoga and Anu yoga, as in the system of Jamgön Kongtrül the First, are for the purpose of attaining stability in awareness. While benefiting beings one can become more stable in awareness. As I already mentioned, fire blazes up and increases the more wood is added; it is not the opposite way.
Having recognized one's essence, one should sustain its continuity. There will be no benefit from simply leaving it with "I have recognized!" It is necessary to maintain the continuity of awareness until all confusion and conceptual thinking has been exhausted. That itself is the measure; when thoughts are exhausted then it is enough. There is no more need for meditation or for "sustaining the continuity."
Q: Although Rinpoche has a large monastery in Boudhanath, Kathmandu, I notice that he spends most of his time up at Nagi Gompa Retreat Center. Why is that?
R: As a matter of fact, it is said, "In this age of degeneration, carry the burden of the Doctrine. If you are not able to do so, simply the fear that the teachings will die out occurring in your mind for but instant will have tremendous merit." For this reason, the purpose of building a monastery with a gathering of the sangha of monks - as just an image of the doctrine in this dark age - is that we have the great hope that they will practice the tradition of the Dharma. Whether or not the monks individually do any practice is their own business. But if they just wear the robes on their bodies, cut the hairs on their heads and gather together in a group of merely four monks, the benefit of accumulating merit and purifying one's obscurations will result from the respect, faith and donations one can make as a benefactor, no matter how insignificant one's contribution or faith may be. This is independent of whether or not the monks misbehave or misappropriate their donations; that is totally up to themselves. For the benefactors, their will be the blessings of the Buddha when they make a donation to a gathering of just four monks. Their will be no failure in that for the patrons themselves. It is for this reason that I took the effort to build a monastery. Moreover, this age is the time when Buddhism is slowly dying out, like the sun about to depart while setting over the mountains in the west. Considering this combined with having received the command of His Holiness Gyalwa Karmapa, we have constructed this insignificant monastery.
The place up a Nagi Gompa was initially build by the meditator and hermit Kharsha Rinpoche as a hermitage for his following of monks and nuns. After he passed away, the place was offered to Karmapa who then placed me as a caretaker. So I, this old man here, is just a caretaker [laughs]. That is the only reason why I live up here; I am not at all like Milarepa, living in mountain retreats and caves after renouncing samsara. But I have a nice spot to sleep on and a warm place in the sun [laughs]. That is how I live.
Q: What is the benefit and purpose of doing retreat practice?
R: With many distractions one is not able to practice the Dharma properly. Distraction means a lot of business, noise and things to do. When going up in the mountains there will be less distraction. That is the reason for mountain retreat. In addition to that, if one is able to keep some discipline, remaining in solitude without allowing outsiders to visit and not going out oneself, there will be no other distraction than that made by one's own mind. External distractions have been eliminated. That is the purpose of seclusion.
When distractions have been abandoned one can exert oneself in the practice. Through exertion it is possible to destroy confusion. When confusion falls away, enlightenment is attained. That is the whole reason [laughs].
Q: Finally but not least, does Rinpoche have any special advice for the readers of Vajradhatu Sun who are primarily householders?
R: They should first of all receive the pointing-out instruction and recognize their essence. Having recognized, they should refrain from losing its continuity and then mingle that with their daily activities. There are basically four kinds of daily actions traditionally called moving, sitting, eating and lying down. We don't always only sit or only move about; we alternate between the two. In addition we eat, shit and sleep. So there actually seem to be five kinds [laughs]. But at all times, in all situations, one should try not to lose the continuity of the practice. One should try to be able to mingle the practice with daily life. As one gets more accustomed, any amount of daily life activities will only cause nondualistic awareness to develop and become the adornment of this undistracted awareness, free from being obscured or cleared.
When one is able to mingle practice with the activities of daily life, these activities will then be beneficial and devoid of any harm whatsoever. That is if one has already recognized one's essence correctly. Without the correct recognition one will get carried away by the daily activities - one will have no stability. Lacking stability is like a strand of hair in the wind bending according to how the wind blows whereas a needle will be stable no matter how small it is. Even a very thin needle cannot be bent by the wind. Once one has truly recognized one's essence one cannot be carried away by the activities of daily life, just as a needle that is stable. Dualistic mind is completely unstable, like a hair that is just ready to move by the tiniest breeze; it falls prey to the five external sense objects. Awareness, on the other hand, when properly recognized, does never fall subject to sense objects. It is like a needle that is unmoved by the wind.
-Translated by Erik Pema Kunsang. © Rangjung Yeshe Translations & Publications, 1985.
Thirty Pieces of Advice From the Heart
By Gyalwa Longchenpa
In the midst of the all encompassing sky of his
wisdom, the Absolute Space,
the warm rays of his compassion shining upon the clouds of his prayers,
the abundant rain of amrita falling continuously
on the field of the beings to be trained, ripening the sprouts of the Three Kayas -
We bow down at the feet of the Guru, the protector, the Supreme of the Three Jewels.
Through the power of my aspirations I could join the supreme lineage of accomplishment;
but lacking in diligence, this existence, lived in vain, come now to its twilight.
I had intention to do as the Rishis but
I am now utterly dejected and I have seen others like me.
This is why, to arouse in my mind a clear renunciation I have uttered these thirty pieces
of advice from the heart.
Alas! Having, through all kinds of skilful means,
gathered round oneself a large circle of people, one may hold a flourishing monastic estate.
But this is the source of quarrels and causes great attachments for oneself.
To remain alone is my advice from the heart.
At the occasion of village ceremonies intended
to discard obstacles and subdue evil spirits, one may display one's qualities in the crowd.
But through covetousness for food and riches,
it is one's own mind that will be carried away by the demon.
To subdue one's own mind is my advice from my heart.
Having collected great contributions from poor people,
one may thus erect statues and monuments, distribute plenty of alms and so on.
But this is to cause others to accumulate sins on virtuous grounds1.
To make one's own mind virtuous is my advice from the heart.
Desiring one's own greatness, one will expound Dharma to others and
through numerous deceitful tricks, one will retain a cycle of important and humble people.
But such a mind clinging to gross realities is the cause of pride.
To have only short-term plans is my advice from the heart.
Selling, loaning with interest, and all these kinds of deceits;
with the wealth amassed in the wrong way one may very well make large offerings,
but merits resting upon greed are the source of the eight worldly dharmas2.
To meditate upon the rejection of covetousness is my advice from the heart.
Acting as witness, guarantor, and getting involved in law disputes,
one may thus settle others' quarrels, thinking this is for the good of all.
But to indulge in this will bring up interested aims.
To remain without either expectations or apprehensions is my advice from the heart.
Administering provinces, having attendants and material wealth,
one's renown may thus spread all over the world.
But at the time of death, these things do not have the slightest use.
To endeavour in one's practice is my advice from the heart.
Bursars, attendants, those in responsible positions and cooks
are the pillars of the monastic community.
But a mind interested in these is the cause of worry.
To minimize this confusing bustle is my advice from the heart.
Carrying religious objects, offerings, books and cooking paraphernalia,
one may go to the mountains solitude with all necessary.
But to be well-equipped now is the source of difficulties and quarrels.
To have no needs is my advice from the heart.
In these decadent times one may reproach the crude people around one.
Although one thinks it will be useful to them,
it is just the source of poisonous thoughts.
To utter peaceful words is my advice from the heart.
Without any selfish consideration, one may,
with affection, tell people their defects, only thinking of their own good.
But although what one says is true this will ulcerate their hearts.
To say gentle words is my advice from the heart.
One engages in controversies, defending one's point of view and
contradicting the other's thinking thus to preserve the purity of the Teachings.
But in such a way one induces impure thoughts.
To remain silent is my advice from the heart.
Thinking one is rendering service,
one support in a partisan way one's Guru's lineage and philosophical views.
But to praise oneself and belittle others ripens one's attachments and hatred.
To leave these things is my advice from the heart.
Having examined thoroughly the Dharma one has heard,
one may think that understanding other's errors
is proof of having discriminative wisdom.
But to think in this way is to cause the accumulation of one's own sins.
To view everything as pure is my advice from the heart.
Speaking only the language of blank emptiness and disdaining cause and effect,
one may think that non-action is the ultimate point of Dharma.
But to forsake the two accumulations will wither the prosperity of one's practice.
To unite these two is my advice from the heart.
Concerning the third initiation, there is the descending of the essence and so on.
One may think that the way of the other's body will lead to outstanding progress.
But on this path of the impure many great meditators have been ensnared.
To rely upon the path of liberation is my advice from the heart.
To bestow empowerments upon unqualified people and distribute to crowd
sacramental substances is the source of abuse and of spoiling the samaya.
To prefer upright behaviour is my advice from the heart.
To go naked in public and other eccentricities,
one may think is to act as a yogi.
But this is how one causes worldly people to lose faith.
To be thoughtful in all things is my advice from the heart.
Wherever one stays, with the desire to be the greatest
one will act in a traditional and clever fashion.
But this is the cause of falling from the highest to the lowest.
To be neither tense nor relaxed is my advice from the heart.
Whether one dwells in villages, monasteries, or mountains retreats,
without searching for intimates one should be friends with all,
but with neither intimacy nor animosity.
To keep one's independence is my advice from the heart.
Assuming an artificial countenance one may pay homage
in a fine way to the patrons who take care of one's subsistence.
But feigning on account of others causes one to entangle oneself.
To act with uniform taste is my advice from the heart.
There are innumerable writings upon divination, astrology, medicine and so on.
Although they all deal with the methods based upon
the interdependent links, leading to omniscience.
To become very fond of these various things will scatter one's contemplation.
To minimize the study of these sciences is my advice from the heart.
At the time one stays inside arranging the interior,
one may thus have all comforts in the midst of solitude.
But this is how to fritter way one's whole life on trivial details.
To put off all these activities is my advice from the heart.
Learned, virtuous and so on, also having some diligence towards accomplishment,
thus one's personal qualities may reach their peak.
But the clinging associated with this will just entangle oneself.
To know how to be free, without egocentricity is my advice from the heart.
To make hail and thunder fall, cast magic spells, while protecting oneself from all these,
one may think to subdue what has to be subdued.
But by burning another's being one will end up in the lower realms.
To remain humble is my advice from the heart.
One might have an abundance of desirable texts, spoken advice, notes and so on.
But if one does not put them into practice, at the time of death they will be of no use.
To study one's mind is my advice from the heart.
At the time one practices one-pointedly, one may have experiences,
discuss them with others, write spiritual verses and sing song of realization.
Although such things are natural manifestations of the practice,
they will increase wandering thoughts.
To keep away from intellectualization is my advice from the heart.
Whatever thoughts arise it is important at stare at them.
Thus when one has a clear understanding of the mind
it is important to remain with it.
Although there is nothing to meditate upon,
it is important to remain in such meditation.
To be always attentive is my advice from the heart.
In the midst of emptiness, acting according to the Law of cause and effect,
having understood non-action keeping the three vows3.
with absolute compassion4, may we strive for the benefit of all beings.
To unite the two accumulations is my advice from the heart.
One has followed many wise and accomplished Gurus, received many profound instructions,
and looked through a few sutras and tantras, still one does not apply them.
Alas! One is just deceiving oneself.
Thus for myself and those alike me I have spoken these thirty pieces of advice from the heart.
Whatever little merit may arise from such a spirit of renunciation, may all beings be guided in
the wild expanses of existence, and be established in the great bliss. By walking in the footsteps
of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of the three times and of all the great saints, may we become
their supreme sons. Thus urged by a little bit of renunciation, Tsultrim Lodro5 conceived these
thirty pieces of advice from the heart.
1. Doing so, instead of accumulating merit, both the lama and the donators accumulate demerit.
2. Fame and obscurity; pleasure and pain; gain and loss; praise and blame.
3. Hinayana, Mahayana, and Vajrayana.
4. Compassion without representations, non-referential compassion.
5. One of Longchenpa's names
Sakya Pandita's Advice For Tibetan Contemplatives
The following poem was composed by Sakya Pandita Kunga Gyaltsen, called "Pandita"
because of his study of Sanskrit, who lived from 1182 A.D. to 1251 A.D. According to
the colophon, it was written while he was in the "northern regions". Therefore, it was
undoubtedly written after he arrived at the camp of the Mongol prince Godan in 1247
A.D. Anyone interested in the historical particulars should see Shakabpa, Tibet - a
Political History, (new Haven, 1967 - pp. 61 ff.)
I forego any long introduction to the poem. Basically, those with some degree of
experience reading Buddhist literature in translation will have little trouble with
it. What few things require or occasion explanation or comment will be found in a
section following the text rather than in footnotes. I think numbers in poems are
awkward and distracting. Readers of the Tibetan will appreciate the poetic style
(more or less based on Indian kavya models). Non-Tibetans readers will have to
use their imaginations.
Advice for Tibetan Comtemplatives
Sakya Pandita Kun-dga'-rgyal-tshan
Om svasti siddham!
1. In this land of glacial peaks are many contemplatives.
I write to them all: the superior, common, and middling in merit.
I ask that they listen with trusting hearts
Freed from wrong orientations.
2. One contemplative is like a snow lion
With the turquoise many of pure conduct,
With the limbs of pure, unruffled concentration,
With the stamina and vitality of pure, unrestless vision.
3. One contemplative is like a soldier going to battle
Clothed in the armour of unlimited benefit for others.
Riding the horse of the "Two Accumulations" he/she
urges it on with the whip of diligence.
He/she vanquishes the enemy hordes of affliction with
the sword of piercing knowledge.
4. One contemplative benefits all beings with his accumulations.
He is a jewel mine of the three pure disciplines.
He/she gives help and confidence to others.
With his/her gift of the Dharma, he/she places them on the Path
5. These three superior contemplatives should be known to comprise
The heart of hearts of the Buddha's teachings.
6. Although he/she may not be able to fathom the ocean of precepts,
Visualizing the Lama at the crown of his/her head
He/she prays, tears of trust flowing from his/her eyes.
This contemplative leads others down the Path of Liberation.
7. Although not freed from his/her chains through impartial vision,
He/she develops his/her mind with the precious Bodhi aspiration.
Not despairing of achieving it for others,
This contemplative is soon freed from the world of becoming.
8. Although he/she cannot rightly attain the higher vehicle,
The floral bouquet of initiation vows
Protect him/her well like a helmet.
This contemplative is soon freed from the World of Becoming.
9. Although not inclined towards loving regard for others' well-being,
After hearing inspired discourse and pure advice,
He/she earnestly applies him/herself to what is to be accepted and
rejected, to causes and their effects.
This contemplative blocks the passage to perdition.
10. This is how (the middling contemplative) enters the threshold of
As will be known to those with spiritual understanding.
He/she should enter a path that he/she him/herself believes in
And stay with it so as to promote certainty in others.
11. Not abandoning worldly activity in accordance with sacred precepts.
He/she keeps his/her mind in an obscure tranquility
Ever increasing the darkness of ignorance.
This contemplative is a groundhog in hibernation.
12. His/her flow of thought untempered by faith and earnest endeavour,
He's fond of a fight. Though he stays in the lonely mountains,
His/her mind is always distracted by things of the senses.
This contemplative is a carnivore asleep in the mountains.
13. Abandoning the Path of Liberation, he/she increases in every evil.
He passes his/her time amid the boulders doing as he/she pleases.
He/she does foundation-laying ceremonies at the houses of laymen for a fee.
This contemplative is a fox investigating an empty house.
14. His/her desire for religious renown burns like a grass fire.
His/her "diligence" means wandering everywhere for his/her mouth's sake.
Because of his/her wrong livelihood, he/she's always preoccupied with
making a living.
This contemplative is the thief who pets the dogs at the edge of town.
15. He/she wears saffron (monk's robes) and the visage of a tyrant.
He/she spins a wheel of the varied weapons of hatred and desire.
He/she promotes evil action wherever he/she goes.
This contemplative increases the three types of perdition.
16. I pray that these malefactors, thieves and robbers of (the Buddha's) teaching,
Who in such ways trepass against the virtues of body, speech and mind
May be freed and turned from their spite
To deeds that point to the door of the teaching.
17. May this sun enhanced with the rays of poetic metaphor
And with the waxing mandala of spiritual understanding
Which drawns in the cloudless sky of pure doctrine
Promote growth in the garden of those under discipline.
So the illustrious Sa-skya Pandita wrote these verses of advice to Tibetan
contemplatives while in the northern regions.
Verse One: The meaning of the opening benediction is, in translation from the
Sanskrit: "(May there be) perfect well-being!" The general structure of the
poem may not be immediately evident. Verses 2-5 are on superior contemplatives.
Verses 6-10 on middling contemplatives. Verses 11-16 on common contemplatives.
The Tibetan word translated throughout as "contemplative" is "sgom-chen",
meaning literally "great meditator".
Verse Two: Vision (drshti), concentration (or meditation, dhyana) and conduct (shila).
This is a traditional group in Buddhism, called The Three Disciplines (bslab-gsum) in
Verse 4. "Piercing Knowledge" translates "shes-rab" (prajna).
Verse Three: The Two Accumulations are the accumulations of Merit (punya) and
knowledge (jnana) which are the positive antidotes for the two kinds of obscurations:
the obscurations of affliction (klesa) and the obscurations of knowledge (jneya). The
stages of the path to Bodhi are based on the progressive purification from these two
obscurations in their increasingly subtle and "innate" manifestations.
The obscurations of affliction are mainly due to the false, if normal, assumption
that there is a permanent subjective personality. The obscurations to knowledge are
ultimately based on those external attachments which presuppose a permanent,
substantial basis for external appearances (dharmas). In the practices for "peaceful
abiding" (see note to verse 11) these two obscurations manifest themselves as
"sinking" and "scattering".
Verse Four: For "The Three Disciplines" see the note to Verse 2. Help (material
assistance), confidence and Dharma are the three gifts to which "loving-kindness"
(maitri) may sometimes be added.
Verse Six: Here Lama means a personal religious preceptor or guru (and not just
"Tibetan monk" as in the common English use of the word). The relationship with
the guru involves an extraordinary commitment on both sides. Therefore the
traditional guidelines on the characteristics of a true spiritual master should not be
ignored by anyone contemplating such a commitment. There is a good reason for
the emphasis in Tibetan religious literature on the necessity of a close mutual
examination between the prospective guru and disciple. A common proverb runs:
"If the guru is not examined, (it's like) drinking poison.
If the student is not examined, (it's like) jumping off a cliff."
The first line of the verse just quoted may evoke images of a certain temporary
event in startling vivid colours for those of us who lived through and puzzled over the
news from Guyana. "Ah, but they were Christians," some may say. I think the parts
faith, hope, and commitment play in the minds of people of whatever region or religion
don't differ all that much and wrong commitments are by no means impossible withtin
the Tibetan Buddhist milieu. The advantages of a right commitment are equalled by
the possible disadvantages of a wrong one. It may be argued that we, as ordinary
unenlightened humans, can't really judge, but still it is generally true that "by the
fruits you shall know them". Tibetan Buddhist literature, fortunately, doesn't leave
the aspirant entirely in the dark. Those interested should consult (in translation)
Ashvaghosha's "Fifty Stanzas of Guru Devotion"; and Judy Hanson's (tr.): "The
Torch of Certainty", (pp.123ff).
With the reader's indulgence for the digression, I would like to quote at length
from a, so-far, untranslated text by a nineteenth century author of the Nying-ma school,
Dpal-sprul. First, his description of the marks of a true spiritual friend (kalyanamitra),
from the "Rdzog-pa Chen-po'i Klong-chen Snying-thig-gi Sngon-'gro'i Khrid-yig:
Kun-bzang Bla-ma'i Zhal-lung" (pp. 115b ff):
Now that we have arrived at the present, degenerate age, it is exceedingly
difficult to find a Lama, pure and perfectly realized in all respects, who teaches
from the precious Tantric texts. That Lama on whom one should depend must
certainly have these pure characteristics. Outwardly, he should observe the
Pratimoksha Vows; inwardly, the Bodhisattva Vows; and secretly, the Tantric
Vows. If he does not contradict these at any point, he is a pure Tantrika. He
should have much learning (but not pretentiously) in the scientific treatises,
Sutras and Tantras. His heart should be graced with loving compassion towards
all living beings as if they were his only child.
Part of his description of false commitments (lbid., pp. 118b ff):
Although he (the guru) has few qualities beyond those of any ordinary person,
some simpletons, through faith without examination, would put him on a high level,
honouring him with goods and services. This "spiritual guide" is like a haughty well
Once there was a turtle who came from the ocean to see an old turtle that
had always lived at the bottom of a well. The well turtle said: "Where do
you come from?"
"I've come from the great ocean."
"How is this ocean of yours?" he asked.
"The ocean is very great."
"Is it a quarter the size of my well?"
"Well, half then?"
"Then it is the size of my well?"
"No, much larger," he replied. "There is no way to tell you. You have to see
it for yourself."
Together they went. When the well turtle saw the ocean, he fell down senseless
and, splitting his head, dead.
(Note: the point of the story is that some gurus, using the devotion of their disciples
to bolster their spiritual pride, have myopic vision like the well turtle when it comes
to the possibilities of the spiritual life beyond their level of attainment, thinking that
they themselves have reached the ultimate perfection.)
(Do not) depend on a Lama who has great skill as a speaker, but little learning,
having made no effort in the purifying practices of the Sutras and Tantras. His "Tantras"
are coarse delusions, without (the prerequisites of) mindfulness or watchfulness. He
breaks vows and oaths. His qualities are even worse than an ordinary person's. He
acts as if he were practicing spiritual methods while his religious commitments are
gone to the wind. He is full of animosity and prejudice, lacking in loving-kindness and
compassion. Such a guru is a "demented guide". He leads down wrong paths.
Having no special qualities beyond one's own, the guru who lacks the Bodhi
Aspiration of loving-kindness and compassion is a "blind guide". He lacks the eye
for what is to be accepted and what rejected.
One who, like a Brahmin, protects his lineage or enters to bathe in a swimming
hole without knowing the source of the water (having no certain results of learning
and reflection) is called the "parasite guide". He is no different from an ordinary
person, having a fool's faith. He frequents places of idle talk. He is a "well turtle",
becoming self-justified in his unchecked drive for wealth and fame.
Of little learning himself, he gives high levels of practice to those of low-capacity.
He chops the rope that loving-kindness and compassion hang from. These "drunken
guides" make wicked actions increase. With no special qualifications, he relies on the
force of his reputation. Like a blind sea captain, he makes great blunders, forever
wandering in the darkness of false commitments.
Some modern "gurus" like the ones who make money the measure of commitment
or engage in highly questionable activities, come to mind. The "search for a guru" should
mean more than "doing the Dharma circuit". The search may be less important than the
effort to become a "suitable vessel". To quote Milarepa's reply to the young "dandy"
who offers him his sash and sabre as payment for Dharma:
"I, the snow lioness who stays in snowy solitudes,
Have milk which is like the essential nectar.
In the absence of golden cups,
I would not pour it in an ordinary vessel.
I bind to my straight, unwavering waist
the sash of fierce devotion,
having settled the ripples of unfeigned thought.
These are the highest ornaments of all who practice Dharma:
The golden chain of perseverance
and the iron chain of faith in instructions
which bind the sheath of the student's "three confidences"
to the sabre of piercing Prahna.
Fearing the orders of the sky-goers (dakinis),
I have not sold Dharma for wealth in the past.
Even now I didn't accept your offerings
so, pray, be on your way home."
Note: My literal translation. Compare Chang, p. 171.
As a footnote to this long tangent, I would like to quote a passage from Henry
Vaughn's Thalia Rediviva (1678 A.D.) which sounds remarkably like something one
of the members of People's Temple might said:
"Unhappy, sad exchange! What, must I buy
Guiana with the loss of all the sky?
Intelligence shall I leave, and be
Familiar only with mortality?
Must I know nought, buy thy Exchequer?
Shall my purse and fancy be symmetrical?
Are there no Objects left but one?
Must we in gaining that, lose our variety?"
("The Importunate Fortune", line 93 ff.)
Verse Seven: Here is one form of the Bodhi Aspiration from lbid., pp. 3a-3b:
Among all the creatures of Samsara there is not one who has not acted as my
father or mother. While they were my parents, they raised me with kindness,
gave me the best food and dressed me in the finest clothes. Although, in their
kindness, they desired happiness, they did not understand the practice of the
ten virtues which are at the root of happiness. Although they did not wish for
suffering, they did not understand the avoidance of the ten non-virtues which
are the cause of suffering. I feel compassion for these creatures who, in their
confusion, having fallen into wrong paths like a blind man abandoned in the
middle of a field. Now I must learn the sacred Dharma, put it into practice,
and strive for the Goal, in order that all the creatures of the six types [of
Cyclic Existence] may be freed from affliction and the propensity for suffering
and obtain the level of Omniscient Buddhahood.
Verse Eight: the reference is to be four Tantric initations.
Verse Nine: for "perdition", see note to verse 15.
Verse Eleven: "Obscure Tranquility" translates 'zhi-gnas bying-ba". "Zhi-gnas" means
"peaceful abiding" and as such it forms a part of meditation practice, a pre-requisite
to meditation, properly speaking.
"Bying-ba" and "Rgod-pa" are two extremes that must be avoided in order to
keep the mind in a state of "peaceful abiding". "Bying-ba" may be translated as
"heaviness", "sinking", "obscuration", or "drowsiness". "Rgod-pa" means "wildness"
or "scattering" of the mind to objects other than the focus of concentration.
"Phyi-ba" means a kind of marmot. I have used an animal more familiar to
Americans, the groundhog, which is also a kind of marmot. The Tibetan "Phyi-ba",
according to Das's dictionary, is nicknamed "Sgom-chen", the word which I have
Verse Thirteen: "Grong-chog", translated "foundation laying ceremonies", is to be
found in the Tibetan-English Dictionaries of Chodag and Dagyab.
Verse Fourteen: This verse is about the sort of person who is known in street
language as the "hustler", in this case a "contemplative" with the "hustling"
Verse Fifteen: The three types of perdition (ngan-song) are: rebirth in the infernos,
the animal kingdom, or the realm of the "hungry ghosts" (pretas).
Ashvaghosha, "Fifty Stanzas of Guru Devotion", contained in Wang-ch'ug Dorje,
"The Mahamudra Eliminating the Darkness of Ignorance", Library of Tibetan
Works and Archives, Dharamsala, 1978, pp. 158-187 (also published as separate
Chang, Karma C.C., (tr), "The Hundred Songs of Milarepa", Boulder, 1962.
Kong-sprul Blo-gros-mtha'-yas (tr. Judy Hanson), "The Torch of Certainity",
Dpal-sprul O-rgyan-'jigs-med-chos-kyi-dbang-po, "Rdzogs-pa Chen-po'i Klong-chen
Snying-thig-gi-Sngon-'gro'i Khrid-yig: Kun-Bzang Bla-ma'i Zhal-lung", a woodblock
print in 307 leaves, no publisher, no date.
Sa-skya Pandita Kun-dga'rgyal-mtshan, "Gangs-can-gyi Sgom-chen-mams-la
Gdams-pa", a woodblock print in three leaves, no publisher, no date.
Shakabpa, Tsepon W.D., "Tibet - A Political History", New Haven, 1967.
Vaughn, Henry, "The Complete Poetry of Henry Vaughn", New York, 1964.
Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche
The Heart Sutra Introduction
Virginia, July 1995
Today's school of thought is very different from "the mind only" school.1 I will explain it on the basis of a sutra called the Heart Sutra. This sutra belongs to the teachings on the perfecting of insight or wisdom, sometimes referred to as the "mother of all Buddhas" in the sense that it is this insight or wisdom that brings about enlightened individuals, gives birth to Buddhas.
Insight or wisdom - ultimate wisdom, is the source of all enlightened individuals. Anyone striving to attain Buddhahood, the enlightened state, must develop ultimate wisdom. Bodhisattvas must also depend on insight, as well as the Shravakas who were the founders of the Theravada. They all base their study and practice of Buddhism on insight, or ultimate wisdom. Therefore, insight is said to be the "mother who gives birth," figuratively, to Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and Shravakas.
Insight, or ultimate wisdom, is the source of the different stages of attainment, or realization, that are found in the Buddhist tradition. There are Shravakas, and in their tradition, the ultimate attainment is called Arhathood. There are the Pratyekabuddhas, another type of practitioner, where the emphasis is mainly on practicing alone, in solitude; though at times these practitioners also practice in groups. These two belong to the Theravada. Then there is the Bodhisattva approach. And finally there are Buddhas - enlightened individuals. These are four stages of realization that anyone following the Buddhist path may attain. All of these attainments depend upon insight, or ultimate wisdom, and cannot come about without it.
This particular sutra is called the Heart Sutra in English. The word "heart" refers to the sutra that sums up the essence of the teachings found in other sutras that are much longer and present in more detail what insight or ultimate wisdom is, and how it is attained. This one sums up all the teachings of how one attains such insight.
Any sutra has an introductory part which mentions the particular time - when historically the teachings of that sutra were given, and who gave the particular teaching. Obviously, that always goes back to Buddha Shakyamuni. One should, however, be aware that he inspired some of his closest students, so that they presented particular teachings which originated from him. Then, there is mention of the place where the teaching was given, and also who was present, and what its subject was. These five things are always mentioned in the introductory part of any sutra.
The introduction in this particular Heart Sutra says that the teaching was given ten years after Buddha Shakyamuni attained Buddhahood. He only gave this teaching that one time and never repeated it. Therefore, that particular time is regarded as very auspicious. The teachings in the sutra were given by Buddha Shakyamuni, who throughout many lifetimes engaged in the Bohdisattva's way of life through which he attained Buddhahood, the final goal of the Bodhisattva path.
One should be aware that Buddha Shakyamuni was a regular human being like us. He started out in the same way as other people start on a spiritual path. He was not some sort of "other worldly being" who had conditions or capacities that other human beings do not have.
If one takes a day in Buddha Shakyamuni's life, his life style would be as follows. He always got up very early, at approximately 4 a.m. He would wash his face and mouth and then begin his morning practice of meditation for an hour or two. Then he would dress in his robes and go into a nearby village or city together with the monks who stayed with him. The Buddha would live in a place quite far from any village or city, so it would take quite some time to walk there to beg for their meal which they took at noon. The family who offered that day's meal to Buddha Shakyamuni would always receive a teaching from him in their home. Then, the Buddha would return to his dwelling, which often would be a monastic building, and in those days they were quite simple. He would then go and see if the shrine room had been swept by the monk or nun who was supposed to do it on that particular day. If not, the Buddha himself would sweep the floor and clean up. Then he would go back to his quarters and wash his feet, which was necessary since they all walked barefoot. Then he would take an afternoon nap, and after that he would shower. Then he would instruct the monks and nuns in the monastery and give them personal advice as well as advise regarding their practice.
There would always be people from the village and neighboring areas who would come to receive a teaching. After the teaching, he would go for a short walk to relax a bit. In the evening he would do his evening session of meditation, and by then it would probably be 9:30 p.m. or so. Then he would walk around in the grounds of the monastery because it was cool and refreshing in the evening. Then he would go back to his quarters to sleep. Buddha Shakyamuni did this every day of his life as a Buddha for 45 years. However, he traveled extensively. When I say travel, I mean by foot. There were no other forms of transportation in those days. For nine months of the year the Buddha would walk around India. During three months in the summer he would remain in one place. Through this he established the tradition of doing a three month summer retreat every year. When traveling on foot, he would cover approximately 15 or 20 kilometers (10-15 miles) a day, and wherever he was offered his noon meal he would give a teaching for the people of that village.
If one looks, one will realize he lived a very simple life in terms of his dwelling. There is a place called Kushinagara where part of his dwelling has been preserved. It has been found that Buddha's dwelling consisted of two rooms, a bedroom and a larger room where he taught. The bedroom was very small, 8 x 10 feet., the other, where he taught his students, was a bit larger. In terms of clothing he only had two robes, so that he would have a robe to wear while the other was being washed and dried.
Buddha Shakyamuni, since he was enlightened, could teach those who sought his advice on the basis of their own individual capacity. He had full awareness of each and every individual's mental inclination toward one way of practice or another. He was able to teach in many unusual ways such as performing miracles for those who would benefit from it. Because of his heightened capacity to perceive the state of mind of any given individual, he was able to give advice suited to that particular person or being. It is said that not only human beings sought his instructions but also non-human beings.
Before passing away the Buddha gave the complete teachings of the Theravada to those inclined towards this approach, and to those inclined towards the Bodhisattva path, he gave the complete teachings of that path. Two months before he passed away, he told his students which day and month it would happen. It is said that he made five hundred different aspiration prayers before passing away.
When looking at his lifestyle, one becomes well aware that it was very simple. The traditional Indian dress for men consists of a white cotton cloth tied to the body - it is called dhoti in Hindi. Buddha Shakyamuni would ask someone who had worn out his dhoti to give it to him. When someone who had been wearing this piece for a couple of months was about to discard it, the Buddha would ask for it, die it in the color of a monastic robe - saffron, and he would wear it. That is how simple a life he led. Buddha Shakyamuni had many students who were extremely wealthy. Many of the kings of what is today known as India were his disciples, and they would at times, out of devotion for him, offer robes that were woven with golden thread and had a very high value. One piece of such clothing may have been worth $100,000. He would wear it for a few days, for the sake of the student who offered it to him, and then give it away. He wouldn't keep that type of clothing. This is the person who gave the teachings we are trying to follow.
The place where he gave the Heart Sutra was on top of a hill located near a small town, which at that time was called Rajgir; it was a small kingdom. Vulture Peak is the name of the hill where he gave the teaching. There was a small seat for the Buddha, a slab of stone, where he sat while he thought. In the sutra it is referred to as his "throne-like seat," but one should be aware that it was merely a slab of stone. The Buddha gave the teachings on the Heart Sutra to those who were present - followers of the Theravada and followers of the Bodhisattva path. Followers of this aspect of the Theravada are called Shravakas in Sanskrit. There were many present who received this teaching.
As we all know, the major part of today's India is flat land; only in the Northern part do you find mountains. Rajgir is located in the flat land. Vulture Peak is referred to as a great mountain, only because most people in India are not familiar with real mountains, since most of the country is flat. Therefore they refer to a hill as a "great mountain," like the "Sky Mountain" found in Denmark. It is a hill outside of Copenhagen, elevated only 200 meters (600 feet) above sea level. I am telling you this in case you go to Rajgir some day and are surprised to find just a hill, when the literal wording in the Sutra mentions a great mountain.
At this particular place, Buddha Shakyamuni gave all the teachings of the Prajnaparamita - the perfection of ultimate wisdom. For a period of seven years, during three months in the summer retreat, he stayed at this place and gave these teachings.
The great Sangha who was present was made up of a monastic community - those who had taken full monastic vows. Both monks and nuns were part of it. The sutra speaks first of the monastic community, the ordinary individuals who have not yet attained fruition in the Therevada approach, then about the great Sangha, great spiritual community, which is made up of those who had attained fruition in the Therevada - the state of an Arhat. Each of the three stages that occur prior to attaining the state of an Arhat involve a particular level of realization.
There are four levels of fruition2 in the Theravada. All approaches in the Buddhist path (Theravada, Mahayana, etc.) are made up of five stages.3 The third stage of the Buddhist path is called the path of seeing, and one who has attained this has a direct perception of the nature of reality, or has had a glimpse of it. On the first level of the four levels of fruition in the Theravada there is an initial glimpse of the true nature of reality - that is the path of seeing the nature of reality in this particular approach. It includes 16 successive instances4 where the insight into the essences of the individual progressively expands to come to full fruition. The first of the four levels in the Shravaka approach is the stage where the person, for the first time, directly perceives the essencelessness of the individual - that there is no real person.
In general, samsara, or conditioned existence in which we are trapped according to Buddhism, is made up of three different kinds of existences called: the realm of desire, the realm of form, and the realm of no form. To be reborn in the desire realm, certain causes and conditions must come together. After an individual who practices the Theravada approach attains the second of the four levels of realization on that path, he has not yet completely eliminated all causes for rebirth in the desire realm, therefore he will again return to the desire realm. However, one should not misunderstand what it means when it is said that he will again be reborn in the desire realm. We all live in this realm, but the practitioner who has attained this level does not have the strong, obscuring states of mind like we do. These individuals, though they are reborn in the desire realm, are developed to the extent that they automatically continue the practice which will result in their attaining the state of an Arhat.
The amount of effort the practitioner at this level makes will determine how long it will take to attain the third stage of realization, at which point he no longer will be reborn in the desire realm. For those practitioners who are able to put a lot of effort into their practice, it takes only one more lifetime. For those of middling capacity, it may take seven or eight lifetimes. For those who are not able to make a lot of effort, who are by nature more lazy, it may take about fourteen lifetimes. But for the person who has attained the second level of realization, the time to attain the third stage will never be longer than 14 lifetimes. When referring to the person who does not make much of an effort, one should be aware that it is "lazy" speaking figuratively, not literally. Having attained the third stage of realization on the Shravaka path, the practitioner will never again be reborn in the desire realm. At this stage, he will have eliminated all causes that would produce that rebirth. However, it is possible that he may be reborn in either of the two other realms, which make up conditioned existence - the realm of form and the realm of no form.
The fourth level of realization, the state of an Arhat, is the ultimate goal of the Theravada path. At this point, the individual will never again be reborn into samsara. One may wonder how an Arhat awakens to the Mahayana path. Bodhisattvas and Buddhas come back to work for the benefit of others. How does the Arhat, having awakened to the Mahayana, come back to benefit others in this world? The answer is that they manifest an illusory form, in this or any other world where, beings are to be taught and trained but they are not able to be reborn into this world.
You have these two different Sanghas, so to speak. There is the Sangha at large, the ordinary Sangha. This sutra refers to them as the monastic Sangha. These are people who have not attained any of these levels of realization. Then there is the great Sangha, which is made up of people who have attained these levels of realization. Those people were present when the Buddha gave the teachings on the Heart Sutra.
The same two divisions exist among the students of the Buddha who were following the path of the Bodhisattva. There were ordinary Bodhisattvas and those who have attained one of the ten stages of a Bodhisattva. There were men and women in both groups. When speaking of the community of ordinary Bodhisattvas, one is speaking of people who have generated a state of mind determined to attain Buddhahood in order to benefit others. A Bodhisattva is someone who has developed what is called Bodhicitta.5 This includes the first two of the five stages that make up the entire Buddhist path. The first two stages are the path of accumulation and the path of unification, and individuals on either of these paths are members of the community made up of ordinary Bodhisattvas. Then, there are great Bodhisattvas. This term always refers to those who have attained the third of the five paths - the path of seeing - direct perception of the nature of reality. Here one has insight into the essencelessness of both the individual and all other phenomena. In fact, when speaking of great Bodhisattvas, one refers to those on the three last stages of the Bodhisattva path, the 8th, 9th, and 10th stages. One example would be the great Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara (in Sanskrit) or Chenrezig (in Tibetan). Then you have Bodhisattvas on the first seven of the ten stages, starting with those who have attained direct perception of reality. Those on the first seven stages are referred to as ordinary. When Buddha gave the Heart Sutra teachings, some of those who were present were of the Theravada and some were of the Mahayana schools.
In terms of the Buddhist community at large, there were four divisions at the time of Buddha Shakyamuni. The same principles are applied to today's Buddhist community. There is the group of lay practitioners who would have a lifestyle that may include a range of commitments. Traditionally, there are five vows that a lay practitioner can take, but he does not have to commit himself to all five. He could also commit himself to just one thing, for example not to lie. Within this group there are two groups - male and female lay practitioners. Then there are those who have taken full monastic ordination, a group of males and a group of females. In that respect, the Buddhist community is made up of four groups.
The Sutra mentions those members of the Buddhist community who were present, and one would find members of all four groups. These were people who had already developed insight to a great extent, had developed a lot of compassion, and had very good karmic potentials for receiving and understanding the particular teachings that were given, the Heart Sutra. The Heart Sutra expounds on the Prajnaparamita - the perfection of wisdom.
In terms of how teachings were given, there were two different aspects. Some teachings were spoken by the Buddha himself. Others were given through the Buddha's inspiration to one of his students, such as a great Bodhisattva or an Arhat. The Buddha, while resting in samadhi, a stable meditation state, would influence this disciple to give a teaching. This particular sutra came about on the basis of that type of inspiration generated by the Buddha. The particular samadhi - the meditation state he was resting in at this time - is referred to as the "dawn of the profound." The "profound" refers to the deep and profound nature of reality being emptiness. Through the power of his meditative state, the Buddha was able to inspire and influence the student who was giving the teaching to the point where the "profound", the meaning of emptiness, dawned in the mind of that student. The Buddha was able to give the teaching about emptiness in this way. Two students of the Buddha, inspired in this way by the power of Buddha's meditation, were the great Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara (Chenrezig), and the great Arhat Shariputra. Through the inspiration of the Buddha, these two had a discussion about emptiness that would clarify the nature of emptiness to those present and listening.
1 The "Mind Only School" belongs to the Mahayana approach. It is also called "Cittamatra" or "Yogacharya." The followers of the Cittamatra School believe in a truly existent consciousness, basing their understanding on one of Buddha's sutras in which is said that "all the three realms are just mind."
2 Four levels of fruition of the Theravada:
1: "The One who enters the Stream" or the ones who have entered the stream of moments which constitutes the path of seeing (they have reached a certain perfection).
2: "The Ones who will return" once again to the desire realm.
3: "The Ones who will not return" to the desire realm but will return once more to the form and formless realms.
3 The five stages of the path are: path of accumulation, path of junction, path of seeing, path of cultivation, path of no more learning.
4 The sixteen instances: when attaining the path of seeing, the Four Noble Truths are realized in sixteen aspects (each Noble Truth is divided into four aspects: "forbearance" and "understanding" which involve the purification of obscurations of the desire realm; "subsequent forbearance" and "subsequent understanding" which involve the purification of the obscurations of the form- and formless realms).
5 Bodhicitta - lit. the mind of enlightenment. On the relative level, it is the wish to attain Buddhahood for the sake of all beings. On the absolute level, it is the direct insight into the ultimate nature.
Kagyu Life International, No.4, 1995
Copyright ©1995 Kamtsang Choling USA