Relating to Your Path
by Lama Thubten Yeshe
from the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archives

Those who practice religion or meditation -- whatever their religious philosophy or doctrine -- should never grasp any idea with attachment. Check up on that. Ideas are not fixed externally, from their own side; rather, you get some information from somewhere, perhaps someone tells you something, and if it appeals to you, your mind grasps on to it so tightly. This is very dangerous.
We often accept some ideas as good; "Oh, meditation is great." There are many examples of things that are beneficial, and of course, those who truly understand their nature and follow the right path will definitely find a satisfactory answer to all their questions. But the danger is for those who simply cling to the idea, the philosophy, the doctrine. Whatever your trip, you should not be attached to it. Again, I'm not talking about the external object but rather about the inner, phychological aspect. If you want to be psychologically healthy, you must avoid all such attachments. This is the way to achieve what Buddhism terms indestructible understanding-wisdom, the ultimate healthy mind.
Perhaps you enjoy your meditation and what you get from it, but at the same time you cling to the intellectual ideas of your spiritual path: "Oh, this is perfect for me. I'm getting results; I'm so happy." Then someone asks you what you're doing, and when you tell them, they put you down.
The same thing goes for you yourself. When people say you are good or bad, your mind should never go up or down in response. You know that words cannot give value to your character, that they can't change the reality of who you are. Therefore, why do you go up and down according to what people say? Because of attachment, the mind that clings, the fixed-idea mind. So make sure that when you do practice Dharma, you abandon attachment and make it worthwhile.
Check up on this; it is psychologically very interesting. If you don't react when somebody tells you that your entire trip is wrong, I'd say you have a pretty good understanding of the psychological nature of the mind. Without this understanding, you hallucinate easily and are easily hurt; your peaceful mind is disturbed -- by words and ideas alone. Our minds are incredible! Our ups and downs have nothing whatsoever to do with reality, nothing to do with the truth. It is very important to understand this psychology.
It is common to find people who think that their own ideas and path are perfect. But by strongly emphasizing how wonderful their own beliefs are, these people indicate that they are automatically putting other, different ideas down. For example, say I believe that yellow is a fantastic color. With logical explanations, I convince you too, so that you believe, "Yellow is the perfect color; it is so good." Automatically, there arises in your mind the idea that, "Red is not so good." There are two things; this is common. Especially in connection with religion should we avoid this kind of contradiction. Accepting one thing should not make you dark and ignorant of others. If you check up what's going on here, you'll see that it is not that you are just blindly following something external, but rather that your mind is unbalanced. If one view is too extreme, it automatically generates another that is opposed to it. This imbalance destroys your inner peace. The culprit is your own unbalanced mind.
This is where religious partisanship comes from. "I am a follower of this religion!" Then, when you see a follower of another religion, you feel afraid and insecure. This is totally your insecure mind, your weak knowledge-wisdom, grasping one extreme. Your mind is polluted; you do not understand the reality of the truth of your own mind. You must try to improve your psychological health. The purpose of practicing religion, Buddhism, Dharma, meditation, is for your mind to reach beyond the unhealthy, contradictory mental attitude. That's all; so you check up.
Lord Buddha himself exhorted his students not to get attached to his teachings: "If I give you this teaching, promise me that you won't get attached to it." Can you imagine? Lord Buddha's teachings are incredible, his methods are universal, but still we should not get attached to them. He even said that we should not get attached to enlightenment, nirvana, or inner freedom; we should practice without attachment.
However, this is very difficult to do, especially in the modern world. It is almost impossible for us to deal properly with material things, and this attitude spills over into our spiritual life. Of course, it is difficult, but you have to check into how to become perfectly psychologically healthy. Avoid extremes.
I mean, in our ordinary samsaric worldly life, if someone says, "Oh, Lama, I like your teachings so much, blah, blah, blah," we automatically grasp, "Oh, yes, thank you so much, I'm glad you like me." We never say, "Don't be attached." Just observe how we react in our own everyday lives. Check up on that. Remember Lord Buddha; his methods and goals were the highest, but he still admonished us not to be attached to them. "If you get attached to this, you are psychologically ill; you're destroying your chance of attaining perfect enlightenment." Isn't that too much?
Lord Buddha never said, "Join my group. Following my path is good; following other religions is bad." He never said that. Even one of the vows he gave to bodhisattvas was not to criticize any other religious doctrine. Check up why he did this. It shows a fantastic, perfect understanding of the human mind. If it were us, we'd say, "Follow me; I'll give you the highest method of salvation. The others are nothing." We regard our spiritual path as some kind of materialistic competition. If you do that, you will never be healthy, will never discover the bliss of liberation, will never discover everlasting peaceful enlightenment. Impossible. Then, what's the point?


Excerpts from the Diamond Sutra

Perfection of Wisdom texts contain many warnings against holding too rigidly to doctrines, even Buddhist doctrines. In the following passage, Buddha warns his disciple Subhuti against conceiving sentient beings as truly existing, and then applies the reasoning of emptiness to other Buddhist categories.
[Buddha:] `Subhuti, due to being established in the bodhisattva vehicle, one should give rise to the thought, "As many sentient beings there are that are included among the realms of sentient beings...whatever realms of sentient beings can be conceived, all these should be brought by me to nirvana, to a final nirvana that is a realm of nirvana without remainder; but, although countless sentient beings have reached final nirvana, no sentient being whatsoever has reached final nirvana." Why is this? Subhuti, if a discrimination of a sentient beings arises in a bodhisattva [literally, "enlightenment-being"], he should not be called an enlightenment-being. Why is this? Subhuti, one who gives rise to the discrimination of such a self, the discrimination of a sentient being, the discrimination of a soul, or the discrimination of a person should not be called a bodhisattva....
`Subhuti, all of them produce and acquire an immeasurable and incalculable store of merit. Why is this? Subhuti, it is because these bodhisattvas, great beings, do not give rise to the discrimination of a self, the discrimination of a sentient being, the discrimination of a soul, or the discrimination of a person. Also, Subhuti, these bodhisattvas, great beings, do not give rise to discriminations of phenomena, nor do they give rise to discriminations of non-phenomena, nor do they give rise to discrimination or to non-discrimination. Why is this? Subhuti, if these bodhisattvas, great beings, gave rise to discriminations of phenomena, this would be grasping a self, grasping a sentient being, grasping a soul, grasping a person. If they gave rise to discriminations of non-phenomena, this also would be grasping a self, grasping a sentient being, grasping a soul, grasping a person. Why is this? Subhuti, in no way should a bodhisattva, a great being, grasp either phenomena nor non-phenomena. Therefore, this has been said by the Tathagata with hidden intent: "For those who understand the teaching of dharma that is like a raft, dharma should be abandoned, and still more non-dharma."


General Introduction to the Commentary on Green Tara Practice

We have on the cover of the prayer booklet a portrait of Green Tara. And in the meditation we're working with the visualization of this image of Green Tara. If we look at it, this is the image that we are to keep in mind, to fix in our mind, and to meditate on her presence, in other words, that she is right there in front of us, in the sky in front of us, so that the meditator meditates on this image of Green Tara, that she is actually present in this form that we see in the portrait, and that she is actually sitting there in front of us.

Now who is Green Tara? For this meditation, we have to understand the great value of Green Tara in order to do this.

So when we say that to do the meditation we have to understand the great value of Green Tara, what does this mean? The great value of Green Tara is based upon the ability to make a key differentiation. The differentiation is between the enlightened being, that is the Buddha, and ordinary sentient being, the ordinary living being. You could say, very rightly, that the ordinary living being is also very valuable, very precious, but precious in a different way, valuable in a different way from the enlightened being.

The ordinary living being in the world, like ourselves, is in a very vulnerable state in which there is a great deal of misery. The ordinary being is caught up helplessly in this state of misery. On the other hand, the enlightened being, like the Buddha, like Green Tara, has attained a state of freedom which we call liberation from all these miseries. So that is the key discrimination, the key point of differentiation between the ordinary being and the enlightened being. We must appreciate that in order to understand the great value of Green Tara.

When we speak of the enlightened being, generally the term we use is "Buddha", and what is a Buddha? First of all, we speak of the three types of Buddha: the Buddhas of the past, the Buddhas of the present, and the Buddhas of the future. Those of the past, of course, are those who have appeared in the world and are no longer existing, or appeared in a former age of the world. Then the present Buddha that appeared in this world, in this epoch, is Sakyamuni Buddha. And then, for instance, the Buddha who is to appear in this world in a future epoch is Maitreya, so this is an example of the Buddhas of the three times. So when you hear that term, the Buddhas of the three times, that's what it means.

Now another way in which we understand enlightened being is through the three aspects, that is body, speech and mind. Any being has these three parts of what we call a being, whether enlightened or not, the body, the speech, the mind; the physical, the verbal, and the mental. And for the enlightened being we speak of the physical, the body, as being of (the Sanskrit word is Tathagata) the body of the fully enlightened being. Second, with regard to the speech, the speech of the type which is called the lotus, the lotus speech of the enlightened being. And the third, the mind, is of the "Vajra" nature, the Vajra type. The mind of the fully enlightened being is the Vajra mind.

What is the example or the symbol here of the physical aspect of enlightened being, which is called the Tathagata, the fully enlightened one? The symbol of this is the flaming sword of wisdom, which is held in the right hand of Manjusri. The flaming sword of wisdom is that which severs all of the bonds of karma, the darkness of ignorance, the manifestations that cause misery. All of these things are cut away and destroyed by the sword of wisdom which is the symbol of the enlightened being's body.

Second, the speech of the enlightened being is said to be like the lotus, or the lotus type. Now the lotus is the symbol of the Buddha's speech because the lotus is something that grows in the dirt, the mud, and rises out of the mud, blossoms forth in this beautiful, pure, undefiled blossoms forth in this beautiful, pure, undefiled blossom of the lotus even though its roots are growing out of the mud. And this is the symbol of the Bodhisattva, of the all-compassionate being, who purposely goes into the mud and dirt and defilement of the ordinary world but rises above it and manifests the beautiful, compassionate teachings of the enlightened one in order to benefit living beings. So that is the symbolism of the lotus, and, again, it symbolizes the speech of the Buddha, or of the enlightened one who speaks in the language of living beings in order to liberate them from their misery.

Third, the mind of the fully enlightened being is said to be of the Vajra type. Now this is the Vajra right here (holding up a Dorje) the little instrument right there, that is the manifestation of the Vajra. Now the symbolism here goes back to the holder of the Vajra in the ancient Vedic deities. The king of all the deities, the lord of heaven, is called Indra. Indra is the chief of the gods. And he attains his position and wields the great hundred-pointed Vajra.

Now, this Vajra (Khempo holds up a Vajra) has five points on it, but Indra's is much bigger, of course, and has a hundred points on it. When Indra picks up his Vajra and throws it in any direction (Indra is the mighty warrior god), nothing can oppose his Vajra. Whatever it is, it will cut right through it. It is stronger and more powerful than anything, so it's said to be diamond, the diamond Vajra. The Vajra's nature is the diamond itself, or that is the only thing that can be compared to it, because the diamond can cut all other materials, but nothing can scratch the diamond, nothing is as hard as the diamond. Likewise the Vajra can destroy everything, but nothing can destroy it. The symbolism here is again the mind of the enlightened one, which can cut through all obstacles and obscurations, but nothing can obscure it. And so this is the mind of what is called the Risi (Tibetan Drangtsong) Drang means "straightforward, totally honest, never saying anything that's untrue; tsong has to do with that as a path, or the way in which such a being goes, absolutely truthful, absolutely straightforward, and the Drangtsong, the Risi, is someone who can go into meditation, and so powerful is his or her mediation that nothing can obstruct it. And so, sitting in meditation, needing almost no food, but gaining tremendous vitality from the power of the mind, such a person becomes a Drangtsong through that type of meditation. And you can stay in that meditation for incredibly long periods of time, billions of years, kalpas, eons of time without having to worry about material things, because of the great power of this adamantine, diamond-like mind, this diamond-like awareness. And so that is the symbolism of the Vajra, the diamond-like clarity, sharpness, hardness of that mind which can penetrate any obstacles and cannot be obstructed by anything, and so is called the Vajra-like awareness of the fully-enlightened being.

Green Tara is said to arise out of, or to be born from, the second of these, the lotus-like speech of fully enlightened being.

When we say that Green Tara arises out of, is born out of, the lotus type, the speech of the fully-enlightened being, associated with the lotus, what is this lotus type, this Lotus Lineage that the term in Tibetan is Rigs and that can mean "type" or "lineage"? Well, the Lotus Lineage out of which she's born has the three-fold manifestation, the three-fold existence, as do all of the different lineages or types. You have the Dharmakaya, the Sambhogakaya, and the Nirmanakaya. These are the three bodies of the fully-enlightened being. The first is the absolute, or what's called the truth body, the ultimate body of the fully-enlightened being. In the lotus lineage, from which Green Tara arises, the Dharmakaya is the Buddha Amitaba. The Sambhogakaya, which means the body of full enjoyment or the body of true enjoyment, that, in the lotus lineage, is Avalokiteshvara, in Tibetan Chenrezig. And the Nirmanakaya, this is the manifestation body that ordinary beings can perceive, which manifests in a physical way in the world, for the lotus lineage, this is Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava). So that's the three-fold body of the fully-enlightened being of the Lotus Lineage from which Green Tara arises.

The Sambhogakaya, sort of the celestial body you could say, the full enjoyment body, of the lotus lineage, in Tibetan is called Chenrezig, in Sanskrit Avalokitéshvara, - and both of these terms Chenrezig and Avalokitéshvara refer to the power of seeing. The great compassionate one, Chenrezig or Avalokitéshvara is called such because of the ability to see all living beings, and that Avalokitéshvara never closes his eyes. His eyes are always open, he always sees what's going on for each and every living being, is never blind to, never ignores, the conditions of or the suffering of any living being near or far away, large or small, everyone without exception, Chenrezig perceives that being's situation.

So Chenrezig looking upon each and every being, and seeing the great troubles experienced by living beings, the different types of miseries and sufferings, never closing his eyes to any of these, he reacts with great compassion, and looking upon them, tears often come to his eyes seeing the sufferings of living beings.

What happened then, while Chenrezig directly, unblinkingly saw the sufferings of beings, tears came into his eyes, and the tears from one eye coalesced into or became Green Tara; the tears from the other eye coalesced into or became White Tara.

White Tara and Green Tara, born from the tears of Chenrezig, each have a different focus, or a different specialty. White Tara specializes in relieving threats to the life of living beings - in other words, preserving life, rescuing from dangerous situations, and allowing living beings to maintain their life. Green Tara, on the other hand, is focused on the miseries of living beings and on how to actively clear away those miseries, or protect living beings from those miseries. So Green Tara has this active function of going forth and protecting or relieving living beings from their miseries.

The first thing we see when we look at Green Tara, of course, is that she is green. The color green corresponds to, or symbolizes, the active function of the fully-enlightened being. "Active function" means the enlightened activities in which fully-enlightened beings engage in order to relieve the sufferings of living beings.

If we look at the picture, we see that Tara is seated upon a cushion, in this image you can see just a little of the white cushion She's seated upon. That's what's called the lunar disk, the moon symbolizing pacification, peacefulness. So her nature is peaceful She brings peace and is by nature peaceful. That is on top of a lotus, She's seated on a large lotus blossom. The lotus here symbolizes Her freedom from any defilement, just as the lotus rises out of the dirt and mud but the blossom itself is pure and undefiled, so Green Tara arises in the world but is completely undefiled by the world.

The symbolism of the figure is quite extensive, but to say just briefly a few of the things, you can see that she's not seated in the full lotus position, but rather has the right leg extended and the left held in. The extension of the right indicates that she is pressing down on something with her right foot, and that means that she's actively holding down or subduing all untoward phenomena, that is, anything that could hinder, interfere with, or cause a problem. In particular, there are lists of the eight great fears and the sixteen calamities, the things which She is able to overcome. The extension of the right foot indicates the reaching out to hold down and suppress such obstacles. The left foot is held inward, which means the holding inward of the two great assemblages, which are merit and wisdom - these are the things which we have to accomplish and always keep hold of - the accumulation of merit through all manner of good deeds, proper activities, or proper Dharma practice, and the assemblage of wisdom, which is the accomplishment of all aspects of wisdom. This is symbolized by the left foot being held inward.

The right hand is extended with the palm outward, in the gesture of giving called the dhana mudra, the gesture of giving charity, which in this case is the great charity of the two types of accomplishment, called the ordinary and the sublime accomplishments. The ordinary are the eight great siddhis, the high spiritual accomplishments of those who engage in proper meditation to attain spiritual status, spiritual accomplishment. Those are called the ordinary siddhis, the ordinary accomplishments. She bestows those, and in particular she bestows the sublime accomplishment, which is the attainment of ultimate, perfect enlightenment.

The left hand is held up, again with the palm facing outward, and grasping the lotus. This is called the Kyabchin Chagya mudra, the "gesture of refuge". It is granting refuge from all of those things which would obstruct or cause trouble, and here again we have the lists of the eight great terrors, which are fires, poisons, snakes, and things like that; anything that could harm you or cause you trouble she is granting protection from.

There are two types of "halos". One is the halo around Her entire body, and that's the yellow or orange, the large one. We should understand when we look at the picture that the halos there are the representations which have been given by the artist of the, you could say, aura. The aura is not something which you can really paint. It's a radiance, a powerful, energetic radiance which comes forth as if it's a halo like that. So we should understand it not as something we can reach out and touch, but rather something which is like rays of light, invisible like that. And the one around the body, the larger one, shows the perfect awareness, the state of perfect supreme awareness or highest wisdom, which gives forth this radiance all around her whole body.

There are several lotuses here, and the type of lotus is called "utpala". Utpala is a type of lotus, and it's a blue or greenish lotus. The lotus she's seated on is that type, it's an utpala. There are two other lotuses. If you look closely you can see that between her thumb and forefinger of the right hand and then also held in the left hand there are stems of a flower. That flower is the utpala, the blue or green lotus. The symbolism there is of the active principle of the fully-enlightened being, that is the enlightened activity of the enlightened being or the Buddha, which accomplishes all of the tasks of the Buddha to help living beings.

If you look, she has various types of bodily ornaments. These are various types of metal or precious stones, jewelry all around on different parts of her body. These are precious jewels. The bracelet, armlets going around the upper arm, necklace, earrings, the long necklace - there's a short necklace that goes around the neck and a long one that goes down the front of her body - anklets, and various other things: these symbolize her status as being a diving being, in particular the three bodies of the Buddha - Dharmakaya, Sambhogakaya, Nirmanakaya - the second being the Sambhogakaya, the body of perfect enjoyment - the deities who posses this body of perfect enjoyment always have these types of ornaments that indicate their status as that type of enlightened being enjoying all of the powers and prerogatives of the heavens. So the importance of this is that she is possessed of the great power of the divine being, the great opulence of the diving being, and has all of these jewels, valuable things, with which she can clear away the miseries of deprivation or poverty of all living beings.

If you look very carefully, you can see that on the crown of her head she has a crown ornament that looks like a hat, and in the very center of that there's a red figure. That red figure is the Buddha Amitaba, who's always red in color, and it's at the very center of the reddish halo around her head, it's the red figure Amitaba. This indicates her affiliation with the lotus lineage, in other words she's a part of this lotus lineage. The Buddha of the lotus lineage is Amitaba, or in Tibetan Amwa Tayay, infinite light. She is, again, the representative of that lineage.

There are five lineages of Buddhas. The lotus lineage is just one of these five. The five are always in relation to one another according to the cardinal directions. So there is the lineage of the north, of the east, of the south, of the west, and of the center. Amitaba is the Buddha of the west, associated with the color red and the lotus.
Refuge and Bodhicitta
Preliminary to the Seven Branches are the two vital aspects of refuge and the generation of the Bodhisattva attitude. These precede any other Dharma activity. The very first thing we do is to take refuge. Again, this is done with respect, here, to Green Tara. So we must have this visualization, first of all, fixed in our mind, realizing her to be present, and through that realization we take refuge in her.

When we take refuge, we're doing it not just by ourselves, but we visualize that all around us, and together with us, all other living beings are also taking refuge. Understanding the central importance of the refuge, we visualize that on our right side our father of this lifetime is bowing down and taking refuge, on our left our mother is there bowing down taking refuge, and around us all living beings without exception are also taking refuge, receiving the refuge and protection from Green Tara, but, principally, our mother and father, as they are those toward whom we owe the greatest debt of gratitude, because it is through their kindness that we came into this world and gained the present wonderful opportunity to receive the refuge, protection, and guidance of Green Tara.

With that in mind, we take Refuge. We ask for refuge from this moment on, until we attain enlightenment due to the help of Green Tara.

Having taken Refuge, we do the next central aspect of the practice, which is the generation of the Bodhisattva attitude. Both of these are preliminary to, precede, the seven other aspects of worship.

The generation of the Bodhisattva attitude means that we take refuge, we engage in the practice, we proceed on the path to enlightenment, not for our own sake, but putting away selfish goals, selfish motivation, we do so for the sake of all living beings. In other words, we're concerned to practice refuge, to attain enlightenment, not for our own sake alone, but rather for all living beings, and this is the Bodhisattva attitude.

This must be done not just in a formal manner, where we just say it, but rather it has to arise from the depths of our heart, we have to be engaging in this practice from the deepest motivation to benefit other living beings.

When we engage in this practice, starting from the very first, before we take refuge and generate this altruistic Bodhisattva attitude, and before we engage in the seven aspects of worship, it's vital that we realize that in front of us, in the sky, looking down upon us, observing us, being present for us, is Green Tara herself. She is the principal deity toward whom we are engaging in this practice, but she is not alone. Surrounding her on all sides are the twenty-one Taras. So, she is in the center, she is the principal one, but then you have all twenty-one Taras surrounding. And around them, on all sides, are the Buddhas of the past, the Buddhas of the present, the Buddhas of the future, the Buddhas of all ten directions -- throughout limitless space, in all ten directions, all of the Buddhas throughout the infinity of space are present. In addition to them, all of the Bodhisattvas are present. In addition to them are what are called the Shravakas and the Pratyekabuddhas, these are those who attain Arhatship, or liberation, following the lesser vehicle, the Hinayana. They are there, as are all other beings throughout space and time who have generated in their hearts this altruistic aspiration to attain perfect enlightenment for the sake of all living beings. That is, all those who've attained or generated the Bodhisattva attitude -- they too are present. We are going for refuge to all of these beings.

All of these deities, all of these enlightened beings that we are visualizing in front of us in the sky, are not just there in empty space, but are there in the pure land of Green Tara. That pure land is called Yulod Kurpa, which means "the Turquoise-colored Pureland". This is her heavenly, or celestial, paradise, which is complete with all aspects of a diving paradise, and is characterized by this turquoise color. This entire assembly arises here in this green pure land. This is the name of Her celestial paradise, where living beings go to attain enlightenment. Something should be said about this turquoise-colored paradise. It resembles some sort of fantastic heavenly rock 'n roll party. The deities there are filled with bliss, spending their time in dance and song, special enlightened dance and song, so that if ordinary beings even perceive it, even see it, they are filled with a sense of happiness and faith.

When we're visualizing Green Tara and the enlightened deities, this is the setting, the environment in which they arise, these enlightened beings in this land where all of the beings are so happy and are engaged in dancing and singing. We should understand of this paradise of Green Tara that if we were to go there, if we were born there, our experience would have not even a hint of any of the miseries we have on earth, certainly none of the miseries of birth, sickness, old-age, and death.

As a matter of fact, all of the deities there (if we were to look at their appearance, we would say that they're sixteen years old, never getting older, never getting younger) have bodies that are like a sixteen year old's. They're engaged in dancing and singing, but every sound made in the dances and the songs is a Dharma sound; in other words, it brings enlightenment to those who hear it. No other sounds are there. The music is played by what are called the "gandharvas". A gandharva is a celestial or heavenly musician. So this is the nature of the pure land of turquoise color.

The process by which we're doing this, at first, is what we call a process of imagination. In other words, we are imagining such a sight in front of us in the sky, Green Tara, all of these enlightened beings, and this fabulous heavenly Pureland of enjoyment and music, and so forth. We're imagining this, we're generating it from our imagination to begin with, but what we do then, the key thing that's done, then, is the invocation (it's the same word you would use for invitation).

We're actually asking that Green Tara manifest herself from where she is, and all of the other living beings we invite, we invoke their presence, and through their compassion and their enlightened activity, they come and they inhabit our visualization. In other words, the actual Green Tara comes and enters into the imagined, the visualized Green Tara, and they become undifferentiated. So that's the actual Green Tara there, it's not just imagined, but we invoke her presence and through Her compassion She comes. Likewise, all the other enlightened beings, and the pure land itself, manifest in front of us in reality, not just through imagination.

We engage in this process of the invocation of the deities into the visualized assembled field of refuge. The process is the same as if we were inviting an honored guest. First, we set the table. We prepare the seats, the cushions, and everything else. Then we invite the guest. We now have a place where they can sit and things we can offer to them. So, first, we do that work of setting up the visualization, and then we invoke the deities, ask them to come, to manifest themselves, to enter into this visualization.

After we have done this, after they have entered into the visualization and are actually present, then we engage in the various aspects of worship that we described before, the seven-fold aspects of worship.

After engaging in these seven aspects of worship, from the bowing down to the dedication, we engage in some other types of worship; for instance, making a prayer request that Green Tara and the other enlightened beings bestow or facilitate a state of peace and happiness in this world.
Seven Branch Offering
When we look at this image of Green Tara, and we notice all of the particulars of this image and hold that in our mind, understanding or appreciating as much as we can the details of it and the symbolism involved. This is the image we hold in front of us. In other words, when we engage in the practice of Green Tara it is important to realize that Green Tara through this practice comes into our presence, is actually seated there in the sky above us in such a form.

With that realization of the presence, we then engage in the practice. In particular, we engage in the seven aspects of the worship.

Of the seven aspects of the worship, the first is the bowing down, the obeisance, the giving of honor of body, speech, and mind. So we're bowing down to Green Tara in this form.

The second of the seven is the giving of offerings. We present the offerings, we make the offerings, to Green Tara, understanding her to be there in front of us.

Third is the confession, confessing all of our misdeeds and shortcomings. So we're doing that again to Green Tara, who we understand to be in front of us.

Fourth is the rejoicing in the virtue of all living beings, in particular the enlightened beings who accomplish the sublime virtues. It's the welcoming or active rejoicing in the virtues of others. We do that again with respect to Green Tara .

Fifth is the exhortation. Here we address Green Tara. Principally, we exhort Her to turn the wheel of the Dharma, that is, to bestow upon us and all living beings the sublime teachings of the Dharma.

The sixth aspect of worship is the prayer, or supplication, to Green Tara that she not withdraw her manifestation, but that she remain continually in the world for the benefit of ourselves and all living beings.

The seventh and last aspect of worship is the dedication. Again, we do this in front of, and with respect to, Green Tara, dedicating the meritorious results of all of our Dharma practice -- all of these other aspects, from the obeisance through the supplication. We dedicate the meritorious value to the ultimate enlightenment and liberation of all living beings.

These are the seven aspects of worship. Again, briefly, the first is bowing down, the second is making offerings, the third is confessing sins, the fourth is welcoming or rejoicing in the virtues of others, the fifth is entreating or exhorting the enlightened one to turn the wheel of the Dharma, to bestow the Dharma, the teachings, on us and all other living beings; the sixth is the supplication that the enlightened being remain in the world for the benefit of living beings and not depart the world and enter into a nirvana-like state of peacefulness and withdrawal from the world; and seventh is dedication of the merit.

So these are the seven aspects of worship present in any type of full Dharma practice, or a Dharma practice session.
Mandala Offering
Then, again, an offering of the various aspects of the offering (the seven different types of offering, or the seven bowl offering) is made to Green Tara and the deities. Briefly, these offerings are:
1. Argham (Chod yon) - Pure stream water gathered from the entire universe and offered to the three jewels (Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha). This exceptionally pure water has eight qualities: crystal clarity, coolness, sweetness, lightness, softness, freedom from impurities, a soothing affect on the stomach, and the ability to make the throat clear and free of phlegm and obstruction.
2. Padhyam (Shab sil) - Water especially dedicated to cleansing an object of refuge, such offering it to the Buddha for a bath.
3. Pushpe (Me tog) - All of the offering flowers in the universe, including the utpala flower, medicinal flowers, fruits, and grains.
4. Dhuppe (Dug po) - All of the finest incense in the universe.
5. Aloke (Mar me) - All natural lights (the sun, the moon and all moons, stars, quasars, etc. ) in the universe and all man-made lights (candles, lamps, spotlights, lasers, etc. ), to dispel the darkness of the mind.
6. Gendhe (Dri chab) - All pleasant fragrances, including perfumes that are pleasing to the smell and liquids that are pleasant to drink.
7. Nivide (Shalse) - All nutritious and pleasing food, ethically produced, in the universe.
There are various aspects to the offering, there are different types of offering. There are the ordinary offerings of the seven types described above. There is also the offering of the Mandala.

The offering of the Mandala is where we offer the entire world, we offer everything, not just this earth, not just this planet, but the billions of worlds throughout the universe. We gather them together as an offering in which we hold nothing back and make the great Mandala offering.
Praise to the 21 Taras
Another aspect of the Green Tara practice is making offerings in particular to Green Tara and the twenty-one Taras. Here, again, we're doing a similar thing of making these types of offerings, but this time limited to just them. So here, again, we go through the process of building up the visualization then invoking the presence of Green Tara and the twenty-one Taras, and then making offerings to them.

Then again we make the seven bowl offerings - the water, flowers, food, and so forth - to them. Following that we offer the Mandala to Green Tara and the other Taras, and here it's a different type of Mandala offering. At this point, having offered the Mandala to the twenty-one Taras, we make the praise of the twenty-one Taras. In this we are focusing individually on each of the twenty-one Taras, making the praises to each one according to Her particular attributes. This praise to each of the Twenty-one Taras is repeated, so we do it twice. After that, after we make the praise to each of the twenty-one two times, again we make the offering to all of them, and after that we again make the Mandala offering.

As we engage in, now, a three-fold repetition of the praise to the twenty-one Taras, we visualize in our heart, upon a lotus cushion, the syllable TAM - the syllable TAM represents Green Tara - and around it go the letters of her Mantra, and, as this process is taking place, light goes out in all directions from that syllable and from the letters of that Mantra. The light goes out in all directions and takes the form of sublime offerings to all of the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and enlightened beings in all directions, and then comes back to us and goes out again. This time it clears away all of the defilements and obstacles from all living beings throughout the universe. Then it comes back.

Then we visualize that, following the Mudra of Green Tara, her right hand bestowing boons, bestowing whatever is necessary to living beings; the left hand granting protection, we visualize that all living beings have attained refuge from obstacles, from all of their fears, from all of the things which threaten them. They have attained a state of refuge or protection from all negativities. And then, according to the gifts bestowed by Green Tara with her right hand in the gesture of generosity, we visualize that all living beings have attained satisfaction - their desires, whatever they are, have been fulfilled, and they are now in a state of happiness and fulfillment.

Then, in recognition of, or gratitude for, this; for this great work of the Enlightened Being having been accomplished in this way, we make the seven types of offerings and offer the Great Mandala, which includes everything throughout the great universe.

Next, we visualize that Green Tara, after we make the offerings and present the Mandala to her, comes forth and resides above us on the crown of our head.

If you look at the picture, the lowest part of Her body is the big toe of the right foot, and that is what is contacting the top of our head. All of her blessings, Her enlightened blessings, then come down to us through that, through Her toe into the top of our head. We visualize it as a white fluid filling our body from the very top all of the way down. You can think of it as if your body is a crystal vase being filled with white nectar or milk. What is happening then is that all of our defilements and obscurations are being cleansed, and in their place is this pure nectar of enlightenment.

As we visualize this flow of the blessings, the nectar of enlightenment, the blessings of Green Tara, enters into the top of our head. At this point is a different aspect of the visualization. We visualize that our body is filled with all of it's defilements and obscurations, and this includes physical problems that we have, illness or disease, or some sort of impediment, or anything like that, these also are visualized as being in this container of our body and being dark in color.

All of these things are being pushed down from above. The top of our bodies are being filled with the white, radiant nectar. The darkness of all of these impediments, diseases, and so forth are being pushed down and are leaving or evacuating our body from the lower openings in our body. They're being flushed out from above, and our bodies are being purified from all of that.

The darkness being flushed out is mixed with this nectar of enlightenment, leaves our body, and goes down below into the earth. As it goes down, it enters into the mouth of Yama, the Lord of Death. Entering into His mouth, (this includes all of the gross physical aspects of our body, the bones, the blood, and so forth) enters him through his mouth, freeing us from all of these things. Through his mouth, it then goes into the lower worlds of the animals, the hell beings, and the pretas or hungry ghosts. All of these beings in the lower worlds we have a connection with us from former lifetimes; one way or another our former lives touch theirs, and we owe them in various ways -- some kind of karmic debt that we owe them, some sort of way in which we have yet to repay them for their kindness or whatever way we owe them.

The nectar then, mixed with all of these aspects from our gross physical body, goes down and takes the form of whatever they need to relieve them of their miseries. Through the enlightened nectar, then, not only are their miseries relieved, but they are transformed and freed from their miserable states of existence. Now, freed from these problems, they arise and enter into the turquoise colored pure land of Green Tara, there to attain bliss and ultimate enlightenment.

We recite the praise to the twenty-one Taras seven times as we visualize this.

Through this, we enter into the prayer, we supplicate the twenty-one Taras, that peace will come to the earth, that peace and happiness will come to the earth, and that the Dharma will spread and prosper in all directions.
Offering the Torma of Consciousness
Once we have completed the seven repetitions of the 21 Taras, we recite the mantra:

At this point we're visualizing the fire of wisdom burning up, completely consuming, all negative things, all defilements, all obscurations. They are completely burned up in the fire of wisdom, and nothing is left of them. After that comes the Mantra that is the Mantra of the realization of emptiness, where all phenomena without exception are realized as being free of true existence, or inherent, existence, and the ultimate truth is realized.

At this point there is the offering to the twenty-one Taras and all enlightened beings. We'll see these in the text, where we visualize the white syllable OM arising from emptiness as we've just recited on page 39 of the text, the Offering of the Torma. We have two Mantras, the second one establishing the realization of emptiness. From that emptiness, there arises the white syllable OM. This appears in a mighty jeweled vessel. This is a great vase made of purified gold, silver, and jewels, large enough to contain the entire material universe, but filled with all of the precious, divine ornaments which are then offered to, principally, Green Tara and the twenty-one Taras, and also to all enlightened beings. So, offering is made.


From these three syllables tormas appear. Tormas are offering cakes made of all of the most pure and perfect foods, with all of the most perfect flavors. This is the food of the divine beings, and these are offered individually to all of the twenty-one Taras and the other enlightened beings. This offering is then confirmed, or made real, through the recitation three times of the Mantra

Then repeat three times the offering Mantra

Then repeat three times the offering Mantra of the god realm

Next, on page 41, come the prayers to the lotus lineage, the lotus family, the Buddha Amitaba being the head of the family, the Buddha of all of the Bodhisattvas of the lotus lineage. So these are the prayers, offerings, and the praise of the lotus lineage. So you're making prayers to Amitaba, whose name means "Limitless Light", the head of the Lotus lineage, and all of the other deities within that lineage are being praised and offered to.

After making the praise, the obeisance, the offerings, and so forth, there are the special requests to the lotus family, such as the request for world peace, the request for the happiness of all living beings, the request for the spreading and prosperity of the Dharma in the world, and so forth.
Tara Mantra Recitation
On page 45 of the Saddhana, we have the recitation of the Mantra, which is repeated at this point as many times as possible (hundreds or thousands of times). As we recite it, we're not just saying the words or the syllables, but we're visualizing.

We visualize the seed syllable, the essence syllable of Green Tara, being on a lotus in our heart. That syllable is the syllable TAM. Around the syllable TAM are the (Tibetan) letters of the mantra, going around the seed syllable in a clockwise rotation. >From the rotating Mantra light rays go forth. These light rays first of all, as before, go forth and make offerings to all enlightened beings in all of the ten directions. When the light rays return, one is transformed into Green Tara. So, now you are meditating on yourself as Green Tara. You are no longer an ordinary living being, but you have attained the state in which you are undifferentiated from Green Tara. So you're visualizing yourself as (before we visualized Her in the sky in front of us) now we are, through this process of purification, of saying the mantra, transformed into Green Tara. We are therefore able to send forth these rays of light to accomplish the protection and happiness of beings.
Vajrasattva Hundred Syllable Mantra
In the process described up until now, it's likely that we've omitted something, done something in the wrong order, done something incorrectly, forgotten something, or gotten something messed up -- it's very complex. So, at this point, at the bottom of page 45, we have the recitation of the Hundred Syllable Mantra of Vajrasattva. (In the animated GIF below, the Mantra will play through all of the syllables in a little over a minute. The Sanskrit transliteration employed is slightly different from the Tibetan pronunciation, but the relative pacing is fairly close to one way of chanting the Mantra. )

The power of this Mantra is to correct all these errors, to fill in all of the omissions, and to straighten it all out so that we don't have to be concerned with errors or problems we have in the meditation.
Completion of Practice

Then, having recited this Hundred Syllable Mantra once, on the top of page 46 we see in the confession of our shortcomings, unwholesome deeds, and so forth, that we recognize these, acknowledge them, repudiate them or regret them, and make a resolution not to repeat them.

Request for Attainment

The is the request for the boon of the spiritual accomplishment. So here, on page 47, we're asking the blessings of the Dharma, that Tara bestow upon us the siddhis or spiritual attainments. This request is empowered by recitation of the Mantra at the top of page 47 which is recited and brings about the fulfillment of the request.

Request for the Deities to Return

Next is the request that, after having invoked Green Tara, the Twenty-one Taras, and all enlightened beings, that having them appear in this way before us and giving these blessings, now they depart to their various Buddha Realms, their pure lands, but we ask them now that you are departing, don't just leave, but come again. This is the sort of thing any polite host or hostess would say to an honored guest when they leave, recognizing that they're going back to their own house, but please come again. This is said with sincerity, from the heart.


At the top of page 48 there is the meditation where it says that the deity and the nature of one's mind remain inseparable, remain in the equipoise of the innate sphere of truth. Here we have purified our obscurations, we have attained this understanding of the lack of inherent existence of all phenomena, and so we have this state of emptiness, which is empowered or motivated by great compassion. Our state of mind here is one that joins together great compassion, the compassion for all living beings without exception, and the wish for their ultimate happiness and liberation. This great compassion is joined with the realization of the lack of inherent, or true, existence in any phenomenon. This is the state of mind which is called the innate sphere of truth. In other words, this is the state of the enlightened being's mind. So we try to remain in this state at this point, to enter into it, or to hold this mediation for as long as we can, remain in this equipoise, this state of meditation.


Arising out of this meditation, we conclude our practice with the dedication of merit. All of the merit we have generated through this extensive practice we dedicate, so that we and all living beings may attain this state of perfect peerless enlightenment characterized by Tara Herself. This is the ultimate purpose of the meditation, of the entire practice of Dharma. We dedicate all of the positive energy, the merit, that has arisen from all of these practices, we dedicate it to that supreme purpose of the ultimate enlightenment of all living beings.

The concluding aspect of the practice, then, is the prayer for auspiciousness. And auspiciousness in this context means that in this life, in all future lifetimes, may we never be separated from this connection with Green Tara. We recognize that she is the embodiment in the form of a beautiful goddess of all of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, and that from her come all auspicious things; that she is like a wish-granting jewel or an excellent vase. Of course, anyone who possesses a wish-granting jewel will immediately obtain whatever they wish for. The excellent vase is that from which, like a cornucopia, whatever you desire you can extract. Arya Tara, Green Tara, is like that. She is the true manifestation of the wish-fulfilling jewel and the excellent vase. She is the embodiment of the wisdom, compassion, and enlightened deeds of all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.

Our final prayer is that, in this and all lifetimes, we may never be separated from Green Tara.

This has been a brief outline of the Green Tara practice, a brief explanation of it. An extensive one would be a lot longer. So you should understand this to be just a suggestion of the meaning. (This is the conclusion of the Commentary. )

Transmitted April 4, 1997 By
Khempo Yurmed Tinly Rinpoche


How To Hear The Teachings
by Patrul Rinpoche

Whenever you hear or explain the teachings, or meditate and accomplish the teachings, give up these three: remembering the past, passionate interest in the future, and losing yourself in present objects of thought.

Take to heart these words of Gyalray Rinpoche:

That which is past history (the pleasure, the pain),
like images composed on water vanish at the end point
Once it is gone, do not thereafter reflect on it.

Memories (when they do follow):
Use them to consider how good and bad times gather together
Only to be swept away.
What hope by Dharma, Mantra-reciter?

Plotting the future
Is fishing in a parched ravine.
Hold fast from abstract speculations,
From wishing and craving.

Reflect (should such thoughts persist)
That death arrives unheralded.
What time will you allot the world,

Present upkeep is like
doing housekeeping in a dream,
Useless! Stop!
The sustenance required for practice
Comes wrapped in non-attachment.
The local bustle is hollow, Mantra-reciter.

When not meditating, trim your thoughts,
lance the three poisons,
till all appearance
is regarded as Dharmakaya.
This is the method:
bear it in mind when apt.
Why cling to errant thoughts, Mantra-reciter?

As the adage has it:
'Be unconcerned with concerns that are not yet'.
Too hasty a reach for the future guarantees
that the fate of Moon Fame's father shall be ours.

In the past a poor man found a large quantity of barley in a deserted shed. Pouring it into a bag, he hung it from the ceiling. Then he lay down under the bag and began to think: "Based on this barley, great fortune will come to me! I will take a wife, and surely a son will be born." As he began to wonder what to name the child, the moon rose.

"I will call him Moon Fame!" he exclaimed.
While he was daydreaming in this way, a mouse was eating through the rope that held the bag of barley. The rope gave way, the bag fell on top of him, and he was killed.

There is no time to rely on the many strings of thoughts about the future or the past. Since they only disturb your stream of consciousness, you should give them up and listen to the teachings attentively and carefully.

Another problem comes if you remember and raise excessive points from each and every word and meaning of the teaching. Then you will be like a bear catching mice: When you grasp one, the others will be forgotten. You will never understand much this way. Yet if you are too withdrawn, there is the problem of falling into sleep and dullness. So tightness and looseness should be moderated.

In the past Ananda was teaching meditation to Shronakoti. Yet Shronakoti could not generate proper meditation because he was sometime too tight and sometimes too lose. So he questions the Buddha, who replied, "Were you skilled at playing the violin when you were a householder?"

"Very skilled," Shronakoti replied.

"Did the sound of you violin come from very loose strings or from very tight strings?"

"Indeed, neither of these were appropriate. The sound came from a moderation of tightness and looseness."

"Your mind should also be like that."

From these words Shronakoti attained the fruit of the path.

Macig Labdronma has said "Hold fast with alertness, and relax with looseness. This is the core of the view."

Without overly tightening the mind and withdrawing it inward, moderate tightness and looseness.

Also, do not be discouraged during long periods of hearing the teaching due to hunger, thirst or other minor discomforts caused by the wind, sun, rain, and so on. Listen joyfully and with delight, thinking:
"Now I have attained a precious human body. I have met a qualified teacher. What joy to hear his profound instructions! I can hear the teaching now only because I collected merit for countless aeons. This occasion is like being able to eat the food of an entire lifetime at one time. Thus, for the sake of the teachings I will endure whatever discomforts of heat and cold might arise.


Teachings of
Venerable Khempo Yurmed Tinly Rinpoche

Neshe Rinpoche Drulme,
"The Precious Lamp Of Certain Knowledge"

Proper Motivation for Listening to a Teaching
Be Practical About It
Check Your Motivation
The Spread of Buddhism
Guru Rinpoche
The Eighty-Four Mahasiddhas
Your Great Good Fortune
The Topic of the Teaching
Mipham Rinpoche

Classifications of Buddha Dharma Teachings
Classification of the Current Text
Origins of the Prajnaparamita Texts
The Mulamadhyamakakarika
Transmission to Tibet
The Four Main Indian Buddhist Schools
The Four Main Tibetan Buddhist Schools
Nyingma Scholarship
Mipham Rinpoche and the Neshe Rinpoche Dronme
Views of Emptiness
Divisions of The Precious Lamp of Certain Knowledge
The Title of the Text
The Nature of the Work
Benefits of Certain Knowledge
Who Brings About Certain Knowledge?
Buddha Nature
Disadvantages of Lacking Certain Knowledge
Approaches to Buddha Dharma
Ground, Path, and Fruition
Authentic Standards
Chandrakirti and Dharmakirti
Chandrakirti's Four Lines of Reasoning
Dharmakirti's Four Lines of Reasoning
The Mahayana Path
Proper Motivation for Listening to a Teaching
Before we actually get to the main body of the teachings, by way of introduction I wish to say something about motivation; about how a student should approach the teachings. When we think of the practice of Dharma, we understand that there is what we call Ngondro, or a preliminary phase to our practice. Taking Refuge and giving rise to Bodhicitta constitute the proper Ngondro for any practice that we undertake. In the context of a teaching where the Dharma is being explained, the Ngondro is your motivation, is checking and establishing a proper motivation for requesting and receiving the teachings. When you are listening to teachings, you should be aware of what the proper motivation is for listening to these teachings. You go through a certain amount of hardship in your life in order to arrive at a situation where you can receive the teachings. As a student, you make efforts to find a teacher and to seek out a situation where you can receive teachings. You should understand for whose benefit you are making these efforts. If you are motivated solely for your own selfish interests; if you think, "well, I'm making all of this effort to go to a teacher, to receive these teachings, so that I can be happy, so that I can feel good, so that I can experience well being," you have the wrong motivation. The difficulties that you are undergoing in order to seek out teachers and receive teachings are for the benefit of all beings, whose numbers are equal to the limits of space. Wherever space extends, there are sentient beings. Wherever there are sentient, unenlightened beings, their experience is permeated by negative Karma and afflictive emotions. And wherever the experience of a being is permeated by negative Karma and afflictive emotions, there is suffering. All of these beings, whose numbers fill space and whose experience is replete with suffering due to negative Karma and afflictive emotions, are connected to you in a very intimate way, because there is not a single being that has not been, in some lifetime or another, your father or your mother. So when you listen to the teachings, and when a teacher gives teachings, it should be from the perspective of a vast motivation that takes the welfare of all beings into account. This is why the Dharma is taught. This is why one listens to teachings: for the benefit of all beings. So our motivation for listening to teachings should take into account all of these beings, who have been our parents, with the understanding that the reason we are listening to and practicing the teachings is to eliminate the suffering of all those beings.
Be Practical About It
But we need to be practical. Can we truly, with any of the means at our disposal now, eliminate the suffering of others? Is there any medicine, any cure-all that we can give to other beings that will free them completely from suffering? There really is no means we have at our disposal - except one. The one way in which we can truly eliminate suffering for beings is to practice the Dharma, attain Buddhahood, and continue to propagate the teachings of the Dharma so that other beings may practice them and attain Buddhahood. This is the single way that we can truly eliminate suffering for all beings. Any other means will ultimately fail. How is it, then, that a Buddha, an enlightened being, eliminates or dispels the suffering of other beings? It is primarily through presenting the teachings of the Dharma. In the case of a Buddha such as the Buddha Shakyamuni, we often hear references to the twelve great acts, The Twelve Great Deeds, of the Nirmanakaya. We should remember that one of the most significant of these deeds was the occasion upon which the Buddha turned the Wheel of the Dharma in Varanasi, teaching the Four Noble Truths. This is the value of attaining enlightenment:. to be able to then turn the Wheel of the Authentic Dharma for other beings.
Check Your Motivation
The important point is to continually check our motivation and develop the best possible motivation for giving teachings and for listening to teachings. In order to best appreciate the teachings that we hear, it is important that we understand how sacred they are, how important they are to our spiritual development. When the Buddha Shakyamuni attained enlightenment in India, he taught in many places in the Indian sub-continent, in Varanasi, on the Vulture Peak near Rajagrha, in Vaisali, and other places. Due to support of patrons, such as kings and rulers of those areas, and due to the collective merit of the beings living in those times and those places, the Buddha was able to present the teachings in a way that benefited an enormous number of beings. We couldn't begin to count the number of beings who benefited directly from the presence of the Buddha Shakyamuni in India more than two millennia ago, turning the Wheel of the Dharma.
The Spread of Buddhism
When the Buddha Shakyamuni turned the wheel of the Dharma due to his enormous motivation to benefit all beings, the collective merit of people in the holy country of India was such that the Buddhist teachings flourished in the sub-continent at that time. But in the surrounding regions, such as Tibet, China, southeast Asia, and so forth, the conditions were not appropriate for beings to receive the teachings while the Buddha was still living in India, while that Nirmanakaya was still manifesting. So even the sound of the Dharma did not arrive immediately in those border regions. Only in the Indian sub-continent were the conditions appropriate. Then, gradually, later on in history, the transmission of the teachings began to spread to the so-called border regions such as Tibet and China.
Guru Rinpoche
When the Buddha Shakyamuni passed into Final Nirvana, he left behind prophecies that, in the future, various other enlightened beings would carry on the task of bringing these teachings from the holy land of India to other areas such as China and Tibet. For example, he prophesied the coming of Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava), who would tame those who were to be tamed by Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, whose emanation Guru Rinpoche was. In this and other ways the Buddha left a legacy of prophesies concerning the spread of the Buddhist teachings to other parts of the world. To attempt to describe anything like a complete history or biography of Guru Rinpoche would be beyond my capabilities. But just to give you some food for thought as an introduction to these teachings, I will simply note that the miraculous birth of Guru Rinpoche in the milky lake of Danakosha was simply one case of a great master of the Buddhist tradition in India appearing, or manifesting, in a way that contributed to the spread of the teachings to other countries.
The Eighty-Four Mahasiddhas
We may also note at this point the Eighty-Four Mahasiddhas, the Tantric Mahasiddhas of India, the teachers of Buddhist India known as the Six Ornaments of the Human Realm, and the two masters who commented on the Vinaya or monastic codes who were known as the Excellent Pair. In the case of the Yogacara or "mind only" school of Buddhism, there were some five hundred masters. In short, the Buddhist tradition of India produced an enormous number of masters who were both learned scholars and also accomplished meditators. It was their activity in maintaining the teachings and helping the spread of these teachings that allowed the transmission of the Dharma from India to places like Tibet and China, and to other areas of the world that became seats of the Dharma in their own right.
Your Great Good Fortune
The circumstances that permitted a living tradition of Buddhism in India have waned over the centuries, so that the Buddhist tradition in India itself is very, very weak. India itself is undergoing a great deal of difficulty economically, socially, and so forth. Due to a lot of circumstances that have come about over the centuries, the Buddhist tradition came to virtually disappear in the sub-continent of India, where it had first flourished. But it continued to develop in the other areas to which it had been transmitted. So Tibet, China, and areas like Vietnam and other parts of south-east Asia continued to be strongholds of the Buddha Dharma. Nowadays, of course, the situation has changed again. In areas that were traditionally Buddhist countries such as China, Tibet, and so forth, the Buddhist teachings are subject to a great deal of repression and difficulty. But for you who live in the west the situation is very fortunate, because truly great lamas such as Chagdud Rinpoche, His Holiness The Dalai Lama, and His Holiness The Karmapa, great teachers of the Buddhist tradition, have been able to come to Europe and North and South America, and to begin to pass these teachings on to you who live in the Western Hemisphere. So from your point of view this is a very fortunate situation. In this present situation, where I am explaining teachings and you are listening to these teachings, let us never forget that it is due entirely to the kindness of Chagdud Rinpoche that this situation has come about; where you do not have to leave your home country in order to receive the teachings of the Dharma. You don't have to make a very great effort at all - you have that good fortune. We have the opportunity to discuss the teachings of the Dharma. All of this is due to the vision, the motivation, and the enormous kindness of Chagdud Rinpoche. So part of your motivation in requesting these teachings should be that of contributing to the long and fruitful life of this great teacher, and the aspiration that you, through receiving these teachings, understanding them, practicing them, and realizing them, that you may bring great benefit to other beings. Do not think of these teaching as something you are taking for yourself. Think of them as something you are receiving in order to truly benefit other beings. You will undoubtedly have some difficulty with technical terminology, new ideas being presented, and words that you are not familiar with. Remember to have patience, and remember to have strength of mind so that you carry through on your motivation to understand these teachings, to absorb them, to realize them, and thus to be able to benefit others on a vast scale. Continue to keep this motivation when you receive teachings.
The Topic of the Teaching
Concerning the topic of my teachings over the next few weeks, it will be, as directed by Chagdud Rinpoche, a teaching on a text known as the Neshe Drulme. The more complete title is Neshe Rinpoche Drulme, "The Precious Lamp Of Certain Knowledge".
Mipham Rinpoche
The author of this text is the great Mipham Rinpoche, who was born, grew up, and taught in the area of eastern Tibet known as Kham, and who was primarily a Nyingma lama in the sense of his personal affiliation. But in terms of his importance as a scholar and a writer, he is recognized, not just by the Nyingma school, but by other schools as well, as being perhaps the most brilliant mind of this century in terms of the way he mastered the various fields of knowledge and was able to explain them and to write them. This is something that not only the Nyingma's, but all who examine his work, hold. All are enormously impressed with the depth and brilliance of his writings. This particular text was written when he was only seven years old. It is a text that concerns seven major questions in the presentation of the Buddhist view, seven thorny points, if you will, seven ways in which it is difficult to really come to grips with the essential view of the Buddhist tradition. And Chagdud Rinpoche directed that I should teach this to you, so my intention over the next few weeks is to present this text to you. In accordance with the customs of my own country and tradition, a short formal introduction is read at the beginning of a series of teachings such as this. With your indulgence, if you will just sit patiently for a few moments, I'll perform this introduction. First, we should begin with the Prayers Before the Teachings, which are found in the Galaxy of Heartdrops compiled, translated, and printed by Chagdud Gompa. These consist of the Seven Branch Prayer, the Offering of the Mandala, and then the formal, specific Request to Turn the Wheel of the Dharma. We'll recite these before each teaching session.
(Chants & Prayer)


Classifications of Buddha Dharma Teachings
By way of very general introduction, when we speak of the Buddha Dharma we are speaking of what are traditionally said to be the 84,000 collections of teachings that the Buddha Shakyamuni transmitted in the holy country of India. To speak of these in a more concise way, we very often speak of the Three Turnings of the Wheel of Dharma, because the Buddha Shakyamuni first turned the Wheel of the Dharma of the Four Noble Truths in Varanasi, secondly Turned the Wheel of the Perfection of Transcendent Knowledge, the Prajnaparamita teachings, at Vulture Peak near Rajagrha, and thirdly Turned the Wheel of the Dharma that dealt with Definitive Ultimate Truth in a very precise way in Vaisali and other places around the northern part of the Indian sub-continent. When we speak of the scriptures associated with the Buddhist teachings, we hear reference to the Tripitaka, the three baskets or collections of the teachings, and these are the Vinaya or ethical codes, the Sutras, and the Abhidharma, or the teachings on metaphysics and psychology. In the case of the Vajrayana we have a fourth collection, that of the Tantras. This, from the general scriptural point of view, is the breadth of the Buddhist teachings that will be presented here. If we were to further classify and categorize these 84,000 collections of teachings in a concise way, we could distinguish between the Sutra approach and the Tantra approach. In the Sutra approach there are, on the one hand, the more obscure teachings, those that are not completely evident, which are presented in such a way that much of the meaning is concealed; on the other hand, there are Sutra teachings concerning emptiness, which deal quite forthrightly with the nature of reality as a state of emptiness.
Classification of the Current Text
This particular text, Neshe Rinpoche Drulme, "The Precious Lamp Of Certain Knowledge", is not completely unconnected with the Tantra approach, but it is primarily a text that is based upon the Sutra approach. And between the two divisions of the Sutra approach that were mentioned a moment ago (those with more hidden meanings and those which are more explicit teachings on emptiness), this text is concerned primarily with the more explicit teachings on emptiness.
Origins of the Prajnaparamita Texts
Teachings on emptiness are primarily derived from the middle turning of the Wheel of Dharma. It at the peak known as Vulture Peak, near Rajagrha, in India, when the Buddha was turning the Wheel of the Prajnaparamita (the "Perfection of Wisdom") that he presented the teachings dealing with emptiness. When these teachings were actually expounded by the Buddha, he taught seventeen primary and secondary Sutras of Prajnaparamita, the Perfection of Wisdom. But, on that occasion, not only were human beings present, but also present were Devas (or Gods) of Samsara, Nagas, and other powerful beings from other realms who received these teachings and took them back to their own regions, so that some of the Sutras that the Buddha presented on this occasion did not spread in the human realm, although there is a record in our literature of them having been transmitted. For example, the Sutra in 10 Million Verses was taken by the Devas to their realm, the Sutra in 2 Million Verses was taken to the realm of the Gandarvas, and the Sutra in 100-Thousand verses was taken to the realm of the Nagas. When we speak of these Sutras being taken, it simply indicates that these beings had total recall. It was as though they made a tape recording of the Buddha speaking. They could simply go back to their realms with all of the teachings that the Buddha had given in their memories. It's not as though a book was there and was taken, but that the teachings themselves, as they were given, were completely remembered by these beings when they returned to their realms. However, these teachings did not spread in the human realm on that occasion.
In the teachings of the Mahayana tradition of Buddhism, there is an account of the Buddha, before he passed into Nirvana, issuing a prophecy that some years following his passing into Nirvana there would appear an extraordinary teacher who would bear the name of the Nagas in his name, and who would re-vivify the teachings of the Prajnaparamita, establish the unsurpassable view of the Perfection of Wisdom, and thus establish circumstances for enormous benefit to the teachings and to beings. This is widely held to be a prophecy of the coming of Nagarjuna, the great Buddhist master who did so much too further spread the teachings of the Prajnaparamita. Following the passing of the Buddha into Nirvana, the early history of Buddhism in India was based upon the teachings of the Hinayana, so the earliest schools of Buddhist philosophy and practice in India were Hinayana schools. At that point, the Mahayana did not exist as its own tradition in India. But at a certain point, more than a hundred years after the passing of the Buddha into Nirvana, there appeared in the south of India an individual who grew up to become the great master Nagarjuna. This is not to say that the Mahayana teachings were extinct or absent before this, but there was not an integrated tradition of what we would call Mahayana Buddhism. When Nagarjuna grew up and began to study the Dharma, he was fortunate to come into contact with such great masters as the Siddha Saraha, who introduced him to the teachings of the Mahayana. Through his practice, Nagarjuna achieved a state of deathlessness. His name Nagarjuna means "one who has conquered, tamed, and gained mastery over the Nagas". So one aspect of his spiritual attainment was his ability to control the Naga spirits. Because of his mastery over these Naga spirits, Nagarjuna was invited by the Nagas to visit their realm. Knowing through his spiritual practice that the Sutra in 100 Thousand Verses was present in their realm, Nagarjuna made the journey. His specific purpose in journeying to that realm was to recover the Sutra in 100,000 Verses, because he realized that the absence of this Sutra in the human realm was a great loss. When Nagarjuna was preparing to return from the Naga to the human realm, the Naga spirits offered him great wealth, the Nagas being extraordinarily wealthy, but Nagarjuna refused all of their offers of material wealth. He said that the only suitable offering was the Sutra in 100,000 Verses. So the Sutra was offered to him, and he returned to the human realm with this teaching. But when the Sutra was offered to Nagarjuna, it was offered in an incomplete version. The Nagas offered him twelve volumes containing the bulk of the Sutra in 100,000 Verses, but they held back a portion of the text because they were afraid that, if they gave Nagarjuna the entire text, he'd never return to the Naga realm. So what came back to the human realm was in fact an incomplete version. The original text that Nagarjuna brought back from the Naga realm was written in Sanskrit, which is considered to be the language of the Gods, the language of the Devas. There are extant manuscripts of this Sutra in 100,000 Verses. In one of the libraries in Nepal, for example, there is a manuscript of this text in Sanskrit.
The Mulamadhyamakakarika
When Nagarjuna brought this text back to the human realm, he realized that the volume of the material was so great that people would not be able to absorb all of it because they had short lives, little merit, and very little time to study. So he composed his famous commentaries which are more concise and were based upon the Prajnaparamita. Perhaps the most famous of these is the Mulamadhyamakakarika, "Root Verses on the Middle Way Philosophy", which is one of six major commentaries written by Nagarjuna, each of which was famous for its concise presentation of the view of the Madyamika or "Middle Way" philosophy that emptiness is the true nature of reality.
Nagarjuna also trained students who carried on his tradition of teaching by writing commentaries on their master's original commentaries. Aryadeva, who was the student of Nagarjuna who wrote most upon the subject of meditation, wrote a text called the Catuhsataka or the "400 Verses", which is a direct commentary on the "Root Verses of the Middle Way" that Nagarjuna wrote. In the presentation of emptiness in Aryadeva's text, the Catuhsataka or the "400 Verses", the emphasis is on meditation upon emptiness, upon the direct experience of emptiness through practice.
Among those who followed the tradition of Nagarjuna were those who commented primarily upon conduct, upon how the Bodhisattva conducts him or herself in the pursuit of enlightenment. Perhaps the most famous student of this type was the great Shantideva, who lived and taught at the monastery and the University of Nalanda, and whose life was marked by seven utterly miraculous events. The most famous text that Shantideva wrote is the Bodhicharyavatara "The Entry into The Path of the Bodhisattva" or "Entry into The Conduct of the Bodhisattva. The primary emphasis in Shantideva's text is upon conduct, upon what kind of ethical choices the Bodhisattva should make: what to avoid and what to encourage in his or her actions.
It was a student of a student of Nagarjuna's, the great master Chandrakirti, who wrote a text called the Madyamikavattara, "The Entrance Into the Middle Way", which is held to be perhaps the finest example of a text that comments upon view, meditation, and conduct simultaneously, without emphasizing any one of these. In all of Chandrakirti's discussions there is a very analysis of the different paths of the Mahayana, the Five Paths of the Mahayana and the ten levels of Bodhisattva realization, the Ten Bhumi.
Yet another master in the tradition of Nagarjuna was Shantarakshita who wrote a text called the Umagen (Sanskrit Madhyamakalankarakarika), "The Ornament of The Middle Way", which concisely details the teachings on view, meditation, and conduct from the point of view of the understanding and direct experience of emptiness.
Transmission to Tibet
These are the teachers and commentaries that are derived from the Indian tradition of Buddhism, from the original tradition as it developed in India. These commentaries were translated from the original Indian languages into Tibetan and form part of the large collection known as the Tanjur, which contains more than 200 volumes. In fact, the number of Indian commentaries extant in Tibetan translation represent perhaps 25% of what was available in Buddhist India. There was such a wealth of material that not all of it could be translated. The particular text that I will be teaching is written by a Tibetan; however, it is a text by a great master of the Tibetan tradition of Buddhism. There is no comparable collection to the Tanjur for the Tibetan commentaries. Any collection that might be attempted would be much larger than the Tanjur. The Tibetans were so prolific in writing commentaries on the subjects contained within the Tanjur that nobody has ever attempted to put every writing from the Tibetan traditions together in a single collection.
The Four Main Indian Buddhist Schools
In the development of Buddhist philosophy in India, four major schools of philosophy historically have come to be recognized. The first of these is known as the Vaibashika school, which literally means "the analyst", those who analyze things in detail. The second is known as the Sautantrika, which means "those who follow the Sutras". The third is the Cittamatra, or Yogacara school, which literally means the "mind-only" school. And the fourth is the Madhayamika or "Middle Way" school of philosophy. When you hear discussions of Buddhist philosophical schools, these four tend to be mentioned.
The Four Main Tibetan Buddhist Schools
In the case of the Tibetan tradition of Buddhism, the earliest school of thought established in Tibet is the one that we know as the Nyingma, "the early translation" or "ancient school". Then, in chronological order, the Sakya school, the Kagyu school, and the Gelugpa school developed. Again, if we were to try to count, or assess, the number of commentaries written by the masters of these four schools of Tibetan Buddhism on Madhayamika, on emptiness, all we can say is that there are a lot. Nobody's ever sat down and actually figured out how many, but there are an enormous number of commentaries. In ratio to the amount of commentary about the Middle Way philosophy of emptiness, there was a profusion of controversy among the various schools of thought as to who had the right view, who had the correct interpretation, and so-forth. There has been quite a history of spirited controversy and debate in Tibet.
Nyingma Scholarship
In the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism, from the very inception of this school (in the eighth century of the common era) when Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava), the abbot Shantirakshita, and the King Trisong Deutsen collaborated to bring the teachings to Tibet - from that time forward, from the time of the Twenty-Five Intimate Students of Guru Rinpoche to the later generations of great tertons and translators - there have been throughout history a great number of people associated with this Nyingma tradition who are noted for their scholastic excellence and their deep learning of the teachings of Buddhism. In the eastern part of Tibet known as Kham, some of the great Nyingma monasteries became centers of learning where these scholars were trained. For example, Dzogchen Monastery, Shechen Monastery, and Palyul Monastery. In Dzogchen Monastery, in the last century, there was a very great scholar named Jelsa Shinventiy. Jelsa literally means "a child or son of the Buddhas", that is to say, a Bodhisattva. This name was more of a title; Shinventiy, "limitless benefit for others", was his personal name. Shinentiy established a college known as the Sri Singha College, because on the occasion that he was undertaking to found this college he was graced by a vision of the great Dzogchen master Sri Singha. The course of studies in the college also emphasized the Sutra (as well as the Dzogchen) tradition to a great degree. Of the many fine scholars produced in the last century from that college, the greatest was Mipham Rinpoche, who is also known by the name Adyita, which is the Sanskrit version of the Tibetan Mipham, literally meaning "the invincible one."
Mipham Rinpoche and the Neshe Rinpoche Dronme
During his lifetime, Mipham Rinpoche was a prolific writer. His collected works run to thirty-two volumes of texts - not thirty-two separate titles, but thirty-two volumes of any number of titles within any given volume. It is within this thirty-two volume collection of writings that you will find the text that we will be studying, the Neshe Rinpoche Dronme, "The Precious Lamp of Certain Knowledge". He did not compose his own commentary to this root text, which wrote in verse at the age of seven, when he himself was a student. He sat down and wrote the "bones" of this root text and then later on in his life he edited and published it. He also wrote a structural analysis that simply gives headings in order to bring philosophical order to presentation of the text, which is a long poem in verse. As to why Mipham wrote this text: Given that there were four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism - the Nyingma, the Sakya, the Kagu, and the Gelug, and given that there were any number of masters in these schools who commented upon the Middle Way philosophy, there was much controversy and an enormous amount of detail regarding the different ways in which emptiness could be understood.
Views of Emptiness
There was the so-called "self-empty" school versus the "other-empty" school. There were people who attempted to describe reality from the point of view of negation, of what it was not, whether these were flat out negations or provisional negations, and so-forth. The controversies went on and on and on, resulting in a plethora of arguments that were difficult for people to understand. In a certain sense, there was a great deal of secrecy about emptiness, because it seemed so abstruse. So Mipham formulated seven questions in his own mind, as the one writing the text; seven questions which deal with the issues that create difficulty in people's minds when they are attempting to study and understand emptiness as the view of the Middle Way. It is said that Mipham wrote this text while inspired by and under the guidance of Manjushri. This is only natural, because Mipham was in fact an emanation of Manjushri. So, with this divine inspiration of the Bodhisattva of Wisdom, Mipham composed this text of seven questions.
Divisions of The Precious Lamp of Certain Knowledge
When explaining a text of this nature, a text such as "The Precious Lamp of Certain Knowledge", we can approach it from the point of view of three main divisions of the text. It is said that the Buddha Dharma is virtuous in the beginning, virtuous in the middle, and virtuous at the end. The introductory part of this text is that which is virtuous in the beginning. The main body of the text is that which is virtuous in the middle. And the concluding verses, the colophon, constitute the section that is virtuous at the end. So these are the three main divisions: introduction, main body of teachings, and conclusion. The introduction, then, the part that is virtuous in the beginning, deals with the title, why the text is called what it is called, what the meaning of the title is, and also something of the subject matter to which the title is referring.

The Title of the Text
Just to be thorough, I'll discuss the title. The title of this text in Tibetan is Neshe Rinpoche Dronme, which literally translated would mean "The Precious Lamp of Certain Knowledge".
When a teacher writes a treatise that comments upon one aspect or another of the Buddhist teachings, there is a certain value to, or meaning inherent in, the title. The title is not just something arbitrary. It is something, in both a general and specific sense, that has a pertinent meaning. It is chosen for a reason. In a general sense, the giving of a title to a text of this nature is similar to the way in which people are named. When we are born into this world, we don't go through life nameless, but we are given a name. The name we are given becomes our identification and the focus of all of our hopes and dreams, of all of the happiness that we're seeking to achieve, and of all of the suffering that we're attempting to avoid through our personal efforts in this life. This is derived from the fact that we are named something. It gives us some kind of identity. And, in fact, this derives, in a more profound sense, from the fact that all words, names, and labels in the world, all language in the world, exits due to the blessings of Buddhahood, due to the blessings of awakened mind being felt on some level in this ordinary world as the phenomenon of language. In the case of a specific name being given, in this instance to a specific text, there are three levels upon which this can be understood. There is the value of naming a text from the point of view of someone who has the very highest degree of acumen and perception; from the point of view of someone who has a middling degree; and for someone who has an ordinary degree of perception. For someone of the very highest level of acumen or sensitivity, just to hear the name or to utter the name of the text "The Precious Lamp of Certain Knowledge" would in that person bring about an understanding of everything that is implied by the term "certain knowledge", from A to Z, from the very beginning to the very end of that whole spectrum of understanding. All of this would be completely evident to that person simply upon hearing the name of the text, if that person were of the very highest degree, highest caliber. In the case of someone with a more middling level of understanding and sensitivity, the name is at least some kind of marker, some kind of identification. It gives a general idea of the subject matter of the text. One example we might use is that of the various standards which are carried by different battalions or companies in an army. By looking at a standard, you know exactly which battalion, company, or division it belongs to. In the same way, when you hear the name of a text, if the name has been chosen wisely it indicates to you whether it's a text about ethics, metaphysics, Sutras, and so forth. To use a name like "The Precious Lamp of Certain Knowledge" identifies for someone of a middle level of understanding at least what part of the Buddhist teachings are being talked about in the text. And for someone of an ordinary level of understanding, the title just indicates which book you're talking about. It's like going to the medicine chest and being able to read the labels on the bottles. If someone says to you "go get me some aspirin, I've got a headache," you can go read the labels and, at the very least, just by reading the label, you know which one they want, so you can bring them the right one. So at the very least, if someone were to say to somebody "go get Neshe Rinpoche Drunme" you'd know which book to go and get. At the most ordinary level of understanding and perception, at least the name is valuable from that point of view. The point here is that there is a certain value to, a necessity for, giving a name to a text such as this.
In addition to simply noting the name of the text, we should examine why those particular words were chosen - Neshe, Rinpoche, and Dronme. Why Neshe? Why Dronme? Why "certain knowledge"? Why "lamp"? Why "precious"? Mipham himself commented in his writings that if you are attempting to practice the Dharma, you can only practice the Dharma effectively when you have a certainty about what you are doing; when there is a certain knowledge in your mind concerning the nature of practice and the nature of reality; about what exactly it is you're doing when you practice. He said that, as long as you don't have that certainty, you're like someone fumbling around in the dark trying to find something, and not really sure what you're looking for or where to look for it. As soon as there is a lamp lit in that darkness, he says, you can find your way to what you want. Then you have gained some certainty of where you're going and what you're looking for. So his text is like this lamp of certain knowledge that provides the means for one to practice in an effective manner. If we think about it, this kind of certain knowledge is necessary, not only in the spiritual realm, but in the worldly realm as well. If we're going to do anything constructive and effective on the worldly level, we need to have some certain knowledge about what we're doing. If we don't have some degree of wisdom or transcendent knowledge or certainty about what we're doing, whether it's in the spiritual realm or the ordinary, mundane realm, we're not going to be effective.
The particular object of the certain knowledge we're referring to here is the teaching of the Buddha Dharma, both the Sutra and the Tantra approaches. And in particular the seven questions addressed by this text concern key issues in coming to this certain understanding of emptiness, this certain understanding of view. If you do not have this certain knowledge, if the lamp is not lit in your experience, there is great danger that you will make errors in your practice. When an author such as Mipham is writing a text like this and choosing a title for it, the process isn't arbitrary. The title may be chosen from the point of view of what the actual meaning of the text is. It may be chosen from the point of view of the kinds of words and terms that are used in the text. It may be chosen in reference to a particular time period in which the text is written, a particular location, a particular set of circumstances, or, as in this case, a particular metaphor. The title is a metaphor for the ultimate meaning of the subject matter of the text. In choosing this title for his text, the title that you see on the front page of the Tibetan book Neshe Rinpoche Dronme, "The Precious Lamp of Certain Knowledge", Mipham was motivated in all of the three ways that were mentioned earlier: to approach those of the highest caliber, to approach those of the middle level of sensitivity, or to approach those of very ordinary understanding. For all of these cases, he chose a title that would suit his purposes for writing this text.
The Nature of the Work
In our discussion of this introductory part of the text, which is the part that is virtuous in the beginning, we've already dealt with the title. Now we need to say something about the nature of the work that bears this title. First, there is a discussion of the way in which one approaches the vast and profound topics of the Buddha Dharma in general, and secondly, the way in which the seven questions contained in this text constitute the specific way in which this text is approaching these Topics. Regarding the general way in which one approaches the vast and profound topics of the Buddha Dharma, first and foremost we need to understand what the benefits and advantages are of the kind of certain knowledge that is being talked about here - the kind of certain knowledge that you arrive at both through inductive reasoning and through direct experience. Second is the value of such certain knowledge. Given that there are benefits and advantages, what are the specific values? What is the specific necessity for the practitioner of arriving at that kind of certain knowledge? Let us examine at this point the benefits and advantages of this kind of certain knowledge that we arrive at both through our reasoning and through our direct experience. This must take into account the kind of faith or confidence that we feel when we understand that this kind of certain knowledge is really that which illuminates our path, like the lamp.
Benefits of Certain Knowledge
On one hand there is the faith and confidence that one feels in attempting to arrive at certain knowledge. We also need to understand the disadvantages of being devoid of it. The benefits and advantages on the one hand, and the disadvantages on the other hand, can be explained from the point of view of various metaphors - the text makes reference to certain metaphors that illustrate the benefits and advantages of having certain knowledge and the disadvantage of not having it. Once you have understood and appreciated that this certain knowledge is the single factor that more than anything else illuminates your Dharma path, you gain confidence in seeking that certain knowledge. In the first verse of Mipham's text known as the "Lamp of Certain Knowledge", he states,
For those whose minds are ensnared,
Caught in the web of doubts,
That which cuts through that web
Is the lamp of Manjushri, the lamp of wisdom.
When this enters into your heart,
in the sense of being a profound inner sense of certain knowledge,
then that lamp is illuminated
and you then have the eye that allows you to see
the noble path that unfolds in front of you.
And in that eye which comes about through the opening provided by certain knowledge, he says, I express my faith.
In the first verse, the point the author makes is that any sentient being's mind, any being that has consciousness at all, is ensnared, caught in a web or an enveloping veil of doubt. The fact that we are ordinary unenlightened beings means that we are completely subject to doubt in the sense of being unable to come to any clear or definitive understanding of the nature of reality. We are continually caught in this web of doubt. The teachings of the Buddha Dharma are geared toward bringing about a state of liberation or omniscience - of eliminating suffering, of bringing greater states of happiness and well being, to ultimately bring about states of liberation and omniscience. Because we are caught in a state of ignorance of those means and an ignorance of the way in which to bring about that liberation, we are in darkness. Or, if you think of this idea of a web, we are caught in a web of doubt, and we need to cut through that ensnaring web. That which illuminates the darkness is each individual's own certain knowledge, arrived at through his or her own efforts in contemplation and practice. Light is the opposite of darkness. Where there is light there is obviously no darkness. Where the lamp of certain knowledge has been illuminated in the mind of an individual, the darkness of the 84,000 kinds of afflictive emotions, and the ignorance and suffering derived from these afflictive emotions are dispelled.
Who Brings About Certain Knowledge?
Who dispels this darkness? You do! As the practitioner, when you study, train, and practice, you light the lamp of certain knowledge in your own mind and dispel the darkness. Certain knowledge means understanding something you did not understand before. Certain knowledge is referred to here as the lamp of Manjushri, which cuts through the web of doubt. In a certain sense Mipham is mixing his metaphors here, because on the one hand there is the idea of the lamp dispelling the darkness and on the other hand there is the idea of the sword of transcendent knowledge held by Manjushri cutting through the web of doubts. He's combining both of these metaphors in these lines where he says "For those whose minds are ensnared in the web of doubt, the lamp of Manjushri is that which cuts through that web or veil". And so when we use a term like Manjushri, the Bodhisattva of Wisdom, this name indicates nothing other than one's own certain knowledge gained through study and practice. It is you who yields that sword, who lights that lamp through coming to that certain knowledge in your own mind. All of the doubts that exist in your own mind stream right now, all doubt due to ignorance, afflictive emotions, and the non-recognition of your own intrinsic awareness, and the afflictive emotions and negative karma that is a result of those doubts must be cut through. This whole web, which is here referred to as the web of doubts, must be cut through. And the way you cut through is by giving rise in yourself to your own experience of certain knowledge. This, as the Buddha taught, is your support, is your aid, is your Ally, in your quest for liberation and omniscience.
Buddha Nature
The fact that, in the case of each and every sentient being the mind stream of that being can be brought to certain knowledge is proof positive that the being has Buddha Nature. It is because that being has the potential for enlightenment, has Tathagatagarba as it's essence, that the being can come to a state of certain knowledge in the first place. But it is necessary for each individual being to take charge of his or her situation, to take charge of his or her own Buddha nature, as it were, and to make it obvious through study and practice. This is the implication of what he is saying.
Disadvantages of Lacking Certain Knowledge
The next verse in the text deals with the flaws, or disadvantages, of lacking this certain knowledge. The question that's basically being asked at this point is, "Suppose you don't have this certain knowledge? What's the problem? What are the flaws? What are the shortcomings of not having that kind of certainty?". This question is answered by Mipham in the next verse, in which he states,
Alas, because you, you lack,
Because you do not have
This precious certain knowledge
That brings you into contact
With the fundamental nature of reality,
You are still deluded
And you are caught
In all of the causes of delusion,
Caught in this state of ordinary conditioned existence.
That's the problem, when you lack that knowledge your mind remains ensnared and deluded in this cycle of ordinary existence. The verse opens with the word "alas", kye ma in Tibetan, which is a cry of pity. For example, if you are walking along and you see somebody who is so sick or starving, or broken down, obviously in a state of utter misery, you would utter some involuntary cry of pity. Mipham Rinpoche is looking at all of us and saying, "alas!". It's entirely appropriate that he do so, because, as ordinary beings in the cycle of existence, we tend to react solely in the basis of what we perceive our immediate needs to be. We're like animals. All we think of is what to eat, where to sleep, and what to wear. That's it. That constitutes our main focus in our lives - all these little petty issues that really are of little consequence in terms of our future destiny. So it is only fitting that someone of Mipham Rinpoche's realization look at us and say, "Alas!". He can see the fundamental contradiction between what we try to do through our efforts and what we accomplish. In the Bodhicharyavattarya, referred to earlier, Shantideva notes that, in seeking happiness, because of our delusion, we act in such a way that we defeat our own happiness as though it were our worst enemy. We ensure that we will never be happy by the very way in which we try to go about being happy. For someone who lacks this certain knowledge, Mipham has only "Alas!" to say. "Alas!" because you lack this precious quality of certain knowledge that would bring you into contact with the fundamental nature of reality, because you fail to understand the words of the Buddha, because you fail to understand the ethical consequences of what you are doing. You will never understand the fundamental nature of reality without certain knowledge. You will continue to wander, deluded and caught in this illusory cycle of conditioned existence. We're like a bee caught in a jar going around in a circle with no escape. The word "illusion" comes up often in Buddhist teachings. It refers to the fact that, in ancient India, there were powerful magicians or sorcerers - who knows maybe you have them in this culture too, I don't know, I'm new here - who through the very power of their minds could create a hallucination in the minds of their audience. For example, they could make people see water where there was no water, they could make them see fire where there was no fire, they could create an image that didn't actually take place, but seemed to for vast numbers of people. Appearances, the apparent phenomena of ordinary existence, are very much like this. They seem to be happening, but nothing is ultimately there. The point he's making is that the disadvantage of not having such certain knowledge is that you will never be able to dispel your suffering; you will never be able to attain any true happiness; you will never be able to awaken to Buddhahood.
Approaches to Buddha Dharma
In the next verse, Mipham Rinpoche uses a metaphor to indicate the difference between two ways of approaching the Dharma. He says with respect to the teachings concerning ground, path, and fruition that either you may come to a conviction due to this certain knowledge or you may simply have a kind of basic faith due to some superficial contact. But he says that the difference between these approaches is the difference between the true path and a mere shadow or reflection of the path.
Ground, Path, and Fruition
In the teachings of the Buddha Dharma, depending upon the particular level of teachings we're talking about, there will always be some description of the ground, the beginning situation that we start from as sentient beings; the path, which is the process of moving toward enlightenment; and fruition, the actual goal or state that we arrive at. For example, in the Abhidharma teachings there is an extensive description of the skandhas, the mind-body aggregates of the individual, the sense consciousnesses - all of the different elements of the individual's ordinary experience. That, from the point of view of the Abhidharma teachings, is the ground situation, that is the beginning. The path and the fruition are described in terms of the various factors that constitute the process of arriving at enlightenment and the actual features, qualities, or characteristics of that path. So whether we're talking about the Abhidharma teachings of the Sutra tradition; the Mahdyamika, the middle way teachings of the Sutra tradition; or the Vajrayana, there is always some description of ground, path, and fruition - where we start from, how we proceed, and where we arrive. In the case of the Middle Way philosophy this text is concerned with (as referred to earlier), there are the more abstruse, hidden topics, and there is the more direct teaching on emptiness. So the "ground" is the true nature of reality, which is described as being free from, or beyond, all limits or extremes. In one of the most famous verses from the "Root Verses on the Middle Way" (the Madyamikakarika), Nagarjuna states "Whatever arises in interdependence is, by it's very nature, such that it neither is nor is not, neither comes nor goes, is neither one nor many", and so forth". He goes through an analysis in which he says that you cannot describe the true nature of reality from the point of view of any of these extremes: is, is not, comes, goes, one, many, identity, or separateness. None of these extremes works when you are speaking of the true nature of reality. That is the ground, the basis of the Middle Way teachings.
There are two approaches to the teachings concerning ground, path, and fruition. You can study these teachings, hear these teachings thoroughly, contemplate them, and meditate upon them to come to a certainty and a conviction; or you can simply say "Oh! These seem like very wonderful teachings! I have faith in them!", in a superficial, casual way. The difference is between one who is entering the true path and one who is just going through the motions - what is a mere shadow or reflection of the path. Once you have studied and contemplated and meditated, you come to such a level of conviction that nobody can ever convince you otherwise. You have incontrovertible proof in your own experience of the truth of the Buddha Dharma, and it doesn't matter how many people try to shake your faith: it cannot be shaken. On the other hand, if you have an initial sense of faith or attraction but don't pursue it to come to any real understanding, and somebody comes along and says "Well, I hear Buddhism is just a pile of nonsense. You should probably try something else," you are easily swayed in that direction because your faith is not based upon an inner conviction but is superficial and weak. As practitioners of the Buddha Dharma in general, and the Nyingma tradition in particular, this whole question of faith is important for us. On what do we base our? Do we base it on an unshakable level of certainty which has come about through hearing teachings, through contemplation, and through meditation? Or do we base it on a superficial attraction to the teachings? If we truly have the kind of certainty that Mipham is talking about, nobody can change our mind, because we have proven it to ourselves through our efforts at hearing teachings, contemplating them, and meditating upon them. But if we have very little exposure to the teachings and have a superficial attraction to them, we are easily swayed. We may go through the motions of following the path, but it isn't the true path, because we could lose it at any moment.
Authentic Standards
The next verse of the text by Mipham is concerned with the necessity for authentic standards. What constitutes certain knowledge? If we're going to use a term like "certain knowledge", we need authentic standards to determine what we mean by "certain knowledge" - it can't be willy-nilly. There must be standards against which we can test our knowledge and say "Is this certain knowledge or not?". In order to clarify what constitutes certain knowledge, the first approach Mipham takes is to discuss the historical tradition of Buddhism and how certain lineage's of teaching developed.
Chandrakirti and Dharmakirti
Mipham writes,
The superb teachers Dharmakirti and Chandrakirti
In their excellent explanations
Brought illumination that instantly illuminated
The entire path of the Buddhist teachings,
Thus completely overcoming the darkness of doubt.
Mipham also refers to the great masters Chandrakirti and Dharmakirti as charioteers of the teachings. Chandrakirti, whom we heard reference to earlier, was a student in the lineage of Nagarjuna, and was enormously famous in his own time in India as a scholar and master of the Middle Way teachings. Chandrakirti was also credited, due to his insight into the nature of reality, with quite miraculous deeds. On one occasion, for example, he took a mural of a cow, and actually milked milk from the cow. Because of his knowledge of the emptiness of phenomena, he was not subject to the ordinary boundaries of physical reality. In many ways during his life he demonstrated an ability to transcend ordinary physical limits. The other great charioteer, Dharmakirti, was perhaps the greatest logician that Buddhism ever produced. During his lifetime he was undefeated in debate. There was a custom in India at that time for monasteries and schools of different religions to debate one another in public. A great deal hinged on the outcome of the debate, because, when someone won the debate the entire community represented by the defeated opponent would convert to the religion of the winner. Dharmakirti was undefeated in debate, and in fact defeated many people who held extreme spiritual views and brought them to the teachings of Buddhism. It was impossible to defeat him even through the use of magical powers, or by employing miraculous feats to daunt him and cause him to lose his precision in debate. He was magnificent. Chandrakirti, as was mentioned earlier, wrote the text known as the Madyamikavattara, "The Entrance into the Middle Way", which, from our point of view, is perhaps the definitive work on the Middle Way philosophy. Dharmakirti wrote a text called the Pramanavartika (in Tibetan Sema Ngondra), "The Definitive Explanation of Valid Cognition", i.e., what it means to have correct knowledge or valid cognition about something. How do we know when we really know something? That is the subject matter of his text. Following this, Mipham explains how the two traditions coming through these two masters Chandrakirti and Dharmakirti make evident the nature of reality from the point of view of correct knowledge, in the sense that there is a thorough understanding, on the one hand, of the ordinary level of phenomenal reality, and, on the other, an understanding of the true nature of phenomenal reality, Dharmata. Each of these teachers presented specific lines of reasoning in his writings that allow a person to come to a more definitive understanding of either the phenomenal level of reality or the more ultimate level, the true nature of reality. And these are known by technical terms. The work of Dharmakirti on valid knowledge, valid cognition, gives the most definitive understanding of conventional reality; and the work of Chandrakirti and the Middle Way philosophy gives you the most definitive understanding of the true nature of reality, the ultimate level of reality.
Chandrakirti's Four Lines of Reasoning
The first line of reasoning used in the Middle Way philosophy of Chandrakirti is called "The Examination of Causes", which is called "the diamond slivers", literally, because it's the idea of taking something that seems as hard as a diamond and shattering it into slivers. This convincing reality that we experience is analyzed or examined from the point of view of it's causes, and that shatters the ordinary view of reality, so it's called "the diamond slivers". The next line of reasoning is that which examines the results that derive from the causes. It is called the "The Examination That Determines Whether Things Exist or Do Not Exist". The third line of reasoning in Madyamika is "The Examination of All Phenomena to Determine Their Interdependence", what is called tendrup in Tibetan. For example, the Buddha states, "There is no phenomenon that has not arisen in interdependence with causes and conditions. Similarly, there is no phenomenon that is arisen that is not empty by it's very nature." That's the kind of question addressed by this third kind of reasoning. One of the distinctive features of the Buddha's teachings is the question of interdependence. From among all of the spiritual traditions that have arisen in this world and have been propagated by various masters or enlightened beings, the Buddha Dharma is perhaps unique in terms of its presentation of interdependence as that which accounts for the whole world. In various philosophical systems a creator god is posited, who is responsible for making the world. In some other philosophies a self is responsible. The Buddha stated that phenomena arise because of interdependence; that this accounts for their arising. This is one of the unique features of Buddhist teachings, which is a direct expression of the Buddha's direct experience of the fundamental nature of reality. The fourth line of reasoning in the Madyamika approach is known as the "Examination of the Four Alternatives". The four alternatives are: is, is not, both, and neither. Can you say that something is? Can you say that it is not? Can you say that it both is and is not? Can you say that it neither is nor is not? These are the four alternatives that are examined in the fourth line of reasoning. The four lines of reasoning mentioned above are the lines of reasoning adopted in the Middle Way school that follows the teachings of Chandrakirti, who in turn follows the teachings of Nagarjuna.
Dharmakirti's Four Lines of Reasoning
In the case of the school of thought that follows the teachings of Dharmakirti, the logician, the first line of reasoning is known as "The Examination of Phenomena as Arising from Causes". This line of reasoning determines that the only way a given phenomenon can be accounted for is by looking at it's causes, not by some external agent having any influence over it, but only because certain causes are in place bringing about a certain result". The second line of reasoning is "The Examination of the Nature of the Result by the Nature of its Causes". For example, if you have good causes you have a good result, if you have bad causes you have a bad result. The fact that the quality of the result must rely upon the quality of the causes is the second level of reasoning adopted by this school. The third line of reasoning is "The Examination of the Nature of Phenomena by their Qualities". This line of reasoning concerns the nature of any given phenomenon in the sense of the kind of qualities or properties that it exhibits, the fact that these properties are it's nature, that they alone account for its nature. For example, in the case of the hotness of fire, it is a pseudo-question to ask why fire is hot. Fire is hot because it is fire. The nature of fire is to be hot, that is why it is fire. It's that kind of reasoning of identifying the specific properties of some phenomenon as being the nature of that phenomenon. That's it, we don't have to then ask, well why is it? How do we account for the fact that fire is hot? We account for it in that it is fire, and fire is hot.
The fourth line of reasoning that is followed in the school of Dharmakirti is "The Examination of Phenomena by the Logical Consistency of Causes and Results". For example, if you prepare a field of ground well, you till it, you plant it, you water it, and you fertilize it, it is entirely fitting that there be a good crop. There is a logical consistency there, between causes and results. In the same way (and this is where it has real impact for us as practitioners) if we pursue the practice of virtue and establish good causes, there is every reason to believe that there will be a good result, i.e. that we will progress toward enlightenment. It gives a logical consistency to one's practice. In the same way, if we behave in non-virtuous, negative ways, we have only our own and others suffering to expect as a result. These four lines of reasoning are more concerned with the conventional, or relative level, of reality, just as the four from the Madyamika school of Chandrakirti are more concerned with ultimate reality. The master responsible for formulating these lines of reasoning about conventional reality was Dharmakirti in his Pramanavartika, his text concerning the definitive understanding of what constitutes correct knowledge.
In the next verse of his text, Mipham Rinpoche praises those who come to this kind of understanding through following these teachings. We are discussing teachings that were first promulgated by the Lord Buddha Shakyamuni; and that were then further refined and presented by Nagarjuna on the one hand and the great Buddhist master Asanga on the other. From the lineage of Nagarjuna, it was Chandrakirti who formulated the lines of reasoning that were discussed above in the Madyamika approach. From Asanga, the lineage of teachings passed through Dharmakirti the logician and his presentation of reasoning concerning conventional reality. From the point of view of the Nyingma school, of the school that we follow in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, this is the root of the path. These are the fundamental teachings concerning ultimate and relative reality. Mipham says that someone who has gained certain knowledge about these teachings is a praiseworthy individual, someone who has accomplished something of great note.
So Mipham refers in his verse to the superb teachers Dharmakirti and Chandrakirti. The term "superb" (mejum in Tibetan), is in reference to two teachers of Buddhist India. Some people will say that this refers to Chandrakirti and Shantideva; others, as in the case of Mipham, will say that it refers to Chandrakirti and Dharmakirti. There are various classifications of the masters of Buddhist India such as "The Six Ornaments of the Human Realm" we referred to earlier, "The Excellent Pair", and, in this case, the "two superb teachers". The word "superb" here means "marvelous", means that the likes of them was never seen before. These two teachers, Chandrakirti and Dharmakirti, were such revolutionary teachers in the way they presented the Buddhist teachings that the likes of them have never been seen before. They stand out among all the other teachers of the Indian Buddhist tradition for the magnificence of their presentation. Again, the two texts that are primarily being referred to here are the Madyamikavattara or "Entrance Into The Middle Way" by Chandrakirti and the Pramanavartika or "The Definitive Explanation of Valid Cognition", what constitutes authentic knowledge, by Dharmakirti. These two are often compared to the sun and the moon, our two sources of illumination in this world. And, as he says here, the light from the excellent speech of these two superb teachers, Dharmakirti and Chandrakirti, instantly illuminates the entire path of the teachings of the sage."
The Buddhist teachings are being compared to the sky in which the light of the sun and the light of the moon brings illumination. Those who follow in the footsteps of these teachers and their teachings, not in a superficial sense of just being alive with, but someone who truly follows their example in terms of studying, contemplating, and meditating is someone who, as he says, completely overcomes the darkness of doubt in his or her mind. So, again, a metaphor is being used to indicate the necessity for authentic standards, and the way in which one can actually approach these authentic standards. The next verse of the root text is again concerned with how one uses correct reasoning and correct understanding to arrive at certain knowledge. Mipham says that through the kinds of reasoning that investigate the ordinary level of phenomena (conventional reality) you come to an unerring understanding of the kinds of ethical choices you must make, which actions to encourage in yourself and which to avoid in order to thoroughly understand conventional reality. This is the single avenue through which you can gain real confidence in the teacher and the teachings, in the Buddha and the Buddha Dharma. Then, by examining the main texts that teach correct reasoning, and by employing these lines of reasoning to arrive at a definitive understanding of the nature of reality, you are following the path of the Madyamika, the path of the middle way, which is the most sublime vehicle. To emphasize: when you use the lines of reasoning that investigate and examine ordinary reality, the ordinary level of phenomena that we experience in the world around us, you gain an unerring precision in the ethical choices you make, in the ethical consequences of what you should engage in, what you should avoid because of the effects to which they lead. This approach is highly praised in the Buddhist tradition, not treated as inferior just because it concerns itself with conventional reality. It is considered a course truly worthy of being pursued. The more one uses this kind of reasoning about conventional reality to come to a precise understanding of ethical choices, the more one gains a confidence in the Buddha and the teachings of the Buddha. As those who are following the example of the Lord Buddha and following the teachings of the Lord Buddha we need this kind of confidence. We need to be completely confident in the teacher and the teachings that we are following. We arrive at this confidence through these kinds of contemplation and reasoning. Otherwise, we remain in delusion, completely caught in the confusion that we have experienced from time without beginning. So, first and foremost, there is the kind of reasoning that makes sense of the operationa of the conventional level of reality. Then he states that in order to come to a definitive understanding of the fundamental nature of reality, you employ the reasoning concerning ultimate truth. So there's a shift here. The teachings of Dharmakirti are primarily concerned with conventional reality. The teachings of Nagarjuna, Chandrakirti, and the middle way school are primarily concerned with the fundamental nature of reality in the ultimate sense - the fact that conventional phenomena arise in interdependence and are by their very nature empty of ultimate reality. That is the topic with which this reasoning of ultimate reality is concerned. Through these lines of reasoning, on the conventional level and on the ultimate level, you come to a flawless and illuminated level of correct understanding. Then you are following the tradition of the Two-fold Path of the Mahayana, the profound teachings of the Mahayana which are found in the middle way or Madyamika system and in the extensive teachings of the Mahayana which are found in the Yogacara or mind only school. By approaching one's practice from the point of view of these two levels of reality and by investigating these two levels of reality, one is coming to a thorough understanding of both, of the profundity and the vastness of the Buddha's teachings.
Referring again to the case of an individual who has thoroughly trained and practiced in and understood these levels of teachings and the praiseworthy nature of such an individual, Mipham says, "someone who is endowed with the mind and the eye", not literally, but the vision, "that comes about through training thoroughly, this person then is able, without relying upon any other support to engage in the path taught by the teacher" - meaning the Buddha in this case - in a completely authentic way. "I praise such an individual," he says - someone who has opened the eye of their knowledge and developed their mind to the point where they can enter into this path taught by the teacher, the Lord Buddha, without relying upon any other support, in the truest and most authentic way possible.
The Mahayana Path
In the Buddhist tradition, as you are aware, there are two traditions, or two Yanas (vehicles), known as the Hinayana and the Mahayana. We are following, at this point in our practice, the Mahayana path of Buddhism. But a person who follows the Mahayana, a Mahayana practitioner, may be a person of very high caliber or may be a person of somewhat duller sensibilities and still follow the Mahayana. A person who is of the highest caliber who is following the Mahayana, is someone who has entered the path in the most authentic way possible. This means that they have thoroughly trained in the teachings of Chandrakirti and Dharmakirti, the two great masters and come to a certainty about conventional and ultimate reality. When they have trained in this way, such individuals have opened their eyes. It's as though they were blind before and now they have sight. And, just as you have two eyes and use both of them, we have two levels of truth, ultimate and conventional, and we must examine both of them in our practice. We must rely upon both systems of teaching. Then, he says, we can enter into the path taught by the teacher, the Buddha. Without having to place our hopes in anything else, without requiring any other kind of support, we can enter in on the basis of our own certainty arrived at through this kind of training. And we can enter into it in the most authentic way possible. The reason it is an authentic way is that it does not rely upon any other external support. You have all that you need to follow this path in the purest possible manner because of the thoroughness of your own training. This is the kind of individual he is praising: the person who's following the Mahayana path, who is of the very highest caliber, and who is following the teachings of Chandrakirti and Dharmakirti.


Teaching on Meditation
A Teaching given by H.H. Penor Rinpoche
November 12, 1999.

We are very pleased to present you with a rare opportunity to study His Holiness Penor Rinpoche's teachings in print. Very few of His Holiness' teachings are available to the general public, so this chance is all the more precious. You can also study a Guru Yoga teaching from a 1996 Berkeley, CA, teaching on this site. You will find small annotations in the text by the teachings which interconnect the two. These are points that His Holiness has expounded upon more fully in the other teaching. Use your "back" button to return to the teaching you are studying.
Re-cycling in worldy existence ("Samsara")
In this world, as we were born as human beings, we need to have something beneficial that we can do. In general, we have some kind of activity by which to earn our livelihood, just to have something to eat and drink. Of course, not only human beings, but also animals know how to live their lives in this way. As we were born human, we can talk and understand language and meaning. That is the specific characteristic of a human being. So based on that we need to have some ultimate benefit that we can achieve within this lifetime.
Generally speaking, two main activity categories we can engage in: our normal worldly activities and then the Dharma activities. But the majority of the world's people become very busy with worldly activities rather than following some kind of spiritual practice. These worldly works or activities are based on one's capabilities and power and skill, and of these there are many different levels - some have more or better and some have less.
However, whatever worldly activities that we complete, whether or not they are good or meaningful, they will only endure for a few months or years. There is not anything within these activities that we can ultimately rely on. For example, from young childhood we pursue educational training, from first grade until graduation. For almost fifteen or twenty years we work very hard and study so that we can get a specific job. Then if through one's job one becomes more successful, then possibly in twenty or thirty years we consider that we have a better or happier life. And if during all that time, if we have a very pure and sincere mind in all these works, then of course there is some benefit which is known as virtuous action. But there are also those that have the qualifications to do these activities but who have so much ego or arrogance or pride that their works, even if completed, are not really beneficial in this lifetime.
So many human beings consider the benefit for their individual selves as the most important thing. The result is we are all re-cycled over and over in what is called Samsara or the cyclic existence.
We cannot really establish or find out how long we have been drifting about in Samsara or cyclic existence. No one can know for certain how many lives we have taken in this world - one hundred, one thousand, ten thousand, perhaps one million lifetimes. We cannot calculate the countless aeons of times we have been reborn in this world, in this Samsara.
Sometimes we were able to fulfill some of our wishes and sometimes we could not. For this life, from the time we have taken birth from our mother's womb until now, whatever our ages, we have been constantly thinking about our own benefit and how we can be more happy people. All of our education and financial developments are all just for one's own benefit. There is not anything left out that one has not thought of for one's own benefit.
The law of cause and effect ("Karma") and ignorance
However, whatever we do, fulfill or complete in this lifetime is mainly based on our Karma, the action, of what we have done in our many past lifetimes. One cannot complete one's every wish immediately because of the Law of Karma. Because have never developed their spiritual side, they mainly have deluded minds. So they are not able to understand the causes and conditions based on the Law of Karma. They can only think of what is happening today, and have no idea what is really going on. They don't have a deeper level of understanding of these spiritual practices and so they don't understand what is involved in past lifetimes and future lifetimes. It is because of their obscurations or ignorance that they don't have any clear understanding about the causes and conditions. They really don't know anything about the Law of Karma.
And there are many, many beings that don't know much about Buddha or Enlightenment or the Dharma teachings or liberation. They really don't have any idea of such things. Even with all the explanations we could find in these Dharma teachings, and even though so many lamas and other qualified teachers give these teachings, still one might think that these teachings are just myths. And so you can't truly accept them or believe in the absolute reality.
Everything is based on what is called the Law of Karma which is the actions that we do, the causes and conditions we create ourselves. Furthermore there is a Law of Karma which is known as the Collective Karma, the actions, causes and conditions we create together. There is no way we can change ourselves other than understanding Karma. Moreover, when one cannot understand all these deeper things, then one thinks that these things do not really exist.
When the lamas and the many other qualified teachers¹ teach on the sufferings of Samsara, of course it is not really nice to hear and then one feels like, "I don´t want to hear these kinds of teachings." Certain people when lama gives these teachings on suffering even say, "I'm not interested to listen about the sufferings of Samsara. This lama doesn't seem like he can give out good teachings!" These people prefer to just express their own ideas.
However, when taught by a qualified lama, it is indeed the Dharma, the truth. These teachings about the nature of Samsara and the reality of the faults of Samsara have been taught by all the Enlightened Beings such as Shakyamuni Buddha. The Enlightened Beings, the Buddhas, all gave these teachings because if we could just understand the nature of Samsara, we could then move on to the actual practices through which we could purify our obscurations. We could have the ultimate realization through which we achieve peace and happiness, and through that we could manifest ourselves to benefit all other sentient beings in Samsara. For that purpose Buddha gave all these teachings. It is not that Buddha wanted to be famous and so gave these teachings, nor was the Buddha showing off his skills in teaching, nor was he explaining things to us so that we would become frightened. These teachings are mainly about how all sentient beings can believe and act to attain complete Enlightenment, to liberate themselves from the sufferings of Samsara. So you see, Buddha gave these teachings with great compassion.
Take the example of a having a nightmare. Within such dreams, no matter what you do, you still cannot escape the scary feeling of a nightmare until you wake up. At the same moment, someone who is awake and watching beside the bed, can see that you are having a dream. We can understand something of the nature of Samsara from this dream example. While we are in Samsara experiencing all different kinds of sufferings, it is exactly like somebody who is having a nightmare.
The samsaric sufferings we experience are the result of non-virtuous actions of the body, speech and mind. For example, if somebody performed a negative action, such as killing, for instance, then the result based on that action, the reaction or its ripening Karma, is for the person's life to shorten. And in the next lifetime he may be born in the hell realms where he has to suffer the result of the Karma he created. Similarly, if someone thinks that in this lifetime they could obtain material possessions by stealing or robbing, like a rat who steals all kinds of grains, such stealing ultimately ripens its fruit so that in the next lifetime, or maybe in this lifetime, this person may actually not have enough wealth and become very poor. Even the physical body's negative actions, such as sexual misconduct, have negative results. This can be that within one's lifetime, or in the next lifetime, one's family will not be in harmony and will suffer quarrels and fighting. Similarly there are four negativities of speech, which are known as lies, interferences, harsh words and gossip. From these are certain negative results that one experiences, such that whatever one tries to tell, people will not believe. Even when one tries to say something beneficial it will seem like one is trying to harm somebody. Likewise with the three negative mental actions: Greediness, thoughts of harming others and wrong views. Based on these, one will not have success whatever one tries to do in this lifetime or in future lifetimes, one will experience a lot of harm from other beings, one will be unable to remain together with one's masters, teachers or good friends and so on. These are examples of the ripening of negative actions.
So understanding all these causes and conditions are based on the actions of our body, speech and mind, we should then try to abandon all the ten negative actions and try to train ourselves so that our mindstream flows with the spiritual path. Then one can practice and accumulate all the virtuous activities. The teachings say that if one follows the worldly aspect of the Dharma practice, with good or positive behaviors, that naturally turns into a spiritual path through which one can have peace and happiness. In this way, with our bodies, speech and mind, in whatever conditions of life, it is very important to try to benefit others and have loving kindness toward everybody.
Loving-kindness, the root of practice
This is the root of all the Dharma practices: generating the Bodhicitta [loving-kindness]. If one can really generate genuine Bodhicitta within one's mind, then it is very easy to move nearer to ultimate liberation. Bodhicitta is known as the awakening mind. The awakening mind is without partiality and equally benefits all sentient beings. If we have the thought of doing something good and beneficial only for our families and friends and then we want to create all kinds of obstacles for someone we don't like or whom we consider to be an enemy, this is not Bodhicitta.
Generating Bodhicitta, the awakening mind, is for the purpose of benefiting all sentient beings without any exception. Even living creatures such as ants, in their ultimate nature, they also have the Buddha nature. Even cockroaches. There is no difference in the size of the form. In the teachings it says that there is no limit to space, that space is immeasurable, and similarly there is no limit of sentient beings. Their number is immeasurable. Hence we have to generate the kind of Bodhicitta that is immeasurable for all these immeasurable numbers of beings.
If Bodhicitta, the awakening mind, is within your mindstream from birth, then of course it is very good! But if one cannot generate in that way or have that kind of quality, at least one can understand the necessity and importance of Bodhicitta. Based on that one can receive the Bodhisattva vows from a master and also from the body, speech and mind supports - like shrines and altars. As we receive the Bodhisattva vows, we can apply all this into practice, and the fact that we have been born as human beings becomes something really meaningful.
Within our mind-streams, there are all kinds of mental afflictions or defilements that are called the five poisons. These are the main causes by which we experience all the kinds of sufferings and problems in Samsara. That is why our most important responsibility as a practitioner is how we can get rid of this afflicted mind, how we can abandon it and how we can suppress these poisons.
It is difficult in the beginning to really generate Bodhicitta, the positive thought of benefiting all other sentient beings, within one's mind. But if we constantly think of it and try to contemplate and to train ourselves to get through all these practices, then it will become easy, like a habit. All the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of the past, in countless numbers like the stars of the sky, all these Enlightened Beings were in the beginning the same as us - just sentient beings. They were not born from the beginning as Buddhas.
So with this precious human birth, when we have all this intellectual understanding, we have to really contemplate and think about what is the best benefit that one can really achieve within this lifetime. We could just complete our worldly activities. But that is still just cultivating the same kinds of causes and conditions, and we will just rebound into Samsara again. We will not achieve the ultimate happiness. Even if we have really high rank or we have all kinds of luxuries and material belongings, or we have fame and very good friends and many subjects or attendants, still there is no real essence there from which we can benefit. So if we spend our whole lifetime just to get success still we will find there is nothing there that we can rely on. Everything is so impermanent and changeable.
You all have some intellectual understanding so you can think and examine for yourself and understand what is really going on. One should examine and think over what one has really done and what benefits one is really getting within one's lifetime. Even if one is very rich, very wealthy, very intellectual, very wise - if we look into ourselves, into our own minds, we can understand just how much experience of peace or happiness is really there.
Does "I" exist?
Within this world, the most powerful obscuration or negativity is known as the grasping of self, the "I", or the ego. When one just thinks of "I" and has that kind of strong ego and pride, then within that kind of mind-stream it is very difficult to have these Dharma teachings and practices. Pride or the ego is like an iron ball which pulls us down.
If we carefully investigate ourselves, we will not find an "I" existing in reality. We think, "I am," and "He is," or "She is," but when we examine truly, these are not existing in an absolute sense. For example, we may think of our body as "I," but when we investigate we can see that the body is not the "I." The "I" feels happy, the "I" suffers, the "I" has this pain and sickness, and then the "I" dies. But when at death the five aggregates of our physical bodies die, still our external body is there, but it no longer has all those kinds of experiences of happiness or pain. For example, when the dead body burns in the fire, it does not feel the heat at all. When it is buried under the ground, there is not any kind of feeling either. Even when it is eaten by dogs and vultures, there is no pain at all. When death happens, all the pains and sufferings associated with the body are no longer there.
Even right now if we try to find this "I" within our body, from top to bottom, we cannot really find it. When we investigate, asking: Is the head the "I?" Is the eye the "I?" Is the nose the "I?" Is the chest the "I?" We cannot find in any part what we call the "I." There is no way we can find our mind, our "I," there.
In the relative bodily existence, it is our mind's grasping of subject and object through which we think there is this "I" and through which we experience things. It is merely created by the conceptual mind. Verbal speech, also, when we investigate and divide past, present and future, then we cannot find what is called speech. It is just in our mind
What mind is
So the mind - does it need to be something which we can see? If we think that what has pain, suffering, problems and so forth, that this is what is called the mind, in this way we have to perceive the mind as something like a round ball. When we investigate into the mind itself there is not anyone who can really perceive a mind.
At the same time, this mind does not really die. From beginningless lifetimes until now, the mind of Samsara has just been getting rebirth over and over. The mind which has been conceptualized by having that thought of subject and object is that which binds oneself here. It is that which projects the external world and then one's body and so forth. But no matter how much we investigate, there is no way anyone can perceive this mind.
All the past Buddhas have explained that there is no way one can perceive the mind in the past, present and future. If it is self-existing, then we could see it, like a round pill or something! So why do we think that it has to be perceived as some "thing?" All these "things" are created by the mind. All the experiences of happiness and suffering of Samsara and nirvana - everything is just created by the mind itself.
So we will find if we think over the absolute nature of the mind, it is definitely emptiness. Some people might say, "Oh, my mind is very active and multicolored! Maybe it is possible somebody might have it!" Or maybe somebody might say, "My mind is something like a white light!" But it does not really exist in that way.
When we don't control the mind and just let it be free, then it starts to create all these negative actions and thoughts. That is why in these practices which we call meditation, although there are many levels of meditations, whatever the Dharma teachings that have been taught by all the Enlightened Buddhas, it is mainly to subdue this mind and to tame this mind. It is to recognize the fault of the mind is conceptual thought, which is a very dualistic thing where there is always subject and object, and this binds us into Samsara or cyclic existence. At the same time we try to realize its absolute nature, to realize or recognize this, and that is the most important part of our practice.
When lama gives all these teachings, the practitioner receives them and tries to put them into practice and then they say, "Oh! I recognize the nature of the mind!" But by just recognizing the conceptual mind, it is very difficult that one could attain Enlightenment. That which creates all these emotions and conceptual thoughts - that is called the mind. But the actual practice is of something which is beyond that kind of conceptual mind, which is known as wisdom. It is that which we need to realize. So we cannot achieve the ultimate happiness just by recognizing the conceptual mind.
There are many kinds of practices¹ which aim to pacify all these kinds of negative thoughts and to control the afflicted mind, to purify and abandon them. When we do these practices and achieve some tranquility through which we can concentrate our mind and make it very stable, then we can perhaps concentrate our minds on the emptiness through which we may achieve some realization. So when we practice meditation and manage to get kind of settled and stable, even having just a little bit of experience of emptiness is really beneficial and can accumulate lots of merit.
Emptiness and the idea of emptiness
Emptiness is not something like just remaining there without having thoughts or anything at all. It has been said in the texts that if one does not know how to meditate properly on emptiness, then one can fall into the wrong pot. So one has to investigate the true nature of the mind in order to really establish its absolute nature as emptiness, and this must be maintained through the practice of meditation.
Emptiness which is merely emptiness, and the emptiness which is the nature of mind, are two different things. The one emptiness is kind of like nothingness. This kind of nothingness emptiness in the Dharma teachings is explained by the example of the rabbit's horn - something which does not exist at all. But the emptiness of the mind, which does not have any form or colors or shape, is in certain ways non-existing, but at the same time this mind is everything. It is that which creates all these samsaric phenomena and all the nirvana phenomena.
When you do meditation practice, it is good to cut through all these conceptual thoughts. To be without any such thoughts and then to remain in meditation is very beneficial. This is what is known as samatha or tranquility meditation. If one carries through with such meditation practice for awhile, one begins to have some stability of the mind, and then it is easier to achieve the vipassana or insight meditation practices.
All Dharma teachings and practices have to follow through the proper lineage. That is to say, the lama, the master, must be really qualified to give these teachings. Then the disciple, the practitioner, if he or she has really strong devotion or faith, can understand through his or her actual practice. There is no other way to give and receive these teachings.
So the lama, the master, must have that quality by which he can "read" the disciple's mind. When the lama has that quality - the knowledge by which he realizes the mind-stream of the practitioner - then according to that knowledge he can give the right introduction of the nature of the mind. For example, when the lama examines a practitioner, he can directly experience whether or not the practitioner has the actual recognition of the nature of the mind.³
Other than that kind of direct mind-to-mind interaction, there is no way to explain, "Oh, the nature of mind is something like this." There are no words to handle it. If there was any kind of expressway diagram about the nature of the mind, then we could just draw it and then explain, "Here! This is the nature of mind!" So it is important to carry through all the practices, constantly watching through the samatha meditation practice, getting used to that kind of concentration of mind, so that there can be a way for one to have the true recognition of mind.
The Tibetan word, "lama," means the Unsurpassable Teacher. The "la" is based on the quality of the realization and the "ma" symbolizes the mother, the loving-kindness and affection that one needs to have, just like a mother gives to her children. All the past, present and future Buddhas obtained Enlightenment by relying upon the lama². There is not any Buddha who just by him or herself attained Enlightenment.
The lama, the master, means someone that has complete knowledge about all these practices. So all who just have a red cloth are not lamas. Those also who wear yellow clothes, they are not necessarily lamas! Someone who has true purification and realization internally is who is known as the lama³. And the lama's mind-stream must have the genuine Bodhicitta to benefit all sentient beings.
Meditation the Dzogchen Way
Many of you are interested and have asked, "Please give us the Dzogchen teachings." But even I myself don't know what is Dzogchen and I don't have anything to teach you!
Anyway, as I explained to you earlier, if one practices the Bodhicitta, that kind of pure intention to really benefit all other sentient beings, and then the samatha meditation practices to establish one's mind in full concentration, then of course there will be the Great Perfection ("Dzogchen") meditations.
But if one cannot cultivate the Bodhicitta within one's mind, the path to Enlightenment is already broken. Without Bodhicitta, there is no real path. Bodhicitta is that which is without any partiality. The pure intention of Bodhicitta, the thought to benefit all sentient beings without any exception, can be understood by realizing that in one or another lifetime, each being has been one's parent. If we understand this and think of how dearly they have taken care of us, then we will feel grateful to all the parently beings and we can generate Bodhicitta to all of them.
This present body of ours is here because of our parents. If we did not have parents, there is no possibility that we could have these bodies. And if we don't have this physical body, then we cannot accomplish any kind of worldly or Dharma activity. So our mothers are indeed very kind and we should be grateful.
Of course, there are many kinds of parent-child relationships in this world, but we should remember that whether or not we are close to our parents is based on our own desires and our own thoughts. Beyond that sort of thing, the main meaning here is that without our parents, we could not have this body, and because of this we should understand and be grateful for their kindness. So first one really concentrates on generating Bodhicitta based on one's gratefulness to this life's mother, and from that one can extend this Bodhicitta to all sentient beings equally.
So the most important points are to have faith and devotion in the Dharma, then meditating and contemplating on Bodhicitta and compassion. Then one can apply these into practice through the meditations on emptiness.
In the Dharma practice one should not think, "Oh, I am doing all this practice for the benefit of this lama or for these Buddhas." Never think in this way. The Dharma practice is for yourself. Each and every one of you as individuals has to liberate yourself from Samsara. You are attaining Enlightenment for yourself. You are attaining Buddhahood for yourself. By your practice, your lama is not going to attain Enlightenment nor is Buddha going to attain Enlightenment! Buddha has already achieved Buddhahood! And if you cannot attend to Dharma practice in the proper way, then it is yourself who will fall down into the three lower realms. It is not the lama or the Buddha who will fall into the lower realms!
So, though it is important to think spiritually of one's own benefit and how one can attain Enlightenment, still the acheivement of that kind of liberation is by the path of benefiting all other sentient beings. Without that kind of Bodhicitta one cannot attain complete Enlightenment.
The Bodhicitta we can generate right now, however vast, is beneficial. In the future, when one attains Enlightenment, according to the vastness of that Bodhicitta, that many sentient beings can benefit and liberate themselves from the sufferings of Samsara. Right now we cannot really perceive all that fruition, but if we continue to practice, then in the future we will realize it as a direct perception.
Keeping Courage
Buddha Amitabha, for example, ultimately achieved that kind of result from his generation of Bodhicitta and his accumulation over many countless years of practices of commitments and aspiration prayers. So even as the Amitabha Buddha achieved Enlightenment over a long time based on aspiration prayers and the commitment to benefit all sentient beings, so we as practitioners must constantly apply the practice of the six perfections to benefit all other beings.
The Buddha Amitabha did not just do these aspiration prayers once or twice, or make this kind of commitment just one or two times. It was over many aeons that he practiced these aspirations and commitments, such that whoever hears the Amitabha's name and does supplication prayers to Amitabha, they will instantly be born in his pure land. If one has single-pointed devotion to Amitabha Buddha and one carries through all of these supplication prayers, then even oneself as an ordinary person with an afflicted mind can be reborn in his pure land. It is all because of Amitabha Buddha's special aspiration prayers. So although there are countless Buddhafields, the Amitabha Buddha's pure land is very special because of these reasons.
We all could also achieve that kind of completion when we attain Enlightenment if we continue on the path and carry through our practices, generating Bodhicitta in as vast a way as possible. So we should not lose courage, thinking, "Oh, I cannot do it. I could never attain that kind of Enlightenment." It is not good to lose one's courage like that. Think instead that all these past Enlightened Beings, all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, they also attained Enlightenment and ultimate realization by beginning the same as us, standard beings, and if they could attain Enlightenment, we can also attain that same kind of realization.
So today, though there is much that has been taught, if one can just try to keep in one's mind to have one hundred percent devotion to Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, and if one will train one's mind by generating Bodhicitta and carry though the practices, then one can definitely have this kind of fruition. We can all do aspiration prayers, that in the future we can all attain Enlightenment within one mandala through these Great Perfection ("Dzogchen") meditations. Just as in the past such great Great Perfection ("Dzogchen") realized masters like Garab Dorje and Shri Singha and so forth attained Enlightenment through these Great Perfection ("Dzogchen") practices, similarly we can also have that aspiration prayer to attain Enlightenment.
Thank you!
Translated by Khenchen Tsewang Gyatso Rinpoche.

© Copyright 1995-2003 by Palyul Ling. All rights reserved. Please do not reproduce without prior written permission.


The Face of Buddhism Today
An excerpt from the upcoming book "The Way Things Are"
by Lama Ole Nydahl

In Tibet, there were three possible ways of following Buddhism: one might become a monk, practice as a lay person, or be a yogi. Monks and nuns lived separately in monasteries and nunneries and had strict rules of conduct. The lay people had families, a normal occupation and tried to put the teachings into their everyday lives. The yogis lived unrestricted by social norms, often in various caves with changing partners and focused their entire lives on spiritual development (one example is the well known yogi, Milarepa).
Since today people in developed countries have the means to decide the number of their offspring, there will be no large Buddhist monasteries. The reason for men and women to live separately in earlier times was not that Buddha was prudish, or that his teachings were hostile to the body. Nor did he have a fear of future heirs to contest accumulated wealth like the Catholic church. People simply could not make love without having children and family, which restricted their time for study and meditation. The vows of monks and nuns were gathered from Buddha's advice to various followers and groups, and though much looks strange in a modern setting, they cannot be changed to fit new situations.
In the West, however, the originally separate groups of yogis and lay people are coming very close. As there is no need for the former to compete with the red-robed monks and nuns in obtaining the support of the productive population, they also don't need the outer props which formerly made them easily distinguishable, like flowing white robes and wild hair styles. This reduces the distance from the lay people of today, who on their side are so freely backed by a welfare state that they no longer need to establish vast families for looking after them in old age. My students around the world seem to bridge and unite the best of both ways. In their daily lives they generally hold the Mahamudra, a yogi's liberating view, while accomplishing whatever is expected for a productive and meaningful life. Only during holidays does the traditional yogi style manifest outwardly, as many move their tents from one meditation course to the next.
2550 years ago in India, many people seem to have been attracted to Buddha's advice about cause and effect. Less, apparently, wished to hear about wisdom and compassion, and only a few had the conditions for the pure view of the Diamond Way. Today in the West, with plenty of gifted people and good karma around, many wish to experience the space-clarity of mind while they prefer to leave questions of cause and effect relative (and with the police: whether they manage to catch one or not. Also, philosophy and psychology only have minor pull, since most have been fed these subjects in uninspired ways in school. Modern, self-confident people want experience.
The Western Framework of the Teachings
Whoever supports Buddha's teachings is a link in an unbroken chain. Whether this happens through giving money for Buddhist centers to run, through being a local or a traveling teacher, or an example to society, family and friends, one should know as much Buddhism as possible. Even those who prefer working with beings on a case by case basis will see their effectiveness grow vastly when they obtain a view of the whole path and can choose among its wide range of methods. With sufficient insight, one can stabilize peoples' development and convey a joyful anticipation of the levels ahead. For such practical aims, however, the institutional separation of the teachings into Vinaya, Sutra, Abhidharma and Vajrayana is too remote. Here, one needs a practice-oriented approach to their richness. Before embarking on that, however, a few words to all hopefuls who plan a massive assault on the frustrations of conditioned existence: one needs a long breath.
Even though the world offers increasing numbers of glossy ways to attain spiritual experiences, reality is far from that. The karmic habitual energies of beings are of a sticky quality, and few have the necessary basis for even starting on a path - which is the certainty that they possess a mind and can work with it to obtain lasting results. Today this means understanding that mind is not produced by the impermanent brain but transformed by it; that its stream of information moves since beginningless time from one conditioned existence to the next, picking up the experiences which mature as one's next life... that this goes on until one recognizes the mirror behind the pictures, mind's unconditioned state. The veils covering one's consciousness exist since beginningless time and are no weak opponent. Even with the strongest of blessing and meditations, their removal must happen step by step.
Among today's confusing variety of teachers, one may actually recognize a good Lama or Buddhist author by the fact that he points to transforming methods. He does not try to please his students by talking sweetly around difficult subjects, leaving them with the superficial satisfactions of having their exotic or preconceived ideas confirmed but with little or no real guidance. Even Lamas of the three "old" Tibetan lineages who have the power to zap their students with the Mahamudra or Dzog Chen, the Buddha's ultimate teaching, should quickly recommend the practical way to that state: the not-so-glorious foundational practices such as the seemingly endless repetitions called the Ngondro. These practices help produce the subconscious richness and purifications which are the only lasting basis for joy.
"Higher practices" are thus "self-secret" and only become relevant when their foundation has been accomplished in this or an earlier life. Also, as a body in itself represents a lot of inertia, each subsequent physical form must have its channels of wisdom opened up, a painstaking process. The beginning of being's spiritual search is a quest for happiness, and the discovery that it is produced by useful thoughts, words and actions. Thus, one starts to work practically with cause and effect. The improved feedback both from the external world and from one's own store-consciousness gradually liberates mind's wealth, and manifesting as compassion and inspired wisdom, such motivation will guide body and speech to further benefit others. From a foundation of so much good, a strong attraction towards mind's full potential will arise as well as devotion towards those having realized it. These feelings constitute a very fast lane to enlightenment. Each of the three levels mentioned fits a type of human being: the egocentric, the altruistic, and the yogi, and all need three supports for their unfoldment: the pillars of "knowledge with questions," "meditation," and "holding the level."

Copyright ©1996 Kamtsang Choling USA